Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Difficulty Disguised as Godliness

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God...” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

This isn’t the end of what Paul has to say about people “in the last days.”

He goes on to say they are “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (3:5). They look godly. They’re in the Gathering.

On the outside they will appear godly, but inside will be filled with and motivated by the qualities of 3:2-4. The apostle doesn’t want us to be surprised by this, and we shouldn’t be. But we don’t have to accept it. The root reason for this dichotomy between a godly appearance and unregenerate heart is a denial of the power of godliness.

Remedy: live and proclaim the Gift of the Spirit of power (1:7), Who is the Power of God (the Father, see 1:2) to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ known no matter the obstacle (1:8).

There will be fruitless growth in the field (Matthew 13:5-7,20-22), tares among wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), bad fish in the net (Matthew 13:47-50), those who are with us but not really of us (1 John 2:18-20).

You shine brighter and speak truth from a born-again heart, a renewed mind, and by the unstoppable power of the Triune God Who saved you for His glory and your eternal joy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Dutchman Speaks Truth

I'm preparing to take a small group of men through Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology. In getting ready for this, I'm also reading his Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology. As I was reading it this evening I suddenly became confused. I didn't know Berkhof was a prophet. I don't do block quotes much here, but this is stuff that should make every Reformed guy and gal doubt Berkhof's cessationist credentials. In 1932 the Dutchman said: is characteristic of Pietism that it is hostile to all intellectualism in religion and exalts emotionalism and experience as the only real manifestations of the religious life. It bids Christian people escape from the wrangling of doctrinal controversies by withdrawing into the citadel of the heart, the seat of the affections. In our own country Pietism has found a rather welcome ally in an Activism, which holds that it makes little difference what one believes, provided one is only busy in the work of the Lord. A great number of American Christians are much too busy in all kinds of church activities to concern themselves very much about the study of the truth. They are practical pragmatists and are interested only in a religion that promptly yields tangible results. Their knowledge of dogmas has been reduced to a minimum. In fact both Pietists and Activists often claim that Christian people should disengage themselves from the complexities of present day doctrinal systems and return to the simplicity of the Apostolic Age, and preferably to the words of Jesus, who did not concern Himself about dogmas...the assertion often heard in our day, that Christianity is not a doctrine but a life, may have a rather pious sound, and for that very reason seems to appeal to some, but is after all a dangerous falsehood. It has been pointed out repeatedly...that Christianity is a way of life founded on a message. The gospel is the self-revelation of God in Christ, which comes to us in the form of truth. That truth is revealed, not only in the Person and work of Christ, but also in the interpretation of these found in the Bible. And it is only by a proper understanding and a believing acceptance of the message of the gospel, that men are brought to the necessary self-surrender to Christ in faith, and are made partakers of the new life in the Spirit. The reception of that life is not dependent on some purely mystical infusion of grace, nor on the proper ethical conduct of man, but is conditioned by knowledge...participation in the life of Christianity is everywhere in the New Testament made conditional on faith in Christ as He has revealed Himself, and this naturally includes knowledge of the redemptive facts recorded in Scripture. Christians must have a proper understanding of the significance of these facts; and if they are to unite in faith, must also arrive at some unitary conviction and expression of the truth...they who minimize the significance of the truth, and therefore ignore and neglect it, will finally come to discover that they have very little Christianity left (pgs. 28-29).
I am, of course, typing tongue-in-cheek about Berkhof's soothsaying. What he wrote over eighty years ago is an astoundingly accurate description of the contemporary situation because human beings are still human beings, and, as a preacher once said, "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). It could be discouraging, in way: things have not changed since Berkhof wrote. Perhaps they've gotten worse. But I can't be too discouraged. After all, a group of men just enthusiastically agreed to buy the Systematic Theology and meet with me to slowly go through it over coffee. I can't wait for them to see what other truths the Dutchman speaks.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Buzz the Basics, Church

I’m not one of any authority to comment on movies. I’ve never seen Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ all the way through. I had to be strapped into a seat on a 17-hour trans-Pacific flight to watch The Hobbit (the first one, which is weird since I only own one book by that title) – and it took me watching it twice to stay conscious long enough to be able to say I’ve seen it all. It took me three days to watch The Dark Knight Rises. I had to be forced to watch Fireproof. I’m very glad I was, but am equally glad I’ve avoided seeing all the other Sherwood Baptist Church productions.

I am not an expert on movies.

There’s a decent amount of buzz in the Christian community about the upcoming Son of God movie event. People seem excited about it, and there are some very popular names adding their influential voices to the excitement.

Don’t look here for a review. I have no plans on seeing. I hope you enjoy it if you go see it.

I know I already sound like Grumpy Cat, but can I make an appeal?

The Scripture has given us three primary ways to portray the Person and work of our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Who is the Son of God).


“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:1,2; the “public portrayal” was the preaching of Christ, which is where the “hearing with faith” occurred).

The Lord’s Supper.

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread...for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 10:16,17; 11:26).


“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Romans 6:3-5).

“In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, Who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11,12).

Since these things are explicitly commanded by God for the remembrance, portrayal, and communication of Jesus, can we buzz about these things more than we do about a movie? I’m not even addressing the validity of the medium of “the movie” as a means of communicating Scripture (right now, anyway). I’m just asking a question about what gets us talking and promoting. If we don’t find the excitement in us to magnify these ordinary – and scriptural - means of grace, maybe we should do some serious soul-searching as the covenant people of God.

Shouldn’t the “big thing” pushed by the Christian community in social media and elsewhere be that which we’ve been commanded to do? Shouldn’t that be our heart’s desire, joy, and the words of our voice in the midst of the world scene? Let’s take our proper place in the historic Church of the ages and get excited to buzz the basics He gave us 2,000 years ago. The new stuff will be gone tomorrow. What He gave us will endure. Get excited.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Useful and Honorable

“Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:20-23).

Cleansing yourself “from what is dishonorable” =
  • “...flee youthful passions...” Someone recently asked me what I understood “passions.” Here’s how I responded: Seems to be used for lustful passions often, but is certainly not limited to this...more of an animal instinct or even a "follow your heart" ethic that has few outside guides or constraints. Here Paul adds the adjective “juvenile.” Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you grow up. I see just as much of this among adults as I do teenagers!
  • “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies...” There certainly are plenty of these. I believe in Matthew 7:12, and am longing for the day that I see more folks (both in and out of my theological camps!) embrace this verse.

Being “set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” =
  • “...pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace...” Let the Word define these pursuits!
  • “...along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart...” Really consider this phrase! This should be our prayerful goal for the Church! Let me add that those who “call upon the Lord from a pure heart” are also those who will see God (Matthew 5:8). How I pray that the Lord would give His people discernment in their fellowship! How I pray that the hypocrites would be given the grace of repentance and "call on the Lord from a pure heart" rather than a heart hungry for the approval of others pursued through drama, whispering, and slander.
Notice that this definition of holy (biblical pursuits and a focused fellowship) precedes being "ready for every good work." I cannot help but think that many of the things we think are "good works" are not at all because the biblically-mandated foundation is not there - no matter how "good" we think/feel it is. How sad!

Love the Master, love His House. Pray, encourage, be faithful, engage, grow, be purified, and desire to see “dishonorable...vessels...of wood and clay” transformed by the Holy Spirit through His means of grace into “vessels of gold and silver,” for His glory and our eternal joy!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


If "following Jesus" was the whole of the Christian faith, the New Testament would be a whole lot shorter.

The early Church's normal practice was devotion "to the apostles' teaching" (Acts 2:42), and the Church is "built on the foundation of the apostles" (Ephesians 2:20; cf. Revelation 21:14). God the Holy Spirit has given the apostles (and their writings in the New Testament) as His gifting to the Church (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11).

Merely "following Jesus" or "being like Jesus" or W.W.J.D. alone is not biblical Christianity.

*In addition to being missional and evangelizing often, Paul also planted churches, spent lots of time with churches, exhaustively taught doctrine to churches, and worked hard to make them organized and even - gulp - institutional.