Friday, April 18, 2014

Considering Jesus

In Hebrews 3:1, we are told to 'consider Jesus'. The word translated consider here is a Greek word meaning to perceive or contemplate or discern. What we are instructed to do here is to give serious, ongoing thought regarding Christ. It relates to what has been said of Christ in Chapters 1 and 2 regarding Christ's deity (1:3), His humanity (2:14, 17), the suffering He endured (2:9-10) and the salvation He wrought for believers (1:3; 2:3, 11, 14-18). It then continues to unfold in the next several chapters that prove His sufficiency as our High Priest, our Mediator before the Father.

The sacrificial work of Christ is finished (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:11-14), there is nothing left do be done; not by Christ and certainly not by us. We are merely called to trust in Him and in Him alone for salvation, all the while considering Him, who He is and what He has done and what He does now, interceding for us as we struggle through this life with its trials and temptations.

In Hebrews 11, the writer gives us several examples of faith from the past. Examples of men and women who endured a variety of trials in hope of the world that is to come, a world free from sin and suffering, trials and pain. But they are not to be our focus. Instead, the writer urges us once again to set our sights on Christ:

Hebrews 12:1-2
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The writer uses a different word (looking) this time meaning to view with undivided attention, to regard earnestly. The men and women of Chapter 11 are examples of faithfulness, but Christ, as mentioned, is the founder and perfecter of our faith. So we look to Him, earnestly and constantly.

It's no surprise the writer continues this train of thought in the very next verse:

Hebrews 12:3
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

This time the writer uses yet another word that carries a similar idea to what he has been exhorting us to do (considering Jesus, looking to Him). It means to consider attentively. There doesn't seem to be a real big difference in the meanings here but it's almost as if there is a progression here. In 3:1, we are called to contemplate Jesus. This implies a sort of investigation, a consideration of the facts. After collecting the facts and 'contemplating' them, or 'considering' them, we are called to put what we have learned into action (12:1-3). This still requires us to be looking at something closely (or someone in this case) but our looking is also a following. It means that Christ has our undivided attention, or should, and that as we go through life living out our faith, we never forget what Christ has done. He is not just an example of perfect faith but He has accomplished what we cannot. He has stood firm against temptations and trials, where we often fail. But He has accomplished our obedience, He has perfected our faith, so that when we do fail, we don't give up thinking it's over. Rather, we press on, looking to Jesus, knowing that we will grow stronger and that we are being made into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

This is not the end of the writers progression, though. There is one more step and he mentions it in the following chapter:

Hebrews 13:3
3 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.

Now, we have not only considered Him and begun looking to Him as our source of strength, our comfort, our solace; we now go to him. In context here, we go to feast on Him. This is obviously not physical, but spiritual. Christ is the Bread of Life (John 6:35), He is food for our hungry souls. His Spirit is Living Water (John 7:37-39), He is what we thirst for (Psalm 42:1-2).

Notice, though, the end of the verse: we go to Him and bear the reproach he endured. We must understand this. Christianity is not glamorous. There is a price for following Christ. 'Friendship with the world is enmity with God' (James 4:4). Living for Christ means dying to the world. There will be trials and persecutions (2 Timothy 3:12) but that is the very reason we look to Christ giving Him our undivided attention. We should be like Moses:

Hebrews 11:26
26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

Christianity is not glamorous. It is not the absence of sorrows, it is the presence of Christ during those sorrows. Let us consider Him. Let us look to Him. Let us go to Him.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Brief Discussion on Hebrews 6:4-12

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Hebrews 6 is often looked at with speculation and confusion. I pray that this will help bring some clarity to those searching.

The passage of particular interest 6:4-12. If we are going to begin with and understand verse 4 then we must first go back to what is being proclaimed in verse 3.

Hebrews 6:3
And this we will do if God permits.

What “we” will do if God permits is what the Hebrew writer desires for his readers; namely that they would go on to spiritual maturity. There are obviously some challenges here because the writer says, “let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.” It seems that the writer wanted to take them somewhere that they were not yet equipped to go.

But according to verse 3, if God permits they will move on and they will grow and be capable of sustaining the solid food of the faith and not milk only (5:11-14).

With this in mind we now see the relevancy of verse 4. The writer starts of with the word “For” which could also mean “because”. In the Greek we see this as two words – Adu/nston ga\r – or “For it is impossible”.

“For is it impossible” is the beginning of this controversial passage that so many people seem to have trouble with. But if we start of with this understanding in mind then I believe that the writer’s purpose becomes clear. No one can move from milk to meat apart from God making it possible. In other words, we cannot move from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity apart from God permitting it – “And this we will do if God permits.”

Another point of consideration is the pronouns that the writer uses. In verse 1-3 we see that the writer employs the use of “us” and “we” but in verses 4-6 the pronoun selection changes. The Hebrew writer now begins to use “those”, “they”, “them”, and “their”. This language change indicates that the writer is dealing with two groups of people who are separate and distinct from one another. There is the “us” and “we” and then there is the “those” and “them”.

This again ties back to verse 3 – “We” will go on to maturity if God permits. However, if God does not permit you do cannot move on. As a matter of fact, if you are not moving forward you are likely moving backwards. No progression is in reality regression, and it becomes evident “in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit…”.

But how are we to understand these words in the light of our modern day culture? The modern day response is more inline with this type of thinking:

1.     Those who have once been enlightened = those who have received the gospel
2.     Those who have tasted the heavenly gift = those who have received the gospel
3.     Those who have shared in the Holy Spirit = those who have received the gospel

This line of thinking is what drives the confusion. There is a concerted effort to equate the “those” and “them” of Hebrews 6 to the “us” and “we”. This misguided process drives a false equality and indicates that being enlightened is the same as coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, tasting the heavenly gift is the same as being a genuine partaker of the body of Christ, and sharing in the Holy Spirit is somehow being indwelled by the Spirit of God.

But let’s bring some context in for clarity. Beginning with Hebrews 3 we see that the writer is laying a framework that exalts Christ over Moses. Specifically, the readers are called to “Consider Jesus” (3:1) in light of Moses and that Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses (3:3). Immediately following the establishment of Christ over Moses the writer immediately makes reference to the exodus from Egypt and the wandering in the wilderness by referring back to Psalm 95.

Hebrews 3:7-9
            Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
            “Today, if you hear his voice,
            do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
                        on the day of testing in the wilderness,
            where your fathers put me to the test
                        and saw my works for forty years.

Here we are reminded about what had taken place in Egypt and what the Lord had done in leading the people out to a promised land. There was a time of testing in the wilderness and the works of God were seen for forty years.

Now comes a key piece of text:

Hebrews 3:10-11
            Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
            and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
                        they have not known my ways.’
            As I swore in my wrath,
                        ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Amongst those brought out of Egypt were a group that God swore, “They shall not enter my rest”. Were not these Israelites covered under the blood of the Passover Lamb? Had not these very same Israelites partaken of or tasted the Passover Lamb? Had these Israelites not shared in the gift of the Holy Spirit’s guiding day and night in the wilderness?

Here is a group of people that had been enlightened to the truth of God, been allowed to partake of the sacrifice, and had been given daily provision and guidance by the Holy Spirit of God for forty years. Yet the Lord swore, “They shall not enter my rest.” Although they would be partakers of some of the same things spiritual blessings there were not of the household of faith and in them was no genuine belief.

Hebrews 3:16-19
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

There is a clear line of distinction being drawn between the “us/we” and the “those/them”.

Hebrews 4:2
For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
           
This group within a group had also “tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5) but not in a saving faith manner. We cannot make the work of the Lord Jesus devoid of the Wilderness experience and Jude reminds us that, “although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 1:5). Even here we see that there is a group within a group, God saved a people out of Egypt and yet out of that group He destroyed those who did not believe. This was despite them having tasted some of the heavenly blessings and experienced physically the guiding and power of the Holy Spirit.

We must also take into account that the people being spoken to in Hebrew 6 are not those who perished in the desert. There is a real and present danger, in the first century and now, of apostasy. There are real people in real danger of experiencing the grace of God but never being able to enter His rest. This is not because of negligence on God’s part, but rather it is a direct result of unbelief. This is why the people perished in the wilderness and this is why people are perishing today.

The Hebrew writer is setting forth a warning, those in the wilderness tasted the sacrificial Lamb and they also ate the manna from heaven. But Jesus makes it clear in John 6:49 that many ate the manna in the wilderness and died. Thus it is reasonable to understand that the Hebrew writer is addressing a like situation in Hebrew 6. How many of these first century Hebrews had been enlightened to the truth of Christ, were baptized in the name of Jesus, and even tasted the goodness of the Word of God through eating His flesh and drinking His blood via the Supper? They tasted the good things of Christ but the reality is that they eat and drink judgment upon themselves.

1 Corinthians 11:29
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

This is why they are even able to fall away, because there is no genuine faith and they see no value in the body and blood of Christ. Here rests the validity of verse 6 -

Hebrews 6:6
and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

How can anyone be restored to a place that they never were? When a person takes on the task of restoring an item the objective is to bring it back to its former glory, place it back where it once used to be. For it is impossibleAdu/nston ga\r – (6:4) to restore someone that (a) has never been in the faith to start with and (b) sees fit to show open disregard for the crucifixion of the Lord of glory. The language in verse 6 is an indictment upon the apostate because they are being presented in a manner of taking part in the crucifixion. It seems that the Hebrew writer is saying, “If He were here you would be right in the midst of the crowd screaming for the Son of God to be crucified.” They have sat at the Lord’s Table and partaken of the Supper on many occasions but now they reject the meal and even spurn it by saying that it is not necessary nor did it accomplish anything thus holding Him up in contempt.

Verse 7-8 bring more clarification to the two groups:

Hebrews 6:7-8
For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

Here we see the fruit motif that is pervasive throughout the gospels. Over and over throughout the gospels we see the distinction between good fruit and bad fruit, or in the case of Hebrews a good crop and a bad crop. Thus we see that the distinction of “us/we” and “those/them” continues.

Perhaps verse 9 is the most telling and provides the key that unlocks the passage.

Hebrews 6:9
Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.

The group of “us/we” is now directly referred to as “beloved” and the writer says that there is a confidence of better things – things that belong to salvation. Between the two groups there seems to be clear evidence that one is displaying salvific tendencies while the other is demonstrating non-salvific tendencies, in this case full-blown apostasy. One group is continuing on in the faith as God permits (6:3) but for the other group it is impossible (6:4).

Spiritual growth is reliant upon regeneration and this is made evident by a life of faith in the full and accomplished works of Christ. A life of faith means being a child of the promises – “so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12 ESV). What good and glorious news! We serve a living God who is incapable of lying (6:18) and therefore He keeps His promises. Primarily, all of those who believe will not perish; they will have eternal life and enter into the rest of God. Simultaneously, for all of those who do not believe, the Lord Almighty has sworn in His wrath that they will never enter His rest. Therefore, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Talking About Sex - How I had "The Talk" with my 11 year old son

The summer of 2013 happened only once in the life of human history but for me it will always have a special meaning. This is the summer that I had "The Talk" with my eldest son. Naturally, over the course of 11 years, my son and I have had many conversations, including several that lead to his conversion, but this talk is unique and never gets to be repeated in the same manner.

I must admit that having this conversation was both exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. The exhilaration was from the fact that I was preparing for one of the single greatest moments of a dad's life. It was exciting and the anticipation had been building for months. Yet there was also a terror; it was terrifying in the sense that I didn't want to mess it up. What if the conversation went wrong? What if I didn't say something quite right? What if he asked questions that I was not prepared to answer?

Knowing when the time is right

My wife and I had both began to notice some apparent confusions that were beginning to take place in the daily life of my 11yo son. For example, we began having discussions about inappropriate touching with girls that he had grown up playing with. Not that there had ever been anything inappropriate but we had to set limits on playful things like tickling, hugging, and touching in general.

There were also lots of questions that he was beginning to ask such as "When do you get married?" or "Why do moms and dads sleep in the same bed?" These questions and circumstances provided indicators that it was time for us to have a deeper explanation of the sexes. The time for "The Talk" was now necessary.

In light of these inquisitive question and answer sessions, there was another factor that helped me understand that the timing was right. During the spring I had the opportunity to travel with my sons 5th grade class on an out of state field trip. I was privileged to a week long experience of getting to know other boys his age and being exposed to others who were not necessarily brought up with the same values that we were teaching our son.

Let's just say that this trip confirmed some of the stories about the wiles, illicit language and acts within the public school system. However, this is not some new phenomena. I can remember being in 5th grade and these "child level" sexual discussions were commonplace on playgrounds back then. I can remember terms being used in reference to sex and not having any real idea about what they were talking about. Now, as I reflect, I also know that the children speaking didn't even know what they were talking about.

So, with these flags waving, my wife and I began having discussions. It seemed to us that all of these factors; questions, actions, and surroundings were screaming for action from dad!

Picking the place

I spent weeks mulling over the time and place for a discussion like this. Through careful prayer and meditation I decided on several factors concerning the location: it couldn't be too loud, it couldn't have distractions, and privacy was a must.

The verdict was a simple one for me, a short camping trip. A camping trip would provide the seclusion and privacy that I felt was required.

Building up the nerve

First, let me start by saying that this event was bathed in prayer and seeking biblical counsel. I read scripture dealing with sex and sexual sins as well as several books that were based on a biblical perspective. I even consulted with elder pastors who had boys and received their counsel and wisdom.

When we arrived at the camp site it was already getting late and we had to get busy setting up camp and preparing dinner. As we worked to get things setup my mind racing with questions. I would ask myself things like "Do I start the conversation now or wait?" Every time I asked that question it seemed to end up with me telling myself to wait. This forced an honest evaluation of myself and the moment; my procrastination was the result of fear and I could not seem to find a way to start the conversation.

Before long I began to take notice that other campers were settling in around our camp site. Their voices were carrying through the woods like the wind from a thunderstorm. My mind once again began to race, "If I can hear them that well then having a conversation about sex with an 11yo boy, in a tent, in the woods, in the dark was NOT about to take place. Note to self (and to others) PLAN THE LOCATION BETTER!

It seemed to me that the work of the devil was all around. My own sinful flesh was warring against my regenerated soul and I began to consider the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 7.

"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members." ~ Romans 7:21-23

My flesh was telling me to chicken out; to either have the conversation later or possibly not at all. On the other hand, the Spirit of God was commanding me to be a godly father and train up my child in the way that he should go. The Lord was making it clear that having this conversation was my responsibility and anything less would be turning my son over to learn from the world. I quickly conceded that letting the world teach my son would be sinful for me and seriously destructive to his spiritual well being.

I finally decided that it was time for bed and the conversation would have to take place the next day. Now let me be brutally honest here, without a doubt my son slept more than I that night. I vividly remember checking the time at various points throughout the night. While I lay awake with angst my 11yo was dead asleep with absolutely no idea of the conversation that he would be confronted with the next day.

Time to talk

After a long night of no sleep I rose early and quietly rolled out of the tent. As I sat out in the damp morning air I prayed for the Lord to give me wisdom and courage. This early morning prayer time reminded me of an early morning pre-battle scene. It was extremely quiet and there was a dense fog in the air that looked like smoke floating over the nearby river. I felt like an experienced general rising early to pray before sending troops to face an enemy they had never known. I was preparing to lead my son into battle against sexual sin and perversion, a enemy he never knew existed. The curtain would soon be pulled back and once he is exposed there is no turning back.

The Lord sharpened my mind and I realized that it was far better for my son to meet this enemy by my side rather than being forced to face it alone. The worlds version of sexuality is an enemy that has destroyed grown men and has caused families to crumble. At the thought of this my soul was filled with sorrow for any father that would allow his son to face a battle like this on his own.

Wanting to get an early start, I stirred my son from the tent and we sat and cooked eggs over an early morning camp fire. We made small talk and anticipated a good day of fishing before having to get back home. After finishing up our breakfast we packed up the camp site and grabbed our fishing gear. As we walked through the fog I could sense a dual excitement, he was excited about fishing and I was excited about the conversation.

After a few casts my nerves were getting the best of me and I found myself struggling for words. How was I supposed to start this type of conversation?

This is the exact reason that I am writing this post. None of the books nor any of the men that I had spoken with had ever given me the words to use when having this type of talk. I quickly realized that I had no idea how to start the conversation. This was throwing me into a panic and I felt like a plane spiraling out of control.

Knowing that I had to get this conversation started I finally took him over to a picnic table and sat him down. This is how I started the conversation:

"Son, tell me what you know about sex?" He looked at me confused (seriously) and said, "What do you mean?" He actually, had no idea what I was talking about. As he began to think about it I could tell that he was scrambling for answers. He began to mention things like getting married and kissing but at no point did he ever indicate that he knew anything about intercourse.

Instead of letting his mind continue to run I stopped him. I told him that he was getting to an age where "sex" was going to come up more and more. I went on to tell him that he was still a child and that all of his friends were children as well. He needed to understand that hearing something from the mouth of a child does not mean that it is accurate, in fact, as it pertains to sex, most anything that he would hear from the mouth of a child would be inaccurate and a half-truth at best.

I told him that I wanted him to know that he could trust me, as his father, to tell him the full truth accurately and without reservation. I wanted him to know that he could trust coming to me for answers with even the most difficult of subjects.

We then went to the Scriptures and began to discuss the foundations of marriage with Adam and Eve in Genesis.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28, ESV)
We talked about what God meant when He said to be fruitful and multiply and then I brought up the biology side. Yes, we talked about how God created male and female with different body parts. And yes, I used literal terms like penis and vagina. And YES, it was weird to use those words in front of my son. However, I agree with most of the resources that I read concerning the use of terms. It is important to use proper wording and make your children aware that they will hear slang uses. I hope that this will help my son validate my words about listening to children - children will typically always use slang terms and I pray that when my son is confronted with this he will reflect back on our talk and know that his dad was man enough to tell him the whole truth including the proper terms.

After labeling parts I then provided him with some basic understanding of how sex works. I literally said, "A man places his penis in his wife's vagina." He seemed to be about as comfortable hearing this as I was saying it. It was awkward but it was truly beneficial. He was hearing the truth and he was hearing it from me.

We both laughed a bit and I could tell that he was embarrassed. The topic shifted just a bit and I told him that he would soon be experiencing changes (puberty) in his body and this would be a topic that would come up more and more.

NOTE TO FATHERS -- This is exactly why having this conversation cannot be a one time experience. This "first" conversation should be viewed as the start of many mandatory discussions concerning sex and purity before God.

After the biological labeling and basic sexual discussion I redirected the discussion to purity. I reemphasized the marriage bed and began to discuss how many times the Bible addresses "sexual immorality." I explained in basic terms (deeper explanations will come in time as he matures) that this pertains to having sex in a "wrong way" - in particular we discussed having sex outside of marriage.

First we discussed how we are to glorify God with every part of our body:

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 ESV

Then we discussed his recent profession of Christ and how we are to live in the Spirit and not the flesh:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, ~ Galatians 5:19 ESV

Finally we had a long discussion around sanctification and pleasing God:

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 ESV

This whole talk lasted about an hour and a half and I am grateful to the Lord for the strength and courage to push through this conversation. I learned from having this first conversation and I pray that it will open the door for greater father son discussions.

Summarizing the experience
  • Pray for wisdom and guidance
  • Study and seek the counsel of others (Prov 15:22)
  • Take note of questions and actions of your son to determine timing
  • Plan the location
  • Rehearse your words in advance - especially how you are going to start the conversation
    • If you already know what you are going to say you won't have to figure it out in the heat of the moment
  • Use proper terms of sexual organs
  • Use Scripture and stress the importance of honoring God with your whole body
    • Living in the Spirit and not the flesh
    • Discuss sanctification and pleasing God
  • Build trust and have followup conversations


In Christ Alone,








Monday, March 18, 2013

70,000 square feet of Family Life Center or 80lbs of Dung?


What is your idea of a local church and it’s purpose?

This question brings many different answers and opinions in our day and age. For example:

Many people view local churches as community centers
a.     Beautiful buildings for weddings, etc. even if you are not a member of that church or denomination
b.     They are used for voting centers and community gathering points
c.      Gyms or other activity focused centers

But is this idea of a local church valid according to Scripture? The answer has to be no because the church is never pictured as a facility or building, but rather as the called out ones of God.

This idea of church as a facility or community center has in effect been a hindrance to the gospel. Let me read to you the statement from one large church about their family life center:

The Family Life Center is a 70,000 square foot facility that offers a wide variety of amenities to suit your fitness needs. Complimentary exercise orientations are offered to every new member of the Family Life Center. Visitors are always welcome to come by for a tour of the facility.”

This facility contains a full gymnasium, weight rooms, racquetball courts, game rooms, tennis courts and a pool.

I am seeing more and more of this in our society and I think that it makes sense for us to consider the effects. As a pastor I am really struggling with this. While one group of saints struggles to keep their local church doors open another local church is building a 70,000 square foot athletic facility.

Let me contrast this with a blog written by Dr. Barry Carpenter:

80 pounds...of dung. Reflections on Missions at 2:30 AM


My son and I bought luggage today. We will carry 4 checked bags and 2 carry-on bags to the Philippines. I spread the bags out on the living room floor and began to think about what is essential for the next year or 2 of our lives. Two of the bags will carry ministry essentials and things we will give away. That will leave each of us one checked bag and one carry on- roughly 80 pounds each. If I could reduce the fruit of all my labors in life down to 80 pounds, what would I keep? What do we need?

On Saturday I will take everything I own and put it in my front yard with a "for sale" on it. I realized even if I sold everything we own it will not be enough to support us or pay for our relocation. We currently have only about 20% of what we need to relocate and to live on. This is really shocking to me as we are asking for one-third to one-half of what most missionaries live on and a great deal less than the average American lives on. And almost half the money is not even for us but for the support of the ministry.

At least once or twice a week someone will ask me "What if you don't get enough support money? What will you do?" I used to answer "I don't know. We are still praying." But now I know. Now I answer "We will suffer even more." I do not say this with piety or nobility. It is not said with a "stiff upper lip" nor with my chest poked out. Rather, I hang my head and whisper "We will suffer. The ministry will be hindered and the message of the Gospel will be restrained and we will suffer." The reality is sinking in.

People also ask me "Is it safe where you going?" This is hard for me to answer. On the island on which we will live and minister it is not safe. To the west are the Muslim separatists. They have closed four house churches last year by killing the pastors and lay leaders. To north are Maoist rebels who recently raided the Del Monte plantation and killed people. Hundreds of people die on the island every year from typhoons, hurricanes and mudslides. Robbery, murder, tribal warfare, disease…No it is not a "safe" place to be.

I have been awake since 2:30 am this morning thinking on these things. Is it wise to take my son there? What will I do when we come back and we will have nothing? How will we survive on such a small amount? What if we are killed? What if I lose my son? Should I even go if I cannot fulfill all the plans we had for ministry? You see I am not a brave man nor a man of great faith. I am just a little, foolish and fearful man. God what should we do?

I thought of the words of Peter and Christ's response from Matthew 19. "Then Peter said to Him, Behold we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us? And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you. that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne. you shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life."

I have never seen this passage so clearly before. Who would trade the paltry trinkets of this world for the throne of glory and eternal life? Oh, how foolish! Christ tells us to count the cost of the cross. Those who seek to save their lives will lose it and those who lose their lives for His sake will have life eternal. Oh the joy to say with Paul "I count it all dung for the sake of the cross of Christ."

Please do not pity me and my son. We are not worthy of your pity. Pity the poor church in America and those who fill her air conditioned walls and sit on padded pews under the illusion of safety. I feel sorry for those who have CDs, escrow accounts, and tens of thousands of dollars in the bank - so fearful to let go of it that they may never get it back. Have they not read the story of the man who hide his talent in the ground? I pity them. I am so sorry for those who will never know one instant in their lives in which they were fully satisfied in Christ alone. Oh, rapturous joy to know Him and be satisfied in Him! Oh how humbling to be offered the chance to risk all- knowing that all is really nothing! Great piles of earthly dung! HA!

            "Let goods and kindred go- this mortal life also"- for it is NOTHING in the joyous light of the One who hung upon the cross for me! Hallelujah! 

What a brilliant outlook, forsaking everything in order to be obedient and follow the Lord.

There is a growing issue in the American church culture that proclaims aesthetics over humility and that building size is an indicator of success.

To give you an idea here are a few recent examples: -- 

I once had a woman come to me and say that if "we wanted more people to come to our church then the flower beds needed to be kept up better." Is this true? Have we come to the point in America Christianity where church attendance is dictated by how well the lawn is manicured and not by the gospel that is preached inside?

Over the years we have had several families leave our congregation for similar reasons. In each case the members left because another church had a better children's ministry or youth ministry. Never did they indicate that they were not being fed spiritually, their sole purpose in leaving was driven children's entertainment and events.

A couple of years ago I was attending a conference at a local mega-church and I walked away being greatly grieved and distressed. The foyer was elaborate and the furniture in that room alone probably exceeded our annual church budget by one hundred times. The silk flower decorations probably cost as much as we take in annually. 

This is a struggle for me... how can the local church validate spending millions of dollars on facilities while gospel preaching goes unfunded? Why will a local church take on years of debt in order to build the nicest facility in the area?   
 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Monergism vs. Synergism


Fascinating article by John Hendyrx from Monergism.com

The following chart highlights some of the major points of difference in these systems:
Synergism
Monergism
Cause of Regeneration
Regeneration is the work of Christ plus the good will of unspiritual man. What makes men to differ from one another is not the grace of Jesus alone, but Jesus plus the good will of unspiritual man.
Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit alone applying the the effectual crosswork of Christ to the unspiritual man. What makes men to differ is Jesus Christ alone.
Faith is the cause that triggers regeneration
Regeneration has causal priority to faith (Just as a person must have eyes before they see and ears prior to their ability to hear, so one must first have a new heart in order to understand spiritual truth)
Faith and affections for God are produced by the old nature.
Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature. It is the immediate and inevitable product of the new nature. The new heart (by nature) loves Christ.
God and Man work together to produce the new birth. God's grace takes us part of the way to salvation, man's unregenerate will must determine the final outcome. In other words belief in Christ gives rise to the new birth.
God, the Holy Spirit, alone produces regeneration with no contribution from the sinner (A work of God). The new birth is never spoke of in the imperative (not commanded), rather man must be born again by God.
God is eagerly awaiting the sinner's will.
God effectually enables the sinner's will.
The persons of the Trinity have conflicting goals in accomplishing and applying salvation: The Father elects a particular people; The Son dies for a general people and the Holy Spirit applies the atonement conditionally on those who exercize their autonomous libertarian free will.
The persons of the Trinity work in harmony - The Father elects a particular people (Eph 1:3-5), Christ dies for those the Father has given Him (John 17:9, 15; Rev 5:9) and the Holy Spirit likewise applies the benefits of the atonement to the same. (Regeneration is one of the redemptive benefits of Christ's work)
Restoration of spiritual faculties comes after the man without the Spirit exercizes faith with his natural (innate) capacities. Has the ability to see spiritual truth even before healed. (see 1 Cor 2:14). Has spiritual capacity/desire to receive the truth, prior God's granting any spiritual ability.
"Light" itself is not enough for a blind man to see, his vision must first be restored. (John 3:3,6). Needs spiritual ability to receive truth prior to receiving it (1 Cor 2:12; John 6:63-65 & 37).
View of Humanity
The fallen sinner has the ability and potential inclination to believe even prior to the new birth
The fallen sinner has no understanding, moral ability or inclination to believe prior to the new birth. (1 Cor 2:14).
There is enough good left in fallen man to turn his affections toward Christ.
Fallen Man has a mind at enmity with God; loves darkness, hates the light and does not have the Holy Spirit. "There is no one who seeks God" (Rom 3:11); Sinner would never turn to God without divine enablement and new affections.
Sinner needs help, is spiritually handicapped.
Spiritually dead sinner needs new nature (mind, heart, will), regeneration.
Natural man is sick and disabled like a drowning man so God would be uncaring if He didn't help by casting a rope.
Natural man is spiritually impotent and morally culpable for sin. Our moral inability is not like a physical handicap or a drowning man for which we would not be culpable but, rather, it is like a man who cannot repay a squandered financial debt. Inability to repay, therefore, does not relieve us of the moral responsibility to do so. God, in His mercy, does not merely throw us a rope, He dives in to make certain we do not drown.
Needs salvation from the consequences of sin - unhappiness, hell, psychological pain.
Needs salvation to remove the offense we've made against a holy God and from the power and bondage of sin.
The natural man is sovereign over his choice to accept or reject Christ - God conditionally responds to our decision. God's love for the sinner is, therefore, conditional.
The natural man can contribute nothing towards his salvation. Faith is a response rendered certain following the efficacious work of the Holy Spirit. We respond to God's unconditional love. (Acts 13:48; John 6:37)
Those fallen men who are saved, either created a right thought, generated a right affection, or originated a right volition that led to their salvation while some others did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith that God required of them to obtain salvation. Therefore salvation is dependent on some virtue or capacity God sees in certain men. Not Jesus alone, but Jesus PLUS...
No Fallen man will create a right thought, generate a right affection, or originate a right volition that will lead to his salvation. We would never believe unless the Holy Spirit came in and disarmed our hostility to God. Therefore salvation is dependent on God's good pleasure alone (Eph 1:4, 5, 11), not some virtue or goodwill He sees in us.
Man's nature & affections do not determine or give rise to their choices. Even without the Holy Spirit working change in his heart, the sinner can still make a saving decision to believe the gospel. In this scheme God gives enough grace to place man in a neutral position which can swing either for or against Jesus. (An act of chance?)
Man's nature determines his desires/affections and give rise to the choices he makes. Jesus bears witness to this: "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit." Luke 6:43 Only Christ can "make a tree good and its fruit will be good." (Also see John 8:34, 42-44; 2 Pet. 2:19).
View of the Gospel
The Gospel is an invitation
The Gospel is not merely an invitation, but a command (1 John 3:23)
Christ died for all our sins except unbelief
Christ died for all our sins including unbelief
Sinners have the key in their hands. Man's will determines whether or not Christ's death is efficacious.
God has the key in his hand. God's eternal counsel determines to whom the benefits of the atonement apply.
It would be unjust of God to not give everyone an equal chance.
If God exercized His justice then none of us would stand, since each of us is in active rebellion against an infinitely holy God. He owes us nothing and is under no obligation to save any person. Regeneration is, therefore, an act of pure, undeserved mercy because the justice we deserved, He poured out on His Son (thereby turning His wrath away from us).
After God makes one's heart of stone into a heart of flesh the Holy Spirit's call to salvation can still be resisted.
After God makes one's heart of stone into a heart of flesh, no person wants to resist. By definition our desires, inclinations and affections have changed so we willingly and joyfully turn in faith toward Christ.
Salvation is given to fallen sinners (unregenerate) who choose and desire Christ of their free will.
Apart from grace, there is no fallen sinner (unregenerate) who fits that description. A desire for God is not part of the old nature.
The grace of God is conferred as a result of human prayer
It is grace itself which makes us pray to God (Rom 10:20; Isa. 65:1)
God has mercy upon us when we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, apart from his regenerative grace.
To desire and seek God prior to the new birth is an impossible supposition. (Rom 3:11; 1 Cor 2:14) It is the infusion and quickening of the Holy Spirit within us that we even have the faith or the strength to will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock and believe in the finished work of Christ.
Commands to repent and believe the gospel imply the ability of the sinner to do so.
The Command toward sinners to repent and believe does not imply ability. Divine intent of the Law, according to Scripture, is to reveal our moral impotence apart from grace (Rom 3:20, 5:20, Gal 3:19,24). The Law was not designed to confer any power but to strip us of our own.
God helps those who help themselves.
God only helps those who cannot help themselves. (John 9:41)
Unregenerate man contributes his little bit.
Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling.
Repentance is considered a work of man.
Repentance is a gift of God. (2 Tim 2:25)
One of the greatest gifts God gives humans is to never interfere with their free will.
The greatest judgment which God can inflict upon a man is to leave him in the hands of his own free-will. If salvation were left in the hands of the unregenerate sinners, we would indeed despair of all hope that anyone would be saved. It is an act of mercy, therefore, that God awakens the dead in sin to life since those without the Spirit cannot understand the things of God at all. (1 Cor 2:14)
With Man's will salvation is possible.
With man's will salvation (repentance and faith) is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matt 19:26; Rom 9:16; John 6:64,65) "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." John 3:6