Friday, June 27, 2008

Continuing The Theme

To continue with the theme of the Atonement, here is an excerpt of the book Christ Precious to Those Who Believe by John Fawcett that once again shows us the Biblical truth that on the cross Jesus took our place and He paid, in His own blood, the price for our sin.

"God has magnified His love, and set forth the riches of His grace towards us, in a manner which should effectually allure our hearts to Him. While we were enemies and rebels in open arms against Him--He was pleased to send his beloved Son to die for our sins--in order to redeem us from sin and hell. Christ came down from his Father's bosom--not to condemn the world of mankind, but to give His life and blood for our sakes; to make His soul an offering for our sins, to suffer inconceivable anguish and sorrow, and to die for us--that He might bring us back to God and happiness. He poured out His soul to death, to secure us from the deserved wrath and vengeance of God. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, that we through His stripes might be healed. He was stricken and smitten and afflicted by God--that He might open the way for us to partake of Divine mercy, and render Himself a more engaging object of our love.

"He is the beloved Son of God, the first and the everlasting favorite of heaven, the highest object of his Father's delight; He is the great peace-maker between God and sinners, the chief messenger of divine love to men. If He had not undertaken to make peace by His atoning sacrifice, we would have continued the children of wrath forever! He came to deliver us from our state of enmity and rebellion, to save us from sin and its dreadful consequences, from the curse of God's righteous law, and from everlasting destruction. His heart was pierced for the sake of sinful men. The messages of His love--He has written to us in lines of blood. This is that divine Savior who, though disregarded by many, is precious to those that believe. 'Yes, He is very precious to you who believe!' 1 Peter 2:7

Love to the divine Redeemer is the distinguishing characteristic of a real Christian, and most indispensably requirement in order to our serving God acceptably in this world, and to our dwelling with Him in the next world. 'If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed!' Corinthians 16:22"
John Fawcett (1740-1817)

More On Substitutionary Atonement

A few weeks ago I wrote a post dealing with the doctrine of the Atonement, and in that post I argued that any view other than that of Substitutionary Atonement is contrary to what the Bible teaches. Over the past few days I have been listening to a series of sermons by Dr. Stephen Wellum, a professor at Southern Seminary here in Louisville, Kentucky. In this series Dr. Wellum approaches the Atonement from a scholarly viewpoint, and by using passages from both the Old and New Testaments he builds a systematic theology of the Atonement of Christ which shows that the Atonement was substitutionary and that Substitutionary Atonement is necessary for the forgiveness of sin.

If you want a deeper understanding of what really happened on the cross I highly recommend this series:

You can also read my original post here: The Heresy of Open Theism (Part 2 - The Atonement)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Meditate On God's Word

In my last post I talked about the importance of reading and studying God's Word. I would like to continue that today with another quote from one of the great theologians of the last century, A.W. Pink. In this quote, taken from his book The Attributes of God, he addresses the benefit of the study of God's Word and he reminds us that God has given us His Word, not for us to gain intellectual knowledge, but for us to obey and follow. In Psalm 1 we read:

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor who stands in the way of sinners,
nor who sits in the seat of scoffers;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night
This is the pattern of life for the godly person; they do not follow the way of the wicked, instead they delight in the Word of God and they meditate on on day and night. (Remember, you cannot meditate on what you have not studied.)

Here is what Arthur W. Pink had to say:
God has placed His Word in our hands for an intensely practical purpose--namely, to direct our walk and to regulate our deportment. The primary purpose for which God gave the Scriptures, is to make a practical use of them--ordering the details of our lives by its rules and regulations

"Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."

The metaphor used here is taken from a man walking along a dangerous road on a dark night, in urgent need of a lantern to show him where to walk safely and comfortably, to avoid injury and destruction.

God, in His infinite condescension and transcendent grace, has given us His Word for this very purpose, so that we need not stumble along blindly, ignorant of what pleases or displeases Him--but that we might know His mind. That divine Word is not given to us simply for information, but:
  • to regulate our conduct,
  • to enlighten our minds, and
  • to mold our hearts.
The Word supplies us with an unerring chart by which to steer through the dangerous sea of life. If we sincerely and diligently follow, it will deliver us from disastrous rocks and submerged reefs--and direct us safely to the heavenly harbor. That Word has all the instructions we need for every problem, and every trouble we may be called upon to face. That Word has been given to us "that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:17). How thankful we should be, that God has favored us with such a Word!

This world is a dark place, and it is only as we take heed to the Word, to the light God has given us, that we shall be able to perceive and avoid "the broad road which leads to destruction," and discern the narrow way which alone "leads unto eternal life."

Our first duty, and our first aim, must be to take up the Scriptures to ascertain what is God's revealed will for us--what are the paths He forbids us to walk, what are the ways pleasing in His sight.

The Scriptures are not given us, primarily, for our intellectual gratification, nor for emotional admiration, but for life's regulation. Nor are the precepts and commands, the warnings and encouragements contained therein, simply for our information. They are to be reduced to practice, they require unqualified obedience. He who treasures the divine precepts in his heart, and diligently seeks to walk by their rule, will escape those evils which destroy his fellows.

Thus the great business of the Christian, is to regulate his life by, and conform his conduct--to the precepts of the written Word, and the example left us by the Incarnate Word. As he does so, and in proportion as he does so, he is:

  • emancipated from the darkness of his natural mind,
  • freed from the follies of his corrupt heart,
  • delivered from the mad course of this world,
and escapes the snares of the devil.
A.W. Pink (The Attributes of God)

So my challenge to you today is to pick a passage (may I suggest Psalm 15?) and read it. But don't stop there, ask yourself:
  • What is being said here?
  • How does it apply to me?
  • What does God require from me in light of what I have just read?
  • Are there any promises here? Are they conditional? Do I meet the conditions?
This is what it means to meditate on Scripture. This is how you get God's word into your mind and heart. The Psalmist said we are to meditate on it (God's Word) day and night, and I promise you that if you take the time to do this you will not be sorry.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How Often Do You Read God's Word?

Today I have some more sobering words from J.C.Ryle.

I am convinced that one of our grave defects today, is a most serious diminishing of the good old custom of private reading of the Bible. Between the growth of Christian periodicals and books, I have a strong impression that Bibles are not read as much and as carefully as they were two hundred years ago.

I am well aware that there are more Bibles in Great Britain at this moment, than there ever were since the world began! There is more Bible-buying and Bible-selling, more Bible-printing and Bible-distributing, than there ever was! But all this time, I fear we are in danger of forgetting—that to have the Bible is one thing—and to read it privately ourselves quite another!

I am afraid that the Bible of many a man and woman in Great Britain is never read at all. In one house, it lies in a corner—as stiff, cold, glossy and fresh as it was, when it came from the bookseller's shop! In another house, it lies on a table, with its owner's name written in it—a silent witness against him day after day! In another house, it lies on some high shelf, neglected and dusty—to be brought down only on grand occasions, such as a birth in the family—like a heathen idol at its yearly festival. In another house, it lies deep down at the bottom of some box or drawer, among the things not wanted, and is never dragged forth into the light of day—until the arrival of sickness, or death! These things are sad and solemn. But they are true.

I am afraid that many in Great Britain who do read the Bible—yet do not read it aright. One man looks over a chapter on Sunday evening—but that is all. Another reads a chapter every day at family prayers—but that is all. A third goes a step further, and hastily reads a verse or two in private every morning, before he goes out of his house. A fourth goes further still, and reads as much as a chapter or two every day, though he does it in a great hurry, and omits reading it on the smallest inconvenience. But each and every one of these men does what he does—in a heartless, scrambling, formal kind of way. He does it coldly, as a duty. He does not do it with appetite and pleasure. He is glad when the task is over. And when the book is shut—he forgets it all! This is a sad picture. But in multitudes of cases—oh, how true!

But why do I think all this? What makes me speak so confidently? Listen to me a few moments, and I will lay before you some evidence. Neglect of the Bible, is like disease of the body—it shows itself in the face of a man's conduct. It tells its own tale. It cannot be hidden.

I fear that many neglect the Bible—because of the enormous ignorance of true religion which everywhere prevails. There are thousands of professing Christians in this country, who know literally nothing about the Gospel. They could not give you the slightest account of its distinctive doctrines. They have no more idea of the true meaning of conversion, grace, faith, justification, and sanctification—than of so many words and names written in Arabic! And can I suppose that such people search the Scriptures? I cannot suppose it. I do not believe they do!

I fear that many neglect the Bible—because of the utter indifference with which they regard false doctrine—as if it did not signify much, and was all the same thing in the long run—whether one was a Roman Catholic, or a Socinian, or a Mormonite, or a Deist, or an Agnostic. And can I suppose that such people search the Scriptures? I cannot suppose it. I do not believe they do!

I fear that many neglect the Bible—because of the readiness with which they receive false teaching. They are led astray by the first false prophet they meet with, who "comes in sheep's clothing," and has a pleasant voice, a nice manner, and a gift of eloquent speech! They swallow all that he says without inquiry, and believe him as implicitly as papists believe the Pope! And can I suppose that such people search the Scriptures? I cannot suppose it. I do not believe they do!

I declare my firm conviction, that an idle neglect of the Bible is one cause of the ignorant formal Christianity which is so widely prevalent in these latter days!

Brethren! We are drifting, drifting, drifting—and what the end will be—no man can tell.
J.C. Ryle (1895)

These words are as true today as when they were written over 100 years ago. We have become an illiterate people when it comes to the word of God and that ignorance of the Word shows itself every day in what we allow into our churches. The apostle Paul warned Timothy to preach the Word because:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
And earlier in this same letter he told Timothy (and us) that we are to study to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15). If we were to take the time we normally spend watching our favorite TV shows or sports team and use it to read our Bibles we would not see some of the things happening in our churches that we are seeing today. If the people in the pew would take the time daily to read and study our Bibles we would know when things are getting off track, but if we never open them except at church and let the preacher tells us what it says without ever checking it out for ourselves we are in danger of being led astray, just as Bishop Ryle warned above. And if that is not enough to motivate you to read your Bible, Charles Spurgeon said:

There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write “damnation” with your fingers.

If you don't know where to start I would recommend the Gospel of John. Or you can go to the Bible Reading Plans website and choose from several different plans designed to help you read through the Bible in one year, two years, or even several times a year. When you sign up you can pick the plan you want to follow, choose the translation that you want to read, and have the day's reading delivered right to your in box each day. The important thing is not what plan you follow, just start slow and spend some time every day with God in His word. You will not be sorry that you did.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More On Charles Finney

A few days ago I posted a couple of sermon links along with a few paragraphs explaining the dangerous doctrine of Charles Finney. Since then I have had an exchange with a fellow blogger who holds to theses doctrines and has been challenging my conclusions. In order to show that I am not alone in my classification of Finney as a heretic I am posting this link to an article by Phil Johnson (Pyromaniacs, The Spurgeon Archive) where he examines the teachings of Charles Finney and shows where he went wrong by using Finney's own words; I highly recommend this article:

A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing: How Charles Finney's Theology Ravaged the Evangelical Movement

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Marks Of A True Christian

The other day I wrote a post entitled Is There Any Such Thing As A Carnal Christian? and as I was going through my "stack of stuff" this morning I found this quote from J.C. Ryle that I had intended to post a few weeks ago. This goes right along with that post and shows us once again, the marks of a true Christian.

"There is a dead faith as well as a living one. There is a faith of devils as well as a faith of God's elect. There is a faith which is vain and useless, as well as a faith which justifies and saves. How shall a man know whether he has true saving faith? The thing may be found out! The Ethiopian may be known by the color of his skin; and the leopard may be known by his spots. True faith may always be known by certain marks. These marks are laid down unmistakably in Scripture. Reader, let me endeavor to set these marks plainly before you. Look at them carefully—and test your own soul by what I am going to say.

He who truly believes in Christ—has a NEW HEART. It is written, "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature—old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Cor. 5:17.) A believer has no longer the same nature with which he was born. He is changed, renewed, and transformed after the image of his Lord and Savior. He who minds first, the things of the flesh—has no saving faith. True faith, and spiritual regeneration, are inseparable companions. An unconverted person—is not a genuine believer!

He who truly believes in Christ—is a HOLY person in heart and life. It is written that God "purifies the heart by faith," and that Christians are "sanctified by faith." "Whoever has this hope in him, purifies himself." (Acts 15:9; 26:18; 1 John 3:3.). A believer loves what God loves—and hates what God hates. His heart's desire is to walk in the way of God's commandments, and to abstain from all manner of evil. His wish is to follow after the things which are just, and pure, and honest, and lovely—and to cleanse himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. He falls far short of his aim, in many things. He finds his daily life, a constant fight with indwelling corruption. But he fights on—and resolutely refuses to serve sin. Where there is no holiness, we may be sure there is no saving faith! An unholy man is not a genuine believer!

He who truly believes in Christ—works godly WORKS. It is written, that "faith works by love" (Gal. 5:6). True belief will never make a man idle, or allow him to sit still, contented with his own religion. It will stir him to do acts of love, kindness, and charity, according as he sees opportunity. It will constrain him to walk in the steps of his Master, who "went about doing good." In one way or another, it will make him work. The works that he does may attract no notice from the world. They may seem trifling and insignificant to many people. But they are not forgotten by Him who notices a cup of cold water given for His sake. Where there is no working love—there is no faith. A lazy, selfish professing Christian—has no right to regard himself as a genuine believer!

He who truly believes in Christ—overcomes the WORLD. It is written, that "whoever is born of God, overcomes the world—and this is the victory which overcomes the world—even our faith" (1 John 5:4). A true believer is not ruled by the world's standard of right or wrong, of truth or error. He is independent of the world's opinion. He cares little for the world's praise. He is not moved by the world's censure. He does not seek for the world's pleasures. He is not ambitious of the world's rewards. He looks at things unseen—he sees an invisible Savior, a coming judgment, and a crown of glory which never fades away. The sight of these objects, makes him think comparatively little of this present world. Where the world reigns in the heart—there is no genuine faith. A man who is habitually conformed to the world—is not a genuine believer!

He who truly believes in Christ—has the witness of the Holy Spirit. He has hopes, joys, fears, sorrows, consolations, expectations, of which he knew nothing before he believed. He has internal evidences which the world cannot understand. Where there are no inward pious feelings—there is no faith. A man who knows nothing of an inward, spiritual, experimental religion—is not a genuine believer!

He who truly believes in Christ—has a special regard to the person of CHRIST Himself. It is written, "Unto you who believe—Christ is precious" (1 Peter 2:7). That text deserves especial notice. It does not say "Christianity" is precious, or the "Gospel" is precious, or "salvation" is precious—but Christ Himself! A true believer's religion, does not consist in mere intellectual assent to a certain set of propositions and doctrines. It is not a mere cold belief of a certain set of truths and facts concerning Christ. It consists in union, communion, and fellowship with an actual living Person, even Jesus the Son of God. It is a life of . . .
  • faith in Jesus,
  • confidence in Jesus,
  • leaning on Jesus,
  • drawing out of the fullness of Jesus,
  • speaking to Jesus,
  • working for Jesus,
  • loving Jesus, and
  • looking for Jesus to come again.
Such life may sound like enthusiasm to many. But where there is true faith, Christ will always be known and realized, as an actual living personal Friend! He who knows nothing of Christ as his own Priest, Physician, Redeemer, Advocate, Friend, Teacher, and Shepherd—knows nothing yet of genuine believing!

Where these marks of which I have been speaking, are utterly lacking, I dare not tell a man that he is a true believer. He may be called a Christian, and attend a Christian church. But if he knows nothing of these marks—I dare not pronounce him a believer. He is yet dead in trespasses and sins. Except he awakes to newness of life, he will perish everlastingly.

Show me a man who has these marks—and I feel a strong confidence about the state of his soul. He may be poor and needy in this world—but he is rich in the sight of God. He may be despised and sneered at by man—but he is honorable in the sight of the King of kings. He is traveling towards heaven! He has a mansion ready for him in the Father's house. He is cared for by Christ, while on earth. He will be owned by Christ before assembled worlds, in the life which is to come!"
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)

So how do you measure up? If you find that you have fallen short in any of these areas repent and turn back to God. He is gracious and merciful and He will save all who call out to Him in repentance and faith.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Coming Soon - The ESV Study Bible

I am not usually a fan of Study Bibles; in fact, when I went looking for a Bible this past year to replace my worn out NASB I purposely set out to find a Bible that did not contain any study notes. It's not that there is anything wrong with having a Bible with study notes in them; there is definitely a place for them, I just think that most people use them in a way that they were never intended to be used.

Most of the people that I know who use a study Bible read their Bible from the bottom up, meaning that they spend more time looking at what Dr. so-and-so has to say than what God has to say. Like I said, I think study Bibles have their place, but I think that a study Bible should be used as one of the last steps in your study of God's Word. You should consult the notes only after you have read the text multiple times, examined the cross-references, and developed a general idea of what is being said, then (and only then) should you consult the study notes at the bottom of the page.

With that said, I have been reading a lot about the upcoming release of the ESV Study Bible that is scheduled for October of 2008 and I can hardly wait. I did replace my worn out NASB earlier this year, and I replaced it with an ESV. I love the translation; it is an accurate word-for-word translation, like the NASB, but I find it more readable (but maybe it's just because it's fresh - I had been using the NASB for ~15 years). Anyway, I first saw that Crossway was going to be releasing the ESV Study Bible a few months ago and I have been watching the web site and checking out the press releases ever since.

Look at what some of the people who have seen the pre-production version have said about the ESV Study Bible:

“The ESV is a dream come true for me. The rightful heir to a great line of historic translations, it provides the continuity and modern accuracy I longed for. Now the scope and theological faithfulness of the ESV Study Bible study notes is breathtaking. Oh how precious is the written Word of God.”
John Piper
, Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church

“The ESV Study Bible is the most important resource that has been given to the emerging generation of Bible students and teachers. The ESV Study Bible is the best. Period.”
Mark Driscoll, Preaching Pastor, Mars Hill Church; President of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network

“Outstanding! The ESV Study Bible is a treasure—a beautiful volume, filled with a wealth of resources. It will be just as useful for the seminarian and long-time pastor as it will be accessible to the brand-new Christian.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“I can’t imagine a greater gift to the body of Christ than the ESV Study Bible. It is a potent combination indeed: the reliability and readability of the ESV translation, supplemented by the best of modern and faithful scholarship, packaged in an accessible and attractive format. A Christian could make no wiser investment for himself, a pastor could recommend no better resource for his congregation.”
C. J. Mahaney, President, Sovereign Grace Ministries

“The ESV Study Bible is a tour de force: innovative production, beautiful graphics, and notes by outstanding scholars packed with useful information.”
Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.

With endorsements like that how could you go wrong?

Here is how the ESV Study Bible website describes the features of this new study bible:

The ESV Study Bible includes 20,000 notes, written specifically for the ESV Study Bible. These notes focus especially on understanding the meaning of the text, giving answers to frequently raised questions, and providing theological, historical, and archaeological background—all for the purpose of helping readers to understand the Bible in a deeper way.

The ESV Study Bible also provides a wealth of additional resources. Thus the introductions to each book include essential information about the author, date, and place of writing; an extensive chart of key themes; a summary of how the book fits in with the rest of the biblical storyline; a description of literary features; an outline of the book; and a large full-color map showing the setting of the book.

Another unique feature is the inclusion of over 50 helpful articles on topics such as the authority and truthfulness of the Bible, reading the Bible for application, the Bible in worship and prayer, the reliability of the biblical manuscripts, the relationship between archaeology and the Bible, an overview of biblical theology, and many more.

Other key resources include a system of 80,000 cross references and a concordance (which together facilitate easy location of important words, passages, and biblical themes). In addition, over 200 color charts, located throughout the Bible, provide clear, concise presentations of essential information.

If you want to see examples of what this Bible will be like they have put up pdf samples of the introductions to the Gospel of Luke and the book of Revelation on their website; you can down load them by following these links:

Introduction to Luke
Introduction to Revelation

I have been very impressed by what I have seen so far, and I will probably be picking one of these up for my library as soon as it is released. And if you happen to be in the market for a new study Bible yourself, I don't think you will go wrong with this one.

We All Need To Hear This

Here is a short video I found on You Tube featuring Paul Washer, one of my very favorite preachers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Dangerous Doctrine of Charles Finney

Over the past few weeks I have been studying the Theology and teachings of Charles Finney. As I stated in my post The Heresy of Open Theism (Part 2) Charles Finney is one of the Theologians quoted most often by Open Theists and those who embrace the view of Moral Governmental Atonement.

Today I found a few sermons on Sermon (a great site, by the way) that give a quick biography of Mr. Finney and then show, from Scripture, where he want astray in his doctrine and teachings.

You may be asking yourself why am I even concerned with a Theologian who lived almost 200 years ago? The quick answer is that a lot of what he did is still influencing our churches today - and not in a good way. If you ever wondered where things like the Altar Call came from take some time to listen to these sermons - you might be surprised by what you learn.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Is There Any Such Thing As A Carnal Christian?

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?

These verses, quoted here from the New King James Version, have led to quite a misconception of the Christian faith over the past few decades - that is the idea of what is commonly referred to as the Carnal Christian. A Carnal Christian is one who, although they say that they have had a "saving" encounter with Jesus Christ still continue in a lifestyle of sin. The proponents of this teaching claim that a person can "accept Jesus into their heart" and continue to live any way that the want and that their salvation will remain intact (i.e. they will still go to heaven when they die), and those who teach this use the above verses for their justification in this teaching. They say that Paul addressing the Corinthian church as being carnal proves that you can be a Christian and still live in a lifestyle of sin. But is that what is being taught here?

Paul is writing to this church to correct some problems that they were experiencing within their congregation, and he is merely telling them here that they are not growing like they should be because they are not submitting to the direction of the Holy Spirit and are therefore still babes in Christ. Does this mean that they we not saved? No, but is doesn't necessarily mean they were either. Paul is just telling them that because of the profession of faith that they made, and the amount of time that had passed, that they should be more mature in their walk than they currently are, and he calls them out for their lack of maturity. The question that we must first answer here is this, were the people that Paul was writing to in this letter really saved? I don't think that we can answer that question with any certainty, but I will point out that in his second letter to this same church he said:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Paul did not assume that these people were Christians; he urged them to test themselves to see if they were truly in the faith. And what did he say? Jesus Christ is in you - unless you fail the test! This means that there are those who believe that they are a follower of Jesus Christ who are deluded and who, if tested, will not pass and so prove that their salvation is not real. Jesus Himself warned us of this very thing in the Sermon on the Mount, where He said:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"
Jesus said that the person who will not get into heaven is the person who, even though they claim to know Him, continues in a lifestyle of sin. I believe that what Jesus is saying here is that no person who is truly saved will not continue to live in unrepentant sin. But neither does the Bible teach that a truly Born-Again person will ever achieve sinless perfection on this side of Heaven; however, there are those today who teach that to repent of your sins means that you will never fall again, and this is just not true (see 1 John 1:1-10).

So what then do we make of this doctrine of the Carnal Christian that is so popular today, can a person be a Christian and still continue to live in sin? The answer is no! In Ezekiel 36 God gives us a picture of what happens when a person is truly Born Again, He says:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

There are a couple of very important things that we must see in this passage if we are ever to understand our salvation. First of all notice how many times God says that He will do something, He says:
  1. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness
  2. I will cleanse you from all your idols
  3. I will give you a new heart
  4. I will put a new spirit within you
  5. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh
  6. I will put My Spirit within you
  7. I will cause you to walk in my statutes and to carefully obey my rules
  8. I will be your God
Then in verse 32 He reminds us that He is not doing this for our sake, we are told to be ashamed and confounded for our ways. So why then does God do this? If you look back to verses 22 & 23 He tells us that it is for the sake of His holy name and to vindicate His holiness.

So my question to you then is this, how can you continue to live in a lifestyle of sin if God has given you a new heart, written His law on it, and placed his Holy Spirit within you? I would contend that you cannot. But again, let me make it clear that this does not mean that a Christian is perfect and that they never sin (again, see 1 John 1:1-10). It does, however, mean that when the Holy Spirit makes you aware of a sin in your life that you stop right there and you repent of it immediately.

A Christian then is one who lives not in a lifestyle of continuing sin but in a lifestyle of continuing repentance, and if this is not true in your life you need to do as Paul suggested in 2 Corinthians 13 and examine yourself, because the evidence is not in your favor.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Heresy Of Open Theism (Part 2 - The Atonement)

The other day I began a series of posts dealing with the teachings of Open Theism and I want to continue that today by taking about the Open Theist's view of the Atonement. This is essential to the issue of whether or not Open Theism is a heretical belief system, or if it is just another acceptable form of orthodox, historic Christianity. I will show here that the Bible clearly teaches that Christ died in our place as substitutionary Atonement for our sins and that the Open Theism denies this and replaces it with a governmental model of the Atonement that obliterates the true meaning of the cross.

As we begin the first question we must answer is this, what does the Bible teach about the death of Christ? Was it a sacrificial atoning death, or was it just an example for us to see how God feels about sin? To answer this question we must look at to the sacrificial system of the Old Testament and the picture that was being painted there, because as we see in Hebrews, and the Mosaic law, the temple (or tabernacle) and the Old Testament sacrificial system were set up as a picture of what was to come and to point us to Christ (see Hebrews 8:1-6 & 10:1).

We see throughout the Old Testament that when someone sinned, the sin could not merely be forgiven and forgotten as if it had never happened. When sin occurred a sacrifice had to be made and that sin had to be atoned for. The Hebrew word that for Atonement is kāp̱ar, which The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament defines as a word of "supreme theological importance in the Old Testament..." It then goes on to say:
At its most basic level, the word conveys the notion of covering but not in the sense of merely concealing. Rather, it suggests the imposing of something to change its appearance or nature. It is therefore employed to signify the cancellation or “writing over” of a contract; the appeasing of anger... The word also communicates God’s covering of sin. Persons made reconciliation with God for their sins by imposing something that would appease the offended party (in this case the Lord) and cover the sinners with righteousness. In the Old Testament, the blood of sacrifices was most notably imposed. By this imposition, sin was purged and forgiven. The offenses were removed, leaving the sinners clothed in righteousness. Of course, the imposition of the blood of bulls and of goats could never fully cover our sin, but with the coming of Christ and the imposition of His shed blood, a perfect atonement was made.
According to this definition, what Jesus did on the cross was take upon Himself the wrath of God that our sin deserved. Notice that the definition includes "the appeasing of anger" in connection with the forgiveness of sin. The Open Theist teaches something completely different, however, Open Theism teaches that God never demands a payment for sin and that the death of Christ did not absorb the wrath that we were due but that it merely shows Christ as a partaker with us in the human problem of pain and suffering.

So the next question that we must ask then is this, is there any Biblical basis for saying that Jesus appeased the wrath of God, or even that God expresses anger and/or wrath towards sinners?

To answer this question we need go no further than Psalm 5, where we read:
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness, evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes, you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies, the Lord abhors the blood thirsty and deceitful man.
Psalm 5:4-6 (emphasis added)
From this passage, and many others, we can see that the Bible teaches that God hates "all who do iniquity" (Psalm 5:5 NASB). This passage also tells us that He abhors violent and deceitful men (v6). Anyone who has looked honestly at themselves knows this description fits each and every one of us since we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Romans also tells us that the penalty for our sin is death (Romans 6:23), which is exactly what God told Adam in the Garden when He warned him not to eat of the tree (Genesis 2:17). God is good to His word, in fact it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18), and Galatians 6:7 warns us:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap.
So we have a problem; God hates sin, and He hates those who practice sin. He also said the the result of our sin would be death, and He cannot lie. But our problem is even worse than that; according to Proverbs 17:15 we are told that it is an abomination to the Lord to forgive the guilty, therefore, if you have sinned even once God cannot just forgive you - you must pay for your sin. And the price of sin is death.

This concept is repeated all throughout Scripture as we can see from the following verses:
...I will not acquit the wicked (Exodus 23:7)
... the Lord will by no means clear the guilty (Nahum 1:3)
And in Romans chapter 1 we read:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
This is the problem that we all face, and this is the reason for the death of Christ. His death was the payment for our sin; He took the wrath that was meant for us upon Himself so that in exchange He could give us the righteousness that is His. His death was an Atonement that appeased the wrath of God and paid the penalty for our sin. Again, you cannot read the Bible without this being clear:

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us...
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness...
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God...
He is the propitiation for our sins...
Writing on this subject in his book The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness, John MacArthur said:
The Atonement was a full payment of the price of sins, to satisfy both the wrath and the righteousness of God, so that He could forgive sins without compromising His own holy standard.
And A.A. Hodge wrote:
With few exceptions the whole church from the beginning has held the doctrine of Redemption in the sense of a literal propitiation of God by means of the expiation of sin.
In other words, it has been a core belief of the Church, from the very beginning, that the death of Christ was a substitutionary death; that He purchased with His blood people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).

This is clearly what the Bible teaches about the death of Christ, but as I said above this is completely different from the governmental theory of the Atonement taught by Open Theism.

The Open Theist believes that the death of Christ was necessary only to salvage God's reputation, and not an actual substitution in which He literally took the sinners' place. This view of the atonement originated with Hugh Grotius, a Dutch theologian in the sixteen hundreds. His theology grew out of the Socinian view, which stated that the Atonement accomplished nothing objective on the sinners behalf; it was merely a symbolic gesture.

The problem with this view is that it alters the Gospel by making the message of the cross not about what God has done for sinners, but what the sinner must do for God. The governmental theory therefore leaves the sinner responsible for his own salvation, with is just another form of works salvation.

So how does the Open Theist come to this conclusion? George Otis who is an advocate of the governmental theory described it this way in a sermon he gave in 1981:
God loves man, He loves him so much, He wants this intimate fellowship with him. But He also recognizes that sin is a horrible, powerful thing and He doesn’t want it to start spreading out of control in the universe. And to allow man, to help man to understand how He viewed sin and how terrible sin really was, He attached a sanction to it and that sanction was death.
So what is God going to do? Is He going to, in effect, condone sin? And say “Okay, I know I said, ‘The soul that sinneth it shall surely die’—but in this case, the soul that sinneth it shall live, because I really like you and I really don’t want you to die”?

But then what’s going to happen when the next person sins? God really likes him too. And the same with the next one and pretty soon nobody’s going to die for their sin. But the other alternative, of course, is that everybody dies. And that’s not too hot an alternative either. So this is God’s government problem. How can God, as the righteous moral governor of the universe, whose responsibility it is to uphold the law of the universe and to uphold righteousness and to protect society. How is He going to get out of this dilemma? This is God’s governmental problem.
George Otis, Jr.
So what does God do? According to George Otis, God makes a dramatic display of divine justice in the death of Christ and he uses Romans 3:21-26 as his proof text; this verses says:
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Mr. Otis places the emphasis on verse 25 and the word demonstrate. He completely misses, however, the word propitiation which means "a sacrifice of atonement." It is not the public display that removes our guilt and our sin, it is the propitiatory death of Jesus Christ. But Otis completely misses this and he states:
Christ did not pay the debt or literally suffer the penalty of the law for His people. He prepared the way for our debt to be remitted. Or in plain language, dispensing with all metaphor, He made it consistent and proper and honorable for sin to be forgiven according to the prescribed terms of the Gospel.
The truth is Christ paid no man’s debt.
Then he goes on to say:
On a personal basis God could say the second after a sin is committed, “hey, I forgive you.” He doesn’t hold any grudges or bitterness. He doesn’t need to be paid back before He can forgive. There are no strings attached to His love. But He’s got to be careful in His role, not as our father, but in His role as righteous, moral governor of the universe, that He’s not careless in extending forgiveness so that it encourages others to sin. He can’t do that.
George Otis, Jr.
According to the governmental view of the Atonement then, the death of Christ was necessary only to salvage God's reputation, and it had no actual value as a substitutionary Atonement on the sinners' behalf. This emasculated view of the death of Christ and the Atonement that He made completely obliterates the true meaning of the cross. According to the Open Theist the cross is merely a demonstration of Christ's willingness to suffer but it in no way appeased the wrath of God, nor did Jesus suffer for the sinner in his place. This view completely ignores verses like:
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
The language used in these verses deliberately evokes images of the Old Testament sacrificial system and the concept of expiation upon which that system was built - shed blood was the required payment for sin.

This concept is completely foreign to the Open Theist because they teach that sin may be forgiven, or it may be paid for, but it cannot be both - the mere idea of sin being paid for makes forgiveness impossible in the Open Theist's mind. They also believe that neither sin, nor righteousness can be imputed from one person to another and go as far as to say that to do so would be unjust and would therefore make God unjust. They do this by ignoring verses like Romans 4:5 and Philippians 3:9, which both teach that the Righteousness that the Christian possesses is not his own, but Christ's.

To make the point, Charles Finney (a nineteenth century Theologian often quoted by Open Theists) denied that justification was by faith and actually taught that the sinner must become perfectly righteous in order to be saved, he wrote:
There can be no justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to law. This is of course denied by those who hold that gospel justification, or the justification of penitent sinners, is of the nature of a forensic or judicial justification. They hold to the legal maxim, that what a man does by another he does by himself, and therefore the law regards Christ’s obedience as ours, on the ground that he obeyed for us. To this I reply: … His obedience could no more than justify Himself. It can never be imputed to us. … It was naturally impossible, then, for Him to obey on our behalf.
This then is the Gospel of Open Theism - it is a Gospel of works. You cannot have it any other way; if Christ's righteousness is not imputed to the sinner then the sinner must make himself perfect - and any way you look at it this it is a doctrine of works. The Apostle Paul warned us:
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
Galatians 1:8
And that is what Open Theism teaches - another Gospel.

Friday, June 6, 2008

It's Fun To Do Bad Things

If you ever had any doubts about Total Depravity this should clear them up.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Heresy of Open Theism (Part 1)

Yesterday I posted a sermon on the dangers of Open Theism so I thought it would be good to take a few minutes today to explain what Open Theism is and why I view it as heretical. The article below is from the On Doctrine website and it explains why this theology is flawed and shows why it is rejected by those from a Reformed viewpoint and who embrace historic Biblical Christianity.
Open Theism is a relatively recent doctrine with its origin attributed mainly to Clark Pinnock around 1980 and recently to Dr. Greg Boyd, professor of theology at Bethel College, the educational arm of the Baptist General Conference. The doctrine has as its primary goal, a redefinition of the nature and character of God. Its foundational principle, which allows God to be redefined in numerous ways, is the proposition that God cannot know the future, because the future has not yet occurred and is therefore unknowable. From this premise it is stated that God can still predict certain events in the future and make plans for the future, since He has certain abilities to know how man operates and thinks, but since He cannot know what the future choice of man will actually be, the reality is that He cannot know with certainty what the future will bring or whether He will be able to accomplish the plans that He has made. In this theology, God is a victim of time, being confined to the present, and also a captive of, and subject to, the decisions of man. Because of His deficiencies in knowledge, God does not always do the right thing or make the right decision and is capable of causing unwaranted pain and suffering in the lives of individuals. The God of Open Theism is not sovereign, not perfect, can and does make mistakes, as a result of imperfect knowledge, for which He apologizes and regrets.

The fundamental flaw in the theology is also its basic claim, that God cannot know the future. When the foundation is defective, then the doctrine derived from that foundation is defective also. Open Theism defines God within the confines of the existing material universe in which man lives, but which God created. The assumption is made that God does not exist outside of this material universe, but He exists within, and is subject to, His own creation rather than the creation being subject to Him. It is also assumed that there are God-created entities that have greater authority than the God who created them. It was God who created the element of time in relation to this universe, to which the life and existence of all proponents of Open Theism must submit. It is the Open Theist who cannot know the future because they are subject to the properties and boundaries of the universe established by God.

The proponents of Open Theism would presume that the element of time, although created by God, somehow exerts a superior power over His ability to know, by restricting his knowledge through the means of confining Him to a literal present state of being, within a finite creation. By this view, the proponents of Open Theism deny the unlimited power of God to know the beginning from the end and fail to understand the statement of God in Exodus 3:14, "I Am Who I Am." It is God who is, standing always in the present, transcending the boundaries of time itself. Rather than God being subject to the present state of time, it is time itself that is subject to the eternal present state of God, who is past, present and future all at the same time and who sees the beginning through the end always in the present. The Open Theist does not consider the fact that time is a transient entity, having a beginning and ending subject to the good pleasure of God.

This universe and time, from their beginning to end, are encompassed by the unknowable and incomprehensible power and majesty of God who created all and continues to uphold all by His power. It escapes the reasoning of the Open Theist that God is greater than this universe and its limitations, and is greater than their ability to define and understand the God who was and is, even when this universe had not been created. By what measure was God's knowledge limited prior to His creation of the universe and time? How is it that God becomes a servant to His own created entities? Time itself is a subjective entity even in this material universe. Time at one place can be different from that in another; to the person traveling in space at light speed, time may even stand still for them, while the rest of the universe continues to age at what appears to be a frantic pace.

Was God constrained by some law greater than Himself to make the measure of time as it appears? Could he not have changed that measure, so that what now appears as a year could be a fraction of a second or a million years? How is the infinite God limited to the finite boundaries of His own creation? God has created a universe at His good pleasure and He can and will change that universe at His good pleasure, including the fabric of time itself. God is the sovereign ruler of all that is known and all that is unknown, in this universe and whatever infinitude of spheres in which He exists. He created the universe out of nothing, by His power and He upholds its operation by His power. God created time by His power, and He determines whether it continues or ceases by His power.

The open theist engages in a myopic, self-centered delusion by believing that their thoughts and subsequent decisions have the power to change the course of God's determined will. The universe in which the open theist exists, and its consequent inclusion of time, is but an infinitesimal speck, itself confined, hidden and lost within the majesty and infinity of the God who is "I Am."

The hidden agenda of Open Theism is apparent, because it is opening the door for a unification of what are now many divergent beliefs. Open Theism can embrace the Mormon church, which is desperately seeking to appear to be mainstream Christianity, and its concept of God who is imperfect and continually in a state of learning. Recently, Gordon Hinckley, Prophet and President of the Mormon church, has equivocated on the historic Mormon doctine that man can become a god. Consequently, their teaching that the god of this universe was once a man, might eventually be placed in their archives of convenient forgetfulness, opening the way to a connection with mainstream Christianity. The Positive Confession, Word of Faith proponents, such as Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland, who claim that words and faith have superior power over the will of God and can control the actions of God, and many, many groups holding to Arminian theology in which God is subject to the choice of man, could easily embrace Open Theism with only minor adjustments. With the charismatic experince having already united many Protestant and Catholic groups, the meeting of the charismatic (which is exclusively Arminian in theology) and Open Theistic theologies could further bring about a unity of unprecedented magnitude. To be mainstream is not necessarily to adopt a biblical foundation, and in most cases that is the case. Unity can always be achieved by adopting the lowest common denominator which, in the majority of cases, is to deny the absolute sovereignty of God. Although masquerading under the cloak of historic protestant orthodox belief, Open Theism is a very sinister and deceitful heresy of the highest magnitude.
Anything that takes away from the Sovereignty and Majesty of God must be rejected.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Sermon & A Quote

I have two things that I would like to share with you today: The first is an excerpt from the book A Cabinet of Choice Jewels, written in 1669 by Thomas Brooks. This was the first thing I saw this morning when I logged into my email and I couldn't help but wonder what the church would be like if we all (myself included) were to sincerely pray this prayer every day of our lives. If we are truly living the Christian life this should be the deepest desire of our heart - to be completely free of all sin and totally committed to holiness - no matter what it costs. In Hebrews we read that without holiness we will not see God (Hebrews 12:14), so as you read this excerpt do so with an attitude of prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin that needs to be forsaken today, and then do it.

"Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."
Psalm 51:2

If the Lord would say to a gracious Christian: "Ask what
you will, O Christian--and it shall be granted to you."
The answer would be: "Lord, rid me of my sins! Lord, take
away my iniquities! Lord, mortify my corruptions! Lord,
whoever lives--let these lusts die! Lord, drown these
Egyptians in the red sea of your Son's blood, who have
so violently and unweariedly pursued after the blood of
my precious soul! Lord, kill and crucify all these sinful evils
which have killed and crucified the Lord of life and glory!
Lord, my carnal reason, and flesh and blood, would gladly
have such and such pleasurable sins, and such and such
profitable sins, indulged and spared. But, Lord, the earnest,
the ardent desires of my soul, are that I may be rid of them!"
And thus, every gracious soul is more willing to be rid of
his sins--than he is to keep his sins.
A sick man is not more willing to be rid of his disease,
nor a beggar of his nasty lousy rags, nor a prisoner
of his chains--than a gracious soul is willing to be rid
of his lusts!

"Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity."
Psalm 51:9
Thomas Brooks (1669)

The second thing I have today is a sermon that I happened upon this morning that talks about the heretical teachings of Open Theism. I am not sure where Brian Branam stands on the Doctrines of Grace, but he makes it clear in this sermon where he stands on this subject. But his sermon is not in any way an attack on open theists, he simply shows from the Bible why this view of God is contradictory to both Scripture and to Historical Christianity. I encourage you to take a few minutes to grab you Bible and prayerfully follow along.

We Believe in God (Open Theism)