Sunday, August 30, 2015

Making (Mis)Use of the Bible

The Bible has a lot of things to say about a lot of different subjects. The sacred book has something to say about how every thing we see around us all began, and one day, how it will all end. And the Bible has a lot to say about a bunch of things that happened and should happen in between the beginning and the end of all things as we know it. And since the Bible has so much to say about so many things, it isn’t surprising to see so many people use the Bible to do and say so many things themselves. People sure do put the Bible to work to do a lot. And the sad reality is that a lot people treat the Bible, especially in our culture, as if it is there to do their bidding, to fight their war, to improve their life, to propel them to loftier places, and much more. For many Christians, the Bible isn’t a book that is there to shape their life, but instead, they shape the Bible in such a way as to make it seem that God has spoken on matters for them specifically that God has indeed not had anything at all to say.

The study of Scripture is a spiritual act. It is a spiritual discipline. There is nothing that is more important to the Christian than Scripture. Scripture informs us, cleanses us, renovates our minds, renews our hearts, transforms our lives! Scripture tells us who Jesus is. Scripture brings us the gospel. Scripture brings us life! Eternal life! Scripture ensures that we will never be deceived. How? Scripture is the truth. So long as we have the truth, we can never be deceived. Is it any wonder that Scripture is at the very core of the non-Christian attacks against the Christian movement? The record of the OT is used to indict the kind of God it portraits, and therefore, undermines itself according to the opponents of Christ. Every Christian must know the Scripture, must know it’s history, must know something about its transmission, must surely know its content, and must know how to let Scripture defend itself. I cannot think of anything more important in the life of the Christian than Scripture. We know nothing about the Christian faith, the Christ who redeems, the Spirit who fills us apart from Scripture.

John MacArthur tells us, “if you are one of those who questions whether truth is really important, please don’t call your belief system Christianity, because that is not what it is.” [The Truth War] Jesus said that God’s Word is truth. For the truth believer there is very little as important as studying God’s Word seriously. [The Hermeneutical Spiral] Calvin said, “At any rate, there is no doubt that firm certainty of doctrine was engraved in their hearts, so that they were convinced and understood that what they had learned proceeded from God. For by His Word, God rendered faith unambiguous forever, a faith that should be superior to all opinion.” [Institutes] Michael Kruger in his excellent work Canon Revisited writes, “What is needed, then, is a canonical model that does not ground the New Testament canon in an external authority, but seeks to ground the canon in the only place it could be grounded, its own authority.” [Canon Revisited] Clearly, the Bible has a place of prominence in the life of the Christian. And with the recent trends in certain cultures, especially Europe and America, it should be obvious to any intelligent Christian that a proper understanding and use of Scripture is as important today as it was in the time of the Apostles. So much for the great downgrade of the significance of theology, the languages, and doctrine in our churches. Any discerning Christian ought to be able to figure out that God was serious when He spoke to us in Scripture. And if we are serious about God, about our relationship with Christ, we will take more than just a passing interest in what God has to say.

Yet, many Christians seem to be almost entirely uninterested in respecting the Scripture’s message and record, willing to take the Bible as a tool to defend their own attitudes, philosophies, and behaviors. Prov. 29:18 is one example. The KJV renders this text, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” More than a few Christians have used this verse to support the idea that we have to “cast a vision” for the mission of our local church, various ministries, and even your own personal career. A text actually means, as the NASB tenders it, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” The idea is where there is no “prophetic word” immorality dominates, and this to the destruction of people’s souls. In other words, where God’s Word is not proclaimed to the community, there is little to no moral restraint. Yet we use it to support our own modern motivational talks. Such recklessness should produce embarrassment and shame.

Sadly, some Christians are far more interested in having God speak to them outside of Scripture than they are in attempting to understand what God is speaking to them in Scripture. These Christians have no clue that God does not speak to men outside of Scripture. This is why Scripture is called the Word of God. If you want to know God’s will for your life, read the Bible with as much energy as you can muster and pray for enlightenment. If we want to know what God wants our church involved in, we can know that by reading Scripture. Other Christians just want to use the Bible for their owner personal agendas, whatever they might be. Perhaps I want to feel better about myself, be a better parent, excel at work and so forth. All these modern, psychological approaches to Scripture rest on a faulty presupposition that the Bible was given to me so that I could use it to become a better me according to what I think a better me is. Scripture was given to make us holy, to shape us into the image of Christ, to transform and renovate our minds so that we have the mind of Christ.

Scripture is the standard by which all men will be measured. Scripture informs us of our sin, our guilt, and our condemnation. For this reason, men want to destroy it, to rip it to shreds, to reduce its credibility. They do not want Scripture to be accurate when it condemns their adultery, their homosexuality, their treachery, their lies, their greed, their idolatry, and their murderous ways. So they attack it on every level and those attacks are relentless. But Scripture also brings glad tidings of good news. Through Jesus Christ, and through Him alone, there is light, life, and eternal peace. Scripture alone brings the knowledge by which we know the truth light, the true life, the true Redeemer of the world.

If you know nothing else, know Scripture. If you can talk about nothing else, be able to talk about Scripture. If your apologetic is weak anywhere, let it be weak anywhere else but in defending Scripture. The entire Christian walk centers around the Jesus Christ who reveals Himself in Scripture. Ignorance of Scripture equals ignorance of Christ!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Why I take Certain Anti-Abortion Practices to be Unwise

First, preaching at women going into an abortion clinic is, in my opinion, not the wisest approach in our culture. And yes, we do have to pay attention to such things. The reason I think it is unwise is because the method has the effect, most often, of drowning out the message. In other words, the women in that setting generally only here anti-abortion rhetoric rather than the gospel. The gospel takes a back seat in their mind to the tactic that is being employed.

Rather than use a megaphone at the clinics, I would suggest that you simply do your best to approach the women calmly, respectfully, and politely. Ask them for their permission to speak to them for a moment, or to just ask them a few questions. Or, you could simply provide them with a gospel track and ask them to read it before they make a decision and ask them to contact you. Tell them that you would like to help them make a fully informed decision about their future and that you may be able to provide assistance in their circumstances.

Second, holding up signs of dead babies having been ripped to pieces during abortions is not at all a wise approach. Not only do such images distract from the gospel, they make you seem calloused and insensitive to the woman’s plight. They do not communicate love in any sense of the word love. And in most cases, they only desensitize people that see them, over and over and over again. I must confess that I am not at all a fan of this method in any way. Some conservative fellows are afraid to speak out about this for fear of being painted as soft on abortion. I am not at all soft on abortion. This has nothing to do with abortion. It has to do with a tactic. Those who employ this tactic are no more opposed to abortion than I am and if they think using these tactics means that they are, then they are sadly mistaken. It simply isn’t true.

Instead of holding up these kinds of signs, if you insist on holding up a sign, hold up a sign of a baby at whatever stage that is completely intact so that mothers can see what their baby looks like at that stage. That is a much better, more tasteful, less distracting, and more sensitive approach. And in my opinion, it is an approach that is far more consistent with Christian charity even if we are demanding repentance while holding up those signs.

Third, you should never, ever, under any circumstances allow young children to enter the anti-abortion protest environment. They will be exposed to these images and that is not something young children ought to be exposed to. You may think your children can handle it. But that is a hollow response that has little to support it. It rings empty. The truth is you have no idea what impact these images could have on your children’s psyche. To think that you’re doing this with the approval and endorsement of God is another error in judgment. God has nothing to do with your decision to expose your children to such nonsense. That decision is all yours. It isn’t good ministry and in my opinion, it isn’t good parenting. A second reason you should not bring your children into that environment is because you have no control over who will be there and what tactics they may employ in the name of God. Once your children are exposed, they are exposed. Third, it can be a dangerous environment and one that children should not be placed in if it can be avoided. Going to an abortion clinic is not nearly the same thing as going shopping or whatever. These locations attract all sorts of people for and against abortion who will resort to all sorts of tactics to protest or defend abortion, even violence. It is exactly the wrong environment for young children. If these facts are not enough to give you pause, and to help you get over yourself for a moment, and rethink your actions, then I suppose there is no argument that would convince you to do otherwise.

Abortion is a very wicked practice in this world. It is one that we have to expose and reprove as Christians living in a very dark, very fallen world. It has been around for thousands of years. Christians have had to deal with it for 2,000 years. Let us take care to deal with it using all the wisdom we can acquire and let us not allow our desire to end abortion (something God has not called us to do) bring division and disharmony in the body (something God has certainly called us to avoid). That’s right. Some people are willing to disregard God’s command for unity in order to engage in certain tactics that have no divine imperative behind them at all. And that is a very sad state of affairs. We must all be willing to assess our passions, motives, and actions to make sure we are attempting to be kind of New Testament witness to the New Testament message we all have a duty to carry.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Church, Complacency and Abortion

A friend of mine recently told me that he thought the church had been complacent about abortion over the years. We didn't have time to get into his measuring stick for what I think he really meant by complacency, but I wanted to share a few more of my thoughts here. The word complacent means self-satisfied, smug, content. Has the Church taken a stand against abortion? The true Church? Please understand that I am not talking about those churches where everything is challenged from Christ's deity to eternal damnation to the inspiration and authority of Scripture and even the exclusive nature of salvation. I am talking about the true Church of Jesus Christ. Has she been complacent on the issue of abortion? If you were to ask secular culture, they would surely say that the Church has been anything but complacent, refusing to mind her own business on the subject. They would affirm that religious nuts have been far too outspoken on the issue. So what does my friend mean when he and others who think like he does claim that the Church has been complacent on the issue of abortion?

I think what he really means is that the Church has been complacent on the legality of abortion. I think he means that we have not done enough to change the laws that protect and allow for abortion. And that is really a very different accusation. You see, if I accuse the Church of being too complacent when it comes to basic bible teaching, or to holding firmly to core doctrines, I am saying that the Church has a God-given responsibility that many of her members are ignoring. But what is it that I am saying when I say that the Church has been complacent about the laws that protect abortion? Is my friend saying that the Church has been complacent about the structure of the American legal system? And if so, based on whose standards? Do the NT authors issue clear mandates for the Church to go out and change the legal system in their respective culture? Is there even the slightest hint that the authors of the NT even implied that the civil government was to come under the guidance and direction and yes, the authority of the Church? That is after all what many anti-abortion activists are advocating whether they say so or not.

You see, dear Christian, there is a remarkable difference between being complacent about our God-given responsibilities and being complacent about the standards that others wish to place around our necks. Would it be a good thing if abortion were illegal? Of course it would. So my friend would say that we ought to work toward that end then. But this would leave the Church in a very awkward position, seeking to impose divine law on her respective cultures. For instance, would it be a good thing if homosexuality were illegal? Of course it would. Would it be a good thing if taking God's name in vain were illegal? Yes it would. Would it be a good thing if it were illegal to violate the law of God? I think it would. Does that mean Christians have a responsibility to work toward that end? If you think so, then you would be classified as a theonomist. My friend denies any links to theonomy in his thinking. Does the New Testament advocate for such action? Does a single apostle or any one of their associates, under divine inspiration, instruct or command a single local Church to engage in such political activism? The answer is clear. There isn't a single incident in the NT where God directed the Church even once to engage in activities designed specifically to change the civil codes of their culture. Not one!

Where abortion is concerned, the Christian is not complacent about the issue so long as we stand in opposition to it the same as they stand in opposition to any other sin. They are not complacent when they refuse to practice abortion. They are not complacent when they share the gospel with women considering abortion, urging them to repent and place their faith in Christ. They are not being complacent when they take those opportunities to speak out against it. But when the goal shifts to restructuring the laws, and when we infer that God has laid the responsibility of changing existing laws in a culture, on the Church in order to conform that culture externally at least, to Christian values, we have stepped outside the mission of the Church given by Christ Himself. The Church has a responsibility to preach the pure gospel. She has the responsibility to make disciples. She has the responsibility to do good deeds and to let her light shine into this dark world. She has the responsibility to expose and reprove the sins of her culture. She does this by living a peculiar lifestyle. She does this by preaching the gospel. She does this by preaching the biblical doctrine of repentance. She does this when she helps unwed mothers navigate through their pregnancy. She does this when she helps these mothers find loving homes for their children.

I realize that the anti-abortionists will think this tone is far too soft. They will think that it does not go far enough. Some will probably claim that I am part of the problem...just one more complacent member in a complacent Church. Others will even accuse me of not loving the unborn children and not showing mercy. And some will question my devotion to Christ and the legitimacy of my conversion. That is unfortunate. I only hope that they can do a better job of managing their emotions when it comes to this issue rather than allowing their emotions and passion about the issue to consume them.

The Church of God will continue her stand against abortion. Some of her members will work with young mothers through ministries like Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Others will hand out tracks and speak with women entering abortion clinics. Some will preach at abortion clinics. Some will simply teach, preach, and write about the sins of abortion. But the Church of God does not have a mission to end abortion in the world. She cannot possibly accomplish such a lofty goal. Some may retort we just want to end it in America. Really? Why? How dare you stop with America! Abortion, in case you have not noticed is a worldwide problem. And babies that are being aborted in Asia and Europe and Africa are just as much your neighbors as those being aborted in America. The Church of God remains in the earth not to stop abortion. She remains in the earth to preach the gospel and make disciples. Let us NOT be complacent about that!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Opposing Abortion without Losing Your Salt

Planned Parenthood has yet another video exposing them for the murderous organization that they are. The Center for Medical Progress has revealed a video exposing Planned Parenthood for intact harvesting. The behavior is incredibly disturbing. But I find American shock to be outrageously hypocritical and extremely inconsistent. After all, if the fetus is not really a human life, then why not harvest the organs? Is selling the organs any worse than murdering the child? What this admits is that deep in their conscience, Americans know what abortion really is. It is murder. And they have known this all along with few exceptions. Still, it remains high on their list of demands. Don’t worry America, God has some demands of His own and sooner than later, I suspect you’ll be paying the piper his due.

There is no question that the sin of lust, the sin of murder, and the sin of greed combine to create a tsunami of demand for the murder of the unborn in this country. Unrestricted sex, undisciplined greed, and a wholesale disregard for the sanctity of life have created a country that is about to become drunk with the wrath of the divine barring radical repentance. What is the Church to do? It should be noted that the ancient Church of the first-century had to deal with conditions far worse than the ones we deal with in modern America and the West, to include abortion, homosexuality, idolatry, and extreme persecution of the worse kind imaginable. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the sort of environment that early Christians lived in. Not even close. In fact, most of the Church has lived in much more desperate times across the world and throughout her history than modern Christians in American culture. Indeed, we have been incredibly blessed and there are more than a few that think it is high time we join the rest of our persecuted brothers and sisters in the world. And perhaps it is.

The issue of abortion has become one of contention even within the body of Christ. The manner in which some people approach the subject can be classified as quite extreme. Some within the Church preach about the sin of abortion within the context of calling the culture to repent in general of her rebellion against God and to place their faith in Christ trusting in Christ alone for forgiveness and redemption. Others, however, are not so measured in how they take up the issue of abortion. For them, abortion stands out above other sin or at least their actions indicate that such is the case. These people, in the name of loving their neighbor, and in the name of showing mercy march down to the abortion clinics, hold up signs of ripped up little babies, and use megaphones to preach (scream?) to/at women who are going in to get an abortion. While I am perfectly fine with abortion clinic ministry so long as its main aim is to preach the gospel and make disciples. However, when it graduates to holding up repulsive signs, screaming on megaphones, and even exposing one’s children to such an environment, I am seriously opposed to such practices.

To approach women at an abortion clinic calmly in order to have conversation with them, handing them a track, and perhaps some accurate information on abortion I think is a good deed. Perhaps asking them how you can help with their situation could be the sort of loving act that might actually influence more of them than we might imagine, to not kill their babies. But to take it to these extreme measures is without justification in Scripture regardless of what abortion activists claim. It is unnecessary to carry signs of dead babies in order to preach the gospel at abortion clinics. It is unnecessary to use megaphones or scream at people entering the clinic in order to preach or give the gospel at abortion clinics. Preaching/Screaming at women entering abortion clinics is not required to love your neighbor or to show mercy. The approach undertaken by these individuals has nothing to do with God-given convictions about a calling and everything to do with their own personal preference for how to stand against abortion. I am not saying their approach is prohibited at all. What I am saying is that their methods are entirely the product of their own personal preferences. And if these methods are a matter of personal preference, no amount of Scripture at all can be used to defend them. At best, Scripture defends opposing abortion and evangelism. But it does not defend the carrying of these signs and it certainly does not defend bringing young children in such an environment. If you think young children ought to be exposed to screaming down at the clinic and signs of twisted, mangled babies in order to expose them to the truth, something is surely wrong with your thinker. While it is true that Scripture provides no imperative for engaging in such activities, the next question is does Scripture provide any prohibition against engaging in such activities.       

A friend of mine says the Church has been complacent about abortion over the years. He thinks the Church must change. In other words, the Church is partially to blame for legal abortion. Seemingly, he thinks the Church ought to focus more time on the activity of making abortion against the law in America. And apparently he thinks this is loving your neighbor and showing mercy. I think focusing on making abortion illegal is a misplaced goal for Christians. Christians are not called to end murder, adultery, stealing, war, or world hunger. We are called to shine the light of the gospel into a dark and sin-loving, God-hating, self-worshipping world. We can end abortion, but for the most part, only in cases where the gospel has produced the supernatural change of regeneration. Has the Church been complacent about abortion? The Church has been complacent about a lot of things. But surely the reality of abortion is not the fault of the Church and those who use such rhetoric ought to be ashamed of themselves. Such tactics are nothing more than emotional arguments designed to guilt people into signing up for their cause. And their cause is usually, hook, line, and sinker their way.

Where does that leave us as Christians grappling with the sin of abortion? It leaves us in the same place we are in grappling with every other sin in our culture. We don’t do it. I think it is a mistake to single out one sin, such as abortion, or homosexuality, or human trafficking and focus more on those sins than on others. Jesus commanded us, where the culture is concerned, to focus on one and only one sin: the rebellion of unbelief. The Church, where the culture is concerned, is to condemn all sin equally. American culture is guilty of rejecting God at every level. The Church must preach Christ and Him crucified. The law of God convicts the human heart of its need for radical change. Repentance from their rebellion against God means entire repentance. It does not mean peace-meal repentance. When the gospel of God overwhelms the sinners heart, that sinner will be set free from sexual sin, murder, lying, stealing, idolatry, and the whole lot of wickedness.

What does this mean? It means that Christians do not need to feel guilty that abortion is a reality of American culture nor feel like they are responsible in some way. It means that Christians do NOT have to go down to the abortion clinic in order to avoid sinning against God in not loving their neighbor or not showing mercy. It means that Christians do not have to carry megaphones in front of abortion clinics to oppose and condemn the sin of abortion. It certainly means that Christians do NOT need to carry signs and images of babies ripped apart by the pernicious procedure of abortion in order to oppose abortion. And it certainly means that Christians have much better means available to them than carrying their young children down to abortion clinics and exposing them to this environment and especially to such disturbing images in order to educate them on this sin. This means the Christians who engage in anti-abortion activities are engaging in an activity that is not the product of any divine imperative. Christians are not instructed, encouraged, or commanded anywhere in Scripture to engage in these kinds of activities. And this means that Christians who do this, are doing what they want to do, not what God has commanded them or called them to do. Is it wrong for Christians to go to abortion clinics and give the gospel? It depends on their motives for doing so. If their primary motive is to stop abortion, rather than to glorify God by giving the gospel, it is possible that such a motive is misplaced. Is it wrong to hold up signs of dead, ripped apart babies? It could be. I think great wisdom must be brought to bear here. We should not allow our tactics to give offense and detract from the gospel. And such tactics can have the tendency to do precisely that very thing. Offense, if it exists, ought to be caused by the gospel itself and not our personal method for delivering it if at all possible. Should we take young children down to the clinic or expose any young child to these images? A resounding no is my response! Where is the wisdom in exposing young children to such horrific images? Where is the discernment?

Let it be the gospel opposition to abortion that causes offense and nothing more! That is my point of view.

Does Ephesians Five Really Tell Wives to Submit to their Husbands? Responding to DTS Professor, Darrell Bock and Sandra Gahn

With all the rage over feminist issues going on as a result of the #MeToo movement, it isn’t shocking that pastors and professors holdi...