Monday, June 23, 2008

New Poll Shows Pluralism Rules the Day

From the June 23, 2008 San Francisco Chronicle (emphasis mine):

Americans remain heavily religious, but their views rarely conform to dogma, according to a massive new survey released this morning.

Seventy percent of religious adherents in the United States believe multiple religions can lead a person to salvation, while 68 percent say there is more than one way to interpret the teachings of their religion.

Those views are at the centerpiece of a survey of 36,000 people released today by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey - unprecedented in its combination of survey pool and breadth of questions - reveals that religious beliefs and practices in America defy doctrine.

- 57 percent of evangelical Christians say that multiple religions can lead to salvation, though nary an evangelical theologian or minister would say that.

So what's to blame for this? Poor preaching and teaching from America's pulpits? Christians living more like the world around them than in fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are many of the respondents people that profess but do not possess saving faith, who are just part of the church crowd but have not put their faith in Christ and Christ alone and repented of their sins?

Perhaps all of the above play a part in this alarming statistic, but if the poll is anywhere near accurate, it should be a wake-up call to Christian pastors to preach the Gospel, and indeed, to insist on the Gospel week after week, Sunday after Sunday, sermon after sermon (emphases mine).

The Apostle Paul made it very clear in his writings (see below) that the Gospel was "of first importance" and something that must be insisted upon in regular preaching and instruction to the church:

3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. [Titus 3:3-8]

| | | | | | |

15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, [1] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, [I Cor. 15:3-5]

The fallacy of religious pluralism* is just another manifestation of man's sinful, self-aggrandizing heart. This fallacy preys on our desire to be our own god, to live in a moral and spiritual reality largely of our own creation, not in response to God as He has graciously revealed himself. Religious pluralism basically says "I'm okay, you're okay, but when you or I don't feel okay, we can pursue our own separate ways to feel okay with ourselves and God."

In short, the problem is that apart from God graciously moving on our hearts to show us the reality that we are dead in sin, we think we're pretty good people. What's more, if we think we have messed up and sinned, in our deadness to sin we devise ways to work it off, as though it were the Freshman Fifteen and not an egregious act of what R. C. Sproul would call "cosmic treason" against a holy God.

The law of God is perfect and holy, but we are impure, corrupt, unholy, and rebellious (see Romans 7).

This contrasts with the perfect love and obedience of Jesus Christ, who alone can make atonement for sin and indeed did so for sinners at the cross.:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [1] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, [2] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:5-11]

| | | | | Christ God was reconciling [3] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [II Cor. 5:19-21]

Jesus lived a sinless life of perfect obedience, took on the penalty of sin for sinners as their substitute, and was raised to life again and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, waiting to come back again to bring judgment and justice and establish his kingdom forever with men from every tongue, tribe, and nation redeemed by his blood. He has called his people to be ambassadors of His gospel, bearing the message forth to the whole worth: be reconciled to God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and repent of your sins.

That is what needs to be preached, and constantly, not just at Easter and Good Friday!

That's the exciting, powerful, life-changing, soul-saving nature of the Gospel. It is to be heralded boldly every Sunday from the pulpits across the land so that it might sink into the hearts of the faithful and result in ever-increasing worship of the Lord and to zealousness for good works in accordance with the Gospel.

Cotton candy theology won't cut it anymore. Moralistic topical sermons won't feed the sheep or call the sinner to repentance.

It's time we insist on our pastors insisting on the Gospel.

*by this I mean holding a plurality if not all religions as equally valid in their truth claims, not the passive tolerance of persons of differing beliefs. Indeed, Christ calls us to live in peace with everyone and desires us to be ambassadors of his grace, bringing the good news of salvation as a messenger would his intended recipient. We aim to win people to Christ by the preaching of the Word, not by the wielding of the sword.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Quote of the Day on Pop Christianity*

We serve a precise God who has revealed himself with precision in his word; the least we could do is try to be clear with the message. --Erik Raymond @ Irish Calvinist
Check out his blog post linked above. Good stuff.

Here's an excerpt, where Raymond objects to a Christian T-shirt emblazoned with the saying, "God is crazy about you.":

I don’t know about you but to portray God like some ditzy teenage girl, snapping his gum and scribbling my name on a piece of scrap paper does not seem biblical. God is gracious, loving, merciful and just; he is not enchanted by my apparent value or worth; he is certainly not overcome by ‘crazy love’ (insert prom music here).
*a term I'll use to describe the use of Christianized slogans and products as a cultural alternative to pop culture.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Adoption: The Wonder of God's Love | Sermon Notes

What follows is a rough outline of "Adoption: The Wonder of God's Love," a sermon by guest minister Robin Boisvert given at Solid Rock Church in Riverdale, Md., on June 15, 2008, Father's Day. Boisvert is a pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md. Please note that some of my thoughts are woven through what follows, particularly the notes following the bolded portions in the number list below.

Sermon audio available for download here.

The text for the sermon comes from I John 3:1-3 (ESV):

3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears [1] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Main point: Adoption is the highest privilege in the Christian life. Not only are we justified by God, imputed with Christ's righteousness and forgiven of our sins, and not only are our hearts regenerated, turned from stone to flesh, so that we desire God, but we are made His child.

Basically, it's like the judge stepping down from the bench and taking us home with him after acquitting us.

The passage here, and the totality of I John as a letter is that we might not only have but KNOW we have eternal life in Christ Jesus.

As such, there are four truths in this passage which can encourage us greatly:

1) Adoption is a wonderful privilege --"what kind of love" is an expression of wonder, of amazement at God's miraculous working upon our hearts, to adopt us and grant us His Holy Spirit by whom we cry, "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6)

2) Adoption is a present reality -- we are sons of God now. This has tremendous implications to our sojourn through this life, and quite markedly in our prayer life, as we address God as our Father

3) Adoption is a transforming truth

4) Adoption is a purifying hope -- Our adoption as sons of God gives us joyful desire to become more and more like the Son, Jesus Christ, living to His honor and glory, seeking to do that which is pleasing to the Father, not out of fear or mechanical obligation, but out of a desire to be like our heavenly Father


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Something to Geek Out To: Why the Apocalypse Is Morally Necessary

Good post by Dr. Albert Mohler today on the moral necessity of eschatology.

A good read for anyone, but particularly those who might argue the apocalyptic passages of Scripture are too esoteric or abstract to study privately or preach and expound upon publicly.

Also a good reminder of why churches shouldn't shy away from including the end of the age/return of Christ in their belief statements.

Here's a great excerpt (emphases mine):

The human mind cannot help but look to the end. For this reason, eschatology will always be a central feature of any worldview or belief system. The Christian doctrine of eschatology is necessary to the biblical story and to the Gospel narrative.

Put simply, the Christian story unravels unless God brings the entire course of human history under His visible and perfect judgment, unless God's justice is perfectly displayed, unless the Christ is revealed in glory so that every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father [Phil. 2:11], unless Christ claims His redeemed people, unless God's triumph in Christ over death, sin, evil, and injustice is made universal. Put simply, unless every eye is dry and every tear is wiped away.

There is no Christian Gospel if history simply unwinds into a meaningless puddle, if the cosmos simply escapes into a cataclysmic black hole, or if the universe finally dies of exhausted energy. Without belief in a biblical eschatology, there is no Christian hope. Without a sense of perfect moral judgment in the end, the human heart is homeless.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Like Nails on a Chalkboard to Me

That's how I'd describe the song"We Shall Overcome." The anthem of the Civil Rights Movement was loosely based on an earlier hymn, but it in itself should not ever, in my opinion, be considered a Christian spiritual given its lack of focus on the person and work of the Overcomer, Jesus Christ, who redeems His people from sin and death and raises them to new life. It's also extremely gauzy and vague (see lyrics at bottom of post) and hence not very encouraging, scripturally speaking, for a hymn.

Here are my objections:

1) We can't overcome anything (sin, death, our guilt before a holy God who justly judges us for our sin) apart from our union with Christ.
2) The best corresponding biblical passage I can think of for this song is from Revelation 12:7-12, which makes clear the saints overcome by the "blood of the Lamb [Christ's atoning work] and by the word of their testimony [the Gospel]."
3) While it is true that one day we shall see the ultimate establishment of universal peace and justice under Christ in a new heaven and new earth, this is a victory already obtained by Christ at the cross, hence it is more proper for Christians to remember that and celebrate it in the past and present tense, just as Paul does in his letter to the Colossian church (2:13-15):

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities [2] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. [3]


We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day


Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day


We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand some day


We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all be free some day


We are not afraid
We are not afraid
We are not afraid some day


We are not alone
We are not alone
We are not alone some day


The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around some day


We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Excellent Thoughts on Revival: Real and Counterfeit

I came across an excellent item by Dan Edelen of Cerulean Sanctum about the marks of genuine revival versus the snake oil showmanship that leaves many a well-intentioned soul with a shipwrecked faith. His news hook, if you will, is all the buzz in some charismatic Christian circles about revivalist preacher Todd Bentley, who is based in Lakeland, Florida.

His full post is here, but below I've excerpted the five key points Edelen makes (emphases mine):

1. All true revival is marked by one overarching, indisputable reality: People are driven to repentance. And not “Me too, me too!” repentance, but the kind that soaks the carpeting in tears of holy remorse for sin. Any revival that is not first and foremost preceded by and given over to repentance is not a Holy Spirit-ordained revival. The number one fruit coming out of any revival will always be fruits of repentance. And those fruits remain. They don’t vanish six months after roadies pack up the revival tent; they last a lifetime. Want to gauge who’s behind this revival? Watch for fruits of repentance. If everything but repentance is visible front and center stage, then it’s not a revival from God.

2. There’s no fool like a charismatic fool. And I say that as a charismatic. Too many charismatics drink from poisoned wells only to clutch their guts in pain later, asking what went wrong. What went wrong is that no one was bold enough to test the spirits to see if they were from God. Want a wise foundation for that kind of discernment? Start right here.

3. Whenever the emphasis gets off Jesus, a revival’s focus is off target. The Holy Spirit always pulls people to Jesus. He doesn’t pull them toward angels, canny preachers, or displays of spiritual gifts. He doesn’t need gold teeth, gold dust, and angel feathers to point people to Jesus. (Those are illusionist and occultist tricks.) He just needs himself because He is sufficient to do the pointing. Real revival isn’t about what you or I want, but what Jesus Christ wants.

4. When the sons of Aaron offered “strange fire” before the Lord, their offering was probably close to what it should have been. After all, they knew the formalities. The problem was that close doesn’t count except in horseshoes and hand grenades. God doesn’t put up with close. His worshipers worship Him in Spirit and in truth. And there’s no “almost” in truth. You want “almost” when it comes to truth? Consider Satan; he’s a master of the almost truth. If we’ve got experienced charismatics at a revival with folded arms and scrunched brows saying, “Well, you know…,” then it’s strange fire.

5. Real revival doesn’t just draw one kind of Christian. It draws everyone. It draws Episcopalians, Lutherans, Reformed, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Brethren, Mennonite, Methodist, Baptist—everyone. And not just Christians, either. Real revival pulls in hundreds of the unsaved and the cultists. Real revival spills out of the cup that first held it. It rains down on whomever is near because God doesn’t discriminate. He’s an equal opportunity anointer of those who wholeheartedly seek Him.

I would also add that real revival is marked by an intense and earnest thirst for the study of the Word of God. That was after all the hallmark of one of the greatest revival's of modern history: the Reformation.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Thoughts After One Year of Calvinism

I can't pinpoint the date exactly, but it was in late May and early June of 2007 that the Lord brought me around to a more biblical understanding of salvation. It's commonly nicknamed Calvinism, although I prefer to style the soteriology as many others do more accurately as the Doctrines of Grace.

This post, however, is not designed to explore the oft-acronymed five points of TULIP (or as I think I prefer RUPEP), but merely to posit this:

A right understanding of God's grace will cause the Christian to realize a mind-blowing truth.: Every person who trusts in Christ unto salvation is the result of a miracle performed by God himself.

That I am a Christian is a miracle.

It's not because I am smarter than those who reject Christ or more spiritually attuned. It's not because I've dispassionately weighed the options and chosen Christ. It's not because I've chosen Christ or stuck with him after opting to "try Jesus."

No, I'm adopted into God's family not by my initiative but because I've been born again by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. My rebirth spiritually preceded my faith and it made possible and alive my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. [John 3; I Peter 1:3-9]

Before God awakened my heart to believe and trust in him, I was dead in sin. Dead men don't make choices. Dean men don't believe things. Dead men just decay, and so did I, spiritually, until God brought me from death unto life. [John 5:24]

But praise be to God and God alone for [Eph. 2: 8-10; Gal. 3:10-14; Rom. 3:10-12, 21-28; 8:18-30; 10:17; Phil. 1:6]:

  • choosing to save me before the foundation of the world
  • sending Jesus to die for my sins, bearing God's just wrath against them in my place
  • sending faithful messengers to preach the Word of God to me of so great a salvation
  • summoning my heart to new life and faith in Christ through His Holy Spirit
  • preserving me by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to cling to my only hope, Christ Jesus
That's the heart of the Calvinist understanding of predestination. More importantly it's at the heart of the Gospel.

God initiated every facet of my salvation, and He'll complete every facet, and it's all for the praise of His glory. [Heb. 12:1-2; 10:19-39]

Soli Deo gloria! To God alone be the glory.


Search My Site