Category Archives: Christian Living

Armed and Dangerous

 

One can only imagine what it would have been like to have the Apostle Paul as a mentor and father figure, not only in the faith, but in life as well.  We can observe and note how this may have been through the letters that he wrote to his young protege Timothy.  His care, encouragement, and desire to impart wisdom is evident, particularly in a well-known passage from 2 Timothy 3.  In the midst of encouraging Timothy to follow and emulate the pattern of his life, Paul encourages him to continue in the faith and to recall his younger days when he was acquainted (literally know or understand) with the sacred writings.  Presumably, this mention of sacred writings leads the Apostle into a brief discourse on the nature of Scripture, which is our passage under consideration in this post.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Two questions immediately jump out at the reader, first is what is defined as Scripture and second, who is the man of God.  The remainder of the passage seems fairly straightforward.  Whatever the Scriptures are defined to be, they are breathed out by God, theopneustos, literally that they are God-breathed or from the mouth of God.  It would not be difficult to see how the parallel concept of Scripture as the Word of God is likewise valid.

Scripture is the generic word, writings, but its contextual use in the New Testament is always a reference to the inscripturated revelation of God.  We find references to Scripture time and again in the gospel accounts of our Lord’s earthly ministry.  Here, as with nearly all of the other uses, it is a reference to the Old Testament or TANAK.  This fact was never in question.  The difficulty comes by way of trying to understand if Scripture can refer to the New Testament.  Without creating a brand new post for that defense, suffice it to say that there is internal evidence that this is indeed the case, particularly when one considers 2 Peter 1:16-21; 3:16; 1 Timothy 5:18 as well as the overwhelming number of references, allusions, and echoes of the Old Testament, not to mention the words of Christ Himself.  It is therefore without question that both Old and New Testament’s collectively may be referred to as Scripture.

We then arrive at four given functions of Scripture.  The Apostle informs Timothy that the Scriptures, which have come from the mouth of God, are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  Strong’s defines profitable as helpful or serviceable, advantageous, each of which help to draw out more clearly the idea that is being conveyed here.  Combining this with our four functions and we see that the Scriptures are a helpful, even more – advantageous, companion for teaching or instruction, which elsewhere Paul has described as communicating doctrine (Titus 1:9).

Likewise, the Scriptures are helpful for both reproof and correction, which sound similar and would seem to be communicating a similar concept.  In reality however, it is likely that the former means the Scriptures are advantageous for correcting doctrinal errors and reproving those who would hold to beliefs that are contrary.  The latter however uses a different word, which the ESV translates as correction, which better communicates the idea of correcting moral behavior.  Together then, we see that the Scriptures are helpful for correcting both doctrinal deficiencies and moral deficiencies of character.

Finally, we arrive at our fourth function of Scripture, that it trains in righteousness.  Elsewhere in Scripture when this word for training is used, it is in the context of discipline and instruction, as with a Father to a son (Eph. 6:4; Heb. 12:5, 12:7, 12:11).  Turning to Strong’s again and we find that it also connotes the idea of cultivation.  In farming, this would include the entire process from plowing the ground to planting the seed and watering all the way to the production of the fruit.  It is easy then to see how the Scriptures would function in this way in the life of a believer, from the rather painful discipline of plowing the hard heart to the joyful producing of spiritual fruit.

All of this brings us to our second question, who is the man of God.  If we relied on some common understandings of this passage, we would be left with a limited application of the man of God referring exclusively to pastors or preachers.  But that’s too technical of a definition and would be a sad outcome leaving the rest of the “lay” population of believers on the outside looking in at this magnificent discourse on the nature and purpose of Scripture.  Along this line of thought, the everyday believer would figuratively hand over the Scriptures to the professional man of God so that they could be used properly for the functions as described.  But though the Scriptures are a sword, they are not the sword in the stone waiting only for the professional Arthur to come along.  The Sword of God fits all hands of believers who by faith wield it in the power of the Spirit, particularly for the functions mentioned here.

The man of God, as the footnote in some Bibles indicate, also means the messenger of God and echoes a common Old Testament reference.  Essentially it is the man (anthropos), belonging to God (possessive) that articulates or communicates the truths of God’s Word, the Scriptures.  This could occur on a street corner, at a dinner table, in a gathering of believers, 1 on 1, 1 on 50, anywhere that a person takes a stand and proclaims the Word of God.  Which brings up a second point.  Anthropos here is not restricted to males only.  It is most often used generically as a reference to mankind.  So, therefore, women need not feel inferior that the power and function of Scriptures are limited to men only.  This promise is for the man or woman of God who communicates the message of God using the Word of God (1 Timothy 2:12 & 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is for another day).

Take heart believers, God has equipped us in this twisted and corrupt generation to proclaim His Word.  Not only has He fulfilled His promise in giving His Holy Spirit, but He has armed us with the Sword of the Lord, His Scriptures, which have proceeded from His very mouth.  These Scriptures complete and equip the man or woman of God for every good work.  We are not adequate for such things on our own, literally we are unarmed.  Thus the power of Scripture to equip, or to furnish us with the means necessary to do the good work that God has set before us.  Be bold and confident in the Lord.

“The Wind blows where it wishes”

 

Originally published August 11, 2009.

The other day I checked in on a Bible Facebook group that I sometimes follow and in the comments there was an interesting request.  One member, perhaps passing through, indicated that he was an atheist and would like for someone to provide a convincing argument that a divine entity existed.  Now, it’s at this point I must say I don’t know what compelled me to message him, nor had I prepared any sort of conversation.  I was just honestly wondering what might have persuaded him to be an atheist, where his beliefs came from, and what convincing argument he was looking for.  I’ll also quickly mention that as Christians we should care for each and every lost soul and I still pray that Christ might reveal himself to this young man, perhaps even through this site as I recount our conversation.

When I first mention a conversation with an atheist, the initial thought might be to take an apologetic route.  I don’t claim to be an expert on atheistic issues, but I felt like I should try to find out what his beliefs were and admittedly to determine where his thought process fell, i.e. relativism.  I asked questions along the lines of “Do you believe we are born with the ability to determine right from wrong” to which he answered no.  I then followed up attempting to probe deeper into those thoughts, but each time I was thwarted in MY efforts.

At this point I prayed, “Dear Lord guide my steps, my thoughts, let my words be Your words” and the young man’s next response was essentially let’s stop being so apologetic and cut to the chase.  And then it hit me and with all the sincerity of my heart I replied with:

Ahh I see, well forgive me. I was merely trying to understand where you were coming from. Without apologetics, you’re left with one thing standing in your way between understanding whether a divine entity exists or not.

See where apologetics fails is that it presumes that all things can be broken down into logical concepts, arguments if you will, that prove or disprove one point or another. While on the surface this makes sense, as it appeals to the very intellectual nature of our being, it lacks a key, necessary component and that is faith.

We can banter back and forth about relativistic points of view, to establish morality or whether a divine entity created the earth or not and that is all well and good, nothing wrong with that at all. But at the end of the day, without faith you and I are the same person. We both do what we want, when we want, and live each day doing the best we can.

Without my faith in the only One and True living God, I am an atheist. Without my faith that God loved His only Son so much that He sent Him to die on the cross for me and all of my disgusting sins, I am an atheist too. But I have that faith. And through my faith I am saved from those sins. And through that faith I have eternal life through my Savior. And that faith is all I need. Because if I’m wrong and everything I believe in is wrong, have I lost anything? No, you and I would end up in the same place after we die. But if I’m right and my faith is all that’s needed in this world, then that’s a big difference isn’t it?

At the end of the day that’s the separation between us <name>, it comes down to faith. Neither of us were granted a higher knowledge over the other or have seen some great revelation that leads us to our beliefs. I have faith in my Savior Jesus Christ and perhaps you want proof so that you can believe in a higher power, but in the end it’s faith you are searching for. But I’m afraid you won’t find it by searching, no one is going to provide you with the answer you’re looking for, it’s within you already and it’s up to you to believe.

“So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” Romans 10:17

I’m sure it’s easy to look back on that and say, well you should’ve said this or that or phrased your response this way, but that’s the way it came out, so that’s the way it is.  Why is it that some have the capacity to have faith while others, like my young friend, seemingly do not, or at least not yet?

See what my friend, and so many others who are searching, long for is a god to mold into what they want.  What Christians have is a God that molds us to what He wants.  That’s the difference and it’s big.

In John 3, Jesus is approached by Nicodemus who says, “…Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” John 3:2 To which Jesus replies, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Ah, if only I had remembered this encounter before mine with my young friend, because here, it is Jesus who cuts to the chase.  He wastes no time in witnessing to Nicodemus.  He doesn’t even wait for him to ask the question, before He has already stated the answer.   Nicodemus is no fool, he understands the figurative language that Jesus is using, but nevertheless he asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  John 3:4 He knows that his question is not a possibility, but as he’s picked up on Jesus’ analogy, he inquires more.  Jesus replies, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.'” John 3:5-7

Jesus reemphasizes His figurative language by pointing out the Spiritual cleansing and Spiritual rebirth necessary for salvation and essential to entering heaven.  It should be noted that being born of water in this passage does not refer to baptism, but rather the spiritual cleansing through being born again.   As though He  perceived the potential next question from Nicodemus, Jesus follows up by explaining the root of this rebirth does not come from man, but from the Spirit Himself.  “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

That last sentence of Jesus’ statement is so important towards understanding our previous question of why is it that some people come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, yet others don’t.  It’s this passage that so clearly points out that it’s not a human decision.  Meaning it is not within us to “make a decision” without the power of the Holy Spirit moving in our lives and in our hearts.

As Jesus indicates, the Spirit moves where He wishes and we never see Him, never know from where He comes, nor where He is going, but we see the impacts.  We see the impact on the lives changed by His presence.  Spiritual rebirth is as much or more a miracle than our original birth from the womb.

Our role as Christians is to preach the Gospel and expose nonbelievers to the Word of God. (Mark 16:15) In accordance with this, in order to be faithful to Jesus’ commission, we need to be well equipped with a strong knowledge of the Bible, because it is through God’s Word that seeds of salvation are planted in the hearts of nonbelievers.  We can make rational arguments through apologetic presentations, present emotional “seeker sensitive” church services, and even present biblical truths, but without the power of the Holy Spirit, no true regeneration or even a desire for one can take place.

Prayer: My prayer is that the Holy Spirit reaches out to our unsaved friends and family that they might realize their need for a Savior in Jesus Christ.  That the Holy Spirit might bring them to repentance and that they might openly and willingly respond when this happens.  That the Spirit of the Lord might put each one of us in the path of the unsaved and that He might guide our steps, our thoughts, let our words be His words that we might be useful vessels in conveying the wonderful truths of the Word of God.

Additional Study: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

A Three Pronged Assault on Unity

 

It’s been a few months since I posted a video in which Todd Friel, of Wretched Radio and Wretched TV summarizes some recent, troubling events within Evangelicalism.  As I’ve stated before, I don’t believe that the term Evangelicalism really has any meaning these days, but is instead better qualified as an American subset under Christendom, that which is Christian in name only.  Specifically, the troubling events that Friel highlights are occurring with the “Reformed” branch of Evangelicalism.  This group can be summarized as essentially those who hold to the sovereignty of God in salvation, which has sadly become the only qualifier necessary to call oneself reformed.

I don’t want to rehash all that Friel discusses (you can view it for yourself here The Gathering Storm) because he does an excellent job of introducing and over-viewing the landscape of these issues, including The Players, The Events, The Worldviews, and The Future.  However, in this post, I’d like to simply highlight the three primary issues which have surfaced recently that will likely have, and have had, significant impact on the remnant of what calls itself Evangelicalism.

Before we begin, I also want to draw attention again to the viral post from 2009 by the late Michael Spencer, “The Coming Evangelical Collapse.”  Recall that in that post, Spencer points out 7 critical factors that he believed would contribute to the downfall of evangelicalism, 2 of which have a remarkably profound link to the current issues that we’ll define below.  By the way, Spencer thought that this evangelical collapse would come within 10 years.  Next March will be ten years since he penned the article.  The foundations are already crumbling and becoming irreparable.

Here are Spencer’s words:

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to “do good” is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

Without commenting further, let’s look at the current issues that are contributing to an evangelical divide at break-neck speeds and will likely lead to its continued demise.

Homosexuality

This first issue has garnered most of the attention over the last decade.  However in this short period there has been much evolution on the views and positions of so-called (self-appointed) leaders within evangelicalism and church pastors.  The issue of marriage, more specifically homosexual marriage, has naturally led to broader discussions on the sin of homosexuality.  I fear that the pendulum is tilting towards supporting a “born this way” biological view of homosexuality that will lead to unrecoverable ground in this discussion.

Even if born this way, biologically, is not fully embraced, nevertheless a shift has already been taking place in clear acceptance of same-sex attractedness. While there is a wide-range of views on this, from those who openly believe that one can be in a monogamous, homosexual relationship to those who believe one can be gay, or same-sex attracted, and simply be celibate while still claiming to be Christian, nevertheless there has been a tendency to soften on the view that homsexuality, even the desires, are sinful and therefore need to be mortified.

Additionally, and equally as troubling, is the effort to normalize the identification of gay or homosexual or same-sex attracted as an adjective describing a Christian.  The remarkable thing is that even since the first draft of this post, which began in July 2018, this trend has been increasing to accept same-sex attraction Christian and gay Christian as simply normal, regardless of the end of the spectrum views one holds to.  This is a slippery slope, unless of course we are prepared to normalize paedo-attracted Christianity or beastial-attracted Christianity.

Race

The second issue that is and will continue to drive a wedge among remnant evangelicalism, broadly, and the reformed movement, specifically, is race.  Over the last few years American society has been shaken and divided over issues of race, specifically in matters involving law enforcement.  It was only a matter of time before the social/cultural movements migrated into evangelicalism.  The election of a president, by the overwhelming majority of evangelicalism,  at least as we have been told, has predictably contributed to this division.  Evangelicals continue to hitch their wagon to the political golden-calf in the hopes that government and policy will somehow restrain sin and make this a Christian nation.  Law cannot convert hearts.  This has kept them comfortable enough not to feel the urgency of spreading the Gospel, so long as  a particular party is in charge.  The fact that our sitting president has been painted (whether fairly or unfairly) as racist and a white supremacist sympathizer, has predictably led to an overreaction that evangelicalism is inherently racist, has always been, and thereby should repent of their sins and the sins of their fathers.

This issue has been gaining massive speed and I simply do not see reconciliation coming any time soon, if ever.  In fact, the division is deepening even in recent days.  Earlier this year with the T4G and MLK50 conferences, the issues of systematic racism and white privilege, along with the call for repentance from every non-black  white person’s role, and their parent’s role, in racism, hit  mainstream evangelicalism.  However, I went back and looked at some of the key speakers trajectories over the last few years and this was the path they were on, it was just largely unnoticed.

On the one side, that of racial reconciliation and systematic racism is some of the T4G members (perhaps John MacArthur as the lone exception), MLK50, The Southern Baptist Convention and their seminaries (including the flagship -Southern Seminary), 9 Marks, The Gospel Coalition, the ERLC, Acts 29, Sojourners, and a host of others (essentially all major seminaries, though I’m sure there are exceptions), all represent the recent push for racial reconciliation and an emphasis on social justice.  Clearly they hold the majority of the evangelical power, particularly those in the reformed camp.

On the other side, the ever-shrinking minority, John MacArthur,  Voddie Baucham, James White, and others who have authored and signed a recent statement on the Social Justice Movement explicitly stating that an emphasis on social justice, whatever that even means, is an assault on the gospel.  The outcries, hatred, and downright sinful responses to this statement have been telling of the path that Evangelicalism is on.  If a Christian finds themself on the side of hate-filled, liberal, unbelievers, a reassessment is necessary.  Additionally, what speaks louder is the silence that those in the first group above have had on their various media platforms regarding this statement.  Of all of their blogs that I follow, there has been zero commentary.

The Role of Women

This final issue is one that has been on-going, but honestly the issue I’m least familiar with.  Typically, it is broken down into complementarianism vs. egalitarianism.  That is, that men and women are different but complement each other perfectly in their various roles vs. a more egalitarian view that says their roles are equal.  In the past, these views usually manifest themselves in divisions over whether women can be pastors, but more recently the #metoo movement has begun to percolate throughout evangelicalism, which will, and has, inevitably lead to an overreaction (see the firing of Paige Patterson).  Don’t get me wrong on this point.  I abhor any use of power for sexual gain, as well as sexual harassment, and especially assault.  What I’m more pointing out here is the pendulum swing, rather than a balanced approach to these issues.

For some time, I have felt that a minority of those who label themselves as complementarian have painted with broad strokes and have a tendency to come across as heavy handed and domineering over women.  This certainly has not been true of all and there are those who hold to a more balanced view of biblical complementarianism, but predictably, this has led to the overreactions that we’re witnessing.

Ironically, some of the publications and outcries for the advancement of complementarianism were themselves a reaction to the influx of feminism.  Since I’m not as familiar with this movement, as with the others, I will simply defer additional comment.

Regardless of where one’s views fall on any of these issues, it is impossible to justify the divisions and disunity that is taking place.  In fact, what we’re witnessing should cause every genuine believer’s heart to ache for the reproach being brought to the name of Christ.  Every day that these issues continue to fester is another day that division widens.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones often said that church history can be boiled down to excesses and then subsequent overreactions, in contrast to consistently holding to the pattern of the New Testament.  This is precisely what we are seeing today.  Excesses in political involvement and engagement with culture have led Evangelicalism down a path of gospel neglect.  In turn, by attempting to address or confront culture on its terms, it has resulted in a watered down gospel message, one that now associates the Gospel with republicanism, racism, homophobia, and patriarchy.  This is what happens when you soft-peddle the gospel on the back of winning the culture wars.  Man cannot serve two masters. Evangelicalism has tried to serve both Christ and culture and it has resulted in an abject failure.

A final word from Spencer on his predicted evangelical collapse,

Expect a fragmented response to the culture war. Some Evangelicals will work to create their own countercultures, rather than try to change the culture at large. Some will continue to see conservatism and Christianity through one lens and will engage the culture war much as before – a status quo the media will be all too happy to perpetuate. A significant number, however, may give up political engagement for a discipleship of deeper impact.”

May God have mercy on us, but brothers and sisters, judgment begins in the house of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17).  Make no mistake, its here.