Monthly Archives: March 2018

Saturday Sampler: March 25 — March 31

Starburst SamplerPremiere blogger Tim Challies explores the question, What Counts as a “Gospel Issue?” As much as I love animals, I thoroughly agree with his commonsense answer.

Funerals are difficult, but the Lord often uses them to teach us more about Himself. In Two Lessons from Two Radically Different Funerals, Jordan Standridge of The Cripplegate reflects on two funerals he recently attended.  He includes some sobering thoughts that, in my opinion, relate to the inadequacies of the social gospel.

Liam Goligher of Reformation 21 calls a spade a spade in his article, De-Conversion. Having watched a dear friend’s very public departure from the faith. I appreciate Goligher for his Biblical insights into this horrifying process. He adds advice for those who struggle with temptation to walk away from the truth.

You might want to read The Blessing of a Good Example by David Qaoud in Gospel Relevance as an encouragement to live in accordance with your Christian profession.

Anticipating tomorrow’s celebration of Christ’s resurrection, Greg Norwine contributes The Resurrection Creates Immovable, Unstoppable Christians to Unlocking the Bible. He approaches the subject from an angle I’ve never considered, making his teaching absolutely fascinating to read.

The Essential Importance of the Cross also looks forward to Resurrection Sunday. Leslie A writes this essay for Growing 4 Life in order to show how correct teaching about the cross helps us discern the many false teachings that swirl around us today. I appreciate Leslie for reinforcing the truth that Biblical discernment depends on understanding doctrine.

I admit my inept study of eschatology, though I think I’m improving. So Elizabeth Prata’s Why eschatology matters (and hopefully making a comeback) in The End Time encourages me to keep at it. I may never be dogmatic on every point, but I trust God’s Word to give me the amount of clarity I need.

Although I haven’t fully vetted Lori  Alexander’s blog, The Transformed Wife, her post Should We Rebuke the Devil? definitely deals with spiritual warfare from a Biblical standpoint. Praise the Lord for her contribution to this important discussion.

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The Back Story To Good Friday

At The CrossPeople naturally recoil at any mention of God’s wrath or His judgment. None of us particularly relishes the thought of His righteous anger, and we certainly balk at the suggestion that we personally deserve eternal punishment for our sins. I know I’d prefer to focus on His love.

But in order to really understand the wonder of God’s grace in Christ’s atoning death on the cross, we first must come to terms with the horrifying reality that, as sinners, we deserve eternal damnation. The apostle Paul, as a matter of fact, spent the first two-and-a-half chapters of Romans demonstrating the universal corruption of the human race. He makes it abundantly clear that not one of us can justify ourselves before God.

From there, however, Paul introduces the glorious good news that Christ Jesus took God’s wrath on Himself, actually bearing the punishment that rightfully belongs to you and me.

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. ~~Romans 3:9-26 (ESV)

Verse 25 states that God put His Son forward as a propitiation. Because we rarely use the word “propitiation” in our highly secularized culture, we miss the connection between God’s wrath and Christ’s work on the cross. So let’s define this almost forgotten word.

A propitiation is, simply put, an atoning sacrifice. It carries the connotation of appeasing an offended party. This sacrifice absorbs the punishment that otherwise would fall on the person who caused the offense. For example, the slaughtered animals used in Old Testament offerings propitiated for the sins of the Jews. These Old Testament sacrifices, we now understand, looked forward to the Lamb of God, Who would bear the wrath that actually belongs to us.

Today, Good Friday, we remember Jesus dying on the cross as our substitute. But do we fully understand that the Father’s wrath was poured out on Him at that moment? I believe that’s difficult for us to accept.

Aside from occasional moments of clarity when the horror of our sin absolutely won’t escape our notice, we really don’t see ourselves as deserving of God’s righteous indignation. Sure, we acknowledge that we’ve sinned, but we struggle to realize just how odious our sin is to a holy God. Our inability to comprehend the overwhelming enormity of our sinfulness makes it equally hard to comprehend the overwhelming enormity of God’s wrath toward our sin.

As a result, we can miss the profound beauty of Jesus’  death as our propitiation.

Thankfully, our dullness to the depth of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf in no way minimizes its effect. Praise God, He has taken the wrath that our sin incurred precisely so that no one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will ever have to experience the full impact of God’s wrath. How glorious that our loving Heavenly Father, desiring to shield us from His justified anger, mercifully provided His own propitiation! What a wonderful God we serve!

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Oh I Assure You, Christ’s Literal Resurrection Matters

Romans 10 9For reasons I really can’t recall, I decided I’d judged the Presbyterian church (PCUSA) that I’d grown up in a bit harshly since becoming a Christian. So on Easter Sunday 1975, I returned, hoping to settle back in and make it once again my church home. Its proximity to my house enabled me to drive my motorized wheelchair to services, thus eliminating the ongoing struggle to procure transportation.

Being PCUSA, the church tried to be innovative even as it retained a certain degree of liturgical order.  That Easter Sunday, for instance, the pastor and the seminary student who did his internship at the church staged a rehearsed debate in place of the sermon. The question up for debate: Was Christ’s resurrection literal or figurative?

I don’t remember the arguments on either side, nor can I tell you if either man bothered to substantiate their points with Scripture. But I most definitely remember the pastor walking front and center stage at the end to offer the ultimate conclusion that he wanted us to draw.

Whether the resurrection was literal or figurative, he informed us, didn’t matter. All that mattered was that Christ lived in our hearts.

The minute he gave the benediction, I spun my wheelchair around and headed home without speaking to anyone. I was far too angry to exchange pleasantries with people. The mishandling of God’s Word and the denigration of Christ’s resurrection infuriated me.

43 years later, it still infuriates me!

The literal, bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. 1 Corinthians 15 details its critical importance to every believer.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. ~~1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (ESV)

A figurative resurrection of Christ would mean that heaven is equally figurative, and thus following the Lord is, in the end, pretty much inconsequential. We might as well live according to our own desires if we can interpret the resurrection any way we see fit. I mean, what’s the point of forsaking sin and denying self if there’s no hope of eternal life with Christ?

Praise the Lord, He did rise physically from the dead, with a glorified body that His eleven disciples literally handled (Luke 24:36-43, 1 John 1:1). Each of those men, as well as countless men and women who believed their preaching, suffered persecution and often martyrdom for proclaiming the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Really, would anyone willingly face death for something figurative?

I don’t regret leaving that PCUSA church after that rehearsed debate in 1975. I only regret my cowardly failure to tell them why I withdrew my membership. I wish I’d had the intestinal fortitude to declare to them that the literal, bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ matters very much. That their eternal position absolutely depended on whether or not they believed in it.

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The Tragedy Of The Entertaining Church

Powerful Word“Show people that Christians are just like  everyone else.”

“If we have non-threatening activities like movie nights, people will get comfortable enough with us that they’ll want to come to church.”

“Unless we have games and refreshments, kids won’t come to youth group.”

I heard all these comments, and more, from a church I used to attend, usually in connection with evangelism and church growth strategies.  We want to attract people to the Lord, not scare them away from Him, the leadership of the church reasoned. For a while, they even made sense. Why not make visitors comfortable before hitting them with the Bible?

Sometimes the promoters of such ideas supported them with 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Never mind that this passage, in context, refers to restricting one’s Christian liberties to avoid offending people with anything but the Gospel. But in his next epistle to that same church, Paul made it clear that presenting the Gospel would, in fact, offend those who would not receive salvation.

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. ~~2 Corinthians 2:15-17 (ESV)

Churches, including youth groups, act deceptively when they advertise themselves as being cool, hip and in touch with the world, only to slip Jesus in there when they can do it inconspicuously. They know that a blatant bait-and-switch will expose them, so they have to continue making Scripture palatable. Sermons include stand-up comedy, movie clips and props rather than verse-by-verse exposition of the text, knowing that the folks they attract through entertainment require continuing entertainment in order to keep them coming.

Contrast that mindset with Paul’s command to Timothy.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)

God’s church can, and should, be overflowing with joy. Fellowship halls should ring with laughter, and youth groups should include extra activities outside of Bible Study hours. As someone known for practical jokes, I’m hardly adverse to having fun at appropriate moments.

But when we use fun as an evangelism tool, and especially when we blur the lines between Christians and the world, we tend to obscure the Gospel. After all, the call to repentance can’t be slipped in between funny stories or during a game of Pictionary if we expect non-Christians to take their sin seriously.

Churches must preach the Word, even if so doing makes people uncomfortable. In fact, we want people to feel uncomfortable about their sin in hopes that they will then desire the Savior. Preaching a compromised gospel that elevates human comfort over the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ may fill churches, but it won’t save souls.

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They Killed The Man Who Would Not Suffer Loss

Today’s song probably doesn’t technically qualify as a hymn, but I love its portrayal of Christ’s relationship with the stubborn Pharisees. For all their study of Scripture, these men were trapped in blindness, unable to recognize the very Messiah they claimed to await.

Often, people challenge Christians who study the Bible, asking if we’d be as clueless if Jesus appeared to us. I thought about that question as I listened to this song, remembering that those who pose this question typically want a humble answer of “Perhaps not.” The objective is to elevate an experiential knowledge over the Word of God.

In part, they make a valid point. None of us can recognize the Lord unless The Holy Spirit illumines God’s Word as we read and study it. Indeed, Nicodemus came to saving faith in Jesus because the Spirit opened his eyes to see that Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. His study didn’t blind him to the truth. Rather, he needed the Holy Spirit to help him comprehend his studies.

So yes, I would recognize Jesus if He appeared to me because His Holy Spirit would reveal Him as I consulted Scripture.

The other Pharisees in the First Century could not recognize their Messiah precisely because the Holy Spirit hadn’t opened their ability to understand Scripture. If they actually had understood Who He was, God’s sovereign plan of atonement wouldn’t have happened. They could not understand in order that they could not alter God’s plan of redemption.

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Saturday Sampler: March 18 — March 24

Three BunniesIf I comment on Even more than the watchmen of the night! by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time, I’d surely spoil it for you. But if you take time to read it, I promise that you’ll be glad you did.

Writing for Ligonier, W. Robert Godfrey examines The Word-less “Church” that permeates the evangelical landscape these days. Ignoring God’s Word has grave consequences that churches must recognize in order to responsibly honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Unlocking the Bible features Pastor Tim’s Bible Q&A: What Should I Do If I Am Doubting the Goodness of God? Sometimes my sin causes me to question my salvation, and so Pastor Tim’s points offer the assurance I need.

Even though John Chester writes When Preaching Wears a Mask for pastors, I believe his thoughts can help all of us be discerning about the preaching we sit under. You’ll find this post on the Parking Space 23 blog.

“The issue of inerrancy is an issue of the integrity of God” according to Eric Davis of The Cripplegate. His article, How True is the Bible? — Inerrancy examines the trustworthiness of Scripture as the expression of God’s character. Yes, it’s a lengthy piece, but its length underscores the critical importance of the topic.

Yes! Emphatically YES! Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women hits the nail on the head with Throwback Thursday ~ The Daily Wonder of Easter. We need committed pastors, not creative ones. Thank you, Michelle, for reprising this essential essay.

Writing for Southern Equip (a blog produced by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Thomas Schreiner discusses Faith that moves mountains: What Jesus didn’t mean. He provides an excellent example of understanding Scripture in its correct context, as well as extricating familiar verses from popular misinterpretations.

Don’t miss Your Testimony Is Not The Gospel by the late R.C. Sproul on the Ligonier blog. His observations in this matter clarify what we should emphasize in our evangelistic efforts.

Normally I don’t link to anything posted prior to the dates listed in a Sampler title bar, and I can’t remember ever linking to a podcast. Andy Olson’s February 17 episode of Echo Zoe Radio, Costi Hinn: Defining Deception, causes me to make exceptions on both counts. Costi once ministered with his uncle, Benny Hinn, but has since become a cessationist. His testimony will absolutely fascinate you.

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Of First Importance, According To The Scriptures

He Is Risen IndeedDay after tomorrow begins Holy Week, when Christians throughout the world commemorate the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. These two events, of course, are the very heart of the Gospel, as the apostle Paul explained in his letter to the Corinthians.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, ~~1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV)

Most of us have heard this basic Gospel message so often that we can recite it without much thought. And, I might add, many times without much feeling. We want to move past the fundamentals and explore all the resultant issues of Christianity. Readers of this blog, for example, show the most interest in articles naming evangelical celebrities than in ones about the Gospel.

Yet Paul, writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, insisted that Christ’s death, burial and resurrection rank first in order of importance. We need to pay attention to his pronouncement.

In this blog, I cover a lot of topics that I consider highly important. Exposing false teachers, examining homosexuality, refuting Roman Catholicism and arguing against women usurping male leadership represent just a few subjects that stir my passion. And these issues most assuredly need a great deal of attention, particularly as evangelical churches continue sliding into worldly attitudes and behaviors.

But the best means of standing against these threats to Biblical Christianity lies in maintaining a solid connection with the Gospel. We need to constantly come back to the historical events of that Passover weekend, understanding that God used those powerful events to bring sinners like you and me to salvation.

For that reason, we mustn’t confine our consideration of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection to Holy Week. The Bible says these events are of first importance!  As such, we must keep them in the forefront of our minds, remembering how desperately we needed the salvation that Christ accomplished for us on the cross.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)

As you can see, we cannot regard Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection dispassionately, as if they had no real bearing on our lives. Apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, every single one of us would be eternally damned, dead to the things of God because of our own sin. Praise the Lord that He took our punishment, and rose again to give believers eternal life with Him!

Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection take first importance because our eternal life absolutely depends on what He did for us! Holy Week can be a wonderful starting place for appreciating His amazing grace in saving wretches like you and me, but this tremendous Gospel message must remain central to our thoughts long after we exit our churches on Resurrection Sunday.

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