Shall We Reduce Scripture To Ashes?

Untitled-1For the past few years, I’ve groaned a little on Ash Wednesday. Not in anticipation of giving up something for Lent — I have never observed Lent and will never observe it. I groan at the thought of evangelicals observing such an unbiblical practice.

As I explained in a blog post I wrote two years ago, “my objection to Lent boils down to the same problem I have with Roman Catholicism in general: it rejects the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work on the cross. For all the talk of Lent enhancing our devotion to Him and drawing us to deeper repentance, we can’t escape its emphasis on human good works. As usual, the attention shifts from what Christ did for us to what we credit ourselves as doing to earn His favor.”

That deviation from  the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work on the cross is the most disturbing aspect of Lent, of course. But there’s another aspect that is closely Read More »

Throwback Thursday: After Darkness, Light

I had wanted to write an original article in celebration of Reformation Day, but I have a cold that robbed me of sleep the past two nights. As a result, blogging is the last thing I want to do today. So please enjoy this reprise of my blog post from the October 31, 2017, written in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Post Tenebras Lux

Even among Christians who genuinely love God’s Word and have a passion for Him, I feel like a certifiable nerd these days. Hardly anyone outside on my blogging and Twitter associates seems aware that today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. And the few who actually do know don’t show a great deal of concern (let alone excitement) over the matter. That was 500 years ago, they reason. They remind me that not everyone enjoys history as much as I do.

A few longtime friends have (if I correctly understand their Facebook comments) expressed hope that I’m not idolizing theology instead of loving Jesus. Certainly, dead orthodoxy poses a danger to any Christian, and therefore self-examination has a place for those of us who write zealously about the issues involved in the Reformation. I don’t want to exalt anything above the Lord Jesus Christ.

I wonder, however, if people accused Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the other 16th Century Reformers of idolizing theology.

Actually, they accused them of heresy, even though it was the false teachings of Roman Catholicism that caused the Reformers to go back to Scripture and question the Church’s teachings in the first place. Those men and women stood against the errors in the Roman Catholic Church because they loved Jesus and had a passion for His Word.

In order to appreciate their passion for Biblical theology, it helps to understand the development of the Roman Catholic Church. Outlining that history goes well beyond the scope of today’s essay, but I strongly encourage you to read What is the origin of the Roman Catholic Church? from GotQuestions.org. Suffice it to say that Roman Catholicism kept most people in spiritual darkness for approximately 600 years, withholding Scripture from all but the elite so that Rome could maintain political power.

The Reformers began reading Scripture translated from the original Greek and Hebrew, and consequently saw huge discrepancies between what the Word taught and the teachings of Rome. As I’ve said repeatedly throughout this Tuesday series, they risked their very lives (and many died as martyrs) over the theological differences between them and the Roman Catholic Church.

They rightly took the motto, Post Tenebras Lux (after darkness, light), to describe God’s wonderful work of restoring sound doctrine to His people.  The light of God’s Word had at last dispelled the darkness of Roman Catholicism, and the Reformers preferred persecution and death to compromising their theology. Does that mean they idolized theology over the Lord?

I would argue that the Reformers’ love and passion for Christ emanated from their return to Biblical theology. As they rediscovered the doctrines of grace in the pages of Scripture, the light shone brightly, leading them to know and love the Lord, Who had been in the shadows of Catholic tradition for almost six centuries.  To those Reformers, the theology that shed light on the Lord and His will caused them to rejoice in His remarkable grace. They gave Him all the glory. Indeed,  the appearance of light after darkness fueled their passionate love for Him.

Oh dear 21st Century believers, don’t let people discourage you from loving the theology that leads you to a clear understanding of Who Jesus is and what He teaches. As John said to me yesterday, we can’t really love the Lord apart from right theology. Praise God for the courageous Reformers whom He used to bring His people from darkness into light.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~~1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

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The Value Of Scripture Now And Then

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Maybe I never said it out loud,  and I certainly wouldn’t have let any of my friends hear me say it, but I wanted more than the Bible seemed to offer. Thus I loved hearing supposed prophecies in   church, devoured books on “Christian” psychology and hungered  for God to speak to me personally.

Truthfully, I don’t believe my unspoken dissatisfaction with the Bible was atypical.

Whether evangelicals admit it or not, many of them want something beyond Scripture to guide their decision making or to help them better experience God. Having spent most of my Christian life in that camp, I very much understand that perspective. People who long for something that feels more personal than Scripture often genuinely love the Lord and want to be close to Him.

I believe, however, that Christians in the 16th Century would struggle to understand Read More »

Flashback Friday: The Reformation And Galatians

Originally posted June 27, 2017:

Whittenberg DoorThe Lord used the apostle Paul to bring the Gospel to the gentiles in Galatia. Sadly, after he left that region, representatives of a group known as the Judaizers descended on that fledgling church, teaching that they needed to augment their faith in Christ by following Jewish law. They especially insisted that gentile converts undergo the rite of circumcision.

Paul was infuriated that the church he had founded had so quickly abandoned the Gospel of faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross in favor of a counterfeit gospel that required human effort to assure salvation. He wrote a scathing letter, scolding them for adulterating the Gospel with doctrines of men. We see the reasons for his frustration most clearly articulated in Chapter 5 of his epistle to the Galatians.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! ~~Galatians 5:1-12 (ESV)

I imagine Martin Luther found this passage helpful as he broke free from the demands of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther rightly saw that  Rome’s elaborate system of sacraments, Purgatory, Indulgences and Papal authority produced a gospel quite different from the Good News that Jesus Christ fully paid for the sin of whoever believes in Him by His death on the cross. Like Paul, Luther sought to turn Christians back to focusing on Christ’s work instead of imagining that they could supplement it through their cooperation.

Notice specifically Paul’s firm assertion that a Christian who supplements his faith in the Lord by depending on legalistic rituals actually nullifies the effects of faith in salvation through Christ’s work on the cross. At that point, a person essentially declares that salvation ultimately lies in our power, not in what Christ accomplished on our behalf.

The sacramental system of the Roman Catholic Church, despite their denials, easily parallels the false teaching of the Judaizers. As a matter of fact, the Judaizers claimed to follow Christ, just as the Roman Catholic Church does. In many respects, the Judaizers presented themselves as genuine Christians, thereby convincing the Galatians to accept their doctrinal error. Not surprisingly, then, the Catholic Church managed to convince Christians of similar errors.

But Paul’s firm refutation against the system of righteousness by works enabled Luther and the other Reformers to stand against Rome’s numerous conditions for salvation. Just as Paul proclaimed that circumcision had no bearing on anyone’s standing before God, so the Reformers proclaimed that sacraments couldn’t add to what Christ had already done. The Reformers returned to the Biblical teaching that Christ Jesus fully satisfied the Law by dying as our substitute.

Roman Catholicism gets some doctrines right, such as the Trinity, but it adds conditions for salvation in much the same way that the Judaizers did. These conditions made humans responsible for sustaining their salvation.

Human centered salvation, however, takes the glory away from the Lord Jesus Christ. It demands that He share His glory with us. Paul recognized that danger among the Christians in Galatia, and he refused to tolerate such a corruption of the Gospel! He therefore set a pattern for the Reformers to follow once they could read God’s Word and understand that Rome had corrupted the Gospel. His passion for Jesus Christ to receive all the glory inspired the Reformers to also develop that passion.
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Saturday Sampler: April 14 — April 20

Easter Cross Sampler

Elizabeth Prata, writing in The End Time, reminds us that Grace IS Amazing as she reflects on her own conversion to Christ. It’s good to look back on who we were without Him so that we can delight in how He changes us for His glory.

For an insightful assessment of 21st Century Christianity, read Mike Ratliff’s False disciples and a compromised gospel in Possessing the Treasure. He apples doctrine drawn from God’s Word to address a very contemporary problem among professing Christians. I highly encourage you to give serious thought to his perspective.

In his article for Knowable Word, Ryan Higginbottom writes Context Matters: The Prodigal Son to challenge our traditional understanding of this beloved parable.

How Do Christians Lose Their Saltiness? Jordan Standridge challenges our misguided attempts at being “all things to all people” with this hard hitting piece for The Cripplegate. What excellent incentive to live in holiness!

Maybe my French heritage leads me to recommend Sam Wegener’s The Bells of Notre Dame Will Be Silent This Easter in Caffeinated Theology, or maybe it’s because The Hunchback Of Notre Dame is of my favorite novels. More likely, it’s because we need to pray for spiritual awakening in France.

The Ligonier Ministries blog features What Do Expiation and Propitiation Mean? by the late R.C. Sproul. What a timely article after yesterday’s observance of Good Friday.

Would it shock you to hear that Mr. Rogers Deserved Hell? John Chester’s blog post for Parking Space 23 explains this jarring statement with a personal anecdote followed by reasoning from Scripture. Don’t forget to click the link to his companion post about rightly understanding John 3:16.

Jared Olivetti writes Lies & Sex as his contribution to Gentle Reformation. If you’ve fallen for any of these lies, please remember that God gives grace to repentant sinners. Then start walking in truth and purity.

Reflecting on the church growth movement, R. Scott Clark of Abounding Grace Radio cautions, Choose Your Metaphors Carefully: The Church Is A Pasture Not A Business. Having been in churches that adopted church growth models, I praise the Lord for this Biblical depiction of God’s intention for His Church.

Christians shouldn’t need Michael Coughlan’s warning to be Careful With Your Mocking: SSTA! in the Things Above Us blog. Sadly, some discernment bloggers do succumb to the childish temptation to make personal attacks on false teachers.

Let’s have a second post from Elizabeth Prata, shall we? Tap dancing on the fence confronts us with the either/or nature of following Jesus. If you suppose that you can be a Christian without sacrificing your hopes, desires and even your very life, I beg you to read this essay.

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Saturday Sampler: April 7 — April 13

Teacup Sampler

Check out Fred Butler’s insightful remarks on Hip and Thigh as he answers the question Are Evangelical Continualists The Same As Mormon Continualists? His response should sober us.

As long as we’re asking and answering questions, let’s give attention to Should You Attend a Catholic Wedding or Funeral? by Michael Coughlan of Things Above Us. I didn’t expect him to take the same position I hold. But I appreciate his clear reasoning and his fidelity to the Lord.

I can’t agree with Grace Hody of Biblical Woman as far as women attending seminary (though I’m thankful she adds caveats about female seminary students not seeking vocational positions). That said, I definitely endorse the main points she makes in Why Should Women Study Theology? God has graciously provided wonderful alternatives to attending seminary classes that any woman with an internet connection can (and should) utilize.

Read Questions and Answers on SharaC’s blog, Into the Foolishness of God, for a helpful discussion on claims that the Bible is difficult to understand.

Elizabeth Prata, author of The End Time, answers the question: Am I doing something wrong if  I make a huge decision and don’t wait to hear from God? As a former Charismatic, I can attest to the bondage that waiting for “a word from the Lord” places on people. Elizabeth offers sound principles for decision making in this superb essay.

Writing for Morning by Morning, Liz Wann teaches on the importance of Seeing God first in Scripture as opposed to making the Bible primarily about ourselves. She draws from the exchange between God and Moses at the burning bush to illustrate her point. Fascinating insight!

Although we hear it often, Mike Ratliff’s warning to Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing in Possessing the Treasure. He contributes to the conversation by taking us to Scripture that illustrate the qualities of sound teachers.

Denny Burk asks Are biblical manhood and womanhood cultural constructs? He responds to Woke theology that somehow equates gender roles with “whiteness.”

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Saturday Sampler: March 30 — April 6

rose-sampler-silk

Reacting to the growing sentiment among evangelicals that same sex attraction, unless one physically acts on it, is morally neutral, R. Scott Clark writes It Was Not So From The Beginning: Nature And Grace Teach Us That SSA Is Sin in the Abounding Grace Radio blog. As our culture pressures us to compromise with its redefinition of sexual morality, articles like this one keep us grounded in Biblical truth.

Leonardo De Chirico, in his monthly article for The Vatican Files, presents a fascinating and vitally important discussion. 160. Is the Nicene Faith the Basis for Ecumenism? clarifies the importance of doctrine as we determine whether or not to pursue unity with someone.

Don’t miss How to Repent of Slander in a Digital Age by Dr. Jay Sklar of Covenant Theological Seminary. If you use any form of social media, this post is for you!

As our culture tries to redefine marriage, Christians must remember that Marriage Isn’t About Children, Because Marriage Isn’t About Us. John Ellis explains this truth in his post for adayinhiscourt.

Core Christianity features Cameron Cole’s concerning article, Four Things Youth Workers Would Tell Parents About Teenagers, Social Media, and Technology. It’s not the easiest piece to read, but those of you who have kids really need to understand what your sons and daughters do with their smart phones.

If you haven’t seen the movie Unplanned yet, take a moment to consider Pastor Gabriel Hughes’ thoughts in A Pastor’s Review of Unplanned: Uncertain of its Own Message, which he posts in The Midwestern Baptist. His review underscores the necessity of using discernment before jumping on the latest evangelical bandwagon.

Julie Ganschow of Biblical Counseling for Women finds that not all those billing themselves as Biblical counselors actually counsel Biblically. Wolves Among Sheep equips us to make distinctions between man-centered counseling and God-centered counseling. Ladies,  please don’t ignore these distinctions!

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Foreheads Full Of Ashes

Untitled-1Maybe observing Lent is a matter of conscience falling under the prescription of Romans 14:5-12. I wouldn’t  judge anyone’s salvation on their participation in it. I don’t have the means to evaluate their motives, which automatically disqualifies me from doing so.

Yet I have serious concerns regarding Lent. I’ve discussed some of those concerns here, here and here. So despite my desire to shrug Lent off as a matter of conscience, I believe it’s necessary to point out Read More »

Saturday Sampler: November 25 — December 1

Pointilized Heart Sampler

Maybe Mike Ratliff doesn’t say anything remarkably novel in his blog post, Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? for Possessing the Treasure, but his point really can’t be overstated. Current trends in evangelicalism must never eclipse the authority of the Bible.

Be honest: reading the Bible every day can get tiring. Thankfully, Ryan Higginbottom of  Knowable Word thinks of several ways that Reading the Bible for the Ten Thousandth Time can regain its freshness.

In response to the latest ridiculous Twitter pronouncement by Rachel Held Evans, Nick Batzig posts Jesus and Racial Bias in Reformation 21. I like the way Nick appeals to normative hermeneutics in order to demonstrate proper understanding of a Scriptural text.

A friend whom I highly respect has raised legitimate questions about the methods John Chau used in his evangelistic efforts to minister to an unreached tribe off the coast of India. Although I don’t wish to dismiss her concerns, Jordan Standridge’s 10 Lessons From The Death of John Chau makes extremely important points that all Christians absolutely must consider. You’ll find his article in The Cripplegate.

Check out Parking Space 23 for John Chester’s Reprise: So You Think You Are a Red Letter Christian? Even those of us who claim to believe the entire Bible has uniform authority might find his article to be a little convicting.

I appreciate the thoughtfully written John Allen Chau’s death stuns, angers, and perplexes the world, which Elizabeth Prata posts on The End Time. She evaluates the situation honestly, doing her best to cover all angles of the story. I especially love the hope she expresses as she closes this essay.

Leslie A insists that There’s More to Christianity Than Doing Good Works in an article for Growing 4 Life. Beginning with her brother’s interesting observation on the inoffensive nature of social justice, she discusses the mission we have as Christians — including the ramifications of carrying out that mission.

Think Catholicism has more in common with Protestant denominations than differences? Pope Francis would have you think so! Leonardo De Chirico of The Vatican Files chronicles the pope’s life-long devotion to Mary in 156. She is My Mamá — Pope Francis and Mary to show that the pontiff refuses to separate Christ from Mary.

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Saturday Sampler: November 18 — November 24

Reflecting Balls Sampler

I’m not going to tell you why Clint Archer contributes Moths & Roaches: Responding to the Light to The Cripplegate this week. I want your curiosity to bug you until you read it.

Those of us who lean to the right politically should pay attention to Tim Bates’ Judge the Left Rightly in Things Above Us. He masterfully helps us subjugate our political affinities to the authority of Scripture.

Pyromaniacs features Hohn Cho’s insightful post, Voting and the 2018 Elections. Okay, it’s lengthy (even by Pyromaniacs standards). But he makes several important points that Christians need to contemplate. A few of his thoughts might even offer you some refreshment and encouragement.

As part of a series he’s writing for Abounding Grace Radio, R. Scott Clark discusses the Canons of Dort (5): God Ordains Means To Call His Elect. As a Reformed Baptist, I would add only that God’s means also includes personal  evangelism, a task that every believer should perform. Other than that amendment, I completely agree with Clark.

Writing from Australia (which legalized same sex marriage only last year), Stephen McAlpine shows us the rapid fallout Australian Christians now face. I’m the bad guy? How did that happen? chronicles the increasing persecution to people who dare to stand for a  Biblical view of human sexuality. I wonder, reading his words, if American Christians have become desensitized to the sexual revolution.

For a truly helpful explanation of baptism, see Tom’s post, RE-baptized??? What’s that all about? on excatholic4christ.

Please read Elizabeth Prata’s Movie Review – American Gospel: Christ Alone in The End Time. I haven’t watched the movie yet, but Elizabeth’s review gives me the extra nudge I need. See what you think.

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