Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In Your Face

Do not fear, for I am with you…
(Isaiah 41:10 – NASB)

When life is all up in your face, you need a word.

When you are faced with a crisis of faith,

When you are fighting to get an ounce of courage,

When you suffer from a lack of peace,

When you are struggling to find joy,

When you are desperate to feel a sense of hope,

Remember these words…

Faith isn’t the lack of doubt; faith is in the face of doubt, just as

Courage isn’t the lack of fear; courage is in the face of fear

Peace isn’t the absence of conflict; peace is in the face of conflict

Joy isn’t the lack of sorrow; joy is in the face of sorrow

Hope isn’t the lack of despair; hope is in the face of despair

Think on these things...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Time to Confess?

…confess your sins to one another…
(James 5:16)

In the meta of our last post, Craver VII had a couple of questions that I think need to be addressed. He said,

When should we confess our sins privately to the Lord, and when should we confess to another? And then, there's all the variations from one accountability partner or spouse to the Oprah show.

Well, the answer to part a, “when should we confess our sins privately to the Lord” is easy: always, of course. Now this isn’t what he means, we know that, I just wanted to throw in a little shout out for authorial intent and why it is sooo important.

These are good questions:

1. When do we confess only to the Lord, and when do we confess to others also?

2. What then of accountability, and the extent of confession therein?

To whom should we confess our sins? Since all sin that we commit is against God, we must always confess our sins before Him, looking to Him for His mercy. Then, if the sin we commit involves others, we most always confess this not only to God but also to them so that our relationship might be restored. In other words, it is the scope of our sins that determine how wide our confession should be, private, group, or public.

Beyond that, what I think people want to know about is what we will call “personal confession”, that is, confession of sins not specifically toward another individual, but sins that are heart matters, acting out impulses, and habitual problems; the when, how, who of confession in these situations is a topic that needs to be fleshed out.

Here are some scriptures to ponder: Nehemiah 9:38 / Ecclesiastes 4:10 / Romans 14:12 / Romans 15:14 / 2 Thessalonians 3:15 / James 5:16 / 1 Peter 4:5

This is one of the really tough areas to get people to sign on to. It’s easy to get people to agree that we need accountability, but implementing this into our own lives is quite another thing.

We must do what we say we are going to do, but accountability as a discipline goes far beyond this. Every individual believer should have someone whom they trust that they will be accountable to regarding their personal sins – those particular sins that so easily beset us. The one to whom we are accountable should be in a position to grant negative sanction – now we see why this is so tough to implement!

This does not mean that we need a ladder upward of accountability or a heavy handed shepherding model of accountability if you will. This is not biblical, and has proven to be very dangerous within Christian circles in the past, as well as having an eerie resemblance to the kingdom of the cults. No, we are talking about individuals being accountable to a trustworthy friend, and to their pastor, and groups of individuals being accountable to their pastors in general. Pastors need to be accountable to a deacon or a trusted pastor friend who will understand their particular stresses.

The Holy Spirit will work through this process if we are serious about accountability. If we are accountable to another person, perhaps the Spirit will lay a burden of intercession upon the heart of our friend if we are in an immediate battle over sin. Certainly the Spirit will help our friend to pray for us on an ongoing basis.

His sovereign working in His people brings about the plans and purposes of God. How wonderful it is that God ordained this to be, that our prayers and fasting and intercession actually make a difference! Be a part of what is going on, and put yourself in a position to be used by the Spirit in a powerful way. Be accountable to someone and watch your spiritual life reach new heights. Have someone else (not the same person) be accountable to you and see that person develop into the disciple they were called to be, and feel yourself become a vital cog within the Body of Christ.

Accountability is the one area that most believers are not truly allowing the Spirit to use other people in conforming us to Christ. It works, and that is what we are afraid of. Let’s be honest, none of us wants to be accountable in our flesh, and that is why the spiritual discipline of accountability is truly a way that the Spirit works in the Body to bring about lasting change.

Here is a link to the Reformed Pastor himself, Richard Baxter, that answers some of these questions and others relating to it I am in essential agreement with him, read this, it isn’t long, and let me know what you think…

Monday, August 28, 2006

Five Questions

...let us press on to maturity...
(Hebrews 6:1 – NASB)

Now that I am 40 years old, I guess that gives me the right to ask a few questions of you, as well as give you insight into some questions I ask myself. Here are five questions that, when answered honestly, will provide a measure of your Christian maturity. Underneath each of the five questions are another set of five related questions in the "Do - What - Are - Is - Does" format to help with further reflection.

Two aspects of answering these questions:

1. What do you believe is the correct answer?
In other words, how are you supposed to do it?

2. How well are you accomplishing this?
In other words, how well are you doing it?

How Do You Respond to Truth?
Do you become offended, do you let truth convict and then change you, or do you become complacent? What action do you take? Are your responses tempered with pride or humility? Is your answer “What shall we do”, or “Stone him”? Does truth become a stumbling block or a stepping-stone?

How Do You Resist Temptation?
Do you leave the door open for sin? What methods do you use for avoiding being tempted – how can you expect God to help you resist if you aren’t really committed to it? Are you only going through the motions? Is God a real option in your battles? Does the sin in your life cause you to be an overcomer, or are you overcome?

How Do You React to Trials?
Do you react negatively, violently, get easily frustrated, or wonder why me? What do people see in you when the chips are down? Are you trying to control every contingency and situation – To try and control every situation is to be controlled by every situation! Is your life a testimony to patience? Does the idea of having to go through trials seem unnecessary, that you can grow without them?

How Do You Restrain the Tongue?
Do you always have to get “your two cents in”? What do people say about your temper? Are you a good listener? Is the spiritual discipline of practicing silence (not a mystical practice) in place in your life? Does it take a lot of effort to not correct or rebuke people, especially when you feel like you have a point to make, or when you see a sinner doing what is his nature, namely, sin?

How Do You Redeem the Time?
Do you put Christ and his Great Commission first? What is happening in your world outside the church? Are you always vacillating, never sure about anything or finishing the work you started out to do? Is the first thing you think about always yourself? Does the idea of becoming Christ-like turn into a sense of excitement for you – is Christ at the center of all that you do, and are you being conformed to His image?

Friday, August 25, 2006

For Whom the Blog Trolls

40. pheh. pfftt. wwwwwaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh…..

I turn the big 4-0 this Sunday, but I want to be the one to hand out some gifts, so here is some linkage to some of my blogging friends who have made this last year so exciting, edifying, encouraging, and equipping. May God richly bless you all, and thank you for letting me participate in your spiritual journey and growth. (Sorry if I forgot you, tell me about it, and I will make the necessary corrections).

(Start singing – When We All Get to Heaven…I hope to see you there!)

Daniel (Doulogos)

Brad (Sojourner)

Gummby (Still Reforming)

Buggy (Chez Kneel)

Kim (Upward Call)

Jonathan (The Moor)

Frank (centuri0n)

Dan (Biblical Christianity)

Phil (Pyromaniacs)

David (Thirsty Theologian)

Jim (Faith Classics)

Marc (Purgatorio)


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cookie Jar or Coffee Pot?

Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?'
(Isaiah 45:9 – NASB)

Inside the boundaries God has set for you is where the power of God is in your life. Inside the boundaries are the blessings. When you are buffeted for your faults take it patiently, it is God allowing you to get back in bounds (1 Peter 2:20). He lets you see the rough spots, in order that He might smooth them out. Would you rather He didn’t prop you up, and let you fall? A player can make the greatest leaping catch in the history of sport, but if he is out of bounds, it doesn’t count for a score.

Also, don’t complain if He is making you a cookie jar when you want to be a coffee pot, you will get marred and will be discarded for a season, until He can work with you. Clay is a humble piece of earth, but formed in the Master’s hands, and tried in the fires of the kiln, it becomes an instrument meet for the Master’s use. You cannot work with a vessel that won’t hold anything. It is not the vessel that is significant it is what it is carrying. We are only milk cartons, and without any milk, no matter how pretty our carton is, what good are we? When the waiter brings our food, are we concerned about its appearance and taste, or do we remark upon how lovely the plate is? Be grateful that as jars of clay we get to carry this treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7 – NIV).

Part of your problem is that you are resisting Him, and any disobedience is just that, resisting God, and you are blocking His voice. What He is trying to do in your life, which is making you more like Christ, this is what brings power and perspective. No, everything won’t always be smooth sailing, but when you are becoming like Christ you see your troubles through different eyes, and you have less troubles because you don’t have to have the troubles that come by your own fouling up. Focus on the rewards of diligent, faithful obedience, which is fellowship with God, and this sees you through. Pray to let God do His work unhindered by you. If you stay within the boundaries God will let you see beyond them (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Excuses, Excuses

so that they are without excuse…
(Romans 1:20)

It seems more and more these days that people, even those who claim to be believers in Christ, try and explain away the parts of the Bible they find uncomfortable, embarrassing, or offensive to their tastes, or to the perceived tastes of those whom they are trying to “witness” to. Our world is reaching a critical mass of depravity; the human condition is not improving, even though social situations may, and all the technological advancements cannot change the evil inclinations of men. The more we seem to progress in knowledge, the more we regress in morals. The further forward we come into our knowledge of the universe, the further away we get from the One who created it. We are becoming more and more futuristic in our inventions and yet more and more futile in our imaginations.

As Christians we have fallen into the world’s trap. Instead of hanging on to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ as our firm foundation, and the revelation that the Scriptures provide us, we spend our days cutting the legs out from under the table of grace. We say we love God but we won’t suffer the loss of prestige, position, popularity, or personal well being for His sake.

Critical scholars, cowardly saints, craven shepherds, and compromising speakers try and make excuses for the Bible and what it says as if we are embarrassed by its often hard implications, but we are to be proclaiming, not disclaiming the Word of God.

Whether it is the idea of the supposed noble savage, or the authority of the Bible, we can choose the way of uncomfortable waffling or uncompromising witness.

You know what I am talking about…you have seen the progression, or should we say declension, in the witness of people who do not treat the Bible as the true Word of God…

Well, that’s what it says, but perhaps

Jesus didn’t actually say that…

Jesus didn’t actually mean that…

Jesus didn’t actually do that…

Is Jesus the only way? Well, technically yes, but

We hold the love of God to be inclusive of people that may reject Christ…

Friends of God, I tell you now, it’s not so far away, and indeed, the spirit of antichrist is already at work in the world…

The fine print on these peoples’ disclaimers will read as their sorry epitaph…

Monday, August 21, 2006

Are You a Sinner Compared to Jesus?

For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard
(Romans 3:23 – NLT)

The people in this world have a hard time believing that they are sinners in need of grace for several reasons. One most prominent one is the fact that such persons fail to examine themselves in the light of God’s standard: His own Son, Jesus. Most compare themselves with other people around them, or perhaps to “bad” people they know, or criminals they have read about, or Hitler, etc. Of course, they reason, I am a basically good person. Go to any jail, and you will find this to be true. The man in the cell says admits that he may have done this or this thing, but the guy in the next cell; well he did this!

I have never met a man, when pressed to compare himself with Jesus, have the audacity to say that compared to the Lord he was a saint. However, I do not put anything past the depravity of man, and so perhaps there are people who would do so. If we were to ask them if they were a sinner compared to Jesus, they would say, no.

To which I say, well then give me everything that you have in your pockets right now, your wallet, your car keys, etc. If they protest, I would tell them that is what Jesus would do, for he had nothing; can you still say you are as good as Him?

You say that Jesus couldn’t walk around today without any home or money; that if he was to go do evangelistic crusades he would have to ask for and build up a foundation of money; but if He did those miracles like it talks about in the Bible, people would be screaming for Him to come and would provide, and of course He could create like He did with the five loaves, etc.

What would Jesus do? That is a farce, because we CANNOT do what He can, did, and would do, he would give away everything including himself, which we will not do no matter how good we are, we may conform even to the point of giving all our wealth away but we still haven’t met all the law on the inside. This is why we must keep coming back to the Cross for our sanctification, and why a sinner must see his true need not his felt needs before receiving eternal life. Romans 15:13 talks about joy and peace IN BELIEVING, not coming to Jesus for those but having those as the fruit of a forgiven life.

We have to see how dirty and filthy and rotten sin is, not just how bad it makes us feel, we have to hate sin and love righteousness. When we come to Christ just to find happiness because we have been broken by the world we are having a false conversion because what we would have done is stay with sin if we could have gotten away with it. For example if we come because we have gone bankrupt spending money on wine women and song (i.e. sex, drugs, and rock n roll), and our life is in ruins, if we come only because we are “in need” (just a felt need of having a bad experience in life) we are coming for the wrong reason, because if we still had the money we would still be going at it per se. This is why rock stars and the like burn out; they have the money and they love the sin, they are like Dorian Grey, the don’t see the true picture, they see themselves as immortal or that this life is all there is.

The power of the Word is like a mirror and also like a shower. Christians want to continue on and not give up even when continually seeing perfection and not measuring up in the mirror because they hate sin and love righteousness! They see themselves and their unrighteousness in the mirror, but God shows them His own righteousness, which He freely gives them, and the Word washes them clean like a shower.

It is not simply that Christ is the only one that can fill the God shaped void in your heart or that he is your purpose or he is the path to peace, but that he is the only one that can save your soul, he is the only one who can and did fulfill the requirements of a just and holy God, he is the only one that can reconcile you back to God. He was and is perfect and compared to him you are not, but he offers his life for you to receive.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Do You Have to Keep Sinning?

For sin shall not have dominion over you…
(Romans 6:14a)

How often have you heard that well intended expression, “you will always be sinning a little every day”? Is it true? Do you have to keep sinning? Is there no chance for victory over sin in this life? What about “whom the Son sets free is free indeed”, or “this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith”? On and on and on we could go. Don’t these verses mean something? Do you have to sin a little every day?

Well, it depends on what you mean. In one sense, yes, you will never “not sin” on this side of eternity. Our text here does not say that “sin will not be present in you at all,” or “you never have to sin again” because that will only be fulfilled when we are glorified. However, it does promise that sin will not have dominion over us because of the great work Jesus did in us when we were born again. Because of our justification, we can see real, experiential sanctification in this life. Not just in our eternal position, but in our everyday condition. We are not talking about sinless perfection; we are talking about overcoming particular sins, an advance in the war on sin.

Again, it depends on what you mean. What I want to correct here is this mistaken idea that we must continue in the same sorts of sin every day. We give people the wrong impression when we say you will sin a little every day no matter what. That is a problem, a serious one, but one that can be cleared up if understood correctly. It is not that we won’t sin at all, but that we don’t have to keep doing the same sin. Are you marching forward in the battle claiming Christ’s victory and participating in it, or are you staying put and surrendering to sin?

We will never fully “be there”, as in totally without sin in this life, but we can overcome, totally, real sins. We can be being led to other sins that the Lord will tackle instead of just sinning a little of the same old sin every day. There is a huge difference between the two. You can have real victory over real sin and make real progress in your sanctification, where you go from one victory to the next, sometimes falling back or struggling, but advancing nonetheless. Count on your justification, as the basis for your sanctification, and you will be well on the road to continual victory. You will never finish but you will be overcoming those obstacles placed in front of you, instead of having to keep sinning a little every day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Give Your Dream to God

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart
(Psalm 37:4 – NIV)

When God is what you treasure, He shows Himself to be an extravagant giver of that treasure. As humans, our treasures are the things we dream about, our aspirations and goals, for ourselves and for our kind. All of us are dreamers, and all of us have desires we want to see fulfilled, godly or otherwise. These dreams are part of our fabric, and they can drive us to new heights if we have them in proper perspective. Although they might seem like desperate needs, they are really just wants, and are lesser things than what we really want, and truly need, which is to connect with God at a deep level. Einstein said, "I want to know God's thoughts, the rest are details."

This is true whether we realize it or not. Consider that all art, philosophy, sporting events, music, and any creative endeavor are attempts at achieving something beyond the common. Even science, and even when it sets out to disprove God, it is trying to connect with the unknown. Even when we don’t believe in a personal “God”, we all want to feel connected to the divine element. Even philosophers and atheists who believe that this life is all that is real, even they are striving to create something more than we see now.

Yet we don’t have what it takes, and so we settle for lesser things than God intends for us (Colossians 1:27). "Indeed, what could be more ludicrous in a vast and glorious universe like this than a human being, on the speck called earth, standing in front of a mirror trying to find significance in his own self-image (John Piper)?”

Why is it that we all desire more? Why are we so driven to achieve something greater than we are, as if to justify who we are? This is where our dreams come into play; they hold out hope for us of connecting with the divine, albeit in a lesser sort of way, here on earth. Even people who medicate through “getting high” are trying to do this, in a way. There must be a reason for this. We all want something greater than we are, which no one denies, though they might not have thought much about it. That is why we dream of a better existence, because our dreams are a reflection of our felt need to ascend to higher plane of existence. Not metaphysically, perhaps, but emotionally, at least.

As a Christian, when you have a felt need, you should decide that if God gives it to you, you would give it back to God. If you will seek Him first, He will give you back more than you wanted in the first place. What we typically want is less than Him, as our dreams at best are but reflections of His glory, yet we strive with all our might for these dreams because God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11 – ESV). However, if we give our wants and ourselves to Him, He gives us Himself, and everything we need in return. He multiplies the dream. When He “makes you lose” the very thing you want most, and yet you praise Him, He unleashes a powerful blessing upon you.

Consider Hannah for a moment. She had no children, but promised God that if she were to conceive, she would give her child in the service of the Lord. God remembered her, and she remembered her promise to God. Think about that; Hannah wanted a child, yet when she got one she gave him to the Lord. This same woman, once barren, had five more children (1 Samuel 2:21). Abraham also gave his dream to God; remember?

The greatest thing God has is His Son, yet He gave Him. To become Christlike is to give your life for God (John 12:24). Jesus gave His life and received many lives in return (Hebrews 2:10).

God is omniscient, and He certainly does know the future, but from our angle we can say that He is waiting to see what you’re willing to do. Give your dream to God, and He will give you more than you could ever imagine.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I’m On Fire!

…fervent in spirit; serving the Lord
(Romans 12:11)

The components of a fire are heat, fuel, and oxygen, and fire brings heat, light, and energy. And when we are talking about being alive, about being on fire for God, that fire needs the same three components as any fire: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Take away any of the components and the fire will not burn. Have these three in place and look out! A living church is a church where people are dying; dying to self, and to die to self you must stay on fire for God. There is a difference between a fire made by men and a fire made of men.

We have spoken before about churches today that have no real fire. What we need is for people to be on fire for the gospel, but what we see is more adrenaline, activity, and acceptance of the sin in our lives. We may have passion, but we don’t have any real power, no real fire, and no true life, because we lack purity, which is the fuel for the fire. We may have all the heated feelings and emotional outbursts we can muster, but without the proper fuel, and the sustaining energy of the oxygen, they will not last, not for eternal purposes. They have a man made fire.

Feelings are only the heat, purity is the fuel, and the Word is the oxygen. Feelings are not the fuel for the fire they are the God given emotion that drives it and the heat that results from it. The fuel is the combustible material which is you as God’s refining fire burns off the dross. This is what keeps the fire fed with fuel. If you are not being purified then you are letting the true fire go out. Holy Ghost fire is apparent in a life lived for Christ, a life that is being transformed. A living sacrifice Paul says in Romans 12:1-2. It may hurt but if you want to be a living fireball that is the price you have to pay (1 Peter 4:1). This shows as the light of a life being changed by Jesus, the gospel light. Where there is no fuel, the fire goes out. You must feed the fire with you.

Fire also needs oxygen, the breath of God the Word. It is the energy; a fire without the Word will be snuffed out without the necessary oxygen. Scripture is “God breathed” as it declares in 2 Timothy 3:16 – this is the energy that shows it is God who is doing the work. Everybody sees your burning light and realizes that you couldn’t have done it on your own, and so it must be true this gospel you speak of (Matthew 5:16). You must fan the flames with God’s Word.

Not only does a fire need fuel and oxygen it also needs heat, and this heat shows to the world. The heat is your feelings, and these show forth in your increased affections for the things of God, your zeal, and your emotional self. In Romans 12:11, the word fervent in the Greek is zeo, which means to boil with heat, to be hot. This same word is used in Acts 18:25 – Apollos was fervent in spirit. In James 5:16, fervent is energeo; it has several roots and variations of meaning, but in this particular verse it means a showing outwardly of what is going on inwardly. You will experience the fruit of the Spirit not only as thoughts but also as actions and attitudes. You must feel the fire like a burning lamp.

This is how to be set on fire, and how to light a fire in your church and in your world. A fire fed with the breath, the oxygen of God’s Word, giving you energy, burning your old man as fuel which shows the light, and blazing with fervent heat that will catch anything else that can catch fire on fire too!

Take away any of the components and the fire will not burn. You must feel it, feed it, and fan it.

Do you know, do you believe, and are you realizing that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation in your life, and do you carry the message in your words and your actions? Are you cashing in on the truth that the gospel of your justification is also the gospel for your sanctification? Are you keeping the fire burning hot or are you letting it die out? Don’t be lukewarm; sound the fire alarm!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Dead Church?

…but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
(John 12:24)

There has always been a lot of talk by people about leaving, visiting, or experiencing a so-called “dead” church. To most, I suppose what they mean by “dead church” would be that it was cold and formal. When people say it’s a dead church they mean that it feels dead. This could be true, and as the venerable Jonathan Edwards said, you have to have both heat and light.

However, lets consider the other side, because I have seen just as many churches that are just as dead and yet have a whole lot of buzz about them. You know, they even have a buzz conference these days. They may have a lot of hype but no holiness, a lot of passion, but no power. So to me a dead church can look like a really lively one, for sure.

Today we have the church of the upwardly mobile, the church where everybody is somebody, the church where you can become the best you that you can be, and we even have a laughing church or two out there. We have the liberated church, the empowered church, the militant church, and the dead churches. I would put all of the above in the last category.

Today what we need is for people to be on fire for the gospel, but what we see are just more and more programs, promotions, politics, and purpose. We may have passion, but we don’t have any real power, because we lack purity (fuel): where there is no fuel the fire dies out. Flash fires, flash paper, and the flash in the pan all fade. Soon enough a fire that doesn't have real fuel dies out, and often gets replaced by a false fire built on feelings, fellowship, or flurry. People try and live off the fumes of a faded fire, and that, friends, is a dead church. Too many preachers in the pulpit and people in the pews are confusing anointing with adrenaline, and the busyness of man with the business of God.

It’s good to be active, and organized, and lively, but it’s a must to be alive!

Do you want to know what an alive church is?

A church that is alive is a church where people are dying!

Dying to self that is…

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Round Three: The Bible and Salvation

Well, our first two rounds of “OT salvation” and its corresponding issues have lead to this next item, one of great significance, as a boon to the Protestant world, and as the bane of the Catholic / Orthodox conception of authority…

Sola Scriptura, or “scripture alone”; it can be defined several ways, but for our purposes here we shall initially define it as, “scripture alone as our ultimate religious authority”.

Starting from our posts on OT salvation, we have come to this: The questions before us are

1. In our NT times, i.e. today, is anything other than the scriptures necessary to know the truth of God for salvation?

2. Can one know the truth of God for salvation apart from the scriptures today?

For this topic, we might also state the idea in view and in the “hot seat” as such:

How do we define the authority, reliability, and sufficiency of scripture?

It is indeed not a small matter, and it isn’t a needless dispute. Fully more than One Billion Christians, in name at least (another debate for later, so save that one), do not adhere to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, yet the Protestants almost to a man insist on it.

I personally believe in its primacy as an important doctrine to defend and uphold. My position is that all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand.

In order to set the table, this from our previous dialogue:


(It) depends, of course, upon what it is for which Scripture is assumed to be "reliable, authoritative, and sufficient." For example, Scripture is not sufficient, reliable nor authoritative in matters of, say, astronomical research. Does this mean that the value of Scripture is reduced? Hardly. Rather, it merely represents that Scripture has been wrongly applied to something for which it is not reliable, authoritative, nor sufficient.

Matt (Gummby) replied:

Given the scenario you described, I would probably agree. However, there are plenty of areas where Scripture is not given weight, but should be (I'm thinking of both the physical and social sciences). And many people refuse to allow the Bible to inform their thinking in these areas at all, thinking that faith and [fill-in-the-blank] are separate. But they aren't.

I'll save my thoughts on higher criticism for then.

Now is the time…

Without further ado, we now delve into that fracas…

Friday, August 04, 2006

Tag, You’re It!

We are still hot on the last two posts, and I don't want to stop our great discourse, so keep them going, but something has happened, that apparently I must respond to. Daniel
has tagged me with the “one book” meme, so here goes. I guess I feel honored because I think this means you are “almost somebody” in the blogosphere…I can pretend, anyway…

(other than the Bible for all answers)

1. One book that changed your life :
My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers

2. One book you've read more than once:
JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy

3. One book you'd want on a deserted island:
The Complete Book of Sand Dune Recipes

4. One book that made you laugh:
Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot by Al Franken
*(Never read it, but the title was all I needed…)

5. One book that made you cry (or feel really sad):
Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hannegraaf

6. One book that you wish had been written:
The Doctrine of the Trinity: It’s Importance and Applications by the Apostle Paul

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

8. One book you're currently reading:
The Five Points of Calvinism, by David Steele, et al

9. One book you've been meaning to read:
Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson

10. Now tag five people:

Brad (Sojourner)

Matt (Gummby)

Jonathan Moorehead

Jim (Faith Classics)

and yes, I would like to know his answers, so, if he will,

exist~ dissolve

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How Were OT People Saved? Part II

First off, thank you to all who participated and even those who looked on during our last post. You may continue to add to the 130+ comments, 65+ pages of data, and over 26,000 words here if you wish, and I will comment back. Perhaps we will revisit this theme again.

These are my observations and conclusions – some language taken directly from the comments.

There is a difference between the OT and the NT economy, in terms of salvation and in terms of covenants and other matters, such as promises given to national Israel.

When we ask, “how were OT people saved?” we are not simply asking about justification by faith. What we are attempting to ascertain is this, “what did the OT people who were saved believe?” Or, “what constituted saving faith in the OT?” Was there a set of propositions that needed to be held to (understood, believed, and trusted in exclusively) for a saving faith? It is these matters we have been taking up here. What was the gospel in the OT? What constitutes salvation in the OT?

Israel was a called out nation, and as a whole was under the covenant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There were people who were called into that covenant from the outside (like Rahab) and those who were “in” but weren’t really in (like Balaam, or Korah).

This whole process further strengthens my understanding of the necessity of the doctrines of grace. There are none that seek after God, not one, and so whatever had to be in order for the benefits of Christ’s atonement to be delivered to OT saints, one thing is clear; it was all of God.

1. It is Christ who saves The Incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ in history were necessary events for the salvation of any and all persons. The placement of individuals on either "side" of the Incarnation is irrelevant to the fact that salvation is through Christ.

2. Faith is the "instrument" The OT, NT, and any persons who are saved are saved by grace through faith; justification by faith was and is the way it is accomplished at all times in history.

3. People in the OT had to heed the revelation that they already had. It is clear that one could be saved in the OT without explicit knowledge of the historical person and work of Jesus. This is not the case with persons born after the Ascension of Christ.

Faith is not bare mental assent, in either OT or NT periods. An understanding and fidelity to the revealed will of God for salvation purposes was essential. We are certain that the content of “faith” was not the same for both periods. The body of knowledge that had to be understood had changed as revelation progressed throughout the Biblical era, but after Christ it is static. Just as some never heard of the Jewish faith or Yahweh, and were not part of the covenant people of God, so too today some never hear of Christ, and yes, that means they are not saved.

People of today have the complete revelation of God in Jesus, and therefore He is whom they must respond to. The serpent story in John 3:14 before John 3:16 tells us by way of illustration that following God’s will is a key. We are saved through the process of doing God’s will, but only those so called are able to do so in a saving way. That will is to believe on Christ in the NT.

God makes provision for those in His covenant. Whatever the precise, if any, data set that was needed in either OT or NT period, this knowledge is and was given by God. God brings the believer to salvation and He keeps them as well.

Regarding this statement: Faithfulness to God is the substance of saving faith, not one's access to information.

In NT times, I for one do not believe that faithfulness to God is possible without the knowledge of Christ. It may be good civilly, but it is not done with an eye toward God’s Son, the Savior, and so it is not salvific knowledge of God or faith in God.

Regarding this statement: At the end of the day, I do not believe God judges on the basis of information, but rather on the basis of whether or not a person was faithful to the will of God to which they had access.

There is no one who does so without the grace of God, and even when faithful to His will in a limited sense, it is not that which saves us, for it is not enough. Otherwise it would be a “tipping of the scales”; at what point is it enough to merit salvation? No man is perfect and so no man can meet God’s unchanging standard of a perfect righteousness required for entering the kingdom – it must be all of grace in both OT and NT.

As for backsliding, just as in NT times, those that were brought to salvation by God, these would persevere and would never truly nor finally fall away. They may fall far, but would not fall completely. Those that would apostatize would have done so in accordance with the fact that they were not predestined to salvation in the first place.

So what of an OT Soteriology?

What of an Ordo Salutis?

They had to know there was a singular, Almighty God.

They knew they had a sin nature, and needed to be reconciled to God.

They knew they needed grace in order to be forgiven.

They knew they had to have a redeemer.

The knowledge of God in creation and the response to it does not save them (also true of people in NT times).

Christ saved the OT saints – we will use the name of Jesus as an acrostic to point this out. It is basic and doesn’t include everything I have written on the subject, but here is a brief outline. Perhaps you could see this as my version of TULIP…


Judgment on all flesh – Everyone stands condemned as a result of sin. None truly seek after God and all are damned without Him. Those that God saves understand that they are sinners in need of grace. The OT people who were saved knew this.

Elect unto eternal life – God calls those who are saved to Him. Men don't naturally follow God, apart from God's work in their lives beforehand. Since no one truly seeks after God unless God gives him or her the will to do so, God must elect those who are going to be saved, and give him or her the will to seek Him, and when they hear of Him, whatever the level of revelation needed to save at the time, they by faith receive Him. Today, anyone who will be faithful to the person of Jesus will have a chance to hear, and anyone who doesn't hear would not have been faithful even if they had. The OT people knew this; that God chooses some and not others based on nothing in us, but on His own will.

Satisfactory atonement – the work of Christ in history is sufficient to save all those in history that will be saved. Christ on the Cross – it is the way of salvation to persons in all times. The OT people knew that God would provide a sacrifice for their sins. Did the OT believers understand Hebrews 10:4 " For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins?” Yes. Some people believed themselves to be justified because they went through the motions of sacrifice, but these were not the saved people.

Unmerited favor – grace is needed to save anyone, no man can save himself, and none deserve it. God gave grace in the OT as well as the NT – Noah found grace, etc.

Saved unto good works – faith alone is not alone, we are saved and will experience differing degrees of sanctification, but God will ensure that we who are the called will finally persevere.

This is not exhaustive of the topic, but all this may indeed exhaust many…

May God richly bless you all, beloved…