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Faux Self-Empowerment For The Self-Centered

Joseph Sunde:

This is not your Grandmother’s Alcoholics Anonymous, wherein human depravity is pressed to come clean, and in its frailty, humility, and desperation, submits itself to a higher power and reaches beyond its earthbound limits. This is not about “love” as selfless, unconditional devotion to the other, tied to transcendent commitments and cultivated through relationships not of its own design. This is not, as the One True Guru might say, the last shall be first.

Keep It To Yourself

Adam Ford unpacks what it really means when someone asks you to keep your faith to yourself.

The Great 1980s Dungeons & Dragons Panic

In an era of potent concern over internet pornography, cyber-bullying, and drugs, it is hard to imagine a game being controversial. But 30 years ago Dungeons & Dragons was the subject of a full-on moral panic, writes Peter Ray Allison.

At the beginning of 1982’s ET, a group of teenage boys are indulging in a roleplay game, featuring dice and spells, and sounding a lot like Dungeons & Dragons. They indulge in banter as they wait for a pizza delivery to arrive.

This innocuous depiction was a far cry from the less-neutral coverage that was to come.

Predestination: Don’t Say a Word About It Until…

Daniel Hyde:

…you need to know and be prepared to communicate several things before talking about predestination. Imagine that this doctrine is as a beautiful painting. But before you can even begin to apply the paint, you need to have a canvas. Predestination is the paint. We don’t begin with the paint. We begin with a canvas to which the paint is applied

Bread of Heaven

This is nicely done:

HT: Steven Kryger

Do You Have A Complaint Against Someone?

Mark Altrogge:

“If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other…” Do you have a complaint against someone? Against your spouse or a friend? Against your pastor or ministry team leader? Could God have any complaints against you? If anyone has a right to complain about being sinned against, it is God. If he kept a record of our sins against him, he could produce an encyclopedia. Yet he was willing to forgive our mountain of sins against him. Jesus was willing to personally pay our debt so God could forgive us. Why? Because God is compassionate toward us even when we sin.

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Red Letter Nonsense

Kevin DeYoung in an excerpt from his upcoming book, Taking God at His Word:

The unity of Scripture also means we should be rid, once and for all, of this “red letter” nonsense, as if the words of Jesus are the really important verses in Scripture and carry more authority and are somehow more directly divine than other verses. An evangelical understanding of inspiration does not allow us to prize instructions in the gospel more than instructions elsewhere in Scripture. If we read about homosexuality from the pen of Paul in Romans, it has no less weight or relevance than if we read it from the lips of Jesus in Matthew. All Scripture is breathed out by God, not just the parts spoken by Jesus.

The road to joy

Jeremy Walker:

Your entry into and experience of joy depends, then, largely on your honesty before God and with yourself and others. That begins with honesty about our misery, our sin, our rebellion, our nature and our weakness. It is only when we face these facts that we will begin to find corresponding peace with and delight in God known in Christ Jesus. As sinners – even as saved sinners – there is nothing to be gained by denying or downgrading the depth of our past and present deeds and needs. Rather, our guilt and weakness is the very backdrop against which the grace of God shines most brightly. The bitterness of our sin and frailty makes the sweetness of divine mercy all the more distinct.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A whole bunch of new deals to start your week:

Also free from Logos this month is Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians.

How Not to Debate a Christian Apologist

Rob Bowman:

In an article on Huffington Post (naturally) entitled How to Debate a Christian Apologist, atheist Victor Stenger explains why non-Christians usually do so badly in debates with Christians and then offers a cheat sheet of brief answers to Christian apologetic arguments. The reason why the Christians do so well, according to Stenger, is that they have had years to polish their arguments in their religion classes and churches. The atheists, apparently, don’t have comparable opportunities. This will come as a surprise to Christian students throughout the Western world who have sat under atheists and other skeptical professors routinely spouting off against Christianity even if it entails ignoring the subject matter of the course.

The False Teachers: Muhammad

Tim Challies continues his new series on a few of the most famous false teachers through history:

Muhammad was born around 570 in Mecca in what is now the nation of Saudi Arabia. This was an area where there were significant populations of both Christians and Jews, so there was access to the Scriptures and the teachings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Muslims claim that Muhammad was a direct descendent of Ishmael, and thus of Abraham, though the only evidence to support this comes through oral tradition. Muhammad’s father died before he was born and his mother sent him as an infant to live in the desert with Bedouins in order to become acquainted with Arab traditions. While in the desert he is said to have encountered two angels who opened his chest and cleansed his heart with snow, symbolic of Islam’s teaching that he was purified and protected from all sin.

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The False Teachers: Arius

The first part of a new series by Tim Challies:

This morning I am setting out on a new series of articles that will scan the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—and pause to examine some of Christianity’s most notorious false teachers. Along the way we will visit such figures as Pelgius, Servetus, Fosdick, and even a few you might find on television today. We will begin this morning with one of the very first, and certainly one of the most dangerous, false teachers: Arius.

Covenantal Gut Check

Aimee Byrd:

A similar reality check sets in every time we gather as a covenant community for the Lord’s Supper. Here we learn that we are not all that different from one another. Some of our covenant family members may be stronger in the faith than others. Some gather with confident smiles, and others appear a bit forlorn. But we all get hit in the gut when we are before the table.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s Christian Guides to the Classics series by Leland Ryken is on sale for $2.99-$3.99:

Crouching at Your Door

Lore Ferguson:

I don’t know what “mastering” sin feels like, nor do I know what it feels like to be so free of the curse that I am unaware of its damaging effects of my heart, soul, and mind. The truth is that I walk with a constant,and growing, awareness of my sin and need for Christ, and I also walk with a constant, and growing, confidence in the finished work of the cross.

Here

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Rhetoric is a slippery device. Sometimes we use it to obfuscate, sometimes to clarify. Sometimes, however, our attempts to clarify betray us, and we end up obfuscating. For over forty years now Christians have entered into debate on the abortion issue. We brought the wisdom of God’s Word. We brought the latest information from genetics. We brought profound moral philosophers. We wrote learned journal articles, engaged in nuanced debates. We thought we were fighting for life, but is it just possible that the devil was successfully turning our labors into policy conundrums, political fodder, even armchair theologizing? Isn’t it possible that our calm, polite, reasoned discussions have actually hardened the consciences of our opponents, even while soothing our own? It’s true, as we have been saying, that life is sacred, that abortion stops a beating heart, that it creates two victims. But what if those truths don’t end up highlighting but instead cover for this clearer truth—that babies are murdered here.

New E-Book: Contending – A Study and Discussion Guide

Jude wrote to an unknown group of Christians, eager to write about “our common salvation;” to share about the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus with the church. Instead, compelled by the Holy Spirit, he wrote the New Testament epistle that bears his name—an urgent appeal warning believers to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered.”

In 2009, I felt burdened to address this issue in the small group I led. I wanted to help our friends there build a better understanding of the necessity of contending for the faith. Over the last several weeks, I’ve adapted the content of that study into a series of article here on the blog, and am now making it available to you in an e-book format.

This 32 page booklet contains the articles based on this study as well as a series of questions for each section to assist you in your personal study or in a small group setting. You will also find a number of recommended resources to help you grow in your understanding of the essential truths of the Christian faith.

You are free to download the Contending Study & Discussion guide and pass it along in electronic or hardcopy formats as you see fit.

It is my desire that this short guide would be a blessing to you as you read it and that you would gain an increased desire to earnestly “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)

Read the original posts in this series:

Jude: Contending To Keep Us From Stumbling


But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

—Jude 17-25—

Two weeks ago, I began a series here based on a small group study I wrote a year ago examining the epistle of Jude, by first examining “our common salvation” of which he was so eager to write, followed by an examination those of whom we contend against. This week concludes this look at Jude’s epistle with the call to persevere and how we should approach those that would cause division among us.

Do Not Be Surprised

We should not be surprised that there are a great many who would seek to lead God’s people astray. The serpent has been doing this since the beginning (see Genesis 3) and he is still hard at work today. Among those professing to be Christians today are fierce wolves who will not spare the flock (Acts 20:29). We have been warned throughout Scripture that this would be the case. And although it can be discouraging, we must not despair because it is a sign that Christ’s return is closer: [Read more...]

John Piper: Is it ever appropriate to call out prosperity gospel teachers by name?

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The following is an edited transcript of the audio provided by Desiring God:

Is it ever appropriate to call out prosperity gospel teachers by name?

Mark Driscoll does it. I tuned in one time and he actually played a clip from Joel Osteen.

My problem is that I don’t read these guys enough and don’t know them well enough. If I read a whole bunch of books by so-and-so and had actual quotes that I could quote and arguments that I could give, I would feel more adequate to say something.

So that’s one criterion: I don’t feel like I’m in their world enough to know them well enough.

Secondly, if I knew that somebody I knew or my church was being swayed away by somebody that I felt was preaching a gospel different from our gospel, I would probably get real specific with the church, for the church’s sake.

So the first reason may be owing to laziness. I don’t think it’s owing to cowardice. [Read more...]

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Test of a True Teacher

The most important test is the conformity to scriptural teaching. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” How do I know that this is a scriptural test? All I know about Him, I put up to the test of Scripture. Indeed, you get exactly the same thing in the sixth verse of 1 John 4 where John says, speaking of himself and the other apostles, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” The first thing to ask about a man who claims to be filled with the Spirit and to be an unusual teacher is, does his teaching conform to Scripture? Is it in conformity with the apostolic message? Does he base it all upon this Word? Is he willing to submit to it? That is the great test.

Another test is the readiness to listen to scriptural teaching; to abide by it is always a characteristic of the true prophet. You will find that the other man rather tends to dismiss it. “Ah yes,” he says,” But you are legalistic, you are just a theologian. I have experience, I have felt, and I have produced this and that.” The tendency is not to abide by the teaching of Scripture but to be almost contemptuous of it; that has always been the characteristic of those who have tended to go astray. Read the history of the Quakers, and you will find that such an attitude became a prominent feature—the inner light rather than the objective teaching of Scripture itself.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Love of God, 23-24 (Republished in Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John)

The Gospel-less "Gospel"

You may have seen this video making the rounds this week, an eight minute film produced by Christianity Today and The Global Conversation:

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The video is exceptional, disturbing and incredibly convicting. Watch the last couple of minutes, starting at 6:14, or read the transcript to see what I mean:

Rev. Sam Korankye Ankrah (a pastor who preaches the prosperity “gospel”):
“We were born in poverty. We suffered; we struggled; we almost didn’t get food to eat. We struggled for food. We struggled for space. For love. You might have been born into poverty but you can change the status quo and turn around and  leave a legacy of wealth for your children. You have been born into many difficulties and challenges—but here it starts with you. So for us, preaching prosperity, dreaming prosperity, craving for prosperity, praying for prosperity is non-negotiable. It’s power to break poverty.” [Read more...]

Book Review: The Truth War

truth-war-macarthur

One of my favorite books of the New Testament is Jude. This very short letter, in many ways, shows just how much control the Holy Spirit had over the authors of Scripture, in that Jude wanted to write about one thing, but felt compelled to write about something entirely different. He says in v. 2-3, “although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Why do I bring this up? Because in writing The Truth War, John MacArthur seeks to carry out the command to contend for the faith.

As a Bible teacher, there are few that surpass MacArthur. He knows how to handle the Scriptures well and carefully. In reading the book, you can feel a deep love for doctrine, for the truth of the Word, and it’s a great thing—indeed, I think we would all do well to learn from his example in this regard.

But truth and sound doctrine aren’t things that are highly regarded or desired, according to MacArthur (and a quick perusal of iTunes and any bookstore’s “Christianity” section would agree with his assessment).

“The idea that the Christian message should be kept pliable and ambiguous seems especially attractive to young people who are in tune with the culture and in love with the spirit of the age and can’t stand to have authoritative biblical truth applied with precision as a corrective to worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behavior. And the poison of this perspective is being increasingly injected into the evangelical church body” (Introduction, xi).

There is an idea that you’re more mature and holy be being ambiguous or uncertain about what you believe, but, MacArthur rightly states, this is by definition a kind of unbelief, and “[r]efusing to acknowledge and defend the reveald truth of God is a particularly stubborn and pernicious kind of unbelief” (ibid).

MacArthur sets the stage for his critique of the Emerging/Emergent Church movement discussing the rise of postmodernism (which is really just repackaged existentialism), and its “tendency to dismiss the possibility of any sure and settled knowledge of the truth” (p. 10), because “the subjectivity of the human mind makes knowledge of objective truth impossible” (p. 11).  But Scripture disagrees with this idea, as Jesus said “I am…the Truth” (John 14:6).

As I read through the book, I found I could easily relate with most every critique and concern that was raised. The idea of looking at the Bible as a human product, as Rob Bell sees it, is terrifying and foolish. The idea that we’re to “search for a kind of truth” and that doctrinal distinctives are of “marginal” value, as Brian McLaren says in A Generous Orthodoxy, will surely lead to a shipwrecked faith. That the atoning death of Christ on the cross was an act of divine child abuse, as many, including McLaren, have written in the past is nothing short of blasphemous and damnable error.

But while I read, I also felt myself grating against his words. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s because I have never experienced pastors contending for the faith by speaking against error, or if it’s something else. One passage in particular hit me a bit close to home:

Sound doctrine? Too arcane for the average churchgoer. Biblical exposition? That alienates the ‘unchurched.’ Clear preaching on sin and redemption? Let’s be careful not to subvert the self-esteem of hurting people” (p. 150).

I read this and it stung, because I’ve heard very similar words from some people that I know well, who are in my prayers more frequently than ever.

While I think that MacArthur does a terrific job outlining his concerns, I have to wonder if his painting of all “contextualization” as worldliness is a bit too broad? Everything—from the Scriptures themselves, to our clothes, to our methodology in church—is contextualized. But using methods that make sense for 2009 doesn’t mean you have to compromise on doctrine. That speaking in everyday vernacular means you’re selling short the gospel. I have to wonder if maybe he’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater on this issue? I honestly don’t know, though. Perhaps I’m reading in something that’s not there.

Additionally, there are a couple of men addressed briefly in his critique—Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll—who at the very least are being implicitly labeled as false teachers, which is not a fair assessment of either man. The comments about Driscoll are based on his over-hyped reputation as “the cussing pastor” as described in Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. Do I affirm everything that Mark Driscoll or Rick Warren does as good and right and true? Heck no! But it seems unwise and uncharitable to put them in the same category as some of the other gentlemen MacArthur critiques in this book.

Bottom line: Would I recommend The Truth War? Yes. The biblical principles espoused are rock solid and the message is sound: Contend for the faith. Where I would caution any reader is on his critique of other pastors and teachers. Do not build your entire opinion of any of these men solely on the opinions of MacArthur; do your homework and avoid straw-men.

Purchase a copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Sunday Shorts (04/05)

James MacDonald: The Public Rebuke of False Teachers

I love James MacDonald. He is a smart, godly man and a gifted teacher of the Scriptures. This is one more reason why I respect him:

What was amazing about some of the comments I received was that they were not put off by the critique, but by the naming of the specific person who promulgates these deceptions.  Several comments stated in the strongest of terms that it is unbiblical and unwise, even unloving, to name the names of false teachers and opponents of the biblical gospel.  Is that true?  Is it wrong to publicly call out those who attack the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?  Even when their denials are much more public?  Let’s see what Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John have to say about how to deal with false teachers.  Do they confront it?  Do they, in many instances, actually name the people involved?

Read the entire post, and, for context, his post on Brian McLaren.

HT: Justin Taylor

Marriage and Men

A couple weeks back, Mark Driscoll delivered a very hard, very convicting sermon on the necessity of being a godly man in marriage.

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Iron Man, Spurgeon, and the Gospel: Thoughts on a Purpose Driven Life

My friends at Evangelical Village posted a very intriguing article connecting Iron Man to the gospel. Well worth the read:

One key transition scene showing Tony’s inward change has continued to stick out in my mind. In this scene, Tony and his assistant Pepper Potts have a somewhat heated dialogue in which Tony describes the determination of his life’s purpose.  Tony firmly states his new-found purpose: “There is nothing except this. There is no art opening; there is no benefit; there is nothing to sign. There is the next mission. And nothing else.”

This scene has been on replay in my mind the past few days until this morning when in I encountered a quote by Charles Spurgeon…

Read the rest here.

Easter

Today begins the most important week in the Christian calendar: The week celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry, betrayal at the hands of one of His closest friends, false trial, brutal execution and glorious resurrection. I would encourage all of us to take some time this week and re-read the story of the crucifixion and thank Jesus for the wondrous gift of salvation He has given in His death on the cross.