Who are the false teachers?

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The whole concept of false teachers and false teaching is one that makes many Christians squirm. We don’t like to think about the idea that there are people who are actively trying to deceive believers, to turn them away from the truth of the Christian faith. But all one has to do is look around at a Christian bookstore and you can see it—deception is present.

So who are they?

Anytime someone writes on this topic, it’s tempting to name names. Tim Challies has been profiling a number of them over the last several weeks, for example, looking at false teachers throughout history and up to our present day. Making the cut are luminaries such as Benny Hinn, Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, Pelagius, Arius… even the Pope made the cut!

Trying to make a list can be a double-edged sword. One danger is becoming too narrow, letting a secondary issue take precedence and become the measure of orthodoxy (think: egalitarianism vs complementarianism, or Calvinism vs Arminianism). A second is being too open, lacking any firm criteria upon which to make a judgement about orthodoxy whatsoever.

And it’s this error that I want to challenge in particular. When you start to examine the nature of false teaching, it tends to consistently focus on three primary areas:

The nature and character of God (including the person of Christ).

I wrote about this in a bit more detail in Contend, but imagine you’re standing dominoes up in a line to watch them fall. You’ve set up all your pieces just so and you’re ready to push the lead one. If you’ve got that first domino in the right place, when you knock it down, the chain reaction can begin, with every properly situated piece falling in exactly the right way. But if your first domino is pointing in the wrong direction or is placed too far away from the others, it’s just not going to work.

Our understanding of God is kind of like that. If we get God wrong, nothing else will truly fall in place. We won’t understand the gospel and there will be no energy or momentum to drive us forward into a life of fruitful labor to the glory of God. Thankfully, due to the immeasurable gift of the Bible, we have everything we need to get that first “domino” right. Indeed, if we begin to grasp even the most basic truths regarding God’s nature and character, that changes everything.

What this means for us is grasping as comprehensive picture of God as we can from Scripture—we see Him as immanent (He is personal and knowable), transcendent (He is far above us in every meaningful way) and Triune (He is one in essence and three in persons). He is many things—loving, jealous, just, and merciful… but undergirding all of this is his holiness. It is this fact that reminds us that God is perfect and distinct from the world He has made, it calls on us to pay attention to all He is. So we don’t take one aspect of His character at the expense of another—love doesn’t trump justice and vice versa; instead, we see God’s love as holy and His justice as holy. They spring from the same source. They are perfect and wonderful and glorious.

And this is what false teachers consistently attack. They strive to make God smaller, more distant, less intimidating… Honestly, if the thought of standing before God in His glory doesn’t make you want to wet yourself in terror a little bit, you probably don’t understand the God of the Bible.

The gospel.

Ask “what is the gospel” to 100 people, and you’re likely to get 101 answers. But the gospel, in its most basic and essential form, is this: “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 Cor. 15:3-4).

There’s much that could be said about this, but notice the key elements: Christ died, and more specifically, He died to pay the penalty for our sins). He was buried, meaning He was truly dead. And He was raised to life again physically—not spiritually, not emotionally, not in our hearts or any such notion.

Without these things, there is no gospel, period. And when someone fudges on any of these, a different gospel is preached, and it’s one that damns its teachers to hell (Gal. 1:9). Yet this is what we consistently see in false teaching—men and women who make the gospel about something other than what Christ has done, and make it about giving us an example to follow, or giving us a Jesus who didn’t physically rise from death… But according to Scripture, such things are nonsense.

The authority of the Bible.

The final consistent point of opposition is the Bible itself. Notice how even with His gospel summary above, Paul consistently pointed back to the Scriptures—meaning, these things that happened to Jesus, God said would happen in His Word. And throughout the Bible, we see this kind of emphasis on the Bible’s authority and trustworthiness. Two examples:

Peter says that “we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).  And this prophetic word, he says, was not produced “by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

Paul, likewise, describes all Scripture as “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

But look throughout and you’ll find this repeated emphasis on the authority of Scripture. And this is what false teachers consistently strive to undermine, even before they’ll go after the nature of God or the gospel. They do it with appeals to experience and emotion as authoritative, and arguments designed to obscure the clarity of the Bible… it all amounts to the same trick the serpent played in the beginning, asking “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1)

Thankfully, we have a “more sure” word than one that can be obscured easily. In the Bible, we have something we can rely on and trust. Kevin DeYoung, commenting on 2 Peter 1, says it well:

We do not follow myths. We are not interested in stories with a nice moral to them. We are not helped by hoping in spiritual possibilities which we know to be historically impossible. These things in the gospel story happened. God predicted them. He fulfilled them. He inspired the written record of them. Therefore we ought to believe them. Nothing in all of the Bible was produced solely by the human will. God used men to write the words, but these men did their work carried along by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is an utterly reliable book, an unerring book, a holy book, a divine book.

So who are the false teachers out there? Look at how a teacher views God, the gospel, and the Scriptures. That will likely tell you most everything you need to know.

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Wolverine: the musical

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Seeds Project

Mike Leake’s started a new Kickstarter project for a family devotional geared toward younger kids. Back it if you can!

Toward a Theology of Dessert

Bethany Jenkins:

Our relationship with dessert is sweet but complicated. When God created the world, he said, “Behold, I have given you . . . every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Gen. 1:29). The Scriptures then affirm the goodness of fruit-bearing trees, saying they are “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen. 2:9). Thus, God made fruit—the main dessert of their time—to be lovely and delicious.

Yet this same dessert—when placed in a particular context—was used by God a means to test our ancestors’ allegiance and affections.

7 Things a Good Dad Says

Tim Challies:

I think I may be leaving one phase of fatherhood behind even while I enter into another. My youngest child is just about to turn eight, which means that we are not only past the baby and toddler stages, but even nearing the end of the little kid phase. Meanwhile my oldest child has turned fourteen and is just months away from high school. All this change has caused me to think about fatherhood and the new challenges coming my way. I have found myself thinking back to the many models of fatherhood I have seen and admired through the years. What made these fathers admirable? What set them apart? What was it that they said to their children? From these models I have drawn seven things a good father says.

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‘Non-Shepherding’ Pastors: Option or Oxymoron?

This is a very important discussion:

A Theology of Acquiescence

Tim Kimberley:

If you’ve been a Christian for a while you should have several relationships where you have acquiesced. You should have several spiritual workout partners who like to swim. In these relationships you have decided to minister together above a secondary point of doctrine. Here’s an example. Imagine if I told you, “I only associate, go to church with, and minister alongside Christians who hold to the northern theory of Galatians.” Wouldn’t you think that I’m a moron? Now, you might already think I’m a moron without the Galatians stuff but wouldn’t it seem silly for me to divide over the northern/southern Galatians theory debate?

Get Gospel Wakefulness in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • Eternal Security teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Handout Apologetics teaching series by John Gerstner (audio & video download)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Once Confused, Now Complementarian

Brittany Lind:

I sat wide-eyed across the table from my new friend Courtney in our college cafeteria. I had just told her I was interested in a guy who sat near me in my freshman biology class. My plan was to go to him and inform him about my interest in dating. Courtney was convincing me to think otherwise — I was confused and didn’t understand why it mattered.

How Churches Can Care for Their Pastor’s Children

Chap Bettis:

Too many children of pastors are casualties in the spiritual battle. After seeing the inner workings of the church, many do not want anything to do with the Lord or his people. As a teenager, I almost walked away from my faith because of the hypocrisy and disunity I saw in my church.

But in my conversation with this pastor, I was momentarily speechless as I realized how little I had thought about this important question. Why? Because the church that I had shepherded for 25 years had done an excellent job caring for my own children. Today they are 22, 20, 18, and 16, and have fond memories of our relationships there.

What had my own church done that so few churches do well? What can churches learn?

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The Church’s Identity

Erik Raymond:

Many times, out of a desire to love their neighbor, churches can get involved in all types of ministries. Many of these things are good things. They are things that Christians are free to do and should be encouraged to do however they are not the mission of the church. What ends up happening to the church is disastrous. They get involved in things that are good but not precisely what they are called to do. They leave off the ministry of the word in view of other “good” things. And as a result, churches become little more than non-profits with a spiritual tone.

4 Problems with Free-Spirit Theology

Kevin DeYoung:

With such a mystical view of the Christian life, it’s not surprising Marguerite had little patience for the institutional church. She taught a rigid two-tier ecclesiology. On one side (and these were her titles) was Holy Church the Little — a fading institution of non-liberated souls, guided by reason, relying on sermons and sacraments. On the other side was Holy Church the Great — a body of liberated souls freed from organizational shackles, governed by love, relying on contemplation. Her book was written for the enlightened ones set free from Holy Church the Little into Holy Church the Great.

Why reintroduce this long-forgotten, little-known French mystic? Because the same ideas that got her labeled a heretic are alive and well in the twenty-first-century church. Let me mention four problems with her free-spirit theology that seem particularly relevant to our situation today.

Everyone’s a Theologian

This new book by R.C. Sproul is one you’re going to want to get:

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Why I Care Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle I Am?

Mike Leake:

Apparently, if I were a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle I would be Raphael. Yep, you guessed it, I got sucked into one of those ridiculous quizzes on Facebook that I’m certain is some form of a ponzi scheme. Thankfully, I was able to restrain myself and not take the quiz which would have identified which Golden Girl I am. Though now as I write this my curiosity is growing…

I just lost.

I’m Sophia–that’s which Golden Girl I am. At least I think. Truth be told, I didn’t understand half the questions. So maybe I’m really closer to Bea Arthur.

Why in the world is my Facebook feed filled with answers to these quizzes? Why do people—myself included—waste 5 minutes of their lives trying to discover which donut they are?

What You Really Need In Marriage

Mark Altrogge:

Our culture is extremely self-oriented. We are continually bombarded by messages that tell us we need greater self-esteem. We begin to think, I need to do this for me, I need to be validated, I need to feel good about myself, I need to think about my desires for a change, etc.

It’s so easy to bring this mentality into marriage. We can think we “need” certain things from our spouse. But in reality, we often take our desires, which may not be wrong in themselves, and elevate them to the level of “need.” “I want” becomes “I won’t be happy unless I get…”

Three assumptions of sound theology

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Whether we admit it or not, all of our opinions and ideas are based on certain assumptions (or presuppositions). These are basic principles through which we view what we read, what we study, how we think, etc.

In studying the Bible, it’s no different; we all come to the study of the Bible with certain basic assumptions. In fact, the basic assumptions guiding our study drastically affect how we read it and comprehend what we find in its pages. In his new book Everyone’s a Theologian, R.C. Sproul introduces readers to three basic assumptions he finds necessary for sound theological thinking:1

1. God has revealed Himself not only in nature but also through the writings of the prophets and the Apostles.

In other words, Sproul says, “the Bible is the Word of God. It is theology par excellence. It is the full logos of the theos.”

2. When God reveals Himself, He does so according to His own character and nature. “Scripture tells us that God created an orderly cosmos. He is not the author of confusion because He is never confused. He thinks clearly and speaks in an intelligible way that is meant to be understood.”

3. God’s revelation in Scripture manifests those qualities.

There is a unity to the Word of God despite the diversity of its authors. The Word of God was written over many centuries by many authors, and it covers a variety of topics, but within that diversity is unity. All the information found in Scripture—future things, the atonement, the incarnation, the judgment of God, the mercy of God, the wrath of God—have their unity in God Himself, so that when God speaks and reveals Himself, there is a unity in that content, a coherence.

What would systematic theology look like if we did not hold to these basic assumptions? Ultimately, it would look like much of the confusion we see in the world around us, and especially in many churches. Where we lack consistency, it’s because at a foundational level, we’re not really sure of these things:

  • We question (in the negative sense) the Bible because we not certain it’s truly God’s Word, even if we would say otherwise.
  • We waffle on notions of God’s wrath because we’re not sure it fits with our notion of good (as opposed to God’s).
  • We reject particular patterns or emphases because we don’t know that God is consistent in His actions and character (which therefore means His Word would be as well).

While certainly, no theologian has ever gotten everything right, we can easily see the fruit of theology gone awry. One does not need to look hard for examples. Nevertheless, we’re all called to engage in the task of theological thinking and exposition. This is a basic part of what it means to be a Christian—to think Christianly. When our assumptions are sound, our theology will be as well. So the question we all need to ask is: what am I bringing to the table?

A quick look at some new books

Every so often, I get a really nice present in the mail—books! Here’s a look at a few that have shown up over the last few days:

In case you can’t make them all out, they are:

I’ve only had a chance to start digging into one of these books (United), there are a number I’m excited about reading, particularly Truth Matters and Everyone’s A Theologian (Sproul does a wonderful job of making systematic theology accessible and interesting to the common person).

What stands out to you on the list? What are some books you’re looking forward to reading over the next few weeks?

Spontaneous baptisms and a nasty case of the heebie jeebies

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Over the last week, there’s been a lot of discussion about the practice of spontaneous baptism, spurred on by controversy surrounding Elevation Church’s how-to guide for “doing your part in God’s miracle.” Russell Moore’s weighed in, The Gospel Coalition released a roundtable discussion between Matt Chandler, Mark Dever and Darrin Patrick about 18 months ago, and undoubtedly many more voices are bound to say something.

None of us, of course, should be surprised that Furtick and Elevation would meticulously plan out such things—after all, anyone who has read Furtick’s books or heard him speak anywhere would be painfully aware of his Revivalist, um, “exuberance.” The first time I heard him speak was at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit a few years back where he demoed the power of Spirit Keys to set the mood during a worship gathering (and I hated Spirit Keys ever since).

Obviously there’s a lot more to be concerned about with Furtick than the spontaneous baptism issue (I’ll spare you my laundry list)—but the spontaneous baptism issue is an important one. While we see a few instances of spontaneous baptism in Scripture, which should lead us to be cautious of completely ruling it out as a practice in all circumstances, it’s still something we need to be careful of.

A bit of backstory: I was baptized in a more-or-less spontaneous situation. I’d been a Christian for about three months at that point and knew it was something I should do, but didn’t know when. One weekend in August 2005, the church we attended was performing baptisms (the majority of which were planned in advance). Emily and I watched each person and as we did, I felt compelled to get baptized. So Emily and I both talked to the youth pastor, asked if we could, the pastor got back into his wet pants, we shared what God had been doing in our lives—how He brought us to faith, how the gospel changed us—and then we were baptized.

The church I was baptized in was careful—their wasn’t a pressure for us to get baptized right away. There wasn’t an overly emotional appeal at the end, although they did invite people to come forward if they felt the Holy Spirit compel them to do so (which is fairly typical for most evangelical churches these days from what I can tell).

As you can imagine, the whole conversation is very personal to me. But here’s where I land, for what it’s worth: we should be very, very cautious to baptize anyone too quickly. I’d rather wait and (as best as any of us are able) be sure that someone is truly saved, is bearing fruit (even if it’s a tiny amount) and understands the significance of the sacrament.

What Furtick’s approach (and the revivalist mindset in general) reveals is a deficient understanding of this essential sacrament. But Furtick isn’t alone in this. We laughingly call baptism getting a bath, or getting dunked… When we’re being serious, we tend to stick to the now standard “outward declaration of an inward transformation” definition.

And while this elevator speech version is certainly true, we need to more fully express what that “inward transformation” entails. J. I. Packer’s definition of baptism is exceptionally helpful in this regard:

Christian baptism, which has the form of a ceremonial washing (like John’s pre-Christian baptism), is a sign from God that signifies inward cleansing and remission of sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:25–27), Spirit-wrought regeneration and new life (Titus 3:5), and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit as God’s seal testifying and guaranteeing that one will be kept safe in Christ forever (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13–14). Baptism carries these meanings because first and fundamentally it signifies union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3–7; Col. 2:11–12); and this union with Christ is the source of every element in our salvation (1 John 5:11–12). Receiving the sign in faith assures the persons baptized that God’s gift of new life in Christ is freely given to them. At the same time, it commits them to live henceforth in a new way as committed disciples of Jesus. Baptism signifies a watershed point in a human life because it signifies a new-creational ingrafting into Christ’s risen life. 1

While a convert doesn’t necessarily have to understand all the implications of this reality, if they understand none of it—if they’re compelled only by an emotional experience, if there is no credible evidence of Spirit-borne fruit, if there’s no evidence they understand the gospel at all—then we are absolutely right to have a nasty case of the heebie jeebies. Baptism signifies our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins and is a commitment to living as one of His disciples. When people just take a bath, they’re missing the point. And when we encourage them to do so, so are we.

photo credit: Mars Hill Church via photopin cc

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Faithful pastor, you’re not crazy

Ray Ortlund:

A text message came in from a pastor friend.  I’ve known him for decades.  He is the kind of man for whom the adjective “saintly” was invented.  He pastored a thriving church for many years.  Then someone on staff stabbed him in the back and rallied others to get him thrown out.  The objections to his ministry had no substance.  “The issues” were not the real issues.  As Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, said to me once, “Some try to pull down a prominent man, not because they themselves wish to take his place, but because doing so gives them a feeling of power.”

My friend had met with someone from his former church, wishing to reconcile.  But the person blew him off.  All that the meeting accomplished was to re-open an old wound.

So here is what I want to say to my friend:

You’re not crazy.  This has been happening to God’s men since Cain and Abel.  It is one way you identify with Jesus himself.

Are Tongues Real Languages?

Nathan Busenitz begins a new series asking an important question:

Has the church, historically, been right to conclude that the gift of tongues in the New Testament consists of the supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages previously unknown to the speaker? Or is the modern charismatic movement right to conclude that the gift of tongues encompasses something other than cognitive foreign languages?

Ridiculously good deals from Westminster Books

Westminster Books has a whole bunch of great titles on sale for up to 70% off, including:

The Cold that Bothers Us

Greg Forster:

The most obvious lesson of Frozen—the one made explicit in the movie—teaches viewers that love is not about how you feel. It’s about putting other people’s needs ahead of your own. This theme by itself profoundly inverts the old Disney culture; it’s a big win for the Pixar invaders. But Frozen not only makes this point, it also traces some wide-ranging consequences. It shows us why people are investing too much importance in romantic love relative to other kinds of love, like sisterhood. The responsible grown-ups who tell you not to burn down everything else in your life for the sake of “true love” are not your enemies; they’re your friends. They’re the people who really love you.

The Danger of Forgetting How to Read the Bible

Dan Doriani:

In the past month, I learned that two more Christian leaders whom I know have either tarnished or destroyed their ministries. Neither was a friend, in the full sense, yet I’ve been friendly with both men and respected their talents and the fruit of their labors.

Once again, I wonder: How could a man who studied and knew Scripture and taught it faithfully to others, brazenly violate its most basic principle of love and self-control? Even as I ask the question, I know I’m liable to self-destructive sin too. Everyone needs Paul’s admonition: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Self-aware leaders know that we can violate principles we thought we knew.

What does the Bible say about religion?

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It’s really popular today to distinguish between religion and Jesus—as though the gospel and religion are diametrically opposed. We love Jesus, but hate religion. Religion says “do,” Jesus says, “done.” And although many of the critiques have their own strengths and weaknesses, there’s a small problem: the way we understand “religion” entirely depends on what we mean by the word. This is a subject I’ve explored in a new paper I’ve written for ExploreGod.com:

Millions of people around the globe consider the Bible an authoritative guidebook on how to live a godly, righteous life. So how does the Bible understand “religion”? What does it say?

The answer isn’t as cut-and-dried as we might like to think. The Bible itself is neither wholly positive nor entirely negative about religion. After all, at the most basic level, a religion is a set of deeply held personal or institutional beliefs or principles. There’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. In fact, by that definition, every human being on earth is deeply religious.

But the issue is not whether we have deeply held beliefs and practices—the issue is to whom those beliefs are devoted. To better understand this, let’s turn to the book of Romans in the Bible.

Keep reading at ExploreGod.com.

(photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc)

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When God Does the Miracle We Didn’t Ask For

Vaneetha Rendall Demski:

“No” was not the answer I wanted. I was looking for miraculous answers to prayer, a return to normalcy, relief from the pain. I wanted the kind of grace that would deliver me from my circumstances.

God, in his mercy, offered his sustaining grace.

At first, I rejected it as insufficient. I wanted deliverance. Not sustenance. I wanted the pain to stop, not to be held up through the pain. I was just like the children of Israel who rejoiced at God’s delivering grace in the parting of the Red Sea, but complained bitterly at his sustaining grace in the provision of manna.

But there is a problem…

Carl Trueman:

But I do think the response to Frye should not be ‘How dare you blame the Calvinists!?’ so much as ‘If there is a problem, and if true Calvinism should not create such a problem, what is going wrong in our churches?’ Here, the difference between a church’s doctrine and the reception of that doctrine by individual Christians and congregations is crucial. Calvinism, true Calvinism, is not to blame; but sadly there are Calvinists who are less innocent, who do reduce the problem of evil and suffering to tweetable soundbites which inevitably lack the complexity of the Biblical teaching, who do ignore the whole counsel of God in their teaching and preaching and choice of praise songs. And I fear that a failure to reflect the whole counsel of God in our teaching and worship has indeed left individuals conflicted over how — and whether — Christians should lament. The arrival of funerals that are ‘celebrations of life’ even within some Presbyterian circles witnesses to the reality of this problem.

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Does God Live in the Gaps?

Joe Carter:

Drummond, a 19th century evangelical writer and lecturer, originated the term “God of the gaps” while chastising his fellow Christians for their unscriptural view of natural history. Unfortunately, this confusion about “natural” and “supernatural” continues today even though it is, as philosopher Alvin Plantinga explains “at best a kind of anemic and watered-down semideism” that “is worlds apart from serious Christian theism.”

For Christians, though, a “natural” process is just a normal-appearing process which remains the providential design and control of God. The difference between natural-appearing and miraculous-appearing processes is not whether God is acting — his action occurs in both processes — but the way in which he chooses to act.

Multi-Generational Worship

Daniel Renstrom:

This is pure speculation, but it seems to me that when the modern worship movement came into town, churches became more and more age segregated.  There is probably a doctoral student somewhere in America working on this topic right now, so I’ll wait for that book to come out to tell me more about it.  But as a general observation, I do not remember churches in my youth having such radical age divides as they do now.  And my guess is that music is one of the main reasons for this change.

This is certainly an oversimplification of a larger problem. But music is one of the main ways that a church shows its stylistic preferences.  Thus, music becomes an important way for a church to identify itself.  My guess is that many people make the decision about where they will go to church based largely on the style of music.  It’s just easy to be around people who like the things we do.

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The Stealth Prosperity Gospel

Jared Wilson:

The real devil in the details of the prosperity-type teaching permeating so much of evangelicalism is not really that it skips over the stuff about sin. Sure, it does that too, but the pernicious paradox of this stuff is that it champions “victorious Christian living” yet does not equip believers for sustainable discipleship. It emphasizes feelings and “outlook,” not the power of the Spirit, which is hard for some folks to notice since the latter is often conflated with the former (so that being optimistic or a go-getter is ipso facto being Spirit-empowered). The problem over time is that, going from victory to victory, expecting victory after victory, cultivates a contagious form of spiritual greed. (Is it any wonder that this sort of teaching often goes hand and hand with talk of financial riches and prosperity?) The real stuff of discipleship — what Eugene Peterson calls “a long obedience in the same direction” — involves hard stuff like discipline and the fruit of the Spirit. In pop discipleship discipline is replaced by steps, tips, and amazing supercolossal breakthroughs.

Get God in our Midst in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get God in our Midst by Daniel Hyde (ePub and MOBI) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Bound for Glory teaching series by R.C. Sproul Jr. (audio and video download)
  • Feed My Sheep by various authors (hardcover)
  • Who is the Holy Spirit teaching series by Sinclair Ferguson (CD)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Why Calvinism not Lutheranism?

Wherever you land on Calvinism, you’ll hopefully find this piece by Derek Rishmawy interesting:

When I was doing my theological searching early on, I found myself initially more attracted to Lutheranism given their apparent lack of emphasis on predestination as well as Luther’s fiery wit. (Also, I was in my anti-Piper phase.) In fact, many of us raised in more a-historical, non-denominational Evangelical backgrounds are likely to hear of Martin Luther as the Reformer, instead of Calvin, just because of the 95 theses and the issue of justification by faith. So why is it that so many of us end up learning the Westminster or Heidelberg catechism, instead of Luther’s?

How to Recognize a Spirit-Filled Church

Eric Davis

Church advertisements can be interesting. I’ve seen things like, “Always an open door,” one that advertised a concealed weapons class, and “You have a friend request from Jesus: Accept? Ignore?” But one that confused me the first time I saw it was “Spirit-filled.” What does that mean? And are only some churches Spirit-filled? Or all of them? Or partially filled? What’s the difference between a Spirit-filled and non-Spirit-filled church?

Generally, the advertisement means that the Holy Spirit’s power and presence are observable in that local church. Praise God if that’s true. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with such advertising. But, assuming accurate advertising, what ought we expect from such a church? What will that look like?

Why We Cannot Coexist

Jeff Medders:

All religions cannot be true. As much as people preach from their bumpers on how we should all coexist, if we are intellectual honest with the tenets of each religion, we simply can’t hold hands and ride off into the ecumenical sunset.

How I Beat Back the Darkness after Rape

Halee Gray Scott:

I was 21-years old, barely five months after returning to the Christian faith. My rapist lived in the parsonage. He was young, serving as a youth pastor while attending a nearby seminary. I’d come roaring back to the faith after a brief dalliance with atheism and agnosticism. My enthusiasm quickly secured me a position on the leadership team for the youth group, within close working conditions of the youth pastor.

Before long, I began to notice strange, questionable behaviors. Phone calls, flirtations, casual references to meeting with married women in the middle of the night. At first, I thought my perception unreliable—after all, he was the youth pastor, the seminarian. And I? A heathen whose discernment could hardly be trusted. But as the weeks wore on, I grew more confident in my assessment.

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How To Avoid a Cult of Personality

Zach Nielsen:

Just because you’re a strong and effective leader doesn’t mean you’ve built a cult of personality. That should be all of us. But the Oxford Dictionary helps us know what we are trying to avoid. It defines a cult of personality as a “misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.”
There is nothing wrong with your people admiring you as their pastor. The problem starts when the healthy admiration morphs into unreflective obedience, fearful retreat, or a messianic complex. Only our admiration of Jesus could never be misplaced or excessive. So perhaps the best way to avoid a cult of personality in your ministry is to actively pursue creating a cult of personality for someone else, namely Jesus.

John MacArthur: The Infographic

Tim Challies and Josh Byers have put together a pretty fantastic infographic on John MacArthur (who, if you hadn’t heard, will be speaking at T4G 2014).

The Historical Reality of Adam

Guy Waters:

“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” So begins the New England Primer, which taught generations of early Americans to read. In introducing our forefathers to the letter A, the primer was also administering a generous dose of biblical theology. As Paul puts it crisply in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Through Adam, sin and death entered into the world. By Christ, sin and death were conquered. Adam forfeited life by his disobedience. Christ achieved life by His obedience. These simple, basic truths, Paul tells the Corinthians, are the very structure and content of the gospel.

What Macklemore Got Wrong . . . and Right

Denny Burk:

The lyrics to Macklemore’s song took aim at Christians and their views on marriage. To be more precise, it takes aim at the God that Christians worship and offers another god in His place—a god that bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible. Nevertheless, these performers were obviously grasping for divine approval. All of the trappings of Christianity were invoked to bless “same love”—a stage decorated to look like a church, a “minister” presiding, and a gospel choir singing the words of 1 Corinthians 13. You might say that it had the form of godliness while denying its power (2 Tim. 3:5).

Young Pastor, Here’s What I Wish I’d Known

David Helm, Andy Davis and JD Greear share what they wish they’d known when they first entered the ministry:

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3 Checkpoints for Spiritual Drift

Michael Kelley:

Drifting is something that happens over time. It’s slow and steady, almost imperceptible. It can happen so gradually in fact that it goes without notice. That’s the real problem with drifting spiritually – you don’t know it’s happening until it’s already happened.

But what if you could? Are there certain checkpoints that, if they appear in your life, you know that the drifting has started? That the rope tied to the anchor of faith has started to let out? That you are slowly moving in a direction that you didn’t intend to go? I think there are, and here’s three to think about.

Hurry!

Staci Eastin:

Busyness is talked about a lot. We take on too much. We don’t say no to anything, because being busy makes us feel important. Look how much I’m doing!

But for me? I rush because I’m lazy. I want to get done with the dull stuff so I can get to the important stuff. Like, I don’t know, reading. Or Candy Crush.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals for you:

Get The Hard Sayings of Jesus in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Hard Sayings of Jesus teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Welcome to a Reformed Church by Daniel Hyde (ePub)
  • Are We Together? by R.C. Sproul (hardcover)
  • Anne Bradstreet: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Poet by Heidi Nichols (paperback)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Why I Am a Cessationist

Thomas Schreiner:

Why would anyone think that some of the gifts have been withdrawn? I will argue that such a reading fits best with Scripture and experience. Scripture takes priority over experience, for it is the final authority, but Scripture must also correlate with life, and our experiences should provoke us to re-examine afresh whether we’ve read the Bible rightly. None of us reads the Bible in a vacuum, and hence we must return to the Scriptures repeatedly to ensure we’ve read them faithfully.

See also…

Why I Am a Continuationist

Sam Storms:

Let me begin with the consistent, indeed pervasive, and altogether positive presence throughout the New Testament (NT) of all spiritual gifts. The problems that emerged in the church at Corinth were not due to spiritual gifts, but to immature people. It wasn’t the gifts of God but the childish, ambitious, and prideful distortion of gifts on the part of some that accounts for Paul’s corrective comments.

Putting Off Cynicism

Paul Maxwell:

Cynicism is the attitude that encapsulates the ethos of twentysomethings par excellence. It is, I think, the most covert negative emotion. We harbor it in Christian garb: cynicism toward immature men (“man-boys”), hipsters, a denomination or movement, clichés, and a thousand other things.

Cynicism is so undetectable because it is so justifiable. It wears a mask of insight and godliness, but it conceals festering wounds of harbored bitterness against God and neighbor. We need to understand cynicism, because the masks we wear tell us about the wounds we hide, and point us to the Savior who yearns to mend them.

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A Report Card For Humanity

David Murray:

Is the world getting better or worse? Is the human race getting better or worse?

Your answer probably depends on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, but 21 of the world’s top economists have tried to provide an objective answer by measuring and forecasting 10 areas (e.g. health, education, air pollution, etc.) over a 150 year period (1900-2050). Their conclusion?

Neither the pessimists nor the optimists are entirely right. But the optimists definitely win on points—most indicators are going in the right direction…That’s not to underplay the serious issues still confronting much of the world, especially in developing nations. But overall, we can stop panicking. Things are generally getting better.

Crossway Kindle deals

Also on sale, although not all are from Crossway:

All The Dying Megachurches

Matt Svoboda:

“Are there not megachurches full of church members whose personal preferences are greater than their passion for the gospel?” Of course there are, they just prefer loud, dynamic music accompanied by smoke and a laser show. Thom Rainer is absolutely correct, when that happens a churches spiritual vitality and vibrancy begins to die. This is happening all over in America, in churches numerically small and large that vary in all different types of worship, styles, and philosophies.

There Will Be No Sea in the New Heaven and New Earth

R.C. Sproul:

Scripture often speaks of the entire creation awaiting the final act of redemption. To destroy something completely and to replace it with something utterly new is not an act of redemption. To redeem something is to save that which is in imminent danger of being lost. The renovation may be radical. It may involve a violent conflagration of purging, but the purifying act ultimately redeems rather than annihilates. The new heaven and the new earth will be purified. There will be no room for evil in the new order.

Print is not dead

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HT: Justin Taylor