Archive for the 'Foundational Truth' Category

The Cult of Mormon

As I stated during the last presidential election cycle, I am a political independent – I support people, not entire parties. I was/am not a fan of any politician who trots out their religious-cred to milk the faithful for their support – whether it’s George W. Bush or Barack Obama, both of whom exhibit questionable (if not out-right incredulous) “allegiance” to the Christian faith. And this is not a political blog, although I’m eager to share my thoughts on the exploitation of religion for political gain.

The quote above is attributed to Robert Jeffress, the Dallas pastor (and Rick Perry supporter)  who single-handily thrust Mitt Romney’s religion back into the forefront of presidential politics (yet again).  I won’t expound on my thoughts on the bread and circus of the impending presidential election cycle, but I will take a moment to educate (and remind) you about the tenets of Mormonism, thanks to a recent article from GotQuestions.org (reprinted in it’s entirety, my emphasis in bold):

What is Mormonism? What Do Mormon’s Believe?

The Mormon religion (Mormonism), whose followers are known as Mormons and Latter Day Saints (LDS), was founded less than two hundred years ago by a man named Joseph Smith. He claimed to have received a personal visit from God the Father and Jesus Christ who told him that all churches and their creeds were an abomination. Joseph Smith then set out to begin a brand-new religion that claims to be the “only true church on earth.” The problem with Mormonism is that it contradicts, modifies, and expands on the Bible. Christians have no reason to believe that the Bible is not true and adequate. To truly believe in and trust God means to believe in His Word, and all Scripture is inspired by God, which means it comes from Him (2 Timothy 3:16).

Mormons believe that there are in fact four sources of divinely inspired words, not just one: 1) The Bible “as far as it is translated correctly.” Which verses are considered incorrectly translated is not always made clear. 2) The Book of Mormon, which was “translated” by Smith and published in 1830. Smith claimed it is the “most correct book” on earth and that a person can get closer to God by following its precepts “than by any other book.” 3) The Doctrine and Covenants, containing a collection of modern revelations regarding the “Church of Jesus Christ as it has been restored.” 4) The Pearl of the Great Price, which is considered by Mormons to “clarify” doctrines and teachings that were lost from the Bible and adds its own information about the earth’s creation.

Mormons believe the following about God: He has not always been the Supreme Being of the universe, but attained that status through righteous living and persistent effort. They believe God the Father has a “body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.” Though abandoned by modern Mormon leaders, Brigham Young taught that Adam actually was God and the father of Jesus Christ. In contrast, Christians know this about God: there is only one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6-8), He always has existed and always will exist (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17), and He was not created but is the Creator (Genesis 1; Psalm 24:1; Isaiah 37:16). He is perfect, and no one else is equal to Him (Psalm 86:8; Isaiah 40:25). God the Father is not a man, nor was He ever (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Hosea 11:9). He is Spirit (John 4:24), and Spirit is not made of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39).

Mormons believe that there are different levels or kingdoms in the afterlife: the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, the telestial kingdom, and outer darkness. Where mankind will end up depends on what they believe and do in this life. In contrast, the Bible tells us that after death, we go to heaven or hell based on whether or not we had faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. To be absent from our bodies means, as believers, we are with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Unbelievers are sent to hell or the place of the dead (Luke 16:22-23). When Jesus comes the second time, we will receive new bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). There will be a new heaven and new earth for believers (Revelation 21:1), and unbelievers will be thrown into an everlasting lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). There is no second chance for redemption after death (Hebrews 9:27).

Mormon leaders have taught that Jesus’ incarnation was the result of a physical relationship between God the Father and Mary. Mormons believe Jesus is a god, but that any human can also become a god. Mormonism teaches that salvation can be earned by a combination of faith and good works. Contrary to this, Christians historically have taught that no one can achieve the status of God—only He is holy (1 Samuel 2:2). We can only be made holy in God’s sight through faith in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). Jesus is the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16), is the only one ever to have lived a sinless, blameless life, and now has the highest place of honor in heaven (Hebrews 7:26). Jesus and God are one in essence, Jesus being the only One existing before physical birth (John 1:1-8; 8:56). Jesus gave Himself to us as a sacrifice, God raised Him from the dead, and one day everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:6-11). Jesus tells us it is impossible to get to heaven by our own works and that only by faith in Him is it possible (Matthew 19:26). We all deserve eternal punishment for our sins, but God’s infinite love and grace have allowed us a way out. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Clearly, there is only one way to receive salvation and that is to know God and His Son, Jesus (John 17:3). It is not done by works, but by faith (Romans 1:17; 3:28). We can receive this gift no matter who we are or what we have done (Romans 3:22). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Although Mormons are usually friendly, loving, and kind people, they are deceived by a false religion that distorts the nature of God, the Person of Jesus Christ, and the means of salvation.

So, it doesn’t matter how many cool commercials they trot out to prove “we’re just like you”, Mormonism is counter to the Word of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ…which means it’s a cult.

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Studying The Bible: In Context

jpeg courtesy of Relevant Magazine

Gotquestions.org has become one of my favorite resources for asking and answering questions of faith. I saw this article and immediately agreed with its relevancy - and I’m re-posting it in its entirety:

Question: “Why is it important to study the Bible in context? What is wrong with taking verses out of context?”

Answer: It’s important to study Bible passages and stories within their context. Taking verses out of context leads to all kinds of error and misunderstanding. Understanding context begins with four principles: literal meaning (what it says), historical setting (the events of the story, to whom is it addressed, and how it was understood at that time), grammar (the immediate sentence and paragraph within which a word or phrase is found) and synthesis (comparing it with other parts of Scripture for a fuller meaning). Context is crucial to biblical exegesis in that it is one of its most important fundamentals. After we account for the literal, historical, and grammatical nature of a passage, we must then focus on the outline and structure of the book, then the chapter, then the paragraph. All of these things refer to “context.” To illustrate, it is like looking at Google Maps and zooming in on one house.

Taking phrases and verses out of context always leads to misunderstanding. For instance, taking the phrase “God is love” (1 John 4:7-16) out of its context, we might come away thinking that our God loves everything and everyone at all times with a gushing, romantic love. But in its literal and grammatical context, “love” here refers to agape love, the essence of which is sacrifice for the benefit of another, not a sentimental, romantic love. The historical context is also crucial, because John was addressing believers in the first century church and instructing them not on God’s love per se, but on how to identify true believers from false professors. True love—the sacrificial, beneficial kind—is the mark of the true believer (v. 7), those who do not love do not belong to God (v. 8), God loved us before we loved Him (vv. 9-10), and all of this is why we should love one another and thereby prove that we are His (v. 11-12).

Furthermore, considering the phrase “God is love” in the context of all of Scripture (synthesis) will keep us from coming to the false, and all-too-common, conclusion that God is only love or that His love is greater than all His other attributes, which is simply not the case. We know from many other passages that God is also holy and righteous, faithful and trustworthy, graceful and merciful, kind and compassionate, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient, and many, many other things. We also know from other passages that God not only loves, but He also hates.

The Bible is the Word of God, literally “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), and we are commanded to ready, study, and understand it through the use of good Bible study methods and always with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to guide us (1 Corinthians 2:14). Our study is greatly enhanced by maintaining diligence in the use of context because it is quite easy come to wrong conclusions by taking phrases and verses out of context. It is not difficult to point out places that seemingly contradict other portions of Scripture, but if we carefully look at their context and use the entirety of Scripture as a reference, we can understand the meaning of a passage. “Context is king” means that the context often drives the meaning of a phrase. To ignore context is to put ourselves at a tremendous disadvantage.

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“…He’s not dead”

Why do you cry? He is risen…Why are you weeping? He’s not dead

- “Don’t Cry” by Kirk Franklin

As we who claim the Name of the Lord ponder His supreme sacrifice this weekend (and our Blood-bought right as heirs to His Kingdom), I found an article from Gotquestions.org that nicely sums up the significance of Jesus’ propitiation for our sins.

Happy Resurrection Day, saints!:

Question: “Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important?”

The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, it witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not a God worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting that is death and the victory that is the grave’s (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.

Second, the resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike all other religions, Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same. All other religions were founded by men and prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we take comfort in the fact that our God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day. The grave could not hold Him. He lives, and He sits today at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains in detail the importance of the resurrection of Christ. Some in Corinth did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in this chapter Paul gives six disastrous consequences if there were no resurrection: 1) preaching Christ would be senseless (v. 14); 2) faith in Christ would be useless (v. 14); 3) all the witnesses and preachers of the resurrection would be liars (v. 15); 4) no one would be redeemed from sin (v. 17); 5) all former believers would have perished (v.18); and 6) Christians would be the most pitiable people on the earth (v. 19). But Christ indeed has risen from the dead and “has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20), assuring that we will follow Him in resurrection.

The inspired Word of God guarantees the believer’s resurrection at the coming of Jesus Christ for His Body (the Church) at the Rapture. Such hope and assurance results in a great song of triumph as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

How do these concluding verses relate to the importance of the resurrection? Paul answers, “…you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (v. 58). He reminds us that because we know we will be resurrected to new life, we can suffer persecution and danger for Christ’s sake (vv. 29-31), just as He did. We can follow the example of the thousands of martyrs through history who gladly traded their earthly lives for everlasting life via the resurrection.

The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose the third day according to the Scripture. And, He is coming again! The dead in Christ will be raised up, and those who remain and are alive at His coming will be changed and receive new, glorified bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important to salvation? It demonstrated that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. It proves that God has the power to raise us from the dead. It guarantees that those who believe in Christ will not remain dead, but will be resurrected unto eternal life. That is our blessed hope!

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One Of The Fastest Growing U.S. Exports Is…

sowing

…the false gospel heretofore known as “the prosperity gospel”.

From Africa to Asia, across Europe and more – pastors are propagating, furthering, and deifying the false “pay to play” gospel of greed. The ignorant (or willfully deceptive) enslave millions of followers with promises of riches and favor untold if and when you “pay God”.

I’m a bit virulent in my open disdain for such lies – lies that I bought into (literally and figuratively) for years, but John Piper is a bit more plainly spoken, and well, reasonable about his thoughts on the matter:

John Piper and the Prosperity Gospel

John Piper – “Why I Abominate the Prosperity Gospel”

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“Jesus MUST be central in the Church…”

eric mason

One of the common misconceptions about us Reformed Christians is that we abhor passionate preaching (and that expository preaching has to be “boring”). I tried to debunk that assertion a few months ago, yet many still don’t equate passionate preaching with Reformed preaching.

Even further, although I’ve written about Blacks in Reformed theology in the past as well, many still can’t fathom a Black preacher who can exposit God’s Word without “huckin’ and buckin’” and begging for money in the process.  

Thank God through Jesus Christ that my brother @RaeWhitlock tweeted about a video that should (hopefully) continue to redefine the stereotypes of Reformed theology – and Blacks in Reformed theology, specifically (as if Voddie Baucham, Anthony Carter, Michael Leach, and many other Black Reformers haven’t already proven the contrary).

The man pictured above is Dr. Eric Mason, Lead Pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia. “Pastor E” is a prolific bible teacher and pastor. His delivery is in your face and unashamedly biblical. The video below is a succinct walk-through-the bible lesson on Christoncentrism – the belief that Christ is the central theme upon which most doctrine is built. Grab your bible and follow along with the video (oh, and note Pastor E’s indignation at the hirelings of the day starting at the 31:30 mark – a disdain I also share):

OK Philly readers, I’ve just given you another fellowship to go and visit!

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Erasing The Consequences of Sin?

erasing mistakes

Like many of you, I have often heard pastors say “I wouldn’t want to follow anybody who hasn’t been through something!”

The statement is intended to be a prerequisite to (and for some, a badge of honor in) ministry because of the presumption that the leader will appear to be more “human” to their followers if they exhibit culpability. Certainly God uses imperfect people (Moses, Noah, David, Paul, you, me…) to exercise His will in the earth, but one cannot expect to wallow in sin and expect to “pick up where they left off” when they have been restored. 

I recently read an interesting article by John MacArthur:

Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored

Gross sin among Christian leaders is a signal that something is seriously wrong with the church. But an even greater problem is the lowering of standards to accommodate a leader’s sin. That the church is so eager to bring these men back into leadership is a symptom of rottenness at the core.

Some have claimed that a leader’s failure makes him more effective in shepherding fallen people. That is ludicrous. Should we drag the bottom of sin’s cesspool for the most heinous sinners to lead the church? Are they better able to understand the sinner? Certainly not! Our pattern for ministry is the sinless Son of God. The church is to be like Him and her leaders are to be our models of Christlikeness.

We must recognize that leadership in the church cannot be regarded lightly. The foremost requirement of a church leader is that he be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, 10; Titus 1:7). That is a difficult prerequisite, and not everyone can meet it.

Neither John MacArthur nor the bible is suggesting that you can’t be restored from sin – that premise is the very core of the Gospel message. There should be a realism, however, in placing people back in areas of responsibility after they have shown ill-judgement in leadership.

This is one of the (many) reasons that I am continually irked by Jamal “The Prince Pimp of Baltimore” Bryant. Bryant is a notorious false teacher who has lied about his education credentials, marital fidelity, and his seemingly insatiable sexual appetite (click this link for an overview of his antics). When forced last year to admit an adulterous affair with a young woman in his congregation (suspected to be in her late teens) resulting in the birth of a child, Bryant tried to excuse his behavior by comparing himself to David and Bathsheba. He received little-to-no “counseling” and never relinquished the reigns of his church club.  

Should Bryant be forgiven? Certainly if he repents before the Lord (and his family) and seeks to right the wrongs he’s made. Should he have remained in leadership at his club? Certainly not – especially since he probably would’ve removed a Deacon or Minister guilty of similar transgressions if pressed to do so.

MacArthur sums up his article by saying:

What should you do in the current crisis? Pray for your church’s leaders. Keep them accountable. Encourage them. Let them know you are following their godly example. Understand that they are not perfect, but continue nonetheless to call them to the highest level of godliness and purity. The church must have leaders who are genuinely above reproach. Anything less is an abomination.

We must continue to hold our Pastors and leaders to a standard parallel to the charge they have in preaching and teaching the glorious Gospel. Anything less brings reproach upon the Name of the Lord. Are they perfect? No Should we just put them back behind the bookboard no matter what they’ve done? I don’t think so.

Confronting Error With Condemnation

lion lamb

The world is enamored with crafting a picture of Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) - the gentle, Teacher who instructs His followers in his philosophical teachings. You see, that “Jesus” is a safe, non-confrontational “guide” who makes “suggestions” regarding righteous living according to the “golden rule” and the “good book”. And many lukewarm, mealy mouth “Christians” – you know, those who act religious on Sunday’s and Wednesdays and justify all manner of apostasy & heresy because of their malaise in studying the Word of God – help perpetuate this lopsided view of Christ.

Thank God that His Word is complete AND replete with the accurate view of Jesus Christ – as both the Lamb of God AND the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:4-6) our conquering King Who overcomes evil once and for all.

I must admit, I have been extremely frustrated lately with this blog. The Lord has blessed me through my repentance from embracing false doctrines to pour out my love of His Word through this blog. I have been driven to tears many times through the testimonies (both here and in my email box) from those who have been confronted with their complacency and returned to the True Word of God. I have painstakingly written as the Lord wills, applying His Word without prejudice and pointing all who seek His truth to Him.

The Lord has blessed me to share His message to unbelievers, and I am amazed at how most non-believers are well-reasoned and more reasonably interested in discovering the Gospel truth. I’ve considered shutting this thing down a lot lately, frankly because I’m tired of rehashing the same things over and over – WITH PEOPLE WHO CLAIM TO KNOW AND FOLLOW GOD! You can literally type terms (like tithe, apostasy, heresy, word of faith, prosperity gospel, and more) into the “search box” near the top right corner of this blog to find some of the over 250 articles the Lord has allowed me to write over the last almost 2 years – yet I continue having the same back-and-forth circular arguments with people who would rather (A)continue to believe lies over the CLEAR TRUTH that God presents in His Word – and subsequently remain in allegiance with the vast majority of popular wolves, vipers, and hirelings of the day; (B) not “kick up dust” by highlighting the “strife among the brothers” and “assassinate the character” of the liars who pervert the Gospel; (C) remain too lazy (or frankly, too stupid) to stir up a holy passion for God and His breathed Word; or (D) all of the above.

Which leads to a video presentation of “Confronthing Error with Condemnation, Not Conversation – Part 1″ by John MacArthur, soundly exegeting Luke 20:45-47 (and Matthew 23 for larger context). MacArthur succinctly reminds us that Jesus did not mince words in confronting false teachers – and neither should we.

I thank God for godly mentors like John MacArthur (and one even closer to me geographically) who kicked me in my self-pitying butt last night and today, and I in turn will do the same for those who read this blog. As soldiers for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our job is to present His truth and let Him appeal to the hearts of the hearer. Haters of truth are just that – haters. They faithfully execute their duties by finding any and every reason to object to the delivery and acceptance of sound doctrine.

Let’s continue to faithfully execute OUR duty to lift high the Blood-stained banner of our Lord

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“Religion is an impediment to knowing God…”

believers in exile

So says Billy Graham’s 2nd oldest child, Anne Graham Lotz. Lotz is promoting a new book about her experience as a “believer in exile”, and was featured in last week’s Newsweek magazine:

A Graham Slam

Anne Graham Lotz, the second of Billy and Ruth Graham’s five children, says it’s all right: as long as you have a personal relationship with Jesus, church doesn’t really matter. Neither does denomination. “Religion is an impediment to knowing God,” says Lotz, who is promoting a new book, The Magnificent Obsession. “Procedures, rituals, creeds: how in the world can they help you connect with God? … If you’re sprinkled when you’re baptized or dunked when you’re baptized, it doesn’t matter as far as your salvation goes.”

The article’s author, Lisa Miller, is known for her potshots at Christianity (she’s the “Religion Writer” for Newsweek) – yet the article is of interest to me because of my own “believer in exile” status. I visit an assembly that is built on sound biblical foundation (OK – not as consistently as I’d like to), yet I still find myself “gun-shy” with formally joining another assembly since I fled my pimp and the plantation a few years ago. In speaking with others, I’m finding that there are people who dearly love God and His people (and study and share the Gospel everywhere they go), yet they can’t bring themselves to “join/commit/submit” to another assembly.

Thanks to technology, one can download sermons from some of the most august theologians past and present, study from intricately crafted study bibles and reference text, and communicate with other believers across the Web (blogs, Twitter, Facebook et al) – and NEVER step in another “church building” again.

I know, I know, we’re not supposed to forsake the assembly:

Hebrews 10:25 (New American Standard Bible)

not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Many pastors use this scripture to intimidate members into continuing to attend and support their churches – even when all manner of corruption runs rampant. Since many believers “don’t want to forsake the assembly”, they stay in corrupt (or biblically questionable) churches to keep their “fire insurance”.

The author of Hebrews (who many assume is the Apostle Paul) is clearly referring to the importance of fellowshipping with other saints/believers, but the full context of Hebrews 10 helps explain the author’s exhortation. The author clearly establishes the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice as the ultimate propitiation for man’s sin, thus explaining the importance of remembering that sacrifice through assembly (worship and encouragement).

The Newsweek article ends with the following revelation from Lotz:

Church may not be necessary to knowing God, she says, but it keeps the relationship going: “You can really love the Lord, but after a while, if you’re all by yourself, the fire goes cold.”

Fair enough, but one could argue that you’re not “by yourself” in non-traditional assembly. So I’ll ask you sage readers: Can you be “on fire” for the Lord without regularly attending a church? Can you visit and volunteer in local asembly’s without formally aligning yourself with their ministries? Has e-Ministry supplanted many “brick-and-morter” ministries today? Have many churches “choked” a relationship with God with “religion”?

I’m anxious to see the dialogue…

“…And all that I command you, you shall speak”

My brother Job over at Jesus Christology posted an interesting question to a recent article that made me think more about my approach to sharing the Gospel. Coincidentally, I found the following video of Pastor Tim Conway of Grace Community Church in Dallas (courtesy of illbehonest). I guess God wants to spur some conversation regarding the subject of personal evangelism and sharing the Gospel:

 Is it possible to be afraid of sharing the Gospel?

Conway’s point is valid – how can the Holy Spirit (through the sovereign will of God) take residence in a believer, yet there is no fruit of repentance…or evidence to the believers friends and family? Further, how can we not share (whether in polite conversation with friends, or in spirited defense of the Gospel) the catalyst for our regenerated lives?

I’m reminded of the words of the Prophet Jeremiah (emphasis in bold):

Jeremiah 1:4-9 (New American Standard Bible)

4Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,
    5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
         And before you were born I consecrated you;
         I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
    6Then I said, “Alas, Lord GOD!
         Behold, I do not know how to speak,
         Because I am a youth.”
    7But the LORD said to me,
         “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
         
Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
         And all that I command you, you shall speak
.
    8
Do not be afraid of them,
         For I am with you to deliver you,”
declares the LORD.

 9Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me,
         “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth
.

Although God is not be replicating the Prophet Jeremiah throughout the Body of Christ, He is empowering every believer to speak His truth without shame. If He tells you to proclaim His works and His Word, then rest assured that He has not only given you the power to perform His command, He’s removed your fear – and He has prepared the receiver according to His sovereign will.

As my grandmother used to say: “If you been changed then you ain’t afraid to tell somebody!”

Amen, grandma…amen. 

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Evangelism Essentials

tools

Gotquestions.org recently published two excellent articles that reiterate some essential basics for evangelism and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

First, biblical evangelism should proclaim the good news of the Gospel, the Holiness of God, and salvation through Christ alone:

“What is the biblical method of evangelism?”

When trying to decide how to share Christ with someone, the starting point should be the same as that of John the Baptist and Jesus Himself. Matthew 3:2 tells us that John began his ministry with the words “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Repentance refers to a “change of mind,” which implies sorrow for past offences (2 Corinthians 7:10), a deep sense of the evil of sin as committed against God (Psalm 51:4), and a conscious decision to turn from sin to God. The first words Jesus spoke when He began His public ministry were identical to John’s (Matthew 4:17). (read more)

Next, we should be careful when engaging Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and other cult’s – particularly because of the cunning nature of their deception (and the fact that you’ll likely not change their minds):

“Should we allow false teachers into our home?”

The short letter of 2 John is written in part to warn believers against the influence of false teachers. John identifies them as those “who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” and describes them as deceivers and antichrists (2 John 7). He goes on to prohibit receiving them into our homes or wishing them well. The question is whether this prohibition refers to those who knock on our doors today, such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Are we to deny members of these sects access to our homes?

[...] The Holy Spirit testifies to the true nature of Christ, while Satan and his demonic host deny that true nature. That is why John identifies anyone who denies the deity of Christ—which both the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses do—as deceivers and antichrists.

What should be our response, then, when cultists come knocking at the door? John, writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives a clear answer: we are not to receive them into our homes. (read more)

Of course, the Lord wills whom He will save – and who will accept the message of His Son and salvation through Him alone. We should not be afraid to approach others and engage in productive dialogue with non-believers. At the same time, we must understand that not everyone will embrace the message, so the Lord’s will be done.

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Are “Armor Bearers” Biblical?

bodyguards

In a word, no…at least not the modern day “armor bearers” walking 2 steps ahead of and behind most pastors today, but that doesn’t mean that they’re un-biblical either. 

The word “armor bearer” appears multiple times in the Old Testament, mainly in describing the activity of men charged with protecting a king – literally those who bore armor for protection of others (see the entire book of 1 Samuel for reference). 

Sure, the minstrels will argue up and down that they “need an armor bearer, so that I can concentrate on getting a Word from the Lord!”. Of course, what they really mean is they need someone to carry their bibles, water glasses, briefcases, luggage, children, and more.

Gotquestions.org published a great article a few weeks ago (reprinted below in entirety, emphasis added):

Question: “What is an armor-bearer? Should there be a church position of armor-bearer?”

In Scripture, an armor-bearer (also spelled armorbearer and armor bearer) was a servant who carried additional weapons for commanders. Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 16:12), Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:6-17), and Joab (2 Samuel 18:15) had armor-bearers/armorbearers. Armor-bearers were also responsible for killing enemies wounded by their masters. After enemy soldiers were wounded with javelins or bows and arrows, armor-bearers finished the job with clubs and/or swords. After the time of David, armor-bearers are no longer mentioned, likely due to the fact that commanders began to fight from chariots (1 Kings 12:18; 20:33).

Some churches today have instituted a figurative position of armor-bearer. The duties range widely, but generally speaking, a church armor-bearer carries the “armor” of a church leader, such as the leader’s Bible “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). In some instances, a church armor-bearer essentially serves as a church leader’s bodyguard. Is the idea of a church armor-bearer biblically-based? No, it is not. Does the concept of a church armor-bearer contradict anything in Scripture? Not necessarily. Any church considering such a position should prayerfully study God’s Word and make sure the responsibilities assigned in no way conflict with the New Testament’s teaching on the church. The fact that the New Testament nowhere mentions armor-bearers and nowhere describes any of the apostles/prophets/elders having a person in that role should give pause to any church considering instituting the role of armor-bearer.

Churches and ministries should pray and be sure to adhere to TRUE scripture and not traditions of man. Of course, if more churches did pray and adhere to scripture, then their pews would be empty.

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The Spirit of Mammon

While cleaning out some old article drafts, I discovered one that was written in February 2008. I never published the article, but I thought it’s contents were as relevant today as they were the day I wrote them.

 

money worship

 

There are 2 subjects that garner much debate within the church – money and sex. Most folks want more of both, and others think both will drive to straight to hell. I don’t subscribe to the theory that the poorer you are, the holier you are. In fact, I agree with Deuteronomy 8:18 – God allows us to gain wealth so that we can be the blessings to the nations that He has ordained us to be (in proper context, Moses was admonishing the children of Israel to remember God as our eternal Benefactor). I don’t agree, however, that God wants us to be wealthy so that we can horde all of our riches and seek Him for more while ignoring the needs of others.

Paul DID NOT say that money was the root of all evil…he said:

1 Timothy 6:10 (New American Standard Bible)

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Mammon is the personification of money worship and greedy pursuit. Money is simply a commodity of trade, but when it becomes an idol that is worshiped, coveted, and pursued with lust and desire, then it becomes mammon – and dangerous to anyone who possesses it. For centuries, the church – and specifically the black church – knew what to do with money. Our ancestors could squeeze a dollar until it hollered, and still have something left over to give to someone else.

But we began to subscribe to the “American dream” – the house with the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and the Chevy in the driveway. We didn’t sway from the Word of God (per se), but we began to find comfort in seeking scriptures to justify our pursuit of material wealth – and we generally study those scriptures out of context. Thus, we invited the spirit of mammon into the church.

Again, there is nothing wrong with money – or material possessions. The problem is that we focus so much on “stuff” and take our eyes off of Him and His Kingdom, and then the spirit of mammon begins to have influence over our lives – even our worship. We praise God like we’re loosing our minds after we get the raise, but we moan and roll around on the alter when we’re not approved for the car loan. We go and lay hands on the house we want (because the “man of God” told us to do it), but we question God when we discover that our credit score is in the low 500’s.

The spirit of mammon fools you into thinking that you’ll walk in the same anointing as your “spiritual father” if you “sow” into his life. Of course, you want the Bentley, the large house, the jewelry, etc., so you believe the lie – when, in fact, all you’re doing is furnishing his opulent lifestyle.

The spirit of mammon would be rendered null and void if we didn’t feed it with our wanton greed. If we were passionate about the things of God vs. the stuff of the world, then that fowl spirit would die of hunger. As I’ve stated before – I like nice things, just like everybody else. I don’t, however, allow my desire for nice things to skew my vision – or my focus of advancing the Kingdom of God.

For many years, the story of the rich young ruler has been used in church to advocate the “poverty = holiness” lie, but if you explore the account in it’s entirety you’ll see what Jesus was really trying to say:

Matthew 19:16-30 (New American Standard Bible)

 16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”

17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

18 Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS;

19 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”

21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, t is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”

26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”

28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.

30 “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.

On its face, it appears as though Jesus was saying that rich people wouldn’t enter heaven. When you really explore the text, a more accurately analysis is that people who trust in their riches couldn’t enter heaven because they trust their wealth more than they trust their God. Theologians have suggested that since the disciples were businessmen before Jesus “drafted them”, they worried that they would suffer the same fate as the young ruler, but Jesus assured them that they’d regain anything they sacrificed for the advance of the Gospel.

Don’t allow the spirit of mammon to keep you from your eternal assignment. Enjoy the wealth that God has given you the ability to earn, but remember – it is a resource to help advance His Kingdom…it is not your primary source.

Are “Altar Calls” Biblical?

alter call

At the end of almost every pentecostal, charismatic, or evangelical church service, there is the ubiquitous call for sinners to “give their lives to God”. Generally, there is a fever pitch of pleading mixed in with a healthy dose of threats of eternal hellfire and damnation – all to the tune of a Hammond organ that is being plucked to within one inch of it’s life.

Unfortunately, alter calls have become synonymous with “salvation” – particularly because they are seen as the surrender of one’s life to Christ. Some even argue that you are not “really saved” unless you “got up off the mourners bench to walk down to the alter in front of everybody” – implying that the will of God can only be accomplished in a room full of people.

Thus my interest in a recent article from Gotquestions.org (reprinted entirely below – emphasis in bold):

What does the Bible say about altar calls? Are altar calls biblical?

The practice of altar calls—calling people forward after an evangelistic sermon to make a public confession of faith in Christ—has gained prominence in the 20th century primarily through “crusades” such as those of Billy Graham. Also known as the “invitation system,” altar calls are regularly practiced as part of some church services, especially in many Baptist denominations and other evangelical churches where altar calls are an integral part of the services.

While altar calls as practiced today are not found in the Bible, their advocates cite several biblical examples as support for using them. First, Christ called each of His disciples publicly, telling them “follow Me” (Matthew 4:19, 9:9) and expecting them to respond immediately, which they did. Jesus was demanding an outward identification with Himself on the part of those who would be His disciples. Of course, the problem of Judas, who also responded publicly by leaving his life behind and following Jesus, is that the “call” Judas responded to was not synonymous with salvation.

Proponents of the altar call also cite Matthew 10:32 as proof that a new believer must acknowledge Christ “before men” in order for Him to reciprocate. Calling people to the front of an arena or church is certainly acknowledging before men that a decision has been made. The question is whether that decision is genuinely motivated by a sincere repentance and faith or whether it is an emotional response to external stimuli such as swelling music, heartfelt pleas from the pulpit, or a desire to “go along with the crowd.” Romans 10:9makes it clear that genuine salvation comes only from heartfelt belief, which will then result in a verbal confession of that faith.

Just like the sinner’s prayer, altar calls can be an outward expression of genuine repentance and faith in Christ. The danger is in looking to the prayer or the response as evidence of salvation (Matthew 7:22). True salvation results in a life of continual sanctification as the Holy Spirit within the true believer produces more and more of His fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) as evidence of the reality of saving faith.

So there you have it - alter calls are not “unbiblical”, but they generally appear to be overhyped conclusions to religious stage shows. The important point to remember is that alter calls DO NOT replace the fruit of repentence in the life of the believer.

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Studying The Bible: The “Arcing” Method

It’s been awhile since I wrote an article on effective methods of studying the bible, and I thought it was time to (once again) advocate for the diligent study of scripture. I found a video of John Piper describing the “arc method” and thought it would benefit the body:

I know – it sounds a bit confusing, so watch the video a few more times (it’s short) to pick up on what Piper is saying. This method sort of reminds me of a method that my Hermeneutics instructor shared: when you see “therefore” in the bible, ask yourself “what is that there for?” – then read 5 or more of the verses that appear before and after the verse that contains the word “therefore”. It’s an oversimplified tool but worth noting.

The important thing to remember is that we are called to study the Word of God.

As a sidenote, take a look at Piper’s sermon notes from his address to The Gospel Coalition a few weeks ago, demonstrating his arcing technique (click on the image to zoom in):

Piper Arcing

Remember – Piper has been doing this for years, so don’t let this picture discourage you from trying :-)

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A New Book: “Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing”

wolf_in_sheeps_clothing

No doubt about it, we live in perilous times, and we see the words of Christ manifesting before our very eyes:

Matthew 7:15-20 (New American Standard Bible)

15“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

 16“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

 17“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

 18“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.

 19“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

 20“So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Last summer I introduced you to Anthony Carter – Reformed Author, Pastor, and Teacher. Carter is the author of “On Being Black & Reformed” and “Experiencing The Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church”. He is also the Lead Pastor of East Point Church here in Metro-Atlanta, and praise God through Jesus Christ that He saw fit to provide another lifeboat of sound teaching in the sea of apostasy and heresy in the Atlanta area. Carter has released his latest book “Wolves Among The Sheep” – and he provides a free copy (if you contact him via email) AND and e-book version if you care to kill a few trees and print it out :-)

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Pastor Tony preach a few times – and I’ve met him once. He is truly a man after God’s heart – not in the “word of faith/mand of gawd” way, but the true discipling of God’s people by presenting truth line upon line. Pastor Tony was nice enough to take time away from his schedule to talk to me about his latest work:

wolves booklet carter

ST: Why this book?

  • Carter: Well, one of the great deficiencies in the church today is spiritual discernment.  It seems people are open to anything that gives the slightest indication of being Christian, or just even spiritual.  I wrote this little booklet in hopes that people would realize that when Jesus said that there would be wolves in sheep clothing among the flock of God, he was not just referring to the church in his day, but was declaring an ongoing threat in the church.  Likewise, the Apostle Paul picked up on this teaching and warned those in the church in his day of the same threat.  So this booklet is just taking the warnings of our Lord and his apostle seriously and seeking to make application of this truth in our day.

ST: Your current book seems to diverge from your earlier works “Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church” and “On Being Black and Reformed”.  Is there a sense of urgency with this book?

  • Carter: The urgency is to declare the gospel and the full counsel of God.  In doing so, we must not only declare the truth, but also be prepared as our Lord was to refute falsehood and guard the people of God with the word of God.  My other books are more comprehensive than this booklet.  They sought to address a broader subject and with more in-depth analysis.  This current booklet is meant to be a brief, but clear clarion call to God’s faithful people to beware and not get duped by the fancy-talking, high-living, but self-promoting so-called prophets of our day.    

ST: The book is pretty direct in exposing the motives and tactics of the wolves of today – why not mention some of them by name?

  • Carter: Actually, the tendency is to want to mention them by name.  Living here in Atlanta where many of their voices are so prevalent, calling names would surely invoke a reaction.  And if a reaction was all I wanted to get out of the booklet, then calling their names would have been the way to do it.  However, I am not after a reaction, but rather to encourage biblical thinking and discernment.  Thus, rather than an emotional reaction to a certain bishop or pastor, I hope people will read the book and make application as the Spirit leads them.  Furthermore, in calling names you run the risk of people focusing the discussion just on the one or two individuals you call rather than the broader application that is really required.  There are more than just one or two wolves out there.    

ST: I presume that many who flee false doctrine seek you out because of your honest and heartfelt delivery of the true Gospel message. How do you minister to those who have been hurt by the modern day “Church, Inc.”?

  • Carter: When people come to our church from these false prophetic ministries, I am always moved by the faithfulness of Christ to call his sheep and how they hear his voice – just as he said they would.  And so, when they come to us we are reminded that Christ calls us to feed them.  We seek to give them the only food that really satisfies a true child of God, namely the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is the gospel that binds up wounds and give spiritual sustenance in order to strengthen weary souls.  We try to do as our motto says, and “point people to Jesus.”

Praise God that He stills sends men like Carter into the mission field to minister to the lost and deceived. Be sure to get your copy of “Wolves Among The Sheep” (it’s free, remember?) and be equipped with the words and Spirit of Christ in spreading His truth.

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