Monday, April 14, 2014

Dr. Feelgood

In the day we live in, the "we" being first world America, we are blessed to be free. Freedom from unjust punishment, freedom from oppression and freedom to worship. We withing the 21st century are also free from countless diseases that have crippled whole societies, and still do in poorer nations. The way we have done so is through "inoculation".

It is I believe a common grace given to us by God. It is He that has allowed medicine to make the quantum leaps that it has and in turn allowed us to all but exterminate diseases like polio, rubella, measles, and scarlet fever.

Here in the States we are required to vaccinate our children if we want to enroll them in public school. Most of society frowns upon parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated. Epithets are slung at such parent, judgmental words like; "unloving" "irresponsible" or "ignorant".

But this blog will not be dealing with the pros or cons of vaccinating our children from physical disease, but to warn how we who claim to love our children are inoculating them in a way that will kill them.

What? Vaccines are meant to save lives and improve the quality of life, how can the inoculations we are giving our children be so deadly and what are they so I can avoid them?

The inoculation I speak of is in the drug class called "Self". This certain brand of drug comes in many forms, like "Self-Worth" and "Self-Esteem". It is a vaccine that has been around since the serpent first uttered the words "did God truly say?" From that moment with each successive generation we have injected this potent strain of "Self" into ourselves and our children, and the human race has paid a heavy price.

We feed ourselves and our children positive platitudes that are meant to encourage but in the end lead to men and women who see no need for a Savior.

Tell me, have you not heard or said things like, "oh you are really a good person, you just made a mistake." Or, "who cares what people think, be yourself." And who hasn't heard this one, "As long as it makes you happy that's all that matters." "Believe in yourself and you can do anything." And to be more contemporary, "Haters going to hate" (I still don't really know what that means.)

After all that you may ask, "ok, so how is believing in ones self wrong? And what exactly are we supposedly vaccinating ourselves from?

Good question, let me answer the second question briefly and then get to the first question.

As we grow ever more secure in ourselves our self-esteem becomes the foundation of our daily lives. We are already self absorbed by nature, but the more we deceive ourselves we are essentially protecting ourselves from the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Or in other words as we grow more selfish we are building up a defense against the one and only thing that can save us.

It is happening in the physical realm. Scientists and doctors are discovering that because of the increased use and need for antibiotics (mainly because of increased STD's) we are actually creating "Super Bugs". These super bugs are bacteria that have mutated and are no longer susceptible to the effects of antibiotics.

And so it is with the spiritual realm. As we grown in self-love we are creating a nature within ourselves that becomes immune to the effects of the Gospel.

In his book "The Vanishing Conscience" on page 80, John MacArthur writes "for years, educational experts, psychologists and a growing number of Christian leaders have championed self-esteem as panacea (cure) for all sorts of human miseries." He continues by pointing out what these experts think the cure for the human ailment consists of, "According to the purveyors of this doctrine, if people feel good about themselves they will behave better..."

The belief goes that people are basically good and that all the bad that happens must be caused by external forces. Therefore, to save humanity all we need to do is build up self-esteem, educated people better, give people access to medical care and raise them out of their economic plights (that sounds an awful like our current administration).

Any Christian with an ounce of discernment and a little awareness of their sinfulness should beg to differ with such ways of thinking. Scripture is very explicit about the condition of man, and it is not a picture that paints us in a flattering light.

Yet, for those who may not see anything wrong with what those "experts" say is the cure for humanities ailments let me remind you of Scriptures take on the topic.

Rom 5:18-19- We, through Adam, are born sinners and under condemnation which makes us unable to...

-Do anything good; Gen 6:5, Job 15:14-16, Psalm 143:2, John 3:19, Romans 3:9-12
-Believe in God (or come to Him); John 6:44, John 6:65, John 8:43-45
-Understand the truth; John 14:17, 1Cor 2:14

We are also shown that we are...
-Dead in sins; Eph 2:1-3, Gen 2:16-17, John 3:5-7
-Blind and Corrupted in heart; Gen 6:5, Jer 17:9, Mark 7:21-23, John 3:19-21. Eph 4:17-19
-Have free will according to our nature, but our nature is wholly evil; Job 14:4, Mat 7:16-18, Matt 12:33, Mark 7:21-23

So tell me, just by looking at these few passages of Scripture, should we find anything that is worthy of our self-esteem? It is human nature to love self, that is what sin is, the rebellion against God's Law and the establishment of our own.

And this is were the danger comes in with self-esteem. MacAthur continues on pg 102 in which he quotes a non-Christian Jewish scholar that says "...The most destructive of all (speaking of consequences), those who believe people are basically good conclude that people do not need to feel accountable of their behavior to God and to religion, only to themselves."

Does that not describe the state of our society? How often is that phrase stated? Maybe not in those exact words, but maybe more along the lines of "what I believe is good for me, what you believe is good for you."

The more people grow in self-love the more they will fight the truth that they are in need of a Savior, but it is not a hopeless condition. In my next post I will attempt to show that this is one inoculation that can be reversed.

In all thing be the glory to God

John the Lesser.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Free at last?

What is the legacy of Feminisim? This article names 4, here is a quote from one of them,

As a result, vast numbers of young American women had, and continue to have, what are called “hookups”; and for some of them it is quite possible that no psychological or emotional price has been paid. But the majority of women who are promiscuous do pay prices. One is depression. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat recently summarized an academic study on the subject: “A young woman’s likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished.”

Welcome to the liberated world.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gentle-men and women

I will be the first to confess, my life has not been one marked with sincere gentleness. I am passive to a fault, I prefer non-conflict merely because it makes me uncomfortable but will be passively aggressive so I can feel better about myself. I ask questions on Facebook that I hope will get people thinking, but never want to see what they say for fear it may be critical of me, or I get defensive and lash out. I desperately want to save lives through the preaching of the Gospel and through directing them to Scripture. Yet I stay silent because I know that the moment I do speak out in an attempt to steer people to the truth I become more like a shaking little Chihuahua with an annoying bark that cannot even rescue himself than a St Bernard whose mere presence comforts the endangered skier. 

I recently listened to a sermon by a most amazing preacher of the Gospel by the name of Mike Riccardi. He teaches at Gracelife Pulpit, which is part of John MacArthur's flock at Grace Church. He also is a contributor at The Cripplegate

His last sermon was from Philippians 4:5 and titled "Gospel Shaped Affections: A Gentle and Forbearing Spirit." The a few of his recent messages have been to show us how to have "spiritual stability", which I find much needed as we Christians look out at the growing tsunami of anti-Christ thinking. After speaking on the many recent newsworthy witch-hunt's of businesses that have been unjustly persecuted over their religious convictions he asks this spirit prodding question.

"And so the question is: In the midst of that kind of devoted hostility to your Savior and His Word, how will you be able to stand firm against the pressures that are sure to come if the Lord tarries? How will you be able to hold your ground? How will you be able to "suffer a good soldier of Christ Jesus," as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:3?" Good question isn't it? 

Well, what do we have at our disposal to face this hostility? Mike tells us that the answer for spiritual stability culminates in Philippians 4:5 which says "Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;" 

Wait! What? The way to confront this growing hostility is to show how reasonable/gentle we are? Yes, and hopefully you will see that as well as we go along. 

The Christians in Philippi, and for that matter most of the Roman world lived in an ever increasingly hostile environment towards Christians. Everywhere the Gospel went it upset the pagan authorities and disrupted businesses, which thrived on idolatry in many cases. Christianity was also looked on as a form of atheism by Rome, for the new converts no longer worshipped the Roman Pantheon and refused to worship Caesar.

So what are these embattled believers to do? Now days the advice would be to create a "Religious Right" or demand equal treatment under the law (which I thank God we do have that ability in this country to use the court system). But Paul has another way of dealing with it, one that we modern first world Christians must embed into our heart. 

First, let's go back to Phil 1:27, if we read the Greek, it says to "Only behave as citizens worthy of the Gospel" Paul's first remedy in "spiritual stability" as Mike puts it, is for us to remember where our citizenship lays. 

If you go to the website for becoming a citizen of the United States paragraph 2 of the oath states "Renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the applicant was before a subject or citizen;" Or in other words, you are now a citizen of the U.S. and you MUST renounce allegiance to any other foreign power. This is what happened to us when we were reconciled to God through His Son Jesus Christ. We are no longer citizens of this earth, we are merely sojourners now, soldiers fighting behind enemy lines awaiting the King to call us back to Himself or for Him to invade this hostile country and take it back for His own. 

I understand that we still must abide by those authorities placed over us as long as they do not contradict God's law, but we, as Christians, are now to swear allegiance to God alone. To continue in v.27 " I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel." To tack on to the above thought we can add, to be worthy citizens of Heaven is that we stand firm in one spirit. Of course that sound a bit contradictory, to stand firm makes it sound confrontational yet we are speaking of being gentle, how can you do both? Good question. 

In the words of Mike "But paradoxically, we've been learning that the church stands most firmly and most resolutely against the evil influences of the world when the people of God are the most yielding and most accommodative of one another." 

Notice those last two words? "One another", it is an oft made qualifier within the Bible which emphasizes our relationship within the Church. In the Gospel of John we have the "cause and effect" statements like John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Or in the epistles like Ephesians 4:2 "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love." From my quick count, there are well over 100 "one another" statements made in the Epistles, most of them go from an indicative phrase/thought to an imperative. Or in other words "because Christ did this (indicative) therefore do this (imperative). 

This is the direction that Paul almost always goes, in that, we as Christians must start with the "one another" and that will inevitably flow out to the "world". 

In v2-3 Paul exhorts the Philippians to reconcile two dear ladies by the name Eudia and Syntyche, that they may "agree in the Lord." There was something going on between these two ladies that was causing so much disunity that Paul had to address it. What was the cause? We are not told, but as Mike reminds us of the letter of James in which he said "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" (Jas 4:1). The greatest affront to the unity of the Church is when we strive for our own agendas, our own selfish rights. 

Mike continues with what the fix of disunity is, "The antidote to disunity is a relentless pursuit of joy in the Lord! Because when we seek all our pleasure and all our joy in Him, we will be satisfied, and will no longer feel the need to quarrel and bicker about things which, if we could have them, wouldn't bring us as much pleasure as the Lord Himself does anyway!" That's right folks, joy is the explosives expert when it comes to defusing the bomb that has laid waste to many a church. But a superficial, happy-go-lucky joy is not sufficient, it must be a joy that is focused on an object, and that object as we see in Phil 4:4 is Christ, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." As we lay down our "rights" and focus on Christ, those offenses that Susie committed against you become of little consequence when it compares to the unsurpassing joy of knowing Christ. Joy in the Lord is the next step in spiritual stability for as we find our joy in Christ it leads to unity and ultimately to us treating each other in gentleness.

Next post I will show what Mike Riccardi points out are the characteristic of the Christians gentleness. But I'll leave you with this.

Mike speaks of Charles Simeon, a British pastor, who wrote, "It is by a conformity to this latter precept [of gentleness], no less than by his obedience to the former [to rejoice always], that the true Christian will be distinguished. In fact, this precept enters very deeply into the divine life: and it is only in proportion as its influence is exhibited in our lives, that we have any satisfactory evidence of our conversion to God". Next post I will continue on what the characteristics of this gentleness looks like in the life of a believer.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Returning hostility?

I haven't posted anything for a few days, but I am working on it. In the mean time, I came across an article by Randy Alcorn at Zack Neilsen's blog. It was a much need reminder , and something I believe all Christians need to remember as we look out at the current culture and see the torches and pitchforks brandished by the hostile town villagers.

By Randy Alcorn:

In an interview I was asked, What is your advice on how believers should deal with a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity?

Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). Followers of Jesus should expect injustice and misrepresentation. I’m grateful there are organizations working to protect the rights of Christians. But I’m concerned if we view ourselves as one more special interest group, clinging to entitlements and whining when people don’t like us. God’s people have a long history of not being liked. (emphasis mine)

Of course, this does not mean being hateful or seeking to be hated. It's important that we represent the Gospel well, and I am all for graciousness, kindness and servant-hearted love as we speak the truth. Romans 12:18 says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."

But the fact is, while the gospel is good news, it is also insulting. Many people don’t like being called sinners and told they deserve to go to hell. Peter said, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

If our eyes are on anyone but Jesus, we’re not going to have the stamina to put up with criticism or outright hostility. Paul said, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

Jesus is the Audience of One. We will stand before His judgment seat, no one else’s. We should long to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” What other people think won’t matter.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


For this next session of my discipleship class, part of the assignment was to continue to read Wayne Grudem's "Systematic Theology". We were to focus on God's "Communicable Attributes" and on the "Trinity". Not to seem as though I am diminishing learning about the attributes of God, the portion I found most helpful was on the Trinity, as it is a most foundational doctrine that we must be absolutely clear on when it come to the Christian faith. Through this chapter, Grudem weaves the Scriptural support, starting in the Old Testament and sealing the truth of the Trinity with the New Testament.

He points out the plurality in which God speaks at the creation of man and when He says "now, let us make man in our image." Grudem shows that this can only be showing the plurality that is found in the Godhead. He quashes the notion that it was merely God speaking in the royal "we" sense, for that was not a manner in which kings spoke in ancient biblical times. He even shows that Proverbs 8:30-31 is a rough picture of there being "plurality" to God, a point that I have never considered. Grudem makes the case that when it is speaking of "Wisdom" it is actually speaking of Christ because that proverb attributes a more divine personification aspect to wisdom when it is speaks of it being the mechanism if you will, of creation, something that the proverbs never do in any other regard when speaking of wisdom. So in that I found a very valuable nugget when it comes to defending the Trinity.

Grudem does a beautiful job of making this doctrine as understandable as possible, (even though it is impossible to completely grasp it at the same time.)But of all the sections in this chapter I especially appreciated his treatment of the controversies that have been addressed through Church history when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity or the nature therein. So often we fail to comprehend the battles that have raged within the church over doctrine, yet without those battles back then it begs the question, what would the church believe now? There are those who wish for us to forget what has been fought over and they will say "those men of old just liked to squabble over minor details." Others just choose out of laziness to not even bother to find out the purposes of those ancient counsels. This brings to mind the old saying, "those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it." Though that saying is not Scripture, it is an axiom of the highest order.

Now, in a perfect Church this would not need to be said, but it appears that there are many who cast themselves as pastor, who have failed to heed the words of Paul Romans 16:17 "I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them."
Why do I bring that up? Because today we have prominent evangelical leaders offering their hands in fellowship to a man who denies the Trinity (T.D. Jakes) all in the name of "unity". Or worse yet men like Joel Osteen who has confessed that he believes that Mormons are part of Christianity because they believe in "Jesus", (a Jesus who is the spirit brother of Lucifer mind you.) This would not sit well with our dear brother Athanasius who faced opposition from all sides in the Arian controversy, even from the Emperor himself. When all called for peace and unity, Athanasius stood firm to the teachings past down by the Church. He "squabbled" to ensure one phrase was put in to the Nicene Creed, the phrase "begotten, not made." He would not rest until that was put in, for it would help sound the death-knell to the Arian heresy later in the Counsel of Constantinople.

The ancients understood what was at stake and through it they clarified, not invented, but clarified what had always been taught when it came to the nature of the Godhead. Oh, if only we would learn from the past we would not open our doors to fellowship with those who have reintroduced long condemned heresy.

This is no new discovery, the Bible is crammed with warnings about those teaching falsely and how we are to treat them. Obviously, we must give a defense of our faith and pray that the Spirit would bring said false teachers to repentance, but if we deal with these false teachings gingerly we are failing to remember the purpose of the weapons we have been given, which Paul tells us in 2Cor 10, "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ."

I must be clear, I am not advocating the smashing of the person, but of the "lofty ideas" and "strongholds", anything that sets itself up against God or lies about God.

My final thoughts for this post is, what this "Systematic Theology" has done so far (beyond my own expectations) is help begin to sharpen the blurred lines that have left me almost afraid to say what I believed, because I had no solid understanding of the "why" of my beliefs. I encourage any who may find themselves in the same situation to pick up this book. Though it is still just one man's study of Scripture, I foresee my understanding of historical Christian doctrine becoming ever more tempered as my class unfolds.

Until next time.

In all things the glory be to God 

John the Lesser.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Theology or no theology: That is the question. Part 1

I am currently part of a discipleship class that the church I attend uses to raise up leaders for the church from within the church. I love the idea. So often churches look to fill the role of Elder or other church leader role, by looking outside of their own congregation. Now sometimes that may be what needs to be done, but I believe by looking within their own walls is the best method for a church to adopt. Mainly because that church has already been cultivating a man who already knows and is known by those who make up that local church.

Anyway, we are reading a couple books as of right now. The first is Wayne Grudems "Systematic Theology". I am enjoying the systematic theology, because I do have many questions pertaining to broad topics and have a hard time finding a starting point. It is particularly helpful as it starts off with "Why should Christian's study theology?" In all honesty, that is a question I think many Christians need to wrestle with and come to an answer in their own lives.So many believe that theology is for theologians and therefore leave the difficulty of studying Scripture up to other people. But is that why God has given us the Bible? So that we can, as laymen, sit back on our haunches and expect others to do the heavy lifting?

First, Wayne Grudem states in his preface, "I have not written this book for teachers of theology...I have written for students." I think that is a great starting point of the tome that is "Systematic Theology". We are all to be students of the Word if for no other than the reason that it is what speaks and points us to Christ John 5:39. Now, I am speaking to myself as well, we are to devour the Scriptures, for in them is where we learn who God is. That is what theology is, the study of God, and with that flows all understandings.  If you start off with the wrong understanding about God, all other areas of understanding will be off.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that you should go forth and get a degree in biblical Greek or Hebrew. But Paul states in Ephesians 4:14 that we are not to be like children in our understanding, because it will only lead us into being bashed against rocks as we attempt to navigate the deadly straits of true and false doctrine. Or as Paul also puts it in 1 Cor 14:20 that we are to be mature in our thinking. That can only happen if we feed upon the solid spiritual food that God has provided through His word.

As the book progresses, Wayne Grudem then points to his basic reason we should study theology. On page 27 he reminds us of the words of Christ in Matthew 28:19-20 in the Great Commission when He says that we are to "teach them all to observe what I have commanded you." Teaching, that is why we as Christians are to study theology, so that we may teach others.

This got me thinking of some past statements I have heard. The first being, "your salvation is not for you, it's for those who are still lost." Where that is stated in Scripture I do not know, but it makes sense in light of passages in which Paul speaks of the gifts that have been given to the church, in that they are not designed for our own personal use, but for the building up of Christ. The shepherd, elders and teaching pastors are not given those gifts for their own gain, but for the gain of the local body and consequently the Church Universal.

Now, I know what your thinking, "I have no one to teach. I do not hold a teaching position at church, so how am I supposed to do that?" I know your thinking that because I've thought it, and I'm not that original. You can't tell me you have no spouse/children/sibling/parent/co-worker, who you can expound to things that the Lord is illuminating in your life through holy writ. There is always and I mean always someone who we can teach. If there is not, either you have secluded yourself completely from all human contact, or you are blind to those who are around you. Once again, this is me speaking to me also, so don't take this as one-sided criticism.

I need to go and attend to my family, and read more for my class, but let me leave you with this. I exhort myself and any who may stumble upon this post. Hunger for His Word consume it, but do not withhold it from those you love.

Until next time.

In all things be the glory of God.
John the Lesser.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

And so it begins...

Let me start out by saying, this may be a labor of futility. I know, that might not be the best way to start off a blog but when I say that, I mean come on, who want to hear what a layman has to say about what he sees going on in the Christian world. For all I know, I may not even have a right to call myself a "layman" (yes, I just looked up what it means), I am by no means an expert or apprentice in anything other making a mess at my house.What I am is a man who grew up going to church, which made me a fine candidate for the Pharisees. I knew what sin looked like, in other peoples lives, yet had a Giant Sequoia sticking out of my eye glaring back at them. For my friends that live in the desert, a Giant Sequoia is a tree. For the past few years I have been working to get all the cluttered doctrine that I have been taught out of my head, like a cranial enema. Which kinda gives me a direction for this blog I guess. Anyway, by the grace of God He quickened me a few years back and by His sovereign will revealed the beauty of Reformed Theology, or at least the Doctrines of Grace. (I still can't turn the Millennial Kingdom into a allegory nor see the profit in baptizing babies.)

My hope for this blog is first and foremost, to force me to type out my thought of what I am learning in His word. Secondly, to maybe help others like me to figure out what scripture truly says. Lastly, I want to post questions that us normal folk have and hopefully have really smart people answer/debate them, that would be amazing!

So, you are wondering "what do you believe John?" Good question my friend.

- I believe the 5 Solas and the Doctrines of Grace are the best expression of the Christian faith. (all other Reformed bloggers italicize Sola, so I'm doing it to be cool like them.)
 - I believe the Scriptures are theopeneustos, God breathed and are sufficient for life and godliness (2Tim3:16) and I have no time for myths and philosophical conjecture (that means you William Lane Craig).
-I believe that Genesis if read plainly, like any historical narrative is supposed to be, talks about a literal 6 day creation, and that science cannot explain a supernatural event no matter how hard we try.
-I believe Scripture is clear that God is triune, 3 persons (not manifestations) in one completely awe-inspiring God, seen as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
-I believe Scripture is clear that in Christ all the fullness of God dwells bodily. By that I mean, Jesus is God, was born of a virgin and condescended Himself by taking on humanity (Col 1:9). While on earth He retained His divinity, lived a perfect life, was crucified to pay for our sins, He died, was buried and three days later was raised from the dead and in so doing proving that God the Father accepted His sacrifice.
- I believe that no matter what Rob Bell says, Jesus is the ONLY way to see the Father. Hell is a real place in which those who trust in themselves and not in the finished worked of Christ will spend eternity separated from God and that those whom were chosen from before the foundation of the earth (Eph 1:4), get to delight in the presence of the Lord forever.
-I believe that the Holy Spirit is working mightily in the world today. Yet I also believe that the Apostolic Gifts ceased, i.e. tongues, healing and prophecy. What He does do is, indwell believers, raise the spiritually dead, makes the spiritually blind see and illuminates Scripture leading us into truth. So don't call me a Deist or rationalist.

I can keep writing, but this blogging stuff is actually hard work and its nearly midnight. But I gotta say, Mr. Challies, I got mad respect for you.

In all things for the Glory of God