Thursday, February 26

A Complimentarian Encouragement for Women to be Bold

I've been enjoying reading through "Women's Ministry in the Local Church" co-authored by Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt. Many times in conservative evangelical churches we assume that most understand the distinction between the sexes and God's plan for men and women in the local church. But when you look at many churches....especially in their leadership, you find the men in both the home and the church failing to live up to their biblical responsibilities.

The following is an excellent encouragement for women in their churches to encourage their pastors to proclaim boldly the truth about both men and women being created equally in the image of God, yet having distinct roles that should be embraced thankfully and humbly.

"Sisters in Christ, I challenge you to regularly encourage your ministers and elders to be faithful to Scripture, especially in the areas that they are most afraid to touch. Frankly, one of those areas is male/female role relationships in the home and in the church. Some good and godly ministers and elders are somewhat intimidated about declaring the truth of God in these areas precisely because they respect their sisters in Christ. They fear that they will appear to look down on women or to think of themselves as superior or to have fallen into some sort of traditional chauvinism. Women have the opportunity to encourage them by repeatedly saying, "We expect you to teach us the full teachings of God's Word, even when it is uncomfortable for us and even when it is not politically correct. We want to hear all God has to say to us."
J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, Women's Ministry in the Local Church, (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL, 2006), 48.

Amen and amen! May God give us both men and women who understand their biblical roles that are dictated by God and not by culture!

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Monday, February 23

Three Authors I Can Always Read

Just like you, I have books that I like and dislike. There are some that I fail to finish, and others that I have a difficult time putting down and inevitably pick up again and again for reference.

There are three authors whose books have influenced my thinking and theology more than anyone. All three are well known and well read so they won't come as a big surprise.

1. Jerry Bridges - No one has influenced my theological thinking on the issue of progressive sanctification more than Bridges has. I often refer back to his book "Pursuit of Holiness" in my own personal study and preaching. Bridges avoids the legalistic pitfalls that most authors fall into when dealing with the issue of everyday practical Christian living. His most recent book "Respectable Sins" is a must for everyone's library!



2. Erwin Lutzer - There are two books that Lutzer wrote that I often use as reference and encouragement. The first is his wonderful articulation of the historic debates within Christendom "Doctrines that Divide". In this book Lutzer brilliantly articulates the wonderful doctrines of grace. I would encourage everyone on the atonement spectrum to humbly read his explanation of limited atonement. It is brilliant and to me incredibly accurate. The other one is a bit less well known but one that I read early on in my ministry - "Pastor to Pastor". This practical little book helped me in a great way to see the personal and many times discouraging side to ministry in a biblical light.








3. J.I. Packer - If you have never read his masterpiece "Knowing God" you are robbing yourself of an incredible nourishment to your soul. I personally have a goal of going through that book at least once a year. It was that good! Also, for a biblical work that shows a Calvinistic approach to evangelism Packer's "Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God" is a must read....especially his explanation of the antimony of sovereignty and responsibility.






Honorable mention
:
John MacArthur
D.A. Carson
R. Kent Hughes
Warren Wiersbe
Arthur Pink
J. Gresham Machen
Joshua Harris
Kevin DeYoung
John Piper
Phil Ryken
Mark Dever
Wayne Grudem
Jay Adams
Ken Sande
Anything by Charles Spurgeon

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NEW POLL! Does Your Church's Hermeneutic Matter?

This is a quick multiple choice question that won't take much time. Just curious to know if it matters to you what your church's hermeneutical stance is.

So here are the choices:

A. No, it doesn't matter to me - I couldn't care less if my church was pre/a/post/or pan Mil. Hermeneutics is a non-essential to me in the context of my local church.

B. It matters somewhat just as long as there are no extreme views such as preterism or ultra-dispensationalism. Outside of extreme views I'm comfortable with most views.

C. Yes! It matters greatly to me that my church takes a doctrinal stance on a literal/historical/grammatical interpretation of Scripture. Since much of the New Testament deals with prophecy it would only be fitting for me as a church member to be a part of a church that takes this seriously as well.

Remember, I am NOT talking about broad fellowship within the Body of Christ. This is a poll asking about fellowship within the context of a local church.

Unlike others who create polls without ever giving their own answer I will go ahead and give mine - C. To me, it is simply unrealistic to think of joining a church body that has a shoddy or inconsistent hermeneutic. If a church's soteriology and other doctrinal positions matter then you could only conclude that their hermeneutic would too!

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Friday, February 13

Quick Poll: The Prodigal Son

This is purely unscientific. Anecdotal. It proves nothing. But it's fun, and will provide some interesting fodder.

So here is the question ... it requires a simple one-word answer via the comments section.

Was the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 a believer (albeit backslidden) or an unbeliever?
One word answers ... that's all it takes. A simple yes or no will suffice.

Of course, if you would like to write more, have at it!

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Thursday, February 12

Real Life Reconciliation: Evidence of the Gospel's Power



HT: Justin Taylor

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Wednesday, February 11

Easy-Believism In Its Own Words

Yesterday I posted a portion of an article from the free grace publication, Grace In Focus. In the article, Lon Gregg sets out to answer the following questions:

"Just how correctly informed need one be about Jesus before believing in Him for eternal life? Is there some 'right' Jesus whom I must come to know before my faith in Him will be effectual?"
So what’s the big deal about the Gospel and how much information one must know to be saved? Lon Gregg says not necessarily much information is necessary in order for one to be saved. The virgin birth is optional knowledge--as is the cross-work of Christ, and the fact that He was the promised Messiah and the Son of God. Gregg goes as far as to imply that there is no “right Jesus whom I must come to know before my faith in Him will be effectual.” (emphasis added)

Gregg’s views—which he erroneously bases upon a few verses in the Gospel of John—are the inevitable result of poor exegesis, and are eternally dangerous.

Why?

First, Gregg's assumptions about the Samaritan woman's lack of information are unfounded and erroneous. Her statements to Christ show that she had a working knowledge of the law (she referred to her father as Jacob, John 4:12; and attempted to cover-up her adultery, vs. 17), the history of redemption (vs. 20), the Prophets (vs. 19), the Temple sacrificial system (vs. 20), and that the Messiah would be called Christ and bring deliverance (vs. 25). Gregg fails to sufficiently interact with the passage, and conveniently ignores these facts! It should also be noted that each of the apostles whom Christ called also possessed ample information regarding the Law, the history of redemption, Temple worship, and the promise of the Messiah.

Second, Gregg seems to erroneously assume that all who followed Christ were true believers. John himself offers evidence that this is not the case—see John 6:66-69. Gregg is forced to do so because of his erroneous view of "knowledge" and "belief." For Gregg, those two words are synonymous. To acknowledge something as true is to believe in a saving way. So a sinner is converted by simply acknowledging facts as truth. Not only is this classic easy-believism; it is a direct contradiction of what Christ Himself stated (see John 6:30-37).

Third, Gregg repeatedly employs a puzzling term when it comes to the object of saving faith in Christ. He states: "one must not necessarily ... know much about Christ ... or ... believe orthodox truth." Not necessarily? Really? So is it necessary for some ... but not for others? It is ironic that Gregg is attempting to answer the question of what information is necessary to believe ... and does so by repeatedly stating what's not necessarily necessary!

Fourth, Gregg denies that orthodoxy is inextricably linked to saving faith. To do this, Gregg subtly changes the object of saving faith--it's not the person and work of Christ; rather, one must simply believe Christ's promise to save. Therefore, all who put their faith in Christ's promises are saved. Gregg fails to understand that one cannot separate Christ's claims or promises from His person. Either Christ was the virgin-born Son of God, or His claims are untrue and His promises unfulfilled. Scripture clearly and repeatedly defines the object of saving faith as Christ Himself (Acts 16:31; John 14:1-6; Acts 4:12, etc.).

Gregg clearly delineates his affirmation of easy-believism when he states later in his article:
"... for eternal life, Christ need be known only as its Giver, no matter how that conviction arises, no matter how ignorant the believer may be of the underpinnings of the promise, and no matter even if he may hold to errors about Christ at the same time ... In short ... you're believing in the right Jesus if, whatever you may know--or not know--about Him, you're convinced He gives you eternal life when you believe in Him for it."
Fifth, if like Gregg, we develop a theology of the Gospel from only a few examples in the book of John, what have we said about the Gospel in Luke or Mark or Philemon? Do different writers teach a different Gospel?

Sixth, in Gregg's explanation of what information is necessary for salvation, where is sin? Where is the cross? What was the woman at the well saved from … and to … and how? A Gospel without sin is a Gospel without power; and a Gospel without power is no Gospel at all (Romans 1:16-17).

It's a scary thing to reduce the Gospel to a mere unnecessary acknowledgment of nothing about the person and work of Christ. Dumbing down the Gospel will never result in more converts; it will only result in people who know about the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), but do not believe in Him and are not trusting in Him (2 Timothy 1:12) as their Savior from sin (Romans 6:18, 22). Remember, even the demons believe (James 2:19), along with Simon (Acts 8:9-20); but their knowledge and faith did not result in salvation ... only damnation.

That's how the easy way always ends.

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Tuesday, February 10

What a Difference Six Months and Six Years Make - A-Rod and Michael Phelps


Baseball season is just around the corner and I have a couple of predictions for our faithful readers - 1. My beloved Cubs will inevitably find the most tortuous way of getting our hopes up and then subsequently rip our hearts out by finding new and unique ways to choke in the end. And 2. - My email inbox, voice mail box, Facebook wall, text messages and church answering machine will be full of messages from pathetic Cardinal and White Sox fans rubbing it in about my beloved Cubs breaking our hearts again. But this year I'm prepared, and quite frankly, I am committed to not taking this year too seriously as I have in years gone by. And please hold me accountable with this!

This brings me to a very sad and disappointing time in the world of sports. Six years ago I was convinced that Alex Rodriguez was the best player in the game of baseball. He was something special to watch (and still is). He possessed a golden glove, a pin point arm and a lethal bat. He seemed to be baseball's golden boy that had everything going for him outside of postseason accomplishments. When the Texas Rangers were rumored to be shopping him after the 2003 season I was hoping the Cubs could pull something off. Today, I'm glad they didn't. In 2004 when he was traded to the Yankees I thought he and the Yankees made a grave mistake. Very few (outside of Reggie Jackson) go to the Bronx and do well. Most cave under the pressure unless they have been brought up in the system (e.g. Derek Jeter).

Now, everything that A-Rod has done is stained under a cloud of the dishonest use of performance enhancing drugs. Someone of his caliber should have realized that his ability without the illegal substances virtually guaranteed him not only an astronomical amount of money, but also a guaranteed spot in Cooperstown. Now he only gets one of those....the money that is. Most believe that it will be difficult for him along with the likes of Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, McGwire and Palmiero to ever get into the HOF.

It amazed me that some were giving Rodriguez credit for being "honest" about his steroid use. A-Rod was cornered and I speculate pressured by the Yankees (and rightfully so) to come out and be forthright. Denial has done nothing but hurt the likes of Bonds, McGwire and Clemens. Today, Alex Rodriguez is faced with an almost irreparable image due to his own dishonesty and desire to take short cuts to be "the best." This is truly a sad day for all who love the beloved sport of baseball.

Six months ago Michael Phelps was the sports icon of the world. To this day, I'm not sure I will ever see one athlete dominate in such a unique fashion as Phelps did back in August winning 8 gold medals. Today, due to one photo taken of Phelps with a marijuana bong in his mouth he is faced with the long road of rebuilding a tarnished image that may take years to reconstruct. One cannot help but be reminded of the how fast riches and fame come and go (Prov. 23:4-5).

No true believer in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ should rejoice about this. It should sadden all of us that on a daily basis the depravity of man is on display in the public arena. But let us also be reminded of a powerful truth for those of us who call Christ Jesus our Lord:
Proverbs 15:3 - "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good." (ESV)

Six years or six months for that matter cannot compare with an eternity of knowing and enjoying God forever. I'm thankful that although someone's standing may be shattered socially, through the power of the Gospel they can be transformed spiritually! (2 Cor. 5:17)

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What Must One Know About Christ To Be Saved?

Recently, one of our church members handed me a newsletter from Grace In Focus. He was interested in my take on the author's rebuke of John MacArthur's 'revision' of Luke's Prodigal Son account.

As I was preparing to dive into the MacArthur portion of the newsletter, the front page caught my attention. In bold letters, a brief quote appeared smack-dab in the middle of the page:

"... the evangelism tool ... the Gospel of John, has clear answers ... According to John, one need not know much about Jesus Christ to obtain eternal life."
As much as I admire MacArthur, defending his views of the Prodigal Son must take a back seat to the subject of the gospel and saving faith. If we can't get the gospel right, the Prodigal Son's story serves no practical purpose. So I began to read Lon Gregg's thoughts on the following questions:
"Just how correctly informed need one be about Jesus before believing in Him for eternal life? Is there some 'right' Jesus whom I must come to know before my faith in Him will be effectual?"
Gregg then sets out to prove that a sinner need not assent or acknowledge much about the person or work of Christ in order to possess saving faith:
"According to John, one need not necessarily know much about Jesus Christ to obtain eternal life. The famous Samaritan woman, apparently knowing only that Jesus knew all about her (John 4:29), drank living water--believed in Him--and received eternal life. The blind man in John 9 lacked only the knowledge about the identity of the person standing before him (John 9:36-38) before He cam to faith. At his very first moment of meeting Jesus, the disciple Nathanael believed in Him (John 1:50) on the basis only of a single remark from Jesus about His pre-acquaintance with him. Not a whole lot of content was demonstrated in these new believers! They knew virtually nothing about Jesus' person or work other than that He is the Messiah who gives eternal life to all who believe in Him.

Further, according to John, the little bit one does know about Jesus need not necessarily be orthodox to be effective. Speaking on the first day of his acquaintance with Jesus, the disciple Philip expresses what for John is a saving conviction about Him (John 1:45; cf. 20:31). In the same breath, however, Andrew calls his Savior "son of Joseph," a patent unorthodoxy. While this ignorance about Jesus' true parentage could surely be expected of someone in his very first day of faith--this ignorance even helps mark the story as genuine!--the fact remains that the Jesus whom Andrew believed was not, to his mind, virgin born. But John did not consider Andrew's ignorance to be an obstacle to faith in Jesus. Indeed, John felt Andrew's faith was substantial enough to hold it out as a model; misunderstanding Jesus' person need not keep the believer from the truth of His promise."
I promised to keep these posts short ... requiring only a minute (or two!) of your precious time. So I will forgo my critique of Gregg's gospel until tomorrow.

Feel free to offer up your critique in the meta!

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Sunday, February 1

Super Bowl Thoughts: The NFL's Growing Problem

My team wasn't in it. They haven't been since Super Bowl IV, when KC-favorite Len Dawson led the Chiefs to an upset victory over the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings. That happened on January 11, 1970; a full 21 months before I was born.

Super Bowl 43 (can't read Roman numerals larger than X) did not disappoint. The energy was expected. The defenses delivered. The quarterbacks took command with the game on the line.

But this Super Bowl will not go down as one of the greatest games of all time--and it won't be because of the game itself. It will be because of the poor officiating.

Now before someone screams "sour apples" because I was pulling for Kurt Warner to win a second Super Bowl, consider this: I have been secretly pulling for the Steelers for the past five or so years. I love Bill Cowher, and would be thrilled if he leaves the CBS Pregame Team for the Chiefs sideline in 2009.

So this isn't a sour-apples reaction to a great game with a disappointing outcome; it's the lamenting of a disappointing and growing problem on the NFL scene. Consider the following examples of the black cloud hanging over the NFL following Super Bowl 43:

1) On the final play of the first half, as James Harrison ran an interception back for an apparent touchdown, two fouls occurred but were not called: first, Kurt Warner was held by DeShea Townsend while attempting to make the tackle. Second, a two-handed block in the back occurred in full view of an official attempting to keep up with the play. If either penalty would have been called, the Steelers would not have scored an all-important touchdown on the final play of the first half.

2) The roughing the passer call on Arizona's Rogers Dansby--for a two handed push on the Steeler QB immediately following the release of a pass--should have been a no-call. Later, Kurt Warner was crushed by a Steeler defender who, after Warner had released the pass, took two steps before blindsiding the QB. No flag was thrown.

3) Arizona's Adrian Wilson was flagged for a personal foul for running into the holder on a third quarter Steeler field goal attempt. Replays showed Wilson was blocked into the holder, therefore negating the personal foul penalty ... as would have been the case if he were blocked into the kicker.

4) James Harrison should not only have received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for repeatedly punching a Cardinal player during a fourth quarter punt, NFL rules dictate Harrison should have been ejected immediately.

5) The Cardinals challenged two poor calls throughout the course of the game. Both calls were overturned, the first on an apparent first quarter Steeler touchdown; the second on a Kurt Warner incomplete pass (originally called a fumble). The Steelers did not use any of their challenges.

6) The Arizona Cardinals were assessed 106 yards in penalties. The Steelers? 56 yards.

7) The final play of the Cardinals season will be discussed indefinitely, and will leave a sour taste in the mouths of many fans. The game itself was magical and exhilerating--expecially the final 10 minutes. But a dark cloud will linger over the game because of the Kurt Warner "fumble" with 5 seconds to play. Although replays appeared to show Warner's arm moving forward when the ball squirted loose, the referee not only ruled the play a fumble, but failed to review the play (replays are initiated by the booth in the final two minutes of each half). Admittedly, should the call have been reversed, the Cardinals would have had only one chance to score, but would have done so from the Steeler 29 yard line because of the unsportsmanlike penalty on LaMarr Woodley for removing his helmet.

Rather than simply reviewing the play to assure all inolved that the correct call had been made, both teams and a nation of fans will be left to wonder if the call was correct, and if the outcome may have been different.
It's sad that a great game ended in such an anti-climactic, questionable fashion.

But this is nothing new for the NFL in 2009. Poor calls have not only cost teams touchdowns; they have affected the outcomes of games.

It's too bad a great Super Bowl was no exception.

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