Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lessons from the Snowflake

I was recently in search of a gift for a friend. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, but I had two criteria that I was hoping to meet.

1. It had to be appropriate for the Christmas Season.
2. It had to be theologically significant.

I felt that either of these criteria would be easy to meet, but combining the two seemed perhaps a little daunting. Within a few minutes I found a beautiful set of snowflake earrings, and thought to myself that the first criteria was certainly met, and that the second criteria, though lacking, was present.

I then set out to find a good quote, poem, song, whatever about snowflakes to include with the present. As I searched, I was woefully disappointed at the lack of theologically significant statements about snowflakes, and as I searched, my own understanding was opened to how truly neat these little creations of God are, and how much they tell us. It led to my own prose about the snowflake, shared at the end of this article.

For your edification and encouragement this Christmas, I’d like to give you some lessons from the snowflake.

Purity

Fresh snow is the epitome of whiteness, it covers every scar, every blemish, every mark on the landscape. Ray Comfort uses a great analogy of the purity of snow by stating that a white sheep in a green field looks brilliant, but a white sheep in a snowy field is revealed to be a dingy and imperfect grey. Similarly, if we compare ourselves to anything other than God and his revealed law, we can make ourselves look quite good, but compared to the perfection of God, our impurity is revealed.

Therefore snow shows us two things about God, first that we are imperfect, but gloriously it shows us also that we may be washed, covered, and all of our blemishes erased and purified by the work of Jesus Christ. God said so in Isaiah 1:18,

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow.
And revealed in Revelation 7:14,
“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Beauty

Wilson A. Bentley is renowned for his work in snowflake photography. In his lifetime he captured 5,000 snowflake images long before digital cameras or digital microscopes were invented. He captured the beauty of snowflakes far better than I ever could,
I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design…
When we look to the stars we see beautiful designs, in our everyday life we see beautiful sunsets and landscapes, and when we look at the minutia of the snowflake we see that God is a master craftsman, working on every scale, and creating and recreating beauty that mankind can only dream of replicating. And while I know of no verse that succinctly captures this thought, it is surely found in many biblical themes, and consider that God does it on grand scales every day, he asked Job 38:22,
Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?
Complexity

At first glance, a snowflake looks rather unassuming, but as Bentley found, they are miracles of design. Each one has an architecture, a symmetry, a purpose, and a means for growth. They are tiny miracles full of intricacy that take far more than a glance to appreciate.

Likewise God is a God of intricacy, we see it in mankind, in creation from the largest star to the smallest snowflake, and especially in the Word of God. A seemingly simple passage of scripture contains more depth than all of the writings of men. Above all, the intricacy of the Creator himself must be considered; one of the reasons Heaven will last forever is because we will need an eternity to plumb the depths of our infinite God.

Proverbs 25:3 states that the heart of men has the heavens for height and the earth for depth, how-much more then is the complexity of God.

Uniqueness

Wilson A. Bentley postulated that no two snowflakes were alike. I remember reading a study which mathematically estimated the number of people required to have a physically identical person, and while I can’t find the study, the number was in the hundreds of Trillions. Snowflakes are less complex than human beings, so it is entirely plausible that two identical flakes have fallen, but they are so unique that the chances of you or I ever seeing a duplicate flake is impossible. Bentley looked at 5000 flakes and didn’t even come close. Recent scientists have catalogued between 35 and 41 individual types of snowflake, each made up of multiple quintillion molecules (that’s 1000000000000000000 molecules) each of which has exponential possibilities in uniqueness.

For their beauty and complexity, God still manages to make each individual snowflake unique in its own ways. No two galaxies, no two stars, no two people, no two snowflakes are exactly alike, God is the God of incredible imagination and creativity. And he made you and I.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
- Psalm 139:13
Resplendence

Resplendence is my favorite word. It is the act of shining. The snowflake falling in the dark has lost much of its purpose and glory. Yes, it still does many things that are glorious, but it fails to refract light, it fails to shine, and its glory is diminished.

It mirrors much of the purpose of man. Mankind is meant to reflect its Creator. Unlike snowflakes, we are created in his image and his likeness. Our primary purpose in life is to show the world Jesus, to be resplendent in his grace, to shine his power, forgiveness, justice, and love, and to make him known. A person living in the dark, outside of his light, has lost much of their purpose and glory.

The snowflake reminds us to reflect the Light of the world, and because of his work in us, he will be glorified in us and through us.
At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. – Ephesians 5:8
(And related, another snow verse, the coolness of snow is refreshing when much work is required, which Proverbs 25:13 equates to the refreshing nature of a faithful messenger. Be a faithful messenger publishing his mercy to the world.)

Fleeting

Finally, beloved, the snowflake reminds us that we live a short and doomed existence. The largest snowflake on record measured over a foot in diameter, yet there is no picture of it, for it melted before a camera could be found. Every snowflake that has ever fallen will melt someday, just as we all have an appointment with death.

Your lifespan, in your eyes, is a bit longer than a snowflake's, however in God’s eyes and the grand scheme of things your life is equated to a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14). You are terminal, you have an expiration date, and you have an appointment with Judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
Drought and heat snatch away the snow;
so does Hell those who have sinned. - Job 24:19
Conclusion and Invitation

But beloved, God has provided a remedy, he has defeated death, cleansed sinners, covered them, and recreated them. He sent his own Son from Heaven, he created for him a body to inhabit, he set him as the standard of purity. In him was life, and the life was the light of men, the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Jesus of Nazareth was not just reflecting the light, he was the light. And yet when the world saw his light, they did not know him, and they loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. But in his great love, he willingly went to a cross to face the just condemnation that sinners deserved, he substituted himself and faced the penalty of death though he had never sinned. He laid down his life that others may live, and then he took it back up again, the Lamb slain to wash men in his blood.

Pray with David,
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. – Psalm 51:7
And God will hear you and we will rejoice with Paul,
You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
– 1 Corinthians 6:11
And then we will reflect his light,
…Proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:10
Beloved, you were created to demonstrate that God is powerful, creative, pure, a Saviour, and capable of recreating mankind to show his glory. You only have one life, and it will soon be past, and only what’s done for Christ will last.

Finally, if you have been washed in the blood, then encourage someone today that they are worth far more than snowflakes, and that you appreciate them and the work God is doing in them. Below is the poem I wrote to my friend, feel free to use some or all of it to bless someone else. Above all, tell them of the soul cleansing blood that was shed on Calvary.
I thank God for you,
For your Purity
For your Beauty
For your Complexity
For your Uniqueness
For your Resplendence
For driving us together

I have fallen for you.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Evidence Against Sye Ten Bruggencate

Introduction

I have long worried about the evangelism community being like sheep without a shepherd, or a ship without an anchor tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, and by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Many of these evangelists had their start in following the method of evangelism invented by Ray Comfort where he asks, "Would you consider yourself to be a good person?" (Example) is a fantastic, biblical method, and is founded in solid truth in what he calls, "Hell's Best Kept Secret". But unfortunately many evangelists weren't drawn to this method because it was biblical, but because it was a method that seemed like it would win the world.

Of course, scripture teaches a clear slide into apostasy, where the world at the end will have practically no Christians, so Ray Comfort's method of presenting the gospel did not win the world (many souls, yes, but the world, no) and many evangelists, instead of admitting they could not win the entire world for Christ, sought out different and increasingly wicked methods to reap supposedly better results. Mark Cahill, for example, abandoned biblical teaching, teachers, and evangelists by embracing the idea that a simple prayer or choice can save a person. Others have fled to the political realm, many of these have rejected the return of Christ, and thus have made shipwreck of their faith. Others have wandered into HyperCalvinism, of waiting for people to come to Christ as God calls them apart any efforts of his saints. Others embraced the law and the Sabbath to say that God will bless you if keep his laws to the best of your ability. Some others even became atheists because they saw no results from the methods they were using, and because of the wicked draw of their own sinfulness. Some dove into evidentialism and made sinners the judge over God. And this list could go on and on.

The latest in these wicked methods is that of Sye Ten Bruggencate's "Presuppositional" Apologetics. It is in quotation marks because his method is not presuppositional, but that is what he calls it. Many examples will be given throughout this article, but the basic premise is that because absolute truth exists, things can be known, and that logic exists, there must be a God. It is reasonably a good foundation, but it ends there, not even mentioning Jesus or his gospel.

This article will prove to you that Ten Bruggencate's apologetics is a worthless evidential model, that he has ignored historic and useful presuppositional training, that he is in serious error concerning the Biblical teaching on knowledge and deception, that he fellowships with the American Vision cult, and that he has shown cult-leader-like tendencies, and has, through lack of gospel preaching, denied Jesus Christ. He is an enemy of the gospel and has deceived even the elect, and is doing severe damage to their ministries and the gospel witness they bear. Finally, this article will encourage you to use true presuppositional apologetics and to preach Christ and him crucified.

Foundation of Presuppositional Apologetics
and Ten Bruggencate's Departure


Presuppositionalism is found throughout the Bible (see esp Romans 1:16-32, Acts 14:15-17, Acts 17:18-31), it says that the Bible is true and sin exists and that all men need a Saviour. It says, "All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Romans 3:10)." and "I (Jesus) told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins (John 8:24)."

Presuppositionalism is the correct way to do apologetics. I recommend Greg Bahnsen's book, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended for an extrabiblical look at this method (I will loan you my copy so you do not have to support AV, my copy was free because the cover is damaged).

One of my major problems with Sye is that his method is not presuppositional, it is evidential on the fact that logic is not made of matter, or that you can be absolutely sure that absolute truth exists. Visit Sye's website, http://proofthatgodexists.org/, and see all of the evidence he uses. (I am not against evidence, but it must be based on the presupposition that evidence points to God, and I encourage you to realize that fact when you're using evidence). See this video of him using logic and knowledge as the evidence of God. "God is the necessary precondition of knowledge." Even the atheists he debates see that he is using evidentialism (see @ 1:38 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcwfvZHYQJE)

Pay attention especially in that video that Ten Bruggencate completely relies on the man he is debating to be able to understand and see God's evidence. He says, "I'm not trying to prove to you that a god exists, I'm trying to expose that you know this God and that you are without excuse for your sin against him." Bahnsen would freak out on Sye at this point, Bahnsen is clear that (p.51),

The man who follows the "wisdom" of the world...is unable to know the things of the Spirit and he cannot have the spiritual discernment to judge for the truth as long as he is steeped in unbiblical presuppositions...Fallen man is incapacitated from seeing things as they really are; he has incapacitated himself by suppressing rather than presupposing the revelation of God...Having the spirit of the world manifest in his reasoning, the unregenerate is unable to understand the things of God's Spirit.
Ten Bruggencate utterly misses the spiritual side of apologetics, that fallen man is blinded. There are no lack of Bible verses to this effect, let me share a few with you, "sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me (Romans 7:11." Paul said that prior to his conversion, he had, "acted ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13)." He makes a damning statement to Sye's evidentialism when he states, "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)."

Sye comes across as yelling at a blind man (or woman; See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQbL-dhuuCA) in a maze every time the blind man bumps into a wall (see also @ 2:50 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcwfvZHYQJE). This is why Paul writes to Timothy, "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26)."

There is no gentleness in Sye's argument, nor any effort in his videos to get to the gospel. His website is devoid of a gospel message, and in my extensive research though it, I did not even see the name Jesus used. It ends with a declaration that arriving at the intellectual acquiescence of God's existence is his goal. His website sends you to the Disney Channel (which accidentally gets closer to the gospel than Sye ever does, see The Gospel According to Disney) if you select a certain link on his website, because he's only interested in debate and has no care if you go to Hell or not or if Jesus receives the glory or not (I base this on the evidence of what he makes public). He does no better than those who convinced Anthony Flew to be a deist, as many walk away from Sye maybe convinced in the evidence of God's existence, but unless they repent of their sin against the God who has blinded their minds, and put their faith in Jesus Christ, they will go to Hell. That is not victory. In fact it may be worse for this opponents (Luke 11:24-26).

Recently an atheist monument was setup in Florida, and granted, it does humorously look like a toilet, but Sye, instead of preaching the gospel, attempted to place a toilet seat upon it (see Atheists Unveil Monument) adding unneeded offense, quarrelsomeness, and argument. Thank God that Eric Hovind stood up and preached Christ and him crucified, for Christ is not without a witness.

Finally, Sye Ten Bruggencate fellowships with some of the most wicked heretics operating today, the Federal Visionists at American Vision, and the gospel deniers at Crown Rights Media. Seven years ago when many current evangelists were being trained by Ray Comfort, the idea that a person is saved by their baptism would have lead to outcry and the idea that Christ returned almost 2,000 years ago and is waiting for the world to become perfect would have been scoffed at and the errant people called to read their Bibles. But as evangelists are swept along by every wind of doctrine, these strange and blasphemous things are accepted (compare Thoughts on the Covenants). This Presbyterian heresy is prevalent today and is destroying ministries and suppressing the gospel. Therefore I warn you to flee from Sye's evidentialism and preach the gospel to a lost and dying world.

The Gospellessness of the Message

Dan Phillips says what is missing in Sye's message better than I can; he says masterfully,
Sye seems to focus on utterly destroying the unbeliever and his worldview, period. Winning the unbeliever to a God-centered worldview (conversion) does not seem to be the priority.

You see very little appeal, very little bridge-building, very little outreach. Paul's concern that he might win as many as possible (1 Cor. 9:19-22) isn't at the fore.
A lack of gospel preaching is one of the most dangerous things a preacher can do. If we are evidentialists or presuppositionalists, or we have everything else wrong, we cannot get the gospel wrong (Philippians 1:15-18, esp 18).

One of the most dangerous debates that is lauded today is the Greg Bahnsen versus Gordon Stein debate. There has been a lie perpetuated that this is one of the most crushing defeats of atheism in modern times. If you listen to the audio or read the transcript you'll see that no-one wins this debate, because Bahsen utterly balks on preaching the gospel. In fact, Stein comes closer to the gospel in his mockery of it.

I searched and searched for a video of Ten Bruggencate sharing the gospel, and I had many of his supporters looking as well. Granted, he does occasionally come close, but he is yet to preach a solid biblical presentation. I can share three semi-gospels with you that I have found, but the most clear is Sye's video, "Pray for Franco", this is a weird, unbiblical, muddle of Pelagianism (don't choose Hell) and HyperCalvinism (If God is speaking to your heart & I hope you're a sheep). No presentation in scripture of the gospel assumes that a person is elect or not before commanding them to repent, see especially Acts 17:30, "He commands all people everywhere to repent..." Notice as well that Sye emphasizes other things over salvation, such as salvation of knowledge and reasoning. The gospel is hard to find in Sye's preaching, and when it is found, it's only a portion of the gospel, which is no gospel at all.

This is a common problem in the Federal Vision movement, they cannot preach the gospel well because they do not know the gospel nor practice sharing it. See two videos by Federal Visionists where the gospel is destroyed and their own souls are forfeit, Joel McDurmon and Gary DeMar.

The goal of every Christian is to properly preach Christ and him crucified. This message saves some, and it hardens others, but it is the central theme of most importance in the Bible. When I asked Sye to do a better job of preaching the gospel, he asked me to stop being a jerk (his ad hominem attack proving that he does not care about the purity of the gospel). Dan Phillips writes one of the most damning things against him, "Often, Sye takes a phrase and simply repeats it until he's kicked off a show or his hearer walk[s] away in a rage." No Christian should EVER consider that a victory, for the offense of the cross, not our own impudence, should be the reason people walk away and rage against us.

Impact on Others

Sye is having a terrible effect on others as well. Tony Miano is a great gospel preacher, but when he uses Sye's method, and never gets to the gospel. I would never have believed that Miano would press someone so hard with evidence that they would walk away without hearing of the Saviour. But here are two examples where he has, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL6N_VJFpXE & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvnC23UvtMM.

An ardent supporter of Sye Ten Bruggencate is Richard Mailly, during our conversation the man mocked the gospel and called me a minced curse word. Towards the end of our discussion he proclaimed, "Sye Ten Bruggencate is my master. I follow no other!" Surely he was being facetious, but this is the quality of person who is born from the arrogant evidentialism of Sye Ten Bruggencate, a man who has no reverence for the gospel or respect towards its ministers.

A dear friend of mine who sees merit in Sye's methodology made an excellent point recently, that it is "only useful for atheists." I would argue that it is useful for no-one, but this is an excellent point, that the brand of apologetics (not presuppositional) which Sye has adopted does not do well with the contrite. See the above video with Franco where Sye had no idea where to go when someone was humble. If your method cannot work in more than one situation, it is tremendously lacking. Look at the presuppositionalism in the Bible, it works for Jews and Gentiles, for wise and religious, for indignant and humble. Be prepared to give a reason for the hope that lies in you, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Many of those who have grouped to Ten Bruggencate have followed his rejection of  evidentialists to such an extreme as to cut ties with great godly ministries. One of these people attacked one such ministry by saying Sye had taught her not to use "stupid arguments about bananas or the complexity of the eye." The ministry she is speaking of preaches the gospel often and boldly, and gains audience with many by using the incredible complexity of God's creation. Sye has gone so far as to call these ministries blasphemous. They are only using the vast corpus of creation to show the grandeur of God, and then to call them to repentance in the Living Christ, and yet Sye's followers are against them.

Finally, Sye is a divider of the brethren to the extent that he has one major characteristic of a cult-leader. Most cult groups encourage radical disengagement from family and friends. Criticism and truth is not the friend of the cult-leader, so cutting them off is absolutely necessary. When confronted by a Christian, Sye called for everyone who followed him to not follow his critic, and he went after supposed friends with a vengeance. One person only questioned whether Sye was right to say evidentialists were blasphemous, and he was instantly cut off from fellowship. It is cultic and it is dangerous, and I implore you to flee from Sye Ten Bruggencate and call him to repentance in the Living Christ and to hope in the saving work of God, and not in his vast intellect which is able to crush blinded atheists and make them twice the sons of Hell as himself.

Conclusion

There is nothing right about Sye Ten Bruggencate, he has bastardized presuppositional apologetics and has bastardized the gospel. He is a gangrene in the body and is destroying the fellowship and cohesion of brothers. He is so clearly an antichrist and cult-leader that if you name the name of Christ, you must flee from him, for, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19)."

Learn proper presuppositional apologetics aright, that the Bible is true, God is holy, men are not, and all are in desperate need of the forgiveness purchased by Jesus Christ on the cross and affirmed in his resurrection. Call all men to repentance and faith in the Living Christ.

Avoid the wickedness of Federal Vision, do not fellowship with those who think they are saved by their baptism. You do them no favors by pretending they are brothers, and for you, bad company ruins good morales. Never let a Christian tell you who you can and cannot be friends with, especially when they are bringing wounds rather than kisses (Proverbs 27:6). Emulate Jesus Christ in saying, "those whom I love, I reprove and discipline (Revelation 3:19)."

Judge ministries based on their adherence to the Bible, not on their results, for remember, Jeremiah had no converts, Noah had eight, and Jesus Christ could only count one-hundred-twenty prior to Pentecost. Mankind will go from bad to worse, this is no concern of yours, preach the gospel in season and out, plant and water seeds, and pray that God gives them the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7).

Above all, know and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). This is the central theme of scripture, you must get it right, for if you miss it, your life and ministry will be counted complete loss. For further reading, see my article "What is the Gospel?".

Finally, something that edified me in the long hours of writing and researching this is a thought by Keith and Kristyn Getty who exhort us,
"Our call to war: to love the captive soul,
but to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight in faith and valor
When faced with trials on every side
We know the outcome is secure
And Christ will have the prize for which He died
An inheritance of nations"

Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Versus Obsolete: Thoughts on the Covenants

Introduction

Historically, the doctrine of the covenants has sent many Baptists to their death (drowning, burning, beating) and it has sent many Presbyterians to Hell. It is not something to be taken lightly, and we must admit that there is a vast difference between the belief that there is one Covenant (Covenantalism) and at least two major Covenants (Dispensationalism). This article will seek to define and repudiate the heresy of Covenantalism, drawing all readers to a firm belief in the New Covenant of Grace.

Definition

According to the Covenantal document, the Westminster Confession of Faith (hereafter WCF), the singular Covenant is expressed in two dispensations, "This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel (WCF Chapter VII, Para V)..." The covenant was administered through sacrifices, circumcision, and the like under the law, but under the gospel, they are administered through the preaching of the Word, and in Baptism and the Lord's Supper (WCF Chapter VII, Para VI).

The result of the law and the gospel, according to this anathema religion, is "full remission of sins, and eternal salvation (WCF Chapter VII Para V)..." They conclude by saying, "There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations (WCF Chapter VII Para VI)."

The simplest definition of Covenantalism is that the covenant is between God and men, under works it was circumcision, and under grace it is baptism.

The Dispensational document, the Bible, utterly refutes this Papist heresy by clearly differentiating between two Covenants, a covenant of works, and a covenant of grace. The primary places to find these are John 10, Hebrews 7-8, 2 Corinthians 3, Jeremiah 31, and Ezekiel 36; discussion of the covenants is not at all limited to these chapters, but is best expressed in them. Portions of each chapter will be quoted in this article, and I encourage you to read each in its context and entirety.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it this way,

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
__when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
__and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
__on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
__and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
__after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
__and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
__and they shall be my people. - Hebrews 8:8-10
Note that there are two primary things happening, that two covenants are clearly expressed, and that the First is unable to save, and the Second makes a perfect salvation between God and his people. This is a direct quote of Jeremiah 31:31-34, but I quoted it from Hebrews in order to point out that the author here calls the first Covenant faulty (Hebrews 8:7) and obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), and the new covenant better (Hebrews 8:6).

The Old Covenant was conditional between men and God, but the New Covenant is conditional between the Father and the Son, for Christ says "I give [my sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand (John 10:28-29)."

Dispensationalism, defined most simply, is that the Old Covenant was a covenant between God and man, which man always fails, and the New Covenant is a covenant between the Father and the Son, which the Son fulfills perfectly.

The Sign and Seal of the Covenants

Covenantalism and Dispensationalism take another radical departure when the sign and seal of the covenants is discussed. The WCF states, "Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ...to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life (WCF Chapter XXVIII Para I)."

The Bible refutes this by saying "when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)..." and "the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30)." and "circumcision is not outward and physical...circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit (Romans 2:28-29)." and "And I will give you a new heart, and a new Spirit I will put within you (Ezekiel 36:26)."

The sign and seal of the Old Covenant was circumcision, the seal of the New Covenant is the Holy Spirit and the sign is a new heart. The Covenantal view of an outward and physical sign is modern day Judaising, placing people under bondage and works by requiring adherance to the (misrepresented) law in order to be saved. Furthermore, the unforgiveable sin is Blasphemy of the Spirit, of attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to unclean spirits. Covenantalism seems to commit this sin unashamedly, by claiming that men seal themselves into salvation with a mere ritual.

The Application

Covenantalism is called, "The ministry of death" in 2 Corinthians 3. The Apostle Paul expands stating, "the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me (Romans 7:10)." The Covenant between God and men is perfectly upheld by God, who cannot break a Covenant. If men do good, they will be blessed, but a single sin results in their cursing. This Covenant is therefore weak and useless, for the law made nothing perfect (Hebrews 7:18-19). It is obsolete, and its only use is to show men their need for a better hope (Hebrews 7:19): the guarantor of a better Covenant (Hebrews 7:22).

Jesus Christ has made us sufficient to be ministers of a New Covenant, the ministry of the Spirit, not the ministry of condemnation, but the ministry of righteousness (2 Cor 3:6-9). Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17, Hebrews 4:15), suffering completely for our sin, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). For the Old Covenant brings curses to cursed humanity, but Christ brings blessing to an unconditional covenant for men, because he fulfilled all of the conditions.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith." But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. - Galatians 3:10-14
Invitation

Dear reader, if you are bewitched into the soul damning doctrine of Covenantalism, then I implore you to come out of her, to flee from the terror of Sinai to the glory of Zion and the city of the living God, to look not to your own works or covenant making, but to the perfect obedience of Christ who saved a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue because of the Covenant he made with his Father, which is partaken of by faith, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and expressed in the power of reborn life.

If you stay, then heed this terrifying warning and be sure that your end is eternal damnation, "How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29)?" There is no salvation in the Obsolete Covenant, in fact it has passed away, so seek the Son while he may be found, place your faith in his faithfulness, not your own, and receive his blessings as he received your curse.

Dispensationalists, stand against this resurging Presbyterian heresy, your forefathers did and tasted death for it, their light momentary affliction preparing for them an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17). Obadiah Holmes, Baptist minister in 1651, received 30 lashes and nearly died at the hands of Covenantalists, yet his words to his persecutors are left to encourage us, "You have struck me as with roses. Although the Lord hath made it easy to me, yet I pray God it may not be laid to your charge." Do not consider Covenantalists your brothers, or be surprised when they show no fruit of the Spirit, for they have embraced a law that has cursed them and a veil lies over their hearts that only Christ can raise.

Above all, look to the perfection of the New Covenant which has made the Old Covenant obsolete and shown its weakness and uselessness. Look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ending Abortion With the Law of Love

There is a massive movement of evangelists at current to Abolish Human Abortion, not just to outlaw it, but to criminalize it. I agree completely that abortion is murder: those who perform abortions, get abortions, and are accessories to abortion are guilty of murder and should be prosecuted. In fact I wrote a position paper in 2006 anathematizing the USAF's consideration to fund abortions through Tri-Care, and I went so far (to start conversation within the class) as to call for the UCMJ to make abortion a punishable offense under Articles 118, 119, and 133.

But, the legality of abortion is only a symptom of a much greater problem. If abortion were 100% illegal and punishable by death tomorrow, as it should be, the world would only be a little cleaner on the outside, but inside, it would still be filled with every manner of filth and sin. A symptom would be gone, but the root cause, the root corruption would be un-phased.

Consider the abolition of slavery in the United States starting in the early 1800s and culminating in 1863. Now, I am completely against racial slavery (compare: The Doctrine of Slavery), but the abolition movement is not the godsend which it is so often credited with. In fact, I would rather say it has made some things worse, and the abolition of slavery, and the continued farce of the "End-It" movement, do what Peter said of false teachers, "They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption (2 Peter 2:19)."

The abolition of slavery was done by law, it ought to have been perfected with the gospel. I will explain this in a moment. First though, the Bible does not use the word "slave" only for the first century or to be thrown out when our superstitious secularism warrants, "Slaves, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust (1 Peter 2:18)." "Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord (Colossians 3:22)." "Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven (Colossians 4:1)." "Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it (1 Corinthians 7:21)." Slavery exists today throughout the world, and nonetheless in America, and will until Christ returns. Slavery was not wrong because it is slavery, but because it was abused, it was racial, it required kidnapping, and many masters were unjust.

Had slavery been perfected by the gospel, then the nation and the world would be in much less bondage than they are today. In a perfect postmillenial world (one that does not exist and will never exist), where the gospel had been preached and believed and obeyed in America, slavery would have ceased to be the stain on the humanitarian history of these United States. Had the gospel been preached, fair treatment of slaves exhorted, and the refusal to partake in purchasing slaves who had been kidnapped or treated like cattle, then the manselling trade and the Middle Passage would have ceased to function. Imagine this, the Hannibal, a slave ship, deemed a pirate ship by an 1808 law prohibiting the importation of slaves, anchors in Mobile Bay with 692 slaves aboard. The average price per slave is $10.50; but Christian slave-owners, seeing the abysmal conditions on board, and finding that not a single slave was willingly indentured, refuse to pay $10.50 else they be in support of this illegal and immoral practice (Similarly, and a complete aside, supporting pornography, even only through your cable-internet bill, enslaves and destroys thousands of young people each year). What would happen next? At the very least the Hannibal would not carry any more slaves to the New World, for there is no profit in it, nor would any other ship. Perhaps the captain of this ship, in order to recoup some cost, would drastically reduce the price of slaves, in which case Christians desiring to show the grace of Christ might buy them to set them free (Compare This Story), or to act as just and fair masters. In either case, the gospel would rectify the slave trade without prohibition and without promising freedom only to deliver greater slavery.

For there are two sets of laws in the world, the worldly prohibiting kind which are rarely obeyed and frequently broken (do not steal, do not drink and drive, do not murder babies), and the heavenly law of love (love your neighbor as yourself). The law of love is so encompassing and perfect that it need not prohibit violence or racism, because if you love someone, you will seek their highest good and ignore superficialities. The law of love demonstrated in slavery would have benefited everyone far more than the Emancipation Proclamation. The law of love is infinitely more capable of ending abortion than any legislation. A mommy who loves God and their baby will not destroy that baby or the image of God being knit together inside of them. A daddy who loves his child will stand up and be a man and honor Christ in protecting life and raising that child in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

An evangelist preaching the gospel indiscriminately to a crowd will (Lord willing) impact the lives of far more people than preaching focused messages at the abortion minded. Instead of fighting the symptom at a murder clinic, gospel preaching ought to start by addressing the root cause, a sinful heart which leads to fornication, disregard for life, and murder. In my ministry towards youth, allow me to boast for a moment, I know that it is more productive to ensure that little girls never need to consider an abortion and to teach them to love and obey Jesus and give them a hope in the Living God, than to try to ward them off at a moment of great despair and hopelessness.

A famous evangelist once compared addiction ministry to a playground near a dangerous cliff. Children regularly fell down the cliff, some were killed and others gravely injured. One response, the addiction ministry response, was to build a hospital at the bottom of the cliff in order to minister to those who had fallen. The other response, the gospel ministry response, was to put a fence and warning signs up to warn of impending danger. Beloved, which works better? The one that ministers to the effect, or the one that ministers to the cause.

The current abortion ministry and abolition movement are treating symptoms of sin, and while they are doing some good, the greatest good is to be done in full time gospel ministry, in treating the wicked heart which brings forth sexual immorality and murder. A girl converted to Christ in middle-school will never consider an abortion. A high-school boy who determines to honor Christ by waiting for his future wife will never pressure someone into taking RU-486 or be an accomplice to the murder of a baby. An abortion doctor who has no patients will have to resort to finding a second job.

It is a commendable thing to be against abortion, and to call it what it is: cold blooded murder. But beloved, just as the abolition of slavery did not abolish slavery, neither will the outlawing of abortion end abortion. The law has a way of awakening our nature to break that law, but Christ is the cure for the rebellion and fallenness of humanity, he alone has the ability to replace a wicked heart with a sanctified heart.

And finally, and probably most harshly, the abolition of slavery has done innumerable damage to the nation, not just to one people-group, but all who are enslaved without knowing their captivity to the devil. Christ came to set the captives free. A person who does not recognize their enslavement does not seek an Emancipator. The outlawing of abortion without a strong gospel presence will condemn many more people than are currently condemned. As harsh as it is to say, a child murdered is guaranteed instant Heaven by their faith in God (Matthew 18:3) and the faithfulness of God (Matthew 18:14). A child who grows up in a pagan culture is condemned by the sins of their fathers. Adrian Rogers once made the excellent point that fixing atrocities without the preaching of the gospel is only, "making the world a nicer place to go to Hell from."

Preaching the gospel faithfully to all men will result in fewer abortions and make famous the name of the One who is able to save to the uttermost all of those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. So beloved, I implore you to focus on the cause of abortion, and not the symptom of abortion, that you minister to lost sinners in your church, in their schools and universities, in the park, at the mall, at festivals. Wherever people may be found, preempt the need for abortion ministry by proclaiming Christ and him crucified.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Go and Work in the Vineyard Today - New Years Eve Report

He went to (his son) and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. ~ Matthew 21:28-29
As 2012 drew to a close, I had resolved not to do any evangelism on New Year's Eve because I did not have anyone to go with me, and the nearest crowd was quite a distance away. At one point during the afternoon I nearly made the 5+ hour drive to Atlanta, but had that idea about thirty minutes too late.

Due to many factors, I decided I would not do any evangelism, and headed to a friend's house for fireworks and dinner. It was a nice night of strengthening friendships and making memories and hopefully continuing to water gospel seeds. As the night drew to a close, I began in earnest to think of the crowd that was formed just a few dozen miles away in a neighboring tourist town. The faithfulness of my Saviour and his call to seek and save the lost overwhelmed my disobedient heart and before I knew it, I had excused myself from the party and was on my way to a massive celebration at an open-air mall.

I reached the mall at 11:40, just minutes before Midnight, which is generally when this particular crowd disperses, so I had to make the most of my brief time. The mall was jam packed with people, so much so that my initial attempts to hand out tracts were stifled because I was just too close to people and they were too close to me. The ridiculously loud music made preaching an impossibility as well. I made my way away from the stage and began handing out tracts, I was using www.onemilliontracts.com 's The Good Test which worked very well with this crowd. I would say things like, "Something to go along with your New Year's Resolution" or "Something to think about in the New Year." Practically everyone took one.

The first time I ever preached at New Years, it was outside of a Zac Brown concert; it was a strange coincidence that the last song that played before midnight last night was a Zac Brown song, but it reminded me that there were evangelists all over the country who were either actively evangelizing, had just finished, or were preparing to evangelize, and it motivated me to press forward to distribute as many tracts as possible.

At this point the first big blessing of the night happened, I gave a group of teens tracts, and one asked what it was, I told him it was a gospel tract. The group asked if they could hand them out. I gave them about a hundred. Throughout the night I would run into people who held up tracts and said, "I've already got one, thanks." I know nothing of these students, but pray that God raises them up to be great laborers in his field.

I desperately looked for a place that was quiet enough to preach but with enough people to preach to, because I wanted to preach at midnight, but couldn't find one. So at midnight I wrote a text to a young lady I am hoping to get to know better (I would appreciate your prayers in this matter).

I have a conviction that men and women should not kiss before marriage; it is not something I push (hard) on others, but it is a firm conviction I have, and I will not kiss another girl until she is my wife. The young lady I mentioned above knows this and thinks it's weird. At this moment a fairly pretty, and very inebriated, girl walked right at me, she said, "Ooh, a cowboy." I knew exactly what she was thinking, and I put both hands up prepared to push her away by her shoulders, she saw that her advance was unwanted and gave me a very awkward hug. Her and her friends took tracts. A little bit later another girl sneakily came up and I saw her at the last second and turned away, I got a kiss on the bottom of my right cheek.

I had a good location for tracting the crowd as it departed, but then I looked over my shoulder and noticed security guards gathered around one of my tracts and discussing it. I felt it best to move locations, and found an evangelist's dream. Around one side of the stage, the crowd bottlenecked so that only three people could pass through at a time. My thumb is a little sore today from the quantity and speed which were required to pass out tracts. At this point I heard something funny, I heard, "Hey, that looks like Canyon's hat." then, "Hey, that is Canyon's hat!" and I got to wish a young friend Happy New Years and hopefully encourage him to join me in the future as we go into the highways and hedges.

Many Christians thanked me for being there and for being bold enough to share the message of reconciliation; I thought of the verse that I started this article with, that I was only being obedient after my initial disobedience.

The night wrapped up with about 450 tracts in about forty-five minutes. I never did get to preach, but was blessed to share with many people that,
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Prophet of Doom

I'm not a prophet nor the son of a prophet in regards to new or futuristic revelation. But, as every Christian is to seek the gift of prophecy, of understanding and speaking God's word, I see a very scary trend in regards to how God deals with nations.

As far as nations are concerned, the United States of America is an elder, a relic, an exception to longevity. Most nations can't hope to achieve a century, some of the more impressive reigns have been two centuries, but to exceed the bicentennial mark is a rare accomplishment indeed.

The Prophet Isaiah was in the temple when an especially prosperous king, Uzziah, died, a man who was far from perfect, but as kings and presidents go, had been better to the people than most. Isaiah was a prophet who saw new and futuristic revelation, and at this moment he received a vision. He notes three things from that vision. First, that God still lives and is reigning globally. Second, that Isaiah himself had not escaped the gross sin of the people and was in desperate need of atonement. And third, that God was furious with the people for their sin (Isaiah 6:1-13).

A few years later, another Prophet, Hosea by name, had this terrifying fact revealed to him about those that replaced the dead king Uzziah of Isaiah's day (Hosea 1:1),

Set the trumpet to your lips!
___One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord,
because they have transgressed my covenant
___and rebelled against my law.
To me they cry,
___“My God, we—Israel—know you.”
Israel has spurned the good;
___the enemy shall pursue him.
They made kings, but not through me.
___They set up princes, but I knew it not.
With their silver and gold they made idols
___for their own destruction.
For they sow the wind,

___and they shall reap the whirlwind. - Hosea 8:1-4,7
God's fury towards this nation where sin ran rampant and the people chose their own kings and princes was not light, he told Isaiah to publish the timeframe of his wrath on the nation Israel, "Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste (Isaiah 6:11)." The prophet Jeremiah lived through this judgment and he would receive this prophecy, "behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten (Jeremiah 29:17)."

This was not the first democratic event in the Bible to be punished, at Babel the people said, "let us make a name for ourselves (Genesis 11:4)," and God punished them with confusion and dispersion. During the time of the Judges, Israel constantly refused to listen to its leaders, and the Bible records of this dark and murderous time, "There was no king in Israel in those days. Everyone did what was write in his own eyes (Judges 17:6)."

And later, to the city of Laodicea, which derives its name from Laos (people) and Dikea (judge), or the people-choose, or democracy, Christ writes, "I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17)."

Beloved, do you see America in all of these historical accounts? The founders set the law up as the king, knowing that men were desperately wicked and deceitful beyond all things (Genesis 6:5). The living, breathing, Constitution stood as supreme, it declared its will with unflinching steadfastness, it sought to keep governors, judges, and lawmakers honest and accountable. But the 17th Amendment snuck in a deadly cancer, allowing the people to vote directly for their Federal Senators, effectively destroying the check-and-balance placed in the Legislative Branch to ensure the House of Representatives and Senate were chosen differently and hence could not be easily manipulated by a corrupt and uninformed populace. Other treasonous acts were committed, coming to a head in 2011, when the Chief Executive declared, "When Congress won't act, I will," further denouncing the authority of the Constitution which requires the executive and legislative branches to keep one another in check, and fight one another's evil intentions.

More to the point, God is dead set against idolaters in power, this includes Secularists, Communists, Mohammadians, Humanists, Mormons, women who have rejected the natural order, and money worshippers. You decide which of these have been chosen by the populace of the nation. God did not choose them as valid leaders (Hosea 8:4), punishment yes (Isaiah 3:4,12) but not as qualified or approved leaders.

Beloved, in the age when the king Constitution died, I see that the Lord is still seated in his temple, and the whole earth is still full of his glory. But the prophet writes,

"You (God) have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever. The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished. But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God." - Psalm 9:5-8,17

Beloved, the terrifying thing concerning these prophecies is that they give no hope for the nations under judgment. But beloved, there is a hope for the individual. Psalm 9:9-10 says, "The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you."

Concerning Laodicea, Christ promises, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:19-20)." God is in the business of snatching brands from the fire, allegorized as sinners from damnation.

Beloved, only one nation will survive eternity, the nation of kings and priests which Christ has redeemed from every nation, tribe, and tongue, a people for his own possession who will declare his excellencies, how he was and is and is to come, how he died but yet lives, and how he gave his life a ransom to make peace with his greatest enemies, and now makes them a holy nation, if they will place their faith in him, humble themselves, and turn from sin.

I promise you three things. First, God still lives and is reigning globally. Second, you yourself have not escaped the gross sin of the people and are in desperate need of atonement. And third, God is furious with the nation for their sin, for we have sown the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind. Seek the Saviour while he may be found.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Man Under Authority

I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it. - Matthew 8:9
One of the most amazing conversations in scripture occurs between an Army Captain and Jesus of Nazareth, concerning authority. This Army Captain, also called a Centurion, recognized that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, had all authority in Heaven and Earth, and that Jesus did not need to accomplish his will by doing all work personally and in proximity, but that his authority was more than capable of ruling the Universe from any distance. Reading the whole story (Matthew 8:5-13), we see that Jesus laud’s the man’s faith for recognizing that Jesus was the Lord of Armies, the Captain of captains, the King of Earth, and that all of Creation was directly under his authority.

The Centurion knew that just by ordering his men to accomplish a task that it would be brought to completion simply by his authority, and based on this, he recognized that Jesus Christ could order his subordinates to do exactly as he said as well, in this case to, “be well.

This is an amazing point in scripture, and one which I am especially blessed to be able to understand, being a Non-Commissioned Officer myself. In the civilian world, we often ask others to do things, but in the military world, asking is not efficient and is detrimental to rank structure; orders are given and followed out. Disobedience is unacceptable and punished swiftly and accordingly. Paul Washer makes this point well concerning God’s authority:
He looks at stars and He says “all you stars move yourself to this place and start in this order and move in a circle and move exactly as I tell you, until I give you another word. Planets-pick yourself up and whirl, make this formation at my command, until I give you another word.” He looks at mountains and says “be lifted up” and they obey him. He tells valleys “be cast down” and they obey him. He looks at the sea and says “you will come this far and no farther”, and the sea obeys. Then, he looks at you and says “come” and you say “NO!
If such rebellion were found in the military, instant action would be taken, at best this person would no longer be in the military, at worst, court-martial. God’s punishment is swift and commensurate with the rebellion.
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
__the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
__and terrify them in his fury.

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
__be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
__and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son,
__lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
__for his wrath is quickly kindled. - Psalm 2:4-5,10-12
The wrath of God is slow in coming, he is patient and kind, he has much forbearance, but his justice is advancing for all rebels against his authority. He commands us to love one another, and yet to a man, each one of his has disobeyed this order by lying to each other, stealing from one another, speaking in anger towards one another, causing much strife, division, rebellion, and death in God’s Creation. He commands our absolute loyalty to his kingdom, yet we use his name in vain, and by so doing, we declare war on the King of Heaven (Psalm 73:9), and many even go so far as to deny the Despot (absolute authority and power) who created them (2 Peter 2:1).

This gross insubordination will not go unpunished; even while many scoff that Christ’s authority has failed or never existed, because his patience is interpreted as inaction. Do not be deceived, one day is to the Creator of Time as a thousand years are to us, and vice-versa, his authority fails not.

And this punishment will not be carried out by some lowly Staff-Sergeant, or a mere General Officer, or some piddly ArchAngel, the wrath of God will be delivered upon men by the King himself,
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. - Revelation 19:11-16
And
I trod them in my anger
__and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood spattered on my garments,
__and stained all my apparel.
For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
__and my year of redemption had come. - Isaiah 63:3-4
The authority of the Lord of Armies is inescapable, he is prepared to make a total war upon his enemies. His enemies therefore should be without hope, for this God does not lose wars, but this King is also a God of Love, and full of grace. Dear reader, I cannot forgive your sins any more than I could pardon a traitor sentenced to die by courts-martial. I do not have that authority, for your sin is against the Kingdom of Heaven, a higher court than any man can ascend to, of purer eyes than any of us can look upon.

But, the King himself, though rich and with absolute peace and honor and dominion in Heaven, stepped down to subject himself to the taunts, ridicule, insubordination, and rebellion of this fallen and wicked world. Himself, the Son of God, became the Son of Man, submitting himself perfectly to the authority and will of his Father. The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

And he says something astonishing, “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6).” Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, went to a cross to face the condemnation befitting his enemies, where he faced the full wrath of his Father, found guilty in-spite of his perfect innocence, his guilt not his own, but that of rebels, paying a unimaginable price for the pardon of those same people who constantly despised and raged against his authority.

Because of his perfect obedience, his Father has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, raised him from the dead, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

His authority is absolute, it is complete, and every knee will bow by his authority. Dear reader, today bow the knee in submission to the Lord of Armies, recognizing his absolute authority, do it willingly, for one day your knee will bow to him, and if not willingly, then forcibly.

He has authority to end life and to give it, to punish sins and to forgive them; place your faith in him today and repent of your rebellion, and be assured that by his perfect authority: there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. - Psalm 2:12

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Workman Approved

"See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship..." - Exodus 31:2-3

These are two of my favorite verses in all of scripture. I have been thinking about them and similar passages a lot recently as I've been seeing three terrifying verses taking place in America, practically the exact antithesis of Exodus 31:2-3,

For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts
__is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah
support and supply,
__all support of bread,
__and all support of water;
the mighty man and the soldier,
__the judge and the prophet,
__the diviner and the elder,
the captain of fifty
__and the man of rank,
the counselor and the skillful magician
__and the expert in charms. - Isaiah 3:1-3
Based on these two verses, we must arrive at the conclusion that the Bible teaches that God gives to each according to his good pleasure; to some he gives much and to others he takes away.

Bezalel was one of those who much was given, for the express purpose of building the finery in God's tabernacle. His list of talents is impressive. Notice that the opposite in Isaiah 3 is a lack of experts, people who have no virtues, no glory, and who instead oppress one another and work for food and gold that perishes, trinkets and ornaments, chains and bracelets and bonnets... Solomon put it this way,

"To the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting...this is also vanity and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 2:26)."

We as Christians, those who find refuge in Christ, will all agree that we would rather be like Bezalel (literally, in the shade of God), than those who strive after wind. Just in case you don't, look at Paul's admonition to the lazy, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10)." The Christian life is one of workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), of great accomplishment, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12)."

The works that Jesus did were magnificent. He made the blind see, the deaf hear, and the mute sing, he turned many from sin to righteousness, he raised the dead, and in one sacrifice he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. In Mark 7:37 it says, "He did all things well." Yet in his brief three year ministry, his works were limited to a small swathe of geographical land, and a limited number of people. Greater things were yet to be done.

This brings me back to Exodus 31:2-3, and Bezalel's infilling of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:12, Jesus concludes that the purpose of his egress from the world was so that that Spirit would come to believers. First and foremost, like Bezalel, you are now filled with the Holy Spirit. This was a unique privilege under the Obsolete Covenant, but under the New Covenant, every son of God is filled and led by the Spirit.

Now, is that where our similarity with Bezalel ends? He was given ability, intelligence, and knowledge. The Apostle Paul expressly states that Christians are called from all rankings in life, not many are wise, not many noble, not many powerful, but beloved, just because we were not wise when we were called, does not mean we must or ought stay in such a state. In fact, James exhorts us, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5)." and jump back with me to Ecclesiastes 2:26, "to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy..." Dear Christian, do you please God? Beloved, you do, but it is because of Christ who lives in you that you please your Heavenly Father (Galatians 2:20).

If we venture into the Sinaitic Desert, or into Israel, or Transjordan, you will not find the handwork of Bezalel. It has perished, time and vandals have worn this tabernacle out. It was then replaced by a temple, built similarly by men of God, but today on Mount Moriah it stands not, torn down by the greed of men and the constant changing shadows of the world.

But beloved, the building which you are building stands today and is everlasting, for Christ says, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18)." Peter elaborates, "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5)." Your part in this is as follows, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12)..." and "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Romans 12:6)..." and "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7)."

Therefore, beloved, like Bezalel, God has known you by name, he numbered your days as when there were yet none, he calls you his son, the adopted brother of his Son, and he has filled you with his Spirit. He gives gifts according to his grace, not measured on our ability, but on the matchless worth of Christ (Ephesians 4:7-8). If you lack wisdom, then ask, if you lack motivation, then look to Christ and walk in the steps he prepared for you, if you lack ability, grow in stature before men and God like your Saviour. Emulate Christ by "doing all things well."

For to this you have been called, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3)..." Therefore do not succumb to the laziness and oppression, but live as one called and appointed by God to build up a spiritual house which will never perish.

In the New Covenant, God says this of you, as he says of all Christians,

"See, I have called you by name, by the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled you with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship...that you shall be building the church of God, a work that will never perish...According to all that I have commanded you, you shall do."

See also: Laboring in Vain

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Rapture as Evangelism

Introduction

I recently wrote out my thought process for being a post-tribulation rapture believer. My view is common, but not nearly so common as the newer idea that Christians will be saved from the greatest persecution by being invisibly removed from earth. This "pre-tribulation" view (nicknamed the "Left-Behind" view) is arguably the most common in America today, but I don't expect it will remain that way. This view won't vanish, but I expect it to become less and less prevalent. Just as Postmillenialism suffered a damaging blow during the War to End All Wars and a fatal blow during World War Two, I think we'll see this eschatology fade until it practically vanishes, only held by small fringe groups, because of the years of harping on its veracity without any events or biblical passages to back it up. Constant false prophecy of immanent returns, and failed dates have created scoffers who cannot continue to keep believing this historically new and strange eschatology.

What will replace it? Unfortunately I can guarantee that it will not be the truth, some other fanciful unbiblical theatrical theology will arise and lead many astray. I cannot possibly guess with any accuracy, but my guess for this replacement will be the heresy of Preterism, the idea that the Second Coming and Resurrection have already occurred, but I won't be surprised if some other more heinous and imaginative heresy arises.

Your view of the timing of the rapture is not an essential doctrine, you will not lose your soul for following the pre-trib tradition. Many great saints have held this view. But, I fear that as this view largely dies with the church's elderly generation, that the church will lose ALL rapture theology, that the church is prepared to be removed from the earth and those remaining will be judged in righteousness. The rapture will be thrown out with the pre-trib theory, and it ought not be. The rapture is a recurring theme in scripture, the root word in the Greek is harpazo, it means to be plucked, repealed, removed. The word rapture comes from the Latin translation of this Greek word, it occurs in several places in the New Testament, for example, Christ was nearly seized by overzealous postmillenials (John 6:15), the evangelist has the duty to snatch sinners from the fire (Jude 1:23), Phillip was caught away to some far off place (Acts 8:39), Jesus was caught up to God (Revelation 12:5, cf. Acts 1:9), Paul was caught up into paradise (body or soul, I know not) (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), sheep without a shepherd are caught and devoured by wolves (John 10:12), and Jesus promised that none can pluck his saints from his hand (John 10:29).

The rapture that this article will focus on is the removal of Christians from the earth to meet Jesus in the clouds; we need to retain and understand the biblical purpose of this event. But what does it matter? Can't we just be pan-millenialists or pan-tribulationists, that "however it pans out is just fine with me"? Unfortunately it matters a lot in how we view God, and how we evangelize. This article will hopefully spur you towards good works, and an even more fervent and eager desire to see Christ.

I spoke to a person once whose plan of evangelism was to hold onto an unbeliever during the rapture and attempt to convince him to believe in Jesus on the way up. While this is a novel idea, it misses completely what the Bible says of that final day, and why on that day the unbeliever is without hope.

The Timing of Christ's Return

Christ has not returned yet, but he is sure to come, for scripture says, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come (Revelation 4:8)!" The reason he has not returned is quite simple, he is not willing that even a single one of his saints should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). At the moment the sky disappears and Christ is seen in the Heavens, you can rejoice that the number of saints is complete, and be sure that no more men will be saved, and that Christ is prepared to conclude this present evil age.

Therefore, we are to be witnessing to unbelievers, as Peter says, "hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved (2 Peter 3:12)..."

If you are an unbeliever and are waiting to see the rapture happen before you will believe, Peter exhorts you to "count the patience of our Lord as salvation (2 Peter 3:15)" and Paul, "the patience of God is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)." If you see the rapture as an unbeliever, then it is too late for you.

Christ as Judge

The Bible describes Jesus in two polarizing ways, as a just God, and a savior (Isaiah 45:21), that he punishes sinners AND forgives sinners; both are seen in the rapture. On that final day, he will come to "judge and make war (Revelation 19:11)." In the rapture, we see that Christ is righteous. Right now only believers see this (Proverbs 28:5), but on Judgment Day, everyone will see it, a myriad of verses say this.

Men will faint with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:26-27)."

The word for faint means "die where they stand." The KJV says their "hearts will fail them." They will be scared to death.

In another place it says, "then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand (Revelation 6:15-17)?"

The last phrase is an allusion to several Old Testament passages, "But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears (Malachi 3:2)?" and "The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings (Isaiah 33:14)?" And especially,

But you, who are to be feared!
__Who can stand before you
__when once your anger is roused?
From the heavens you uttered judgment;
__the earth feared and was still,
when God arose to establish judgment,
__to save all the humble of the earth. - Psalm 76:7-9
Dear reader, pause and consider the justice that will be displayed on the day that Christ returns. His patience will have run out, the sin of his enemies will have reached full measure, and grace and love will never again be felt by those who refused to kiss the Son.

"Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner (Malachi 3:5)..."

Christ as Saviour

But for the believer, a much different feeling will be kindled on that day. Continue the Malachi verse from above, "and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed (Malachi 3:6)."

For the believer, the one who abides in Christ, who is born-again, washed in his blood, made new in his Spirit, John exhorts us, "when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming (1 John 2:28)."

Peter explains that the Christian is "waiting for [a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells], therefore be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Peter 3:14)."

And Christ's personal promise, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:3)."

Henceforth there is laid up for all who have loved his appearing a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award on that day (2 Timothy 4:8). "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4)."

The Rapture as Evangelism

On the final day there will be only two responses. The unbeliever will flee in fear, utterly terrified, and hide from the returning King. The believer will step forward in eager anticipation of the consummation of history, in meeting Jesus face to face, and in full assurance that he is a faithful God who keeps his promises.

There is no secret salvation for the believer in a veiled rapture. There is no second chance for the unbeliever in the warning of a rapture. There is hope in one man, the man whom has been appointed as judge of the world, who will judge in perfect righteousness, who commands all people to repent, and is assured because he has been raised from the dead (Acts 17:31).

Just as it is appointed once for a man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:27-28).

Therefore, the rapture perfectly captures the character and nature of God, that he is a just God, and a savior, and besides him there is no other. Only in him there is righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him, but in the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and glorified (Isaiah 45:21,24-25).

This all points back to the cross, where God put Christ Jesus "as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness (Romans 3:25)..." and "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)." All evangelism should be centered on the law to bring a knowledge of sin, and then present grace, that salvation is available in the Christ who lived and died and lived again. The rapture captures this perfectly, that lawbreakers will face Christ as Lord and judge, and believers will face Christ as Lord and Saviour, his justice satisfied on Calvary's cross, and his grace poured out in abundance.

Conclusion

The day of the rapture will be too late to share your faith, for all who will trust Christ will have reached repentance, and all who are reprobate will face him as a Saviour scorned. Therefore, wait for this day and hasten it along by proclaiming his righteousness by calling for repentance, and proclaim his grace by imploring towards faith in his perfect name.

Until Christ returns, or calls you home, declare to the world that he is Lord of all, that to him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear allegiance. Declare to mankind that his wrath is kindled, and that in his presence no man can stand, and that the only hope is God the Son who faced this wrath on a cross, who now calls out,
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. - Isaiah 45:22
As for you dear reader, I pray that you are eagerly awaiting his return, that you will have confidence in his faithfulness and the sufficiency of his work on the cross, and you will not shrink back in fear at his coming.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Response to an Apostate Pastor

I received the following text last Saturday. After a week of prayer, and feeling several times that I would not respond to it, I finally decided that a response was merited and hopefully it will edify the church and call this pastor to biblical truth. This will also allow for me to type my response instead of texting it. This was sent as a text, so understandably it had many typographical errors, I have corrected these so that they do not detract from the message. I only changed spelling and punctuation, the original is available if you would like to read it.

Hello my name is ******. I am a pastor in *******, GA. I was greatly disturbed when at a Braves game there was a tract left on my car and after I read it, I realized there was no love only condemnation. Jesus did not command us to repent He commanded us to love and His goodness will lead them to repentance.  It grieved my heart to see a church representing our Savior Jesus using condemnation.  This is not an effective tool for evangelism. I pray you will have a revelation of His great love for you that His love will begin to flow from you.  I'm sorry if this is harsh, but I choose to live in obedience to the conviction and I had to send this.  Paul admonishes us many times not to turn away from or preach any other gospel than the one he first preached. The gospel of grace according to Ephesians 2:8-10
Response

First of all, thank you for taking the time to read this tract and for your response. This is why we give out tracts, to get people thinking and to start conversations. In that regard, this tract has done its first duty.

Second, I do not know which tract you received, I was not at the Brave's game, and know of no-one giving out tracts with my website on it at the Brave's game. Based on what you have written, I expect that it was a "Pop Quiz", but it may not have been. We excommunicated a woman at the beginning of the year, an antichrist and Jezebel of the highest degree, and she may still be printing tracts with our website on them, so depending on the tract, your concerns may be well founded if there was no love on the tract. But that does not affect the rest of this response.

You stated, that "Jesus did not command us to repent", and this is where I hope to rebuke and correct you. Over and over again Jesus commands both the world, and the church, to repent. His first command was "repent and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15), his last command is "be zealous therefore, and repent" (Revelation 3:19), and repentance is a quintessential part of his message throughout his ministry (Luke 13:1-5, Luke 5:32, etc). Likewise, he tells his followers that "repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations..." (Luke 24:47) Those who preach the gospel implore hearers to "repent towards God and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

Your statement that our love will lead people to repentance has no biblical precedent. You've nearly quoted Romans 2:4, but that is in no wise a command to the church, but an admonition to the lost. But true love warns, it seeks to see people turned (repentance), to be saved, and this faith only comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of Christ. Your silence and aversion on the matter has most likely condemned many. Loving people without commanding repentance does as one wise preacher said, "makes the world a nicer place to go to Hell from."

A saviour who comes only to save and not preach condemnation is no Saviour at all, because there is nothing to be saved from. Jesus Christ preached salvation and condemnation regularly, see for example John 3:16-21. If this is not an effective tool for evangelism then you stand in direct opposition to the greatest Evangelist, who is Christ the Lord.

Your hatred of the justice of God as evidenced in your response does not bode well for your soul. You seem to have fallen for a tender loving jesus who does not exist. You are preaching a false jesus and this jesus shares none in common with the Living Christ than a name. Examine Romans 3:25 and 5:8, that the righteousness of God was demonstrated in Christ's death, and the love of God was demonstrated in him dying for sinners. Without condemnation, then Christ died for naught, but in Christ there is now no condemnation.

In all harshness, I pray that you have a revelation of the Living God, and that a love for his  whole character would be borne in you, and you would embrace the preaching of his full counsel, including the elementary doctrines of repentance from dead works and faith towards God.

Your gospel denies a need for grace, and therefore is anathema. See that the Lord is good, and then flee from the wrath to come. Preach the same.

And finally, if I am right in deducing that you are a female pastor from your name, I implore you to renounce your blasphemy and not step, but leap, from your pulpit role of usurping the Lord's authority.

In all love, I implore you and Christ commands you, "Repent, and believe the gospel."