Thursday, January 8, 2009

Pray This Prayer...and Really Mean It...

This morning, in order to prove a point, I prayed that God would give me a billion dollars, a beautiful wife with which to demonstrate the Ephesians 5 marriage, a Ford GT, the “Low Coolant” light in my truck to go off (it isn’t low on coolant), and just to tempt God a little farther, I prayed that work would call and tell me not to come in for a week or so.

I really, genuinely, absolutely, sincerely meant this prayer. And nothing happened...I didn’t even get struck by lightning, not so much as an inconvenient static discharge.

A few months ago I was preaching in the open-air and a young man came up and declared, “God is not real, I asked him to strike me dead and he didn’t.” I don’t propose to know the genuineness of this young man’s prayer for suicide-by-invocation, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, I suppose he was probably pretty sincere. My response to him was that he “ought not presume on the patience and forbearance of God as slackness to act, but that the kindness of God was meant to lead him to repentance.” I concluded by telling him that God does not like him and will not answer, nor even hear, his prayers.

Now, for the church application,

“If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God!”
writes one author practicing a form of simony. God does not accept bribes, moreso if he were hungry or needed anything, he would not tell you.

Josiah is one of the more famous kings of Israel, having discovered a long-lost copy of Moses’ sermons (Deuteronomy) in the rubble of a once-great temple. Manasseh, his grandfather, was possibly the all time chiefest of sinners causing untold damage to the nation and souls of Israel, but he was saved and started a reform throughout the land, but his son, and Josiah’s father, Amon once again wrecked everything. Josiah inherited a godless and pagan land, but upon reading the Revelation through Moses, attempted to reform the people. He went so far as making a covenant with God (2 Kings 23:3), and Israel and Judah were cleansed of much unrighteousness, but still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him. (2 Kings 23:26)

Why wasn't God's wrath turned? Did Josiah not genuinely, sincerely, and actively mean his prayer? Of course he did, but men are not able to make covenants with God.

To the wicked God says:
"What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.

"You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son.
These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

"Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!" – Psalm 50:16-23

This salvation was purchased on Calvary by the Lord of Glory who canceled the record of our debt when God nailed him to the cross. There is one mediator between God and men, that is the man Jesus Christ; to all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God, who are born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Call out to Jesus Christ to save you, ask him to be your advocate to broker the peace-treaty between you and God, ask him to intercede on your behalf that your sins have already been to the cross and that by faith in the Son of God you may be saved.

But beloved, I don’t care how much you mean it genuinely, sincerely, really in your heart...if the Son of God does not mediate for you, then you are dead in your sins. Unless he applies the covenant to your sake, the wrath of God continues to abide on you.

To conclude, take a look at an exceedingly beautiful Psalm, number 34, especially verse 6:

This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.

Notice the action, the poor man cried…the Lord heard…and who did the saving? The Lord, not the man, not the cry, but the faith in God results in the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the sinner. Your prayer doesn’t save you, your faith doesn’t save you, your sincerity doesn’t save you, quit trying to bribe God, and trust in the grace of God by which you are saved; his works, not yours.

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:15-18

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Christian Humanism

Before reading any farther, Paris Reidhead has addressed this topic infinitely better than I can, and so I ask and urge you to listen to his incredible sermon on the subject: 10 Shekels and a Shirt by Paris Reidhead

For as incredible as his sermon is, I’ve sometimes wondered if Reidhead’s sermon might have had a wider audience or a bigger impact if he had chosen a better-known text to preach from. Granted, the title would not be so catchy, but when I first heard it, shallow as I may be, I thought, “Why does he have to go into a relatively unknown text to prove his point?” Before I go farther, know that I esteem the Book of Judges as the inerrant, infallible, inspired, timeless Word of God and that it is entirely useful for doctrine, reproof, and training in righteousness. Judges is one of my favorite Old Testament Books, along with Joshua, Isaiah, Nahum, Proverbs, Deuteronomy…and Thirty-Three others.

While reading through Matthew, I found a better known, and even a more direct passage against Humanism, and I’d like to do a brief exposition on this passage. Before beginning, I suppose I ought to define Humanism.

Humanism has three big definitions, that of human-worth, that of the happiness of men on earth being of utmost importance, and that of the happiness of men in eternity as the end goal of Christianity. All of these are fallacy and antibiblical.

The human being, sold under sin, is worthless. (Romans 3:12) The worth of the Christian is not found in the worth of the man, but in the price paid for the redemption of that man. Just as a pancake imprinted with an image of a pagan deity of Roman Catholicism is worthless, it can be esteemed as worth thousands if a pagan purchaser via eBay can be found. Men are worthless except that the God of Creation decides to purchase them at so great a cost on Calvary’s cross. (Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 Corinthians 7:23) Of this, the Swiss Brethren practiced a sort, not esteeming any man as worth more than another, for truly, God is no respecter of persons, but that each man stands before God equal to every other man. (Compare Galatians 3:28)

The worldly definition of Humanism is making men happy while on earth, this assumes that there is no life to come, and therefore treasures are stored up on earth where moth and rust destroy. Richard “Dinky” Dawkins is a practitioner of this religion, and yet he ought to read Solomon’s Ecclesiastes, for there is nothing new under the sun, and Solomon already tried this religion under God’s guidance in order that Solomon would gain a godly wisdom to share with you and me. “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

And finally, that which Paris Reidhead stands against so ardently, which is by far the most damning of the doctrines of Humanism, that of Christian Humanism, or making the eternal happiness of men the ultimate goal of evangelism. In the words of Reidhead, “You don’t want to go to that ole filthy nasty burning Hell when there is a beautiful Heaven up there, now come to Jesus so that you can go to Heaven!” The terrible part of this doctrine is that it turns God from a goal to a means. Christ had to die to make me happy. Heresy! Christ’s purpose above all was to magnify the name of God (Psalm 69), redeem the honor of his name (1 John 2:12), and demonstrate his glory for all to see. (Isaiah 43:7) The salvation of sinners was high on his priorities, but it was not his first priority. (John 18:37)

So, open your Bible to Matthew 22, verses 1 through 14, to see just how much God hates Christian Humanism.

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.' But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.' And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

"But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are
chosen."

Now, besides the abandonment of the Jews in this parable and their indictment for the ignoring and ultimately killing of the prophets and the saints, we see in this parable the invitation of the Wedding Feast to as many as can be found. Here we see an indiscriminate call to those who would come to honor the Son.

Before going any farther, there is a bit of cultural context needed. These men called indiscriminately from the highways and hedges could not be expected to be prepared for a Wedding Feast; I don’t know about you, but when I travel, I don’t carry a tuxedo with me, and neither did these men have the wedding garments with them to be acceptable to be in the presence of the King and his Son. Now, our King is a gracious king, he knows that we are naked in our sins and our best efforts to clothe ourselves are as itchy fig-leaves, and so he has made provision for our being clothed in righteousness, to provide us with a wedding garment, to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14), which I don’t think can be said any more beautifully than Isaiah put it,
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. –Isaiah 61:10
Without this robe of righteousness, this wedding garment to honor the Son, then we see what happens. The King looks upon those who have been offered his robe, seeing that the one without must have refused it, and he becomes irate. Maintaining his patience, he asks, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” When the man was speechless, the King had him cast out of the party, which Christ is quick to point out in the context of the kingdom of Heaven is to be cast into Hell everlasting.

What was the man’s offense? He had come into the party, he was invited by some evangelist, and was glad to have found rest, food, wine, and even fellowship, but what was he missing? His motives were wrong, he was there for all of these good things while forsaking the honor of the Son. Humanism. There are many in our churches who are seeking reprieve from Hell, an everlasting respite in Heaven and all of the good things that come along with it, but who could care less if the Son is honored, let alone even attends his own party.

This selfishness and wanton disrespect to the King and the Bridegroom will not go unpunished. Christ said elsewhere, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and everything else will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) The Psalmist said, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way.” (Psalm 2:12)

Seated even on either side of the man who had refused the wedding garment were the other guests who were there to honor the Son; notice that they were privy to the wedding feast; the fatted calf, the oxen, and everything else, and they were not removed forcibly from the party.

Beloved, the kingdom of heaven is like this: the glory, honor, and name of the Son must be honored above all else. He is the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Glory, and the King of kings; he was dead, but he is alive; he was, and he is, and he is to come. Unless you approach his throne in humility with his honor as your goal, his Father will cast you into the outer darkness. Unless you are clothed in his righteousness, (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:21) his wrath will consume you and the smoke of your torment will waft before his throne forever and ever.

Repent towards God, and trust in Jesus Christ, make his glory your eternal goal, that when sufferings come, you praise his name, that you hunger and thirst after righteousness, that you tell of all his wondrous works. If you have come to him only to escape the wrath to come, only come to him to enjoy the good things that are to be inherited in him, then you have come into the kingdom under false pretense and you will be found out.

For some real world application, sometime ago I wrote this example against an evangelism class which was teaching Humanistic garbage, ala Billy Graham, as the evangelism method, and how the biblical evangelist has to approach men,
I've found a certain wisdom in the world, that while public speaking you ought picture your audience naked. I have found this to be exceedingly applicable and I now picture my audiences naked, in their sins, on Judgment Day; their shame exposed, the book of their conscience thrust open, and them speechless in their lack of a wedding garment. I've been able to get over my fear of them by placing my fear for them at a higher priority.
Beloved, don’t be speechless in your lack of a Wedding Garment, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Set your affections on the Son, not on yourself, make him your highest priority. Once you have done this, a unique thing happens, that when the Son is honored, you will receive his blessings, you will be seated in the heavenlies with him, your place in the Mansions of Heaven will be prepared, you will be more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. But if his glory is not your utmost reward, then you will not hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord.” You will instead hear the command to the angels, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness, in that place there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Lord Jesus, I’m going to obey you, and love you, and serve you, and do what you want me to do as long as I live, even if I go to Hell at the end of the road, simply because you are worthy to be loved, obeyed, and served; and I’m not trying to make a deal with you. – Paris Reidhead