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Archive for October, 2010

Conservatives are marking the mid-term U.S. elections as the day we “take back” the country. Count me pessimistic.

Nothing outside a great awakening brought about by our sovereign and merciful God will turn our country from its godless direction. The murder of the unborn will continue unabated. The entertainment industry will continue pushing the envelope of what is acceptable for viewing. The entrenched, monolithic education system, notwithstanding the many godly teachers employed, will continue treating our schools as entities for social engineering instead of institutions for teaching academic subjects. We will still have occupying the White House the most radical man who has ever ascended to the presidency of the United States.

This is not to say that November 2 is unimportant. It is undeniably important. At best, though, we will elect fallen individuals who will try to slow down the continuing erosion of values upon which our nation was founded. The number of Americans who see homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle will grow. Perhaps the federal legalization of homosexual “marriage” will be postponed, but it will be for only a season. A woman’s legal “right” to end the life of her unborn child will continue. The march toward socialism, a philosophy which strips individuals of both responsibility and incentive, may be slowed, but it will not be stopped.

I hasten to add that I am not among those evangelical and Reformed ministers who are “above the fray” of partisan politics, who claim to be pro-life and pro-traditional marriage but who vote for liberal Democrats out of a misguided sense of compassion. There is nothing compassionate about increasing dependency upon the government. Indeed, such policies enslave citizens.

I will most definitely vote on November 2, and I will vote for conservative candidates, but my hope and assurance will be in a sovereign Creator, not in the men and women we send to Columbia and Washington, D.C.

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Are we winning?

We’re in the middle of football season, and die-hard fans find the day after game-day directly linked to what happened on the playing field. When I was a boy, I had a small transistor radio that was among my prized possessions. Practically every Saturday autumn afternoon found me captivated by the voice of Larry Munson, legendary voice of the Georgia Bulldogs. And, yes, how I felt on Sunday directly correlated to what happened on Sunday.

It’s funny about ball teams and their fans. I know a fellow I’ll call “Mark.” Mark is a Georgia Bulldog fan, a Democrat, and a Methodist, probably in that order. Every Saturday, Mark and his wife are in their special seats at Sanford Stadium. For as long as I’ve known them, they’ve had season tickets to Georgia home football games and make the eight-hour round trip to watch the Bulldogs play. It’s a long four hours back to south Georgia when the Dawgs come up short.

Mark is typical of a lot of Americans, and they carry their sports fan mentality to their local churches. It’s all about winning, and winning is all about numbers. Are more folks attending worship? Great—we’re winning. Are our offerings meeting the budget we’ve established? Great—we’re winning. Is our budget for the coming year larger than the budget was for the previous year? Great—we’re winning.

Can we honestly look into the New Testament and see that as the philosophy for the local church? I used to think this is what the church is to be about. Attending Hyles-Anderson College and being a member of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, for a couple of years in the 1970’s, I saw first-hand how size and numbers were everything. Indeed, average Sunday school attendance was some 13,000. Everyone congratulated themselves for doing a great job in seeing thousands baptized each year in the metro-Chicago area. No one seemed concerned that “conversion” amounted to getting someone to repeat a prayer, and if you could talk them into being baptized, so much the better. No one seemed too concerned that there was a great deal of turn-over in the church membership as long as the numbers kept increasing. And no one seemed too concerned that these multitudes of converts were having no effect upon life in the metro area.

We see the same thing in our own state. The August 19, 2010, issue of the Baptist Courier exulted: “South Carolina lauded for baptism growth: Palmetto State churches led SBC in increase in baptisms.” The North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) recognized the state convention for leading the SBC in two baptism categories: greatest percentage increase in baptism (19%) and greatest numerical increase in baptisms (3000). For this increase in numbers, the SCBC was awarded NAMB’s Excellence in Evangelism Award.

The sports mentality is very much a part of our church life, and churches and associations and conventions give and receive all sorts of awards for numerical attainments. Frankly, such things appear to be awfully contrary to the Scriptures, not to mention church history. It’s hard to imagine our Savior standing before his disciples and pronouncing, “This year’s recipient of the Holy Land Evangelism Award is . . . .” You know, if we cannot imagine our Lord’s doing something, perhaps that may provide a clue as to whether it’s a good idea.

A better view of what we are to be about is found in these words of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel from 1939-1968: “My friends, our business, our work, our first call is to declare in a certain and unequivocal manner the sovereignty, the majesty, the holiness of God; the sinfulness and the utter depravity of man, his total inability to save and to rescue himself; and the sacrificial, expiatory, atoning death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on that Cross on Calvary’s hill, and His glorious resurrection, as the only means and the only hope of human salvation” [Iain H. Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The First Forty Years, 1899-1939, 302]. This is no game.

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Sometimes we find a preacher unwilling to cave to the craving by our culture for a gospel which satisfies their earthly desires. One of our Cornerstone members sent me a link to this video of Paul Washer. Some may think Washer is too harsh or unnecessarily strident. The same charge has been leveled throughout history at men who opposed false teachers. Our Lord himself declared to his religious antagonists,

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44, ESV).

We have witnessed what Washer denounces, the “preaching into heaven” of someone who gave no indication of following Christ outside of “walking the aisle” and praying “the sinner’s prayer” when he was a child.

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For those concerned about the spiritual state of Christian churches, we need to examine the gospel which is being presented. Is it the gospel of the Bible, the gospel that points hearers to the absolute holiness of God, the depravity and rebellion of man, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the call for repentance and faith in Christ alone?

A false gospel is far too prevalent in our churches. It is the “gospel” of a “kinder, gentler” God who needs for you to like him so he can bless you. It teaches that we have done bad things but God still loves us if we will but give our hearts to him. That the Lord Jesus took upon himself the wrath of God in the place of believing sinners is taught too rarely. Though certainly no evangelical, H. Richard Niebuhr criticized the churches of his day: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” Unfortunately, things are no better, in the United States at least, a half-century later.

The video below is indicative of the false gospel so many children are hearing. Watch and weep.

For a better understanding of evangelizing children, see “Childhood Conversion,” by Jim Eliff.

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More end time lunacy

If you thought the video of William Tapley’s “Doom & Gloom” video was sad (see October 14 post, you can see just what a false teacher he is in his “Bible Prophecy: Obama Will Start WW 3 in 2009-10.”

It is amazing how many people are led by such false prophets.

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James P. Boyce, the first president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, rejected the teaching that there will be a one-thousand-year period between the second coming of Christ and the final judgment. In his Abstract of Systematic Theology, he writes:

There is, however, one passage of Scripture which some claim teaches one resurrection of the bodies of the just, and another of those of the unjust; and places them at a wide interval apart, with numerous intervening parts. Those who maintain this view hold that the thousand years of the Millenium succeed the second coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the righteous. This passage constitutes the twentieth chapter of the book of Revelation. It is the record of that vision, in which John saw the angel bind Satan, in the bottomless pit, for a thousand years; during which the souls of the saints lived, and reigned with Christ. “This,” says John, “is the first resurrection.” v.5. On those having part in it, “the second death hath no power.” v.6. When the thousand years have expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and go out to deceive the nations. When the number of the forces which he gathers, which are like the sands of the sea, surround the camp of the saints, these forces will be devoured by fire from Heaven, and the devil cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Then appears the great white throne, and the judgement of the dead, both small and great, and the judgement of the dead out of the books. And then death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire. “This,” says John, “is the second death.” v. 14.

It is readily admitted as to this passage that whatever is truly taught in it must be accepted as the word of God. But,

(1.) We must be careful how we receive any interpretation which does not accord with the rest of Scripture. Before doing so, we should examine thoroughly both the interpretation we wish to accept, and the views attained from other parts of the Word of God. We know that Scripture cannot contradict itself, when rightly interpreted. All its parts must, therefore, be carefully compared to see in what interpretation they agree.

(2.) If, after the best efforts to harmonize this with the other portions of God’s Word, it should seem to be irreconcilable with them, the apparent interpretation of this passage should yield to that of others; Not so much because it is one only, as compared with a great number; but because it is found in a book of highly figurative prophecy, in which the literal interpretation is not so justly to be pressed, as in others, which are not of this character, and in which the literal meaning is more apt to be the mind of the Spirit.

(3.) The language of this passage, however, is, at least, in some respects, opposed to the idea of two resurrections of the body; the first, that of the saints to reign with Christ for a thousand years, and the second, that of the wicked to judgement.

(a.) Because those who are represented as belonging to the first resurrection, are not spoken of as clothed in resurrection bodies; but, on the contrary, John declares simply that he saw “the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, etc.” v. 4.

(b.) It is not only not said that those who partake of the first resurrection are not among the dead, who are subsequently delivered up by death and Hades to be judged, v. 13, but it is implied that they are among these by the universal terms used when John says that he “saw the dead, the great and small, stand before God,” v. 12. But, if this be true, then there must be either two resurrections of the bodies of the saints, or one of the resurrections at least cannot be of the body.

(c.) Especially is it not taught that the resurrection to judgement is confined to the wicked, nor that the first resurrection is of the bodies of all the saints; because along with the books “which were opened,” “another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works,” v.12; “and if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire,” v.15. This language implies that, among those then raised and judged, there were some whose names were written in the book of life. Consequently, reference must here be made to the general resurrection and judgement, taught elsewhere as contemporaneous, and the first resurrection cannot be that of the body; or only some of the saints partake of the first resurrection; or there must be two resurrections of the bodies of the saints. The first of these is the only interpretation that accords with what is elsewhere taught.

(4.) The interpretation of this passage which makes it harmonious with all other Scripture is,

(a.) That the resurrection is a spiritual resurrection of the soul from the death of sin, of which Scriptures elsewhere speak so plainly as being a passage from death unto life. See John 5:24-26; Rom. 6:2-7; Eph. 2:1, 5; 5:14; Phil. 3:10, 11; Col. 2:12, 13; 1 John 3:14; 5:11, 12.

(b.) That the second death, which has no power over those which have part in the first resurrection, constitutes the punishment of those condemned at the judgement day, which consists in their being cast, both body and soul, into a lake of fire.

(c.) The thousand years of the binding of Satan is a period of time, of unknown, perhaps of indefinite length, possibly from the time of Christ’s conquest of Satan, in his death, resurrection, and ascension, or possibly from some other period, even perhaps of a later epoch in the history of Christianity, during which Satan is restrained from the exercise of the power he might otherwise put forth against man; the thousand years terminating at some time prior to the day of Christ’s second coming; at which time Satan shall be loosed to consummate his evil deeds by such assaults upon the saints as shall bring down the final vengeance of God at the appearing of Christ in glory.

(d.) The judgement and the resurrection, in Rev. 20:12, 13, are general, and are those of the last day which immediately follow the coming of Christ.

In our day, those who reject premillennialism are charged with “taking away from the Scriptures” and rejecting a plain reading of the Word of God. Whether Dr. Boyce taught something or not, of course, makes it neither right nor wrong. Still, for those in twenty-first century America where the prevailing evangelical doctrine of the end times is dispensational premillennialism, the words of SBTS’s first president may come as a surprise.

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A thoughtful post entitled “The Role of Law: It is reasonable and necessary for society to outlaw certain ‘choices'” on abort73.com takes issue with the commonly accepted mantra that abortion is simply a matter of a woman’s choice.

The fundamental role of every government is to provide security for its citizens and to maintain public order. This cannot be done without legislating against certain choices. Even in free countries, citizens are not free to choose in any absolute sense. Some choices are lawful and some are not, which is why it is impossible to justify abortion by simply arguing that women should be “free to choose”.

This, of course, has not stopped people from building their defense of abortion on the abstract defense of choice. You’ll hear things like, “This is a free country…You can’t legislate morality… My body, my choice!” In fact, many abortion-rights advocates will openly admit that abortion is “bad”, only to turn around and argue that women must be free to make their own decisions, even if they’re bad ones. On the surface that might sound noble. You’re giving people a choice. You’re letting them decide what’s right for themselves, even giving them the freedom to fall.

The problem is, there is a big difference between a “bad” decision and a “criminal” decision. Getting sunburned is a bad decision. Burning your neighbor’s house down is a criminal decision. Refusing to study for a big test is bad. Refusing to stop when there is a pedestrian in the street is criminal. The law generally leaves people the legal freedom to make bad choices, but the law must do all it can to prohibit criminal choices.

Read the rest of this post here.

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