Spiritual Adultery (Ezekiel 16)

I had the privilege to preach the Sunday Evening service at my church this past weekend, as my Pastor was away. We took a very frank look at Judah’s spiritual condition. God’s verdict is that she is little more than a prostitute in His eyes, yet this sad chapter ends on a note of hope as God promises that, though He will chasten Judah for her sins, He will not forsake the covenant He made with her. Consider whether you are committing “spiritual adultery” in your own walk with the Lord, if you are a Christian.

Sermon notes – Ezekiel 16

Common Ground

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) recently released a document seeking to unite the Calvinist and non-Calvinist camps within their denomination. I am not a Southern Baptist, but as I came across the letter and read it, I appreciated what it had to say. I have included an excerpt below, which emphasis the common doctrine each camp shares with the other, while at the same time highlighting the tension in how each side understands the outworking of this doctrine.

I must make one thing very clear at the outset – the SBC does not endorse hyper-Calvinism.

angry

Did you hear that? The SBC does not endorse hyper-Calvinism!

Unfortunately, many people have no idea what hyper-Calvinism actually is. They assume five point Calvinists are “hyper-Calvinists.”  The oratory of many ill-informed preachers has added to this confusion. I shall endeavour to clear it up. A hyper-Calvinist is somebody who believes that, because God predestined everything, there is no need to evangelize or call sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. They have tumbled to an un-Biblical form of fatalism. I beg of you, don’t let the false characterization of “hyper-Calvinism” be used out of context any longer! Stop the madness. Calvinists are not against the Gospel; if you don’t believe me, read the writings of George Whitefield or Charles Spurgeon – they were staunch Calvinists.

Now, to the excerpt  . . .

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Although we are committed to these central truths, we recognize that within them there are tensions:

  1. God desires for all to come to repentance, yet not all do.
  2. Humans are ruined by the Fall, yet required to respond in faith.
  3. God is sovereign in salvation, yet individuals are still held responsible for their reception or rejection of the Gospel.
  4. Southern Baptist identity has often been connected to Calvinism, yet has often significantly modified it.

These are just a few of the dynamics at work in Southern Baptist faith and practice. While these tensions can be a source of frustration, especially when we are uncharitable toward those with whom we disagree, they have also been a great benefit to us, reminding us that God’s ways are higher than ours, that no systematic construct can ever contain the fullness of Scriptural truth, that it is we and not the Bible who are subject to error, that we should approach the Word with both fidelity to the past and readiness for further reformation, and that it is better to live in the tensions of unanswered questions than to ignore or adjust some part of the whole counsel of God.

With a full recognition of the limitless wisdom of God’s Word and the limited wisdom of ourselves, we urge Southern Baptists to grant one another liberty in those areas within The Baptist Faith and Message where differences in interpretation cause us to disagree. For instance:

  • We agree that God loves everyone and desires to save everyone, but we differ as to why only some are ultimately saved.
  • While we all heartily affirm the article on election in “The Baptist Faith and Message” (Article V), we differ as to whether the response of faith plays a role in one’s election.
  • We agree that the penal and substitutionary death of Christ was sufficient for the sins of the entire world, but we differ as to whether Jesus actually substituted for the sins of all people or only the elect.
  • We agree that the Gospel should be proclaimed to everyone, but we differ as to whether or how every hearer will be enabled to respond.
  • We agree that everyone has inherited Adam’s hopelessly fallen sin nature, but we differ as to whether we also inherit his guilt.
  • We agree that men and women are sinners, but we differ about the effects of sin on the mind and the will.
  • We recognize the differences among us between those who believe that sin nullifies freedom to respond to the Gospel and those who believe that freedom to respond to the Gospel is marred but not nullified.
  • We agree that God is absolutely sovereign in initiating salvation, uniting the believer to Himself, and preserving the believer to the end, but we differ as to how God expresses His sovereignty with respect to human freedom.
  • We agree that the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel enables sinners to be saved, but we differ as to whether this grace is resistible or irresistible.
  • We agree on the necessity of regeneration that results in God-ordained, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered obedience from the heart, but differ as to whether faith precedes regeneration or regeneration precedes faith.
  • We agree that most Southern Baptists believe that those who die before they are capable of moral action go to heaven through the grace of God and the atonement of Christ, even as they differ as to why this is so.

These differences should spur us to search the Scriptures more dutifully, to engage in lively interaction for mutual sharpening and collective Gospel effectiveness, and to give thanks that what we hold in common far surpasses that on which we disagree. But these particular differences do not constitute a sufficient basis for division and must not be allowed to hamper the truly crucial cooperative effort of taking the Gospel to a waiting world. Southern Baptists who stand on either side of these issues should celebrate the freedom to hold their views with passion while granting others the freedom to do the same.

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I must utter a hearty “Amen!” to this. There are differences in doctrine between Calvinists and non-Calvinists, but there is a great deal of common ground. These differences will indeed work themselves in practical ways, and do cause tension between men of different theological persuasions. However, it is very important when discussing this important issue to avoid pejorative name-calling and straw -men. I applaud the SBC for producing such a clear, succinct statement on the tension between the two camps on so many points. It crystallized important distinctions I have been working through for some time in my own life.

Jesus Feeds the 5000 – (Mark 6:30-44)

The account of Jesus feeding the 5000 is the only miracle account which appears in all four Gospels. Ironically, Christ fed far more than 5000 that afternoon. There are several truths for Christians in this account for everyday life;

  1. Jesus is a new type of Moses, leading His people to the wilderness, miraculously providing food, acting like a shepherd to a leaderless people. Is Christ your teacher, or is the world?
  2. God supplies our needs in the way He feels best. Are you content with what He has given you?
  3. God works through us to accomplish His will. Are we allowing ourselves to be used?

This sermon was preached on Sunday Morning, 09JUN13, for Teen Sunday School at my church.

Sermon NotesMark 6 (30-44)

Are We Serious About Our Christianity?

Linked below is a very thought-provoking article examining the viewpoints of former “Christians” who have left their churches. It is very likely some of the folks interviewed were never really Christian to begin with (1 Jn 2:19). However, what is quite clear is that shallow doctrine, syrupy platitudes and a fruitless quest to be “relevant” are hindering the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not helping it.

Following our 2010 debate in Billings, Montana, I asked Christopher Hitchens why he didn’t try to savage me on stage the way he had so many others. His reply was immediate and emphatic: “Because you believe it.” Without fail, our former church-attending students expressed similar feelings for those Christians who unashamedly embraced biblical teaching. Michael, a political science major at Dartmouth, told us that he is drawn to Christians like that, adding: “I really can’t consider a Christian a good, moral person if he isn’t trying to convert me.” As surprising as it may seem, this sentiment is not as unusual as you might think. It finds resonance in the well publicized comments of Penn Jillette, the atheist illusionist and comedian: “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…. How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Comments like these should cause every Christian to examine his conscience to see if he truly believes that Jesus is, as he claimed, “the way, the truth, and the life.”

This comment was very convicting, honestly. I believe it will speak to you as well. Read the article here.

Scripture as Historical Source Documents

I must draw everybody’s attention to the new work by Candida Moss, entitled The Myth of Christian Persecution. I will reserve judgment on her work because I have not read it; however, I encourage everybody to read a short article where she summarizes her views on the matter here.

There is a tendency with liberal Christians and non-believers to deny the authenticity, let alone historicity, of Scripture from the outset. No serious scholar, of any theological persuasion, would deny that the NT is the most widely attested document from the ancient world. We can be more certain about the text of the NT than any other document from antiquity. However, such critics a priori dismiss them as historical source documents out of hand because their worldview will not accept anything else.

“Sure, they’re old documents,” they say. “We can’t actually take them seriously, though. They’re religious, after all . . .”

The irony is that such critics are blind to their own hostile starting point of enmity against God (Rom 1:18), while at the same time they castigate Christians for making inspired, inerrant Scripture their own starting point!

There is a wide divide between liberals and non-believers on one hand, and conservative, Bible believing Christians on the other. There is a tendency to want to toss the Bible aside and dive into the early church fathers to rebut some of Moss’ claims from her article. Surely the church fathers have a good amount of information to offer us, but we must never give up the validity and historical accuracy of the Scriptures themselves. If we do, we’ve already lost the battle before it even began.

This graphic, from Answers in Genesis, captures the opposing worldviews at play in any apologetic encounter. The picture depicts evolution vs creationism, but you get the idea . . .

The ultimate irony here, however, is that Moss contests the most basic fact of Christianity – Christ died for our sins and suffered persecution because He dared to proclaim the His divinity and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mk 1:14-15). Christ promised the disciples that persecution would inevitably follow and prayed for their safety (Jn 17:14-15). The Gospel is inherently offensive to sinful men. How can it be otherwise? Moss’ contention that early persecution was a convenient myth is (1) an explicit contradiction of the testimony of Scripture and (2) an implicit admission of an exalted view of man, in that she would deny the Gospel is inherently offensive to sinful men who have no fear of God (Rom 3:9-18).

Showing Christ to Homosexuals

I discussed the issue of homosexuality in apologetics class at my church this evening. I am burdened to share that, far too often, I believe Christians do not demonstrate the love of Christ to homosexuals.

Homosexuality is one grievous sin among many which men commit. Running from the issue, or holding homosexuals at arm’s length is not the answer. Jesus Christ is the answer, for this or any other sin men struggle with. Too many Christians have such a visceral reaction to the sin that it impedes evangelism of a group of folks who sorely need the Gospel.

Nobody would advocate ministering to alcoholics by deriding them, barring the church doors to them or calling them “lushes” from the pulpit. Nor would many Christians think it were a good practice to minister to drug addicts by calling them “junkies.” Yet, some of us would not hesitate to shout the word “sodomite” from the pulpit, almost relishing the chance to condemn this particular sin. It does need to be condemned, in no uncertain terms, but if we’re being deliberately spiteful while we’re doing it we achieve precisely nothing.

I have written a Biblical theology on the issue of homosexuality in the New Testament elsewhere on this blog, for those who are seeking an in-depth study. I also embedded two videos explaining the same within the blog itself. However, here I want to present the moving testimony of Rosaria Butterfield, a committed lesbian intellectual who came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the kind, loving ministry of a local church. This is the kind of love we must show to homosexuals, or any person struggling with any sin. Do not condone the sin, and do call the person to repentance and faith in Christ – but don’t be deliberately spiteful and hateful while doing so.

This testimony is 60 mins long. In this age of sound bites and limited attention spans, I may be criticized for expecting you to watch something so long. Believe me, it is worth it. I hope it convicts us all.

How Did Books Get Into the Bible?

Ever wonder why some Christian writings are in the Bible and others aren’t? Have you ever heard about “lost” Gospels that never made it into the canon? Why didn’t they?

We’ll take a look at this in the video, and respond to Dr. Bart Ehrman’s implication that writings the church considered “heretical” might deserve a place in the Bible. Even if you don’t care about Dr. Ehrman’s charge and just want to know the criteria for canonicity, this is a helpful video. Enjoy!