Archive for June, 2010

Clearing Up Misconceptions About Salvation II

June 25, 2010

Title: Clearing Up Misconceptions About Salvation II

Text: Romans 1:14-17, 2:7-10, 3:21-22, 28; James 2:14, 17-18, 20-22, 24

Time: June 22nd, 2010

Last time I talked about the two big misconceptions concerning the gospel of salvation our generation has: first, that we can perform enough good deeds to inherit eternal life; and second, that we can make some pious profession of faith or carry out some public act of faith indicating our salvation. Both of these notions are false. The New Testament is very clear that we can’t save ourselves through good deeds, no matter how excellent. The Bible is also clear that we can’t be saved by simply saying something or doing something pious. Simply responding to an alter call, signing a decision card, raising one’s hand at the evangelist’s invitation, even praying the Sinners Prayer can’t save us. Salvation is a work of God in the heart; true conversion occurs distinct from any act or saying on our part because it’s an invisible transformation that changes us from self-centered into God-centered. We spend the rest of our life working out the implications of that spiritual change, but it begins at the moment of true conversion. Now these misconceptions have been thoroughly discussed and analyzed over the last 500 years since the Protestant Reformation, so much so that you’d think nobody could possibly get the matter of salvation wrong ever again – since so much print and words have been spent over this important subject. Yet today, hundreds of years after the Reformers and after the launching of thousands of Reformation churches within Protestantism all over the world, people are still very confused about the whole matter of salvation. The simple question, “What must I do to be saved,” asked in the New Testament (Acts 16:30) is still asked today by millions of people who are confused over this controversial topic. It doesn’t have to be if we simply turn to the Bible and simply read and understand what it says about the matter. I remember listening to a Roman Catholic writer attempt to explain why his church doesn’t embrace the obvious teaching of the Apostle Paul found in the Book of Romans concerning salvation by faith alone. His defense was that Roman Catholicism accepts and believes in the whole Bible, not just parts. While admitting that Paul seems to teach salvation by faith, he points out that other places in the Bible teach a slightly different thing concerning salvation, namely, for example, the Book of James – which he claims teaches salvation by faith and works, not faith alone. So his argument was that the Roman Catholic church teaches what the whole Bible teaches about salvation, which is more of mixture of faith and works, rather than merely faith alone for salvation. What are we to make of this kind of argument? It’s a popular understanding of the Bible – that it teaches salvation by faith and works; many people embrace just such a teaching. But is it true? Does the Bible actually teach that salvation is by faith and works, a combination of the two, and not just by faith? Probably most people are under the impression that this is what Christianity teaches about salvation. That’s why there is so much confusion today about the gospel. Well, which is it? Is God offering salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, or is he offering salvation through a combination of our good works and faith? In order to answer this question we need to turn to the Bible and let it speak for itself, because after all, it is the Word of God. It will tell us what we need to know about this and every other topic. Let’s look at three things. (more…)

Clearing Up Misconceptions About Salvation

June 24, 2010

Title: Clearing Up Misconceptions About Salvation

Text: Romans 3:19, 21-24, 28; 10:9-11

Time: June 21st, 2010

It’s hard to believe but from time to time the gospel, the message of salvation, the means by which we are saved – gets lost among Christians, in churches, in the midst of Christianity. Yes, as hard as it is to believe the gospel of salvation gets lost once in a while, sometimes for short periods of time, sometimes for longer time periods. In fact, I bet some of the people hearing this message right now have lost the true biblical gospel, or some haven’t ever truly heard or believed the biblical gospel because it is lost to them. But how can this be? How could Christianity, how could the church, how could Christians ever really lose the gospel? The answer is that it’s pretty easy to lose the gospel message of salvation by failing to pay careful and close attention to the biblical description of the gospel. The gospel is described or explained most clearly in the New Testament Book of Romans, ironically, not in the books of the New Testament called the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Now the true, biblical gospel is found in these books that go by the name “gospel” but the salvation message of the gospel is most fully explained and clarified in the Book of Romans. For example, in a most famous passage the gospel is summarized – “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe,” Romans 3:19, 21-22. The Apostle Paul is the primary and principle teacher of the gospel of salvation in the Bible, although Peter also teaches it clearly in his writings. The Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John teach it, but leave the Apostle Paul to explaining it fully. It’s hard to imagine that something as important as the gospel message of salvation by faith could be lost, since it’s most definitely the most important topic and teaching of the whole Bible. It’s the primary point of God’s revelation to mankind through the Bible. How could something as important as this be lost? The best answer to that question is that it simply gets buried underneath a lot of other good and important teachings. Consider that fact that the Bible is a big book and teaches a lot of things. There are many things that God has communicated to us through revelation in the Bible – and all of these things are important for us to know. But, unfortunately, it’s easy for the church and Christianity to lose perspective or lose priorities in all its teachings. So then, the most important thing – that is, the gospel message of salvation – tends to get lost from time to time, and needs to be re-found or rediscovered. But someone may say, “Yes, the gospel was lost, but the Reformation found it. Men like Luther and Calvin rediscovered it and reestablished it in the church after it had been lost. So today, it’s no longer lost.” Yes, that’s true, but only a half-truth. The gospel is still lost in much of the Christian church today; it still needs to be rediscovered by many if not most people who call themselves Christians. I’ll explain a few misconceptions concerning the gospel and hopefully keep any of us from ever “losing” the gospel, or, if any of us have never really heard or believed the true gospel, we’ll learn it correctly for the first time. Let’s first examine two popular misconceptions of the gospel, and then close with an explanation of the real gospel as presented in the Bible. (more…)

Beware of Some Seeker-Sensitive Churches II

June 15, 2010

Title: Beware of Some Seeker-Sensitive Churches II

Text: 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Acts 20:27

Time: June 5th, 2010

2 Timothy 4:1-5, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom; I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” I open with this passage today because it directly pertains to the topic we’ve been dealing with over the last few weeks – beware of false influences within the church. I first talked about the dangers of the liberal church; those who don’t believe the historic Christian faith, nor practice the biblical Christian lifestyle, yet continue to use the signs and symbols of Christianity. I then talked about the dangers of the new emerging liberal church; those who so closely identify with the post-modern, relativistic culture of today that they change the faith in order to fit in with the world, rather than challenge the world to conform to the biblical faith. Today, I’d like to continue on with the theme I talked about last time – the dangers of some seeker-sensitive churches. Now not all seeker-sensitive evangelical churches, probably not even most of them, are dangerous spiritually; but some are dangerous because they compromise the doctrine and practices of historic, biblical Christianity. They do so subtly, almost imperceptibly. It’s not so much what they teach but what they don’t teach. They conveniently omit many of the more difficult or hard topics within the Christian faith. They rarely talk about sin, wrath, judgment, eternal punishment – or even repentance. Even though these topics are found throughout the Bible, they, along with other difficult topics, are simply neglected – or if they are spoken of they are given a positive or affirming twist that changes the whole meaning the Bible gives them. This is dangerous. I remember reading an article in the local newspaper signed by some local evangelical pastors who wanted to go on record as stating that they don’t believe God ever sends anyone to hell. I couldn’t believe it! These weren’t liberals,; they were evangelical pastors. Yet, in reacting against a more extreme fundamentalist group who decided to start street preaching in front of a Spiritualist meeting hall with warnings such as, “Repent, God sends all unbelievers to hell,” these evangelical pastors over-reacted by denying basic Christian theology, and doing so publicly in the paper. In an effort to distance themselves from a hard-line Christian group, these evangelicals actually denied the Bible’s teaching concerning eternal separation from God. This is the danger of being too “seeker-sensitive.” But let me unpack more of the passage I quoted above in an effort to explain the danger of an overly seeker-sensitive approach to church ministry. (more…)

Beware of Some Seeker-Sensitive Churches

June 14, 2010

Title: Beware of Some Seeker-Sensitive Churches

Text: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, 2 Timothy 4:3-5, Acts 20:27

Time: June 3rd, 2010

I’ve talked about the need we have as Christians to beware of the liberal church and the new emerging liberal church, but I also need to call our attention to another danger within Christianity that affects some churches – an excessive “seeker-sensitivity” among some evangelicals. In explaining this danger I want to be careful so as not to label all churches that are classified “seeker-sensitive” or many that think of themselves as “seeker-sensitive” as spiritually dangerous. The term “seeker-sensitive” came into its current usage back in the 70s among evangelical churches seeking to reach the contemporary culture with the gospel within the context of the Sunday morning service. Pastors such as Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois and Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, California were among the first to experiment with different “seeker-sensitive” approaches to doing church. The essential idea behind seeker-sensitivity is to make the gospel and basic Christianity relevant to the contemporary generation through carefully explaining the Bible using modern vocabulary and symbols. Because of the changing American culture over the last 50 or so years, it was observed that contemporary culture had become itself a type of modern mission field, and therefore it needed to be approached in a missionary way. What does a missionary do? He learns the language and culture in which he is attempting to minister, then he translates the words and concepts of Christianity into his mission culture so the people can experience it in their own way rather than having to learn a foreign culture in order to appreciate Christianity. The mistake of past missions approach was to bring the gospel plus the European culture to the mission field. Conversion was just as often to Western culture as it was to Christianity. This confuses the mission of the church. So in order to reach the modern, secular culture, seeker-sensitive pastors try to translate the gospel into terms contemporary America can understand and accept. That is the basic experiment. It’s safe to say that most evangelical churches have been influenced by this approach over the last twenty to thirty years, but has also been noticed is that some churches, some denominations and some church leaders have taken the basic missionary approach of contextualizing the gospel too far. Instead of just translating Bible teachings into contemporary language, some have actually adapted the basic concepts of Christianity into culturally accepted forms. In other words, some have taken the basic missionary approach beyond translation into adaptation to the culture. Instead of merely communicating Bible truths into contemporary language they’ve changed the Bible’s teachings and practices into forms that the culture can more easily accept and follow. In other words, they’ve compromised Christian doctrine and practice, more or less in different ways. I’m not saying that many or most seeker-sensitive churches have compromised faith and practice to the modern culture, but some have – it is these churches we must beware. It’s tempting to change the gospel or change Bible teaching to fit the thought patterns of contemporary culture – after all, people welcome a message that already sounds similar to what they think and feel; they also welcome practices that match what they already practice, so it’s easy to see how it’s possible to over-extend the seeker-sensitive missionary principle. But we must resist the temptation to pander or cater to the culture. We must remain faithful to the message of the Bible even when it makes us unpopular or brings opposition from our culture. Yes, we must try to be “sensitive” to our culture, but we must never compromise any doctrine or Christian practice in the process. We need to beware of the subtle tendency to extend the seeker-sensitive principle beyond its limits. Here are three important things to remember. (more…)

Men and Women: Their Shared Calling

June 7, 2010

Title: Men and Women: Their Shared Calling

Text: Genesis 1:27-28

Time: May 27th, 2010

We’re back to the early chapters of the Book of Genesis, exploring further the role and calling of men and women in God’s plan of Creation. I talked a little about the primary calling of man, which is to discover and carry out the specific vocation, career or calling that God assigns him. In Adam’s case it was to work and care for the garden in which God had placed him according to Genesis 2:15. I then spoke about the primary calling of woman, which is to aid and assist her husband in his primary calling from God according to Genesis 2:18, 20-22. But in addition to their own specific callings we also observe that there is a shared called they both receive from God, which comes in three parts according to Genesis 1:27-28, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created him. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” So in addition to their gender-specific callings, we find three other generalized callings shared by both men and women: first, they are to have and raise children together; second, they are to subdue the earth together; third, they are to rule the earth together. This three-part command of God to Adam and Eve – and by implication, to all men and women that follow – is called the creation mandate. It isn’t that men and women, Homo sapiens, happened to have evolved into superior creatures on earth through natural blind chance. No. God created men and women in his very own image in order to multiply, take control, and maintain control of the earth in his name. It’s interesting to consider that God placed Adam and Eve in a garden, the Garden of Eden, which already had vegetation “pleasing to the eye and good for food,” according to Genesis 2:8-9. In other words, God had already developed the garden – this little oasis or island of culture and cultivation in the midst of a vast uncultivated land — as a model and example for Adam and Eve. He then commissioned them to essentially maintain and then spread this beautiful patch of property far beyond the initial garden spot. Obviously, the assignment to multiply, cultivate and maintain the whole earth was too big a job for two humans, but future generations could and would be expected to contribute to the development of the earth and carry out the complete assignment. So in this way, we too are a continuation of the three-part calling of Adam and Eve to multiply, cultivate and maintain the world. We will be judged on how well we do it. But let’s explore further what these three assignments really mean. (more…)

Beware of the Emerging New Liberal Church

June 2, 2010

Title: Beware of the Emerging New Liberal Church

Text: Acts 20:28-31, 1 Corinthians 5:1-12

Time: May 22nd, 2010

Acts 20:28-31, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseer. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”  The Apostle Paul warns the early Christian church to beware of “savage wolves” that will tear the church apart after he leaves. He’s talking about corrupt church leaders who from within the church will threaten to ruin it through heresy (false teachings) and apostasy (false practices). The last few messages I’ve talked about the dangers of liberal pastors, liberal churches and liberal denominations – I could also mention liberal church colleges and seminaries, publishing houses, media outlets and high-profile personalities. All of these doubt or deny the essential Christian doctrines and practices that have characterized Christianity for more than two thousand years. All of these hold to a weakened view of the Bible. While liberal institutions and churches, pastors and denominational leaders all differ in their unorthodox beliefs and practices, one thing is common in all of them – they fail to hold to the basic, historic Christian faith and practice as taught in the Bible. So it’s not surprising to hear daily news reports of some church or denomination or leader creating controversy by ordaining a practicing homosexual to church leadership in one instance, or advocating gay marriage in another instance. It’s common to see a liberal spokesman on a television documentary explaining how the Bible is not the Word of God but merely the words of primitive men. Or how evolution disproves the creation account found in the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible. In other words, liberal Christianity is characterized by always taking the modern, secular view against the historic, Christian biblical view. This form of liberalism has been around for decades, but what is emerging today as a new form of liberalism in what is called the emergent or emerging church within evangelicalism. Evangelicalism is a movement that grew out of the old Fundamentalist movement that held strongly to the biblical faith and practice. Evangelicalism is an attempt to hold strongly to the Bible but also engage the culture. But what is happening today is that some of the sons and daughters of Fundamentalists and older Evangelicals are now becoming post-modern liberals. Older liberals surrendered biblical truth to the modern high culture in the 20th century, but now many younger former evangelicals are surrendering biblical truth to the new post-modern pop culture. But the end result is much the same. Let me try to explain. (more…)