Category Archives: doctrine

Amazing Grace

What God made from the dust He has returned to dust. Millions of people — I pray you were one — followed the end-of-life journey of Joey Martin Feek. For any who are walking that difficult road I want to offer you my heartfelt prayer that our blessed Lord will be a comforting source of peace and strength to you and your family.

Though we continue to mourn the loss of a beautiful spirit I am compelled, once again, to challenge the heretical teaching of those who preach the false gospel that is Word of Faith. You see and hear them all day on Christian television and radio — Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Fred Price, Kenneth Hagin, Creflo Dollar and many others.

Rod Parsley, for example, said:

Don’t you pray ‘If it’s Thy will.’ Perfect faith cannot exist where the will of God is not known. Did you hear me? I said healing is not a promise, it’s an established fact. First Peter 2:24 records that sickness was defeated as a result of the stripes Jesus bore on His back. When the Roman cat-of-nine-tails whistled through the air and stripped His back until His flesh hanged round His legs like ribbons, every lash laid on Him purchased healing for our sick bodies. Because Jesus bore those stripes you don’t have to be sick anymore.[1]

Messiah Gate has recently published articles on 1 Peter 2:24 so we won’t revisit that except to say that the Word of Faith interpretation of Peter is wrong.

In a recent article I posted the following:

There was an incident where the faith healer told a disabled man to get out of his wheelchair and walk. Well, the man got up and fell … repeatedly. The pastor screamed at the man for his lack of faith. He commanded him over and over to get up and walk — only to fall again and again. The stunned assembly watched in gasping disbelief at the abuse inflicted upon this helpless person. The pastor (Andrew Womack) had the nerve to share this story on TCT, and with no remorse for it was the man’s fault that he was not healed.

Perry Stone recalled a service where he and others were performing a laying on of the hands:

There are some people who when you touch them you can feel the anointing. When you lay your hands upon them there is a surge of power (as when the woman reached out to touch Jesus). Others, it’s like laying your hands upon a rock — there’s nothing. [2]

Womack and Stone both explained that they had confidence in their ability to transfer the healing power of the Holy Spirit, but the afflicted person had to possess the power of faith to receive it. As hard as it was to watch the crippled man fall, a mystified Womack insisted that it was the lame man’s fault that he was not healed.

The assertion of faith healers is that you are not healed either because of a lack of faith, or unconfessed sin. This is what caused me to fall away in my early Christian walk because I listened to (and believed) these false teachers. I mean, let’s call them out — Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Joseph Prince, Robert Schuller, Oral Roberts, Jesse Duplantis, Clarence McClendon and most of what you see on TBN, TCT and The Church Channel. Did I mention Daystar?

It’s a gospel call to health and prosperity. Just name it and claim it is the pulpit mantra. T.D. Jakes, citing the example of blind Bartimaeus, said:

It was not what was in Christ’s mouth that got him healed. The power was in Bartimaeus’ mouth. He would have whatever he said. And Jesus was saying ‘My hands are tied because I can’t do any more for you than what you say.’

If the power of life and death is in the tongue and you can have whatever you say and if you’ve been praying and praying and praying and you finally got God’s attention and now He’s looking at you and saying ‘What do you want?’ … What do you want? Name it, baby, name it … Declare it! Speak it! Confess it! Get your list out! [3]

To a degree, yes, we must have faith, but even that is a gift from God. When Jesus returned to Nazareth it is recorded that He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58). How might we judge the crippled man whom Andrew Womack could not heal? That a man bound to a wheelchair made the effort to attend a faith healing service would seem to suggest that he at least possessed a mustard seed of faith. Why, then, wasn’t he healed?

Perry Stone suggests that without the anointing of God you cannot receive healing. So, if I’m anointed by God I will be healed? Maybe the Jewish scriptures can help us to understand. When Elisha was preparing to succeed Elijah he asked the prophet to bless him. We read from the Masoretic text as translated by the Jewish Publication Society (1917):

And it came to pass, when they were gone over (the river Jordan), that Elijah said unto Elisha: ‘Ask what I shall do for thee, before I am taken from thee.’ And Elisha said: ‘I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.’2 Kings 2:9

Was this double-dose anointing enough to preserve Elisha’s life? Safeguard him from affliction? Well, no. Only a few chapters later Elisha is confined to his sick-bed:

Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he was to die; and Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over him (2 Kings 13:14).

There was no miracle healing for Elisha, but there was a miracle after he was buried.

And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a (marauding) band; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet (2 Kings 13:21).

That was quite an anointing Elisha received. He died — yet a dead man lived. As Christ died (and was resurrected) so shall we live also. The mystery of the Gospel, hidden in the Jewish scriptures, is yet again revealed. And by this interpretation we correctly understand what Peter was saying — that by the wounds of Christ we were healed of our sin condition. Sin is a fatal disease, but the healing is in the blood of Jesus.

The Word of Faith movement grew out of the Pentecostal movement in the late 20th century. Its founder was E. W. Kenyon, who studied the metaphysical New Thought teachings of Phineas Quimby. Mind science (where “name it and claim it” originated) was combined with Pentecostalism, resulting in a peculiar mix of orthodox Christianity and mysticism.

At the heart of the Word of Faith movement is the belief in the “force of faith.” It is believed words can be used to manipulate the faith-force, and thus actually create what they believe Scripture promises (health and wealth). [Ed: God is subject to these laws according to WOF.]

From here, its theology just strays further and further from Scripture: it claims that God created human beings in His literal, physical image as little gods. [4]

Creflo Dollar (sounding so much like the Serpent to Eve):

I’m gonna say to you right now that you are gods, little ‘g.’ You are gods because you came from God and you are gods. My whole attitude now should be I have equality with God. Now somebody says, ‘Well it’s hard to think that way.’ Well, keep saying it … Talk yourself into it. [5]

So, we can talk ourself into health and wealth — visualize it and possess it? Where is that taught in Scripture? It’s not. It is New Age mysticism and idolatry.

If Jesus had commanded a crippled man to rise from his wheelchair what do you think the result would have been? Or consider this — does a dead man have faith? I’m speaking of Lazarus. By whose faith was he raised, but by the power of Almighty God.

In her final days Joey Martin Feek said:

I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed I’d discover I was healed. But I realized I was healed in a different way. I was healed in my relationship with Christ, because it just drew me closer.

And what of the over two million people who said a prayer for her? Were they all lacking in faith? Even Paul who discovered that (in his affliction) the grace of God was sufficient enough.

Amazing grace, indeed.

Notes:

1. Christianity Still in Crisis?, Bob Hunter, Christian Research Journal, volume 30, number 3 (2007).

2. Manna-Fest, Perry Stone, published on Mar 4, 2016.

3. Source, see #1.

4. Is the Word of Faith Movement Biblical?, Got Questions.org.

5. Source, see #1.

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Word of False Teaching

false-teachers

Friends, I wanted to humbly revisit 1 Peter 2:24 to affirm the proper scriptural understanding of this contentiously debated verse with regards to physical healing.

A short time ago, awakened from a deep sleep, the Spirit led me to a Word of Faith blog that essentially teaches the precept of name-it-and-claim-it healing. The blog author cited Peter’s words as the proof-text of faith healing. Regular followers of this blog know that I have recently posted a number of articles on this subject, and so I felt compelled to leave a comment that the author’s interpretation of Peter was incorrect.

[You can read my comments here.]

The short version is that I was effectively banned from the website until I reviewed hours of videos and articles promoting Word of Faith healing. The author admonished me that I was under a veil of deception, that God sent me to her blog and she would pray for me.

Well, I thought the Holy Spirit sent me to correct her so there we stood at an impasse. I took ill after this exchange, and was sorely afflicted by a chronic condition that has not been healed by years of prayer. Thoughts tormented my sleep — maybe I am deceived … maybe I am lacking in faith or wisdom … maybe God inflamed my affliction to show the error of my thinking.

After many days of fasting, prayer and study I am even more confident of my interpretation, and that my affliction is a message — not from God, but Satan. (See Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:7.)

Incidentally, I want to thank the brothers and sisters who sent me words of encouragement.

I studied over 20 commentaries — some dating back to the Reformation — which concur with my understanding of Kephas. We have to put on the whole armor of God including the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, to faithfully abide in Him.

[This is the part of my sermon where I serve the daily dose of castor oil. You can’t be fully equipped to defend your faith if you spend a third of your day in front of the television or tethered to a cell phone. As you feed your body, you need to feed your spirit.]

I could post two thousand words of orthodox commentary on Peter, but one of my afflictions is dimming eyes so I will leave you with a summary by Dr. Thomas Constable whose interpretation is consistent with historic Christian teaching.

Jesus’ sufferings reached their climax on the cross. Peter taught that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and laid down His life as payment for those sins. He viewed Jesus’ cross as an altar on which a sacrifice was placed.

We could translate the second part of this verse as follows: “… that, having broken with our sins, we might live for righteousness.” Jesus Christ’s death separated our sins from us. Consequently we can now live unto righteousness rather than unto sin (cf. Romans 6:1-11).

“The idea is that, Christ having died for sins, and to sin, as our proxy or substitute, our consequent standing before God is that of those who have no more connection with our old sins, or with the life of sinning.” [Note: Alan M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter, p. 121.]

Some writers have cited the third part of this verse to support the non-biblical doctrine that Jesus by His death made healing from any physical ailment something that every Christian can claim in this life. This is the belief that there is “healing in the atonement.” The context of Isaiah 53, as well as the past tense “were healed” here, implies spiritual healing from the fatal effects of sin rather than healing from present physical afflictions. Peter used healing as a metaphor for spiritual conversion, as Isaiah did (cf. Mark 2:17; Luke 4:23). 

A false teaching has become entrenched doctrine in the Word of Faith movement that by Jesus’ wounds we have been healed of physical infirmities while by His blood we have been cleansed of our sins. No, my friends. Our precious Lord did not die an agonizing death on the cross to heal your body, but to save your soul.

To facilitate a greater understanding of Scripture it is useful to become learned of Jewish idioms, metaphors and hyperboles — and not rely on your own understanding, or the teachings of a charismatic leader.

Notes:

Dr. Thomas Constable
Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Unedited Text: StudyLight.org

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Healing — Rightly Dividing the Word

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We can’t make the Bible say what we desire it to say. We can’t interpret it according to our feelings, or make it conform to worldly standards. And we most definitely cannot build a church based on the dogma and creed of any denomination or tradition of men. With that in mind we shall examine more closely two verses in the B’rit Chadasha (New Testament) that seem to be saying the same thing. But are they?

The preacher on TCT invites the viewer to touch their television screen as he reads this verse from 1 Peter 2:24 …

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Have you ever reached out to touch the screen believing that you’ll be healed? I am reminded of the story in Numbers 21:8 when YHWH commands Moshe to fashion a bronze serpent, attach it to a pole, and when anyone is bitten by a snake if they look upon the bronze image they will live.

Of course, it is not the serpent on a pole that heals, but the power of God through faith. It came to pass the children of God, believing there was power in the healing pole, began to idolize the bronze serpent. Over the next 430 years — until the reign of Hezekiah — they burnt incense and bowed in worship to what Moshe had created. Their behavior was so blasphemous that the king took the pole and broke it in pieces (2 Kings 18:4).

If you believe that touching your television screen will heal you then may I suggest that you follow the example of King Hezekiah.

This is what happens when tradition — based on our feelings — becomes the foundation of church doctrine. If left unchecked we risk the danger of falling into heresy and condemnation. I mentioned last time that I was banned from a Christian blog because I disagreed with the author’s interpretation of 1 Peter 2:24. They hold to the feel-good proposition that the apostle was speaking of physical healing while I argued that he was referring to spiritual healing. Biblical scholars uniformly agree with the latter interpretation (spiritual) while the modern evangelical church espouses the former (physical).

A similar verse — one that is more specific to physical healing — can be found in Matthew 8:17 …

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.”

Isn’t that what Peter said? Well, no. In context, Peter is speaking of our sin condition — that Jesus bore our sins so that we would die to sin. Throughout the Bible sin is classified as a disease for which there is only one cure … the blood of Jesus Christ.

Now, the apostles (Peter and Matthew) are both quoting Isaiah.

However …

Peter is citing Isaiah 53:5 …

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

Bible commentators agree with the Rabbin that this is, in fact, a reference to spiritual healing.

Albert Barnes:

We are healed – literally, it is healed to us; or healing has happened to us. The healing here referred to is spiritual healing, or healing from sin. Pardon of sin, and restoration to the favor of God, are not unfrequently represented as an act of healing. [1]

John Gill:

Sin is a disease belonging to all men, a natural, hereditary, nauseous, and incurable one, but by the blood of Christ; forgiving sin is a healing of this disease; and this is to be had, and in no other way, than through the stripes and wounds, the blood and sacrifice, of the Son of God. [2]

The LORD did not lay our infirmity upon the scourged Christ, but our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6).

Matthew, in quoting the prophet, is making reference to physical healing. Both Hebrew and Greek scholars agree on this point, and it has so been taught by the Rabbin:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).

Griefs (חלי, chăliy) does not refer to sins, but means literally sickness and disease. So, faith healers would be better served to quote from Mattityahu (מתיו) rather than Kephas (פיטר). Why don’t they? Because Matthew is quite clear that this prophesy of Yesha’yahu (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) was fulfilled by Yeshua HaMashiach.

We don’t know how many people Jesus healed — only that it was multitudes. But the early church recognized that the Christ in their midst was the present fulfillment of the law and prophets. Messiah conferred the power of healing upon His apostles who performed these acts of miracles — even raising the dead — until the last of the twelve (John) passed from life to death.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee:

He says here, He’s suffering now the sins of the world who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Now, He’s no example to us here. You and I can’t suffer for our own sins let alone the sins of the world, but now he’s talking about redemption. You say, “How do you know?” Well, let’s keep reading here, in His own body on the tree that we being dead to sins  — that was our condition — should live unto righteousness by whose stripes we are healed. Now, healed of what? And I notice faith healers never use this verse, and rightly so because whose stripes you’re healed it’s evident who he’s talking about. He says we were dead in sins. We were absolutely dead and we should live now unto righteousness by whose stripes we’re healed. Healed of what? Of sin, friends. He’s the great healer. I’ll agree with that, but the great healer heals of sin and no human position can handle that problem. [3]

In McGee’s day faith healers did not allude to this verse. It has since been wrongly divided by charismatic evangelicals.

Let me be clear — God still heals by divine will and authority. But when you touch your television screen (by faith), and are not healed, be alert to the Evil One who might steal your hope.

Take your eyes off the bronze serpent and focus on the Christ.

Credits:

1. Notes on the Old Testament, Albert Barnes, (London, Blackie & Son, 1884).

2. An Exposition of the Old Testament, John Gill, (6 vols., 1748-63).

3. Commentary on 1 Peter, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible (Five-Year Study).

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Offensive for Christ

Being-Salt-and-Light-PPT-image

What does it mean to be salt and light?

… for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:6-13).

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person  (Colossians 4:6).

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

We understand that salt is used as a preservative, or flavoring. The lesson is that we are to preserve the Word of God in our hearts, and share it with an unbelieving world. To season our speech with salt is to make the Gospel message more palatable. Bible commentators suggest that we can present an offensive message without being offensive, but how is that possible? When salt is poured into an open wound it stings:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing … For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness … (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Certainly, we don’t want to be offensive nor alienate our worldly friends and family. So we live our lives almost embarrassed, or ashamed of the Gospel. And who wants to be outcast as strange and foolish? Who among us will stand up and be offensive for Christ?

Red Letter Christians are probably offended at the suggestion. Jesus, they will say, was all about love and forgiveness. Oh, so Jesus Christ never offended anyone?

When His disciples had been upbraided by the Pharisees for not washing their hands before eating, Jesus confronted the lawyers for elevating their religious traditions above the commandments of God. He said to the assembled crowd that what defiles a man is not unclean hands but an unclean heart.

Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” (Matthew 15:12)

If the Pharisees were offended how much more the merchants whose tables were overturned by an irate Christ. The Son of God offended the world system — religious and civil. Can we do no less?

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:24).

This is not the Jesus worshipped by flower-power hippies who have hanging in their VW van a poster of Jesus smoking pot nor liberals who co-opt Christ to promote a social gospel that is lean on theology but heavy on environmentalism, abortion rights, gay marriage, drug decriminalization and feminist radicalism.

I have long-wondered why our nation is so morally bankrupt. If 80% of the populace identify themselves as Christian then how has the nation become so degraded? How do we elect leaders that swear an oath upon the Bible, but don’t believe what it says?

Liberalism.

Government and education long ago were compromised, and now the covenant body of Christ is being sub-divided by false teachers who, like Thomas Jefferson, excise all but the red letters of Holy Scripture.

Red Letter Christians (RLC) are essentially anti-Marcion. Whereas Marcion, branded a heretic, rejected the canon of Scripture (with the exception of the Gospel of Luke and Paul’s letters) the RLC adopts a theology that cedes authority only to the words of Christ.

For some time I have researched “Christian” websites that are anti-Pauline in doctrine. At the core of these ministries is an agenda that promotes freedom of choice and gay marriage. Their theology is based on Matthew 22:36-40 (love is the greatest commandment); and Matthew 25:31-46 (the parable of the sheep and goats as suggestive of a works-based salvation — feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the sick.) The faith-based teachings found in the Pauline epistles are only subordinate text. It is evident that Paul is rejected solely on the basis that his teachings are at odds with contemporary society. So we have the right to make the Bible conform to our inclinations?

John Gerstner (Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary) classified the liberal gospel as a gospel of self-esteem. Doing good works makes us feel good, and it softens the ugly truth that there is no good dwelling in us. Like the observant Muslim who thinks he has to do good works to please God, but on the Day of Judgement Christ will say, Depart from me; I never knew you (Matthew 7:23).

Tony Campolo, activist leader of RLC, wrote:

The primary focus of we Red Letter Christians is on what Jesus had to say about the poor. We realize that the only description that He gave of Judgment Day (Matthew 25) was through a parable in which people were evaluated as to whether or not they fed those who were hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned. Because Evangelicals have been steeped in the theology of the Pauline Epistles before they scrutinize the teachings of Jesus in the red letters of the Bible, they have read Jesus through the eyes of Paul.

While he doesn’t deny that evangelicals are very generous towards the poor it does make you wonder what is his real agenda. Campolo insists that RLC is a non-partisan effort to wrestle Christianity from conservative evangelicals who, he says, have hijacked the faith in alliance with Republican politicos who are anti-gay and anti-feminist.

His Christian agenda sounds like the reading of the Democrat platform at the party’s presidential convention. The Gospel is somewhere hidden in a mishmash of environmental activism and wage inequality. When asked his party affiliation, Campolo will typically answer, “That is not the issue.”

So he rails about conservative Christians, but refuses to identify himself as a liberal Christian. Like Hillary Clinton, he is more comfortable with the term progressive as if that can hide a leopard’s spots. Curious how liberals define (or, in the case of marriage, redefine) certain absolutes. Abortion, for example, is not infanticide but free choice.

What liberals have to do is re-interpret Scripture that both Jews and Christians have understood for thousands of years. Progressives (oh, they are so enlightened) will say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their inhospitality; Leviticus 18:22 suggests that it is unclean for a man to lie in a woman’s bed, and not prohibitive of gay sex; and Paul’s indictment of homosexuality was only a judgement against prostitution.

In any case, they will say, it doesn’t matter what Paul wrote because he doesn’t speak with the authority of Christ.

There is a deception in the church that is blinding the eyes and clouding the minds of those who have not a discerning spirit. The disparagement of Paul within the church is troublesome. Is it Satanic? To diminish Paul’s credentials would be to undermine two-thirds of Christian canon.

We have to be able to answer this question: By what authority did Paul speak?

Peter wrote:

… and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Of course, there are some within the church who doubt the authorship of 2 Peter so this passage would be inadmissible. Very well, then, may I present the testimony of Luke — acceptable even to Marcion:

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight. But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake (Acts 9:10-16).

Paul was anointed by the Lord Jesus Christ as Paul, himself, testified to the assembly at Galatia:

Paulus an Apostle, not by the children of men, neither by a son of man, but by Yeshua The Messiah and God his Father, he who raised him from among the dead …(Galatians 1:1). — Aramaic Bible

With what, then,  are we left? Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master …

… and …

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

There is light, though, within the RLC. An article, posted on their website, disagreed with Campolo’s interpretation of marriage. The silence of Scripture — that is, Jesus did not specifically condemn homosexuality — is not an affirmation of an act that is clearly condemned in both Jewish and Christian canon. The article honestly cited the Bible’s clarity on marriage, and that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is the Biblical norm.

We’ve only peeled a few layers off this theological onion. Liberals within the church dispute essential Christian doctrine regarding the deity of Christ, resurrection, faith and salvation. They teach that confession and repentance are unnecessary in this age of grace. Feed the poor and you’ll be okay. Everything else is religion. Jesus, they will say, had no problem with sinners, but with religious people.

How should we respond? Meekness does not mean that we dim our light or lose our savor. In this ongoing spiritual battle we must courageously decide to be offensive for Christ — in the world and from the pew. Let your light be a blinding light, and your words like a two-edged sword.

Remember: Christian love is corrective — not permissive.

Reference:

The Liberal View of Justification, article by John Gerstner.

Red Letter Christianity: A New Name for Progressive Evangelicals, article by Tony Campolo.

When Red Is Blue: Why I am not a Red-Letter Christian, article by Stan Guthrie.

The Problem with Being a Red Letter Christian, article by Ian Paul.

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I am Elijah

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Are you Elijah? The underlying theme of Scripture is that God will keep for Himself an elect remnant. Elijah, when he feared that all had forsaken the LORD, fled to the shelter of a cave to escape the enemies who sought to kill him.

Jehovah told Elijah that there were 7,000 faithful who had not bowed down to the false god. And so it will be on the last day when the winnowing fork of the Lord separates the chaff from the wheat. He has allowed the weeds to grow with the grain until the harvest is gathered (Matthew 13:24-30).

Weeds can choke a healthy plant, and absorb the nutrients needed to produce good fruit. The church of Jesus Christ is like a field of wheat. Apostasy and false teaching are tares that were sown even before the death of the last apostle.

There are two schools of thought as to how this unfolds. Either things will get better due to the influence of the church, or conditions will deteriorate as the body of Christ becomes marginalized by an increasing secularization.

If we don’t understand that Revelation is unfolding in this age then it will only embolden the Satanic assault that seeks to take advantage of a church that is not fully dressed in the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

I am utterly stunned at the outpouring of support within the church for social changes that are inconsistent with a Christian worldview. I am told that I must be reeducated or rehabilitated — that my thinking is wrong and I don’t possess the love of Christ. I will restate once more: Christian love is corrective — not permissive. Yes, Jesus loved sinners. But He exposed their sin with the admonition to go and sin no more (John 8:11).

After 2,000 years liberalism has become deeply rooted in the church. People don’t like to be admonished. So the church — in a vain effort to stay relevant — has conformed to the world. No one wants to sit and listen to a fiery condemnation and then be hustled for a donation. That’s why upwards of 7,000 churches close their doors every year.

A prominent Midwest pastor who was defrocked for moral failings was asked if he ever went to church. “No,” he said. “I don’t need to go and be told that I’m a sinner. I already know that.” He added that he watched Robert H. Schuller because his sermons made him feel good. Schuller authored the Ten Commandments of Possibility Thinking which was a hodgepodge of motivational, humanistic, metaphysical, New Age concepts that entranced the laity and pulpit. Think Fulton Sheen and Norman Vincent Peale. Where is the Crystal Cathedral today? So we simply anoint new faces who will tickle our ears and make us feel good (2 Timothy 4:3).

Of course, the genesis of our devolution began in the Garden of Eden. The serpent was the first liberal, but evil suffered a monumental defeat at the Cross; and Satan knows his time is measured. This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ for those who have ears to understand. The papacy has given ground in the midst of ongoing spiritual warfare, but the church in Rome remains a steadfast defender of the sacrament of marriage and the sanctity of life.

The fruit of Reformation has been pornography, divorce, drugs, abortion and gay marriage. At the heart of the Reform movement was a liberal rejection of Rome’s conservative tenets. Granted, some of these were extra-Biblical (or based on tradition), but they were the cohesive glue that maintained unity. Understand that only the Spirit of God can keep the church together, and even then only a remnant will be saved. Some Catholic, some Protestant, but not all. It has always been about a remnant, or the elect few.

In his article, Why the Gay Marriage Debate was Over in 1950, Joel Miller suggests that psychotherapy supplanted religion. The 50’s generation that grew up with Freud and Spock (not the Vulcan) were essentially taught that they could obtain joy and peace without the Bible. This may offend you but until 1974 the American Psychiatric Association (as codified in DSM-11 — Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. At the APA convention in San Francisco (1974) gay advocates were able to overthrow the classification. Homosexuality was deemed “normal” behavior by politics — not medicine.

And the church has bought into this “new religion” that love overrides all else. This is the crux of the matter. If love is the greatest commandment then the church must be tolerant of abortion and gay marriage. My friends, God does not tolerate sin. Indeed, unrepentant sin will be judged.

Calvin and Luther were branded heretics because they both denied that marriage was a holy sacrament as defined by the Council of Trent. Okay, so the Catholic Church does translate the Greek word mystērion (μυστήριον) — as used by Paul in Ephesians 5:32 — to mean sacrament rather than mystery; but this doesn’t alter the doctrine that God, not men, invented marriage as a typology of the sacramental relationship between Christ and His church.

Calvin went so far as to equate marriage with agriculture, architecture, shoemaking and hair-cutting. [1]

Luther could have written the Court’s majority opinion:

No one can deny that marriage is an external, worldly, matter, like clothing and food, house and property, subject to temporal authority, as the many imperial laws enacted on the subject prove. [2]

Marriage is a civic matter. It is really not, together with all its circumstances, the business of the church. [3]

… marriage is outside the church, is a civil matter, and therefore should belong to the government … [4]

I feel that judgments about marriages belong to the jurists. Since they make judgments concerning fathers, mothers, children, and servants, why shouldn’t they also make decisions about the life of married people? [5]

God is the ultimate judge — isn’t He. Where are the 7,000, as Elijah, who will stand with me in defense of God’s truth?

Editor: The tone of this article is in no way a blanket defense of Catholicism, but an indictment of the Protestant church for its liberal interpretation of essential Christian doctrine which has sown division, and deviancy from the true Word of God. The seed of the Reformation has produced the fruit of so much of the false teaching that is preached today. Prosperity gospel?

Notes:

1. Institutions, John Calvin, IV, xix, 34.

2. What Luther Says, CPH 1959, Vol. 46, page 265.

3. Ibid, Vol. II, page 885.

4. Ibid, Vol. 54, page 363.

5. Ibid, Vol. 54, page 66.

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Birth of the Church

pentecostimage1

You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering (First Fruits); there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath … (Leviticus 23:15-16

Shavuot (Weeks) is a Jewish celebration of the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. It was one of the three pilgrimage festivals — Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Booths) — which required Jewish males to gather in Jerusalem for national worship.

Shavuot (known as Pentecost in the B’rit Chadashah, or New Testament) is counted fifty days from the Feast of First Fruits — the day Yeshua HaMashiach rose from the dead. As the Feast of Weeks celebrates the writing of the Law upon stone tablets, Pentecost celebrates the writing of the Law upon people’s hearts:

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their G-d, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33

After His resurrection, Yeshua told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit):

And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, Which, He said, you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. (Acts 1:4-5

This was, as Kephas declared, to fulfill the prophecy of Joel:

Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ G-d says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS … ’ (Acts 2:14-17

Pentecost fulfilled the promise of our Lord :

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26

And so it was …

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs — we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of G-d.” (Acts 2:1-11

To my Dispensational brethren who believe that the prophecy of Joel is yet to be fulfilled at some future date, may I kindly stand with our brother Kephas (Peter) in affirming the prophetic fulfillment of Pentecost. And to my Pentecostal brothers who associate tongues with salvation, may I allude to Rabbi Sha’ul’s letter to the assembly at Corinth:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same G-d who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

Not all Christians possess all of these gifts. Yes, some have the gift of tongues — others the gift of healing. You may be an arm — someone else a leg — but we are all members of the same body each performing a unique function. Note, also, that on the day of Pentecost the disciples were not speaking gibberish, or some unknown tongue. They spoke in the languages of the various distinct groups who had come from regions afar to worship at the Temple as they were so commanded in the Torah.

To build doctrine on a particular gift is to risk idolatry. We do well to heed Sha’ul’s admonition:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease … (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And G-d has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. [1]

[Note that tongues is at the bottom of the Apostle’s list.]

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31

While the gifts of the Spirit are sensational, we must not error in confusing them with the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23); of which love is the greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:34-40)

That is a lesson to remember not just on Pentecost, but always in our Christian walk. Indeed, the Holy Spirit presses me more everyday — not to speak in tongues — but to love like Christ.

Notes:

1. tongues ( γλωσσῶν, glōssōn; γλώσσαις, glōssais — from which glossary is derived).

Ability to speak languages which they had not learned. This gift was one of the primary causes of the growth of Christianity. For by it the preachers of the gospel were able, immediately on their coming into any country, to declare the wonderful things of G-d, without waiting till, in the ordinary course, they learned the language of the country. The persons who were endowed with this faculty, had not the knowledge of all languages communicated to them, but of such only as they had occasion for. This appears from 1 Corinthians 14:18, where the apostle told the Corinthians that he spake more foreign tongues than they all did. (Joseph Benson,  Benson CommentaryPublished By T. Carlton & J. Porter, 200 Mulberry Street. New York, 1857).

(Yeshua) These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues … (Mark 16:17)

… they shall speak with new tongues: or languages, not such as were new made, and had never been heard and known before; but foreign languages, such as they had never learned, or were able to speak, or understood before; and this not only did the apostles on the day of Pentecost, but even common believers at other times … (John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, 1746-8).

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Take Up Your Cross

(Revised 12-13-2014, 8:20 pm)

I am six decades upon this earth as I ponder the response of Jacob when Pharaoh asked of him “How many years have you lived?”

Jacob declared:

The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life … (Genesis 47:8-9). 

I think, too, I have been deprived. By measure of this world, at least, I have never known success. I have never been married nor enjoyed career achievement. I have lived an impoverished life personally, professionally and financially. And my flesh has been afflicted with chronic ailments since my youth. I have prayed a thousand prayers for healing and the Lord has chosen not to heal me. People will say that I am not healed because of a lack of faith, or because of some unconfessed sin. Job’s friends said the same thing, but out of ignorance. God’s grace and mercy are far greater than our lack of understanding.

Walking with the Lord — what does that look like? If you listen to the motivational speakers — disguised as pastors — you might get the impression that the Christian walk is one of health and prosperity. At least, that’s the “Gospel” message delivered weekly to the 43,500 attendees at a mega-church in Houston, Texas.

I somewhat believed that message when I first came to Christ, but when nothing changed in my life I soon fell away. The feel-good sermons preached in Houston fill the arena seats, tickle the ears of the unwary and enrich the pastor, but they are a deception of the Word of Faith church.

Just name it and claim it is an enticing message, but is that what Scripture teaches?

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you (Mark 11:24).

So, if I ask for healing … God will heal me? The Apostle Paul begged the Lord for physical healing, and the Lord would not (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

(Faith healers do not teach of God’s sufficient grace.)

When I was not healed of my physical ailments I fell away … descending even further into the depths of spiritual darkness. This is the greatest danger of the Word of Faith movement. When promises are not realized people walk away.

For years I wallowed in the pit of my own disobedience. The amazing thing is that there flickered within my soul an ember of hope — the Holy Spirit — which would not be extinguished. And so God reached down and lifted me up from the depths of my suffering. I was like the lost sheep that was sought after and returned to the fold.

Was life better after restoration? My afflictions were not healed. In fact, more ailments were heaped upon me. I was still living in poverty, struggling to make ends meet, alone and lonely — but the difference was that God was helping me to carry these burdens (1 Peter 5:7).

That is the distinction.

Christians suffer more than any; but we don’t need alcohol, drugs or meaningless relationships to cope with our pain and suffering. We need simply to call upon the name of the Lord to receive an uncommon strength to endure.

I have been contemplating life as I near a retirement which I cannot afford. Out of frustration (and a generous measure of aggravation) I started a new blog. After all the struggles and hardships of 60+ years I am ending my “career” working at a gas station. My financial situation is such that I will probably have to work until the Lord calls me home.

Here is an excerpt from my new blog:

[What has sustained me all these years is a deep and abiding faith in God. Well, I have not always faithfully abided in Him, but He has preserved my life through all these many years of testing and trials.

Many pastors teach a false message of prosperity and good times because it fills the pews with parishioners who like having their ears tickled with motivational mantra disguised as the Gospel (2 Timothy 4:3).

Jesus taught that we would struggle, and peace in the world is an illusion — or we might say a deception.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:7). 

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

I didn’t hustle my way through life as so many do — those who exaggerate their achievements for professional or financial gain — nor did I turn to alcohol and drugs to deaden my sense of failure and inadequacy.

My trust has always been in the LORD.]

— Read more here 

What does it mean to take up your cross? People will cavalierly exclaim (regarding their daily grind), “Oh, the crosses I bear!” To a degree we can partially infer that meaning, but the Greek lexicon implies an even deeper commitment of self-denial..

In the context of Scripture, Jesus had just foretold of His impending death to which Peter responded with contemptuous indignation, God forbid it, Lord! (Matthew 16:22)

(The inner circle were looking for an earthly kingdom ruled over by Christ — even as some today preach of a thousand-year reign despite the charge of Christ that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

After Jesus rebuked Peter (Matthew 16:23), He said to the disciples (and the multitude):

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)

Giving up that bedtime shot of whiskey during Lent is not to deny one’s self … nor is having to take the bus to work and mope that you don’t have a car … nor is abstaining from committing fornication with your girlfriend one night a month … nor is going to church when you’d rather go on a weekend camping trip.

Living a celibate life, as I have done, is a measure of self-denial — and closer to what is expected of us as disciples of Christ. Pursuing worldly gain, career success, financial increase or the desires of life are at odds with what Christ expects from those He calls. That is why the young, rich ruler walked away grieving when the Lord told him to sell all that he had. This was a man who had gained the world, but at the cost of his soul (Matthew 19:21-22).

Many Christians want, as one pastor wrote, “a no-cost discipleship”.  You may have to give up career, friends — even family.

John MacArthur explains:

Christ does not call disciples to Himself to make their lives easy and prosperous, but to make them holy and productive. To come to Jesus Christ for salvation is not to raise a hand or sign a card … To come to Jesus Christ is to come to the end of self and sin and to become so desirous of Christ and His righteousness that one will make any sacrifice for Him. [1]

And that is the distinction between Scripture and tickling words. You won’t find 43,500 people flocking to a church that preaches such truth.

We will suffer trials and hardships … agony and grief. The Christian walk is not easy. As Peter would deny Christ we must deny ourselves.

Charles Ellicott wrote:

Our common thoughts of “self-denial,” i.e., the denial to ourselves of some pleasure or profit, fall far short of the meaning of the Greek. The man is to deny his whole self, all his natural motives and impulses, so far as they come into conflict with the claims of Christ. If he does not so deny himself, he is in danger, as Peter was (it is significant that the same word is used in both instances), of denying his Lord. The self-denial here commanded has, accordingly, its highest type and pattern in the act by which the Son of God, in becoming man, emptied Himself of all that constituted, if we may so speak, the “self” of His divine nature. The words “take up his cross,” which the disciples had heard before, were now clothed with a new and more distinct meaning, by the words that spoke so clearly of the death of which the cross was to be the instrument. [2]

I have lived a lifetime of deprivation. It still is not clear to me why I am in this condition (or position). Is it because of free-will choices, disobedience or the intervening hand of God?

Do I face old age alone, afflicted and in poverty because of my sin? Or is this simply God’s will for my life?

Many people wear a cross as decorative jewelry without understanding the meaning of taking up one’s cross. The followers of Jesus Christ understood that the cross meant death, and that is why many walked away.

Bible expositor John Gill wrote:

… (we) must deny ourselves the pleasures and profits of the world even unto death … and patiently bear every affliction and evil peculiar to the cross … with an entire resignation to the will of God, in imitation of Christ our Lord. [3]

John Calvin adds:

(Christ) lays down a brief rule for our imitation, in order to resemble Him … self-denial and a voluntary bearing of the cross. This self-denial is very extensive, and implies that we ought to give up our natural inclinations, and part with all the affections of the flesh, and thus give our consent to be reduced to nothing, provided that God lives and reigns in us. [4]

God is reducing me to nothing. Only then can His power be made manifest in the glorious nature of His eternal Son. Though I deny the world’s passions I am not lacking — for the Lord anoints His own with a comforting peace and joy that the world will never know, and Word of Faith will not teach.

Come to Jesus and be blessed.

Notes:

1. How to Take Up Your Cross, John MacArthur, gty.org.

2. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, Charles Ellicott, 1878.

3. Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament (3 vols., 1746-8).

4. Calvin’s New Testament Commentary, John Calvin, 1555.

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