En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘true’

The Rock that will not move!

Posted by Scott on October 23, 2009

“The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer.; my God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my Shield and the horn of my Salvation, my Stronghold.”  -Psalm 18:2

-God is my rock that cannot be moved.

-God is my fortress that cannot be penetrated by any human invention.

-God is my deliverer in times when it seems impossible.

-God is a refuge of rest and revival.

-God is a shield that covers me from above my head to my feet that no one can go through, over or around.

-God is my salvation!

-God is the stronghold of strongholds who will not let me go when the winds of the storms of life rage past me.

Who is this God?  This God is God Almighty, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ my Savior, the Faithful, the True, and the Lamb of God! This is the God I serve and put my trust in.

“They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.”  -Revelation 17:14

Who is this King of Kings and what will He look like one day?

“…there before me was a white horse, whose rider is Faithful and True. With justice He judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. he has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven follow Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron sceptor,’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”  -Rev 19:11-16

That describes the Lord I serve.  Nothing whimpy, feminine, or sissified about my King. He will return someday as conqueror and ruler over all.

 

Scott Bailey (c) 2009

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Christless Christianity….by Michael Horton!

Posted by Scott on December 9, 2008

Christless Christianity:

Getting in Christ’s Way

 
Only in Christ is discipleship the consequence of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, rather than its own contribution to human redemption.

What would things look like if Satan actually took over a city? The first frames in our imaginative slide show probably depict mayhem on a massive scale: Widespread violence, deviant sexualities, pornography in every vending machine, churches closed down and worshipers dragged off to City Hall. Over a half-century ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church, gave his CBS radio audience a different picture of what it would look like if Satan took control of a town in America. He said that all of the bars and pool halls would be closed, pornography banished, pristine streets and sidewalks would be occupied by tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The kids would answer “Yes, sir,” “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full on Sunday … where Christ is not preached.

Not to be alarmist, but it looks a lot like Satan is in charge right now. The enemy has a subtle way of using even the proper scenery and props to obscure the main character. The church, mission, cultural transformation, even the Spirit can become the focus instead of the means for “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). As provocative as Barnhouse’s illustration remains, it is simply an elaboration of a point that is made throughout the story of redemption. The story behind all the headlines of the Bible is the war between the serpent and the offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15), an enmity that God promised would culminate in the serpent’s destruction and the lifting of the curse. This promise was a declaration of war on Satan and his kingdom, and the contest unfolded in the first religious war, between Cain and Abel (Gen. 4 with Matt. 23:35), in the battle between Pharaoh and Yahweh that led to the exodus and the temptation in the wilderness. Even in the land, the serpent seduces Israel to idolatry and intermarriage with unbelievers, even provoking massacres of the royal family. Yet God always preserved that “seed of the woman” who would crush the serpent’s head (see 2 Kings 11, for example). The story leads all the way to Herod’s slaughter of the firstborn children in fear of the Magi’s announcement of the birth of the true King of Israel.

The Gospels unpack this story line and the epistles elaborate its significance. Everything is leading to Golgotha, and when the disciples-even Peter-try to distract Jesus away from that mission, they are being unwitting servants of Satan (Matt. 16:23). “The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers”-not simply so that they will defy Judeo-Christian values, but “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:4-5).

Satan lost the war on Good Friday and Easter, but has shifted his strategy to a guerilla struggle to keep the world from hearing the gospel that dismantles his kingdom of darkness. Paul speaks of this cosmic battle in Ephesians 6, directing us to the external Word, the gospel, Christ and his righteousness, faith, and salvation as our only armor in the assaults of the enemy. In Revelation 12, the history of redemption is recapitulated in brief compass, with the dragon sweeping a third of the stars (angels) from heaven, laying in wait to devour the woman’s child at birth, only to be defeated by the ascension of the promised offspring. Nevertheless, knowing his time is short, he pursues the child’s brothers and sisters. Wherever Christ is truly proclaimed, Satan is most actively present. The wars between nations and enmity within families and neighborhoods is but the wake of the serpent’s tail as he seeks to devour the church, employing the same tried and tested methods: not only martyrdom from without, but heresy and schism from within. In the rest of this article, I want to suggest a few of the ways we are routinely tempted toward what can only be called, tragically, “Christless Christianity.”

Denial: The Sadducees

The modern spirit has been dedicated to shifting authority from the outside (the church or the Bible) to the inside (reason or experience). Kant said the one thing he could always trust was his moral intuition, which led to the irrefutable fact of “the starry heavens above and the moral law within.” The Romantics said we should trust our inner experience. In fact, was it not the desire to usurp God’s throne that motivated the rebellion of Lucifer as well as Adam and Eve?

Whenever we determine what really matters by looking within ourselves, we always come up with law. Some would object, “Not law, but love.” However, in the Bible, the Law simply nails down what it means to love God and our neighbor. Long before Jesus summed up the Law in this way (Matt. 22:39), it was delivered by the hand of Moses (Lev. 19:18, 34), and Paul reiterated the point (Rom. 13:8-10). We were created in the image of God, without fault, entirely capable of carrying out God’s moral will of making all of creation subservient to God’s law of love. The Fall did not eradicate this sense of moral purpose, but turned us inward, so that instead of truly loving God and our neighbor, we suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. The fall did not even mean that people became atheists, but that they became superstitious: using “God” or “spirituality” and their neighbors for their own ends.

The Enlightenment philosophers were right when they recognized that morality is the common denominator of humanity. Yet they concluded from this that whatever came to us from the outside-the reports of historical miracles and redemption-was the least essential to true religion. “All we need is love” and “All we need is law” make exactly the same point. Duty, love, or moral and religious experience lay at the heart of all the world’s religions-their insides-while the historical packaging (stories, miraculous claims, creeds, rituals) are the outer shell that can be tossed away.

Kant distinguished these in terms of pure religion and ecclesiastical faith. The former has to do with our moral duty. The latter consists of doctrines of sin, the incarnation and atonement, justification, supernatural rebirth, the particular historical claims concerning Christ, as well as the official practices of the church (such as baptism and the Supper). The story of the death and resurrection of Christ, for example, could be accepted only to the extent that it represented a universal moral truth (like self-sacrifice for others or for one’s principles). Taking it at face value actually undermined pure morality. If you look to someone else’s sacrifice to save you, then you won’t be as prone to fulfill your own duty yourself. One sect dealt with guilt by throwing children into volcanoes to pacify the gods, while Christianity says that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son … ” (John 3:16). Yet once religion is refined of such “superstitions,” the residue left over is a pure morality that will at last lead us to build a tower reaching to the heavens. Trust your insides; doubt everything external to you. That was the lesson of the Enlightenment.

The problem, of course, is that we have an outside God and an outside redemption. Everything inside of us is the problem. The good news, however, is that the God who is completely other than we are became one of us, yet without succumbing to our selfish pride. He fulfilled the law, bore its judgment, and rose again as our solution to the curse of sin, death, and condemnation. Furthermore, he sent his Spirit to indwell us, making us new from the inside out, until one day our very bodies are raised. In one sense, of course, the Enlightenment was right: the law is in us by nature, since we are created in God’s image. The gospel is surprising, good news that has to come to us from the outside. Everyone knows that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated ourselves: the Golden Rule does not by itself provoke martyrdom. It does not need witnesses and heralds. In fact, it did not require the incarnation, much less the atonement and resurrection.

So it’s not surprising that the world would think that “all we need is love,” and we can do without the doctrine, since the world thinks it can do without Christ. Doctrine is where the religions most obviously part ways. Doctrine is where things get interesting-and dangerous. As the playwright Dorothy Sayers said, doctrine isn’t the dull part of Christianity, rather, “The doctrine is the drama.” Jesus was not revolutionary because he said we should love God and each other. Moses said that first. So did Buddha, Confucius, and countless other religious leaders we’ve never heard of. Madonna, Oprah, Dr. Phil, the Dali Lama, and probably a lot of Christian leaders will tell us that the point of religion is to get us to love each other. “God loves you” doesn’t stir the world’s opposition. However, start talking about God’s absolute authority, holiness, wrath, and righteousness, original sin, Christ’s substitutionary atonement, justification apart from works, the necessity of new birth, repentance, baptism, Communion, and the future judgment, and the mood in the room changes considerably. If postmodernism is simply a revival of modern romanticism (experience as sovereign), then it’s not very postmodern after all.

Historians often point out that for all of their differences, pietism and rationalism converged to create the Enlightenment. The heirs of modernity looked inward, to autonomous reason or experience, rather than outward, in faith and repentance toward a God who judges and saves. With Friedrich Schleiermacher, father of modern Protestant liberalism, the emphasis fell on Jesus as the supreme example of the kind of moral existence that we can all have if we share in his “God-consciousness.” So while Christianity may represent the purest and fullest realization of this principle, other religions are in their own ways attempts to put this universal religious and moral experience into words. We just say things differently, but we are experiencing the same reality. Where Kant located the essence of religion in practical reason (moral duty), Schleiermacher located it in religious experience, but either way the self is made the measure of truth and redemption is something that we find within ourselves, even if it is “Christ in my heart.” Revivalism, which is the mother of both Protestant liberalism and Evangelicalism, pressed the “deeds over creeds” and “experience over doctrine” thesis to its limits.

This means, of course, that Christ is not the unique God-Man, but the most divinized human being. The gospel is not what Christ did for me, outside of me, in history, but the impression that he makes on me, the nobility that he stirs up within me, to experience the same God-consciousness and love. Sin is not a condition from which I need to be saved, but actions that I can keep from doing with sufficient motivation and instruction. Christ’s death is not an atoning sacrifice that satisfies God’s just wrath, but an example of God’s love that moves us to repentance. Hence, “What would Jesus do?” is the main question, not “What has Jesus done?” The inside takes priority over the outside.

Distraction: The Pharisees

In contrast to the Sadducees, the Pharisees were scrupulous. The outside mattered, but in a legalistic way. They believed in the resurrection, the last judgment, the truthfulness of the miracles reported in the Bible’s historical narratives, and were so eager for the messianic age that they wanted everybody to get their house in order. Only when God’s people obey the law in all of its details (even the rabbinical rules designed to guard against violating the actual prescriptions of Moses) would the Messiah visit Israel and vindicate his people in the last judgment.

Now what could be wrong with a call to moral renewal and national righteousness? But the Pharisees were distracted from the real point of the kingdom. Expecting a king who would overthrow Roman rule and reestablish the Mosaic theocracy, they missed the real identity of the Messiah and his kingdom under their noses. The disciples themselves were also distracted, routinely changing the subject whenever Jesus spoke of the cross as they neared Jerusalem. They were thinking inauguration day, with the last judgment and the consummation of the kingdom in all of its glory. Jesus knew, however, that the only route to glory down the road was the cross up ahead. For all their emphasis on external righteousness and behavior, they too affirmed salvation from inside: by moral effort.

Jesus contrasts the false piety of the Pharisee with the genuine faith and repentance of the citizen of his kingdom in his famous parable in Luke 18:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted. (vv. 9-14)

Jesus told the Pharisees, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). While Jesus basically seems to ignore the Sadducees, since they probably viewed each other as irrelevant, he warns repeatedly of “the yeast of the Pharisees,” which is “their hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).

 

In the parable that Jesus tells, the Pharisee even prayed, “I thank you that I am not like this tax collector.” The only thing worse than his hypocrisy and self-righteousness was that he pretended to give God a little credit for it. We have all witnessed awards ceremonies in which recipients acknowledged the many people without whom such success could not have been possible. This is quite different, however, from being a beneficiary of the estate of someone who, at the very moment of drafting the bequest, was treated as an enemy. Christless Christianity does not mean religion or spirituality devoid of the words “Jesus,” “Christ,” “Lord,” or even “Savior.” What it means is that the way the names and titles are employed will be removed from their specific location in an unfolding historical plot of human rebellion and divine rescue and from such practices as baptism and Communion. Jesus as life coach, therapist, buddy, significant other, founder of Western civilization, political messiah, example of radical love, and countless other images can distract us from the stumbling block and foolishness of “Christ and him crucified.”

In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis has the devil (Screwtape) catechizing his minion (Wormwood) to keep the Christians distracted from Christ as redeemer from God’s wrath. Rather than clumsily announce his presence by direct attacks, Wormwood should try to get the churches to become interested in “Christianity and…”: “Christianity and the War,” “Christianity and Poverty,” “Christianity and Morality,” and so on. Of course, Lewis was not suggesting that Christians should not have an interest in such pressing issues of the day, but he was making the point that when the church’s basic message is less about who Christ is and what he has accomplished once and for all for us, and more about who we are and what we have to do in order to justify all of that expense on his part, the religion that is made “relevant” is no longer Christianity. By not thinking that “Christ crucified” is as relevant as “Christ and Family Values” or “Christ and America” or “Christ and World Hunger,” we end up assimilating the gospel to law. Again, there is nothing wrong with the law-the moral commands that expose our moral failure and guide us as believers in the way of discipleship. However, assimilating the good news of what someone else has done to a road map for our own action is disastrous. In the words of Theodore Beza, “The confusion of law and gospel is the principal source of all the abuses that corrupt or have ever corrupted the church.” When God’s Law (and not our own inner sentiment) actually addresses us, our first response should be, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” not the reply of the rich young ruler, “All this I have done since my youth.”

Another way we distort the proclamation of Christ in the “Pharasaic” mode is by what has sometimes been called “the assumed gospel.” This is often the first stage of taking our eyes off of Christ. Even where Christ is regarded as the answer to God’s just wrath, this emphasis is regarded as a point that can be left behind in the Christian life. The idea is that people “get saved” and then “become disciples.” The gospel for sinners is Christ’s death and resurrection; the gospel for disciples, however, is, “Get busy!” But this assumes that disciples are not sinners, too. There is not a single biblical verse that calls us to “live the gospel.” By definition, the gospel is not something that we can live. It is only something that we can hear and receive. It is good news, not good advice. The good news is that, “But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the Law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe,” since sinners “are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, received through faith” (Rom. 3:21-25).

When the gospel-that is, Christ as Savior-is taken for granted, we are no longer being constantly converted from our hypocrisy and self-trust to faith and love. Like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, we thank God that we are not like others, but we are really trusting in our own “discipleship.” The Pharisees were disciples too, and they had their disciples. But only in Christ is discipleship the consequence of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, rather than its own contribution to human redemption.

Jesus himself said, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). When he was rebuked by his disciples for raining on their parade by talking about the cross, Jesus said, “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour” (John 12:27). When Philip asked Jesus to show them the way to the Father, Jesus said that he is the Way (John 14:8-14). Similarly, Paul told the Corinthians that he was not only single-mindedly determined to preach Christ alone, but “Christ crucified,” although it is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks,” since it is the only good news capable of saving either (1 Cor. 1:18, 22-30; 2:1-2). In other words, Paul knew (the super-apostles were always providing concrete evidence) that preachers could use the name of Jesus, but as something or someone other than the vicarious sacrifice for sinners.

The Greeks love wisdom, so show them a Jesus who is smarter at solving the conundrums of daily living and the church will throng with supporters. Jews love signs and wonders, so tell people that Jesus can help them have their best life now, or bring in the kingdom of glory, or drive out the Romans and prove their integrity before the pagans, and Jesus will be laureled with praise. But proclaim Christ as the Suffering Servant who laid down his life and took it back up again, and everybody wonders who changed the subject.

The church exists in order to change the subject from us and our deeds to God and his deeds of salvation, from our various “missions” to save the world to Christ’s mission that has already accomplished redemption. If the message that the church proclaims makes sense without conversion; if it does not offend even lifelong believers from time to time, so that they too need to die more to themselves and live more to Christ, then it is not the gospel. When Christ is talked about, a lot of things can happen, none of which necessarily has anything to do with his doing, dying, rising, reigning, and return. When Christ is proclaimed in his saving office, the church becomes a theater of death and resurrection, leading to genuine lives of witness, love, fellowship, community, and service-yet always requiring forgiveness and therefore always coming back to the good news concerning Christ.

Today, we have abundant examples of both tendencies: denial and distraction. On one hand, there are those who explicitly reject the New Testament teaching concerning Christ’s person and work. Jesus was another moral guide-maybe the best ever-but not the divine-human redeemer. However, evangelicals are known for their stand against Protestant liberalism. On the other hand, many who affirm all the right views of Christ and salvation in theory seem to think that what makes Christianity truly relevant, interesting, and revolutionary is something else. Distractions abound. This does not mean that Jesus is not important. His name appears in countless books and sermons, on T-shirts, coffee mugs, and billboards. Yet it has become something like a cliché or trademark instead of “the name that is above every name” by which alone we are saved.

Jesus Christ as the incarnate God in the merciful service of redeeming and reconciling sinners is simply not the main theme in most churches or Christian events these days. And what happens when we stop being reminded of who God is and what he has achieved in human history for a world in bondage to sin and death-in other words, when doctrine is made secondary? We fall back on our natural religion: what happens inside, that which we always know intuitively: law. “Deeds, not creeds” equals “Law, not gospel.” For all their theoretical differences, liberals and evangelicals end up sounding a lot like each other. Evangelicals who say that they believe in Christ end up reducing Christ to a moral example just as thoroughly as liberals, not by outright denial but by distraction. The goal of this article is not to brand contemporary Christians “Sadducees” and “Pharisees,” but to point out that one doesn’t have to deny Christ and the gospel in order to end up with Christless Christianity. In fact, one can appeal to Christ and “make Jesus the center” in a way that drifts back toward “pure religion” (morality) and away from “ecclesiastical faith” (doctrine).

Today, partly in response to the appalling lack of genuine discipleship in a post-Christian era, many Protestants like Stanley Hauerwas and Brian McLaren encourage us to recover the Anabaptist legacy, which, as I mentioned, focused on Jesus as moral example. In A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLaren explains, “Anabaptists see the Christian faith primarily as a way of life,” interpreting Paul through the lens of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount rather than vice versa. The emphasis falls on discipleship rather than on doctrine, as if following Jesus’ example could be set against following his teaching. What happens when the Sermon on the Mount is assimilated to a general ethic of love (i.e., pure morality), and doctrine (ecclesiastical faith) is made secondary? Christ himself becomes a mere example to help people become better non-Christians. In fact, McLaren writes, “I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.” “I don’t hope all Jews or Hindus will become members of the Christian religion. But I do hope all who feel so called will become Jewish or Hindu followers of Jesus.” It is no wonder, then, that McLaren can say concerning liberal Protestants, “I applaud their desire to live out the meaning of the miracle stores even when they don’t believe the stories really happened as written.” After all, it’s deeds, not creeds that matter. McLaren seems to suggest that following Jesus (pure religion) can exist with or without explicit faith in Christ (ecclesiastical faith).

There is nothing especially postmodern about any of this, of course. It is simply the legacy of the Enlightenment and its moralistic antecedents. If following Jesus’ example of love (never mind his exclusive claims, divisive rhetoric, and warning of judgment) is the gospel, then, of course there will be many Buddhists and liberals who are better “Christians” than many of us who profess faith in Christ. As Mark Oestriecher, another Emergent church writer, relates, “My Buddhist cousin, except for her unfortunate inability to embrace Jesus, is a better ‘Christian’ (based on Jesus’ description of what a Christian does) than almost every Christian I know. If we were using Matthew 26 as a guide, she’d be a sheep; and almost every Christian I know personally would be a goat.” Yet at the end of the day, “radical disciples” will burn out, too, and realize that they, like the rest of us, are hypocrites who fall short of God’s glory and need someone outside of them not only to show the way but to be the way of redemption. Although McLaren himself does not deny the Christ confessed in the creeds, he believes that what is most important about Jesus Christ is his call to discipleship, which allows us to participate in his redeeming work, rather than his unique, unrepeatable, completed work for sinners two thousand years ago.

In his book, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations, Dan Kimball, pastor of Santa Cruz Bible Church, announces the goal of the emerging church movement: “Going back to a raw form of vintage Christianity, which unapologetically focuses on kingdom living by disciples of Jesus.” If we are allowed to pick and choose whatever we like from the New Testament (again, hardly a uniquely postmodern trend-Thomas Jefferson had his own edited version, the moral Jesus of love minus the Christ of “ecclesiastical faith”), we will always gravitate toward ourselves and our own inner experience or morality, away from God: the external authority of his law and redemption announced in his gospel. Emergent Christians recognize the hypocrisy of evangelical consumerism with remarkable insight, and properly recoil at the images of Christians one finds in The Simpsons’ character Ned Flanders. However, they forget that before Emergent there was the “Jesus Movement” that turned into the megachurch movement that they recognize as deficient.

For all of their reactions, the “post-evangelical” emerging folks seem to follow the well-worn path of their revivalist forebears in seeing the church primarily as a society of moral transformers who preach themselves rather than Christ. Like many emerging church leaders (in continuity with my evangelical pastors growing up), Kimball invokes Francis of Assisi’s famous line: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” “Our lives will preach better than anything we can say.” But doesn’t this mean to preach ourselves rather than Christ? The gospel that we preach is good news because it is not the story of our discipleship, but of Christ’s obedience, death, and resurrection in our place. The good news is not, “Look at my life” or “look at our community”; it is the announcement that in Christ God justifies the wicked. Yes, there is hypocrisy, and because Christians will always be simultaneously saint and sinner, there will always be hypocrisy in every Christian and in every church. The good news is that Christ saves us from hypocrisy, too. But hypocrisy is especially generated when the church points to itself and to our own “changed lives” in its promotional materials. The more we talk about ourselves, the more occasion the world will have to charge us with hypocrisy. The more we confess our sins and receive forgiveness, and pass this good news on to others, the more our lives will be authentically changed in the bargain. With all due respect to St. Francis, the gospel is only something that can be told (i.e., words), a story that can be declared. When our lives are told within that larger story, rather than vice versa, there is genuine salvation for sinners and mission to the world.

Kimball writes that the “ultimate goal of discipleship … should be measured by what Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37-40: ‘Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul.’ Are we loving him more? Love others as yourself. Are we loving people more?” This is not a revolutionary, new message; it is the imperative preaching that many of us have always heard growing up in Evangelicalism.

For all of its incisive critiques of the megachurch movement, how different is the Emergent message from Rick Warren’s call to “Deeds, Not Creeds”? These voices are right to remind us of what the law requires, and how Jesus in both his teaching and example exhibited the deepest demands that love places upon us. But if this is the good news, then we are all in trouble. As I grow in my holiness-realized in greater love for God and neighbor-I am actually more aware of how far I fall short. Therefore, on good days, I might answer Kimball’s question with cautious optimism, on other days it might lead me to despair. But the gospel is the good news that I need on any day, leading me away from myself to Christ “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Many conservative evangelicals and emerging “post-evangelicals” display their common heritage in an American revivalist tradition that Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as “Protestantism without the Reformation.” In a recent issue of TIME on Pope Benedict’s critical relationship with Islam, conservative Catholic scholar Michael Novak was quoted as saying concerning the pontiff, “His role is to represent Western civilization.” There are a lot of evangelical leaders who seem to think that this is their job, too. The mission of the church is to drive out the Romans (i.e., Democrats) and make the world safe for democracy. The Emergent movement’s politics are different: they lean left rather than right. For many reared on the “Christian America” hype of the religious right, this may seem like a major shift, but it’s just a change in parties rather than a deeper shift from moralism to evangelical mission. The Emergent sociology is different, too: Starbucks and acoustic guitars in dark rooms with candles rather than Wal-Mart and praise bands in bright-lighted theaters. Yet in either case, moralism continues to push “Christ crucified” to the margins.

We are totally distracted, on the right, left, and in the middle. Children growing up in evangelical churches know as little as unchurched youth about the basics of the Christian faith. They increasingly inhabit a church world that is less and less shaped by the gospel through Christ-centered catechesis, preaching and sacrament (the means that Jesus instituted for making disciples). The songs they sing are mostly emotive, rather than serving to make “the Word of Christ dwell in [them] richly” (Col. 3:16), and their private devotions are less shaped by the practices of corporate prayer and Scripture reading than in past generations. Nothing has to change on paper: they can still be “conservative evangelicals,” but it just doesn’t matter because doctrine doesn’t matter-which means faith doesn’t matter. It’s works that counts now, so get busy!

So now people are called to be the “good news,” to make Christ’s mission successful by living “relationally” and “authentically.” Where the New Testament announces a gospel that changes lives, now the “gospel” is our changed life. “We preach not ourselves but Christ” (2 Cor. 4:5) has been exchanged for a constant appeal to our personal and collective holiness as the main attraction. Church marketing guru George Barna encourages us to reach out to the unchurched on the basis of our character: “What they are looking for is a better life. Can you lead them to a place or to a group of people that will deliver the building blocks of a better life? Do not propose Christianity as a system of rules but as a relationship with the One who leads by way of example. Then seek proven ways to achieve meaning and success.” I am not at all implying that we shouldn’t follow Christ’s example or that the church shouldn’t have models and mentors. What I am suggesting is that discipleship is teaching others, and teaching them so well that even when we falter as role models, the maturity of their own discipleship will not fail because it is grounded in Christ and not in us.

No matter what we say we believe about Christ’s person and work, if we aren’t constantly bathed in it, the end result will lead to H. Richard Niebuhr’s description of Protestant liberalism: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.” According to University of North Carolina sociologist Christian Smith, the working religion of America’s teens-whether evangelical or liberal, churched or unchurched-is “moralistic, therapeutic deism.” And the answer to that, according to many megachurches and emerging churches is “do more; be more authentic; live more transparently.” This is the good news that will change the world?

Christless Christianity can be promoted in contexts where either the sermon is a lecture on timeless doctrine and ethics or Christ gets lost in all the word studies and applications. Christ gets lost in churches where activity, self-expression, the hype of “worship experiences” and programs replace the ordinary ministry of hearing and receiving Christ as he is given to us in the means of grace. Christ gets lost when he is promoted as the answer to everything but our condemnation, death, and the tyranny of sin, or as the means to the end of more excitement, amusement, better living, or a better world-as if we already knew what these would look like before God addressed us in his law and gospel.

Back to Barnhouse’s illustration. Of course, Satan loves war, violence, injustice, poverty, disease, oppression, immorality, and other displays of human sinfulness. And of course he is displeased whenever a cup of cold water is offered to a thirsty man in Christ’s name. However, what he spends most of his time plotting is the displacement of Christ from the focal awareness, ministry, and mission of the church. Keeping unbelievers blind and believers distracted is his main strategy. Genuine renewal only comes when we realize that the church is always drawn to distractions and must always be redirected to Christ, always one generation away from becoming something other than the place in the world-the only place, in fact-where the finger points away from us to Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

 


1 [ Back ] The quotations from Brian McLaren are taken from his work, A Generous Orthodoxy (Zondervan, 2004) pp. 61, 206, 214, 260, 264. The quotation from Mark Oestreicher is found in Dan Kimball’s The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for a New Generation (Zondervan, 2003), p. 53. The direct quotation from Kimball is from the same book, p. 26. The quotation from Francis of Assisi is taken from pp. 185 and 194 of Kimball’s work. The TIME magazine article on Pope Benedict is from the November 27, 2006, issue, p. 46. George Barna’s quotation is from his book Grow Your Church from the Outside In (Ventura: Regal, 2002), p. 161.

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Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of The White Horse Inn national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is author of several books, including Power Religion, A Better Way, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology (Baker, 2006), and Too Good to be True: Finding Hope in a World of Hype (Zondervan, 2006).

Issue: “Christless Christianity” May/June Vol. 16 No. 3 2007 Pages 10-16

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What is faith and salvation to you? All to Jesus….

Posted by Scott on November 7, 2008

Watch this 3 part video from great preachers of old:  Tozer, Ravenhill, & Reidhead.  The lettering is hard to read, but the messages from these men are timely and just as relevant as they were the day they were spoken as God’s Word is still relevant today as it was 2000 plus years ago.  Let the messages with God’s Holy Word pierce you deep.


PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

We should have no other plans or purposes in this life other than to glorify our Almighty God!

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Does God Predestine Some to Hell? Great Video by Mark Kielar

Posted by Scott on October 29, 2008

Romans 9:17-18

17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[a] 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Exodus 7:2-5

2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

Exodus 9:12

12 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.


So, God either actively or passively intervenes in peoples lives.  The same opportunities to accept the gospel are present, but the intervention of God is different.  Remember also, God’s common grace that all men enjoy whether deserved or not.  Without the hand of God restraining this vile evil that exist in man, the world would not be tolerable by any human being or beast.  God is Sovereignly at work in the lives of His people for our greater good and ultimately His greater glory.   Praise the Lord He first loved me and sought me out like the hound on the trail of a rabbit…nothing will deter the will of God.


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Serious Holiness in an Unholy World!

Posted by Scott on September 23, 2008

God takes worship towards Him from us very seriously.  The Israelites found this out some 2500 years ago.  In Malachi 3:16-18 God is stating His promise to return to His people if we will return to Him in unabashed holiness before Him.

Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I do not change”.

God does not like to be cheated, lied to, lied about, or talked badly about from anyone.  Today we have many inside and outside the church that think God is an old man with a hearing and seeing problem.  However, I testify to you today that God is no old man with a hearing or seeing problem.  He is seeing and hearing everything we do for Him and against Him.  Rest assured, our heavenly Father will not be mocked.

16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

 17 “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. [a] I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.   Malachi 3:16-18

What is God calling us to do today?  “Repent of wickedness, habitual sinful life styles, filthy minds and mouths, our prideful attitudes, money hungry habits, our spoiled selfishness, and the theft of what is rightfully His.”  His calling is to return to Him in holiness, purity, righteousness, and all godliness.  God will return to us in favor if we will return to Him in holiness.  God is looking for us to honor Him with our very best, not our rags.  He wants us to serve Him with our very best, not what is left over. 

The Lord has promised mercy for those that remain solidly pure and holy before Him as we walk this land today.  This is a time of great defection from the ways of God and towards a philosophy of man centered salvation.  God has always preserved a remnant that will stoke the fires of holiness for His chosen people.  In these final days, we will witness a return from the few to holiness and purity.  As that desire planted long ago is stirred into a raging inferno of godliness in the midst of a vile and crooked land.

Even as the judgement and wrath of God falls down upon our country and people around us, God’s protection will be magnified even more.  Those caught up in desparate turmoil will wonder how and why we come through unscathed.  The testimony of the saints will find greater opportunities to be exposed. 

As Ezekial 18:1-32 tells of the contract between God’s holy people who will live verses the wicked who will die…7 points emerge for the righteous men of God to observe:

The righteous man….

1….does not worship idols!  The righteous man lives each moment of every day to honor and glorify God with his all.  Money, cars, houses, vacations, loose women, Vegas, clothes, retirement plans, jobs, businesses, travelling, sports, etc…..anything that can become an idol, the righteous man forces himself to be focused on God.

2….is not an adulterer!  He does not sleep around with other women other than his wife.  This is that simple.  The righteous man is a one woman man with eyes and heart for his wife only.

3….is merciful in all things.  The righteous man is merciful is the way he extends credit to people.  He does not take advantage of people especially the poor.  He acts with dignity and integrity at all times with people.  He exudes grace upon the people he deals with.

4….does not rob from the poor.  He seeks to feed and cloth the poor if financially capable.  His heart has sympathy or empathy for those with less than him.  He does not seek out to take from them as easy prey.

5….when capable and asked to loan something to someone, he does so without interest.  The righteous man does not loan money to his brother and charge him interest…he extends grace to his brother in need without charging him into the poor house. 

6….is honest and fair when passing judgement on someone.  The righteous man looks at the entire circumstances, listens to the person and renders a judgement based on the truth and wisdom given to him.  The righteous man has a gift called discernment empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to sift through what is being said to see what is really being done.

7….faithfully obeys the commands or decrees of his God.  The righteous man is like a well trained soldier receiving his commands from his General and carrying them out without wavering.

As our times get grossly worse the holy ones of God will become even more obvious to all those around.  As God draws us to Himself the desire in our hearts to be holy will become stronger.  I can sense that in my own life and many of those around me.  God takes His hand and places it upon my head and turns me in the direction He desires….that direction is towards Him.  

In this time of great apostasy us men need to remember a few things:

1. Be careful not to live closely to the world’s ways.  Yes, we live here, but we are to be a strange people.  We are to be looked upon like we are aliens from another planet.  Living too closely to the world will alter our minds to thinking like the world and ultimately killing our zest for Christ and a life of holiness.

2. Commit to serve God and Him alone.  Choose truth over philosophical lies of this worldly system.  This takes commitment like you have never experienced. 

As Thomas Watson has written, “Hypocrites are good only out of worldly designs.  They embrace the gospel for secular advantage and these will in time fall away.” 

This commitment to serving God starts within our family first.  We have a living breathing mission field within our home’s walls, yet, we usually neglect it in order to travel to some foreign land (nothing wrong with foreign missionaries).  When we arrive in heaven before our Lord He will not mention at first the ministry outside our home….He will address our success or failure within our home.  It is important to Him that we nurture, teach, and father our children in the ways of God.  Living out the holiness we are called to live before their young eyes.  They will know us warts and all, but they need to an example of their heavenly Father shining through towards them daily.

3. Be sincere in our faith in Jesus Christ.  Speak the truth, but also live it out before the world.

4. Love the Lord with the same kind of love that held Him on the cross.  This is a love that carries the believer beyond the fear of death and is the deliverer of true life.  The love mentioned here is a love that is not deterred by suffering if it will honor and glorify God.

5. Harden our hearts towards evil and wicked desires.  The devil will throw out “reproaches” in our path.  These are temptations that are to draw us in. 

Thomas Watson puts it this way:  “Reproaches are but assulae crusis, splinters of the cross.”

These failed temptations or reproaches upon the believer are as “crowns around our heads”.  Remember it is far better that men condemn us for holy and righteous than to have God damn us to hell for being wicked and vile like the unbelieving world.

6. Become a solid wall of grace.  This is an exciting grace that is contagious to other believers around us.  This type of grace is firm yet on the truth, but gracious in its delivery to others.

Men, we have only two real choices in this short life on earth:

Godliness or Worldliness

Which one will we choose.  As Joshua stated in 24:15:

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

The calling is clear, but will you choose to serve the Lord?

Great 2 part message on the holiness of God by Pastor Paul Washer (enjoy)!

(c) Scott Bailey 2008

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“Whosoever will….”

Posted by Scott on June 11, 2008

Just a response to things I have heard for nearly 40 years in the church:

I have heard many pastors, teachers and evangelist make statements when asked about Election…”What do you do with ‘Whosoever will…’?”  The claim is that “Whosoever will…” is the balancing act of “You did not choose me, but I-God chose you”.  There is no balancing act in this…both of these are on the same side.  I have read and heard stated a comment C.H. Spurgeon made one time…it goes something like this and may be paraphrased:  “we enter heaven through a door that says “Whosoever will come..” then as we enter we look on the other side and above the door it says “You did not choose Me, but I chose you…”  They ask this as though it is in conflict with Reformed Theology (Calvinism).  The fact is “Whosoever will come…and God chose us” is not in conflict with the Calvinist Theology at all…this is the same door, they are both on the same side, not some balancing act. 

As preachers, pastors, evangelist, and teachers we are to simply present the entire gospel truth found in God’s word to all.  The ears that hear and hearts that are regenerated (Born Again) is up to the Holy Spirit…whosoever hears the word of God and comes to God for salvation may come.  Where is the conflict there?  Fact is that the ears that hear and act upon what they have heard with a regenerated heart will come and those that act in this fashion are of the Elect (Chosen)!  Those that come with a repentant heart, given faith by the Lord, ready to believe, may come to God for salvation…whosoever!  I have never found the conflict that so many seem to have with John 3:16 and the Calvinist Theology….nothing in conflict at all.  The call goes out to all, but only those chosen will come.  It is a narrow way that leads to the narrow gate to access to our heavenly Father…this narrow gate is Jesus Christ alone taught by scripture alone!

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“For God…” salvation starts with God.  God is the initiator of our salvation!  As sinful depraved men we will not come to God unless He starts the process first.  He will draw us to Himself.

“…so loved…” this was His design not mans.  This love is a special kind of love for a special kind of people…His chosen people from all parts of the world.  His ways are not our ways nor His thoughts our thoughts.  God designed this before the foundations of the Universe came into existence.

“…the world…” this was His design for His people from all over the world.  It was a call to all kinds of people…Jews and Gentiles alike.  This salvation message was not just for the Jews, but for all who hear His call to salvation.  His people are all over the world not just in Israel, Jerusalem, America, or any other part, but all over.

“…that He gave His only begotten Son…” this is Jesus Christ the only Son of God…not an adopted son or daughter as we are.  This was a special and most important distinction so that we would not confuse Christ sacrifice on the cross as being just anyone on the cross…it was the one and only Son of the living God…God the Son Himself on that cross!  This was also fulfillment of prophecy from the Old Testament.

“…that Whosoever believes in Him…” those that hear His calling and act in true belief will be saved.  This belief cannot occur without being Born Again (regenerated) first, repentance of sins, then faith and belief.  This is not the free will of man, but the Sovereign Will of a gracious God.  This is not a cheap statement…God’s grace shown in this simple verse is not cheap nor should we cheapen it by dumbing it down so that anyone who blurbs out a few words can think he is saved…the true believer’s life will change in the direction of God not man’s desires.  Not everyone will come to a true faith and belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Many will pray a prayer, walk an isle, get dunked ’til they bubble in some Baptistery, many will claim they are saved because their family was “Christian”, but they are just as lost as any atheist, agnostic, or skeptic.  Actually it is even worse to have come so close to Christ yet be so far from Him to not be known by Him though one may have went to church all their life, sung in the choir, taught Sunday School, prayed out loud in church, etc.  

“…shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  this is a promise.  As a chosen child of God we can rest upon this promise that if we sense the openness in our hearts to receive the Word of God, humbly come before an awesome God in true repentance at our sinful depraved life absolutely torn that we have acted this way before God, prayerfully ask for forgiveness of our sinful being, and believe in Jesus Christ that He is Who He says He is..this is a life changing belief that permeates our entire being, then we can live on that promise that we are saved…permanently saved!  We can live on the fact that we will not perish in hell, but will live on forever with God in heaven someday.  We can stand firm on this fact although millions will tell us we are stupid and uneducated to believe in such…count this as joy! 

To be chosen by God without any effort on my part is the most awesome fact in scripture.  This is true grace.  The fact that I was wondrously miserably going through life without God.  Yet, in God’s Sovereign plan I had been chosen before the beginning to be saved.  He knew that my depraved sinful evil wicked heart would not desire Him nor would it ever come to Him on its own…so, the Holy Spirit went to work on me years ago to regenerate my heart, so that at the proper time of His choosing and for His purposes I would receive the Word of God in my heart and accept the fact that I was and am a sinful person.  The fact that the only way out of such bondage was to ask for God to forgive me of this sinful state of being and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  Without God going to work on me first I would still be wondering aimlessly through life rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell.  You see, man loves his sin.  Think about it…before God radically saved you or someone you know, the love of this sinful life permeated every part of them or us.  Only God can changed that.  This was the life of being a dead man spiritually walking through life…a dead man cannot revive himself…God must grant the spark of spiritual regeneration. 

This is where people jump off the good ship….this spiritual regeneration will only be sparked in those to whom God has Elected!  We do not know who these people are, but God knows His own and He will not allow one of His chosen ones, His sheep to be lost.

“Election is the act of God whereby in eternity past He chose those who will be saved.  Election is unconditional, because it does not depend on anything outside of God, such as good works or foreseen faith (Romans 9:16).  This doctrine is repeatedly taught in the Bible, and is also demanded by our knowledge of God.”    John MacArthur “Considering Election”

Remember this, God will not give up His Sovereign Will at anytime in order to give way to man’s free will if He so intends to save a particular man.  If God gives man over to his own depraved free will that is tragic and means that the man is hell bound without hope.  Man’s free will is at war with God’s Sovereign Will, yet by the grace of God, man’s free will is beaten down in order for God to save His own. 

-Scott Bailey (c) 2008

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Our Father who is in heaven…!

Posted by Scott on April 25, 2008

Over the past few days I have spent some time researching Matthew 6:9-13 to which Jesus shows us how we should pray.  This followed Jesus explaining to us how “not” to pray.  I love the words of my Savior and take great heed to His words telling me how to pray.  He is telling the believers how to pray, not the general public mind you.  Think of it, how could someone pray like this who does not know the heavenly Father…the only way to know the heavenly Father is through the Son…Jesus Christ!  Refer to Matthew 11:27.

Prayer is no doubt something that is to be very personal and this model prayer is only to be used as a guide to enter into a very personal time with your heavenly Father.  Immediately in the beginning we are to make known exactly who it is we are speaking to.  This is not our earthly father.  No matter how frail or how great our earthly fathers where or are, we are still speaking in this moment with our most perfect parent of all…our heavenly Father.  He will never let us down.  He always loves His own.  He will carry us as an earthly father carries his own child.  We can count on our heavenly Father no matter what the circumstance we are in.  Do not think that He will spoil us, but He will give us exactly what we need and when we need it.  He never gives us too much or too little…it is always exact.  He listens to His children when they pray.  He longs to hear from us in this most intimate way…prayer!

After doing my early research on these words of Jesus a very personal and intimate prayer flows out from the text of verses 9-10 something like this:

“My dearest heavenly Father in all eternity, Your name is the holiest of all.  May Your royal kingdom come here, may Your pleasure be fulfilled here in my world as it is where You live in all eternity, the abode of heaven.”

The “abode” of heaven is a place elevated above all other places.  It is a place of dwelling in continuance.  This is where our self-existant heavenly Father lives…our God lives on high.  He has always been and always will be.  He lives in a place that has continued always without beginning or end.  Our heavenly Father right now is longing for the time in the future when He will share all eternity with His chosen people…this will be in the New Heaven…that is another subject by itself.  Think of your heavenly Father like what I have described above.  He is not a tyrant looking for someone to pounce on.  He is not an old judge without grace.  Our God is full of grace, mercy and love.  Our God is a “just” God.  He loves His chosen people and did so to the point He was willing to sacrifice His only Son on the cross for our sins.  Our heavenly Father is longing to be with us forever, but time is not an issue with Him, so He waits for His elect to accept Him.

In the meantime we have this beginning of Jesus’ model prayer.  I will continue later with the latter part of this prayer.  For now, just meditate on Matthew 6:9-10…these two verses alone once you understand and take into your mind the full meaning of Who you are praying to should be enough to leave you in awe of our wonderful heavenly Father.  Pray with great intimacy to our God in heaven.  He is waiting for His children to call upon Him.

In Christ,

Scott 2008

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Conversion to Christ: The Making of a Christian Hedonist!

Posted by Scott on October 20, 2007

Conversion to Christ: The Making of a Christian Hedonist


By John Piper September 18, 1983


Matthew 13:44-46

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. 

Last week we saw that the infinite and overflowing happiness of God is the foundation of Christian Hedonism. God is happy because he takes perfect pleasure in the excellence of his own glory, especially as it is reflected in his divine Son. God is happy because he is sovereign and therefore can overcome every obstacle to his joy. And God’s happiness is the foundation of Christian Hedonism because it spills over in mercy to us. When God calls men and women to himself, it is not out of a deficiency that he needs to fill but out of fullness that he loves to share. We concluded last week by saying that not everyone has an eternal share in God’s joy, because there is a condition that must be met. The condition is that we obey the command: Delight yourself in the Lord (Psalm 37:4). But many people take more delight in riches and revenge and recreation than they do in God. And so they have no share in God’s saving mercy; they are lost. What they need is conversion to Christ—which is nothing more than the making of a Christian Hedonist. That’s what I want to talk about this morning.

Someone may ask, “If our aim is conversion, why can’t we just say, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved’? Why bring in this new terminology of Christian Hedonism?” It’s a good question. Here’s my answer. We live in a superficially Christianized society where thousands of lost people think they do believe in Jesus. In most of my witnessing to unbelievers and nominal Christians, the command, “Believe in Jesus and you shall be saved,” is virtually meaningless. Drunks on the street say they do. Unmarried couples sleeping together say they do. Elderly people who haven’t sought worship or fellowship for forty years say they do. Every stripe of world-loving church attendees say they do. My responsibility as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher of the church is not just to repeat precious biblical sentences, but to speak the truth of those sentences in a way that will prick the conscience of the hearer and help you feel your need for Christ. What I am trying to do is take a neglected and essential teaching of Scripture and make it as pointed as I can in the hope that some hearts will be stabbed broad awake. And therefore I say, when a person is converted to Jesus Christ, that person is made into a Christian Hedonist. Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That’s what I want to try to show from Scripture.

Created by God

Before we can focus on conversion, we need to review the great truths about reality that make conversion necessary. The first truth we have to face as human beings is that God is our Creator to whom we owe heartfelt gratitude for all we have. The best evidence for this is in your own heart and life. Why is it that the judicial sentiment of your own heart automatically passes judgment on a person who snubs you when you have done him a favor? We automatically hold a person guilty who fails to have any gratitude to someone who has shown him great kindness. Why? You know it would be a totally unsatisfying answer to say: I feel that way merely because I got spanked as a child for not saying thank you. We don’t let people off the hook that easily. The quickness with which our hearts judge inconsiderate people bears witness to our true belief: ingrates are guilty!

The real reason for why our hearts respond this way is that we are created in God’s image. Your judicial sentiment, which automatically holds me guilty if I ignore you after you’ve saved my child from drowning, is the voice of God in you. An aspect of the image of God in you is that you involuntarily hold people accountable for ingratitude. Therefore, you know in your heart that there is a God to whom we owe heartfelt gratitude. It would be utterly hypocritical to think that God expects any less gratitude for his gifts than you do for yours. “O, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endures forever” (Psalm 107:1). Therefore, if you will simply own up to the moral standards which you automatically make on your neighbor, you will not be able to escape the fact that the law of God is written on your heart and it says: a creature owes his Creator the affection of gratitude in proportion to his dependence and God’s goodness.

Falling Short in Sin

And that leads to the second great truth which human beings must face: we have not felt, nor do we now, nor will we feel tomorrow the depth and intensity and consistency of gratitude to God which we owe him as our Creator. And we do not even need the Bible to tell us that we are guilty. We know that we have not rendered to God what we demand for ourselves from our neighbor. We know that the judicial sentiment in our heart which holds other people guilty for ingratitude, also bears vivid witness that God holds us guilty for our astonishing ingratitude to him. And if we suppress this witness in our own hearts, the Scriptures make it plain, Romans 1:18–21:

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth . . . For although they knew God they did not glorify him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.

When every human being stands before God to give an account of his life, God will not have to use one sentence of Scripture to show people their guilt and fitness for condemnation. He will simply ask them three questions: 1) Was it not clear enough in nature that everything you had was a gift, that as my creature you were dependent on me for life and breath and everything? 2) Did not the judicial sentiment in your own heart always hold other people guilty when they lacked the gratitude they should have had in response to a great kindness? 3) Has your life been filled with the joy of gratitude toward me in proportion to my kindness to you? The case is closed.

Under God’s Wrath

And so the third great truth we have to face is that the wrath of God is upon us because of our ingratitude. Our own judicial sentiment requires that the moral accounts of the universe be settled. We do not allow indignities against our own character to be swept under the rug. How much less God! The righteousness of God means that he must uphold the worth of his glory. When we, by our ingratitude, belittle the worth of God’s glory, the accounts of justice must be settled. A man is worth more than a cat. And therefore you can go to jail for defaming a man’s character, but nobody has ever been convicted of libel against a cat. And God is worth more than a man—infinitely more—and therefore the defamation of his character through manifold marks of our ingratitude brings down a sentence of eternal destruction. The wages of sin is (eternal) death (Romans 6:23).

Christ: The Wrath-Absorber

The most terrifying news in the world is that we have fallen under the condemnation of our Creator and that he is bound by his own righteous character to preserve the worth of his glory by pouring out his wrath on the sin of our ingratitude. But there is a fourth great truth that no one can ever learn from nature or from their own consciences, a truth which has to be told to neighbors and preached in churches and carried by missionaries: namely, the good news that God has decreed a way to satisfy the demands of his righteousness without condemning the whole human race. He has taken it upon himself apart from any merit in us to accomplish our salvation. The wisdom of God has ordained a way for the love of God to deliver us from the wrath of God without compromising the righteousness of God. And what is this wisdom?

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:23, 24)

Jesus Christ, the Son of God crucified, is the Wisdom of God, by which the love of God can save sinners from the wrath of God, and all the while uphold and demonstrate the righteousness of God.

Romans 3:25, 26,

God put Christ forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over our former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

How can God exonerate sinners who have been ungrateful for his glory and yet demonstrate his righteous and unswerving commitment to his glory? Answer:

God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. (Romans 8:3)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree. (1 Peter 2:24)

Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)

If the most terrifying news in the world is that we have fallen under the judicial condemnation of our Creator and that he is bound by his own righteous character to preserve the worth of his glory by pouring out his wrath on the sin of our ingratitude, then the best news in all the world (the gospel!) is that God was willing to sentence his own Son in our place (Galatians 3:13) and thus demonstrate his righteous allegiance to his own glory and still save sinners like you and me!

What Must I Do to Be Saved?

But not all sinners. Everybody is not saved from God’s wrath just because Christ died for sinners. And this is the fifth great truth we need to hear: there is a condition you have to meet in order to be saved. And I want to try to show as my last point that becoming a Christian Hedonist is an essential part of that condition.

“What must I do to be saved?” is probably the most important question any human can ask. Let’s look for a moment at the different ways God answers that question in his Word. The answer in Acts 16:31 is “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” The answer in John 1:12 is that we must receive Christ: “To all who received him . . . he gave power to become children of God.” The answer in Acts 3:19 is, Repent! That is, turn away from sin. “Repent therefore, and turn again that your sins may be blotted out.” The answer in Hebrews 5:9 is obedience to Christ. “Jesus became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Jesus himself answered the question in a variety of ways. For example, he said in Matthew 18:3 that childlikeness is the condition for salvation:

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In Mark 8:34, 35 the condition is self-denial, the willingness to lose your earthly life for Christ:

If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

In Matthew 10:37 Jesus says the condition is loving him more than anyone else:

He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (See 1 Corinthians 16:22; 2 Timothy 4:8.)

And in Luke 14:33 the condition for salvation is that we be free from the love of our possessions: “Whoever does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

These are some of the conditions that the New Testament says we must meet in order to benefit from the death of Christ and be saved. We must believe on him, receive him, turn from our sin, obey him, humble ourselves like little children, and love him more than we love our family, our possessions, or our own life. This is what it means to be converted to Christ. And this alone is the way of life everlasting.

One Condition for Salvation

But what is it that holds all these conditions together? What unites them? What one thing impels a person to do them? I think the answer is given in the little parable of Matthew 13:44:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then from his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

This parable describes how a person is converted and brought into the kingdom of heaven. He discovers a treasure and is impelled by joy to sell all he has in order to have this treasure. You are converted to Christ when Christ becomes for you a treasure chest of holy joy. The new birth of this holy affection is the common root of all the conditions of salvation. We are born again—converted—when Christ becomes a treasure in whom we find so much delight that trusting him, obeying him, and turning from all that belittles him becomes our normal habit.

Someone may say against Christian Hedonism: “It is possible to make a decision for Christ without the incentive of joy.” I doubt that very much. But the issue this morning is not: “Can you make a decision for Christ without the incentive of joy?” Rather, the issue is: “Should you?” Would it do you any good if you could? Is there any evidence in Scripture that God will accept people who come to him out of any other motive than the desire for joy in him? Someone will say, “Our aim in life should be to please God and not ourselves.” But what pleases God? Hebrews 11:6:

Without faith it is impossible to please God. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

You cannot please God unless you come to him in search of reward.

What did Jesus say to Peter when Peter focused on his sacrificial self-denial and said, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you” (Matthew 19:27)? Jesus saw the seeds of pride: “We have made the heroic decision to sacrifice for Jesus.” And how did he banish that pride out of Peter’s heart? He said:

There is no one who has left anything for my sake who will not receive a hundredfold . . . now, and in the age to come, eternal life.

Peter if you don’t come to me because I am a greater treasure than all those things you have left, then you don’t come to me at all. You are still in love with your own self-sufficiency. You have not become like a little child basking in the beneficence of his Father. It is pride that wants to be anything more than a little baby branch sucking righteousness, peace, and joy from Christ the vine. The condition of salvation is that you come to Christ in search of reward and that you find in him a treasure chest of holy joy.

To sum up: There are five great truths every human needs to own up to. First, God is our Creator to whom we owe heartfelt gratitude for all we have. Second, none of us feels the depth and intensity and consistency of gratitude which we owe our Creator. Third, we are, therefore, under the condemnation of God’s righteousness. Our own judicial sentiment shows us we are guilty. Fourth, in the death of Jesus Christ for our sins God has made a way to satisfy the demands of his righteousness and yet accomplish salvation for his people. Finally, the condition we must meet to benefit from this great salvation is that we be converted to Christ—and conversion to Christ is what happens when Christ becomes for you a treasure chest of holy joy. Every biblical invitation of the gospel is rooted in the promise of lavish treasure. Christ himself is ample recompense for every sacrifice. The invitation of the gospel is unmistakably hedonistic:

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear that your soul may live. (Isaiah 55:1–3)


© Desiring God

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

-Scott Bailey 2007

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-One Dads Encouragement to Single Moms!

Posted by Scott on October 15, 2007

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I have reflected on the single parenting issues and I am constantly reminded in the paper, news, email, Internet and our neighborhood about a third of our homes out there have children raised by brave single moms.  This is not an easy venture to undertake.  Different events have lead these moms to raise their kids while being single.  No matter what the cause of their “singleness” they are still undertaking the role of mom and dad to these children and have been appointed by God to do so.  I do not have to speak from experience to say this is a daunting task.

“The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow…”

-Psalm 146:9 NLT

I have been researching online, books on the fatherless, and the scriptures.  Everyone seems to come up with a cause, but only God’s word speaks of how to cope as a single mother.  In one story we don’t hear much about Jesus’ earthly dad, Joseph, beyond about the time Jesus was 12 years old.  He relied on His heavenly Father from that point on.  This is a great lesson for all of us parents.  It is only by the grace of our heavenly Father that any of our kids turn out good.  For the most part, as parents, we will fail in comparison over and over again.  As hard as we try we will fail as parents many times.  Yet in the end, God’s graciousness shines through and these kids make us proud parents. 

l1d64jcate2mjocajekc56ca7me1jucafrzrhkca5vq1h0calaasjycapm11pmcakw3wdqcae3s628cae4n9v0cafqx8i9cahh01iaca0t6lcnca54zm3xcaw47u0ucaj67vhbcad6yxszcaxl9oti.jpg  God has a plan for each of our kids.  These plans were created long before the earth was spoken into existence.  Our kids will be something when they grow up all for the glory of God.  We usually never have an idea until they are about 40 years old as to what that really is…I can say that since I am about to turn 40!  We do know that God has placed these kids with us to help mold and shape their future.  He put these kids into our homes so that we would give them everything we can from what God has created in us to be.  Our experiences are from God.  These experiences can be shared with our kids in order to instruct them.  Now, the plan that God has for our kids could mean that they are raised in a home with both the biological father and mother.  This could mean they are raised in a home with one step-parent and one biological parent.  This could also mean they are raised in a home with only a mom or a dad….otherwise known as the single parent.

 “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

-Joshua 1:9 NLT

For the single mom, in the beginning I am sure it will be overwhelming to think about raising these kids alone.  The range of emotions that will fill your life at the moment of realizing you are going to raise these kids alone can only be imagined by someone that has experienced the same range of emotions.  TO help cope with this reality would be to find any moment of quietness in your day to just be still…don’t read anything, say anything, don’t have a radio or tv on, just be quiet and clear your mind as best you can to prepare to listen for God’s hope, encouragement, and light.  In this quietness which may only be a minute or two, you may experience His breath upon your head, the fragrance of His spirit being near you, or simply just a calm, but reassuring  silence that He is near.  After a moment of stillness you can begin to meditate or read from the Bible whatever you are studying.  If you do not have a place to start, go to Psalm 1:1 and begin there…you will find peace and inspiration for the road ahead in Psalm.  Try not to move too quickly through the passages.  Chew on every word.  Smell each page as you read.  Imagine with your mind the words that are taking place in each verse.  Meditate on this for a long while.  Now, you are ready to pray to God.  Your prayer may not vocalize as you thought it would, but your heart will be in much better shape to go before your heavenly Father.  You will find a new strength about raising these kids by yourself.  Now, begin to introduce each child to their heavenly Father.  Involve them in reading about the attributes of God.  Help them along to experience and get to know their heavenly Father in a way that most kids do not know God.  I cannot stress enough the need for your kids to know God above all else. 

The kids strength will rely on their belief in God and what they believe about Him.  The kids character will be shaped by what they read about concerning God, what they observe in your life about Him,  what the Bible says about God, how the church you attend worships God, and how they pray to Him.  For kids being raised by single moms the pursuit of holiness is crucial to their purity and security in the future.  Place into their life a confidence in God’s strength not their own strength.  Remember, you do not have to involve them in every event that the schools and churches put on the calendar.  Do not bend to the kids pier’s pressure as to sports, birthday parties, and other events.  If you do not guard this area of your families life it will only further frustrate you in your quest to raise these kids as best you can.  You only do what you can do and not disrupt your family unit.

23114766.jpg  The boys will want to play organized football someday.  Please, moms, listen to what I am telling you on this.  LET THEM PLAY FOOTBALL!  Not until they are about 13 years old though….I believe this to be the best age to start a boy playing football.  Yes, they may get hurt.  It’s alright to let them get hurt.  I know that it is a mothers tendency to want to protect your kids and not let them get hurt, but this is a right of passage for a boy.  The scars on their arms and legs become trophies down the road with their friends.  Raise these boys as you would want them to be as young men.  A young man that has never experienced pain and hurt will not step up and protect his family.  They will not step in front of that on coming car to save their girl friend, wife and/or children.  They will not be willing to fight over seas or in the country to protect our freedoms.  They will not want to take any chances that might injure them in the future.  The decisions you make now on this subject will be huge in determining the kind of young man your son(s) will be in the future.  Since about one third of families today are single family homes, then we need moms to be tough in this area.  This is the role a father would take, but since you are the mom and dad, you must put aside the mothering instincts in this area and like a dad would do which is to embrace their yearning to play a rough sport and slap them on the back enthusiastically to say “YES” they can play.  Again, it is important how you tell them they can play as well.

1-boys-fishing.jpg  Another reality about boys is the fact that especially when they are smaller they like dirt, worms, snakes, mice, anything that creeps and crawls upon the ground.  They will fill their pockets with these varmints…please enjoy these moments with a grimly smile…they love to be “earthy”.  This is just how boys are.  Don’t forget that boys like to go fishing.  Either take them or find a man that you trust to take them fishing…this is important.  I refer you to read more on the things Dads want Moms to know about boys article.  Click on About Boys here to go directly to it.  This has some great short quips about boys.  You can also click on Encouragement and read from a mother of 10 children perspective on raising boys…my wife Dana!  

Finally, moms, I want you to know that you are up to this task with God’s strength upon your life.  You may need to pull in grandpa, uncles, brothers, men in the church, neighbors, or whomever you can trust as a man to assist in raising your son(s).  It is great to have a manly figure in your child’s life on occasion.  This can help reinforce your parenting as well.  You are the parent, but it does not hurt to ask for help as God prompts you to do so.  Point these boys to read and study on great men in history.  Point them to great men of today they can read on.  Use videos as well to help these boys establish a mentor role model male.  Some great men I would recommend your boys getting to know are Theodore Roosevelt, George Mueller s8oytgcav4tqhmcagi1i0eca2ga8cyca05kqsfcay73doicajqiof1caevznjrca3rpygxcaz4rzq4ca9f51boca0g9olicalrsadeca0xxlsmca7srkxycaehdq01cam5v1etcafspj8jcau7fzjz.jpg, Charles Spurgeon, Ronald Reagan 8ifg22caej91s5caarj4lzcad522vgcatemf76cac2uv0lca6a1i8mcarvwhbrcacxitr0cag50kvfcaxu500ucafndfdpcahaldymca7e00ahcapnjeatcasiihs5casfh51zcae4jfnwcabgpb3c.jpg, Sir Winston Churchill, Chuck Swindoll, John Piper, Steve Farrar, Tony Evans, Dr. E.V. Hill, and John Wayne 130-157john-wayne-posters.jpg.  Books and movies to see are End of the Spear, Tombstone, True Grit, Tucker, Miracle, Seabiscuit, Its A Wonderful Life, and many others that show true masculine heroes and sacrifice.  Your influence on these boys growing into young men will depend on you as a mother not “feminizing” your boys at all.  Treat them different than your girls.  Girls should be feminized, but boys need to be rough, dirty at times, tough, smelly, and anything else that separates them from the girls…the tender moments will come and those are good to.  Books (other than the Bible) for you to read that can give you ideas for your boys and their raising are Standing Tall by Steve Farrar, King Me by Steve Farrar 88om5rcaz3azfbcajpj6o1cacz0jf9ca2o5ynmcaowlw67cabud7nnca4vaio9caua3h8xcago51xwcaoxe753cat3d6grca0erzgicayaq2a9caznsun3ca772y0eca1zrndwca0hkv1mcas4395x.jpg, How to Ruin Your Life by 40 by Steve Farrar bo17rmcayeyszscaw79jscca65hx9pcajekrmmca3lbolrcaj88ctccazr4zizcadlb5u0cat3i544cag7kii8ca9ei4vqca0cgttjca9m9q8fcaa1okohca8ypnvmcala8ghdcaxx2nw8ca8jaeoa.jpg, Man to Man by Chuck Swindoll05y2g7cauiz91pcaj6vr25ca47tviacacwj3m4camy0yp8cac39iuvca2i28ecca5l79rbcakd0dn5caci8ytocahsf1krca3m7937caapgt1bcans2kapca8ncrv0camccp07ca2w2awpca2a39d9.jpg, Talking with My Father by Ray C. Stedman, The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt For His Sons, The Bible Lessons of John Quincy Adams For His Son, What’s the Difference by John Piper, George Mueller on Answered Prayers, and many others.  A great book for you to read along with your younger boys is The Dangerous Book for Boys by Iggulden.  

Moms you have been singled out (no pun intended) by God for a wonderful task.  Your singleness is not by chance or for your destruction.  It is by design that you are single raising these boys.  God has a special adventure for you with these boys.  This adventure called life will be one of the most rewarding times in your life if you will embrace this challenge head on.  God is now in the role as the true Father of these kids…make sure they are brought up understanding this.  Point them to His sacrifices, His plan for them, His fresh mercies each day, His unfailing love for them, His creation in everything they can see and hear, and point them to His word in the Bible.  Keep plugging on…it will not be easy, but you can raise godly sons that will glorify God.

Look for resources online to help you through these years as a single parent.

-Scott Bailey (c) 2007

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-Modesty In Girls Comes From Home!

Posted by Scott on September 10, 2007

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Today, our society including the church have become very loose with our dress, speech, spending and much more.  Women and girls run along the walk ways in our neighborhoods hardly dressed and what they do have on is very tightly revealing.  As a man wo really would like to focus on the road has trouble with this sometimes.  As natural as it seems, for me to keep my eyes on the road and not take a quick look is a battle.  I am sure many other men and/or dads fight the same battles every day as I do.

I heard someone quote President John Adams, “When women in our country become immodest, then our government and nation will suffer greatly.” 

How prophetic those words have been.  To a great extent the war with Islam that America faces has been greatly inhanced by the trampy dress of our females and carrying on the way they do…this is directly forbidden in that religion.  I have seen some very vile things on the internet and tv before and am convinced that many women (not all) today show no boundaries at all.  They will do anything that makes them feel good, look good, and for the right amount of money.  For us dads this poses a tremendous challenge for us to raise our daughters to be modest according to biblical standards.  Yes, we are free…free to glorify God in our dress, actions, and attitude.  Not bending to the way the world thinks a person should dress or conduct themselves…”it is no longer I that lives, but Christ lives in me…”  This is not to say that girls should zip up in a suit from neck to toes or wear tent jumpers all the time.  I believe they can be very beautiful in the way they dress without appearing to be a very “loose” person.  Another quote I heard gave a very broad explanation of how women and girls should decide to dress for each day.

“Women’s clothing should be tight enough so that we can tell they are a women and loose enough for us to know that she is a ‘lady’.” 

-Unknown Quoter

So, dads look out for your wife and daughters when they leave the house.  Care enough about them to tell them if something needs to be changed.  If they have something on that might make another man think these gals are wanting much more than just a quick hello, it is time to speak up.  I know I battled this in our home at times, but our daughters are starting to understand the reason behind glorifying Christ with everything they do, say, and wear.  It is a direct reflection upon the parents and especially on dads/husbands, but most importantly it reflects directly on the kind of God you serve…if us dads are not willing to speak up then who will?

I am challenging dads to help their girls to understand the purpose of modesty so it can help us guys to remain pure at heart and mind by not tempting us by dressing provocatively…beautifully is one thing, but trampy is another.  Keep the mystery about how trully beautiful you are for your wedding night…this creates something special that you and your husband will never forget.  This is how God’s word does address this…

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest dress…”

-1Tim 2:9

-Scott Bailey (c) 2007

 

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