The study of doctrine and theology has declined in God’s visible church over the last few decades at an alarming rate. An ever-increasing number of churches have adopted a seeker-centric approach to ministry in lieu of sound biblical teaching. According to so-called church growth experts, the unchurched masses are generally open to believing in God and accepting Christ. It is the church as an institution that drives them away from commitment. This type of person is called a ‘seeker’. In order to get these people to come to church and make that saving commitment church leaders must lure them in by appealing to their flesh. Learning theology and doctrine doesn’t interest them so it is laid aside as a primary ministry of the church. In other words, entertainment in all of its forms: music, dramatic performances, movie clips, light shows, media montages, etc. can be utilized to make the church a more comfortable, less intimidating place for seekers to find refuge. Psychological manipulation replaces the preaching of the word as a means to salvation. Sermons are often centered around felt-needs messages that ‘meet people where they are at’. Ministers may preach on topics such as strengthening marriages, gaining financial freedom, finding a stress-free lifestyle, even having a better sex life. This is all done to ‘ease’ the seeker into the fold before presenting him the gospel. It is a sandy foundation which collapses upon close scrutiny. Continue reading
Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:30-36 ESV)
Let’s break this meaty passage down and start with a well known verse.
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
This phrase is commonly referred to as the golden Rule. It may surprise you to learn that Jesus is not the first person in history to express this sentiment. Many great philosophers and religious men of the past have said very similar things. Some would say that this universal sentiment sums up the heart of the Christian faith, but if it is commonly shared among other faith traditions how is it then a distinctly Christian doctrine? My answer would be to say that it is not at all the central doctrine of Christianity, and if some groups make it so, then they have strayed away from the simplicity of the gospel message. The good news isn’t that we should try to treat others with kindness. We are all sinners who will inevitably fail at this lofty goal. We need redemption from our lack of love toward God and men. God has provided this salvation by giving us his Son, Jesus Christ. Now that is good news! Continue reading
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. - Luke 6:27-28
What does it mean to love your enemies? Did Jesus command us to conjure strong feelings and affections for those who hate us and that we also hate? Is it even possible to have good feelings toward someone we despise? If we are totally honest with ourselves we must admit that we harbor strong negative emotions to those we call our enemies. Isn’t it a contradiction to say we love whom we hate? How could God make such a contradictory demand upon us? Is the command to love our enemies some kind of divine prank?
The answer lies in Christ’s words – we love by doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us and praying for those who abuse us.
These principles seem straight forward enough but confusion can arise. What does it mean to bless someone? Isn’t doing good and praying for someone in fact, blessing them? Is there a difference in the meaning of these seemingly synonymous terms? Bless here in the Greek means ‘speak well of, praise’. Instead of indulging human nature’s propensity to gossip and slander our enemies (no matter how justified we feel in doing so) we should build them up and find what is praise-worthy and proclaim it. The all-encompassing love to our enemies we are commanded to fulfill is simply doing good to them, speaking well of them and asking God to care for them, despite the way we may feel. Continue reading
I’m looking at you, Charles Darwin. Or, more accurately, I’m looking at those ‘rational’ minds that have taken Darwin’s theory and ran with it unimpeded, right over the biblical account of the origin of all things. The scientific community push the ‘fact’ of slowly evolving life forms over eons of time with nary a nagging doubt – at least publicly. In light of their unshakeable rock foundation, evolution then clearly disproves the myth of an omnipotent creator forming life by merely speaking into a dark void. Conversely, Scripture plainly records that God did create the universe and all it contains. It also makes a point to repeatedly claim that all God’s creatures reproduce after their own kind. We have two diametrically opposed doctrines from two entirely different sources. One must be true and the other a lie. They cannot both be true, despite claims by some to the contrary.
The issue boils down to the doctrine of man’s creation in God’s image. Did God purposely mold man in his image, breathe into him the breath of life, distinguish him from every other life form, or was man made in the image of monkeys with a few genetic tweaks engineered by mere chance in the process of natural selection? These are not minor differences. The gulf between these two views cannot be bridged. Any Christian who wavers on this issue needs to consider the consequences of compromise. A view in which God uses evolution to accomplish his ends is fraught with peril. Of primary concern is that the creation account must be allegorized to fit this paradigm. Admittedly, God does use allegory in the bible to relate truth, but if he allegorized the first portion of the book of Genesis then why not the entire book? Where do we draw the line between fiction and historical account? Based on what authority? Did Adam and Eve not literally fall from God’s grace? Did the story of Abraham and the patriarchs not really happen? Is there no real covenant, no true people of God? Is there no original sin, no need of redemption? Don’t you see how the dominoes begin to fall with this compromised worldview? Continue reading
Author: Dr. Michael Horton
Page Count: 240
Synopsis: Dr. Horton diagnoses the core problem with modern evangelicalism: The drifting away from gospel preaching, centering on the person and work of Jesus Christ, toward the embracing of a therapeutic moralistic deism that puts man and his perceived wants and needs first and relegates God to a reactive spectator. Many of today’s preachers define God as the genie in the bottle who meets all our needs where we are at and not the Great judge who makes all of his creatures account for every deed done in the flesh – whether good or evil. God is portrayed as unequivocally benevolent. He’s the ultimate good guy who’s on our side and only wants the best for all his children, whether they are gathered in or gone astray. The good news of the gospel is trivialized since sin and judgment are marginalized to the fringes of Christian belief and experience. The contemporary preacher doesn’t teach that man is a sinner in need of forgiveness, but an imperfect soul struggling to live right and receive God’s material blessings. Continue reading
I recently received a comment from an atheist in response to my article Does God Send People to Hell? and decided I would post my rather lengthy reply in a post. Here are his original responses.
POST 1 – If God exists, then I really hope he’s a judge like you said. If that’s the case, then we’ll all be able to go to hell. And you’re wrong about nobody would choose to go to hell. I believe a lot of people in this world believe that hell is the only place for them. Me? i believe everyone(yes, including me) should go to hell.
Post 2 – If you haven’t notice from my previous post. I am an Atheist. Why am I an Atheist? Because I can only imagine God as an evil being that seeks to torture and destroy us. If this evil being exists, then we can only burn in hell. According to the bible, everything we do is evil. Whatever good we do will never atone for our sins.
So what if Jesus sacrificed himself? That only removed the original sin. We are sinful just by living our daily lives. Why do I say that? Do you know of the evils in the rest of the world? Have you actively stopped the evils? The moment we turn a blind eye to them, we’re doomed to eternal suffering in hell. He judges us based on our actions and our inactions. :
Know that we’re also judged by our thoughts and emotions. “Whose kid is that? Someone should shut that kid up.” You’re doomed to hell. You looked at a married woman and thought “She’s quite pretty.” You’re doomed to hell. You felt like killing someone for what that person did. You’re doomed to hell. You saw an item that you really wanted and thought to covert it as your own. You’re doomed to hell.
And that is why I embrace Atheism. If a being that is considered to be perfect exists, then we the imperfect ones can only burn in hell for all eternity. I am not posting this to convert you to Atheism or anything. I just want you to know that if God truly exists, then our fate is sealed. Worshipping him will not do you any good, he’s here to judge you, not to be worshipped.
Here is my reply:
Honestly, I sense from reading your posts that you’re not that far from the kingdom of God. You appear to have a keen sense of your own sinfulness, indeed, the sinfulness of us all, that is severely lacking, even among multitudes that claim Christ. But instead of fleeing to your only hope for salvation, you’ve decided to stick your head in the proverbial sand. You’ve convinced yourself that God won’t judge you because he is an imaginary being. However, the sense of deep conviction that you deserve punishment isn’t imaginary. You feel it in your heart don’t you? You can’t shake that sense of impending doom in your breast. Denying the existence of the Great Judge won’t spare you from his wrath.
I want to touch on a few points from your post. You feel that God is evil because he punishes evil. Does that really make any sense? If God were truly evil he would reward our sin instead of punishing us for it. But because God is good he must punish evil or he is not just. You’re right, man gets what he deserves when he rebels against his creator. This is the bad news but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. You seem to have a defective understanding of the cross work of Christ. You believe that Christ isn’t an all-sufficient savior, that his death on the cross accomplished some good but not enough to actually save anyone. This is not taught in scripture at all. When Jesus approached death on the cross he uttered the words, “It is finished.” What was finished? Complete and total salvation for those who believe. This is because of God’s sheer grace. In other words, the salvation Jesus bought and paid for with his blood sacrifice is a gift of God’s mercy. We don’t deserve it, we don’t earn it. We can only receive it by faith. Faith simply means that we look outside of ourselves and trust God completely to save us. We cannot even lift a finger to merit God’s favor as you so aptly point out. All of our works fall far short of God’s perfection. We need to be rescued from ourselves and God reaches down in a divine descent and plucks us from the flames of our just punishment because of his great love.
You write that Jesus died only for our original sin but scripture doesn’t teach this. He died for all of our sins – past, present and future. All of those transgressions were nailed to the cross and covered with his blood. All is forgiven. This is called Christ’s passive or suffering obedience. This brings up another problem in being made right with God. All our sin may be blotted out but that leaves us with a blank slate. We still lack the positive moral righteousness required by the law in order to be considered righteous in God’s eyes that we might inherit eternal life. Again, God took it upon himself to give us what we cannot hope to achieve in our own strength. Jesus Christ obeyed the laws of God his entire life. He was without sin and completely fulfilled the law to love God and love his neighbor. His obedience was perfect. We call this the active obedience of Christ. He actively fulfilled every jot and tittle of God’s moral law. This perfect obedience has been imputed (transferred or reckoned) to us when we put our faith in Christ. In other words, when we stand before God at the judgment he will not see our sin because the blood of Jesus has washed it all away and he will not see our feeble attempts at righteousness, which are filthy rags to God, but only the perfect obedience of Jesus. His works will be considered our own, and this only by the overwhelming grace God has lavished upon us. So, it is true that we are saved by works: Jesus Christ’s – not our own. We have access to his work by faith alone. You only need to trust Christ as Savior and he will not fail to save. Cry out from your heart, “Have mercy on me, a sinner!” and mercy you shall receive.
In preparation for serious reflection upon the Lord’s cross and his victorious resurrection from the dead many Christian faith traditions practice Lent. Lent, in essence, is a period of time set aside by worshipers to reflect upon the significance and magnitude of Christ’s cross work in light of their desperate need for grace, mercy and forgiveness. The observance of Lent is usually accompanied by fasting, prayer, mourning, self-denial and repenting over sin.
As a Christian practicing his faith in the sphere of Baptist tradition, Lent is typically frowned upon, so I’ve never participated in it. However, I must admit, that I’m not totally opposed to such practices on the condition that reflection upon our sin, Christ’s cross, fervent prayer and a holy lifestyle of self-denial aren’t solely practiced only within the limited confines of the 40 days of Lent. We as Christians should keep these sacred truths close to our hearts at all times, especially every time we sit down at the Lord’s Supper.
In recent years I’ve seen the wisdom in setting aside and sanctifying a period of time for serious reflection upon the glorious cross of Christ and subsequent conquering of death, hell and the grave. For those not comfortable with the idea of participating in Lent, perhaps I can offer an acceptable alternative. I highly recommend reading a couple of short books on the passion, purpose and application of Christ’ sacrifice on the cross. These books are brief with short, succinct chapters that can be read as a devotion everyday over the course of the month preceding Easter Sunday.
The first book is titled: The Cross he Bore by Frederick S. Leahy. The second is titled: The Truth of the Cross by RC Sproul. Below I’ll post a review of each, including a list of the chapters contained in each volume. Continue reading