Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Godly Sorrow vs. Condemnation

Paul states emphatically that there is absolutely no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1-5) and, John reports in his gospel that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it... rather to save it (John 3:17-19). Yet, Paul teaches that godly sorrow leads to repentance (2Cor 7:10). So, we see that there is a proper and, an improper response to our sin. The proper response is godly sorrow or grief and the improper response is condemnation. We must ask ourselves this question; Does our teaching and preaching produce condemnation or godly sorrow? All too often the answer is that it produces either condemnation or nothing. It seems to me that much of current evangelical doctrine (teaching) is geared toward producing condemnation. Why is this so? Let’s examine it for a short time in this blog post.

What is the difference between godly sorrow and condemnation? One produces repentance and closeness to God and, the other produces despair and distance from God. Godly sorrow produces the closeness. Condemnation produces despair. How do these affect obedience? Well, condemnation leads to obedience from fear and, godly sorrow produces obedience from love. Condemnation demands obedience and, godly sorrow coaxes obedience. Condemnation demands perfection. Godly sorrow recognizes process and striving toward a goal. Condemnation makes no allowances for failure. Godly sorrow encourages the failing to reach forward with a hope for a better tomorrow.

Condemnation emphasizes God’s justice and, godly sorrow is achieved by emphasizing God’s mercy and grace. The difference between condemnation and godly sorrow is highlighted by where the emphasis is placed on the various message of scripture. This appears to be the great divide between the apparent apostle’s doctrine found in the pages of the New Testament and, the early church father’s doctrine that comprises much of our evangelical teaching.

This is precisely the reason that Jesus taught his followers a new hermeneutic... a solely redemptive hermeneutic that pointed always to him... the author and finisher of our faith and salvation. This is also the reason for his shift in definition of the phrase word of God. He and his apostles redefined it to mean him or the gospel. This nuance makes all the difference in the world when it comes to producing condemnation or godly sorrow. It is the reason that we must only look to the scarlet thread of redemption that runs through the pages of scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

If the redemptive focus is always preeminent then, the scripture will always produce godly sorrow in the one who finds him or herself coming up short and wanting. If not, it will always produce condemnation and despair. The concept of need, rest and, reasonable service is critical to proper spiritual growth... a growth that is absent of fear and despair. My prayer is that the saints of God, especially those who believe that they have been called to minister and lead, will embrace the redemptive focus and, will begin to help produce saints that can grow in the grace and the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which, will in turn allow a growth toward true holiness.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Haggai’s Message For Today

I am reposting this article that I wrote a while back. It came from a bible study that I and my wife did in Haggai.

Hag 1:2-4 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'This people says, "The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt."'" (3) Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, (4) "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?"
The Prophet Haggai prophesied, during the time that the people of Israel had been allowed to go back to Jerusalem, to begin to rebuild the temple of the Lord. This was the return from Babylonian captivity. Work had stopped on the temple of the Lord and they were busy building their own houses and pursuing their own agendas. 

Here, by the Prophet, the Lord asks if it makes sense that they should have finished houses while His house, the Lord’s house lay desolate.
Today, in this world of denominations and factions, the people of God are busy making their houses beautiful, stained glass and fine plush pews, while the true House, the body of Jesus is lying in desolation. The factions grow with ever increasing numbers day by day; dividing and growing like a cancerous cell. In the meantime, the world sees the denominations and debate, and concludes that Christianity, is merely another alternative of the relative choices that one has in life about what to believe. There is no chance for the powerful witness of the body of Christ to go forth with crystal clarity. When we ignore this, we continue to say, “the time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.” I proclaim today, that the time is long since passed!

Look on to what else Haggai says:
Hag 1:7-11 Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways! (8) "Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified," says the LORD. (9) "You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?" declares the LORD of hosts, "Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. (10) "Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. (11) "I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands."
Look at the Spiritual implication of what is written here. The spiritual drought that besets the land is the result of God’s efforts. He blows it away! We may see a little harvest of anointing oil and a small portion of fruit from time to time, but the heavy due and the new wine and fat cattle are merely a thought of some future move of God. The plain truth is that the harvest is being held in check because the house of the Lord is desolate. The Lord says to consider our ways. We are to rebuild the temple. This will take heavy lifting. This will require much hard labor.

Haggai goes on to say:
Hag 2:6-9 "For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. (7) 'I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD of hosts. (8) 'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of hosts. (9) 'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the LORD of hosts."

So what is the answer? What is the heavy lifting? What is the work that must be accomplished to make the latter glory of the Lord’s house greater than the former glory? The temple must be built on the proper foundation. The foundation is the Lord Jesus Christ and above that is the Apostles Doctrine. But, what is the Apostles Doctrine? Don’t we have it? Well, we will ask the question this way. With all of the factions that exist in Christianity do we have it today? The answer is absolutely not!

The truth is that we all have pieces of the truth, but we must have our earth shaken. We must allow the Spirit of the Lord shake our individual nations. What we must do, is come together to search out the apostles’ doctrine by means of the Holy Spirit, in the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. This will require heavy lifting. This will require us to lay all of our agendas on the table and examine them together with the Holy Ghost’s direction. We cannot divide, but like a family intent on ironing out differences so that it is no longer a house divided, we must resolve to stay at it, until we have found the answers, and further, that the Holy Ghost has witnessed to us as a group, that we have indeed found the answers. At the end of this will come a return of the Apostolic Doctrine, and the Lord will bless as He promised in Haggai. The latter glory of the house will be greater than the former.

No longer will Larry King be able to have a Catholic Priest, John Macarthur an evangelical preacher, and a new age advocate debating truth, for the true temple of the Living God, the body of Christ, will be demonstrating in the Land, and Christ Himself will stamp his approval with a greater works ministry, that is so profoundly miraculous, that the whole world will take notice and see that the Temple of God is in the land.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What about authority, Protestantism and Acts 2:42? Part I: An answer to Father Barron

Anne Rice’s recent announcement has stirred up some very interesting debate and discussion. A recent face book posting of a YouTube video of Fr. Barron, speaking of Anne’s announcement led to another posting of a video by him on Protestantism and authority. These videos pose interesting questions about what is the church and where does it get its authority. So, on the one hand we have the Roman Catholic Church and the various branches of the Orthodox Churches claiming apostolic succession. On the other hand, the Protestant Churches claim that scripture alone is authoritative. Thus the question; Who has authority?
In fairness to the Roman Catholics and Orthodoxy, scripture alone... sola scriptura... has allowed the development of thirty thousand plus denominations. But, equally problematic is the schism of 1054 which divided the Eastern Church from the western church. Let’s just say that it is uncertain which of the factions were right... I lean to the eastern side but still, authority?

Yet, the New Testament suggests that there was at least in the first century church an authoritative apostolic doctrine or teaching. Act 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Also, Paul said this to the Thessalonians (2Th 2:15) Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. It is pretty clear that one needed two things for correct doctrine; (1) The epistles written and, (2) the traditions that they were taught by word of mouth. It therefore seems obvious to me that there was at one time an apostolic doctrine. So the question remains; what was the apostolic doctrine and who has it? Was it handed down or was it lost?

Are there ideas that can be clearly seen from scripture that show that the current church doctrine whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or protestant is incorrect? The answer is yes indeed! First, the apostolic definition of the phrase the word of God meant gospel or Jesus and did not mean scripture. This was to establish the authority of Jesus and the gospel. Yet, when you listen to or, read about the debates over sola scriptura both sides, the Roman Catholic and, the Protestants both refer to the scripture as the word of God. That was the Pharisaic emphasis but was certainly not the apostolic emphasis. The true authority was the interpretation that Jesus gave to the scripture and, aside from that interpretation there was not scriptural authority.
Secondly, the apostolic teaching about scripture emphasized that it was solely redemptive; pointing to the work and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. When one examines 2Tim 3:16 it must be placed in its wider context of verse 15 and 17. It is only profitable for doctrine when it makes one wise for salvation. This again is a solely redemptive purpose. It is only good for doctrine, reproof, etc. in its redemptive context. Scripture used outside of its redemptive focus is in reality the leaven of the Pharisees.

So, the question remains what is the apostle’s doctrine and what happened to the church? The apostle’s doctrine always puts grace and forgiveness first. This is the catalyst for all of the benefits of the gospel. That is why it is truly good news and, no one can out sin grace. This is the foundational premise. Paul stated that where sin abounded grace abounded all the more and James proclaimed that mercy always triumphs over judgment. This is the source of the Sabbath Rest.

Unfortunately for the truth, this does not make sense to the natural mind steeped in the knowledge of good and evil. The good news, when stated as it actually is, sounds too good to be true. Secondly, when one understands the truth of the gospel... really believes it.... it becomes harder to control people. The leaven of the Pharisees and the current church doctrine emphasize controlling people. However, the gospel states that it is the love of Christ that constrains or controls (2Corn5:14). Therefore, current doctrine is used to control or constrain behavior. This inhibits the natural love for God that flows from the true gospel.

We will look at this more in the next post.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Anne Rice’s announcement; examining her position on Christianity Part I

Respected American author, Anne Rice, announced on her face book page the other day that she was leaving Christianity. While she was raised Roman Catholic as a child, in her adult life and, for the bulk of her life until about twelve years ago, she was a self proclaimed atheist. She returned to Roman Catholicism and had a profound experience with Christ. The following are the posts from her face book page on July 29, 2010:
"For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."
A few hours later she posted this:
“As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”
And finally one hour later she posted this:
"My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become."
The above quotes show thoughtful, painful reflection and, an honesty that is completely refreshing. I personally think it is sad that she had to make this choice but I understand why she did. Yet, certainly it would be unthinkable to believe that Christianity has missed the mark for two thousand years... I mean it couldn’t be that orthodox doctrine has it wrong... could it? My answer is a resounding yes! In a world that has 38,000 plus denominations, many that will not share communion with each other... many that will not allow the possibility that the others are even followers of Christ... that the others have salvation and on and on... in this world of Christianity, in the now, I personally cannot see how it could be any other way. It cannot be the case that orthodoxy has it right... especially in view of Paul’s words in Ephesians chapter four stating that there is one Lord, one faith and one baptism. Really?
Still, Ms. Rice demonstrates that she has had a profound relational experience with God through Jesus. She has an unshakeable faith in the Lord and his mercy, love and, grace. There are many, myself included, who feel this same way. In fact, I believe that if people are honest with themselves that there are millions who share this view. There are many things that need to be rethought and reexamined; Theology, hermeneutics, eschatology and our view of the bible are but a few. The key is in examining what Jesus taught his followers about himself, the scripture, redemption, judgment etc. Maybe orthodoxy has a few things wrong. In the next post we will examine what these may be.

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