How do You Measure Up

November 7, 2006

Attitude

Like any other subject we have decided to learn, how well we do will depend on the kinds of attitudes with which we begin. For example, if our minds are already made up on what the Bible says or means and we are basically closed to new understanding, there is no real reason to study the Bible further. Openness in learning, as opposed to being closed minded, is the first key to studying the Scriptures. This is an attitude that says, “I am teachable because I do not know everything but want to learn more.”

The second attitude is characterized by a hunger and thirst for truth. No one who does not possess a strong desire to learn the truth of Scripture in the way we have just described will pursue it for very long. A real longing to know truth is accompanied, of course, by a willingness to let the Holy Spirit teach us through our own efforts as well as through the work of others. This means, of course, that we will have to learn how to listen both with our minds and with our hearts to the Spirit of God who dwells in all those who have come to know and follow Christ.

Two other vital attitudes are more difficult to explain. One is the necessity of ambiguity when it is called for. Ambiguity is the willingness to let issues remain indefinite or undecided until we have more information or better understanding. We will not jump to conclusions too quickly, remembering that growth is a progressive thing. We should expect, therefore, that the truth of Scripture will be made known to us gradually, and we should not assume we will know everything at once. Knowing the truth of Scripture is like the way we came to know many other complicated subjects in school; one grade or level builds upon another. You cannot know, for example, the complex theorems of geometry if you have not first studied basic math. The same is true spiritually. Certain complex ideas follow more basic truths, and many of them must be learned in progression or only after we have developed in our spiritual maturity. We therefore should have the attitude that allows for the progressive unfolding of truth.


HERESY

November 1, 2006

 

HERESY (Errors, Lies, Mistakes)

How do heresies get started?

BIBLE READING: Colossians 2:1-23

KEY BIBLE VERSE: And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done. (Colossians 2:6-7tlb)

Heresies grow where knowledge of God’s Word is weak. The problem that Paul was combating in the Colossian church was similar to Gnosticism (from the Greek word for knowledge). This hearsay teaching contrary to biblical doctrine) undermined Christianity in several basic ways: (1) It insisted that important secret knowledge was hidden from most believers; Paul, however, said that Christ provides all the knowledge we need. (2) It taught that the body was evil; Paul countered that God himself lived in a body—that is, he was embodied in Jesus Christ. (3) It contended that Christ only seemed to be human, but was not; Paul insisted that Jesus is fully human and fully God.

Gnosticism became fashionable in the second century. Even in Paul’s day, these ideas sounded attractive to many, and exposure to such teachings could easily seduce a church that didn’t know Christian doctrine well. Similar teachings still pose significant problems for many in the church today. We combat heresy by becoming thoroughly acquainted with God’s Word through personal study and sound Bible teaching.

Heresies rely on human insight and wisdom rather than God’s Word. Paul writes against any philosophy of life based only on human ideas and experiences. Paul himself was a gifted philosopher, so he is not condemning philosophy. He is condemning teaching that credits humanity, not Christ, with being the answer to life’s problems. That approach becomes a false religion. There are many man-made approaches to life’s problems that totally disregard God. To resist heresy you must use your mind, keep your eyes on Christ, and study God’s Word.

Heresies are attempts to reach God by human means. We cannot reach up to God by following rules of self-denial, by observing rituals, or by practicing religion. Paul isn’t saying all rules are bad. But no keeping of laws or rules will earn salvation. The Good News is that God reaches down to human beings, and he asks for our response. Man-made religions focus on human effort; Christianity focuses on Christ’s work. Believers must put aside sinful desires, but doing so is the by-product of our new life in Christ, not the reason for our new life. Our salvation does not depend on our own discipline and rule-keeping, but on the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Heresies can be discovered through asking probing questions. We can guard against man-made religions by asking these questions about any religious group: (1) Does it stress man-made rules and taboos rather than God’s grace? (2) Does it foster a critical spirit toward others, or does it exercise discipline discreetly and lovingly? (3) Does it stress formulas, secret knowledge, or special visions more than the Word of God? (4) Does it elevate self-righteousness, honoring those who keep the rules, rather than elevating Christ? (5) Does it neglect Christ’s universal church, claiming to be an elite group? (6) Does it teach humiliation of the body as a means to spiritual growth rather than focusing on the growth of the whole person? (7) Does it disregard the family rather than holding it in high regard as the Bible does?

Related topics: BIBLETEACHINGTRUTH 


Commitment

October 26, 2006

Title: Commitment
Book: Early in the Morning
Author: Woodrow Kroll
Program Date: December 31st, 1969
Web Page:  O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.

Commitment: an absolute dedication and faithfulness to someone or something. It’s something we all claim to have, yet very few demonstrate it. Many people claim to have a strong commitment to the local church, but they rarely attend, even when they have nothing else to do. Others take wedding vows which include promises of commitment. Yet those vows are broken rapidly and all commitment is nullified. Nothing is so distressing to the Lord God as to see a Christian who is only half committed to Him. (See Revelation 3:14-22.)

The greatest example of a lack of commitment in the Old Testament is found in the prophecy of Hosea. Hosea (whose name means “salvation”) was a prophet to the northern kingdom and a contemporary of Amos. In fact, Hosea was to the northern kingdom what Jeremiah was to the southern kingdom – a weeping prophet. His prophecy is very tender and his ministry is similar to that of John the Apostle.

The purpose of Hosea’s prophecy was to provide Israel with a real-life example of her spiritual idolatry. Hosea transferred his personal tragedy into a figure of the tragedy of Israel as a nation. The lack of commitment to him by his wife and her infidelity was but a minute calamity when compared with the spiritual infidelity of Israel and their lack of commitment to God. Hosea called Israel to national repentance much as he pleaded with his adulterous wife for personal repentance.

To bring Israel to understand how complacent they had become, the prophet observed, “Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away” (Hosea 6:4). Israel’s commitment was shallow at best, and Hosea likened the fleeting goodness of uncommitted men to a morning cloud and the early dew which vanishes with the morning sun. God is never pleased with such a halfhearted commitment and a complacent attitude toward Him. Israel had not yet learned that lesson; apparently twentieth-century Christians haven’t either.

There is a tiny harbor town on the ocean shore where many ships have crashed on the rocks in violent weather. This town became well known because of the dedicated rescue team which aided mariners in distress. The rescue team would rally to the sound of the siren and rush to the scene of the accident, risking life and limb to save the sailors from drowning. As time went on, the citizens of that tiny town raised enough money to build a rescue station close to the shore. While this greatly facilitated the operation, it softened the dedicated team as well. As time went by, they added some of the comforts and conveniences that other rescue stations had. Through the years the rescue station became a social club, where the town’s people gathered to have fun and relax. Ships would still crash upon the rocks; the alarm would still sound; but eventually no one responded. They were reluctant to leave their comforts, because their commitment to rescue the miserable mariners was no match for their complacency.

We can imagine that Hosea felt much the same way about Israel as we may feel toward this once-dedicated rescue team. Still there are many Christians today who have a halfhearted attitude toward God and, in fact, have committed spiritual adultery with the world just as Hosea’s wife did. Much of Christianity today is nothing more than “country-club Christianity,” basking in the goodness of God, relying on the riches of this world’s goods, and unconcerned about commitment to the Father or the rescue of those who are perishing.

We can almost hear Hosea saying, “Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.” The fleeting goodness of uncommitted Christians is not goodness at all. It is just a temporary rest stop on the highway to complacency.

MORNING HYMN
A charge to keep I have
A God to glorify
Who gave His Son my soul to save
And fit it for the sky.

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Decrees of God

September 25, 2006

Definition of God’s Decree

The decrees of God have been established in eternity past and have reference to God’s sovereign control over every realm and over all events. The decrees are reflected in Ephesians 1:11 in that He “works all things after the counsel of His will.” Question 7 of the Westminster Shorter Confession states: “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” Ultimately, there are only two options. Either God is sovereign and has absolute control over the world and universe or God does not have sovereign control, and the world and universe carry on in defiance of His holy will. Of course, the former is true; the world does not operate by chance. God has absolute control. Yet it must also be affirmed that man is responsible for sinful actions. God is never the author of sin nor does His sovereignty eliminate man’s responsibility.

The London Confession of Baptist Faith, Chapter III

 Of God’s DecreeI.  God hath decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever come to pass;[1] yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein;[2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established;[3] in which appears His wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing His decree.[4] 1.  Isa. 46:10; Eph. 1:11; Heb. 6:17; Rom. 9:15, 182.  James 1:13; I John 1:53.  Acts 4:27-28; John 19:114.  Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5 II.  Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions,[5] yet hath He not decreed anything, because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.[6] 5.  Acts 15:186.  Rom. 9:11, 13, 16, 18 III.  By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ,[7] to the praise of His glorious grace;[8] others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice.[9] 7.  I Tim. 5:21; Matt. 25:348.  Eph. 1:5-69.  Rom. 9:22-23; Jude 1:4 IV.  These angels and men thus predestined and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.[10] 10. II Tim. 2:19; John 13:18 V.  Those of mankind that are predestined to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love,[11]without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving Him thereunto.[12] 11. Eph. 1:4, 9, 11; Rom. 8:30; II Tim. 1:9; I Thess. 5:912. Rom. 9:13, 16; Eph. 2:5, 12 VI.  As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so He hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto;[13] wherefore they who are elect, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ,[14] are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified,[15] and kept by His power through faith unto salvation;[16] neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.[17] 13. I Peter 1:2; II Thess. 2:1314. I Thess. 5:9-1015. Rom. 8:30; II Thess. 2:1316. I Peter 1:517. John 10:26; 17:9; 6:64 VII.  The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election;[18] so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise,[19]reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility,[20]diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel.[21] 18. I Thess. 1:4-5; II Peter 1:1019. Eph. 1:6; Rom. 11:3320. Rom. 11:5-6, 20

21. Luke 10:20


LEGALISM

September 25, 2006

LEGALISM

WORKING FOR GOD’S FAVOR FORFEITS IT

…. Do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see…

Mat_23:3-5

The New Testament views Christian obedience as the practice of “good deeds” (works). Christians are to be “rich in good deeds” (1Ti_6:18; cf. Mat_5:16; Eph_2:10; 2Ti_3:17; Tit_2:7, Tit_2:14; Tit_3:8, Tit_3:14). A good deed is one done (a) according to the right standard (God’s revealed will, i.e., his moral law); (b) from a right motive (the love to God and others that marks the regenerate heart); (c) with a right purpose (pleasing and glorifying God, honoring Christ, advancing his kingdom, and benefiting one’s neighbor).Legalism is a distortion of obedience that can never produce truly good works. Its first fault is that it skews motive and purpose, seeing good deeds as essentially ways to earn more of God’s favor than one has at the moment. Its second fault is arrogance. Belief that one’s labor earns God’s favor begets contempt for those who do not labor in the same way. Its third fault is lovelessness in that its self-advancing purpose squeezes humble kindness and creative compassion out of the heart.In the New Testament we meet both Pharisaic and Judaizing legalism. The Pharisees thought that their status as children of Abraham made God’s pleasure in them possible, and that their formalized daily law-keeping, down to minutest details, would make it actual. The Judaizers viewed Gentile evangelism as a form of proselytizing for Judaism; they believed that the Gentile believer in Christ must go on to become a Jew by circumcision and observance of the festal calendar and ritual law, and that thus he would gain increased favor with God. Jesus attacked the Pharisees; Paul, the Judaizers.The Pharisees were formalists, focusing entirely on the externals of action, disregarding motives and purposes, and reducing life to mechanical rule-keeping. They thought themselves faithful law-keepers although (a) they majored in minors, neglecting what matters most (Mat_23:23-24); (b) their casuistry negated the law’s spirit and aim (Mat_15:3-9; Mat_23:16-24); (c) they treated traditions of practice as part of God’s authoritative law, thus binding consciences where God had left them free (Mark 2:16-3:6; Mar_7:1-8); (d) they were hypocrites at heart, angling for man’s approval all the time (Luk_20:45-47; Mat_6:1-8; Mat_23:2-7). Jesus was very sharp with them on these points.In Galatians, Paul condemns the Judaizers’ “Christ-plus” message as obscuring and indeed denying the all-sufficiency of the grace revealed in Jesus (Gal_3:1-3; Gal_4:21; Gal_5:2-6). In Colossians, he conducts a similar polemic against a similar “Christ-plus” formula for “fullness” (i.e., spiritual completion: Col. 2:8-23). Any “plus” hat requires us to take action in order to add to what Christ has given us is a reversion to legalism and, in truth, an insult to Christ.So far, then, from enriching our relationship with God, as it seeks to do, legalism in all its forms does the opposite. It puts that relationship in jeopardy and, by stopping us focusing on Christ, it starves our souls while feeding our pride. Legalistic religion in all its forms should be avoided like the plague.


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September 22, 2006

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