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Archive for the ‘God’s Word’ Category

The Excogitating Engineer has been involved in some ongoing conversations lately about God’s sovereignty in salvation being held in tension over and against or in cooperation with human choice. Oftentimes, people will cry foul when you come down too strong on the side of God’s sovereignty. “What about free will?” they ask. To that I respond in kind, “what about free will?”

‘Free will’ actually does not appear anywhere in Scripture. Of course, this does not mean that such a thing does not exist. The Bible is not an encyclopedia. It doesn’t talk about hemorrhoids either but we know that those are real things. However, free will is an idea that would be so integral to the concepts at play in salvation and that one could argue that, if free will was a thing, it would definitely be mentioned in those parts of Scripture. On the other hand, could free will be a concept that is assumed rather than explained in the Bible? Perhaps, but it still seems such a major assumption would not go unmentioned. Regardless, why do well-meaning and Bible-believing Christians bring up free will when it is not even a biblical argument? I digress.

The Excogitating Engineer has been reading Freedom of the Will, by Jonathan Edwards. Edwards makes a strong case against the Arminian view of free will. The Arminian view is simply not consistently tenable. If you have not read the book, you simply must read it. However, I don’t really think that matters to most people in our day and age because so many people just make up their own meaning of free will and, in the vernacular, it can have any number of meanings depending on who is saying it. I do not think that people are thinking about free will in the sense that Edwards argues against when they bring up that argument. I don’t get the sense that people are thinking about concepts such as libertarian free will, contingency, or necessity.

The Excogitating Engineer holds the opinion that in today’s society, the vast majority of people object to emphasizing God’s sovereignty for a single reason; and that reason is the commitment that people hold to personal autonomy. People really want to say, “how dare you infringe on my personal autonomy?” or “how dare you imply that my autonomy would be limited by God’s sovereignty?” Of course, people don’t want to come across that way so, instead, they say, “what about free will?”

The fact of the matter is that free will does not exist. However, individual choices do exist and so does human responsibility for those choices. Both concepts appear in Scripture: God’s sovereignty and human choice. Both concepts are pervasive throughout the Bible. God’s sovereignty is primary over and above that human choice and that idea is seen all throughout the Scriptures. I would like to point out a verse that came up in my Bible reading earlier this week. The verse is 1 Samuel 2:35 which comes immediately after God declares to Eli that He will judge both of Eli’s sons for their wicked behavior. Here is what that verse says.

But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always. 1 Samuel 2:35 (NASB)

This verse consists of two statements by God about what He will do. God will (1) raise up a faithful priest and He will (2) build him an enduring house. These are two statements made by God about what He will do. He is completely sovereign and has complete authority to carry out what He says He will do. These two things will happen and indeed did happen. Interestingly, both of those statements about what God will sovereignly accomplish are immediately followed by statements about human choice—in the same sentence. He says that this faithful priest whom He will raise up “will do according to what is in My heart and my soul” and that “he will walk before My anointed always.” Both of the these statements describe what will happen. Does that mean that a person does not have to make the choice to bring these things to fulfillment and that the person making the choice will not be responsible and accountable for the choices that he makes? The answer is clear. Humans make choices. We are responsible for our choices. God is simultaneously carrying out His plan through His sovereignty (which is primary) and through humans choices (which is secondary). Both are real and both happen. The reality of one does not negate the reality of the other. In this verse there are two statements of God’s sovereignty, both immediately followed by statements of human choice. This jumped out at the Excogitating Engineer when he read the verse and the text was screaming, “Both are true! God’s sovereignty is really a thing and so is human choice, And, it is all in this one verse which is really just one sentence.”

Well, what do you think about the age old debate? Where do you come down on the two concepts which sometimes seem to be at odds at one another? Do you have Scripture back up your claim? Regardless of what anyone says about the issue, I take great comfort in the sovereignty of God, knowing that it cannot be thwarted by choices made by fallen sinful human beings like me.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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Today was a bitter sweet day at our church. Today was the last Sunday for our pastor, Preaching Pastor (PP), to be in the pulpit at our church.  He is moving on to another ministry that God is calling him to and there are exciting days ahead for him and his family. I just want to take this opportunity to write down what PP and his family mean to me. I am sure there are many others who feel the same way but just have not expressed it to him.

I live in a city in the deep South in the United States. Our county has over 400 churches but, to be honest, it is really hard to find a good church here — in my estimation. When I mean good church, I mean a church that is committed to the gospel and submits everything it does to the authority of God’s Word. I also mean a pastor who preaches the whole counsel of God and does so unashamedly. A good church should have a pastor who submits his sermons to the words on the page of the Bible and the very points of his sermon are driven by the authors who penned (not literally) the words of Scripture. When I look for a church, I look for a church where the pastor is someone that I trust and I can willingly submit to as the leader of the local congregation.  Our pastor until today, PP, was such a person and here is why.

One of the first things I noticed about him was the points in his sermon came from the text that he was preaching. He did not impose his own ideas into Scripture but let the Bible determine what he was saying to us in his sermons. He was truly biblical in his sermons. He also tried to be biblical in all aspects of how he led the church. He knew that the ultimate authority in the church is God and that God revealed Himself to us in Scripture — so the only way to lead the church was to submit to God’s Word. He was this kind of man (and still is). I believe this is a principle that was a driving force behind all that he did at our church. I believe this will continue to be the case at his new place of ministry and the result will be that his congregation will be blessed, well-fed, and well-led.

Another great thing about PP is that he constantly was reminding the congregation of what was going on in the world; not just politically but also within the church. He was leading his church members to be World Christians; not worldly Christians, but World Christians. That is, he exposed them to the persecution that continues to persist around the world and the constant dangers our brothers and sisters in Christ face just to name the name of Christ or to meet for worship and Bible Study. He reminded us that the call to follow Christ comes with a cost and rejected the false claims of the property gospel. PP kept before our congregation the need to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth where the name of Christ is not worshipped and where people have no access to God’s Word nor is there anyone there who is attempting to share the gospel with them. We call this world missions and PP was faithful to keep this need before the church. Our pastor, PP, did not focus on world missions to the neglect of the gospel needs in our own community. He was very much aware of the needs in our city and how we need to be Christians taking the gospel to our places of business and to our community.

I don’t really intend this to be a long post so I will not go into great detail but another great thing about PP is how he was willing to invest in me and my family. I knew that any time I had a need or my family was in crisis, I could call him and he would do whatever he could even if that was just to listen. He has ministered to me on numerous occasions and has helped our family in times of crisis. He has truly loved us with the hands and the love of Christ during the time we have been at this church.

Last but most certainly not the least, we all love PP’s family. His family reflects his godly leadership as the head of his family. His wife is a wonderful pastor’s wife who has a warm and welcoming spirit about her. She shows love to everyone who walks through the doors of the church. Also, their children are great kids who clearly are being raised to love the Lord. They are a wonderful family and they will be missed. Their next place of ministry is getting a great family. Their next church is being blessed with a great man of God as their pastor and he will bring with him an awesome family. Our loss will most definitely be their gain.

Having said all of this, I know that this is not good-bye. We will see them again. I am sure we will see them when they come back to visit our city. We may even go visit them in their new city. Either way, it will not be the last we see of them. We will worship God together for eternity at the feet of Christ. God continues to mold us and shape us as He finishes the work that he started in us. It is a lifelong journey and God uses fragile and cracked (or even broken) vessels to carry out his purposes. He uses us where we are to bring glory to his name and sometimes he sends us off to new places to minister to and build up the church. This is exactly what is happening with PP and his family as they move on to a new phase of ministry. I pray that God may use PP and his family mightily as they obediently follow God to their next place of ministry, and beyond.

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Whether you move to a new community or your church decides to shut its doors, you may find yourself looking for a new church home at some point.  When you are looking for a church, what do you consider the most important issues or reasons in selecting a particular church.  As I consider this, these are what I consider the most important issues in the selection process of a new church home.

1. Agree on primary theological issues. The first and most important characteristic needs to be that we agree on the primary theological issues. That is, they must have a biblical understanding of the gospel. This is a non-negotiable point. They must understand the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ’s work on the cross. They must agree that one’s salvation is by grace and grace alone. Salvation is a work completely of God and He doesn’t need our help. You must only repent. The church must agree with the inspiration, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture. We may not always agree on how to interpret Scripture but we must at least agree that the Bible alone is the rule for all that we do.

2. Credobaptism. Any church that I join must practice believer’s baptism. I will not join a church that does not practice baptism by immersion. Sprinkling is not baptism. Baptism is, by definition, dipping someone under water. Baptism must be reserved for believers who have demonstrated a credible evidence of regeneration and who want to join the church and become part of the community of believers. They cannot baptize infants. They must baptize only believers.

3. Ministry to all ages. I need the church to minister to all ages, at least the ages of the people in my family. Since I have youth aged children, I need it to be a place where my youth aged children can live in community with other youth. I need it to be a community of believers where adults speak truth into children’s lives and show them what it means to live as an intentional disciple of Christ. I need the church to be intentional about preparing the youth biblically for a world that is hostile to Christian ideas. I don’t need it to be about parties, concerts, and amusement parks. I need it to be intentional and gospel driven. I need to it to be a church that understands the parents’ role in the youth’s lives but will alongside the parents in discipleship.

4. Expository Preaching. I believe that a church needs a steady diet of expository preaching. It is okay to depart from it on occasion but in general, expository preaching needs to be the practice of the preacher. It helps in preaching the full counsel of God and not just focusing on the favorite texts of the pastor. It also allows the text to drive the message rather than using a Bible verse for a launching pad to say whatever they want.

5. Welcomes workers. I hope that my next church would be open to having new people serve and minister in the area of their gifting. There are areas in which we could contribute to the ministry of the church but I need the church to be open to having new people get involved. I don’t want to be a part of the church that always goes to the same people to step in and minister.

6. Missions. I would hope that the church would have a biblical understanding of missions. But, if they don’t, it needs to be a church where the pastor is leading them to give financially to support missions. It should be a significant part of the budget, prayer, and preaching.  It should be a climate conducive to the church growing in this area.

7. Love in spirit and practice. Does the church have a sense of unity in spirit? Do they love on one another? Are they welcoming to visitors?

The answer to these should be a resounding “yes!” These are really the minimum of what I think should characterize a church that I join. There are several other traits that I think are important but are not must-haves such as high expectations and accountable church membership.  However, if the church is getting a steady diet of expository preaching, these other issues will eventually fall into place.

What are your thoughts?  What do you look for in a church?

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I really enjoy listening to J. Warner Wallace and his podcast called Cold Case Christianity.  You can find him at Please Convince Me or Cold Case Christianity.  I enjoy apologetics and listening to thinkers reason about faith and cultural issues.  I was recently listening to J Warner Wallace discuss the issue of abortion with an atheist.  Wallace mentioned to the atheist that his objections to abortion were not based on the Bible but based on pure reason.

I understand that you can’t reason with an atheist using the Bible.  You must use reason.  However, as a Christian I believe that the foundation for our convictions must be the Bible and not reason.  Reason and logic are a reflection of God’s character and the order that He has created.  On the other hand the Scriptures are direct revelation from God.  As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) says:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

God’s Word is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness that we may be complete and equipped for good works.  How can we use anything else as the foundation for our convictions?  Only God’s Word is without error.  I agree that when we are in “arguments” with non-Christians we should use reason but that is not the foundation for our convictions.  It is what we use to convince others of the reasonableness of our positions.  God’s Word is His revelation to us and should be the foundation on which we stand.  Reason is a reflection of his character and we must use reason as we look to His Word and apply it.  We should use reason in the public square but may we never say that Scripture is not the foundation for our beliefs and convictions.

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A friend of mine recently moved to a new city.  This, of course, meant that he needed to look for a new church home.  If you are relocating to a new city and need to find a new church home what are things you should look for?  There are so many things that one should look for but if we want to narrow it down to the most important things to look for in a church, what would those things be?

The first and most important characteristic that should exist is a commitment to expository preaching by the senior pastor.  By expository preaching I mean a particular thing that others might not mean when they use the same term.  I am referring to the pastor preaching through entire books of the Bible in chronological order.  Not the the books of the Bible are taught in chronological order but the chapters within the book are taught in chronological order and no section is skipped.  By doing this, the pastor can ensure that he is preaching the whole counsel of God and he is not just parking on texts that he likes.  The pastor’s message should come directly from the text and he should teach the context, the verses, and the particular words within the verses.

The reason this is number one for me is that the teaching is directed by God’s Word.  If the church and I disagree about some particular issues, it will be covered by God’s Word eventually.  I will be changed or the church will be changed.  If we all place ourselves under the authority of the Scriptures, we will all be in one accord eventually.

Second, and not far behind it, is a biblical understanding of the gospel.  This drives how the church will do evangelism and missions.  It will affect how alter calls are conducted.  It will affect how children are led to Christ.  Part of this will expose the church’s understanding of the doctrines of grace.  The doctrines of grace are important but not everything.  Although it is not the be all and end all of the church, the doctrines of grace affect how a lot of things are done.  A biblical understanding of the gospel also includes important theological truths such as penal substitutionary atonement.  This is also very important.  A theology of missions comes from their understanding of the gospel as well.

The third thing that comes to mind for me is a commitment to believer’s baptism.  This is the first step of obedience in the Christian’s new life.  It is important that only believers are baptized and only those with a credible profession of faith.

These are my top 3 requirements for a new church.  There are many other secondary issues but I think these are my non-nogotiables.  What about you?  What do you consider important when looking for a new church?

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It seems that a common practice in American Evangelicalism is take a Bible verse, pluck it right out of its context, and make it mean what we want is if it is all about us.  We think that the Bible is about us.  It is most definitely for us but it is not primarily about us.  One verse that I hear taken out of context often is Matthew 18:20.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

I have had heard this verse used many times as evidence that God listens to us at prayer meeting — because there are multiple believers there — and where there are two are three gathered God is there among them.  Is this really what the verse means?  If this what the verse means, one must take the corollary to be true also: if there are not two or three gathered in His name, He is not there.  Do you agree with that?  I don’t think so.  This would mean that all that time Richard Wurmbrand was is solitary confinement in a Romanian communist prison, that God was not there.  This means that when I pray alone to God in my car driving to work, that God is not there.  I do not believe this — especially since God is omnipresent.  In John 15:5, Jesus says that if we abide in Christ that whatever we ask will be given to us.  He does not say that this is true — if 2 or 3 are gathered in His name.  The way many people interpret Matthew 18:20 does not square with the rest of Scripture.

As you look at the context of this verse, it is in a paragraph that is abut confronting a brother about his sin.  If the brother does not listen to you when you confront him about sin you eventually should escalate it to the church body and he should be treated as a tax collector.  Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  He should be removed from the fellowship of the local church and we should pray for his restoration.

Let us be careful how we handle God’s Word.  Let us not make texts mean something that they don’t.

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