Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Gospel with No Repentance is No Gospel At All: A Response to Matthew Vines

The Bible is explicitly clear that genuine conversion, true salvation, is only obtained when faith in Christ and repentance of sin are evident in our lives. As Jesus Himself declared in Mark 1:15.
In our day, both in society and within some strands of the broader evangelical context, there is an attempt to get sinners into heaven without repentance. This is particularly the case in regard to those who embrace same-sex attraction and/or lifestyle.
Whatever be the motivation, whether well-meaning to express love and acceptance or ill-meaning to simply reject the authority of Scripture and God’s will for His glory and our good, to proclaim a gospel with no repentance is to proclaim a false gospel that in the end will not save.
Matthew Vines’ recent book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, is a prime example of heralding this false gospel which lacks repentance. Vines is a Harvard student who has taken a revisionist approach to Scripture. That is, he rejects historical, orthodox interpretation of the passages that address same-sex behavior and he offers what he purports to be a more accurate, faithful reading. While stating that he affirms the authority of Scripture, his interpretations of these clear passages indicate otherwise.
The faulty hermeneutic is glaringly obvious on many fronts. I would encourage everyone to download and read the free e-book available from SBTS staff. You can find it here. This resource decisively refutes Vines’ interpretation of OT and NT passages, as well as how this line of thought is a capitulation to culture and a detriment to those who struggle with same-sex attraction. It is an excellent help to provide answers to those who have been influenced by these scriptural gymnastics.
Among the book’s errors are the author’s failure to apply his hermeneutic to every other sexual perversion forbidden in the OT. He reasons that the Bible is not condemning committed, monogamous same-sex relations, but only condemns engaging in multiple same-sex relations. So is he ready to apply that selective hermeneutic to the other forbidden sexual perversions? So is incest ok if it remains between two committed people? Is adultery ok if you have only one mistress?
Another glaring problem with his hermeneutic is that homosexuality is homosexuality whether it remains monogamous or not. He fails to recognize the Bible’s regard for homosexuality as a perversion outright. He reasons that Paul simply was not aware of committed homosexual relationships and he was not addressing homosexual monogamy. That revision fails to admit that homosexual behavior is homosexual behavior whether it occurs with only one partner or with multiple partners. It is embracing the lifestyle of homosexuality that Scripture describes as sin and as demonstrating lack of faith in Christ and repentance of sin.
The Bible is absolutely clear that if someone embraces a lifestyle of any sexual immorality, or of any sin for that matter, and is not striving to put away sin for the glory of God by the power of the Spirit, he/she is not a true believer. Those who have turned from lifestyles of sexual perversion, or from any sin for that matter, and are now pursuing a holy life, satisfied in Christ demonstrate that they have been given new life in Christ. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
The irony is that this type of revisionist theology, while declaring to be loving, is actually the most unloving thing we can ever do to our neighbors. True love will seek ways to communicate the true gospel - the only saving gospel - and that gospel is the gospel of faith in Christ and repentance of sin.

As Albert Mohler states on this issue of communicating biblical truth, “The church has often failed people with same-sex attractions, and failed them horribly. We must not fail them now by forfeiting the only message that leads to salvation, holiness, and faithfulness.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why I Believe in the Resurrection of Christ and Why You Should Too

I firmly believe in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead as an actual, historical event, and for very good reasons.

  1. I hold the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because to believe that Jesus did not rise from the dead but rather passed out on the cross and revived in the tomb three days later goes against proven, medical facts. The excruciating torture of the cross resulting in tremendous loss of blood and injury to vital organs, combined with the professional assessment of the Roman guards whose job it was to make sure Jesus was dead, in addition to the lack of physical care and treatment and nourishment Jesus would have physically needed to remain alive in the tomb if He was in fact simply unconscious, combining those essentials together render the so-called “swoon theory” totally implausible.
  2. I hold the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because to believe that the Jewish leaders secretly stole the body of Jesus to prevent the disciples from stealing the body and claiming a resurrection simply does not coincide with the actions of those same Jewish leaders. How could they have stolen the body while the tomb was guarded by soldiers to prevent grave robbery? Why would they have paid the soldiers to accuse the disciples of stealing the body only later to be discovered as the real thieves? And most pointedly, why did they not produce the body of Jesus to quell the rumors of His resurrection and finally put an end to His following? If they had the body, they had the means to stop Christianity, which was their intention and they did not do so. That theory is then implausible.
  3. I hold the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because to believe that the disciples stole the body and then made up the resurrection in order to institute a new religion does not match the facts of history. How could the disciples sneak past the Roman guards who were put in place for the precise reason to keep the disciples from doing so? Furthermore, why would the disciples be willing to experience severe persecution and all but one to die as martyrs for what they all knew to be a lie? Maybe one or two would’ve tried to keep their self-proclaimed religion alive, but eventually one would have broken silence. None ever did. That theory falls as well.
  4. I hold to the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because to believe that every witness of the resurrected Christ was simply hallucinating does not fit the evidence. It is impossible for more than 500 people to have the same hallucination and even more impossible for people to have the exact same hallucination at exactly the same time in exactly the same place. That theory falls.
  5. I hold the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because to believe that the resurrection of Christ is simply a spiritual metaphor used by early Christians to describe the sense of newness of life and uplifting of one’s spirit horribly fails to account for how these early believers spoke of the resurrection. They spoke of it not in figurative language but in literal language. The Gospels recored the eyewitnesses of the risen Christ as speaking with Him, eating with Him, watching as He ascended back into the heavens. It wasn’t a metaphor for them; It was real.
  6. But far more importantly than all previous reasons, I hold the resurrection of Christ to be absolute, historical fact because the Bible, God’s divine revelation to man, says that it is so.  Read Matthew’s account in Matthew 28:1-10. 

Given the fact of the resurrection of Christ, that one pivotal event in history has massive implications for life, faith, and salvation.

  1. The Resurrection of Christ means then that Jesus was indeed God in the flesh as the Bible presents Him because only God could defeat death. 
  2. It means that when Jesus died, His death was indeed a sacrifice to pay for sin, and that His sacrifice to the Father was acceptable to God, the resurrection being God’s vindication upon the work of His Son. 
  3. It means that when Jesus says He is the Resurrection and the Life, that He is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and no man comes to the Father except through Him, that salvation, forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven is possible, but it is only possible by faith in Jesus Christ. 
  4. Can you go to heaven when you die? Yes - but only through Christ because only He has paved the way. 
  5. Can your sins be forgiven so that you are made right with God? Yes - but only through Christ because only He has made adequate payment for your sin. 
  6. That is not narrow-minded, religious intolerance; that is grace and truth! You don't have to die with a question mark, you don’t have to die grasping for hope. You don’t have to die wondering what will happen. You can face death with absolute confidence that you will meet your Maker and you will be welcomed into His everlasting arms, but in order to to do so, you must come to God through His gracious, loving, sacrificial provision of His Son!

Conviction: Where Christian Leadership Must Begin and Continue

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters. By Albert Mohler. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2012.

Every pastor, elder, and evangelical leader should read this book. We need to hear Mohler's message. Leadership is not primarily about pragmatics, innovation, winsome personality, or even the ability to draw a crowd. It's about conviction, particularly for the believer, conviction about the authority, inerrancy, reliability, and sufficiency of Scripture!

It is conviction about the Word of God that will carry the leader through various trials. It is conviction about the Word of God that will bring stability and endurance to the church or organization through the shifting culture. It is conviction that will guarantee true success, which is faithfulness to God.

Leadership begins, continues, and ends with conviction, principle-driven ideas and initiatives, clear communication of those Word-centered principles, and the intentional operatives to keep those core convictions remaining at the center of the church or organization long after you, the leader, have departed.

Conviction to Lead is not only a timely challenge for leaders in a topsy-turvy world, but it was more than a little overwhelming to read for this leader. After Mohler makes his case for conviction-led leadership, he then maps out the ways in which conviction will steer the leader in all aspects of leadership - 25 of them all together! Whew! I could've handled 10, but 25!?!

That's when the Lord gently reminded me of a "conviction" I hold from Scripture. The only way we can accomplish anything the Lord calls us to is by the power given through the Holy Spirit. We must rely on God to fulfill His calling in our lives. Mohler, like others, are examples of how Spirit-filled, Spirit-led men are leaders.

May we lead our lives, our families, our wives, our churches, and our ministries from and by conviction - conviction that the Bible is true, Jesus is God, and salvation is obtained only in Him. God give us conviction - to live and to lead.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Good News Comes from Good Friday: A meditation on John 3:16

In Jesus' own words He explained the purpose and meaning of His life and death.

For God - the Greatest Being

so loved - the Greatest Affection (God is love, 1 John 4:8, so there can be no greater affection than the love of the greatest Being)

the world - the Greatest Audience - the Gospel is not for one ethnicity but for every family in every nation

that He gave His only Son - the Greatest Gift - Jesus knew exactly what it meant for the Father to "give" His only Son. It meant that Jesus would be crucified so all who believe in Him might be saved (cf John 3:14-15) There is no greater gift than the glorious Son of God.

that whoever believes in Him - the Greatest Invitation - whoever (Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, in or out) believes (embraces, trusts, loves, follows)

should not perish - the Greatest Justice - sin against an Infinite Being deserves and equally infinite punishment

but have eternal life - the Greatest Grace - you can never outdo, outlast, or one-up eternal life. It is the greatest grace ever extended to mortal, sinful man.

The greatest Being, defined by the greatest affection, directed His love to the greatest audience, by giving the greatest gift and issuing the greatest invitation, so that sinners may avoid the greatest justice and receive the greatest grace - to the praise of His glory. That's John 3:16.

The Good News comes from Good Friday!

Pastor, What Do You Talk About on Sunday?

The Kind of Preaching God Blesses. By Steven J. Lawson. Eugene: Harvest House, 2013.

Pastors and preachers face constant pressures, both self-inflicted and from various external influences. These forces push and pull against declaring and proclaiming the truths of Scripture with conviction and clarity. These forces seek to persuade the preacher that doctrine, authority, and teaching the whole counsel of God are out of touch with the modern audience. The listener must be pleased. The church must grow. The sermon must address a certain need, fill a perceived void, or excite a desired response. After all, look at the churches that are booming today and listen to their sermons. Expository preaching just will not reach today's culture. The pastor must only teach from the application portions of Scripture, he must attach scripture verses to his chosen topic, and he must be large and entertaining.

Steven Lawson's book on preaching, an expansion of his sermons from 1 Corinthians 2, argues that Paul's method of preaching is not one among many but the biblical example that all pastors should emulate. Paul intentionally chose not to display his intellect or charm with his words, but rather to simply declare the truths of God so that the listener would be moved by God, not Paul. He maintained a high view of the Father's sovereignty, the Son's supremacy, and dependence upon the Spirit in his preaching. Paul knew that only the Word of God gives life, so he determined to only declare it.

This is great encouragement and timely instruction for all who have felt the call to preach the Word of God. Let us not stray into pragmatic, audience-driven, personality-elevating, flesh-pleasing sermonettes that offer something less than Gospel, grace, and truth! Let us sound forth the great doctrines of the Bible, verse-by-verse, exalting Christ, relying on the Spirit, pleading with the listener.

So pastor, what do you talk about on Sunday? If it's not sound exegesis, explanation, and application of God's Word, it's of no eternal value! The Word of God is the words of life. Give your listener LIFE, not just life lessons!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Was Calvin Just Calvinism?

John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology. Ed. Burk Parsons. Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2008.

Unfortunately, many people who have heard the name John Calvin have only one thought attached to this giant historical figure: Calvinism. Adding to that misfortune is the thread of negative reaction that exists in some circles toward calvinism and a common misperception that all calvinists are rigid, uncaring, and not evangelistic.

Was Calvin just Calvinism? Certainly he illuminated what has come to be known as the doctrines of grace by lifting those doctrines from Scripture and giving them clear description, but John Calvin was much more than the theological 5-point system that carries his name.

He was, more than anything, a pastor and a committed expositor of Scripture. His pastoral ministry was dominated by the daily teaching of Scripture in the pulpit, in the letter, and in the home. He clarified truth, proclaimed it, counseled with it, and confronted error with it. He gave himself to the church by foremost giving himself to the Word.

Most people do not know his energetic, consistent commitment to God's Word was extremely costly for him. Calvin faced much opposition within and without the church. His pastoral ministry was often more painful than joyful. Yet he persevered, teaching and calling people to the Word while suffering great physical anguish as well.

When you begin to put all the pieces of his life together, it is truly remarkable that he persevered, that he remained faithful to Scripture, and that he was able to be so productive in his lifetime. It is indeed a testament to grace. A fitting illustration of the name of the very doctrines he scripturally defended and for which he is most known. An even more fitting illustration of another little known fact about Calvin that he taught and believed so much in prayer.

Was Calvin just Calvinism? Well he certainly was the voice for clarifying the doctrines that would later be termed calvinism, but he was much, much more.

I don't know of any other volume that allows the reader to obtain such a full-orbed view of Calvin than John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology. If you are interested or open to getting to know the man behind the TULIP, then read this one.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The "for's" of Scripture for Bible Study and Faith

The “for’s” in the Bible are of utmost importance for our understanding and faith. The “for’s” give the reason, the why, the interpretation, the theology of whatever propositional truth precedes it. For example…

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” Psalm 24:1

This is an absolute, propositional truth statement. It is stated as actual fact. No question. No dispute. No doubt. Objective, reality.

So what gives God the right to lay claim on the earth, every aspect of the earth’s abundant yield, and every individual who inhabits the earth?


for He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” Psalm 24:2

He created it all - He owns it all. The right of possession belongs to the Creator!

Let’s pay attention to and embrace the “for’s” of Scripture. They tell us what to believe and why to believe the truth claims and promises of God found within His written treasure chest, the Bible.