Thursday, October 29, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
One question anyone who watches (and believes) the slanted coverage in the D\FW area should ask themselves is this: "If the evangelical Christians who were there were expressing so much hatred towards homosexuals, then why didn't the TV cameras catch images of screaming Christians yelling "God hates you!"? They got plenty of film of those of us who were actually preaching. Why didn't the broadcasts air it?
Because there wasn't any. What happened was a beautiful thing. Christians from across Fort Worth came to take a stand for morality while expressing genuine love to the homosexual community. The whole gospel was preached. At the end of the day, members of the Missionary Baptist Church that were there sang Amazing Grace while two lesbians stood in the middle of the circle vying for a photo opportunity. If they felt so much hatred, as one of them professed on TV, then why did she do her best to stand in the middle of a group of Christians?
When I first started preaching, I didn't even mention the sin of homosexuality. I did preach about lying, stealing, blasphemy, lust\adultery, but didn't touch the issue of the moment. This drove a couple of the homosexual hecklers batty. It was as if they would have preferred that I preach against homosexuality and screamed hatred. But because I was preaching the love of God for sinners as expressed at the Cross, they were disappointed. Even the news crews seemed disappointed because they left when it became apparent I wasn't going to sound like Westboro Baptist or any of the other sandwich board wearers.
The best Channel 11 could do was get a clip of me responding to a man who asked, "Did you say that unless I repent I will perish?" to which I respectfully and calmly said, "That is what the Bible says, sir."
Since this was the text of Jesus' first sermon, I guess I was in pretty safe company.
Some Christians will read this and say, "But how effective was this?" In our present day pragmatic evangelical malaise, this is the big question. Did it work?
A friend of mine who was at the event reports that one of the GLBT demonstrators came across the street to speak to her and the pastor of the Missionary Baptist Church. I saw them chatting as I left. She reports that this young man said that he wanted to leave the homosexual life and prayed to repent and trust Christ there on the spot.
Whether or not homosexuals get the right to marry (they probably will), can express public displays of affection (they do), or get the same benefits as married couples really does not matter as much as the salvation of one soul. Jesus said that there is great rejoicing in Heaven over the one sinner who repents. Praise God that He still uses His Word and the foolishness of preaching to save sinners.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
This article will appear in an upcoming edition of The Justin Texan:
Football season is in full swing. This means that high school, college and NFL teams are doing battle on the gridiron and fans are buying tickets, merchandise, paying for special packages on their cable and satellite services to see more games, and starting fantasy football leagues. Athletes are training, some are taking steroids, and parents are carting their first graders to football fields to don pads and helmets and learning how to crash into each other like miniature torpedoes.
I like football. I watch it now and then. I’m originally from Buffalo, NY and used to go to a few Buffalo Bills games a year. I’ve been to a few playoff games in sub-zero weather. I’ve even been to a home opener here in Dallas (which is tough for a die-hard Bills fan) when we got tickets for chump change. I used to be involved in a couple of fantasy leagues and even won a league once.
Here’s my question for myself and everyone else who likes football: at what point does our enjoyment of the game become idolatry? When do we cross the line from healthy enjoyment to outright obsession? Is it when we skip church to go to a game? When we pay more money for merchandise or football equipment than we give to a local church? When we care more about not missing a practice than whether or not our friends know Christ? When you know your team’s playbook better than you know the Bible? Where is that line?
I’ll leave the specific answer to that question to everyone who names the name of Christ and is involved with sport. But generally speaking, theologians agree that idolatry happens whenever something or someone becomes more important than God Himself. I think it’s safe to say that comparing the time, money, and energy we give to the Lord (lit. “Master”) and sport would be a good place to start.
Why do we do this? Why are we content with so little? We find more joy in watching a millionaire run across a chalk line carrying the skin of a pig than we do in the one, true living God! Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? We care more whether our kids, whose ages are measured in single digits, can hit, shoot a gap, throw a ball and make a play than we care whether they know Christ! We’d gladly trade their soul for a Super Bowl ring! “Dereliction of duty” does not begin to describe the father who would settle for such a trade. It’s spiritual child abuse.
Even while you are reading this, if you’ve read this far and not tossed this paper out in a fit of rage, you are accusing me of taking my Christianity too far. Oh really? How far are we supposed to take it? I seem to recall something about Jesus saying that if anyone wanted to come after Him, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Him! In other words, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “He bids us come and die.” Pretty extreme, I know, but I don’t write the mail, I just deliver it.
What really mystifies me is that professing Christians idolize a false god. Could it be due to the fact that they can “see” football, games, sport and can’t physically see the living God that they claim to love, serve and adore? Augustine was once approached by a heathen who showed him his idol and said, “Here is my god. Where is yours?” Augustine replied, “I cannot show you my God; not because there is no God to show but because you have no eyes to see Him.”
Do you have eyes to see Him? Or are you blind to the beauty, the magnificence, the power of this living God that we claim to serve? Are you dazzled with Friday night lights or the glory of God?
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
This article will appear in an upcoming edition of The Justin Texan.
Last time we considered the holiness of God and what that means to us as sinners. He is entirely separate from us and sinless. As such, He is different from us and there is a great gulf fixed between the character of God and the character of man.
Today, we finish this part of our series with a consideration of the glory of God. Just as with the term "holy", "glory" in our vernacular means something much less than what it means with God. We speak of the "glory days" of our youth: victories and accomplishments that we have attained for ourselves or a team. We also talk about the term in the sense of patriotism: a nation being glorious in its ideals and accomplishments. Our flag is even called "Old Glory."
But what is the glory of God? According to Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology (page 220f.), it has two senses: 1) honor or excellent reputation and 2) the bright light which surrounds the presence of God. They are closely tied together because the bright light which surrounds God is symbolic of the excellence of His reputation. In the first sense, the Bible says that God created mankind "for my glory" (Is. 43:7). In the latter sense, the Bible says that He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:15-17).
The honor of God is of infinite more importance than our puny, feeble attempts to exalt ourselves. Whether it is through physical fitness, plastic surgery, cosmetics, clothing, possessions, reputation, job position, ad infinitum; our attempts to exalt ourselves and get others to recognize our importance or worth are ridiculous. Why? Because God is the only One who is worthy of praise. Only His reputation is worthy to be known. As we've already said, all of mankind was created for His glory (not ours) and any time we deviate from that plan to seek after our glory, we sin against a powerful, holy, glorious God.
This is the essence of the first of the Ten Commandments: "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Ex. 20:3). Here in the Bible belt, it's not common to see temples to false gods with altars and incense burning (although there are some). But it is common to see self-made reputations presented as reality to those who might come and worship at our own altars of self promotion. This is as common as pennies in evangelical churches where pastors and other leaders are elevated on pedestals and his public image worshiped. The tragedy is that in places of worship, God is not worshiped, but a carefully crafted public relations image IS.
Whatever this is, it is not Biblical Christianity. A.W. Tozer said, "...everything God does is praiseworthy and deserves our deepest admiration. Whether He is making or redeeming a world, He is perfect in all His doings and glorious in all His goings forth". Friend, is this what your life looks like? Does it continually give praise, credit and glory to God or are you chasing after the applause of men for yourself? Do you deeply admire God and long to make Him appear to be great amongst others or are you living for your own accolades? If you live for yourself, please repent. Give up everything for His glory. He is worthy.
Monday, August 24, 2009
I just stumbled across this today: a portion of a John Wesley letter to a fellow preacher on the importance of reading. In spite of Wesley's busy schedule, he found time to broaden his thinking with reading.
So much open-air preaching sounds like other preachers. What's the remedy for this? A wide range of reading. We're not open-air parrots, we're open-air preachers.
Here's Wesley's letter, taken from an editorial by J.B. Chapman in The Preacher's Magazine (Vol. 6, No. 1 January 1931). It was written to one John Premboth on August 17, 1760. It's as pertinent today as it was 249 years ago!
"What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety, there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a petty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you in particular."
Friday, July 31, 2009
This installment attempts to briefly deal with an issue that entire libraries have unsuccessfully attempted to address. Who is God? The great writer and pastor of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, A.W. Tozer once wrote, “The most important thing about you is what you think about God.” Considering what the Bible says about the sin of idolatry, it can determine your eternal destiny in Heaven or Hell. Galatians 5:20 teaches that idolaters will not inherit the
What do we know about Him from the Scriptures? We know that He is Creator. The very first verse of the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Genesis 1-2 goes on to explain that He did so by speaking the world into existence in six twenty-four hour days. This creation took no effort on His part. He simply willed light, land, water, plants, and animals to be and they existed! Such power is unimaginable humanly speaking.
But His role as Creator goes even further. His is a universe-sustaining power. Colossians 1:18 states that in Christ all things consist (by the way, Jesus is God). In other words, the only reason this universe holds together, why atoms hold together, is because the Lord Himself holds it all together. Some Bible scholars believe that when these heavens and earth are recreated, the present ones will “dissolve in fervent heat” (2 Pet. 2:10) simply because the Lord will remove His presence from the elements!
Even more astonishing, this sustaining power extends to your very physical life. Acts 17:25 and 28 reveal that God gives life and breath to all things. It says that in Him we live and move and have our being! The only reason your heart beats today, the only reason why your lungs draw breath, the only reason your brain emits waves is because God allows it in His good pleasure. No wonder the writer of Hebrews wrote that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God (Heb. 10:31). Know it or not, you have already fallen into His hands.
In His mercy, He gives you what you do not deserve: life. The Bible says that the soul that sins shall die (Ezek. 18:4). How many sins have you committed in your life? How many lies have you told? How many times have you loved yourself more than God? How many times have you had a lustful thought? How many times have you blasphemed this God who created the universe, sustains it, and holds your life in His hands? Yet, you live! Why? Simply because God is rich in mercy and has given you an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
My friends and neighbors, you can have peace with this great and mighty God. That peace comes only through what Christ has done. God in the flesh, this God-man, offered Himself up as a sacrifice on the behalf of sinners. He took on Himself the sins of all those who are His so that you could be declared right before God (2 Cor. 5:21). Turn from your sins and cast yourself on the mercy of Christ. For more, please visit http://www.yougotourtract.com/.
Jon Speed is co-founder of The Lost Cause Ministries, an evangelism ministry based here in Justin, TX. He is a member of
Monday, June 29, 2009
Last time I wrote about the most controversial question in the Bible belt: “What is the gospel?” Today I would like to write about the second most controversial question: “What effect should the gospel have on our lives?”
On the surface of it, this does not seem like a controversial question at all. People expect some kind of effect from religious beliefs. If nothing else, it affects one’s weekly schedule. In other words, adherents attend religious services at places of worship. Muslims go to mosques, Buddhists go to temples, Jews attend synagogue and Christians go to church. In some cases, it affects their daily schedules. Muslims pray five times per day. Some Christians pray before every meal.
But what about the gospel? The claim of Christianity is exclusive; Biblically oriented Christians claim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). We claim that Christ is God in the flesh (Jn. 1:14). We claim that the message of Christianity has inherent power; the power to change people, not just their schedules. Scripturally, it is the power to bring a spiritually dead man to life (Eph. 2:1-7). Since this is true, the question remains: “What effect does this message have on us?”
To hear some professing Christians tell it, it has no effect. Almost all would agree that it SHOULD cause change in someone’s life, but some say that it does not always follow that a Christian changes. He might have made a religious decision, participated in a religious ritual (walking an aisle or getting baptized), or even joined a church. But do they follow through on their outward commitment? And if they do not, can they be called a Christian?
Once again, the big question is, “What does the Bible say?” What it says gives no hope to the professing Christian who is a hypocrite. The Bible says that those who call Christ “Lord”, preach and even have evidences of spiritual power will not be allowed into heaven if they habitually practice sin (Matt. 7:21-23). It says that those who claim to know the Lord and yet do not obey Him are liars (1 Jn. 2:4). The Apostle John also says that those who habitually practice sin do not know the Lord (1 Jn. 3:4-6). The Apostle Paul gives lists of sins, which if habitually practiced, prove the true nature of the professing Christian (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21).
These are all put forward in the negative sense. How does the Scripture state it positively? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away and all things have become new! In Luke 9:23 the Lord Himself said that if any man would come after Him, he must deny himself, take up his cross (be willing to die) and follow (order our lives after) Him! The Apostle James says that we must be doers of the Word and not just hearers who deceive only ourselves (Jas. 1:22).
Friends and neighbors, eternity is too long to be wrong about our position with the Lord. The Puritan Thomas Watson, writing in the 17th century, warned of those who would end up going to Hell with the hope of Heaven. Could that be you? Please, do what the Apostle Paul said and spend some time examining yourself to see if you really are a Christian (2 Cor. 13:5).
If someone claimed to have been hit by a logging truck, you would expect to see some evidence of the impact. Who is bigger? A logging truck or God? Why don’t we see radical changes in the lives of those who name the Name of Christ?
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
In May I became a Southern Baptist for the first time in my life. This was a big step for me because of my northern Independent Baptist background. In Yankeeville, many of the Independent Baptist churches view the Southern Baptists as a whole with a great deal of suspicion. The fights over the inerrancy of Scripture within the denomination caused most independent pastors to view SBC as a conflicted denomination full of compromise. Of course, a member church which has recently been supportive of homosexuals in their midst can do nothing but further that bad reputation.
The church I am a member of does not relate to any of the SBC drama at all, and is in many ways, completely atypical of a Southern Baptist Church. We practice church discipline, the sermons are expository, repentance AND faith are both preached, and there are no sinner’s prayers repeated. It’s not a country club; it’s a church. It’s about God, not about the good ol’ boys club. It’s about the Bible and no one is hiding behind their “relevance”.
So why am I so happy with the removal of Broadway Baptist? About a year ago I went with a small group of believers to preach at the gay pride parade in
I was the first to preach, being the guy who brought the amplifier. I think I might have said a whole paragraph when a bunch of angry lesbians stormed across the street and started yelling all kinds of things. Apparently their Jesus doesn’t discriminate about the language they use either. One started yelling about how Ruth and Boaz were lovers. It was an experience, to say the least. I could have preached Joel Osteenese and they would probably have had the same reaction. Eventually they settled down and moved off to the side and we were able to preach for about an hour, to the background music of car alarms being set off trying to drown us out. Every open-air preacher should do this at least once in his life (which is probably going to be my grand total).
Broadway Baptist got what they deserve. Any church which actively supports what is condemned in Scripture deserves to be removed from their respective denomination. From hearing the rest of the story, it should have been done a long time ago. Apparently the church leadership thought it might be cool to have homosexual couples listed in their church directory.
The SBC in recent years has made big strides in the area of returning to their Biblical and theological roots. This purging of an apostate church is the best thing that can happen for the SBC. Disciplining a church should be a reminder to all of us that we too can fall into sin and heresy and be removed from membership. It results in purity in the professing body of Christ.
Friday, June 19, 2009
The most controversial, yet the most illuminating question anyone can ask a professing Christian here in the Bible belt is, “What is the gospel?”. In other words, “What is the Christian message?” Why is this controversial? After all, with so many churches throughout
Could it be that it exposes the ignorance of the average church member regarding the most basic tenet of Christianity? Just the other day I had the opportunity to speak to a woman in her fifties who has been attending churches for many years. These churches included a wide range of denominations; everything from Roman Catholic to non-denominational. I asked her the big question: “What do you think the gospel is?” She said, “You know, I’ve been attending church for years and I have no idea. I have been hoping that someone would tell me (!). Would you please tell me?” And she was very sincere. It was a privilege to be able to explain the gospel to her in a way that made sense.
Folks, there is something desperately wrong when someone who not only lives in the Bible belt, but who regularly attends a non-denominational church in her own town still does not know what the gospel is! The biggest dilemma of all is the fact that probably 90% of the people who attend church cannot answer this question and yet call themselves Christians. How can someone be a Christian and not know what the gospel is?
Imagine that I call a plumber to come fix a drain stoppage in my home. Imagine that he shows up with a plumber’s van outfitted with all of the tools of the trade, a plumber’s uniform with his name sewn neatly above the pocket, even a license proving that he is an approved plumber. But imagine that as soon as he comes into my home he starts fiddling with my light sockets or ceiling fans but never looks under my sink or near a pipe. What would I be forced to conclude? No matter what his van looks like, no matter what his uniform says and no matter what his education may be, he is not a plumber. No, he is an impostor. A plumber should know something about plumbing.
Likewise, if a “Christian” wears the right clothing on Sunday, carries a baptism or church membership certificate, has a Bible, and is respected as a fine upstanding member of the community and yet knows nothing about the gospel, how can they be considered a Christian? Friends, they are impostors. A Christian should know something about the gospel. If you do not, then what message do you trust to be saved from the wrath to come? Faith must have an object and that object must be reliable. If you don’t even know what the object of your faith is, what in the world do you believe? How do you know it is true? How can you even evaluate it if you don’t know what it is?
Another way of asking the question is, “If I had three minutes to live, what would you tell me that I need to do to get right with God?” This is a good question. If you cannot answer it, you have good reason to be concerned about the nature of your own faith. As the Apostle Paul said, “Examine yourself, to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). For the answer to this most important question, please visit www.YouGotOurTract.com.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
|Please keep Ray Comfort in prayer as this issue unfolds. May God be glorified by someone not just being offended, but taking a stand.|
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Note: This article appeared in The Justin Texan on May 19, 2009.
A few weeks ago I was privileged to be able to speak to a class at the
I began each class with my own testimony to God’s saving grace in my life and a brief introduction of our ministry. Afterwards, the professor opened up the floor for questions. It was a wonderful time. Questions like, “Why is Jesus coming back?”, “Is Gandhi in Hell?”, and, “What is the Christian message?” were asked. This resulted in a half an hour of explaining the gospel to each class. What a privilege!
My favorite question of the day was, “What verse do you think sums up the whole Bible?” This is a tough question. To pick one verse out of the 31,102 verses in the Old and New Testaments is a Herculean task. After thinking for a few moments, I answered, “2 Corinthians 5:21”. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (NKJV).
This verse is the gospel in a nutshell. God the Father made Jesus, the eternal Son, to be a sin offering on the behalf of sinners. All of the sins of the children of God were placed on the Son, much like the sins of
When we respond to this amazing act of grace with repentance and faith (Acts 20:21), a great exchange takes place. Our sins have been placed on Christ. In return, we are credited with His righteousness. He obeyed the Law of God perfectly and that perfect obedience is credited to us, sinful lawbreakers! God the Father now treats us as He would treat His own Son! He looked upon His Son on the cross as if He were looking at our sins and treated His Son accordingly. He now can treat us as if we were the ones who were tempted in all points and never sinned!
This is the amazing grace that John Newton wrote (and we sing) about; sinners who deserve only Hell getting the perfect righteousness of Christ. We can be found “not guilty” when we stand before God in judgment! There are two conditions to receive this pardon: we must repent (turn from all known sin) and believe (completely abandon ourselves to the work of Christ on the cross). And that’s the kicker. Jesus died for sinners. If you don’t think you are a sinner, then you can be assured that Christ didn’t die for you. The gospel is for those who have been humbled by their own sin and the amazing grace of God expressed at the cross.
Some might say I should have responded with John 3:16. Others might suggest 1 Corinthians 15:3. For my part, I stand amazed by the grace of God in 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
This week a survey has been getting a lot of play in the media regarding the shift in American religious faith. USA Today ran a front page article on Monday, March 9th on the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). The gist of the research is that all major denominations and religions in
One highlight of this survey includes the fact that those who refer to themselves as “none” (or of no religious persuasion) is up from 8% in 1990 to 15% in 2008. Of concern to evangelicals in particular is the fact that 15.8% of those surveyed identified themselves as Baptists, down from 19.3% in 1990. Those who identified themselves as non-denominational remained about the same (14.2%) since 1990. Of course, there is a lot more to this survey than these facts, but these are the pertinent facts when it comes to those of us who do evangelism.
It’s not surprising that the media is using this information as a sort of pealing death knell of Christianity in this nation. Already, those who identify themselves as “nones” seem to be taking this news as validation for their stance. On Tuesday I ran into an agnostic who attempted to rub this in my face as proof that Christianity is losing ground. What did I have to say to that?
Well, here’s what I have to say to that. It’s far worse than the news media and ARIS reports. Everyone who is a pastor of a Southern Baptist church knows that it’s worse. 15.8% of the respondents might consider themselves Baptist, but how many of these are attending church on anything approaching a regular basis? In recent years, the bloated membership rolls of Southern Baptist churches have been an issue at the annual convention. There is a debate on how to count noses; do you count people who became members and who never attend church or don’t you? Apparently, the SBC is content to count them and it’s more than likely that as long as they are considered true blue members by the leadership of the SBC, they consider themselves members as well.
Can someone be considered a Christian who has no desire to align themselves with a local church? The Bible doesn’t seem to teach that they can. In fact, if someone hates his brother, he is considered a murderer, by God’s standard (1 Jn. 3:15). Most professing believers do not attend church because they harbor bitterness in their hearts and in fact hate church members and leadership. This violates the spirit of the Sixth Commandment regarding murder.
So, it’s probably much, much worse than the survey reports in terms of active membership. But we can KNOW it is far worse because of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-23. He said that “many” will go to Hell with the hope of Heaven, calling Him “Lord” as they do so, pointing to their apparently supernatural works. Identifying oneself as a Christian in a survey no more makes one a Christian than me calling myself the President of the
How many Christians are there in
It’s extremely tempting to look at this poll and say, “See, this is what happens when you don’t evangelize.” Since only 2% of Christians evangelize to begin with, it’s only natural to conclude that we’re going backwards statistically. But ultimately salvation is of the Lord and if He wants to save the lost He can make the rocks cry out and testify even if His professing children won’t. The 2% statistic may be far more accurate in gauging who is a Christian in this nation and who is not.
It is highly ironic that the non-denominational sub-group has held steady over 18 years in spite of the growth of the so-called “mega-churches”. All of the money spent on high power praise bands, lighting, facilities, pastors in trendy clothes, expensive youth programs, media ad infinitum has resulted in zero gain over the last 18 years. If you are a seeker sensitive church guru reading this, my challenge to you is, “Why not just start following the Bible? It can’t be any worse than what you’re doing now.” No, I take that back. It will be worse. The people you have drawn with cotton candy will leave when the solid meat is brought out. But do it anyway, your budgets and big box cathedrals be damned. They are anyway.
It’s probably too late for American Christianity. It’s bankrupt and far worse than ARIS realizes. The only problem is that most who actually espouse American Christianity sound a lot like the church in
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
This booklet proves once and for all that confrontational evangelism is the predominant model of evangelism in the New Testament. It is written for pastors, missionaries, evangelists and believers who are passionate for evangelism and for those who are not yet convinced. May the Lord use it to raise up laborers for the harvest.
"Jon Speed has done a wonderful job of showing exactly what it means to fulfill the Great Commission. Evangelism in the New Testament will be a great source of encouragement to those who want to do what Jesus commanded us to do--to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."
--Ray Comfort, Living Waters Publications
"You put into definitive terms what the majority of my personal beliefs are regarding the discussed topic. Your use of pie graphs are, I believe, a great demonstrative tool in emphasizing the statistics. These sorts of tools are quite necessary when presenting a topic of this nature to a potentially disagreeable audience. It could easily be argued that this should be mandatory reading for all pastors, elders and deacons."
--John Legg, Way of the Master Australia & Holy Epidemic
"I don't know how you could more clearly state the need for us as Christians to be involved in evangelism unless you took a 2x4 and hit us over the head with it!"
--Mark Mews (Flagstaff, AZ)
Retail: $9.99 (through Amazon.com)
Special Discount Price: $7.00 (through One Million Tracts)
Monday, January 19, 2009
Penn tells the story of a man who gave him a Gideon's New Testament. Although he is an atheist, Penn is very respectful of this man's witness of Christ. He calls it "wonderful"! He also makes a very strong statement about those who claim to be Christians who do NOT witness. He asks the question, "How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?" Good question.
This video clip, by itself, ought to motivate ALL Christians to embrace confrontational evangelism.
Monday, January 12, 2009
I'd like to begin our discussion of the errors of the Free Grace\Easy-Believism camp by discussing their teaching on the issue of repentance. Before we do, a few points of housekeeping are in order.
- The discussion will take place in the comments section. I'm not going to post replies to specific issues in the main part of the blog.
- Since I'm plain old busy (writing and editing tracts, blogs, doing ministry, small business, family and my own walk with Christ), I just don't care much for debate. My goal here is to expose false teaching and proclaim the truth, not debate it. Debate is usually fruitless when it comes to doctrine unless you're playing by the same rules (hermeneutics). The Free Grace camp does not play by sound rules of hermeneutics, so debating these points doesn't accomplish much. I'll respond to comments that have something to do with the main issues, but I'm not going to repeat myself.
- The tactic of trolling will be met with complete apathy and deletion of the offending comment. If you're not sure what trolling is, I think Wikipedia has a decent article on it.
The Free Grace Teaching on Repentance
To be fair, there are two main teachings in the free grace on repentance. Those who seem a little more moderate in their view (e.g. Charles Ryrie) view repentance as a "change of mind" regarding the person of Christ. They hold that the Greek term for "repent" means "to change one's mind" according to the usage of the term in the classical Greek. Therefore, whenever someone in the New Testament says "repent" it must mean to change one's mind about the facts of the Gospel. They do not believe that it means "turn from sin" because this would be a "work".
Charles Ryrie holds this position in his book "So Great Salvation". Using the example of Peter's sermon at Pentecost, he states that Peter tells the audience to repent of their conceptions of Jesus of Nazareth. He says, "That repentance saves" (page 86, emphasis Ryrie's).
The Free Grace camp as a whole (both the moderate and the extreme) make much of the fact that the word "repent" does not appear in the Book of John. They consider this to be strong evidence of the fact that repentance from sin is not necessary for salvation since John was written for an evangelistic purpose (Jn. 20:31). Their logic runs, “If repentance from sin was necessary for salvation, then John would have included it in his writing.” Both camps (represented by Ryrie and Hodges) hold to this idea. It has been rightly pointed out that many other concepts important to evangelism are not mentioned in John's Gospel, including hell. Does that mean that we shouldn't mention hell in our witness?
The more extreme view of repentance comes from the late Zane Hodges. Hodges, in an incredible massacre of the Biblical text and the principles of systematic theology, says that repentance is nothing more than “fellowship with God”. Specifically, he says, “The call to repentance is the call to enter harmonious relations with God” (Absolutely Free, page 145). How does he arrive at this definition? He examines the uses of the word “repent” in Luke and states that the word always occurs in the context of Jesus sitting down and having a literal meal with someone. As a result, he can write, “It is all about the sinner ‘sitting at the table’—having fellowship with—God” (page 149). I wonder what he would have said if the Lord had mentioned the word “repent” only in the context of gathering figs or walking on the water? What interpretation would he have arrived at then?
Interestingly, Hodges shoots down the moderate FG view of repentance when he says, “The standard Greek-English dictionary (Bauer-Gingrich-Danker Lexicon) does not list any New Testament passage where the meaning ‘to change one’s mind’ occurs” (page 146). So much for Ryrie’s assertion. Shot down in a blaze of glory by somewhat “friendly fire.”
The Biblical Teaching on Repentance
Now that we’ve considered the basic teachings of the two parts of the FG camp on repentance, we can examine what the Bible actually says in the light of sound hermeneutics.
It would seem that much of the FG argument, in the case of Ryrie’s position, rests upon the Classical Greek usage of the term for “repent.” To read some of the material from the FG camp, one would think that they believe that the Hebrew usage of the term in the Old Testament is irrelevant. However, as The Complete Biblical Library (TCBL) states, “Any understanding of repentance in the New Testament must first and foremost rest upon its Old Testament foundation” (volume 4, page 173).
In fact, this is true no matter what Greek word study one does. In any serious word study, the Hebrew background is given serious consideration. Not so with the FG camp. It is as if they are saying that the apostles (as well as Jesus Himself) would abandon their Jewish upbringing in the Torah and the Prophets simply because a pagan Greek might have used the term to mean “change of mind” (which according to Hodges, doesn’t happen in the NT anyway). To even suggest this is ludicrous in the extreme, but it is the unspoken assertion of the Ryrie FG camp.
The TCBL states this about the Hebrew term for “repent”: “The thought of ‘returning to God’ and His covenant purpose as well as the idea of ‘turning away from sin’ and rebellion is inherent in shuv” (ibid.). As Ezekiel 18:21, 30-31 so aptly illustrates, repentance in the Jewish mindset clearly meant “turning from sin.” It is this idea that would have predominant in the minds of the apostles considering their rich Jewish heritage in the Old Testament.
Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament builds on this foundation, making the case that the New Testament usage of the term “repent” comes directly from the Old Testament. It states, ““…the terms have religious and ethical significance along the lines of the OT and Jewish concept of conversion, for which there is no analogy in secular Greek” (volume 4, page 999, emphasis mine).
That Pauline theology is saturated with the concept of Biblical repentance (turning from sin as well as turning to God), there can be no doubt. Kittel states, “In Christian rather than Hellenistic terms, he (Paul) regards metanoia as ‘the change of thought and will which releases from evil and renders obedient to the will of God” (4:1005, emphasis mine). Further, “…the concept of a radical transformation effected by the revelation of God in Christ is still for Paul the foundation of his whole theology. And this is precisely the thought of conversion as understood by Jesus” (ibid.).
The Free Grace movement asserts that it is not necessary to repent from sin on the one hand. On the other, some wildly assert that it means fellowship with God. But no less of an authority than Kittel (which happens to sit on the shelves of the DTS library, apparently unused) makes it very clear that the term must include “radical transformation” and “release from evil.” It is this intent that the New Testament writers included in their conception of repentance.
A final word on this issue. Regarding those who claim that repentance is a work, may I draw your attention to 2 Timothy 2:25? Repentance is a gift from God; it has nothing whatsoever to do with something that can be worked up emotionally. Man will not repent unless God does a sovereign work in his life. Otherwise, he will continue to crave and coddle his sin.
When we preach the Gospel, we have a holy obligation to call the lost to repentance and faith (Acts 3:19; 20:21). Anything less than that is not the Gospel.
Some Great Men of God on Repentance
“Yet remember, though He condescendeth to reason, to persuade, to [call], and to beseech, still His Gospel hath in it all the dignity and force of a command. If we would preach it in these days as Christ did, we must proclaim it as a command from God, attended with a divine sanction and not to be neglected, save at the infinite peril of a soul…’Repent ye’ is as much a command of God as ‘Thou shalt not steal.’” --C.H. Spurgeon
“The man whose little sermon is ‘repent’ sets himself against his age, and will for the time being be battered mercilessly by the age whose moral tone he challenges. There is but one end for such a man—‘off with his head!’ You had better not try to preach repentance until you have pledged your head to heaven.” --Joseph Parker
“Both the law and the gospel must be preached; the law to give birth to repentance and the gospel to lead to faith. But they must be preached in their proper order, first the law to bring repentance and then the gospel to work faith and forgiveness—never the other way around.” --William Perkins
“Wouldst thou know when thou hast been humbled enough for sin? When thou art willing to let go thy sins.” --Thomas Watson
"Repent therfore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord..."-- The Apostle Peter (Acts 3:19)
"And the times of this ignorance God overlooked, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." --The Apostle Paul (Acts 17:30)"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." --Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:17)
Saturday, January 3, 2009
One of my personal frustrations is the modern concept of missions which is prevalent in much of evangelical Christianity. Denominations and independent missions agencies send Americans around the world to do tasks which are little more than glorified Peace Corps projects and call it "missions." Exorbitant budgets are put together and funds raised so that they can go overseas and pound nails, play soccer or video games, learn a language or go on prayer walks. Very few missionaries are actually expected to evangelize.
I know this from my personal experience as a pastor and a former missionary candidate with an evangelical mission. The mission required that I raise a minimum of $60,000 a year to live in a nation where the average annual income was about $1200 a year. In my budget, there was no line item for evangelism outreach. It was supposed to be included under the "miscellaneous" expenses ($200 a year). What's worse is that in a few years, our budget would be reviewed and raised (mandatory) to about $75,000 a year. At that point we would be expected to write home and tell our supporters that our support level was low and we needed additional support.
In our present ministry, we are missionaries to America (primarily). We use Acts 1:8 as our model for ministry and are blessed to see this model fulfilled in the last year. We've taken the Gospel to our Jerusalem (Justin, TX), Judea (Dallas\Fort Worth), Samaria (the United States) and the uttermost parts of the earth (Australia). Lord willing, we'll see this same model fulfilled in the coming year. Our primary field of labor has been DFW, but the Lord opens doors elsewhere when you're faithful where you are.
With this in mind, check out this video. There's a lot of truth behind it.