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Blog Archive: September - November 2006

Nov 28, 2006

The Offensive Gospel take II
Today's reading from Oswald Chamber's "My Utmost for His Highest" shows how the Gospel is offensive to one's pride:

" The Gospel of the grace of God awakens an intense longing in human souls and an equally intense resentment, because the revelation which it brings is not palatable. There is a certain pride in man that will give and give, but to come and accept is another thing. I will give my life to martyrdom, I will give myself in consecration, I will do anything, but do not humiliate me to the level of the most hell-deserving sinner and tell me that all I have to do is to accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God; we must either receive it as a gift or do without it. The greatest blessing spiritually is the knowledge that we are destitute; until we get there Our Lord is powerless. He can do nothing for us if we think we are sufficient of ourselves, we have to enter into His Kingdom through the door of destitution. As long as we are rich, possessed of anything in the way of pride or independence, God cannot do anything for us. It is only when we get hungry spiritually that we receive the Holy Spirit. The gift of the essential nature of God is made effectual in us by the Holy Spirit, He imparts to us the quickening life of Jesus, which puts "the beyond" within, and immediately "the beyond" has come within, it rises up to "the above," and we are lifted into the domain where Jesus lives."

I remember back in 1977 when I questioned how could salvation be that simple?  I worked hard to be good and do all the stuff I thought would please God, and none of that mattered? 
"But no, rather, I also count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them to be dung, so that I may win Christ "  Phil 3:8

Paul was talking about his religious life before his encounter with Jesus.  He was quickly climbing the ranks of the religious clergy in his zeal.  He was very sincere but dead wrong on the person of Jesus Christ.  God mercifully humbled Paul and open his eyes to the truth.  The truth of his own depravity before God.  It did not matter what man thought of him, before God he was a wretched sinner as we all are.  We all deserve the wrath of God, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved)... Eph 2:4, 5

Nov 26, 2006

The Offensive Gospel
Rom 9:33  as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a Stumbling-stone and a Rock-of-offense, and everyone believing on Him shall not be put to shame."

Last night I was reading in chapter 5 of Bob DeWaay's book "Redefining Christianity", a book primarily debunking "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren.  The contrast he made was between the biblical gospel which is an offensive gospel and a non-offensive gospel (which is not the gospel of Jesus) that is popularly preached today and received by the masses.  The first is God-centered, the second is man-centered.  The gospel of Rick Warren is based on his market research into non-churched persons "felt needs".  His conclusion ranks "purpose in life" as one of the chief needs and the lack thereof leads to many of the things that bring dissatisfaction in life.    According to this, finding ones purpose is in a relationship with God and to serve Him.  He says that God is desperate for our love , so much so that He died on the cross to prove it. (page 79 Purpose Driven Live [PDL])  Everyone who wants purpose in life needs only to "believe and receive" (page 58-59 PDL) to "enter the family of God, have the relation and the purpose.  Sounds noble enough, and most people accept this at face value.  But this is not what Jesus nor the Apostles taught and this doesn't sound like a Rock-of-Offense.

Jesus did not say "I love you this much!  I'd rather die than live without you" (page 79 PDL).  When facing the prospect of the cross in great agony in the Garden Jesus said "Take away this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will. " Mark 14:36  Our sin debt needed to be paid on the cross in order for God to truly be a just God.  This is why the Father sent Jesus.  When facing the task Jesus did not do it because he was  desperation to prove His love for us, He did it to obey the will of His Father.  Bob DeWaay compares Warren's idea to that of a man desperately trying to prove to an uninterested woman how much he loves her by doing something dramatic.  This is an altogether wrong view of the cross, it is also a unbiblical teaching about how people come to him.  Jesus says that people can only come to Him if the Father draws them to Himself. (John 6:335-37, 44, 65)  Jesus wasn't interested in being popular in fact turned many away that very day with His words.  If He was trying so hard to win them over, He failed miserably.  But that is not what He was doing, He was proclaiming the truth, and the truth was offensive and the result was:  "From this time many of His disciples went back into the things behind, and walked no more with Him. " (John 6:66)  There are several more example of how he turned away crowds and individuals away rather than catering to their felt needs.  His message was offensive, but it was the truth, it is part of the Gospel. 
The Gospel is offensive because it:  "commands all men everywhere to repent" Acts 17:30.  The 10 Commandments is God's law and we all have broken most if not all of it in deed or if not in deed in thought (see Matt 5).  We are sinners condemned by the law we have broken and we need to repent.  Most people like to compare themselves with others and think they are pretty good.  But we are not judged by that standard but by God's law.

The exclusive nature of the Gospel is offensive: 
"Jesus said to him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me. "
Joh 14:6 
"And one said to Him, Lord, are the ones being saved few? And He said to them, Strive to enter in at the narrow gate. For I say to you, many will seek to enter in and shall not be able."
Luk 13:23,24 (see through verse 30, also Matt 7:13-14)

The popular view that "all roads lead to God" is held by people today in ignorance of scriptural teaching.  "You mean God will send people to hell who are sincerely following there religion?"  Yes, the Bible says so.  Even some that seek Him shall not be able to enter as we saw in the previous paragraph.   This is extremely offensive to many. I admit is is hard for me to accept, but I didn't make the rules.   Many will dismiss God and the bible over this issue, and do so to their peril.

The Gospel is offensive because it declares we are all under the wrath of God because of our sin unless we repent (declare our guilt before God and turn from our sins).  Jesus himself said "He who believes on the Son has everlasting life, and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides upon him."  John 3:36  The apostle Paul adds:
"Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, and the forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  But according to your hardness and your impenitent heart, do you treasure up wrath for yourself in a day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Romans 2:4,5  No one today wants to talk about a wrathful God. "Why would anyone want to serve that kind of God".  People rather make up their own kind of image about God and Jesus that is nice, that will overlook sin and let everyone into heaven except for some REALLY bad people.  God talks about people fashioning gods from wood and stone as idols and the 2nd Commandment condemns this.  It is no different than fashioning a god from our own imagination (Acts 17:9) about what God is like.  If we don't want to believe what God has revealed to us about Himself, we will end up fashioning an idol.

God made the terms for how we are to come to them and He revealed them in His word, the Bible.  Appealing to felt needs of unbelievers is not the gospel.  How then do we reach our family,  friends, neighbors and coworkers for Christ?  The "Living Waters" link to the left is a useful resource for how to present the gospel.   But how do we take that first step?  Many  people don't want to talk about it.  It is uncomfortable,  is is offensive as we have seen, many are disinterested or have their own beliefs.  Some can be quite nasty if you bring up the subject and others dismiss you out of hand as "one of those ______ (fill in the blank)".  I wish I had the answer for this.  One thing we can do is pray that God would work in their hearts and draw them to Himself.  We are commanded by Jesus to pray that the Lord of the Harvest woudl send workers into thd harvest, but these workers face the same question.  Jesus said to "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven" Matt 5:16.  We can be sensitive to the Holy Spirit working in the lives of those who do not believe to draw them and be available to share.  I wish God put a big red tag on the persons who wanted to hear the gospel, but He doesn't.  It is our job to preach it.  We may be hated and despised like Paul and the other disciples and countless Christians throughout the ages, but that's what it may take to be obedient.  "...but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness. But to them, the called-out ones, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God."  I Cor 1:23-24

"Lord loose my tongue to proclaim the 'Good News' of the gospel."

Nov 20, 2006

Faithful to death
Isa 51:7  ...whose heart is My Law;...

This whole section of Isaiah starting with verse 1 is directed towards those who "pursue righteousness, and seek Jehovah" and who know rigtheousness, in whose heart is My Law (See Jer_31:31-34).  These are the ones who care deeply for the Words of God, to obey them and to follow God's ways.  
And what word of encouragement does God have for them?  "do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their revilings".  In the next verse He says what will be the end for those who persecute, but His salvation is forever.

Persecution will come to those who love the Lord and are willing to take a stand for righteousness.
(Mat_5:10-12, Mat_10:23, Luk_11:49, Luk_21:12, Joh_15:20-21, Rom_12:14, 2Ti_3:12)

The Word of God is under attack today again.  It always is by those who hate God, but from time to time it is ignored, watered down, questions "hath the Lord really said..."  or rewritten to soot the fancy of mens wisdom.  This is even done in the name of the gospel.

I heard people talk about others as being "so heavenly minded they were of no earthly good".  But today it seems to be just the opposite, we are so "earthly minded that we are of no heavenly good". 

We must fix our love and hope in the God of heaven who revealed himself in His written Word.   We must love the things that He loves.  It starts with truth, righteousness, love and compassion that leads to action.  The first two cannot be ignored to the exclusion of the latter, nor can the latter to the exclusion of the first two.

But when we take a stand on the Word of God and proclaim "Thus sayeth the Lord" (reading directly from His Word of course)  we will be targeted as "narrow minded", "heartless", "mean spirited" and in the case of speaking out on the sin of homosexuality "homophobes".

This last issue has become a politcal hot potatoe with polical correctness forming the culture of intolerence of those who are intolerent, or its okay to believe and accept anything except a position that rejects something as morally wrong.   There is no more room for "Thus sayeth the Lord" so persecution is coming to those who do.  But the message of Isaiah is "do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their revilings".  Jesus said:  "Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life."  (Rev_2:10) Lord help us to remain faithful to the end. 

November 11, 2006

God's power is in God's method
A century or so ago these words were penned:

 “When we preach the historic facts of the life and death of Our Lord as they are conveyed in the New Testament, our words are made sacramental, God uses them on the ground of His Redemption to create in those who listen that which is not created otherwise. If we preach the effects of Redemption in human life instead of the revelation regarding Jesus, the result in those who listen is not new birth, but refined spiritual culture, and the Spirit of God cannot witness to it because such preaching is in another domain. We have to see that we are in such living sympathy with God that as we proclaim His truth He can create in souls the things which He alone can do.” Oswald Chamber, from “My Utmost for His Highest” 11/9

 In “marketing” the church to the world today we have forgotten the supernatural power that can only accomplish the work of Redemption.  The Apostle Paul said “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom did not know God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.” I Cor 1:21

 We so do not wish to look foolish in the eyes of the world that we dare appeal to man’s felt needs to try to convince him the Christian way of life is what he needs.  He doesn’t need a new way of life, he needs NEW LIFE.  We can not give that to him, only God can give that to him.  God told us the way He wanted to get the message out, “by the foolishness of preaching”.   Any other appeal misses the mark entirely.  Do we want people to have a “refined spiritual culture” or new life, the life of Christ?

September 4, 2006

John The Baptist:  Uncompromised Messenger

(From Adam Clarke’s Commentary)

Mat 11:8

A man clothed in soft raiment? - A second excellency in John was, his sober and mortified life. A preacher of the Gospel should have nothing about him which savours of effeminacy and worldly pomp: he is awfully mistaken who thinks to prevail on the world to hear him and receive the truth, by conforming himself to its fashions and manners. Excepting the mere color of his clothes, we can scarcely now distinguish a preacher of the Gospel, whether in the establishment of the country, or out of it, from the merest worldly man. Ruffles, powder, and fribble seem universally to prevail. Thus the Church and the world begin to shake hands, the latter still retaining its enmity to God. How can those who profess to preach the doctrine of the cross act in this way? Is not a worldly-minded preacher, in the most peculiar sense, an abomination in the eyes of the Lord?

Are in kings’ houses - A third excellency in John was, he did not affect high things. He was contented to live in the desert, and to announce the solemn and severe truths of his doctrine to the simple inhabitants of the country. Let it be well observed, that the preacher who conforms to the world in his clothing, is never in his element but when he is frequenting the houses and tables of the rich and great.

But to what shall I compare to this generation?
(Matt 11: 16)
Our Lord goes on to compare it with children whose attitude is that no game is any good.  They find fault with this and that and do not wish to participate.  This whole chapter of Matthew 11 is a fascinating story with this verse as the crux.  The John was drew their attention but his message and life were too harsh.  Jesus comes with a softer tone to his message and his life was less austere and they are put off with that. Miracles are performed in abundance in their presence and they still find fault.  Nothing pleases them.

 Many today are like those of this generation in our gospel soaked nation.  They find fault with the “harsh God” of the old Testament, but they know not of the tender/patient God he really is.  They like Jesus nice words but reject his exclusivity (I am the Way, The Truth, The Light, no one comes to the Father except by Me”) and know not of his harsh teachings and woes even in this chapter.  No nothing satisfies.  They sit in smug judgment of the Bible, the “light”, little realizing that they will be judged based on the basis of the light they have been given. 

 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the powerful acts which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes!  But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.   And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to the heaven, shall be brought down to hell.  For if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.  Matt 11:21-24

 God has blessed our nation with founders of whom many were preachers of the Gospel.  The freedom of speech and to worship was fundamental in their thinking that nothing would inhibit the gospel. But though it is freely available, it is rejected with smugness.  A lady I met on a plain had every reason not to believe what the Bible clearly taught, but instead preferred a righteousness of her own.  Hers was superior in her own mind to that of her creator; superior to that of the only one who could save her.  Instead of bringing about repentance the light she was given brought about indifference and unbelief.

             “But to what shall I compare this generation?”