We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Monday, March 28, 2011

Repentance

We live in a superficial age, and nowhere i superficiality more evident than in the religious realm.  Generally people do not want their conscience disturbed, so the message of repentance is seldom preached.  Militant conservatives and destructive liberals alike are guilty of the abandonment of any truth distasteful to the ears of the self-satisfied, or that which is difficult to enforce.
It is contended that our forefathers placed too much emphasis on poignance of grief as a necessary element in true repentance, in so far as they permitted any idea of merit to attach to the experience.  Yet surely they were right in insisting on a deep and genuine upturning of the soul.  In our age we have swung to the other direction.  We seldom hear the old prophetic cry, “Break up your fallow ground, sow not among thorns” 
(Jeremiah 4:3).  This generation, with all its religion, has lost the sense sin and pays preachers to “Prophesy smooth things.”  Repentance is robbed of its true significance.  The plow of conviction is never driven deep into the human soil.  So-called “revivals’ and “evangelistic efforts” produce shallow results because of the shallow repentance preached.  Deep mourning for sin, hot scalding tears of repentance, souls writhing in agony because of their burden are not common as they used to be.  Saved and unsaved alike are not over-awed by the august holiness of God, and the filthiness of their own evil nature.  the sob of anguish, “Woe is me, for I am undone,” is seldom heard in a religious service today.  Instead, young people and others walk down our aisles to make a decision for Christ with a giggle on their faces.  Statistically-minded, the church counts numbers.  God give her numbers that count!  We go out for quantity.  God seeks quality.
Wherever true repentance is preached and insisted upon, however, solid results accrue.  Those saved under such preaching usually make robust Christians.  While, of course, faith ini Christ is the great characteristic in gospel preaching, repentance toward God must also be strongly pressed.  All who proclaim the truth must pray and labor for the Spirit’s convicting work in the conscience.  If sin is slurred over and repentance belittled, there cannot be depth or stability.  The more thoroughly conscience is disturbed and stung on account of sin, the more solid and enduring the results when the Gospel is preached.  It must be shown that repentance is indispensable to salvation (Luke 13:3).  The prodigal must return in sorrow if he is to be reinstated - the rebel must submit before clemency can be exercised and favor bestowed - the sinner must repent before relations with an offended God can be restored.  This is why...the call to repentance rings out in resonant tones from the pages of Scripture. ...
There are those who cry repentance down, calling it a legal doctrine, but the Bible is full of this basic doctrine.  Christ preached it!  At His farewell, when He was about to ascend to heaven, He commanded that repentance should be preached in His name (Luke 24:47).  Repentance may be a bitter, drastic pill for our sin-sick generation to take, but it is necessary if the needed spiritual healing is to be experienced.  May God raise up fearless witnesses who will preach repentance until men repent and turn to the Savior!
Herbert Lockyer, All the Doctrines of the Bible, pp.169, 170

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul

A very good hymn was sung in church today; one of my wife’s favorites.  The hymn is titled, It Is Well With My Soul.  There is a very interesting - and sad - story behind this hymn, which demonstrates the faith of its author, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888).  Let me cite the history from, The One Year Book Hymns.
Horatio G. Spafford, a forty-three-year-old Chicago businessman, suffered financial disaster in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  He and his wife were grieving over the death of their son shortly before the fire, and he realized they needed to get away for a vacation.  Knowing that their friend Dwight L. Moody was going to be preaching in evangelistic campaigns in England that fall, Spafford decided to take the entire family to England.  His wife and four daughters went ahead on the SS Ville du Havre, and he planned to follow in a few days.  But on the Atlantic Ocean the ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and sank within twelve minutes.  Two hundred and twenty-six lives were lost - including the Spaffords’ four daughters.  When the survivors were brought to shore at Cardiff, Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband, “Saved alone.”  Spafford booked passage on the next ship.  As they were crossing the Atlantic, the captain pointed out the place where he thought the Ville du Havre had gone down.  That night, Spafford penned the words “When sorrows like sea billows roll...it is well with my soul.”
Here, then, are the words to this wonderful, meaty hymn.
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well, with my soul.”
Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin - O, the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin - not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
O, trump of the angel! O, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so” - it is well with my soul.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Last Sin Eater

This is a movie I highly recommend.  We saw it when it came out in the theaters in early 2007, and then purchased the DVD when it was released.  A couple days ago we sat down to watch the movie for the first time in at least a year.
Let me tell you about the story from the DVD back:
Cadi Forbes is not only mourning the recent loss of her beloved grandmother, but she also feels responsible for the earlier death of her little sister.  In her quest for redemption, Cadi seeks out the one man she feels can take away her sin - the Sin Eater.  But when she uncovers a dark secret about the mystical practice, it threatens to divide her family and her community.  Ultimately, the young girl discovers the truth about absolution.
This story will tug at the heart-strings, and has some powerful messages, not the least of which is the Gospel, which overtakes all the Celtic superstition of the people of the story.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, be sure you put it on your list of things to do!

Modern Hymns

“Speaking to yourselves in...spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19).  “Admonishing one another in...spiritual songs.” (Colossians 3:16).  To remember that we are spiritual, and must sing spiritual songs excludes a good deal of worldly trash from our repertoire.  These particular songs are those inspired by the Spirit and employed in the joyful and devotional expression of our spiritual life.  There are some who declare that the Psalms are alone inspired, and to be used as songs, but Paul’s reference to “psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs” excludes a narrow compass.
Many of our modern hymns and choruses are not worth the paper they are printed on.  They are purely doggerel, and nothing divine about them whatever.  
Herbert Lockyer, All the Doctrines of the Bible, p.115
I’d hate to see what Lockyer would be saying now, almost 50 years later!  So much of what passes for choruses are 24/7 jingles - 24 words said 7 times (or sometimes 7/24 - 7 words said 24 times!).

Monday, March 21, 2011

How Does A Mormon Attain Forgiveness?

Some time back I purchased and read The Miracle of Forgiveness based on a recommendation from Bill McKeever of Mormonism Research Ministry when he was speaking at one of the conferences we attended a few years back.  In our pedestrian mall book table ministry we often encounter Mormons, so I have a “Mormon bag” in which I keep all the LDS standard works, the Smith translation of the Bible, various tracts and other material for engaging them in discussions.  The book I am about to discuss is part of my “ammunition,” and I have prepared questions to ask the Mormon in regards to this book.
Some background for these questions to ask, many of which are based on parts of McKeever’s talk.  The Mormon president from 1973 to 1985 was Spencer W. Kimball, and  he wrote our subject book, The Miracle of Forgiveness.  There are some Mormons who will try to refute it because Kimball was just an apostle when he wrote it, and therefore “it’s teachings are not authoritative.”  However, this argument has some weak points that you can counter:
1.  The book was reprinted when Kimball was president of the church.  If there were errors in the book, why didn’t he correct it then, or why didn’t the Church itself correct it then?
2.  So what if Kimball wrote the book when he was only an apostle; didn’t the New Testament apostles write most of the New Testament?  If Mormonism is truly a “restoration” of Christianity, then why don’t Mormon apostles have the same authority as New Testament apostles?
3.  It is displayed in the LDS Museum of History and Art in a huge display highlighting all the LDS presidents.  Next to the painting of Kimball is a copy of his book preserved under glass.  If it isn’t important, why is it preserved?
4.  The 2004 Deseret Book (church owned book store) catalog said that The Miracle of Forgiveness is “a penetrating explanation of repentance and forgiveness that is illuminated with a bright hope for those who are searching for peace and security.  It is a landmark work that has spoken with authority and insight for 35 years, bringing to bear President Spencer W. Kimball’s rich experience and the inspiration of his calling.”  Later catalogs may also say something similar, but this is the last citation I have on file.  The current web-site description is thus:
In The Miracle of Forgiveness, President Spencer W. Kimball gives a penetrating explanation of repentance and forgiveness and clarifies their implications for Church members.  His in-depth approach shows that the need for forgiveness is universal; portrays the various facets of repentance; and emphasizes some of the more serous errors, particularly sexual ones, which afflict both modern society and Church members. Most important, he illuminates his message with the brightness of hope that even those who have gone grievously astray may find the way back to peace and security.
Okay.  So now you that have counter arguments to use if you are pooh-poohed, here are some questions for them:
1.  Do you believe that mankind has the ability to “subdue the earth, to perfect himself and to become as God, omniscient and omnipotent”?  (Pg 2).  It would be interesting to know what answer you get.
2.  Kimball said, “There are two basic requirements every soul must fulfill or he cannot attain to the great blessings offered.  He must receive the ordinances and he must be faithful, overcoming his weaknesses.  Hence, not all who claim to be Latter-day Saints will be exalted.”  (pg. 9)  In light of this statement, have you overcome all your weaknesses to the point of salvation?
3.  Kimball said  (pg. 16), that “All transgressions must be cleansed, all weaknesses must be overcome, before a person can attain to perfection and godhood.”   Have all your transgressions been cleansed, all weaknesses overcome?  If not, how do you expect to attain godhood?  Kimball also said, “There is never a day in a man’s life when repentance is not essential to his well-being and eternal progress.”  (pg. 32).  Are you repenting daily?  (Watch carefully as we go because the idea of repenting is a crucial point to make them think.)
4.  In chapter 4 Kimball states, “Some would categorize as minor the sins discussed in this chapter, but when not repented of they will still keep us from eternal life.”  Among the sins listed are the following:
a.  Idolatry, an example of which is:  “Young married couples who postpone parenthood until their degrees are attained might be shocked if their expressed preference were labeled idolatry.”  Other examples given include not paying tithes.  If the Mormon is married without children, hit him with the first part.  Ask all single members if they are paying tithes.
b.  Rebellion.  This includes “criticism of authorities and leaders.”  Has the person ever criticized anything about their leaders or authorities?
c.  Sabbath-breakers.  Kimball says that one is a Sabbath-breaker if they “buy commodities or entertainment on the Sabbath.. … If we buy, sell, trade, or support such on the Lord’s day we are rebellious as the children of Israel.”  Hmm, this makes them guilty of that other eternal-life-losing sin of rebellion - a double whammy!
d.  False witness.   Kimball says this includes gossiping, being envious, being bitter, flattering others.   Ask the Mormon if he is guilty of any of this.
e.  Vulgar language.   Has the Mormon ever used vulgar language?  
f.  Violation of the Word of Wisdom.  Has the Mormon been faithful here?
g.  Being ungrateful.  Has the Mormon ever been ungrateful?
h.  Being unmerciful.  Has the Mormon ever lack mercy towards someone?
i.  Anger.  Has the Mormon ever been angry?
Kimball says any of these sins not repented of will cause a loss of eternal life.  Wait until we get to what repentance means before you let them get away with that claim.
5.  Kimball says this on p. 121:  “Having received the necessary saving ordinances - baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, temple ordinances and sealings - one must live the covenants made.  He must endure in faith.  No matter how brilliant was the service rendered by the bishop or stake president or other person, if he falters later in his life and fails to live righteously ‘to the end’ the good works he did all stand in jeopardy.”  Is the Mormon at all concerned that he may falter somewhere and lose everything?
Here is a real crucial teaching, that of what repentance is.  All the foregoing is based on proper repentance in order to make it right and regain eternal life.  So now we look at chapter 12 and Kimball’s teachings here.  
“There is one crucial test of repentance.  This is abandonment of the sin.. …. Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries  to abandon sin.”  
So, when you begin discussing whether or not the Mormon has repented so as to receive forgiveness and eternal life, you must watch for his claim of trying to abandon his sin.  Kimball says that isn’t good enough.  Kimball teaches that there is absolutely no forgiveness to eternal life without repentance.  And look again at how he defined it - “abandonment of the sin.”  He says that “repentance is inseparable from time.  No one can repent on the cross, nor in prison, nor in custody.  One must have the opportunity of committing wrong in order to be really repentant.”   Kimball teaches that if the sin is repeated, all forgiveness of previous repentance is cancelled.  
Look at this teaching and ask the Mormon if he has ever repeated a sin or even sinned again:
“To return to sin is most destructive to the morale of the individual and gives Satan another hand-hold on his victim.  Those who feel that they can sin and be forgiven and then return to sin and be forgiven again and again must straighten out their thinking.  Each previously forgiven sin is added to the new one and the whole gets to be a very heavy load.”
Can you see how devastating this teaching is?  How can one ever be forgiven if each time one sins all forgiveness is revoked and all previous sins are added to the new one?!?!  Ask the Mormon if they have ever sinned, and then ask if they have ceased sinning; if they haven’t, then they cannot be forgiven because they haven’t truly repented.  To add insult to injury, Kimball says, “Discontinuance of sin must be permanent.”  I wonder how he would have responded to 1 John 1:8?  
Now we go to Chapter 15.  This can be very devastating.  Kimball says, “The Scripture is most precise.  First, one repents.  Having gained that ground he then must live the commandments of the Lord to retain his vantage point.  This is necessary to secure complete forgiveness. … That transgressor is not fully repentant who neglects his tithing, misses is meetings, breaks the Sabbath, fails in his family prayers, does not sustain the authorities of the Church, breaks the Word of Wisdom, does not love the Lord nor his fellowmen…. God cannot forgive unless the transgressor shows a true repentance which spreads to all areas of his life…..‘Doing the commandments’ includes the many activities required of the faithful, only a few of which are mentioned above.”
Has the Mormon never failed in any of these areas?  Kimball is very clear - no forgiveness is granted!  Kimball says that only by living all the commandments can a Mormon be sure he is forgiven, and that perfection is an achievable goal, and the time to become perfect is now, in this mortality, because there is no second chance.  Ask the Mormon if he is living all the commandments and if not make sure he sees he is not forgiven until he does, and therefore cannot receive eternal life.  I’m sure you can think of ways to prove he isn’t obeying all the commandments.  Ask if he ever looked at a girl with lust!  Ask him if he ever masturbates! (Kimball spends a good part of chapter 6 addressing this sin).  Then remind him again of this by Kimball: “All transgressions must be cleansed, all weaknesses must be overcome, before a person can attain to perfection and godhood.”   And then you can go in circles - to be forgiven all sins must be repented of, repentance means never repeating a sin, when a sin is committed all forgiveness is revoked and the old sin is added to the new one.  If a person isn’t repentant, then he can’t be forgiven.  If he doesn’t follow all the commandments, then he isn’t repentant.  Isn’t that a vicious cycle?  Oh, and don’t forget to mention that if they have ever failed to forgive someone’s sin against them, all forgiveness has been cancelled also.
Now, ask him what happens to him if he dies single; he will never be exalted.  Kimball says, “Regardless of his virtues, the single person, or the one married for this life only, cannot be exalted.”  This has to be done in the mortal life, not in the spiritual realm.  “Exaltation is available only to righteous members of the Church of Jesus Christ; only to those who accept the gospel; only to those who have their endowments in holy temples of God and have been sealed for eternity and who then continue to live righteously throughout their lives.” 
Do you see the difficulty with this salvation message?   What a horrible burden they have to bear!  
Well, this ought to give you plenty to work with to get them thinking about the lack of true assurance of salvation, an assurance that we as true Christians have.

UPDATE 10/9/14:  Mormon Coffee has an excellent article about what happened when they tried to give this book away to Mormons.

O Church, Arise

Another great contemporary hymn is one we have on a CD, and yesterday was presented by a young couple as special music in church.  The writers of this one have put out several excellent hymns.
O church, arise and put your armor on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain;
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies;
An army bold whose battle cry is “Love!”
Reaching out to those in darkness.
Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valor.
When faced with trials on ev’ry side,
We know the outcome is secure,
And Christ will have the prize for which He died—
An inheritance of nations.
Come, see the cross where love and mercy meet,
As the Son of God is stricken;
Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet,
For the Conqueror has risen!
And as the stone is rolled away,
And Christ emerges from the grave,
This vict’ry march continues till the day
Ev’ry eye and heart shall see Him.
So Spirit, come, put strength in ev’ry stride,
Give grace for ev’ry hurdle,
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful.
As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Importance of the Virgin Birth

Doctrinally it must be repeated that the belief in the virgin birth of Christ is of the highest value for the right apprehension of Christ’s unique and sinless personality.  Here is One, as Paul brings out in Romans 5:12, who, free from sin Himself, and not involved in the Adamic liabilities of the race, reverses the curse of sin and death brought in by the first Adam, and establishes the reign of righteousness and life. Had Christ been naturally born, not one of these things could be affirmed of Him.  As one of Adam’s race, not an entrant from a higher sphere, He would have shared in Adam’s corruption and doom - would Himself have required to be redeemed.  Through God’s infinite mercy, He came from above, inherited no guilt, needed no regeneration or sanctification, but became Himself the Redeemer, Regenerator, Sanctifier for all who receive Him.
Dr. James Orr, The Virgin Birth of Our Lord, as cited by Herbert Lockyer, All the Doctrines of the Bible, p.39
I wonder how the Mormons will respond to this?  They don’t have a virgin birth; at least not in fact.  As noted in my articles about their doctrine, their Mary had sex with their god to produce Jesus.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Don't Forget Doctrine!

All doctrines need periodic restatement no matter what their subject matter may be.  This is why preachers should plan a course of Bible doctrine.  Too many present-day congregations are fed on scraps, and because they fail to receive the strong meat of the Word (Hebrews 5:14), the spiritual life of the people is somewhat anemic. ... Perhaps we would have fuller churches, if only theological students were taught how to prepare and preach the august doctrines of Scripture.  Too many preachers shear the sheep, instead of feeding them.  Herbert Lockyer, All the Doctrines of the Bible, preface
This was written in 1964.  Think of how far the church has fallen away from teaching the doctrine since that time!  Churches are being filled today, but filled for feel-good messages instead of the meat of the Word.  When the largest church in the USA is Joel Osteen’s self-esteem, weak Word of Faith church, that demonstrates what happened by not following Lockyer’s advice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Great Men of God


My wife had purchased a DVD a while back which I just got around to watching, and it was well worth it!  The movie was, “A Man Called Peter.”
The movie told the story of Peter Marshall, who eventually - in his last two years of life - became the chaplain to the U.S. Senate.  I know movies take quite a bit of liberty with the truth, but if what this movie showed was only half accurate, it depicted a real man of God, strong in his faith and strong in his convictions.
As I watched the movie I couldn’t help but wish I had such strong faith.  I think of other great men of God - preachers of the faith such as H.A. Ironside, D.L. Moody, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and even, currently, John MacArthur.  There have been many throughout history (not to mention Paul of Tarsus!) who spoke mighty messages, never compromising their teachings to delight men with itching ears, but teaching the whole counsel of God no matter what arguments were put up against them.
While I am uncompromising when it comes to the Word of God, sometimes I find it hard to have the unwavering faith as these men had; there is always that occasional doubt as to whether God really hears my prayers.  And then there is also the fact that I probably don’t spend as much time in prayer as I know I should - and as I know these men did.
Today we have too many preachers who are NOT great men of God, but appear to be more about promoting self and tickling ears.  I don’t mean rank heretics such as in the Word of Faith crowd, or the likes of Joel Osteen and Robert Schuller; I mean men who should know better, such as John Piper, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll and a host of other very public preachers who have thousands of people following them.
That’s the interesting thing about our society also.  The old preachers - those true men of God - drew thousands to hear a solid, meaty, no-nonsense teaching from the Word;  teaching that called sin what it is, challenged people to live godly lives, taught a solid gospel message of only one way of Salvation.  Today’s preachers who draw thousands draw them because the people want to hear a feel-good message, one that speaks softly of sin (if at all), rarely speaks to practicing a worldview, and teaches a social gospel or one of many paths to God.
I look to these men of God as men to emulate, and as men from whom we can learn great lessons from the Word.  I encourage everyone to study the teachings of these men of God and leave the feel-good stuff behind.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thoughts on Ministry and Discernment

Some more excellent thoughts about discernment, as well as worship and youth group thoughts from Spiritual Junk Food, by Cathy Mickels & Audrey McKeever.  The first citation is by the authors on p.55, while the others are cited throughout the book.  The book is old - I first read it when I bought it in 1999 - but the information is good and should be a wake-up call for those especially in youth ministry.
Today the emphasis has radically shifted from meeting together to worship God and to study God’s Word, to meeting together to learn to relate to others.  Missing in the early church were terms as opening up, mutual trust, affirmation, feedback, and experience. Mickels & McKeever
[A] truly biblical ministry must hold forth truths that are absolute... We must take an unmovable stance on all issues where the Bible speaks plainly... Sound doctrine divides, it confronts, it separates, it judges, it convicts, it reproves, it rebukes, it exhorts, it refutes error.  None of those things is very highly esteemed in modern thought.  But the health of the church depends on our holding firmly to the truth.
John MacArthur, Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern, p. 52
It is vitally important that we think soundly about God.  Since He is the foundation of all our religious beliefs, it follows that if we err in our ideas of God, we will go astray on everything else.  
A.W. Tozer, This World: Playground or Battlefield, p.104
No matter how attractive the movement may appear, if it is not founded in righteousness and nurtured in humility, it is not of God.  If it exploits the flesh, it is a religious fraud and should not have the support of any God-fearing Christian.  Only that is of God which honors the Spirit and prospers at the expense of the human ego.  “That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest: God’s Pursuit of Man, p.120
We must reform our view of the qualification for - and even the legitimacy of - a “youth minister.”  The normative pattern in the Scripture implores young people to emulate the values of their elders.  They must respect them, be instructed by them and follow their example.... Thus, older men in the church bear the first responsibility for training youth; the older women to follow “likewise” in their steps.  We must therefore reject the appalling notion of the model of youth minister as a recently graduated extrovert who looks and acts just like a high schooler himself.  If our youth cannot “relate to” older men, then we are seeing evidence of older men having dropped the ball years ago. ...
Ministering to children of unbelievers need not be as difficult as it seems.  These children should be drawn to associate with Christian families rather than Christian youth ministries.
Christopher Schlect, Critique of Modern Youth Ministry, p.15, 22