Articles august `15


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Articles august `15

  1. 1. John Piper notes:<br />" Whenever a Christian converses with a non-Christian about the truth of the faith, every request of the non-Christian for the proof of Christianity should be met with an equally serious request for proof for the non-Christian's philosophy of life. Otherwise we get the false impression that the Christian worldview is tentative and uncertain, while the more secular worldviews are secure and sure, standing above the need to give a philosophical and historical accounting of themselves. But that is not the case. Many people who demand that Christians produce proof of our claims do not make the same demand upon themselves....If the Christian must produce proof, so must others." (Desiring God [Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1996], pp. 273-274)<br />Unbalanced preaching<br />Twilight Zone<br />Why Prayers May Go Unanswered <br />It is the Lord's delight to grant us what we ask of him in prayer. Like David, we all ought to pray, " O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth" (Psalm 54:2). If Christians did not believe in the effectiveness of prayer, there would be no reason for us to ask anything of God. He is the one who tells us that we can have confidence that our prayers ascend to him. " And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him" (1 John 5:14,15). While as Christians we pay lip-service to the superlatives in that sentence (" whatever" and " anything" ), how often do we really believe it?<br />The fact is that our prayers are often hindered. There are times when it feels like our prayers are reaching the ceiling and going no further; times when we are lying face-down on the floor and feel that our prayers are rising no higher than the fibers of the carpet. While we can be sure that God does hear our prayers, there are times when he chooses not to heed or answer them. The Bible gives us at least six reasons God may not heed our prayers.<br />It is important to know from the outset that I am the only one who can hinder my prayers. You are the only one who can hinder your prayers. I cannot hinder your prayers anymore than you can hinder mine. And while we may have done much to hinder our prayers, we are not necessarily even aware of this. So let's look at these as six warnings from Scripture.<br />Selfish Motives<br />All humans are selfish. It is part of our human nature that we naturally regard our own interests ahead of the interests of others. And sadly, we often regard our own interests ahead of God's. In the passage we read above, 1 John 5:14 and 15, the apostle tells us that our confidence comes from asking " according to his [God's] will." James similarly exhorts " You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions" (James 4:3).<br />So the first hindrance to our prayer is our motives. We must ask in accordance with God's will as revealed in the Bible. We must ask only for things that are consistent with the character and nature of God. We must ask for things that are for the spiritual benefit of ourselves or for the person on whose behalf we pray. God will not answer our self-centered, self-serving prayers.<br />Turning Away From Scripture<br />If we are not spending time immersing ourselves in Scripture and are not obeying what we have learned, we should not expect God to answer our prayers. Our defiance in ignoring the life-giving Words of the Bible may hinder us from having our prayers answered. Solomon goes so far as to suggest that prayers made from such a hardened heart are an abomination to God. " If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination" (Proverbs 28:9).<br />When we read the words of Scripture, we ask and encourage God to speak to us. He provides the understanding we need to live lives that bring glory to him--lives that are increasingly consistent with his standards of grace and holiness. If we thumb our nose at the importance of this discipline and if we disobey what he teaches, he will not answer our prayers. Without submitting ourselves to Scripture, we may not even know what and how to pray. We pray best and most effectively when we are saturated in the Word of God.<br />Unforgiving Hearts<br />The Christian has been forgiven for the greatest of offenses. He has been forgiven for knowingly, purposely and unrepentantly transgressing the Law of God. And yet we are often slow to forgive our fellow man for the smallest of transgressions. Even the biggest of the sins committed against us are as nothing compared to how we sinned against God. God does not honor this attitude. In Mark 11:25 Jesus says, " And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." <br />Our ongoing assurance of pardon before the Father is in some way dependent on our willingness to forgive others. We must be attentive to our hearts, to ensure that we are not harboring hatred and resentment towards others. If we have this attitude we should expect our prayers to be hindered.<br />Family Discord<br />It is God's will that families live together in peace and harmony. It is, of course, impossible for us to live in perfect peace, but God demands that we maintain close relationships and that we seek harmony in our family relationships. It is foremost the responsibility of the father, as the head of the household, to ensure that there is not discord within the family. When this discord exists, especially in the relationship of a husband to his wife, his prayers may well be hindered. The apostle Peter, a married man himself, exhorted husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way, being sensitive to their needs, " showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).<br />The relationship between a husband and a wife is to reflect that of Christ to his church. It is to be a relationship of absolute love, adoration and sacrifice. If Christ gave his life for the church, how can a husband do any less for his wife? This is, of course, impossible when the relationship is strained or broken. Thus a man should examine his relationship with his wife to ensure this is not a hindrance to his prayers (and to hers).<br />Unconfessed Sin<br />Just as unforgiveness can hinder our prayers, so can sin that we have refused to confess before God. " If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" (Psalm 66:18), says the Psalmist. Before we conclude that God has simply not heard or prayers or that it is not his will to give us what we ask, we need to examine our hearts to see if unconfessed sin stands as a barrier between ourselves and God.<br />While we need to continually examine our hearts, we need also to ask God to reveal our sin to us. We should ask those closest to us what they have observed in our lives. While God most often reveals sin through the reading of and meditating upon his Word, we should realize that if we do not learn our lesson from Scripture, he may have to resort to harsher tactics where our sin is revealed before others, even publicly. While this may be difficult and humiliating, he does so because he loves us and does not wish for this sin to continue to corrupt us and to stand as a barrier between himself and us.<br />Doubt<br />God wants us to have confidence in his ability and willingness to provide what is necessary for us to attain to godliness. He wants us to believe that he can and will do what he says. Thus when we doubt--when we ask expecting rejection and when we ask almost hoping for rejection--we will hinder our prayers. " If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord" (James 1:5-7).<br />Our prayers cannot be separated from our faith. If we are to ask God, we must ask with expectancy, believing in our heart of hearts that God can and will give what we desire, provided that what we desire is really what we need and what will bring glory to him! We are to ask with confidence and expectancy, praying out of the faith he has given us.<br />Conclusion<br />The eighteenth chapter of Luke is premised with the following words: " And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." Jesus goes on to share the parable of the persistent widow. It is a parable designed to teach the importance of persisting in prayer. It is God's desire that we persist in our petitions before him. When we ask and do not receive, we need to examine ourselves and question why our prayers are being hindered. Are we asking selfishly? Have we turned away from God, harbored unforgiveness in our hearts or ignored sin in our lives? Or have we allowed discord to creep into our families? These questions can lead us back to the Word of God, guide us to an examination of our hearts, and lead us back to sweet communion with the Lord.<br />Labels: Biblical Authority, Glory of God, Prayer, Will of God <br />SCRIPTURE OR SCRIPT TOUR?<br />True and saving faith in Christ is not a thing out of the power of man, but infinitely easy. 'Tis entirely in a man's power to submit to Jesus Christ as a Savior, if he will; but the thing is, it never will be that he should will it, except God works it in him.<br />—Jonathan Edwards, <br />Edwards draws a distinction here between two kinds of ability:<br />Physical ability — having the external means with which to do something, and<br />Moral ability — having the internal will or desire to do it.<br />He argues that though every person is free physically to believe in Jesus Christ, still no one by nature has the moral ability to do so. That is, no on e naturally wants to believe in Jesus and therefore does not—unless, of course, God intervenes.<br />For some biblical evidence of this distinction, see Mark 10:17-27 and John 3:19-21.<br />" What I am stressing is this: a minister must be a divine interpreter, an interpreter of God's meaning. And therefore he must not only read the book, but eat it. He must not only have the knowledge of divine things flowing in his brain, but engraved on his heart and printed in his soul by the spiritual finger of God. To this end, after all his own study, meditation and discussion, his use of commentaries and other human hleps, he must pray with David, 'Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law' (Psa. 119:18)" (Perkins, The Art of Prophesying, pp. 90-91).<br />STAY ON THE ANVIL<br />When God wants to drill a manAnd thrill a manAnd skill a manWhen God wants to mold a manTo play the noblest part<br />When He yearns with all His heartTo create so great and bold a manThat all the world shall be amazed,Watch His methods, watch His ways!<br />How He ruthlessly perfectsWhom He royally elects!How He hammers him and hurts himAnd with mighty blows converts himInto shapes and forms of clayWhich only God can understand.<br />How He bends but never breaksWhen his good He undertakesHow He uses whom He choosesAnd with mighty power infuses himWith every act induces himTo try His splendor out –God knows what He’s about.Author unknown.<br />2 Timothy 3:14-17<br />Paul told Timothy about the difficult days that he will face (3:1-9). Timothy will not have Paul personally present to lead and guide him (4:6-9). So what would Timothy have to guide him? Timothy would have the teaching Paul gave him, and the life which underscored that teaching (3:10-13). Timothy would have the grounding in Scripture that his believing grandmother and mother had given him from infancy (3:14-15). And that, Paul insists, would be sufficient to make him wise. He needed to lead the church and find others who would follow his lead and teach others (2 Timothy 1:13; 2:2. 7, 15; 4:1-2).Then, in vs.16-17 Paul speaks of all Scripture. Now some might say that in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul was referring only to the OT, but that isn’t true, because most of the scriptures were already complete. Peter brings the OT and NT together by saying that words of the Apostles were also authoritative (2 Peter 3:2), specifically referring to Paul’s writings as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Paul uses the term he used earlier in 1 Timothy 5:18, where he quotes Luke 10:7 (Deuteronomy 25:4), so the gospels are included. Timothy would have had access to these writings (2 Timothy 4:13). Paul is saying that the Word of God, including the Old Testament retrospectively and the New Testament prospectively, including his own writing (1 Thessalonians 2:13) represents the very words of God, and thus tells us everything we need to understand in order to know and serve God (cf. 2 Peter 1:3-4).All scripture is God breathed so even the narrative portion are for our use (cf. Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:1-5), although the way we are to use them depends on certain factors. For example, what about those seemingly endless genealogies in the OT books, what are they there for? To the Hebrews, their history and the names of their ancestors represented the salvation of God in their midst. The remembrance and rehearsal of their collective story was a constant reminder of God's promise to Abraham. To remember their past, in an important sense, was to realize that God was in their present, and was part of their future.Coming out of the Babylonian exile, the reading of these names and the rehearsal of the national history marked the truth that God was still faithful to the covenant made with Abraham. This same emphasis is clear in the NT usages of genealogies. To continue to rehearse the history, and to show Christ as the culmination of it, was to argue that not only was God continuing to fulfill the divine promise made to Abraham, but moreover that God's promise was completed in the person and work of Christ.<br />So we can see that those lists are very important, but we don’t need to try and derive some deeper meaning from them. What the Bible doesn’t teach, and teaches against, is looking for esoteric things and clues like Bible codes. These are not mysteries to unlock they are mysteries that are now revealed. We do not need some other book as the “key” to provide a spiritualized meaning to an already clear text. God gave us scripture to reveal Himself, His works, and His plan and we are not supposed to go wandering off into myths and looking for secret knowledge (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3-4, 4:7, 6:3-5, 11, 20 / 2 Timothy 2:16,23, 3:5, 7-8 / Titus 1:14, 3:9).Here is the point: in essence, spiritually speaking, if the apostles didn’t teach it you don’t need it, and you definitely don’t want it (1 Corinthians 4:6 / Galatians 1:8-9 / 1 John 4:5-6). Since Paul says that Scripture thoroughly equips we can unequivocally conclude that another revelation can only be inferior.<br />2 Peter 3:15-18<br />Scripture is Clear – perspicuity of scripture – clear & understandable.What it does NOT mean1. All scripture is equally clear and easily understood as to its precise meaning2. Interpretation, explanation, and exposition by a Bible teacher are never necessary3. Believers will agree universally on every pointWhat it DOES mean1. Scripture is clear enough for the simplest person to live by, yet deep enough for the most intellectual and diligent readers2. Obscurity is the fault of our finite and sinful minds, not a problem with the Bible3. Interpreters must use ordinary meansWe cannot ask the Holy Spirit to replace our intellectual engagement with the text. We need to learn it and believe it (cf. Philippians 3:15-16 / John 7:17). Whenever we depart from the plain and simple meaning of Scripture, interpreted using normal means, we are headed for trouble.When looking at texts, we can understand them to apply to Christians universally, such as Matthew 28:19-20 (go therefore and teach all nations), or to someone or something specifically, such as Matthew 10:5-6 (do not go to anyone but the Jews, a command for the disciples only and for that particular time period only, overruled by the Great Commission), or principally, such as Philippians 2:3-4 (Paul was speaking to a particular church but the principle of Christlike behavior applies to us) or not at all, as with 2 Timothy 4:13 (Paul tells Timothy to bring his papers, which we are obviously not to do). Texts meant specifically may also apply principally, so sometimes texts that aren’t teaching on a particular subject may still give us a principle to follow and apply to other matters.<br />Hebrews 4:12<br />In this verse there are two action verbs, in the present tense, which means they are this continuously, as regarding the Word of God. The first verb talks of what the Word is and the second speaks of what the Word does.The first verb is living – the Word has the life and power of God in it. The Word of God brings the convicting power of the Lord. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Two other words give us a description of this living.• Active – full of energy, powerful. It is effective (Isaiah 55:9-11). Its effectiveness may not be immediately evident to us, but as we mature we will understand it is always so, we will see it being effective in changing lives and also in hardening hearts. It will be a surgeon or an executioner, as we see while progressing through Hebrews 4:11-16. It will perform surgery and bring new life, or it will be the death sentence to the rebel. The Word of God either heals or it hardens, and it never fails to do its intended work.• Sharper – comparative, not just sharp but sharper. In other words, it is not only effective it is precise. It not only gets the job done, it gets it done exactly right. It goes as deep as it needs to, it hits the root. This is what the word of God is; it is living, and therefore effective and precise, and that is why it is able to discern all things.The second verb is piercing – to penetrate – two applications are given to describe it.• The first is division – to separate – soul and spirit (spiritual matters), joints and marrow (physical matters). In other words, as written at the time these things would be impossibly hard to divide but that is how penetrating God’s Word is, it can and will find out the problem right at the root, no matter how deep it is buried, no matter how many layers it has to separate. Like soul and spirit, the immaterial parts of man, things we cannot get a hold of, God’s Word can. Back when this was written, bone marrow transplants weren’t available back then. But God’s Word penetrated as deep as that. The point is that the Word of God lays bare our problem; it exposes it for what it is. It gets to the bottom of it.• The second is discerning – judging – not condemning but ascertaining what is really going on. It is able to see what needs to be done. It gives a critique. The Word gets to the bottom of things and passes judgment on what it finds. A prosecutor presents the facts of the case, but the judge determines what is right and wrong; the Word of God does both. Thoughts and intents, both the feelings of desire and the imaginations of the mind. As we faithfully use the Scriptures we will be trained to discern the wrong ways of thinking that have become fortresses for sin in our lives so that our minds can be renewed and our lives transformed. This is the surgical power of God’s Word. This is what the Word of God does. We cannot take it for granted. The Word of God identifies the sickness and because it is alive it can give new life. It can change the heart.<br /><br />" God causes the word of the gospel, which is preached to all creatures, to come to these people whom He has foreknown, with power, the power of the Holy Ghost." - Martyn Lloyd-Jones" The saved are singled out not by their own merits, but by the grace of the Mediator." - Martin Luther" Saving faith is not a native product of the human heart, but is a spiritual grace communicated from on High." - A.W. Pink" God is far more willing to save sinners than sinners are to be saved." J.C. Ryle<br /><br />Rejoice always – Philippians 4:4 (in the Lord, and our justification) / James 1:2-4 (in our fashioning, our sanctification) / 1 Peter 1:3-9 (in our future, our glorification)Pray without ceasing – Luke 18:1 / 2 Corinthians 1:11 – a prayerful attitude, atmosphere, a willing sense of God’s presence, everywhere is a sanctuaryGive thanks in all circumstances – Ephesians 5:20 – “always” means timing – “everything” means events – in all circumstances not for all circumstances – in everything God is there.<br /><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --><br /><a class=" addthis_button" href=";username=xa-4c7c04a803c87349" ><img src="" width=" 125" height=" 16" alt=" Bookmark and Share" style=" border:0" /></a><script type=" text/javascript" src="" ></script><br /><!-- AddThis Button END --><br />God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck<br />— Sunday, August 29th, 2010 —<br />A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.<br />The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.<br />If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal.<br />Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn’t the problem. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I’m quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the “Tea Party” or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.<br />It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.<br />Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.<br />Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.<br />Leaders will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That’s why so many of our Christian superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don’t like to talk about sin. That’s why other Christian celebrities are seen to be courageous for fighting their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their movements.<br />Where there is no gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, racial or class resentment, utopian politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right; anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Is. 8:12–20). As long as the Serpent’s voice is heard, “You shall not surely die,” the powers are comfortable.<br />This is, of course, not new. Our Lord Jesus faced this test when Satan took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory. Satan did not mind surrendering his authority to Jesus. He didn’t mind a universe without pornography or Islam or abortion or nuclear weaponry. Satan did not mind Judeo-Christian values. He wasn’t worried about “revival” or “getting back to God.” What he opposes was the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of the world.<br />We used to sing that old gospel song, “I will cling to an old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.”  The scandalous scene at the Lincoln Memorial indicates that many of us want to exchange it in too soon. To Jesus, Satan offered power and glory. To us, all he needs offer is celebrity and attention.<br />Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him. An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world. Any “revival” that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a “revival” of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-3).<br />The answer to this scandal isn’t a retreat, as some would have it, to an allegedly apolitical isolation. Such attempts lead us right back here, in spades, to a hyper-political wasteland. If the churches are not forming consciences, consciences will be formed by the status quo, including whatever demagogues can yell the loudest or cry the hardest. The answer isn’t a narrowing sectarianism, retreating further and further into our enclaves. The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim.<br />It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic. Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel. He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it. Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.<br />And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.<br /><br />Russell Moore looks at this weekend’s happenings is Washington and is not thrilled. “A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.”<br />