Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Rediscovering the Reformation in A Post Everything America


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Happy REFORMATION DAY- October 31, 2018

As we live in a culture that continues to slide away from doctrine and slide down to the Easy Believism of the Good Lord and Good Deeds and Cheap Grace Church of Cappuccino and Concerts (yes- really snarky I know).... is there still room and relevance to the grand gospel truths birthed by blood during the reformation?

I say YES... in fact, the reformation is the authentic lumber and substance of the Biblical doctrines of grace that we long for!

The Sola's still ring true in my heart and jump off the pages of my Bible....

Sola Scriptura: My Only Foundation
Solus Christus: My Only Mediator
Sola Gratia: My Only Method
Sola Fide: My Only Means
Soli Deo Gloria: My Only Ambition

Endless political soundbites that saturate cable news and Netflix binge watching have robbed us lives that run on protein power instead of kool-aid.

 THE REFORMATION IS STILL NEEDED:

#1 THE SOLA'S PREVENT US FROM HYPER-ANYTHING- God’s Truth is a balanced truth.

The reformation proved that authentic relationships are enhanced by sound doctrine. Truth is enlivened by God's Spirit- and the truth of truth compels an authentic response of service!

#2 THE SOLA'S EMPHASIZE OBJECTIVITY OVER SUBJECTIVITY.   

Truth is homeless in our world. We suffocate for lack of honesty. As a result man dies even while he remains alive, though idle he remains convinced of his achievements. Even as he lies dying he persuades himself that he is alive.”  Abraham Joshua Herschel, American Jewish Philosopher

The ideas of the reformation make us grab hold of truth that is OUTSIDE our own little mind. 

 I cannot shape truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. C.H. Spurgeon

 A subjective faith is really NOT the gospel. The gospel is ground into space, time, and history of a true man, proclaiming a true message, suffering a true cross, and was exalted by a true resurrection. This is not a 'feels like' faith. This is not a 'seems like' lifestyle. This is simply, Jesus is Lord and King and the Sole Substitute for sin and rebellion.

If you build your life around the comfortable false religions of this age,  you will never bump into any surprise or adventure or amazement.

Michael Horton and the White Horse Inn have continued to promote the distinctives.....


 There is no way of getting around it: The American Religion is not Christianity. I'm not saying that Reformation Christians are the only people we'll see in Heaven, but I am saying that the American Religion is sub-Christian in many of the facets we've been considering over these past several weeks. And there's a common thread running through it all: Man-centeredness instead of God-centeredness; a theology of glory rather than a theology of the Cross; moralism instead of Christ; sentimentalism and pragmatism instead of the Gospel; marketing instead of truth.

Many historians look back to the Reformation and wonder at its far-reaching influences in transforming culture. The work ethic, public education, civic and economic betterment, a revival of music, the arts, and a sense of all life being related somehow to God and his glory: These effects cause historians to observe with a sense of irony how a theology of sin and grace, the sovereignty of God over the helplessness of human beings, and an emphasis on salvation by grace apart from works, could be the catalyst for such energetic moral transformation. The reformers did not set out to launch a political or moral campaign, but they proved that when we put the Gospel first and give voice to the Word, the effects inevitably follow.


What is the best way to celebrate Reformation Day? I plan on eating a snickers and reading Romans.

What about you?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wineskins, Witness, and Waiting: Jesus Responds to Critics ( Mark 2:18-22)

Mark 2:18–22

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” [19] And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [20] The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. [21] No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. [22] And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (ESV)


The Context: 

I love reading Mark of all the synoptic gospels for some reason. It may just be the flow of it....
but as we read to this point, we see growing crowds


1:37 “Everyone is looking for you”

1:47 “Yet the people still came to Him from everywhere”

2:2 “So many gathered, there was no room”

2:13 “A large crowd”

And the growing crowds always seem to increase the growing conflict.

These particular verses seem to indicate concern that the disciples of Jesus were not living up to the expectations of the status quo
2:18 “Now John’s disciples AND the Pharisee’s were fasting”


The Confrontation:

Speculation regarding the questioners
- ‘And people came ….” - human nature never really changes. Dishonest questions are as brutal now as they were then... were these people asking an honest question or was their question merely a cover for their already hardened hearts?

I can't help but read the tone of their questions as plain SNARKY!

Jesus answers the questions by providing 3 illustrations:

Illustration 1- Wedding…… The Bridegroom will leave, but don't live in the future...celebrate the NOW.

Illustration 2- Patching a garment- the age of the patch needs to match the age of the garment and an improper repair (application) can be worse .

Illustration 3- Wineskins……again, new versus old. The new will need to stretch under pressure or the result will be great loss.

All three illustrations together suggest a common principle.... the time for fasting will come, but the time is not now. Jesus is in process of something new.

There are MANY principles from the passage: patience, authority, ritualism... but I wanted to focus on how we respond in conflict and criticism.

The World of CONSTANT CONFLICT...
Unfortunately, we never escape THE FRAY... it is always there. The battle never rests and we live in a world of endless opinions.

Negative opinions brew in the dark, they are spread in whisper campaigns

The Lord of Time
As humans, we don't do time very well..... I have always quipped...“God is never LATE….. but He is seldom early” . It is SO HARD to wait on Him. Can we embrace God’s sovereignty as it relates to HIS TIMING?

Applications:
Never Aid, Comfort, or Enable the Enemy. If you participate in whisper campaigns or believe that your right to know is an entitlement, you are helping negativity to sap life out of all that is around you.

Be Steady in the Storm…. And Celebrate THE GOSPEL! Jesus stood firm and stood above the fray. He was not naive... He knew the hearts of the critics... but He was never dismayed or knocked off mission by them

Ask God To Enlarge Your View of Him. It is OK to live with a God who operates on a 'need to know basis'... He is big enough to handle your waiting game

Never Underestimate the Power of the Status Quo. As a follower of Jesus, never be afraid to upset the apple cart in your allegiance to Him. Many will hate you for that, but God supports those whose hearts are set on Him.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

A Humble and Holy Hermaneutic

This blog repost is by request to analyze the principles of Biblical interpretation I use - formally referred to as 'hemeneutics'.

As always, I am a firm believer in showing my cards early- I come from a conservative, reformed tradition of Christianity.... but I firmly believe the Bible has guided me there... Scripture has shaped my theology much MORE than theology has interpreted my Bible.

There are two important hallmarks of any right reading of Scripture:

HUMILITY- this is way more difficult that anyone can imagine. 

1 Corinthians 8:1 "we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. (ESV)

A humble approach actually must be examined BEFORE we even open up the Bible. Without humility, we are not in a state to accept what the Bible will be saying to us.

I encourage you to carefully read the conversion of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield in both of her two first books ..... she rightly acknowledges that her most grievous sin... the one keeping her from salvation... was not the sexual sin she was living in- it was PRIDE.

As I read critics and trolls of Christianity... I am not saddened by their statements, I am sad about the PRIDE they take in their opinions... we live in a culture where we have made OUR OWN MINDS our own GOD and truth is what we say it to be.

I encourage all readers of anything to create a context of HEALTHY SKEPTICISM of self... the smarter you are, the more you are in danger of ever discovering that you may be DEAD WRONG.

BY the way, the best antidote of pride is LOVE. A love where you are willing to sacrifice for another. I have quite a few friends who have radically different views of religion and politics... I especially pray for wisdom that I speak and post in a way that shows my love for them and I pray for them.

So, even as I write this post, I need to be aware that I may be incorrect in areas as well.

Thus HUMILITY has allowed me to discover the authority and beauty of the Bible. And if I read it with humility, it corrects me.... I do not correct it.

A second hallmark of my hermeneutic is simple: READING. I am reading literature and as I grow in my ability to read literature, I gain wisdom in analysis. 

I taught literature for almost 20 years. During that time I read and taught hundreds of classics... over many different genres.

The Bible is unlike anything else in this world..... so different than even the greatest works of all time.

The Bible is a supernatural document- transmitted in so many ways, protected, and delivered to a world in easy to understand fundamentals. God exists... so a communication from Him is not a stretch.

It reads like no other writing in history... even when I read the Book of Mormon or other religious texts... there is no comparison.

The original languages of Scripture is also important- it is so amazing to me to see that beautiful Hebrew poetry and figurative language of the Old Testament reads that same way in English. And also impressed that the GREEK of the New Testament has such a technically sound grammar and linguistic that you CAN"T make it say what you want to if you do honest analysis.

So over the past 35 plus years, as I have read the scriptures in an honest and humble way...  it is quite clear. Though I must always thank God for the Holy Spirit WHO I believe has provided that ability.


CAN WE MAKE MISTAKES IN INTERPRETATION? YES!

But if we continue to READ in HOLY HUMILITY false interpretations are melted away as we continue to see all of Scripture being hinged to one enduring foundation: Salvation by faith in Jesus Christ as a merciful gift to sinful and dying people.

BATTLE OF WORLD VIEWS

I first read "Christianity and Liberalism" by J. Gresham Machen in 1993 (it had been published in 1923) and I did a detailed study of it around 2010.
I got to where I couldn't read it at night, because I would lay awake until late haunted by the prophetic words Dr. Machen used in warning us about the sad consequences if the Orthodox faith slipped in our midst.

Sadly, I feel more and more like a dinosaur- his words are so powerful, but resonates so little in this current culture. Is there anyone who feels this pressing on them the way it presses on me?

I have copied his final few paragraphs of this very important work. Can there be some men who will rise up and once again proclaim the old time gospel? The true one? The one that sparked the reformation and changed the world?

From the last chapter, The Church:

The rejection of Christianity is due to various causes. But a very potent cause is simple ignorance. 

In countless cases, Christianity is rejected simply because men have not the slightest notion of what Christianity is. 

An outstanding fact of recent Church history is the appalling growth of ignorance in the Church. Various causes, no doubt, can be assigned for this lamentable development. The development is due partly to the general decline of education--at least so far as literature and history are concerned. 

The schools of the present day are being ruined by the absurd notion that education should follow the line of least resistance, and that something can be "drawn out" of the mind before anything is put in. They are also being ruined by an exaggerated emphasis on methodology at the expense of content and on what is materially useful at the expense of the high spiritual heritage of mankind. These lamentable tendencies, moreover, are in danger of being made permanent through the sinister extension of state control. 

But something more than the general decline in education is needed to account for the special growth of ignorance in the Church. 

The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever be the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. 

Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is; and the fair and logical thing is to learn what Christianity is, not from its opponents, but from those who themselves are Christians. That method of procedure would be the only fair method in the case of any movement. But it is still more in place in the case of a movement such as Christianity which has laid the foundation of all that we hold most dear. Men have abundant opportunity today to learn what can be said against Christianity, and it is only fair that they should also learn something about the thing that is being attacked.

Such measures are needed today. The present is a time not for ease or pleasure, but for earnest and prayerful work. A terrible crisis unquestionably has arisen in the Church. In the ministry of evangelical churches are to be found hosts of those who reject the gospel of Christ. By the equivocal use of traditional phrases, by the representation of differences of opinion as though they were only differences about the interpretation of the Bible, entrance into the Church was secured for those who are hostile to the very foundations of the faith. And now there are some indications that the fiction of conformity to the past is to be thrown off, and the real meaning of what has been taking place is to be allowed to appear. The Church, it is now apparently supposed, has almost been educated up to the point where the shackles of the Bible can openly be cast away and the doctrine of the Cross of Christ can be relegated to the limbo of discarded subtleties.

Yet there is in the Christian life no room for despair. Only, our hopefulness should not be founded on the sand. It should be founded, not upon a blind ignorance of the danger, but solely upon the precious promises of God. Laymen, as well as ministers, should return, in these trying days, with new earnestness, to the study of the Word of God.

If the Word of God be heeded, the Christian battle will be fought both with love and with faithfulness. Party passions and personal animosities will be put away, but on the other hand, even angels from heaven will be rejected if they preach a gospel different from the blessed gospel of the Cross. Every man must decide upon which side he will stand. God grant that we may decide aright!

What the immediate future may bring we cannot presume to say. The final result indeed is clear. God has not deserted His Church; He has brought her through even darker hours than those which try our courage now, yet the darkest hour has always come before the dawn. We have today the entrance of paganism into the Church in the name of Christianity. But in the second century a similar battle was fought and won. From another point of view, modern liberalism is like the legalism of the middle ages, with its dependence upon the merit of man. And another Reformation in God's good time will come.

But meanwhile our souls are tried. We can only try to do our duty in humility and in sole reliance upon the Savior who bought us with His blood. The future is in God's hand, and we do not know the means that He will use in the accomplishment of His will. It may be that the present evangelical churches will face the facts, and regain their integrity while yet there is time. If that solution is to be adopted there is no time to lose, since the forces opposed to the gospel are now almost in control. It is possible that the existing churches may be given over altogether to naturalism, that men may then see that the fundamental needs of the soul are to be satisfied not inside but outside of the existing churches, and that thus new Christian groups may be formed.

But whatever solution there may be, one thing is clear. There must be somewhere groups of redeemed men and women who can gather together humbly in the name of Christ, to give thanks to Him for His unspeakable gift and to worship the Father through Him. Such groups alone can satisfy the needs of the soul. At the present time, there is one longing of the human heart which is often forgotten--it is the deep, pathetic longing of the Christian for fellowship with his brethren. One hears much, it is true, about Christian union and harmony and co-operation. But the union that is meant is often a union with the world against the Lord, or at best a forced union of machinery and tyrannical committees. How different is the true unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! Sometimes, it is true, the longing for Christian fellowship is satisfied. There are congregations, even in the present age of conflict, that are really gathered around the table of the crucified Lord; there are pastors that are pastors indeed. But such congregations, in many cities, are difficult to find. Weary with the conflicts of the world, one goes into the Church to seek refreshment for the soul. And what does one find? Alas, too often, one finds only the turmoil of the world. The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of meditation and power, not with the authority of God's Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. And then perhaps the service is closed by one of those hymns breathing out the angry passions of 1861, which are to be found in the back part of the hymnals. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God, And sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus' name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world.

My prayer is that we be found faithful in the humble reading and proclamation of His Word until He returns (and I hope soon!)