Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tough Love for Evangelicalism
...revive us O Lord!

Plastinated, Profane, and Popular
The face of evangelicalism has been altered so dramatically that it looks "doctrinally disfigured" suffering from one too many "botox injections" of pragmaticism and ecumenism; with severe "soteriological 'nips and tucks'" that gifted "plastic surgeons" skilled with the scalpel of New Perspectivism, Inclusivism, Open Theism and Postmodernism have cut away so much of authentic gospel "tissue" that what's left is just a synthetic, artificial "message-manikin." The "religious legislative laser technicians" have almost burned away the aged wrinkles of faithfulness to God's Word trying to give a "new face of influence" through political co-belligerence--turning the body of Christ into just another lobbyist group, PAC or "Christocrat." Seminaries are having "theological lypo-suction" done at such alarming rates that even the doctrinal positions of TBN, by comparison, are looking deceptively... "orthodox." And "full body makeovers" of local churches are being done so effectively so as to not have to look like church, sound like church, act like church, be called a church, or function as a church that they could be featured on a special ecclesiatical episode of "The Swan."

All sardonic metaphor aside, here's the plain truth: the rule of faith is no longer considered the Scriptures, but experience; the goal of faith is no longer considered holiness, but personal happiness; the purpose of faith is no longer considered the glory of God, but being 'in conversation' with the culture; and the object of faith is no longer considered Christ, but self. In other words, 'Evangelical Christianity' is becoming completely unrecognizable.

All Men Are Like Grass...
This should only remind us that even the best of men, the most honorable of Christians, the most learned of theologians, the most faithful of pastors, the most sincere of artists, the most winsome of authors, the most insightful of scholars, and the most dedicated in their calling can stumble into grievous error and sin if constant care is not given to life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:12-16).

We are all vulnerable. We are all susceptible. We are all capable of doubting the Lord—like Thomas; denying the Lord—like Peter; disobeying the Lord—like David; and even deserting the Lord like Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:16-20) propagating gangrenous unsound doctrine and skewed beliefs if we fail to keep our lives accountable to and in line with the standard of God’s Word. Apart from the Lord’s restraining grace (Titus 2:12) we could all succumb to the most grievous of sins for our hearts our “desperately wicked and full of deceit” (Jer. 17:9). Even the Apostle Peter faltered for a season (Galatians 2:10-15) by preaching a false gospel because of his fear of the Circumcision (the Judaizers) which led him to preach a gospel of works righteousness—the very thing he was saved from; instead of a gospel of grace—the very thing he was saved by. In dealing with this concern, Dr. John MacArthur displays godly wisdom in saying, “bad theology will always lead to dirty living.” He is absolutely correct. When we fail to “tremble at God’s Word” (Isaiah 66:2); “hide it in our hearts” (Psalm 119:9-10); make it more “necessary than our daily food” (Job 23:10); and take it “as our song” for our pilgrim journey through this world (Psalm 119:54); then we open our minds to unsound doctrine and our lives to unsound living.

The Enemy Within
In the past few years evangelicalism has suffered greatly from this very neglect. It has been bombarded and inundated with an onslaught of aberrant and heretical teachings. They have subtley entered the church under the radar of personality, notoriety, celebrity, and seminary. Surprisingly, these threatenings are not coming from outside the church by secular theorists or philosophical sophists that despise Christianity and long to see its demise. Sadly, the leading voices undermining the very fabric and foundation of biblical Christianity today are other evangelicals—-many of whom we would consider our dear brothers in the Lord and mentors in our daily walk in Christ.

What is our response to such plight facing us? The Scriptures are lucid on this: we are all to be faithful Bereans (Acts 17:10-12) examining what anyone would say, teach or sing about the Christian faith, the character of God, the person of Christ, or His gospel by the truth of God's Word. Some in the church deem this as unloving, unkind and divisive--and I have always wondered why. Why is it unkind to hold the pastor to what he teaches? Why is it unloving to examine the latest book by a popular radio or TV Bible teacher and hold them accountable? Why is it divisive to measure the elders, the deacons, the Sunday School teachers, the missionaries, the Christian singers and authors according to the Divine standard of the Scriptures? Because in reality, there is nothing more loving, more kind, more unifying then holding its respective teachers to the authority of the Word of God--for they hold no authority outside of its truth--none.

The World Acts "Berean" - Why Won't the Church?
Let me illustrate. Political pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Peggy Noonan, Monica Crowley, Ann Coulter, Chris Matthews, etc. are faithful to examine and hold accountable Presidential candidates, government officials, congressional leaders even other journalists and reporters as to the claims they make, affirm and represent in all matters of law, policy, and decision making that affect the citizenry of our nation. The Better Business Bureau, and agencies of the sort, are constantly monitoring, examining and possibly investigating standards and practices of various vendors to insure consumer confidence in the goods they purchase and in who manufactures them. There are numerous “watch dog” groups in the fields of technology, travel industry, sports, etc. that are there to be “Bereans” to the betterment of our society and insure “fair play.” Even in the current "Basketbrawl" incident, we see the Commissioner and the NBA acting in responsible and lawful ways to avoid anymore felonius actions by either fans or players. In the medical community there are those same advocates holding high the standard of competency to bring peace of mind and shore up confidence as a patient/doctor relationships. Putting ones life in the hands of any doctor should require the highest testing to the most rigorous of standards the proper agencies have established before any surgery or even non-evasive treatment is given to any patient. That's just smart, safe and honorable to do so. Any any doctor not willing to submit to such standards should at the very least be suspended from any kind of medical practice until such adherence to and compliance with those standards can be shown.

The Evangelical Two-Step...
When it comes to matters of faith--matters of eternity, how much more as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should we examine, investigate, research, and study the claims of anyone who sets themselves up as a teacher of God's Word by word or song (including yours truly too) when they say they speak for God and represent His truth and gospel? This has always been a perplexing thing to me when it comes to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that some believers get so easily upset when well-intentioned, well-informed, well-meaning pastors, lay people, apologists, theologians and the like in the body of Christ seek to hold fast the faith of God’s Word by lovingly and truthfully holding accountable to its standard others that claim to speak for God? Why do some believers deem it “not nice” and a divisive thing to do so? It seems today in our postmodern capricious touchy-feely culture that more Christians would be committed to truth rather than “just being liked” or to a “surface superficial peace.” Listen, to fail to “guard the trust” (1 Tim. 6:20), “instruct in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9), and to “contend for the once for all delivered to the saints faith” (Jude 3) even if it means challenging other evangelical leaders, pastors, radio personalities, TV preachers, artists, etc. that we admire and hold in high esteem, because some don’t like to confront or would rather simply be nice and peaceful rather than truthful, is to be unfaithful to the Lord, unloving to our fellow believers, and unkind to a lost world. It is with brokenness of heart and sorrow of mind that this kind of article even needs to be written.

The ministry of the gospel has eternal importance—greater than any goods or services that consume our day ever could. We are to be “skilled workman, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), handling God’s Word as a trained surgeon for the health, growth, and purity of the body of Christ. The cutting away of diseased tissue may sting for awhile, but what joy comes when there is restoration of health. Though the Word of God brings conviction to our sinful souls, what joy there is when repentance of sin comes and reconciliation occurs. We are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15a); be “gentle towards all men” (2 Tim. 2:24); and “give no offense in anything so that the ministry would not be hindered” (2 Cor. 6:3). But at the same time, we must be more committed to truth than we are to simply “being nice”—what I call, “the tolerant disposition of post-modernism.” We must in the words of the prophet Joel, “sound the alarm.”

The Craftiness of Satan
This has always been the objective of Satan--distorting the Word of God. Ever since he deceived our first parents in the garden with the subtle words, "hath not God said?", his tactics remain unchanged. He doesn't want to fight the church--he wants to join it! He wants to infiltrate the church with error that attacks the very character of Christ, the nature of God, the veracity and sufficiency of the Word of God, and the gospel of soa fide. All of these men stated below need to do one thing: they need to repent of their error and deluding influence they have had on the church and return back to historical biblical Christianity once again.

Who Spiked the Living Water?
I won’t spend much time on these skewed teachings, but I do think it would be helpful for you to be aware of them so you may more effectively “guard the trust” in your church and personal lives. I have listed parenthetically next to the various titles of these teachings the leading voice in evangelicalism representing each of these ideologies and a brief definition of what those beliefs affirm. I realize that some of these names might shock you in the mentioning, while others will be obviously tragic.

The Great Need for Discernment
Read with a careful and discerning eye. In no particular order of importance, these hazardous influences are as follows:

1. Open Theism (Gregory Boyd) – this attacks the very character of God. Def.: That God is stunted in His omniscience. He doesn’t know the future; He is learning along with His creatures every day.

2. Inclusivism (Peter Kreeft) – this attacks the exclusivity of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in evangelism. Def.: This belief says the Lord grants special grace to those who have never heard and are ignorant of the gospel for salvation. Adherents to this belief say, if one is condemned solely because of their unbelief in Christ, then how could they be held responsible for that which they have never heard and had the opportunity to reject? Salvation would be granted to them by God because of ignorance. Under this injudicious logic, sending missionaries to them is counter poductive; it would be better if they died in their ignorance so as to be “saved”, then be brought God's law and the light of the gospel, reject it, and be “condemned.”

3. New Perspectivism (N.T. Wright) – this attacks and redefines the very heart of the gospel of sola fide. Def.: It denies the active and/or passive obedience of Christ in His substitutionary atonement on the cross. It also denies the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to every believer for salvation. It seeks to redefine the biblical view of justification by faith alone through historical revisionism in first century Judaism.

4. Political Activism (Rick Warren) – this attacks the very purpose and work of God for the church in the world. Def.: Trying to correct moral malady by political remedy; it also affirms a social ecumencial gospel where the cause or crisis becomes the new unity and mission for the church. It is treating the body of Christ as a political action committee or religious lobbyist. The great emphasis in their mantra is placed on political legislation and social reform, rather than regeneration. Theonomistic in nature, this belief fosters ecumenism; biblical truth, the gospel or sound doctrine aren't central or foundational in fighting the cultural wars. Patriotism is being equated with biblical Christianity.

5. Pragmaticism (Bill Hybels) – this attacks the very will of God in ministry.
Def.: Methodology over message; style over substance. It is the "anything that works" —"the ends justify the means" ideology. In this paradigm, "the audience, not the message, is sovereign."

6. Postmodernism and The Emergent Church (Brian McLaren) – this attacks the essentials of the faith. Def.: Objective, absolute truth is disregarded as too imposing, outdated, insensitive and too limiting. It seeks to redefine not only biblical terms, but the biblical truth those terms represent. Christianity in general, the church, and the Christian must be given a “spiritual make over” into something “new” to appeal to the complexities, concerns and ethics of our postmodern culture. The Emergent Church seeks a faith that is ever evolving. fluid, nondogmatic, liquid in message and methods; one that is mystical rather than wholly biblical. Here is the critical quesiton (according to D.A. Carson with whom I agree): Is this emerging church largely seeking to be reformed by the Word of God; or is it submerging into the very culture it longs to transcend? “Exegete the times" rather than the truth is preeminent here.

7. Sabellianism (T.D. Jakes) - this attacks the very nature of God.
Def.: An old but newly energized heresy resurfacing with a vengeance. This is the belief that there is no God-Head; it denies the existance of the Trinity - One Triune God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as co-equal, co-eternal, co-existing from all eternity in three persons. It is also called Modalism: the belief that God manifests Himself in three different ways at different times as father, son ,and spirit. It denies the Eternal Sonship of Christ and represents a different gospel to believe, and a different god to be worshipped than the God of the Bible.
I realize it is difficult and hard to read of some of these men above who many in the church today hold in high esteem. These are, though, disturbing times we live in beloved. We must come to firm resolve in our hearts and minds that biblical truth matters, the gospel matters, the nature and character of God matters, sound doctrine and theology matters, the church matters, biblical pastoral leadership matters, and ministering to lost people matter.

These essential things of the faith are under attack today; and what is unique to our day, is that the attack is not from without, but from within mainline evangelicalism. We need to stand firm, sound the alarm, take captive every thought in obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:1-5), and do this without partiality. Loyalty to no man save Christ Jesus the Lord.

Acts 20:24 - "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

39 comments:

ajlin said...

I didn't realize that Dr. Tony Evans held to "inclusivism," though I did realize that this was a problem in many ministries (inclusivism, like Open Theism is the natural consequence of 'free-will' doctrine) and I have heard men like Hank Hanegraaf give this view. But I would ask, does Dr. Evans really "pooh-pooh" missionary work, as you seem to indicate? Though this would be the logical extension of inclusivism, many of the people I have heard from that hold this view are inconsistent on this point and are thus still quite concerned with world missions.

SJ Camp said...

Read the first appendix in Tony's book called, "Totally Saved." This is where he unfolds his inclusivistic beliefs. His words directly are better commentary on this than my own.

I will try and post some of them in this comment sections tomorrow.

Grace and peace,
Steve

johnMark said...

I haven't read all of Steve's article yet, but I have heard Evans say some strange things. I have a tape of him being interviewed on a radio show about the book "Totally Saved". Evans says talked about people being saved who are in different "transdispensations". I would really have to listen to this tape again to refresh my memory. His "transdispensation" doctrine is his way of inclusivism.

I'll see if I can find the audio tonight.

Mark

Sparks said...

If it were not for concerned, discerning, Biblically accurate Christians turning to the internet to offer all views of today's evangelical practices, I would be blindly headed down the path of #1, 4 and 5.

I confess and repent of my own ignorance and lack of Berean discernment toward many of the activities of today's "wide path" church.

It is very easy to accept what the pastor, elders/leaders, teachers of the church say without questioning and discerning. I know, I've done it my entire life. People in the church are reading books and listening to radio/televison programs without the slightest regard toward discernment of what they are reading/hearing.

Now I am moving toward a point where practically everything I hear/read is questionable until I can confirm it's truth Scripturally, with accurate Bible versions and in context.

Jeff Wright said...

Steve - excellent post.

Your points about the world's willingness to show discernment was on point.

So was your discussion about Satan's desire to become part of the church.

Discernment has died so many places in the name of "unity" that is no more unity than it is peanut butter.

Well written.

Phil (Col 1:27-28) said...

Hmmm, much food for thought as I also am very concerned about much of what you have written.

While I am not aware of all of what you have specifically said about these specific individuals, I will take into prayerful consideration what you have stated.

Great post!
Blessings in Christ Jesus!

Breuss Wane said...

I don't think we can preach, teach, contend for, pray, think enough about the big "D" missing in our evangelicalism. Discernment, discernment, discernment. Great post, Steve.

Efrayim said...

These very thoughts remind me of what YHVH said through Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah):

Jer 2:11 Has a nation changed [its] gods, which yet are no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.
Jer 2:12 Be astonished, you heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be you very desolate, says the LORD.
Jer 2:13 For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the spring of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Do people really change all that much over the centuries? Sadly, no, we don't. But we do know that if the leaf and fruit are poison, so is the root. Which is why Yeshua said that the axe is now laid to the root. Any tree which my Father has not planted will be cut down and destroyed.

And so it is as you say, they come, they seem to flourish, and then they are gone.

May He reign forever!

Shalom,

Russ

Bhedr said...

Indeed, why preach if this were so.

Bret said...

Another great article Brother Steve. Praise the Lord and thank you for taking the stand and being willing to says, what so may pastors and preachers will not say. May the Lord use you and the handful of others to bring about revival and reformation in many churches to trust in the authority and sufficiency of God's word proclaimed, received and obeyed.

Lisa M. said...

An excellent, well-written article - a clarion call to the Church - I hope many will read this and be edified and repent.

Only one small concern - why would you include a picture (image) of "Satan" from a movie that blasphemes the Lord, and adds to and takes away from the Gospel accounts of the last week of His life, death and resurrection? It wasn't necessary to get your point across.

Your sister in Christ,
Lisa

Bret said...

When I dealt with the movie "The Passion" at my last church, I mentioned the pros and cons. I definitely believe the cons outweighed to pros, but I don't know that I would use the word "blaspheme" to describe it. The movie was done in such a way, that Roman Catholics would think it was a movie for them, grounded believers would recognize what was not part of the biblical accounts, and unbelievers or new believers may assume those "extra scenes" are in the bible only to find out later as the new believers grow in Christ, that they do not belong in there. I do wish they would have shown the full resurrection. These things does not excuse Mr. Gibson of course. And movies and dramas are not to replace the biblical gospel proclaimed, for souls to be saved. But God can, and probably has used it in spite of it for His honor and glory. Maybe brother Steve would rather post something new to deal with the movie? ;-)

Bhedr said...

If Mel Gibson did anything right and precise; it was giving us a more realistic view of who Lucifer is.

Also the pilgrims tried to stay away from the King James Version for the same reasons people today shy away from Mel's Movie.

See James White's website and learn about a man named Erasamus who gave us the Text the KJV was translated from and you will find he was a Catholic who believed in transubstantion in the Mass as Gibson does. I justify neither men yet acknowledge that even Pilot wrote the Word of God on the Cross. God is not limited to our percieved regulations of how men should adhere to doctrine; but he does call us to proper doctrine and so I think this is why I frequent this site.

Nathan White said...

Well I dont know about you guys but I took Steve's posting of 'satan' in jest. I understand him to be illustrating the nightmare the church is in...

Sasha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sasha said...

That was very in depth, well written, but most of all annointed.

My husband is a pastor with the Assemblies of God and we have been so burdened with the direction we even see our own denomination taking. So much so, that we are praying/seeking God about removing ourselves from underneath their covering.

I wrote a similar article that I feel the Lord directed me to write in my own blog, titled, "being a true shepherd." It is more aimed towards the calling of a true pastor but it mimicks some of your concerns.

Thank you for seeking the heart of God and being obedient to His Spirit.

Kyrie66 said...

Steve,
Thank you for this excellent article. I have a link on my blog to it. This insanity in the evangelical church is causing huge discouragement for many families who no longer have anywhere to go to worship and fellowship with those of like faith. What is a person to do without a faithful church in town? I hear this complaint frequently from those who read my blog.

Thanks again!

Faithful to Christ my Savior said...

Right on, Steve! And just so people know the main title of the political activism of James Dobson, fighting for morality through political means instead of through the gospel as Jesus commissioned, it is called Dominionism (building Christ's kingdom on the earth, which Christ nor the word of God ever commanded mankind to do). If one does a search on this title a host of interesting descriptions, both for and against it will come up. The discerning Christian can then ask the Lord to lead them into the truth concerning Dominionism while searching God's word in order to counteract the lies of Dominionism. Today's Christians need to learn more about Dominionism because it is the core motivation of what our government has become, what is driving the New World Order, what is fighting against the exact sinners Jesus came to save while neglecting what is taking place right inside the mainstream church as it crumbles both morally and spiritually. It's time proclaiming Christians wake up and focus on what the word of God says to do and stop adding on to His words to do the things He has not said to do. It's time Christians start carrying the gospel to the lost again, being humble and obedient, walking in faith and wisdom, redeeming the time to bring as many as God is drawing into His eternal kingdom that is not of this world, just like Jesus stated 2000 years ago. In the meantime, Christians need to stop giving an audience to such Dominionist deceivers as James Dobson, Beverly and Tim LaHaye, Chuck Colson. A Christian's only business in this world is to be the salt that Jesus commanded, to carry the light of the word of God and the gospel to every living human being as God is directing, and to stay out of the affairs of the world which is passing away.

jolagapa said...

This article is great! But why not include John Piper's Christian Hedonism?. Check at http://www.foundations.edu/straightway/main.php?id=11

fool4jesus said...

Faithful to Him - so I take it that you would also disagree with all the Christian folks of the opposite persuasion from Dobson, those who are selling anti-Bush tee shirts and trying to get their own political candidates elected? If not, then what is the difference between them and him, except that he is more successful in getting others to listen to his viewpoint? It seems to me that one should either commend both or condemn both.

Chris P. said...

Steve
You hit all the pillars of apostasy
dead on. The problem of open theism is by far the worst. If you follow the doctrine to its ignominious end, you will have to reject the incarnation of Christ since they essentially drag God down to the level of man, and put Him on a learning curve with us.
It is a "new " incarnation without those "pesky" aspects of deity.

Sasha
I share your concern about the AG. I am a worship leader in a Native American Assemblies church and we have more than once talked about removing ourselves at our staff meetings. As it is, we are not even recognizable as a "traditional" AG church.

Greg said...

Thanks for the post. Good words of exhortation. On a different note, can anyone give me any insight (web link) to Wild at Heart by Eldredge and the TNIV translation?

Thanks!!

john said...

Steve,
I don't want to be beligerent or disrespectful, but I have to ask you this. Your comments are representative of a certain group within the evangelical community and I think it's a fair question.

Do you believe you have everything figured out? To create such a list seems to send the message that you are right and everyone else is wrong.

Where does humility and grace fit into our discussions? Doesn't good theological discussion and research require us to admit that our own understanding may be flawed? How much space should we give each other to "work through our salvation with fear and trembling"?

Shouldn't we come to the table without preconceptions and allow scripture and the Spirit to help us understand the truth of the Word and how God would have us apply it in our lives? Isn't it possible that good, sincere people will disagree?

For example, I know many sincere believers who are calvinists. I know others who are armenians. Some of my friends are liberal - very involved with social justice. Others are extremely conservative, wealthy and politically-motivated.

My point is, couldn't God have room for all types in His kingdom? Do we all have to be carbon copies?

Again, these are honest questions. I do appreciate you allowing differing views on your blog. It's different from many others in that respect.

john said...

Also, a quick question about open theism: do you think it's possible that God CHOOSES not to know everything? By definition, God CAN know everything. But why does scripture speak of Him being surprised, angered, jealous? If you know everything, it seems like emotions wouldn't really sway you.

This also goes to the question of predestination vs free will. If God knows everything before He creates us - and if He knows many will reject Him - isn't He in effect creating people with the sole purpose of destroying them? To me, nothing makes sense without truly free will.

So could God choose to limit His knowledge? Is that an orthodox idea?

SJ Camp said...

John:

You said. "Do you believe you have everything figured out? To create such a list seems to send the message that you are right and everyone else is wrong."

I don't think that at all--I am in process in my walk with the Lord just as much as the next person is. I haven't arrived at my sanctification and it is only by God's grace that I carry on each day for Christ and His gospel.

However, I am interested as to why you draw that conclusion from simply pointing out the key leading figures in today's world who have reshaped and redefined biblical Christianity in our time either in practice or precept? Would you also characterize many of the church fathers and divines in the same way for addressing aberrant heretical teachings or movements throughout church history?

What about Paul or Peter for writing in very specific terms about those who had shipwrecked the faith? (read 2 Peter; 2 Tim. 2:15-20; 1 Tim. 1:16ff, etc.) Certainly you would not suggest that the Lord Himself was out of line, unloving, or arrogant for the strong words of woe found in Matthew 23 would you?

If I may, I must ask you a question: did I mischaracterize or give a skewed theological view of any of these trends or their figurehead representatives?

You said. "Where does humility and grace fit into our discussions?"

It should be the mark of all our personalities in discourse


You said, "Doesn't good theological discussion and research require us to admit that our own understanding may be flawed? How much space should we give each other to "work through our salvation with fear and trembling"?

No it doesn't. Good theological discussion and research begins by sound exegesis, careful biblical study, and historical theological/doctrinal evaluation.

You said "Shouldn't we come to the table without preconceptions and allow scripture and the Spirit to help us understand the truth of the Word and how God would have us apply it in our lives?

Impossible--we all bring something to the table.

You said "Isn't it possible that good, sincere people will disagree?

Of course.

Marcia said...

I have a question for all of you commenters. Is it possible to believe in Reformed theology, but yet not be one of the chosen?

Because sometimes I think this is where I am, on the outside looking in. I never show any growth. I fall into the same things over and over. I pray and pray and never hear from God.

If the Holy Spirit blows where He chooses, well, maybe He hasn't chosen me, and that's why I never seem to be able to hold on to any spiritual maturity.

Anyone?

Jack said...

Marcia,

If someone loves, and thus has faith in, Jesus, he demonstrates his election unto life.

It's good that you are looking for fruit in your life, but be careful not to do this too subjectively, without the help of the church. In other words, be accountable to other believers.

Having said that, I also am grieved at my lack of growth. But God has shown me that in those times I need to turn my focus onto him. It's good advice that for every look at your sin, take ten looks at the cross of Christ. Yes, we need to be aware of our sin, but this should drive us to Jesus for salvation - he came to save us from our sins.

It's a paradox, but the more we are focused on him, the better we will be able to appraise ourselves.

john said...

Marcia,
I believe God gives each of us a choice to come to Him. If He had His way, all would come to him.

In terms of not hearing from God - read the Word. That's the primary way to hear from Him. Start with the Gospel of John. It will help you learn the teachings of Christ. Follow them and you'll begin to see God moving in your life.

As for falling back into bad habits - that happens sometimes. Don't become discouraged. There's always that battle between our old nature and the Spirit of God in us.

It's important to have other believers who you hang out with to encourage you. It's also important to make changes in your life that will take away your chances to sin. In other words, if you have a problem getting drunk, don't go to a bar.

I don't believe God leaves people who truly seek Him on the outside looking in. He loves us and wants us to find Him. The whole reason Jesus sacrficed His life was to restore a relationship with us all. Why would He do that just to leave us out in the cold?

SJ Camp said...

Marcia:

Good as always to have you comment at COT.

You said, "Is it possible to believe in Reformed theology, but yet not be one of the chosen?"

Yes.

It is even possible to believe in Jesus and not be saved (read Matthew 7:21-24). Even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19 - they have knowledge of the facts and give assent to those facts but are not elect angels).

First, may I encourage you to read the epistle of 1 John tonight. You will five things that are marks of one who truly loves, knows and believes in the Lord jesus Christ. Underline them when you come across them (hint: they will marked by the phrase "born of Him").

Secondly, what is your greatest desire and passion in your life: is it to love the Lord and serve Him? To obey His Word and honor Him with your life? When you sin, are you convicted of it and that it is displeasing to God? Does is grieve you and cause you to confess it and then repent of it? Is your hope for eternal life in your ability walk perfectly or in Christ's ability on the cross to redeem you from your sin?

Grace is hard to live by because it robs us of our own glory and sufficiency. There is nothing more we can do to be in more favor with God than we are right now if we are His children. I am not accepted to Him by my performance of religious things (even Reformed Theology); by solely by Christ's once for all work on the cross and His resurrection.

Grace saves us; but grace also sanctifies us (Titus 2:11-12). Sin cannot rob you of your salvation if you truly know Him; but it can rob you of your assurance of it (2 Peter 1:4-12).

Thirdly, sometimes our prayers seemingly go unanswered (2 Cor. 12:12); but we need to check our motives as well when praying(James 4:1-3). Sometimes in my walk with the Lord it is one step up and two steps back too. Sometimes it seems that i am not growing in Christ - that I am stagnate; that I lack the faith to carry on; and that the heaven's are as brass to me. You are not alone.

But God is greater than my unbelief; greater than your unbelief. He is greater than our lack of faith, and imperfect life we all live. (1 John 3:19-23).

When we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous who is our defense attorney (1 John 2:1-2). You may have confidence in that Marcia. Grace doesn't wink at sin; but grace instructs us and equips us to resist sin and honor the Lord--though in this life we will never be completely free from the daily struggle with sin (Jude 24-25).

Fourthly, remember the Apostle Paul when he was describing the tension of this same struggle in Romans 7.

Here they are--read this carefully:

Rom. 7:14 ¶ For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
Rom. 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
Rom. 7:16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
Rom. 7:17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
Rom. 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
Rom. 7:19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
Rom. 7:20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
Rom. 7:21 ¶ I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
Rom. 7:22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,
Rom. 7:23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
Rom. 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Rom. 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

I hope this helps a bit Marcia. I am praying for you.

Grace and peace to you,
Steve
2 Cor. 13:5

Marcia said...

Thanks for your answers and your time. I'm off to do some reading; I'll respond more tomorrow.

Bhedr said...

There was a time in my life wherein I didn't know if I had either lost my salvation like an Arminian or was never saved in the first place. I couldn't see since I had left the moorings of fundamentalism and Bible believing Churches that I was shaking my fist at fundamental truth and by that shaking my fist at God. I got to the point of where I was walking around the house trembling with much fear feeling as though I was dangling over the chasm of hell....I don't want to get into it too much as those are very unpleasant memories...but essentially I couldn't see that there was a horrible enemy of God within me. I reached the point where I thought all hope was gone from me and that it was either impossible for me to be saved or to have been saved that is until I read some tremendous words of hope from Spurgeon and my fears left me from what I was passing through. I felt as Jonathan Edwards had described..."How can a worm bear up under the wrath of God each day."

My thoughts were dark and deep and I discovered that Spurgeon and Bunyan wrestled with this as well but there is a favorite character of mine in the Bible now that I heard Dr Lutzer once talk aboout in depth. It is the Syro-Phonicean woman. He noted that if Israel had fully obeyed God when they first entered the promise land then this woman probably wouldn't be alive...but so is the case of all of God's wisdom in His Sovereignty and purpose of election.

Jesus's disciples even shunned her and tried to send her away. Jesus even said that it was not for the little dogs to receive the Childrens food. Puppies. It seemed as though his conclusion to her that he had not come to minister to her but to Israel would seem cold and calloused as election seems....but it didn't further alienate her in her feeling shut out. Her need was so tremendous that she called out,

"Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table."

Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire."

Read it for yourself in Matthew 15:21-28

What a message of hope and it is now one of the greatest treasured passages that I love to read and it offers such hope. I know that I too can find hope from feeling shut out as Jesus's words to her as well as the disciples actions may have made her feel...but her need was too great as she pleaded and called upon the name of the Lord in desperation and deep need.

Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved!!!!

cyd said...

Dear Marcia,

"Hearing from God" has already happened for you. He speaks to us through His Word. It is complete.

Regarding the thought 'maybe I'm not chosen and that's why I can't hang on to spiritual maturity'...I once thought the same thing.
It is a lie.

Philippians 2:13 says "For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

Colossians 3:3 says "For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God" and down in vs.5 Paul says what we are to put to death...it is ongoing. (In my own life, I must confess that some things die more slowly than others!) BUT - we perservere because the Holy Spirit is at work in us, conforming us into the image of Christ. Romans 8:26 - 30

And when we fall, fail miserably, and sin against our holy God, we have an Advocate with the Father; Jesus Christ the righteous who IS faithful and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Someone wisely said that for every 1 look to self, the Christian needs to take 10 looks to Christ. HE saves us, HE keeps us, HE brings us home to glory where we will be with Him forever.

Look to Christ alone. He is your Rock, your strength, your Redeemer.

Eph.2:8 - 10

Cindy

cyd said...

Dear Marcia,

When you have a moment, go to the Spurgeon Archive and look at the Morning devotions for today, December 23. It is worth savoring, and Spurgeon is so encouraging.

--praying for you!

Cindy

cyd said...

Dear Marcia --

THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH!!! He is your strength. The Lord Jesus said, "apart from Me you can do nothing..." (see John 15.)

David repeatedly states that the Lord is our strength - we have no hope apart from God. And you know, it's best that way; the LORD supplies us with faith to trust Him, He works on our behalf above and beyond anything we could ask or think, and we praise Him with hearts full of shock and wonder, giving Him all the glory for His unfailing love and faithfulness.

He is Wonderful.

When fears and doubts are overwhelming us, there are some themes to consider from Psalms:
Psalm 3 - Save Me O My God
Ps.4 - Answer Me When I Call
Ps. 5 -- Lead Me in Your Righteousness
Ps. 6 - O Lord Deliver My Life
Ps. 7 In You Do I Take Refuge
Ps. 18 The Lord Is My Rock and My Refuge
Ps. 20 - Trust in the Name of the LORD Our God
Ps. 21 - The King Rejoices in the LORD'S Strength
Ps. 28 The LORD is My Strength and My Song
Ps. 37 He Will Not Forsake His Saints
Ps.40 My Help and My Deliverer
Ps.42 Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?
Ps. 46 God Is Our Fortress
Ps. 54 The LORD Upholds My Life
Ps. 56 In God I Trust
Ps.71 Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent
Ps.73 God is My Strength and Portion forever
Ps. 91 My Refuge and My Fortress

There are certainly more; I'll stop here for now.

The Lord prepares us and strengthens us to do the things He has planned for us before the foundations of the earth. You MUST trust Him and Him alone; No matter what the circumstances may be. He will NEVER fail you.

I am sending you a big hug, and will continue to pray for you.

Cindy

Bhedr said...

Great stuff Cindy. Wonderful words of hope in spite of our past.

Marcia said...

Thank you for the prayers.

Please forgive me for taking up the thread being a big whining baby.

Marry Christmas.

Bhedr said...

All of us whine and me especially so but we all have to discover how incredibly weak we are in our sanctification or we would never know of His strength. Its like that old Steven Curtis Chapman song. So many times I have felt forsaken but I had to be weaned of the Marry Poppins mode of belief and into reality which only increased my desperation and illuminated both God's justice and love so that I would have a healthier understanding of Him and not to think more of myself than I ought to as none of us know anything as we ought to know. I marvel at the patience of Almighty God. He is pretty incredible and his grace is deeper then any pit I could imagine. May you be blessed by His strength today.

gigantor1231 said...

Just thought I would post this link here for anyone to see. The video is of one of Rick Warren's presentations and it epitomizes who Rick is and what his true ministry is about. Please take note as to where the Gospel of Jesus Christ stands with Mr Warren, take note as to what he tells the listeners about God and how he feels about them, what their purpose in life is. This is very telling.

http://www.sermonaudio.com/new_details3.asp?ID=9658

Marcia said...

Thank you, again, for your prayers and sharing.