Asking the Right Question

Discussions on social media can really get ‘interesting’, especially when they begin with a question. The questioner invariably thinks he/she asked something that would be clearly understood and thoughtfully discussed. That’s not always the case.Here’s a question that appeared in a social media feed just a couple of days ago.

Is imputation an essential doctrine to believe, that our sin is imputed to Christ and His righteousness imputed to us.?

Discuss.

The responses were more interesting than the question, Some were well educated, and others not so much. When I read the question my first reaction was “Believe for what?” I didn’t think the question was clear enough to elicit an immediate answer.  I did however want to offer a reply and a reason for my answer, which I connected to the subject of personal evangelism. Here it is. Feel free to comment.

Depends on what you mean by “essential doctrine to believe.”. Is it necessary to understand the term ‘imputation’ in order to be saved? In my opinion, no.

On the other hand, if, when an unbeliever, I understand that I am a sinner and Christ took my place on the Cross, I understand the atonement (even if I have not heard the word ‘atonement’) as well as something about imputation. When I believe that, with a God opened heart, I am saved.

Understanding all that imputation means comes later, as we grow in faith, as will other doctrines taught in the Bible that we don’t fully understand when we first believe in Christ for salvation. The Bible teaches the doctrine, and if the Bible teaches it, so will the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer. In fact, understanding biblical doctrines serves to enrich our newfound faith! It is certainly possible to arrive at death’s door having never understood the doctrine of imputation in it’s fullness,

Having said that, It brings up a related question concerning personal evangelism. Do we need to, or might have the occasion to teach doctrines such as ‘imputation’ by their theological terms when sharing the good news of Christ with others who have yet to believe in Him for the forgiveness of their sin and salvation? To that, I can only answer “It depends.” Let me explain.

Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with lost sinners is a process of sorts, but it’s not a complicated one. God saves sinners by opening hearts to hear the gospel and by sending a messenger to apply the gospel message to a heart that He himself has opened to ‘hear’ it. Read the story of Lydia in Acts 16. While we don’t know the exact words Paul (the messenger) said to Lydia, we know that Paul defined the gospel as Christ’s death for the sins of his people (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Back to our gospel encounter. Let’s say it began with a conversation about a recent story in the news about a terrible crime that had recently been committed, something so inhumane that anyone hearing of it would be horrified. The question “Why would anyone do such a thing?” comes up, providing the perfect opportunity to take the conversation to the problem of sin in the human heart. The problem of sin leads to God’s answer to the problem, Christ’s death on the cross for the sins of men, which naturally leads to explaining the substitutionary atonement of Christ. ‘Imputation’ has just been covered, but without the term even being used.

What all this is leading to is the need for us who share Christ with others to understand underlying doctrines and be able to explain them in a loving and understanding manner. We are not to try and impress anyone with our knowledge of doctrine, but we can communicate our heartfelt desire that our hearers understand the message we bring.

Merely sharing the ‘Romans Road’ and pressing in for a decision just doesn’t cut it, although I have no doubt that sinners have been truly saved in that manner, but because God has prepared a heart for just that moment!

Most of all dear friends, remember that it is God, and God alone who saves sinners. At the same time know that the God who saves sinners has chosen other sinners (us) as his gospel messengers! And that, brothers and sisters, is the greatest privilege God has given his children!

Be blessed!

Blessings We Get at Salvation, Pt 2 REDEMPTION | The Cripplegate

by Clint Archer

On February 19th, 1945, at 2am, the first US Marine landed on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. The tiny volcanic island covered a mere 8 square miles, and had a population of 1,018 people, mostly fishermen and their families. But this island would become the most infamous battleground of the Pacific effort. The Americans would suffer more casualties than the entire combined Allied force landing at Normandy on D-Day.

Iwo Jima was a strategic piece of land. It had two airstrips and was used by the Japanese to defend the mainland from Allied air raids. America knew that if it was to get the atomic bombs to Japan, to end the war, Iwo Jima had to be secured. Japan realized this too, and so it fortified the island. The 1,018 people were evacuated to the mainland and were replaced with 21,000 soldiers to defend the island.

Now America had a decision to make. It’s not as if Japan would sell the island. There simply was no price they would accept. America knew that those 21,000 soldiers would fight to the death, but they could not get reinforcements. So the decision came down to cost. How many lives would it cost to secure that island? America did the calculation, deemed it an acceptable price, and sent their boys in.

One month later only 216 Japanese soldiers had surrendered. The rest of the 21,000 were dead. American deaths numbered 7,000 with some 20,000 casualties. The total cost of Iwo Jima: the blood of nearly 28,000 men.

There are some things money can’t buy. And in the spiritual realm, the only price is blood.

Last week we saw that Paul rejoiced in the election that turned the pagan Ephesians into believers. Today we see the next spiritual blessing all believers have: redemption.

3 ASPECTS OF REDEMPTION SO YOU WILL LIVE FREE NOT ENSLAVED TO SIN

1. MEANING OF REDEMPTION

Ephesians 1:7  In him we have redemption through his blood,

The word for redemption, ἀπολύτρωσιν means to release for a price.

Leviticus 25: 47-49 “If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan, then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him, or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself.

In the Old Testament it was a man’s responsibility to buy his family members out of slavery. He would be called the kinsman redeemer, i.e. the family member who paid the price to free you. Paul uses this imagery to illustrate the work of Christ. Christ pays the price for us to be freed from slavery to sin.

Paul says that we were slaves to sin – and need to be set free, redeemed, by Jesus. Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, …

Not just anyone can pay your ransom to God.  You can’t pay for me, because you have your own sin to pay for. If you put your faith in the wrong person to redeem you, you are lost. If you put your faith in Muhammed, or the Buddha, you are lost.

2. COST OF REDEMPTION

Ephesians 1: 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,

What was the price of our sin? Jesus’ blood.

Most people want to broker their own deal. They want to buy themselves salvation with the currency they have. So they come up with a system of good works.

If you ask a guy “Why do you think you are going to heaven?” He’ll probably say something like this: “Because I go to church, put money in the offering, take my kids to youth, work hard, I don’t cheat on my wife or my taxes, I don’t shoplift, I’m a good person.”

But those commodities, when compared with what God requires, is like offering Monopoly money to your mortgage company. It’s not an acceptable currency. God doesn’t want your good works, he demands justice. The wages of sin is death. To pay for your sin, someone has to die.

You say, but I don’t claim to be good, I have the opposite problem: I’m too bad. You don’t know the things I’ve done! God could never forgive me. That brings us to…

3. EXTENT OF REDEMPTION

Ephesians 4: 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Because of what Jesus did for you, there is total forgiveness. The word means to send away.

Micah 7:18-20 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression …He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Is Jesus’ death really enough?

Can his blood cover every sin I have ever committed? Absolutely. Look at the verse:

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

He carried our sin away from us, into the gaping mouth of God’s fury and wrath, until it was all paid for. Then he said “It is finished.”

4. RESULT OF REDEMPTION

Ephesians 4:7-9 … according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

When Jesus died to redeem you from your sin, you were granted forgiveness of your sins. But that’s not all.

You now have a new heart with new desires, but also with new abilities: which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will

When you were a slave to sin, your mind was darkened to spiritual realities. But when you are bought back from your sin, you are issued with all the wisdom and insight you will need to live a life pleasing to God.

1 Cor 1: 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The Spirit enables you to understand spiritual truths that you were unable to grasp before. The implications are vast. You don’t need more insight than what is available in the Bible. You don’t need prophecies and words of knowledge to make the right choices. You don’t need to submit to people who claim that they have a special word from God for your life. You have what you need.

CONCLUSION

Redemption is a payment Jesus makes for your sins, through his violent death on the cross.

If you don’t believe in Jesus to save you, then you will appear on judgment day with nothing to offer God but your Monopoly money, your good works.

I promise you this: he will not accept any currency but the blood of Jesus Christ.

Don’t go to bed tonight without making peace with God through the ransom paid for you by Jesus.

________

Clint Archer was born and raised in South Africa. After pastoring there for 14 years he now serves as pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist in Mobile, Alabama. He and his wife Kim have four children and a Jeep

Blessings We Get at Salvation, Pt 1 | The Cripplegate

by Clint Archer

I witnessed something interesting at Johannesburg International Airport. Our flight to LA via Atlanta was grounded for some reason. I was instructed to wait at ticketing. I was sixth in line. The guy at the front of the queue was in the same predicament and he was livid. I couldn’t help but overhear his voluminous ranting.

The lady behind the counter had politely explained to him that the flight was grounded, but that the airline had made an alternative arrangement with another airline to take him via another route to Los Angeles – his final destination. The man wanted nothing to do with it. He was objecting loudly: “I don’t want to catch a plane to another destination, my connecting flight is in Atlanta. If I miss that flight, I won’t get to LA. I have to be on that plane!” “But Sir,” she explained patiently (again), this new route will get you to LA on time.” “I don’t want to go another route. I want the route I paid for.”

Eventually she said, “Hold on a minute.” He continued grumbling, possibly to me, or someone else in line, because there was no one at the counter now. A few minutes later the lady returned, and without a word, she just slid a ticket over the counter and before he could object she pointed to something on the ticket. The man stopped mid-sentence and smiled. His entire demeanor changed. He was grateful and courteous. What changed?

Later I heard him on his cell phone expressing how lucky he was that his plane was grounded. What had happened? The man had been bumped up from economy class to first class, on Air France, via Paris, to LA.

Many people misunderstand the doctrine of election. They think it teaches that people who want to get a ticket to Heaven can’t. When actually the Bible tells us people who are certain they are heading in the right direction, are then powerfully acted upon to change their minds and wills so that they enjoy their new destination.

Paul is writing to the Ephesians. They were entrenched in superstition, occult practices, pagan worship, and polytheism, and yet they suddenly start believing in a dead Jewish carpenter who allegedly rose from the dead. How did this happen? God appointed them to believe, and Paul rejoiced in God’s sovereign election.

5 ASPECTS OF ELECTION SO THAT WE WILL REGARD IT WITH THE SAME PASSION THAT PAUL DOES

1. GOODNESS

Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…

Paul isn’t serving the Ephesians soup as an appetizer. He just serves up a slab of tough theological meat. Bon Appetite!

Election means choosing – God chooses whom to save, and it is not based on our merit.

This teaching excites Paul. Notice from the text that Paul calls election a spiritual blessing – something good and worthy of praise that comes from the Holy Spirit.

You might not be able to get your mind around this. That’s fine. There is nothing wrong with admitting that our thimble-sized brains can’t contain God’s ocean of wisdom.

2. METHOD

Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…

From these verses it is clear that everyone must believe that God chooses. But Arminians say that God chooses those who have believed, and Calvinists say that those whom God chooses – will believe.

How do you know which view you take?

If you pray for someone to be saved, you are Calvinist.

If you think God wishes he could save your friend, but he is not able to save him until he believes, then you are Arminian.

So which view is correct?

Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,

Paul says clearly – if you are saved then you were chosen before you believed, before you heard the gospel, before you were born, before the world was created.

I’m not saying you are saved before you believe. You get saved when you believe.

Of course, you might remember choosing God, but why did you choose God? Because you believed. Why did you believe? Because God gave you faith. Why did he give you faith? Because he chose to. When did he choose to? Before you were born.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.

Christ’s selection of his apostles is an example of his unilateral choice in action. The Bible teaches from cover to cover that man never initiates a choice of God, God always initiates, including Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptizer, Paul, and you.

3. PRODUCT OF ELECTION

Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…

The reason God chose us was because he wanted someone to be holy before him and no one could be holy on their own.

Ephesians 5:27  Christ gave himself up] so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

4. MOTIVE

Ephesians 1:4-5In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

God chose us because God loved us and wanted a relationship with us…not because we were worthy. Election is a doctrine rooted deeply in the fertile soil of God’s rich love for us.

The word predestined means to determine beforehand. Like writing a script. My life is a novel written by God, planned in eternity and worked out by him day by day, and he knows exactly how it ends: with me as his adopted son in glory, no matter what. I am a son of God, because, in love, he willed it to be so.

5. GOAL

Ephesians 1:5-6 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

This doctrine ascribes all the glory to one source: God.

There is no explanation for my salvation except God and his grace. It wasn’t because I was a bit better than the guy who rejected him. It wasn’t because he saw something in me that made him like me more than others. There is nothing in me that deserves Jesus. But I am saved by his death for me, because he loved me. And so there is no glory left for me to bask in.

CONCLUSION

You might ask – how do I know if I am elect?

It’s simple. If you want to be saved, then you can be. Only those God is working in want to be saved. If you love God, if you believe in Jesus, that means he put that faith in your heart. That means you are elect.

Anyone can be saved at any moment. All you need to do is believe.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Like the disgruntled man at the airport, God booked you your ticket while you were protesting. But when you receive it, you smile in appreciation. Express that to him for the praise of his glorious grace in Christ Jesus.

I challenge you to think of this glorious doctrine the same way Paul did: with joy.

_______

Clint Archer was born and raised in South Africa. After pastoring there for 14 years he now serves as pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist in Mobile, Alabama. He and his wife Kim have four children and a Jeep.

That America may bless the world: Jamestown settlers

Reverend Robert Hunt, Cape Henry

“We do hereby dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this earth remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelist to the World. May all who see this Cross, remember what we have done here, and may those who come here to inhabit join us in this Covenant and in this most noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled.”

Using covenantal language, Hunt declared, “from these very shores the Gospel shall go forth not only to this New World but the entire world.” The following Bible passage was read at the conclusion of the prayer: “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he ruleth among the nations” (Ps. 22:27–28).

The Jamestown settlers believed in a covenantal approach to history whereby future generations would “take the Kingdom of God to all the earth”—and this is the important part—“as long as this earth remains.” These concepts came directly from the notes of the Geneva Bible with its kingdom-advancing approach!

John Piper & the Five Points

The Battle Cry

Perhaps one of the best explanations of the Doctrines of Grace available for the average reader. My personal journey into Reformed theology began and still rests in Holy Scripture. During the journey I have of course consulted many other resources, including listening to an entire lengthy series of teaching concerning the History and Theology of Calvinism by Curt Daniel, available online free of charge. I had known just enough about Calvinism to hate him. I attribute that hatred to the worship of autonomous human free will. I will gladly entertain thoughtful questions.

document.desiringgod.org/five-points-en.pdf

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The Gospel and Politics–John MacArthur

This is an excellent treatment of this critical subject! – Dan C. It’s length, but worth a good read!

The Gospel and Politics

by John MacArthur

For us, as Christians in the United States, it’s easy to get caught up in all the political fervor. It can even be tempting to think that legislation is the key to solving the moral problems that plague American society. But is that a right perspective? John MacArthur addresses this important issue and underscores a biblical response.

There was a time (in the days of our Puritan forefathers), when almost every soul in America acknowledged the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of ethics and morality. Today most Americans can’t even name three of the Ten.

There was also a time (not so long ago) when Americans universally disapproved of homosexuality, adultery, and divorce; they believed sexual promiscuity is absolutely wrong; they regarded obscene language as inappropriate; they saw abortion as unthinkable; and they held public officials to high moral and ethical standards. Nowadays, most of the behavior society once deemed immoral is defended as an inalienable civil right.

How times and the culture have changed! The strong Christian influence and scriptural standards that shaped Western culture and American society through the end of the nineteenth century have given way to practical atheism and moral relativism. The few vestiges of Christianity in our culture are at best weak and compromising, and to an increasingly pagan society they are cultic and bizarre.

In less than fifty years’ time, our nation’s political leaders, legislative bodies, and courts have adopted a distinctly anti-Christian attitude and agenda. The country has swept away the Christian worldview and its principles in the name of equal rights, political correctness, tolerance, and strict separation of church and state. Gross immorality—including homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and other evils—has been sanctioned not only by society in general but in effect by the government as well. A portion of our tax dollars are now used to fund programs and government agencies that actively engage in blatant advocacy of various immoral practices.

What are Christians to do about it?

Many think this is a political problem that will not be solved without a political strategy. During the past twenty-five years, well-meaning Christians have founded a number of evangelical activist organizations and sunk millions of dollars into them in an effort to use the apparatus of politics—lobbying, legislation, demonstration, and boycott—to counteract the moral decline of American culture. They pour their energy and other resources into efforts to drum up a “Christian” political movement that will fight back against the prevailing anti-Christian culture.

But is that a proper perspective? I believe not. America’s moral decline is a spiritual problem, not a political one, and its solution is the gospel, not partisan politics.

LESSONS FROM HISTORY

This is a lesson evangelicals ought to know from church history. Whenever the church has focused on evangelism and preaching the gospel, her influence has increased. When she has sought power by political, cultural, or military activism, she has damaged or spoiled her testimony.

The Crusades during the Middle Ages were waged for the purpose of regaining Christian control of the Holy Lands. Few believers today would argue that those efforts were fruitful. Even when the crusaders enjoyed military success, the church grew spiritually weaker and more worldly. Other religious wars and campaigns tinged with political motivation (such as the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, Cromwell’s revolution in England, and other skirmishes during the Reformation era) are all viewed with disapproval, or at best curiosity, by Christians today. And rightly so. The military and political ambitions of some of the Reformers turned out to be a weakness, and ultimately an impediment to the Reformation. On the other hand, the strength of the Reformation, and its enduring legacy, was derived from the fact that Reformation theology shone a bright spotlight on the way of salvation and brought clarity to the gospel.

Throughout Protestant history, those segments of the visible church that have turned their attention to social and political issues have also compromised sound doctrine and quickly declined in influence. Early modernists, for example, explicitly argued that social work and moral reform were more important than doctrinal precision, and their movement soon abandoned any semblance of Christianity whatsoever.

Today’s evangelical political activists seem to be unaware of how much their methodology parallels that of liberal Christians at the start of the twentieth century. Like those misguided idealists, contemporary evangelicals have become enamored with temporal issues at the expense of eternal values. Evangelical activists in essence are simply preaching a politically conservative version of the old social gospel, emphasizing social and cultural concerns above spiritual ones.

That kind of thinking fosters the view that government is either our ally (if it supports our special agenda) or our enemy (if it remains opposed or unresponsive to our voice). The political strategy becomes the focus of everything, as if the spiritual fortunes of God’s people rise or fall depending on who is in office. But the truth is that no human government can ultimately do anything either to advance or to thwart God’s kingdom. And the worst, most despotic worldly government in the end cannot halt the power of the Holy Spirit or the spread of God’s Word.

To gain a thoroughly biblical and Christian perspective on political involvement, we should take to heart the words of the British theologian Robert L. Ottley, delivered at Oxford University more than one hundred years ago:

The Old Testament may be studied. . .as an instructor in social righteousness. It exhibits the moral government of God as attested in his dealings with nations rather than with individuals; and it was their consciousness of the action and presence of God in history that made the prophets preachers, not merely to their countrymen, but to the world at large. . . .There is indeed significance in the fact that in spite of their ardent zeal for social reform they did not as a rule take part in political life or demand political reforms. They desired. . .not better institutions but better men. (Aspects of the Old Testament. The Bampton Lectures, 1897 [London: Longmans, 1898], 430-31)

LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE

My point is not that Christians should remain totally uninvolved in politics or civic activities and causes. They ought to express their political beliefs in the voting booth, and it is appropriate to support legitimate measures designed to correct a glaring social or political wrong. Complete noninvolvement would be contrary to what God’s Word says about doing good in society: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10; cf. Titus 3:1-2). It would also display a lack of gratitude for whatever amount of religious freedom the government allows us to enjoy. Furthermore, such pious apathy toward government and politics would reveal a lack of appreciation for the many appropriate legal remedies believers in democracies have for maintaining or improving the civil order. A certain amount of healthy and balanced concern with current trends in government and the community is acceptable, as long as we realize that that interest is not vital to our spiritual growth, our righteous testimony, or the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Above all, the believer’s political involvement should never displace the priority of preaching and teaching the gospel.

There is certainly no prohibition on believers being directly involved in government as civil servants, as some notable examples in the Old and New Testaments illustrate. Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon are two excellent models of servants God used in top governmental positions to further His kingdom. The centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13), Zaccheus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), and Cornelius the centurion (Acts 10) all continued in public service even after they experienced the healing or saving power of Christ. (As far as we know, the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus also remained in office after he was converted [Acts 13:4-12].)

The issue again is one of priority. The greatest temporal good we can accomplish through political involvement cannot compare to what the Lord can accomplish through us in the eternal work of His kingdom. Just as God called ancient Israel (Ex. 19:6), He has called the church to be a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom of political activists. The apostle Peter instructs us, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Jesus, as we would expect, perfectly maintained His Father’s perspective on these matters even though He lived in a society that was every bit as pagan and corrupt as today’s culture. In many ways it was much worse than any of us in Western nations has ever faced. Cruel tyrants and dictators ruled throughout the region, the institution of slavery was firmly entrenched—everything was the antithesis of democracy. King Herod, the Idumean vassal of Rome who ruled Samaria and Judea, epitomized the godless kind of autocratic rule: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men [concerning the whereabouts of the baby Jesus], was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16).

Few of us have experienced the sort of economic and legal oppression that the Romans applied to the Jews of Jesus’ day. Tax rates were exorbitant and additional government-sanctioned abuses by the tax collectors exacerbated the financial burden on the people. The Jews in Palestine were afforded almost no civil rights and were treated as an underprivileged minority that could not make an appeal against legal injustices. As a result, some Jews were in constant outward rebellion against Rome.

Fanatical nationalists, known as Zealots, ignored their tax obligations and violently opposed the government. They believed that even recognizing a Gentile ruler was wrong (see Deuteronomy 17:15, “You may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother”). Many Zealots became assassins, performing acts of terrorism and violence against both the Romans and other Jews whom they viewed as traitors.

It is also true that the Roman social system was built on slavery. The reality of serious abuses of slaves is part of the historical record. Yet neither Jesus nor any of the apostles attempted to abolish slavery. Instead, they commanded slaves to be obedient and used slavery as a metaphor for believers who were to submit to their Lord and Master.

Jesus’ earthly ministry took place right in the midst of that difficult social and political atmosphere. Many of His followers, including the Twelve, to varying degrees expected Him to free them from Rome’s oppressive rule. But our Lord did not come as a political deliverer or social reformer. He never issued a call for such changes, even by peaceful means. Unlike many late twentieth-century evangelicals, Jesus did not rally supporters to some grandiose attempt to “capture the culture” for biblical morality or greater political and religious freedoms.

Christ, however, was not devoid of care and concern for the daily pain and hardships people endured in their personal lives. The Gospels record His great empathy and compassion for sinners. He applied those attitudes in a tangible, practical way by healing thousands of people of every kind of disease and affliction, often at great personal sacrifice to Himself.

Still, as beneficial and appreciated as His ministry to others’ physical needs was, it was not Jesus’ first priority. His divine calling was to speak to the hearts and souls of individual men and women. He proclaimed the good news of redemption that could reconcile them to the Father and grant them eternal life. That message far surpasses any agenda for political, social, or economic reform that can preoccupy us. Christ did not come to promote some new social agenda or establish a new moral order. He did come to establish a new spiritual order, the body of believers from throughout the ages that constitutes His church. He did not come to earth to make the old creation moral through social and governmental reform, but to make new creatures holy through the saving power of the gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. And our Lord and Savior has commanded us to continue His ministry, with His supreme priorities in view, with the goal that we might advance His kingdom: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

In the truest sense, the moral, social, and political state of a people is irrelevant to the advance of the gospel. Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).

THE REAL BATTLE

We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God’s standards of righteousness. We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society’s moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society. But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.

God is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and strategy to putting a façade of morality on the world or over our governmental and political institutions is to badly misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost world.

God has above all else called the church to bring sinful people to salvation through Jesus Christ. Even as the apostle Paul described his mission to unbelievers, so it is the primary task of all Christians to reach out to the lost “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18; cf. Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). If we do not evangelize the lost and make disciples of new converts, nothing else we do for people—no matter how beneficial it seems—is of any eternal consequence. Whether a person is an atheist or a theist, a criminal or a model citizen, sexually promiscuous and perverse or strictly moral and virtuous, a greedy materialist or a gracious philanthropist—if he does not have a saving relationship to Christ, he is going to hell. It makes no difference if an unsaved person is for or against abortion, a political liberal or a conservative, a prostitute or a police officer, he will spend eternity apart from God unless he repents and believes the gospel.

When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political activism and social moralizing, it always diverts energy and resources away from evangelization. Such an antagonistic position toward the established secular culture invariably leads believers to feel hostile not only to unsaved government leaders with whom they disagree, but also antagonistic toward the unsaved residents of that culture—neighbors and fellow citizens they ought to love, pray for, and share the gospel with. To me it is unthinkable that we become enemies of the very people we seek to win to Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Author John Seel pens words that apply in principle to Christians everywhere and summarize well the believer’s perspective on political involvement:

A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the false reliance on the illusion of Christian America, evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and thwart a genuine biblical identity…..

American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)

By means of faithful preaching and godly living, believers are to be the conscience of whatever nation they reside in. You can confront the culture not with the political and social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual power of God’s Word. Using temporal methods to promote legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society is not our calling—and has no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.

HT: Pulpit Magazine

How’s YOUR Hearing?

“The Parable of the Sower; why did the Lord Jesus give us that parable? Why, but to stir me up to serious inquiry and diligent examination so as to discover which kind of a “hearer” I am. In that parable, Christ likened those who hear the Word unto various sorts of ground upon which seeds fall. He divided them into four different classes. Three out of the four brought no fruit to perfection. That is exceedingly solemn and searching. In one case the Devil catches away the good seed out of the heart (Luke 8:12). In another case, they “for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). In another case, they are “choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). Are you, my reader, described in one of these? Do not ignore this question. We beg you: face it honestly, and make sure which of the various soils represent your heart.

But there are some “good ground” hearers. And how are they to be identified? What did the infallible Son of God say of them? How did He describe them? Did He say, “that on the good ground are they who rest on the Word of God and doubt not His promises: are thoroughly persuaded they are saved, and yet go on living the same kind of life as previously”? No. He did not. Instead, He declared, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

Ah, dear readers, the test is fruit: not knowledge, not boasting, not orthodoxy, not joy, but FRUIT: and such “fruit” as mere nature cannot produce. It is the fruit of the Vine, namely, likeness to Christ, being conformed to His Image. May the Holy Spirit search each one of us.”

~ Arthur Pink, “The Doctrine of Assurance”

So, How’s YOUR hearing? How’s MINE?

Sharing Christ in a Hostile Culture, Pt. 4 – How’s Your Weep?

In Part 1 of this series of articles, Be Available, we shared real examples of how doors seem to just ‘open up’ for sharing the message of the gospel, and what can happen when there’s a willing and available gospel messenger ‘on location’.

In Part 2, Situational Awareness, we compared our ‘Situation’ as believers in Christ – our status, and true citizenship, with our condition (situation) before repenting of sin and believing Christ.

In Part 3, Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, Our Highest Calling, the focus was on understanding the nature of the believer’s role in sharing Christ with the world around us.

This fourth article of the series has to do with maintaining a heartfelt burden for the lost around us, thus the title “How’s Your Weep?” That title came to mind thinking about something that happened quite some time ago (30 years?) in Ft. Ord, California.

I was attending the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, CA studying Polish and living on Ft. Ord. I had connected with the Ft. Ord chapel community and was involved in a small group weekly Bible study. During one of those evening studies (I don’t remember the exact topic), one of the young soldiers in attendance, with a look of sadness in her eyes, uttered a very simple yet profound statement:

“I’ve lost my weep!”

She was talking about her burden for lost souls. Something in our discussion that evening had triggered her sentiment. She seemed to have realized in that moment that while she once had a deep burden for the lost, for some reason it had gone by the wayside. Determined to find it again she took time off from work to get alone with God and learn to ‘weep’ again.

Hers was not an uncommon experience with Christians. We remember a time when we shared our faith, not only with excitement over what God has done in saving us, but also with a heartfelt burden for the lost with whom we live and work every day. That burden comes from knowing and understanding the dire straits of all who are living apart from Christ – “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is how the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards described it.

Then ‘life’ happens and our burden for lost souls diminishes. Perhaps it’s the hectic pace of our jobs or scholastic endeavors. Family situations might demand more and more of us. Our social lives and desire for acceptance often distract us. And of course, there’s the possibility that some of those with whom you would share Christ are complete jerks! (in temporal terms). And the list of distractions (excuses?) can go on and on forever

Then one day you realize, like the young lady at our Bible study, that something is wrong. Sure, you share Jesus with others, but without the intense burden you once had for their souls. Maybe you’ve never experienced such a burden. So how can you find what you lost? How can you discover what you might never have had?

You can get away and get alone with God, like the young lady at our Bible study. You can pray and get into the word. Those are rather broad suggestions. Can we narrow it down a bit? We’ll try.

First, revisit and remember your own condition before you encountered Jesus as your savior and lord. Apart from Christ we were:

  • Dead in trespasses and sin, disobedient, under Satan’s control, concerned only with our own passions, and by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3)
  • Enemies of God and unable to please God (Romans 8:7-8)
  • Unable to even understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14)
  • Slaves of sin (John 8:34)
  • Already condemned (John 3:18)

That’s the short list, trust me. REALLY reflect on your condition apart from Christ. Read those passages in context. Let it sink deep into your mind and heart. That was YOU, that was ME! We were completely and utterly hopeless! (Ephesians 2:12).

Did it sink in? REALLY sink in? When it does. . .

Now take ALL of that and apply it to the lost all around you – to co-workers, family and friends, acquaintances, passersby. Even if they’re jerks.

As a final note, we’re not saying you must have a deep concern for or physically weep over lost souls to be an effective witness for Christ. Far from it. But just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39), and Paul had a great love and burden for his fellow Jews (Romans 9:1-9), a genuine heartfelt burden for those to we share Christ will add a sincerity that will be unmistakable to the ears and hearts of our hearers!

Be blessed!