Apologetics for Dummies

“What is apologetics?”  Well, the term comes from the Greek word “apologia”, which simply means “a verbal defense”. Christian apologetics would then be a verbal defense of the Christian faith.  The most important passage of scripture pertaining to Christian apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15:

“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,”

There are three basic types of apologetics; classical, evidential, and presuppositional.

Classical apologetics has been called a two-step method. The first step is to prove the existence of God, using various arguments with really long names. Once the existence of God is proven, we can proceed to prove that Christianity is true.

Evidential apologetics does not attempt to prove the existence of God, but jumps straight to proving Christianity is true from various forms of evidence (historical, archeological, biblical).

Presuppositional apologists argue that we must presuppose (assume) the truth of Christianity and show that every other worldview (and religion) is false.

If you are reading this, you might have already concluded that while classical and evidential apologetics are not difficult to understand, you suffered a brain cramp when you got to the presuppositional approach. Perhaps explaining how these approaches apply to sharing our faith with unbelievers can clear things up a bit.

If I am a classical apologist sharing my Christian faith with an unbeliever I would first try and prove the existence of God followed by the truth of Christianity.

If I am an evidential apologist sharing my faith I would try and prove Christianity to be true by using various evidences pointing to its truth (history, archeology, the bible).

If I am a presupposition apologist I would begin with the assumption (presupposition) that what the Bible has to say about anything and everything is true, and allow that to inform personal evangelism.

Let’s use the existence of God as an example.

The Bible tells us in Romans 1:20-21 that all men ‘know’ God, but they suppress the truth they already know). If that’s true, why would I need to ‘prove’ the existence of God to an unbeliever?

The Bible also tells us that the natural man hates the God he knows exists (Rom 8:7-8). If he hates God he hates Christianity, and probably all religions.  If that’s true, why would I spend a lot of effort trying to make attractive (Christianity) something the unbeliever absolutely hates? Think Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). President Trump could tell folks that breathing clean air is good for them, but the TDS afflicted would deny it because Trump said it.

Unfortunately, much, if not most, of today’s evangelism attempts to do just that – make Christianity attractive to the unbelieving ‘seeker’, assuming that they are seeking after someone they hate. Incidentally, the Bible also tells us that no human being seeks God (Rom 3:11). (There’s another presupposition).

So how should we share Christ with unbelievers? Might I suggest the way the Apostle Paul did?

Paul  preached Christ crucified for the sins of men and left the rest to the sovereign God who opens human hearts to hear and respond to that simple message. If you want a good example, read the story of Lydia in Acts 16. Call that his ‘marketing campaign for Christianity’ – a far cry from all of today’s marketing campaigns to get unbelievers through the front doors of our evangelical churches.

You could even call Paul’s approach to evangelism ‘Calvinistic’. The TULIP (not invented by Calvin) just might express what the Bible actually teaches.

What we call the ’Arminian’ approach relies on the libertarian freewill of lost men (and women) and their ‘natural’(straight from the womb) ability to respond positively to a gospel message. That gospel message however, must be attractive to the unbeliever, meaning that the ‘offensive’ gospel that Jesus died for sin is a non-starter.

So that’s one old guy’s take on apologetics practically applied to sharing Christ. If you want to get into more detail concerning the three types of apologetics, feel free to do so. We have Goggle!

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If you want a demonstration of the presupposition approach to proving the existence of God, go here

Sharing the Gospel in a Hostile Culture, Part 1 – Be Available

It’s not exactly rocket science that our American culture seems to be more hostile to public expressions of Christianity with each passing day. Christian values across the board are ridiculed when they run counter to a society’s prevailing values and attitudes, and it’s nothing new. At the same time, sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is both the mission and great privilege of all believers. So how are we to accomplish this mission knowing that merely expressing our faith in public settings outside of our respective faith communities?

This is the first in a series of articles addressing this all important issue from the personal perspective of an old soldier who just wants “to leave something behind” (to quote the title of a Sean Rowe song) that might help others traveling along Gospel Highway.

As the above title states, the first step is to just ‘be available’. It sounds easy, but it might be more difficult that it sounds. While all of us have at one time or another told God (not without a certain amount of pride) that we are available to do whatever he commands us to do, who among us has not taken a step backward when faced with very real consequences of exiting the jump door of a high performance aircraft into unknown darkness. Paratrooper metaphor aside, it can be scary. So before you declare to our Savior your willingness and availability to share His gospel with the world around you, consider the cost in terms of what it will mean in your personal life. Are you ready to be open about your Christian faith, no matter what? That’s the starting point. Keeping your faith to yourself isn’t an option.

While I might not know you, I do know that if you are available, God will use you. Here are a few examples I know of from within the Special Forces community.

  • ·A small detachment of SF soldiers were training in the Allegheny forest in Pennsylvania. One of the men was known by all of the men to be a Christian, although he didn’t advertise it. Another of the men, a team medic, was dating a girl from Boston who was a Christian and talked about God now and again. The entire detachment was sitting around a camp fire in the woods (non-tactical) and the medic started talking about his ‘Christian’ girlfriend from Boston and asking questions.
  • ·An SF Battalion field headquarters was established in the Cape Cod area for a training exercise. During the exercise one of the SF soldiers in the Bn died when both of his parachutes failed during an infiltration operation in upstate NY. His name was Bob and he was a strong believer. The Bn Commander in the Cape Cod location wanted to have a memorial service for Bob and asked for someone who was close to Bob to visit with the local minister who was to mold the service in the field headquarters. As a result of the meeting, the entire field headquarters heard a clear presentation of the gospel message, from the commander (LTC) on down.
  • ·An SF “A” Team Leader (CPT) was killed over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988 returning from an exercise planning event. The Pan Am aircraft was destroyed by a bomb. One of his Team Sergeants, an E-8, who had served his Team for a year before being reassigned to another position in the 10th SF Group, was a believer and all of the team members knew it. The former Team Sergeant attended the funeral service at the SF Chapel at Ft. Devens. When the casket bearers were walking from the chapel to the waiting hearse, the former Team Sgt’s eyes and the eyes of the casket bearers met and a silent reminder of the finality of death passed between them.

We share these examples solely to demonstrate what can happen, in God’s providence, just because you are available, without any overt actions on your part. No initiating religious conversations, passing out Gospel literature, or “I’m a Fool for Jesus, Whose Fool Are You?” bumper stickers. God opens doors. All we do is walk through those doors and let God be God. Seeds of the Gospel are sown and souls are eternally saved.

I leave you with a question.

Are you available?

Be blessed as you grow in Christ!

Is Christmas Christian?

by Phil Ryken December 26, 1999

Today is December 26, the day after Christmas. By now most of us are recuperating from the frenzied holiday rounds of parties, shopping, driving, visiting, entertaining and of course the giving and receiving of gifts. Many of us are repentant of our avarice on the one hand, and probably all of us are sick of the commercialism and exploitation. Perhaps now is not the time to ask the question I am going to offer, “Should we do it?”

By asking that question I do not mean, “Should we be greedy or materialistic? Should we buy into the exploitation and worldly mythology?” I do not expect many Christians to have trouble with that question, even if avoiding those things is not quite so easy. But the question I want to ask is this: “Should we even have Christmas? Should we observe it at all? Should Christians, as an expression of fidelity to the God of the Bible participate in the cultural-religious phenomenon that we call Christmas? Is it a damaging and dangerous product of a godless culture that Christian parents and friends should steer clear of as being unfaithful to the Lord and unhealthy to us and our children?

There are more than a few Christians who agree with this assessment, who just say “no” to Christmas altogether and who follow their words with action. No wreaths, no Christmas tree, no stockings, certainly no Santa Claus and no reindeer. One such Christian, Dr. Alan Clifford, writing in Britain’s Evangelicals Now publication, says this:

Christmas was the result of a growing tendency of the Roman Church to meet paganism half-way… . If Christmas is without a true Christian basis, it should be scrapped.

Christmas as a “Worship Innovation” By no means is this an isolated view. Perhaps the Christians most famous for abhorring Christmas were the Puritans. We often quote Puritan writers here and generally look to Puritan Spirituality as a model of biblical Christianity. Indeed, it was their emphasis on obeying the Bible that we so admire that also led them to treat December 25th as any other day. The principle that governed the Puritans in this matter, as in many others, is the “regulative principle.” What this principle basically states is that God determines what is appropriate for worship, and He communicates this through His Word. Any human innovation, however well-meaning, is bound to be corrupted by our folly and sin and encroaches upon God’s holy prerogative. The Puritans were quite serious about this principle and often suffered persecution on its behalf. We honor their stands against the rites of the Roman Catholic church and the empty formalism of the Elizabethan Anglicans. It was because of the regulative principle that the Puritans refused to worship Christmas as they had opposed many other extra-biblical “innovations”.

Pagan Roots for Christmas?

Another strong reaction against Christmas comes from the charge that the holiday has pagan roots. The argument runs like this. December 25 was the date of the Roman Saturnalia festival, a wild orgiastic pagan rite focused on worship of the sun, and it was also correlated with various tribal pagan festivals associated with the winter solstice. As was argued above, Christmas represented just one of many Roman Catholic attempts to win over the ignorant and godless masses by putting a Christian label on an existing, idolatrous structure. Christmas, under this view, is just one of many Catholic innovations, like those that ushered in adoration of the saints and the veneration of Mary, both of which we vehemently reject.

In a recent spin through the internet, I came across a web site for witches, listed among web sites honoring Christmas, which gleely recounted the pagan roots of just about every bit of Christmas symbology. The yule log represented the wheel of time, the lights of Christmas recall the sacred fire and the birth of the Sun-King, while the evergreen was a symbol of fertility that recalls the student of the Old Testament to the Asherah pole so condemned by the prophets.

A Christian Apology for Christmas

With all of those arguments lined up, it is tempting to agree. Why not just get rid of Christmas, and with it all the materialism and greed that comes with such an unholy alliance? In response, and in defense of a Christian Christmas, I offer the following response. First of all, I do not argue for Christmas on the basis of the calendar. Scholars have long argued that it was very unlikely that shepherds would have had their flocks out during the coldest time of the year. So too, it is argued, it was most unlikely that the administratively efficient Romans would have ordered a census during the a month when travel was next to impossible. No, I do not argue for Christmas on the basis of December 25, the selection of which does seem to have been based on pre-existing pagan celebrations rather than historical accuracy.

Furthermore, I acknowledge that the great majority of Christmas symbols seem to have originated in pagan idolatry. Nonetheless, I think the holly branches, which the druids may claim for their own, also does a pretty fair job of reminding us of the crown of thorns that rested on Jesus’ brow, as well as the drops of blood that purchased my salvation. When it comes to the Christmas tree, I do not care what Germanic pagans believed. When in a darkened room I turn on the lights of my Christmas tree I hear only one voice. And it cries out with these lovely words of grace: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isa. 9:2). And I hear the words of the Apostle John, saying of my Lord, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men… . The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (Jn. 1:3, 9).

Paganism, of course, is no religion of its own. It merely crafts lies about the created order which itself testifies to God. The Old Testament often confronts idol-worshipping lies and even seizes pagan symbols for the Lord who made and owns them. The image, for instance, of the Lord riding on the clouds in power is a blatant conquest of an image widely used in the mythical literature of the idolatrous god Baal. In that respect, I smile to think of St. Boniface, one of the great missionaries to the pagans of Europe around the time when Christmas was invented, using the evergreen tree to show that what they worshiped as an object of idolatry better points to the living God and the eternal life He offers in Jesus Christ.

But even that is not my best reason for loving Christmas. My best reason comes from a gathering that took place in a park near my home in the East Falls section of Philadelphia just a couple of weeks ago. There, hundreds of my fellow citizens, the majority of whom I am sure are nominal Christians at best, joined their voices for a night of caroling. Of the 18 songs we sang, 13 were Christian hymns celebrating the birth of a Savior in glorious biblical language. I tried to keep track of the biblical doctrines that were flowing from their lips but I finally lost track: sin, atonement, the Incarnation, God’s holiness, the power of the Word, the Second Coming, the Kingdom of God, eternal life and resurrection of the dead. As Paul said about other matters we might say about this singing in the open air of Philadelphia: “Against such things there is no law.”

I respect that regulative principle of the Puritans, and even agree with it as a binding precept of our own denomination. But Scripture does permit, even mandate, the preaching of the Gospel, the singing of songs of praise, the reading of Scripture, and the praising of God in the open air. I am grateful to Christmas that many thus praise God and even worship Him fitly on this day, with hopes that they would honor Him with more and ultimately all of their lives.

I acknowledge that much about Christmas does injustice to the regulative principle, and we certainly want to be careful in this regard. But it wonderfully does justice to the redemptive principle, for which the Son of God came from heaven to earth, that He might claim and deliver a world that was lost in darkness.

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© 2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Phil Ryken. ©2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org

Food for Thought (Dietary Tidbits) on the 16th of December, 2019

It’s really interesting how life shapes our dietary habits. At any given moment in time, how we view food, and the consumption thereof, changes. One person’s eating habits will invariably differ from everyone else’s, both in food preferences themselves and preferred mealtimes/schedules. Take the ‘DanDee’ couple in Fountain, Colorado. This is a septuagenarian couple that has been married for 44 years and are now empty nesters. Their journey together has resulted in having lived, as a military family, in various types of on-base military housing in several places here and abroad. There are grown children and grandchildren to dote upon. It’s been an interesting and wonderful journey through life!

If you haven’t figured it out already, this is Dan, the guy whose military career lasted nearly 30 years and by whose side the beautiful Dee has remained through all of the ‘stuff’ of life.

So back to food. On this particular morning I found myself thinking about our different breakfast habits. Dee loves her bacon (must be crispy) and eggs and will probably have both in her small breakfast when she gets up later. As for me, it was up really early to let our little Maltese, Betty Jean, out in the back yard (snow covered) for her regularly scheduled early morning business. I cranked up my work laptop to check on some things, knowing there would probably be a delayed opening of Schriever Air Force Base, where I am currently employed. It’s almost 6 AM now and I’ve already accomplished a few necessary things, including taking care of the snow in the driveway and sidewalks, which made me hungry. Being a bit hungry, I found a small pastry to go with a second mug of coffee (Kuerig & Sumatran Reserve). That’s when I thought about Dee’s bacon and eggs, my own eating habits, and how they have been shaped over time by life circumstances.

I remembered being a teenager and my Dad asking me if I ‘lived to eat’ or ‘eat to live’. I used to panic if the fridge wasn’t full of food, you see. Fast forward to a military career, mess halls (now consolidated dining facilities but the food is probably not much different), K-rations, C-rations, LRPs (Long Range Patrol) rations, and MREs (Meals Ready to eat). At times it was living off whatever nature had to offer. All of those wonderful menus will develop a great appreciation for wonderful meals prepared at home and shared with family.

Then my thoughts turned to our spiritual diets as believers in a great God and most gracious and wonderful Savior. The Christmas hymns in the background also contributed to the present condition of a heart so full it feels like it might burst! I have been so greatly blessed!

Back to diets. When I think of all of the various sources (and quality) of spiritual nourishment that I have consumed through the years, a few things really stand out. There are definitely comparisons to be made with the aforementioned types of cuisine a profession of arms afforded me. Then there is being able to eat a home cooked meal with family and friends. There is nothing like it! It’s not exactly going from starving to feasting, but awfully close.

The years spent as a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords have taught me that the written Word of God should be the main component of a good spiritual diet. Everything else in life should be measured by its golden text.

Then we have the ‘dinner table’ around which sit family and friends. That ‘dinner table’ seems to be available whether here or abroad, as we fellowship with other believers in local churches, military chapels, small group Bible studies, and even we happen to meet another believer on the street or in the workplace. How awesome is that?!!!!!

The ‘dinner table’ still exists when we are alone and by ourselves. We might be the only human being in the room, but in reality, we are never alone! Within us lives the Holy Spirit – leading, comforting, and guiding. Before us is a Bible, God’s very words to us, feeding us absolute truth and never-failing guidance for our lives. In addition to God’s very words to His children, in our day, with all of its technology, we also have a veritable plethora of resources available to us to help us along the way. There is so much out there that we need to have a discerning eye when we pick and choose what resource to use.

One such resource for this guy has been the set of Discipleship Training Objectives available through Christian Military Fellowship. To share what the CMF DTOs have meant to me would require another article. (If you think this is a shameless plug for something, you might be right, but then again you might be in error. I just wanted to put it out there.) If you are interested in what they might be about, contact me.

My encouragement to you is really think about your spiritual sustenance as you grow in faith and serve in the Kingdom of God, a citizen already, with an eternal home in heaven waiting for you when your pilgrimage here is done and you hear the words of your Savior – “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Be blessed, today and forever!

The Most Precious Golden Chain?

The Battle Cry

Do you like gold chains? Most, if not all of us, certainly do. Go to a jewelry store and you’ll find a wide variety of them, different styles designed for various uses, for both men and women. Am I right? That’s a rhetorical question. Personally, I don’t have any because I’m just not into jewelry. Some men are; just ask Mr. T (remember him?)! Our oldest son, when he was about 4 years old, just about had a fit when he say what I called a ‘Mr. T Starter Kit’ and Mom didn’t want to buy it for him.

Nevertheless,. There is one Golden Chain that many believers (if not most of us), aren’t all that fond of. It’s the Golden Chain of Redemption and it’s found in Romans 8, Verse 29-30:

“For those who he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…

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“How do I know if I have been predestined to be saved?”–by Jesse Johnson

This is an excellent article by Jesse Johnson that was posted at The Cripplegate.

How do I know if I have been predestined to be saved?

by Jesse Johnson

How does a person know if they have been predestined by God for heaven? The shortest answer to the question is also the best: Do you love Jesus? If so, then you have been predestined.

Unpacking that short answer shows you the Trinitarian nature of salvation. The Father predestined us before time (Ephesians 1:4). This predestination is expressed through adoption into his family through faith in his Son, Jesus (Ephesians 1:5). This faith is expressed by confessing Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:10), and nobody can do that unless the Holy Spirit is indwelling them (1 Corinthians 12:3).

When the Holy Spirit saves a person, He gives them a new nature—He gives them a heart of faith to replace their heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26). The person goes from living for himself to living for Christ. The person goes from hating God to loving God through Jesus.

Thus an individual knows they have been predestined for salvation only when they believe the gospel, and see in their heart faith and love for Jesus Christ. 

Taken together, our Triune God predestines, then sends his Son who accomplishes salvation, then sends his Spirit who applies salvation. All three persons of the Trinity are at work in our salvation. They have the same will, the same love, and the same intent. Thus the doctrine of predestination breaks into this world through every heart that loves Jesus.

A person obviously doesn’t need to know all that in order to be saved. Instead, what a person needs to know in order to be saved is that they are a sinner, and are unable to save themselves by their own good work. Yet Jesus, who is the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins, and rose triumphantly from the grave having atoned for sin. Because of depravity, nobody would savingly believe that unless the Holy Spirit was enabling them.

To approach this from yet another direction: a person can only know if they have been predestined when they are saved, and salvation is evident in a love for Christ. That love is imperfect, and waxes and wanes through life, of course. But the only window we have into the saving and predestining power of God in the heart of each person who trusts Christ. There is no way to trust Christ for salvation without the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, He only saves those whom the Father has chosen, and all whom He saves will express that through a love for Jesus.

How do you know you have been predestined? The only way is by placing your faith in Christ.

Fortunately the opposite answer is not true—a person cannot say they have not been predestined simply because they don’t believe in Jesus now. Who is to say they won’t believe in the future? So if you are concerned you have not been predestined, ask yourself this: Do you want to believe the gospel? Do you wish you were going to heaven?

Then there is no magic to it, and no fatalism needs be involved. All who call upon the Lord can be saved. And once saved, they will see they were called by Him all along.

So Great a Salvation

From The Cripplegate

“I am a Christian.” “I am saved.” “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.” 

I wonder if we grasp the fullness of what that means. Though we cannot know all the fullness of salvation until we are with the Lord, Scripture escorts us in to the beginnings of salvation’s glory. Truly, ours is a great salvation. 

The diagram above and list below briefly describes actual, historical expressions of God’s sovereign grace. Above is a historical timeline of God’s loving grace in the salvation of a Christian. We can kind of think of it like our biography, but it’s stuff God did for us, before we were born, after, and still after. These 16 aspects of salvation are 16 marks of God’s work in redemptive history. They are expressions of God’s love towards the Christian. They are each a river flowing from God’s sovereignty combining in the deluge of God’s grace to those in Jesus Christ.

The following is a brief description of our great salvation. As we consider our salvation, let us recall that, regardless of what we are going through, nothing can rob us of any of these aspects of God’s love in salvation.

In Eternity Past

Prior to creating all things, God architected his plan of salvation.

1. Election (Rom. 8:29-30, Eph. 1:3-6).

Before God made the universe by the power of his word, he chose for himself a people who would receive the gift of salvation. He did so, not motivated by any merit or action of the recipients (for they were not yet created and would only sin), but based solely upon his own will for his glory.

After Creation, at the Cross

Christ accomplished critical aspects of our salvation when he died on the cross.

2. Atonement (Eph. 1:7).

God the Father decided to redeem a sinful people and set his love upon elect sinners whom he had predestined for salvation before he made all things. Consequently, he sent his Son to quench his judicial wrath aroused by their sin. The punishment and penalty that the elect deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of them, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.

3. Propitiation (Rom. 3:26, 1 John 4:10).

Propitiation refers to the act where God’s righteous wrath is appeased or turned aside by the death of His Son on the cross. As such, it is a supreme act of love on the part of the Father and Son. If there is a God of justice who redeems a people who are imperfect, then salvation and forgiveness can thereby only occur through propitiation. All such systems which propose a theory of forgiveness and salvation, and yet do not feature an impeccable propitiatory sacrifice, break down and offer at best a fictitious salvation.

The Moment You Become a Christian

Many glorious things happen to us, in time, the moment that we become a Christian.

4. Effectual Call (John 6:44, Eph. 4:1).

The moment in time at which God applies his work of salvation. God will effectually call to salvation all whom he has predestined before creation for salvation. All whom God elects, he will effectually call to salvation such that they will be saved.

5. Regeneration (John 3:3-6, Titus 3:5).

Regeneration answers the question, “How can individuals dead in sin, unable and unwilling to please God, respond to the gospel?” Regeneration, or the new birth, is the work of God’s Holy Spirit in which He changes the spiritual nature of a person, bringing him from death to life. It is the beginning of all true heart change, as it is a change of nature. It results in a life of ongoing transformation (sanctification) and ends in the complete transformation of the believer into the image of Christ (glorification).

6. Faith (Eph. 1:13, 2:8-9).

Faith is the gift of God that enables the elect to believe what He says, to trust Him with our lives, and to live upon His Word. Apart from regeneration it is morally and spiritually impossible for someone to repent and put faith in Christ. Similarly, when God regenerates a person, it is impossible for that person not to repent and put faith in Christ. Regeneration is the act of God alone. But faith is technically not the act of God. The ability to believe is a gift of God in regeneration. But it is not God who puts faith in Christ. It is the regenerate sinner. Faith is the God-appointed means by which the benefits of God’s saving work are appropriated.

7. Repentance (Mark 1:15, Acts 11:18).

Repentance is the gift of God that enables the sinner to turn from sin and self in order to turn to God. It involves a real change of heart/mind that results in a change of life.

8. Justification (Rom. 3:24-28, 5:1).

Justification answers the question, “How can condemned, guilty sinners stand righteous before a holy God?” Appropriated by faith alone, it is the legal action by which God declares the believer to be freed from his guilt and made right before God’s law. Unlike regeneration, it does not change the nature of the believer. Justification alters the believer’s legal position before God, changing it from guilty to innocent. It is the outcome of atonement and the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to the believer.

9. Imputation (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 5:19, 2 Cor. 5:21).

Imputation can be thought of as a subset of justification; of God’s justifying work on behalf of the sinner. It is God’s act of placing one person’s sin or righteousness upon another’s account in a manner which does not violate justice. Adam’s sin was imputed or transferred to all humanity. The believer’s sin was placed upon the account of Jesus when He was crucified. Christ’s righteousness is placed on the account of the believer. Thus, the believer’s sin was reckoned to Christ, and the Savior’s perfect obedience was reckoned to the believer.

10. Redemption (Col. 1:14).

Redemption is purchasing someone’s freedom. It speaks of a transfer of ownership by payment. The sinner is freed from his enslavement to sin and from the curse of God’s law by Jesus’ substitutionary atoning death on the cross. Christ does not redeem us from Satan, but from the just wrath of God. Upon regeneration, every elect sinner is freed from the slavery to sin and the penalty of the law.

11. Adoption (Eph. 1:5).

Adoption describes the new relationship the believer has to God by using a family-related term. God, subsequent to the new birth and justification, makes the believer His adopted child. The believer enters into all the responsibilities and joys of being in God’s family. Adoption is permanent. The elect, regenerate sinner will never be disowned from God’s family because his adoption depends on the irrevocable saving work of Jesus Christ—in his substitutionary atoning work on the cross. There is no more privileged place to be than all the universe than a child of God.

12. Reconciliation (Col. 1:22).

Reconciliation is the restoration of the relationship between God and man. It includes a change in man’s attitude toward God. Man is brought from being at enmity with God to friendship and sonship. God’s righteous anger is turned aside by the cross of Jesus, thereby removing the offense of sin and making it possible for God to bring man into fellowship with him.

13. Union with Christ (Rom. 6:5).

Union with Christ is the biblical description of the believer’s relationship to his Savior. By faith, the believer embraces Jesus as presented in the gospel. God unites the believer spiritually to Jesus as his Mediator. This personal connection to Jesus is the source of all the believer’s privileges. All that Christ accomplished for the believer is shared by virtue of this unbreakable union. The regenerate can no more be fractured from Christ than Christ himself can be split in two.

From Regeneration until Death/Presence with Christ

Two additional aspects of our salvation occur from regeneration until we are with Christ.

14. Sanctification (John 15:2, 2 Cor. 3:18, Phil. 2:12-13).

This is a glorious process where God transforms the regenerate into the most wonderful Person in the universe. Consequent of regeneration, the believer is daily conformed in thought, worship, motivation, and deed by the work of the Spirit, making the believer holy in his practice. As the regenerate engages in Scripture, prayer, the local church, and God’s providence, the Holy Spirit transforms him progressively into the image of Christ.

15. Perseverance (Phil. 1:6).

The regenerate will not fall away from his relationship to God. Rather, he will endure until the end and go to heaven. All who are elect will end up in heaven. Jesus will not lose even one of the Father’s elect. The golden-chain of salvation, as it is often coined, means that the elect are as good as glorified. God finishes what he begins. Those who appear not to persevere were never regenerate notwithstanding a previous appearance of belief.

From Death/Presence with Christ to Eternity Future

The final step of our salvation occurs once we enter the presence of Christ.

16. Glorification (Rom. 8:29-30, 1 John 3:2).

Glorification refers to the completion of all aspects of the believer’s salvation. It is the final step of his rescue that comes when, in heaven, he sees Christ face to face and is ultimately transformed into a sinless being. Upon death, the elect will be permanently rid of sin. The battle with sin will be over. Glorification will mean the inability to ever be contrary to God in motivation, thought, nature, desire, word, and deed. We will be unable to sin. We will only perfectly obey God’s law in fullness; perfectly loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and, perfectly considering others more important than ourselves. 

Conclusion

This is not all that could be said about our great salvation. But, these touch on the wonder of God’s sovereign love towards every single one of his children. Considering that all believers entered this world dead in sin, hostile towards God, and loving unrighteousness, this 16-fold grace of God teeters on the edge of blasphemy. It veers close to a shameful scandal that such wretched sinners would be the recipients such titanic love. Nevertheless, this is the case. A Christian is someone who can say, “By the grace of God, I am saved.”

Dear Christian, is our salvation not great?! Are these not reasons to lift our chin up? We are saved!

Is this not cause to keep going during our brief sojourning when it feels like we can go no farther? We are saved!

Are these not reasons to press forward in a dreadful world that pushes back? We are saved!

Is this not cause to walk in hope?! We are saved!

Glory to God! We are saved!

A Review of Jesus: His Life (Part 1)

March 27, 2019 – Pastor Gabe Hughes

This is a Review of the first episode of Jesus: His Life by Pastor Gabe Hughes of Junction City Kansas, which he posted on his blog here. I read the article and then watched it myself. I found that this to be a highly credible article concerning the production. There is one thing he did not mention that I noticed at the end of his article. Without further comment, here is Pastor Gabe’s review.

Each Monday leading up to holy week, the History Channel is airing a docu-series called Jesus: His Life. The show awkwardly mixes in dramatic reenactments of the story of Jesus with commentary from an assemblage of (mostly liberal) Bible scholars.

The trailer to the show says that this is the life of Christ “told through the eyes of those who knew Him best.” History has never done very well with the story of Jesus. Their mini-series The Bible (more accurately termed The Bobble) was terrible. In addition to biblical inaccuracies, it just wasn’t entertaining. Jesus: His Life is equally dull. The mix of drama with commentary doesn’t work. The thematic scenes fail to be captivating, and the theotwits do not add any life to the program.

Given that the show is flat and fallacious, I don’t know why you’d want to bother with it enough to even read my review. But I offer this up anyway! The following is a play-by-play of the first episode, examining the life of Jesus though the eyes of Joseph. The time stamps are according to the video stream I watched on History’s website, sans commercial breaks. And away we go!

1:00 — Oh, hello Joel. Yup, Joel Osteen is the executive producer of this little number, so he’s one of the “experts” who will be popping up every now and then.

2:00 — The introduction is very “This is the story of how Jesus changed the world.” This is not going to be about how Jesus was sent by God and died as an atoning sacrifice for those who will believe in Him. This is going to be about how Jesus bucked the status quo and brought about a revolution of social change. This show will not present the gospel. Phrases like “Savior of the world” might come up, but they’ll never be explained. They’ll be framed in a social context, not a gospel one.

6:30 — Aside from some questionable theotwits, the information so far has been factual for the most part.

7:45 — (Edit) There’s a line I totally missed and someone pointed it out to me. When Gabriel appears to Mary, he says, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God. If you choose to accept His plan, you will conceive in your womb and give birth a son.” Not only does this make the announcement to Mary staunchly Arminian, it’s also pro-choice! Mary got to choose to have a baby. In Luke 1:31-32, Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.”

9:00 — Mary asks Gabriel, “Why has He chosen me?” Gabriel replies, “You are pure of heart and soul.” According to the story in Luke 1, Mary did not ask that question, nor was Mary told that the reason she was chosen. Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” When Mary was troubled, Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” She was favored because God chose her, not because she merited worthiness.

9:30 — James Martin says, “Notice that when she says yes to the angel, she doesn’t ask her husband or her father. She says it on her own. So this is a very strong woman.” The feminism is strong with this one.

11:00 — Dr. Otis Moss III says, “When Mary says, ‘I’m pregnant, and you’re not the father,’ Joseph probably reacted in a typical male fashion. That’s why I love the story because it does not sugar-coat it as making Joseph holier than thou.” That’s why you love the story? Because of your own conjecture? Not because it’s about the birth of the Savior of the world? The show then portrays Joseph losing his temper, breaking stuff apart and throwing it around the house he had been building for him and Mary.

13:00 — Several teachers are cited as saying that if Joseph outs Mary publicly as having sex outside of wedlock, she could be killed under Jewish law. “Adultery is a crime punishable by death,” according to Dr. Robert Cargill. That’s true (Deuteronomy 22:20-24), but it’s unlikely Mary would have been put to death. The Jews couldn’t exercise capital punishment without permission from Rome. The Bible gives us no sense that Mary’s life was in danger. The only people being stoned to death at that period of time were those who would preach the gospel (Acts 7:59).

13:30 — Ah, Michael Curry, the Love Bishop.

14:30 — Joseph is seen cleaning up the house he trashed after his rage fit. I’ve been waiting to see if anyone will actually quote the Scripture itself. No one has. Matthew 1:18-19 says:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

Being a “just man,” he knew what the law said concerning unfaithfulness. Being “unwilling to put her to shame,” he was not going to make a public spectacle of Mary. He knew the law was on his side. Rage-trashing his house is not divorcing her quietly.

16:30 — An angel speaks to Joseph in a dream and tells him the child in Mary’s womb is from the Holy Spirit. When Joseph goes back to Mary, I have to admit, I found the interaction between them rather touching. But then it was interrupted by commentary…

I covered this in my book 25 Christmas Myths and What the Bible Says. There are no problems with the census in Luke. The explanation is simple. Luke does not give an exact time reference to when the census took place. He said, “In those days,” which is an unspecific period of time, and “this was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” All Luke is pointing to is that these events were part of the same drama, not that they all happened at exactly the same time. There was no reason to use “a device to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.” Matthew didn’t use such an explanation in his gospel.

The dates often used by historians for the Christmas story are based on the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus. But sometimes Josephus was off by as much as a decade. Why are scholars so quick to villify Luke but justify Josephus? Luke under the appointment of the Holy Spirit is spotless in the telling of the gospel. Oh, and contrary to Dr. Cargill’s claims, people did return to their lands when a census was taken.

21:45 — Ben Witherington III says, “[Joseph and Mary] barely got [to Bethlehem] before it was time for Mary to give birth.” Not true, but that’s a minor point. I appreciate that the show does correct the myth that Jesus was born in a barn. He wasn’t. He was born in a house filled with family.

23:30 — Professor Nicola Denzey Lewis says, “Millions of women died in childbirth.” Millions of women in Judea died in childbirth?

25:00 — Shut up, Joel.

25:30 — Whenever an angel appears to someone in this show and says, “Do not be afraid,” they’re just kind of like, “Who are you?” No one is actually afraid.

27:30 — The show continues the myth that there were only three wise men. Except they made the black wise man the lead guy now instead of the token sidekick.

28:00 — Right before the commercial break, Dr. Cargill says of the magi, “Meeting Herod the Great must have been terrifying.” They probably had no idea who he was. But gotta keep the viewers in suspense!

29:00 — The show has the magi arriving at night. There’s no commotion in the city. Yet the Bible says they came to Jerusalem asking, “‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:2-3). The number of magi and the size of their caravan were enough to alert all of Jerusalem and earn the magi an audience before Herod. This was a big deal. In fact the question they asked, “Where is the King of the Jews,” was asked of Jesus by Pontius Pilate over 30 years later.

30:30 — The magi say, “We followed a star. Our charts tell us it heralds the birth of a messiah.” No, they knew the star was leading them to the Messiah because they had the Jewish Scriptures.

32:30 — Joseph tries to refuse the gifts of the magi. That was weird.

33:00 — The Love Bishop says love things.

34:00 — Right before the commercial break, Joseph rebukes the magi for coming because they’ve put Jesus’s life at risk. Oh, good grief.

35:30 — The Love Bishop says, “Joseph keeps getting these dreams in Matthew’s gospel. He gets the dream that tells him the child is a miracle of God. Then he gets the dream telling him to flee Palestine and go to Egypt.” Joseph wasn’t listening to dreams. He was obeying God. Matthew 2:13 says, “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy Him.'” The show doesn’t depict that. Instead, the show portrays Joseph having a vision of Herod giving the order to kill baby boys in Bethlehem.

39:30 — Joseph and Mary barely elude the guards and get Jesus out of Bethlehem during the massacre of the innocents. Oh, the drama. (I really thought I’d done a WWUTT video on the massacre of the innocents. Apparently not. I’ll get on that for next Christmas.)

40:30 — Joshua Dubois, Faith Advisor to President Obama, says, “The holy family become refugees.” These comments are always more politically loaded than they are biblically accurate. A refugee is someone forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or have been displaced because of a natural disaster. Yes, Joseph and Mary fled Judea to escape the wrath of Herod, but they never left the Roman empire. They would have gone to the Jewish settlement in Alexandria, Egypt. There they were quite secure among their own people, and they had the gifts from the magi to pay for their stay. This was not like we would consider a modern-day refugee.

41:00 — Dr. Moss points out that Joseph protected his wife and a child who was not his own. “Joseph becomes a beautiful model for fatherhood today. Where would we be if we had more men who operated like Joseph?” I appreciate the sentiment. But the question is better asked, “Where would we be if more men obeyed God?”

Part 2 examining the life of Jesus through the eyes of John the Baptist coming at a later time… Maybe.

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Dan’s Note:

Missing in the angel/Joseph dialogue was the statement by the angel that “you shall call his name ‘Jesus’ for he will save his people from their sins.”, which was the main purpose in Jesus coming – to save his people from their sins! Will this series fail in presenting a clear and concise message that Christ died for the sins of men, as Pastor Gabe suggests in his critique?

Why I Believe Regeneration Precedes Faith

The short answer is that scripture teaches it:

1 Corinthians 2:14

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14)

A natural person, one born of flesh only, is incapable of understanding that which is spiritually understood. Salvation (repenting and believing the gospel) is a spiritual transaction that requires spiritual understanding, for which regeneration is an absolute requirement.

Romans 8:7-8

”For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:7-8)

A mind can be fleshly (carnal), spiritual, or in the case of believers, in whom sin still resides, BOTH carnal and spiritual. The unbeliever is controlled by a fleshly mind and cannot please God. True repentance and belief in Christ pleases God, Therefore spiritual regenerating must precede faith.

Ephesians 2:1-5

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Eph 2:1-5)

What can a ‘dead’ man do? WHEN WE WERE DEAD, we who now believe were made alive in Christ. That’s the very definition of ‘regeneration’.

2 Corinthians 4:1-4

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,[a] we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice[b] cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Who is perishing? All who have not received and believed in Christ. Why have they NOT received and believed in Christ? Their minds have been blinded by the god of this world. Regeneration opens blind minds and necessarily precedes faith.

John 1:12-13

”But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

The children of God are those who receive Christ and believe in his name. Those who receive and believe in Christ are those born of God, not by any form of human desire or will. To be born of God is to be regenerated. Note that no one is regenerated by an act of human will.

John 3:3

”Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.””

To ‘see’ the kingdom of God in the above passage means “to perceive” Just as we must have been born naturally to physically see, we must be born spiritually (regenerated) to spiritually see.

Those who believe that human faith precedes regeneration generally fall into two groups:

  • We are all ‘naturally’ capable, without divine assistance, to make a genuine decision for Christ, by an act of human free will.
  • While we aren’t ‘naturally’ capable of such a decision, God, by an act of ‘prevenient grace’, grants the ability to make a free will decision to accept Christ, and then be ‘regenerated’.

I believe the above passages refute the first proposition, on its face. I also believe the second proposition to be in error simply because prevenient grace, in the Wesleyan sense is nowhere taught in the Bible. The thought is that God bestows prevenient grace to the lost sinner, who is then able to consider the claims of the gospel message and either freely accept or reject them by an act of natural human will.

Additionally, I can find NO language in all of the Bible that discusses some sort of decision making process in the process of the salvation of men. Even IF true and a human free will decision determined the eternal destiny of anyone, that person will have saved himself/herself, although God made it possible to be saved through the death of Christ.

It is my belief, based on the above passages, that the human will must ‘itself’ be changed for the natural man to desire to repent of sin and believe in Christ.

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NOTE: For more in-depth discussions concerning ‘Prevenient Grace’ See:

1. Does Scripture Teach Prevenient Grace n the Wesleyan Sense?

2. Is Prevenient Grace in the Bible?

3. What is Prevenient Grace?