In Two Hundred Words…

Nathan Besenitz, who serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Community Church and teaches theology at The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles writes, “If someone were to ask me why I’m not Roman Catholic, this would be my answer in 200 words or less:

I believe the Roman Catholic church has seriously erred in three fundamental areas: in its approach to God, the Bible, and salvation.

1) In its approach to God, Roman Catholicism approves the veneration of (i.e. bowing down before) images and relics, encourages praying to the saints, and promotes Mary to a semi-divine status. All of these constitute varying forms of idolatry, which Scripture condemns (cf. Ex. 20:4–5; Lev. 26:1O; Acts 10:25–26; Rev. 22:8–9).

2) In its approach to the Bible, Roman Catholicism elevates church tradition to a place of authority equal to (and in practice higher than) Scripture. The Lord Jesus condemned first-century Judaism as apostate because it likewise elevated the traditions of men above the Word of God (Mark 7:6–8).

3) In its approach to salvation, Roman Catholicism adds various sacramental works to the gospel of grace. In a similar way, the apostle Paul condemned the Judaizers because they added self-righteous works to the gospel (cf. Acts 15:1–11; Rom. 11:6; Gal. 1:6–9).

These fundamental issues, in addition to a host of other doctrinal problems (e.g. purgatory, the papacy, priestly celibacy, indulgences, the Apocrypha, etc.) lead me to reject Roman Catholicism.”

Justification is Free

In an article by Geoff Thomas entitled “Justification is Free, by God’s Grace, through Christ’s Redemption” he writes:

Romans 3:24 ‘And are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’

Some sentences are packed with meaning and this is a prime example. These words are a forceful explanation of what the wonderful truth of God’s justification is all about. Virtually every word in the sentence is important, even the word ‘and’ that begins the text, ‘and’ linking justification with the universality and guilt of sin that Paul has set out in the famous previous verse. We are unrighteous sinners in the sight of God. There seems to be no hope for us, yet Paul says ‘and,’ not ‘but.’ Never stop with man’s depravity for that leads to despair. Depravity must be joined to the offer of the extraordinary grace of God that freely justifies every favoured sinner who believes. You might have come here today as low as you’ve ever been in your life, feeling your sin and guilt, conscious you have sinned against much blessing and knowledge, thinking that there can be no hope for you. God has brought you here to hear these words: ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23, 24). Let’s examine these words . . .

1. JUSTIFICATION IS FREE

To justify does not mean to make someone righteous; it is not about changing the actual substance and character of a person. It is not that. It means to declare that someone now has a new status, a righteous status. It is a forensic and legal term. A criminal is accused of a wrong-doing. The magistrate hears the evidence, takes every factor into consideration, the provocation of the event and so on, and comes to the conclusion that he will find him not guilty, that he will declare him to be righteous as far as this case and this particular charge is concerned. He is not making him a good man; he is not changing his personality. He is removing him from the status of being the accused to a sinner being declared innocent. He is the same person leaving court as the one who walked to the court that morning, but what has changed is this, he no longer carries the guilt of what he was said to have done.

Of course with us the situation is different. It is not that we are alleged to have done wrong things; we’ve done them, many of them, really bad things, but we have come to God in our guilt and shame and acknowledged that to him. ‘Here I am Lord, guilty in my eyes let alone in your sight. I have erred and strayed from your ways like a lost sheep. I have not done the things I ought to have done and I have done the things I shouldn’t have done. There is no health in me. Have mercy, Lord; O Lord, forgive. Pardon me freely. Wash me, cleanse me, declare me to be righteous. Justify me, Almighty God. I confess my sins to you and your word says, “If we confess our sins you are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The publican in the Temple cried to you, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and Jesus said that the man walked out of the building justified. May I leave this building justified today! The dying thief asked Jesus to remember him when he came in his kingdom. “Remember me O Lord,” I pray today. There are millions in need of you now, praying to you now. You are in charge of the galaxies of space and you satisfy the needs of every living thing. Please hear little sinful me and declare me to be righteous. While on others you are casting the garment of the righteousness of Christ do not pass me by. Naked, I come to thee for dress; helpless look to thee for grace. Justify me, Saviour.’ So you pray like that, in your own words, and persist in praying. You will not let him go away; you keep speaking to him until he blesses you with his justification.

It is free, the apostle says. We are justified freely. We do not pay something or give something to be justified. We do not do anything to be justified. It is a free act of God which we simply receive. There is no barter, and no exchange. It is not that we offer something to God and he then checks it out and sees if it passes muster and then responds by declaring us righteous. It is nothing like that. There is nothing in our hands that we bring to the God who justifies to get imputed righteousness. Do we read that the 3,000 on the Day of Pentecost took an offering and because of that they received forgiveness for crucifying the Son of God? Were they told to fast and to crawl around the Temple seven times on their hands and knees? No. Did the Ethiopian do something to receive pardon, or Lydia to have her heart opened by God? Or there was the Philippian woman possessed with a spirit of divination; what was she asked to do to be delivered? Nothing at all. Or the Philippian jailer? He was asked not to do something, not to harm himself, and that is all. Paul insists that this word from God about a justification that changes our status for ever and declares us to be righteous is given without money and without price.

Is there a religious ceremony that obtains an alien righteousness? Does baptism get it? No. The dying thief was not baptized and yet that day he went to paradise. Does speaking in tongues get it? No. Paul says categorically that not all Christians were given the gift of speaking in a language they didn’t know. Do the hands of a bishop on your head give you free justification? No, they do not, because many who were once confirmed have long given up any desire to believe in God. You can give all your gifts to the poor and give your body to be burned and yet be a nothing, Paul tells the Christians in Corinth. Continue reading

How much detail when evangelizing?

Sproul JrDr. R. C. Sproul, Jr, in an article entitled “How much detail do we need to go into when evangelizing?” writes:

Believe All that God Has Revealed
Because God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4) and God is truth, it follows that truth is one. While we can talk about distinct propositions, the truth is that truth is monolithic, one piece, simple rather than parts. Such means, of course, that His revelation is not part cake, and part icing, part substance and part sizzle. It’s not as though justification by faith alone is the painting and election is the frame. We are called to believe all that God has revealed, and every error in our thinking is at least implicitly dangerous.

Our Error, His Success
That said, we do err and our failures cannot rule out His success. Our goal with those to whom we preach Christ, just like with ourselves, can’t be to get them perfectly sound on everything. Those of us who have a deep interest in theology, who are given to seeing the connections between our affirmations, are tempted to pray like the Pharisee, “I thank you Lord that I am not like other men. I affirm all five points of Calvinism. I can recite the Westminster Shorter Catechism and I not only know the ordo salutis, but know what ordo salutis means.”

Mercy for Sinners
Our calling for ourselves, and for those we are witnessing to, is that we would reflect the wisdom of the publican who beat his breast and cried out, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner.” What we all need to grasp first is that God is God. He is Lord over all reality, and has authority over us. Because we fail to submit to His law, we are rightly under His curse and judgment. Our only hope is to throw ourselves upon His mercy, to confess before Him not just our sins, but our standing as sinners.

The life, death, and resurrection of Christ is why we can have peace with God. He is the reason we can cry out for mercy with hope. And it is because of His ascension that we know that He is Lord even now. Thus the early church had as its first creed the eminently simple, Christos ho kurios, Christ is Lord. So our message is eminently simple — repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Make Disciples
A person brought to an understanding of their need for redemption, and God’s provision in Christ is now well prepared for more. We catechize converts quickly, but not before they are converts. Such a one, I would argue, needs to come to understand the glorious truths contained in the Apostles’ Creed. And from there, the convert, like the rest of us, is called to learn the whole counsel of God. We are called, after all, not to make mere converts but disciples, teaching them to obey whatsoever He has commanded (Matthew 28:20).

One important caveat — to say we need not say everything in order to proclaim God’s grace in Christ is not at all to say there are things we should not say. God’s sovereignty in our salvation is not something we hide from those outside. Indeed there is nothing He has revealed to us that we should be ashamed of, or that we should mask in order to win souls.

Miscellaneous Quotes (103)

quotes“Denominations are good, not bad, because they allow each church to follow Jesus according to conscience, and they keep strife between Christians of different convictions at bay… Keep clear fences but keep them low, and shake hands over them often.” – Mark Dever

“If you are drawn into a controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words.” – C.H. Spurgeon

“On every university campus I visit, somebody stands up and says that God is an evil God to allow all this evil into our world. This person typically says, ‘A plane crashes: Thirty people die, and twenty people live. What kind of a God would arbitrarily choose some to live and some to die?’”
I continued, “but when we play God and determine whether a child within a mother’s womb should live, we argue for that as a moral right. So when human beings are given the privilege of playing God, it’s called a moral right. When God plays God, we call it an immoral act. Can you justify this for me?”
That was the end of the conversation.” – Ravi Zacharias

“I am convinced that God saved me by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I did nothing to merit this salvation. There is nothing in me that turned God’s eye in my direction. There is no vestige of goodness that compelled him to look my way. I was not seeking him when he began seeking me. It was all of his grace without even the smallest bit of my merit. I added nothing to my salvation but the sin that made it necessary.” – Tim Challies

“Are you too bad to receive grace? How could you be too bad to receive what is for the bad?” – David Powlison

“To my “non-radical” Muslim friends—and I have a few—please, gentlemen, where are the full, documented, compelling articles not only condemning, but demonstrating with devastating insight the non-Islamic nature, of the actions of ISIS and Boko Haram? If these acts of terror, murder, and simply Satanic evil, were being purpetrated in the name of Christianity, the web would be full of condemnations along with strong biblical argumentation demonstrating the inconsistency of the actions with fundamental Biblical norms. I think this is fulfilling one of my constant observations of the current situation within worldwide Islam: the various groups appeal to an inherently insufficient core of revelation/law/documents to decide these debates. The Qur’an is too obtuse, too lacking in historical and cultural context, to speak with any level of clarity to all but a small number of issues; the hadith can be understood to teach almost anything, depending on which hadith traditions you emphasize and how you interpret them. So we are left with the unabashed face of evil in the men of ISIS and Boko Haram, men acting at a level beneath that of animals, demonically inspired promoters of evil, screaming the name of Allah as they shed blood, rape, and pillage, and yet we do not see other Islamic nations stepping in to protect those who are suffering so terribly at the hands of those they would say, in some settings, are acting “unIslamically.”” – Dr. James White Continue reading

King’s Church, Phoenix, has a New Location

Beatitudes24Apr13_8008-V2We are very excited to announce that this coming Sunday marks our first Church service in our brand new location, the Beatitudes Campus, 1610 W. Glendale Ave, Phoenix AZ 85021. We’ll be meeting in the East Board Room at 11:00 a.m.

If you are in the Phoenix area, we would love to see you. Bring a friend. All are welcome!

God’s Two Books

Deuteronomy 29:29 – The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever that we may do all the words of this law.

Things Revealed vs. Secret Things

David Murray writes:

God’s Private Book contains the things that He has decreed will happen or not happen from beginning to end of time. They include all the events of tomorrow, when and how we will die, the end of the world, the names of the saved, and so on. As its name suggests, this is a private book for God’s eyes only. He has not revealed the contents, will not reveal them, and we must not enquire into them either. God keeps that book behind the counter and forbids us from trying to look into it.

God’s Public Book is what He has revealed in the Bible, which, as Moses said, is all we need to know, believe, and do. It’s on the counter, open, and available for study.

In God’s Public Book, God often expresses a desire for certain things to happen that do not actually happen because He has not written them in His Private Book. For example, God desires all people keep His moral law which does not actually happen.

God also forbids things in His Public Book which He has decreed to happen in His Private Book. For example, in the Bible God forbids betrayal and murder and expresses His desire that no one be a victim of this. Yet, in His Private Book He ordained that His Son be betrayed and murdered (Acts 2:23)… His Public will is “thwarted,” but His Private will never is.

Assurance of Salvation

In an article entitled “The Privilege of Assurance” theologian Roger Nicole wrote:

The privilege of assurance, which is secured by the work of Christ for His own and which is properly undergirded in the Reformed faith, is damaged or even destroyed in certain other theological structures.

I. When justification by faith alone is not duly proclaimed and the good works of the believer are presented as participating in the ground on the basis of which salvation is secured, the assurance of faith receives a fatal blow. The prime example of this distortion is found in the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church as prevalent in the time of the Reformation and codified at the Council of Trent (1545–1563).

In this view it is not denied that Christ has accomplished a saving work for humanity, but justification is envisioned as the total process by which the redeemed are brought to perfection by the Holy Spirit. To say, then, “I am justified” is equivalent to a claim of having achieved perfection. Who can realistically make such a claim? Nobody! Those who venture to do it are adjudged to be arrogant and presumptuous. The best that can be said is: “I am in the process of being saved; I hope that at the end of my life I may be in a state of grace and therefore not cast into hell; I am diligently seeking to take advantage of the means of grace (sacraments) and to refrain from sinning, but God only knows whether I am going to make it.”

It is this uncertainty that drove Martin Luther almost out of his mind before he came to understand the great truth of justification by faith alone. At last he perceived that salvation is not secured by dint of good works, fastings, alms, and other disciplines, but that it has been purchased in full by the saving work of Jesus Christ with whom we are united through faith alone. The fact of this union brings with it assurance just as an authentic receipt brings complete release from the burden of a debt.

It is to be noted that the Roman Church is not the only offender in this respect; many groups and individuals have also clouded the pure doctrine of justification by introducing an element of human merit in the process. Even many Lutherans, otherwise orthodox, have shown reluctance to confess the perseverance of God with the redeemed, and thus made a present assurance no guarantee of an ultimate salvation.

II. This problem also burdens the Arminian view. In keeping with Arminian principles, a believer may properly say, “I am saved now,” for by virtue of the work of Christ God confers salvation to any and all who repent and believe. Yet this blessing is not a basis for complete confidence that a change of disposition may not occur. There are many tragic examples, they say, of people who after having been saved have turned away and lost out altogether. The apostle Judas is a notable case in point, and Hebrews 6:4–6 surely provides a solemn warning in this respect:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace.

If salvation once experienced is not secured by the grace of God so as to be a permanent blessing, the momentary assurance of it is of relatively small significance. Even those who, in Arminian terms, have experienced “Christian perfection” are not immune from the danger of falling from grace and being lost.

Although Arminians seldom reason it this way, it would appear that for them the best thing that could happen would be to die as soon as they have accepted Christ. To continue to live is to expose oneself to the risk of losing salvation. This is certainly not Paul’s outlook in Phil. 1:22–26: Continue reading

How and When to Leave a Church

churchIn an article entitled “When It’s Time to Leave a Church” H. B. Charles Jr writes:

I detest church hopping. Yet I accept the fact that there are times when Christians transfer church membership. But there is a proper time and way to leave a church.

What are the legitimate reasons for leaving a church? When is the right time to leave a church? How should one leave a church to join another?

Red Lights: Wrong Reasons for Leaving a Church

Here are seven wrongs reasons for leaving a church.

Sin. Someone has sinned. Maybe it was a leader. Is this a good reason to leave? No. It does not promote holiness to leave because of sin. There was gross sin in the church of Corinth. But Paul commanded the church to deal with the sinning member, not leave the church (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). When Paul bids the saints to “come out from among them,” he was talking about the world, not the church (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). We should respond to sinning brothers with restoration, not amputation (Galatians 6:1-5).

Disagreements over secondary doctrinal issues. Biblical convictions matter. But don’t be willing to die on every hill. Contend earnestly for the faith (Jude). But don’t break fellowship over every disagreement about scripture. Paul advised Timothy, “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness…” (2 Timothy 2:14-16)

Disunity. God hates those who sow discord among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19). But evidence of salvation is love for your brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 3:14). And this love is demonstrated by preserving the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3). Don’t jump ship because you can’t get along with others. You will only have the same problem at the next church. “Do nothing from selfish ambition of conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself” (Philippians 2:3).

Personal offenses. There will be times when Christians sin against one another. What then? Leaving is not the answer. Moving every time you are (or feel) wronged will only lead multiple church transitions. Or you will remain at the fringes of the church, which is just as bad. Jesus gives the answer: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15). These simple instructions could jump-start revival in many churches. But what if he doesn’t listen? Turn up the pressure (18:16-20).

Unwillingness to submit to authority. Aaron was more spiritual than Moses. And Joshua was a better leader. But the rod was in Moses’ hand. Don’t fight those the Lord puts in leadership over you. Of course, you should not sit under unbiblical, immoral, or abusive leadership. But there is a way to deal with disqualified leaders (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Without a doubt, you should hold your pastors accountable. But don’t handcuff the spiritual leaders of the church to personal preferences, empty traditions, or unbiblical priorities. Let the leaders lead. And be willing to follow (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

A low view of the church. There is no chapter and verse that commands you to be a church member. But scripture teaches by what it assumes, just as much as it teaches by what is commands. There is no biblical category for an “unchurched Christian.” The apostles would have asked, “Why are you calling her a Christian if she is not a part of the church? Christ is the head of the church. And he does not have out-of-body experiences. You cannot be connected to the head and disconnected from the body. Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25-27). And to love Christ is to love what he loves.

Disregard for truth. Paul charged Timothy to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2). He then warned that faithfulness to the charge would cause some to flee: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Faithful preaching will drive some away from the church. But they will not go home. They will find a church where the preacher will tickle their ears. Don’t let that be you. If you are under sound teaching and faithful preaching, for God’s sake, stay put!

Green Lights: When it’s Time to Leave a Church

Here are three basic and acceptable reasons for leaving a church. Continue reading

Questions for Christians who support “Gay Marriage”

five01Kevin DeYoung writes:

So you’ve become convinced that the Bible supports gay marriage. You’ve studied the issue, read some books, looked at the relevant Bible passages and concluded that Scripture does not prohibit same-sex intercourse so long as it takes place in the context of a loving, monogamous, lifelong covenanted relationship. You still love Jesus. You still believe the Bible. In fact, you would argue that it’s because you love Jesus and because you believe the Bible that you now embrace gay marriage as a God-sanctioned good.

As far as you are concerned, you haven’t rejected your evangelical faith. You haven’t turned your back on God. You haven’t become a moral relativist. You’ve never suggested anything goes when it comes to sexual behavior. In most things, you tend to be quite conservative. You affirm the family, and you believe in the permanence of marriage. But now you’ve simply come to the conclusion that two men or two women should be able to enter into the institution of marriage–both as a legal right and as a biblically faithful expression of one’s sexuality.

Setting aside the issue of biblical interpretation for the moment, let me ask five questions.

1. On what basis do you still insist that marriage must be monogamous?

Presumably, you do not see any normative significance in God creating the first human pair male and female (Gen. 2:23-25; Matt. 19:4-6). Paul’s language about each man having his own wife and each woman her own husband cannot be taken too literally without falling back into the exclusivity of heterosexual marriage (1 Cor. 7:2). The two coming together as one so they might produce godly offspring doesn’t work with gay marriage either (Mal. 2:15). So why monogamy? Jesus never spoke explicitly against polygamy. The New Testament writers only knew of exploitative polygamy, the kind tied to conquest, greed, and subjugation. If they had known of voluntary, committed, loving polyamorous relationships, who’s to think they wouldn’t have approved?

These aren’t merely rhetorical questions. The issue is legitimate: if 3 or 13 or 30 people really love each other, why shouldn’t they have a right to be married? And for that matter, why not a brother and a sister, or two sisters, or a mother and son, or father and son, or any other combination of two or more persons who love each other. Once we’ve accepted the logic that for love to be validated it must be expressed sexually and that those engaged in consensual sexual activity cannot be denied the “right” of marriage, we have opened a Pandora’s box of marital permutations that cannot be shut. Continue reading