Zombies Among Us

Text: Ephesians 2:1-6

In this passage, the Apostle Paul outlines man’s true condition before God and it is far more desperate than we might first imagine. Dead towards God (as a result of the Fall) man needs Divine intervention in the strongest possible way. He needs a miracle. He needs a resurrection!

Who is this One?

Richard Barcellos:

The riddle to be solved is how and who brings the sin-stained, cursed creation to its new state of existence? The answer is the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1), the lion of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:9; Num. 24:9; Rev. 5:5), the one from Jacob who shall have dominion (Num. 24:19; Gen. 1:28; Zech. 9:9-10). He is the prophet greater than Moses (Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:22, 7:37), one greater than Joshua, the son of David (Matt. 1:1), the child of the virgin (Isa. 7:14; Micah 5:3; Matt. 1:23), the child born who governs the kingdom of David (Isa. 9:6-7; Mark 11:10; Luke 1:32-33). He is the branch of the LORD who will build the temple of the LORD and sit and rule on his throne as a priest (Jer. 33:14-15; Isa. 4:2; 11:1-2 [John 1:32 echoes Isa. 11:2]; 53:2; Jer. 23:5-6; Zech. 6:11-13), the righteous, suffering servant of the LORD (Isa. 53). He is the embodiment of all that Israel was not (i.e., a faithful son of God). He is the one who went forth for the LORD “to be ruler in Israel,” whose “goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Mic. 5:2), “the Lord, whom you seek, [who] suddenly [came] to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1; Luke 1:76). He is the one conceived of the Holy Spirit named “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21), “’IMMANUEL,’ which translated means, “GOD WITH US” (Matt. 1:23, citing or collating Isa. 7:14; 8:10; and 9:6). He is the Son of God called out of Egypt (Matt. 2:15; Hos. 11:1; Exod. 4:22-23), the one “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). He is the one who said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18b), the one who said, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning” (Luke 10:18) and “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31), “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), “the Word [who] became flesh” (John 1:14a), “the son of God” (John 1:34). He is the one who both cleansed the temple of God and claimed to be the temple of God (John 2:16-22; Mal. 3:1), the one who said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore . . .” (Matt. 28:18-19a). He is the one who suffered then entered into glory according to the Old Testament Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; Acts 26:22-23; 1 Pet. 1:10-12), the one who has “all things in subjection under His feet,” who is “head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22), the church being “a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 1:21), “a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 1:22), and “the household of God” (1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:1-6). He is the agent through whom “many sons [are brought] to glory” (Heb. 2:10), who is coming again that those he has called “may gain [his] glory” (2 Thess. 3:14), who will usher in “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). He is the one who was sent by the Father in “the fullness of the time . . . born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem” and “that [the redeemed] might receive the adoption as sons” and received the gift of the Spirit (Gal. 4:4-6). In other words, the one who brings the sin-stained, cursed creation to its new state of existence is our Lord Jesus Christ, the skull-crushing seed of the woman, the incarnate Son of God (for us and for our salvation). He is the second man, the last Adam, the Lord of glory, who is coming again to raise the dead, condemn the wicked, and make all things new. He does these things by virtue of his sufferings and glory.

9 Marks of a Prosperity Gospel Church

cashD. A. Horton is executive director of ReachLife Ministries, the non-profit ministry of Reach Records. Here’s an article he wrote at the 9Marks website (original source here).

How do you assess a prosperity gospel church?

The first nine years of my walk with Christ were spent in such an environment, followed by two years in theological rehab, which prepared me for the next six years of pastoring in the urban context. What’s become clear to me is that the nine marks of a healthy church provide a useful grid for assessing any church, including those that teach the prosperity gospel.

And what we find is that a prosperity gospel church is a purely anti-nine marks church.

Some of the examples in what follows are specific and may not identify with you the reader. Many however are universal and are propagated by preachers on the internet, radio, and television. Since the prosperity gospel movement is inter-denominational, the teachings expressed in this article are not to be associated with any one denomination within evangelical Christianity.

1. EXPOSITIONAL PREACHING

Preaching in prosperity gospel churches is far from expositional. Instead, the purpose of preaching is to motivate hearers to give financially, and you give to get. Preachers exploit the passages that deal with the sacrificial giving of tithes and offerings week in and week out. They instruct hearers to activate their faith by sowing a “faith seed,” thereby tapping into God’s law of reciprocity and leading to their own financial breakthrough.

Isolated Old Testament passages are often used as examples of God’s abundant reward for faith giving. One passage often used to manipulate hearers into giving more is Malachi 3:10. Prosperity preachers highlight two points from this passage. First, they tell hearers they are robbing God by not tithing. Second, they assure hearers that God wants them to test him by giving more, so that he can give them more.

But consider Malachi 3:10 in its proper context. The Israelites were robbing God by not giving enough food to the national storehouse that was used to feed the priests of Israel. So the priests were having to leave their priestly duties and take up farming to survive (see Neh. 13:10-13). God therefore exhorts Israel to test him by giving obediently. If they did, he would reward them as he did in the past (2 Chr. 31:7-10). The point of this entire passage concerns a historically specific episode in the life of Israel. Preaching it as a Christian sermon, however, requires more than transferring its commands and promises to Christians on a one-to-one basis. Yes, there are larger applications for the Christian concerning giving, but first one needs to account for the differences between old covenant and new, especially the nature of God’s promises to Israel and the manner in which they are fulfilled for the Christian in Christ.

A healthy church uses preaching to communicate God’s words to his people. It confronts the hearer with God’s truth and leads to conviction, encouragement, clarity, and a call to action. It also centers every text around the gospel in order to show the hearer how central and necessary Jesus Christ is to the believer living in obedience to God’s word. A healthy church will inform believers that the results of holy living will not necessarily be financial gain but rather godliness that honors our Lord.

2. BIBLICAL THEOLOGY

Prosperity gospel theology rests upon the foundational error that man shares a form of deity with God, such that our words carry the same creative power as God’s words. Psalm 82:6, Proverbs 18:20-21, and Romans 4:17 are popular proof texts used to support this falsehood. It is often said that man is a “lower-case god” and possesses the power to demonstrate deity by speaking things into existence, creating and controlling our destiny with words, and even mandating a frustrated and limited God to act on our behalf for our benefit. Continue reading

How the Spirit works through the Word

john-macarthurArticle: How Does the Spirit Work through Scripture? by John MacArthur (original source here)

Most of the modern discussion about the Holy Spirit focuses on His supposedly ongoing miraculous and revelatory ministries. But despite what the charismatic church would have us believe, the Spirit is not revealing new truth and prophecies to God’s people today. Nor is He is deploying miraculous power at the whim of televangelist faith healers and prosperity preachers.

Instead, the Holy Spirit’s work always centers on the Word of God. Over the last several days we’ve focused on His role in the inspiration of Scripture. But His work did not end with the closing of the biblical canon—today He works through His Word in the lives of His people.

The Spirit Illuminates

Divine revelation would be useless to us if we were not able to comprehend it. That is why the Holy Spirit enlightens the minds of believers, so they are able to understand the truths of Scripture and submit to its teachings. The apostle Paul explained the Spirit’s ministry of illumination in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16. There he wrote,

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Through the illumination of the Word, the Holy Spirit enables believers to discern divine truth. (cf. Psalm 119:18)—spiritual realities that the unconverted are unable to truly comprehend. Continue reading

Sola Scriptura – Why It Still Matters

MacArthurArticle: Why Does Sola Scriptura Still Matter? by John MacArthur (original source here)

The Protestant Reformation is rightly regarded as the greatest revival in the last thousand years of church history—a movement so massive it radically altered the course of Western civilization. Names like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox are still well-known today, five centuries after they lived. Through their writings and sermons, these courageous Reformers—and others like them—left an enduring legacy for the generations of believers who have followed them.

But the true power behind the Reformation did not flow from any one man or group of men. To be sure, the Reformers took bold stands and offered themselves as sacrifices for the cause of the gospel. But, even so, the sweeping triumph of sixteenth-century revival cannot ultimately be credited to either their incredible acts of valor or their brilliant works of scholarship. No, the Reformation can only be explained by something far more profound: a force infinitely more potent than anything mere mortals can produce on their own.

Like any true revival, the Reformation was the inevitable and explosive consequence of the Word of God crashing like a massive tidal wave against the thin barricades of man-made tradition and hypocritical religion. As the common people of Europe gained access to the Scriptures in their own language, the Spirit of God used that timeless truth to convict their hearts and convert their souls. The result was utterly transformative, not only for the lives of individual sinners, but for the entire continent on which they resided.

The principle of sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) was the Reformers’ way of acknowledging that the unstoppable power behind the explosive advance of religious reform was the Spirit-empowered Word of God. Continue reading

Exclusive Psalmody

Dr. Sam Waldron – Exclusive Psalmody

Audio Teaching:

Here Dr. Waldron outlines six reasons why he does NOT believe the Bible teaches that we are to use the Psalms exclusively in our Church’s worship.

Dr. Sam Waldron – A Consideration of Exclusive Psalmody (original source here)

In the beginning God said, let there be singing. The act of creation is described as a time of singing. It was when “the morning stars sang together” (Job 38:7). Since that time God in His providence has said, Let the earth bring forth all kinds of singing and music. He has said, Let there be love songs, laments for the dead, ballads for the brave, and let there be hymns of praise to ME! He has also ordained that just as there should be a great variety of songs, there should be a great variety of music. Out of His creative providence have sprung all sorts of musical instruments and all sorts of musical geniuses. In the world we enjoy everything from brass bands to Bach and much more. Singing and music are wonderful gifts of God made for us to enjoy. Indeed, there is a great deal of Christian liberty with regard to this matter. Some may push this matter of their liberty way beyond what is good for them or glorifying to God or edifying to their brethren. Yet still without question there is great Christian liberty to enjoy these good gifts of God. Christians may enjoy sacred concerts, the singing of biblical psalms, the talents of great musicians, Southern gospel quartets, soloists, duets, trios. All these are good gifts to be enjoyed. Christians with discretion may also enjoy all sorts of secular music. Of course, care must be taken not to fill our minds with music that defiles us. But there is a place for all these sings in the rich life that God has given to His people.

But in my preaching for Grace Reformed Baptist Church in the series, How Then Should We Worship?, I am not dealing with the liberty Christians have to enjoy God’s good gifts in their own lives as they see fit. I am not speaking of what kinds of music they may bring into their own homes or concert halls. My concern is different. We are asking what God has appointed about this matter for His own house. There are many things that have a place in God’s world that do not have a place in God’s house. We have a liberty to order our own houses that we do not have in the house of God. The very essence of the regulative principle of the church is that God exercises a special rule over His own house that is different from His rules for life in general. This is the reason Paul said to Timothy I write so that you may know how one ought conduct Himself in the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15). In the world we have Christian liberty within the limits of His laws. In the church we have God dominating His own worship. Continue reading

Legalism – 3 Types

sproul-r-c-This excerpt is taken from How Can I Develop a Christian Conscience? by R.C. Sproul.

Have you, as a Christian, ever been accused of legalism? That word is often bandied about in the Christian subculture incorrectly. For example, some people might call John a legalist because they view him as narrow-minded. But the term legalism does not refer to narrow-mindedness. In reality, legalism manifests itself in many subtle ways.

Basically, legalism involves abstracting the law of God from its original context. Some people seem to be preoccupied in the Christian life with obeying rules and regulations, and they conceive of Christianity as being a series of do’s and don’ts, cold and deadly set of moral principles. That’s one form of legalism, where one is concerned merely with the keeping of God’s law as an end in itself.

Now, God certainly cares about our following His commandments. Yet there is more to the story that we dare not forget. God gave laws such as the Ten Commandments in the context of the covenant. First, God was gracious. He redeemed His people out of slavery in Egypt and entered into a loving, filial relationship with Israel. Only after that grace-based relationship was established did God begin to define the specific laws that are pleasing to Him. I had a professor in graduate school who said, “The essence of Christian theology is grace, and the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude.” The legalist isolates the law from the God who gave the law. He is not so much seeking to obey God or honor Christ as he is to obey rules that are devoid of any personal relationship.

There’s no love, joy, life, or passion. It’s a rote, mechanical form of law-keeping that we call externalism. The legalist focuses only on obeying bare rules, destroying the broader context of God’s love and redemption in which He gave His law in the first place.

To understand the second type of legalism, we must remember that the New Testament distinguishes between the letter of the law (its outward form) and the spirit of the law. The second form of legalism divorces the letter of the law from the spirit of the law. It obeys the letter but violates the spirit. There’s only a subtle distinction between this form of legalism and the one previously mentioned.

How does one keep the letter of the law but violate its spirit? Suppose a man likes to drive his car at the minimum required speed irrespective of the conditions under which he is driving. If he is on an interstate and the minimum posted speed is forty miles per hour, he drives forty miles per hour and no less. He does this even during torrential downpours, when driving at this minimum required speed actually puts other people in danger because they have had the good sense to slow down and drive twenty miles an hour so as not to skid off the road or hydroplane. The man who insists on a speed of forty miles per hour even under these conditions is driving his car to please himself alone. Although he appears to the external observer as one who is scrupulous in his civic obedience, his obedience is only external, and he doesn’t care at all about what the law is actually all about. This second kind of legalism obeys the externals while the heart is far removed from any desire to honor God, the intent of His law, or His Christ.

This second type of legalism can be illustrated by the Pharisees who confronted Jesus over healing on the Sabbath day (Matt. 12:9–14). They were concerned only with the letter of the law and avoiding anything that might look like work to them. These teachers missed the spirit of the law, which was directed against ordinary labor that is not required to maintain life and not against efforts to heal the sick.

The third type of legalism adds our own rules to God’s law and treats them as divine. It is the most common and deadly form of legalism. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees at this very point, saying, “You teach human traditions as if they were the word of God.” We have no right to heap up restrictions on people where He has no stated restriction.

Each church has a right to set its own policies in certain areas. For example, the Bible says nothing about soft drinks in the church’s fellowship hall, but a church has every right to regulate such things. But when we use these human policies to bind the conscience in an ultimate way and make such policies determinative of one’s salvation, we venture dangerously into territory that is God’s alone.

Many people think that the essence of Christianity is following the right rules, even rules that are extrabiblical. For example, the Bible doesn’t say that we can’t play cards or have a glass of wine with dinner. We can’t make these matters the external test of authentic Christianity. That would be a deadly violation of the gospel because it would substitute human tradition for the real fruits of the Spirit. We come perilously close to blasphemy by misrepresenting Christ in this way. Where God has given liberty, we should never enslave people with man-made rules. We must be careful to fight this form of legalism.

The gospel calls men to repentance, holiness, and godliness. Because of this, the world finds the gospel offensive. But woe to us if we add unnecessarily to that offense by distorting the true nature of Christianity by combining it with legalism. Because Christianity is concerned with morality, righteousness, and ethics, we can easily make that subtle move from a passionate concern for godly morality into legalism if we are not careful.

Joel Beeke – Attitudes of a True Shepherd

beeke3_2Being a true shepherd involves avoiding certain attitudes and cultivating others.

An article by Dr. Joel Beeke entitled “Attitudes of a True Shepherd” – original source here.

Every morning for several months, my wife and I walked past an injured Canada goose, whose feathers stuck out in several directions. For all those months, several geese dutifully stayed with the injured bird.

Likewise, caring for the wounded is the church’s loving duty to her own. Paul teaches us that when one member of Christ’s body suffers, “all the members suffer” (1 Cor.12:26 KJV). Caring for the grieving promotes the unity of the body of Christ and fosters the communion of saints. Furthermore, grieving saints have a claim on our compassion for Christ’s sake (Matt. 25:40).

This is particularly true of pastors. We are called to be shepherd or pastor (Eph. 4:11), which means we are to “feed (literally, ‘be a shepherd to’) the church of God” (Acts 20:28 KJV). That involves avoiding certain attitudes and cultivating others, then putting those attitudes into action, remembering our great calling as Christ’s undershepherds.

Attitudes to Avoid

First, don’t regard grieving people as an interruption. I was in the ministry for more than ten years when I received what proved to be a life-changing call. I was working on the conclusion of my doctoral dissertation when the phone rang. I sighed as I answered: “Am I that much of an interruption?” asked the voice on the other end. “Interruption?” I asked meekly. “Yes, didn’t you hear yourself sigh?” Suddenly I realized that my dissertation, not the grieving caller, was the interruption. The grieving caller was my life’s work, my calling, my real ministry. My dissertation was the interruption of this real ministry. Continue reading

Writing a Book

John Piper speaks about his daily schedule when on writing leave and the process of writing a book:

Window into Piper’s Writing from Desiring God on Vimeo.

‘Free Will’ – A Beginner’s Guide

john-piperA Beginner’s Guide to ‘Free Will’ – Article by John Piper (original source here)

Before the fall of Adam, man was sinless and able not to sin. For God “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). But he was also able to sin. For God had said, “In the day that you eat of it [the tree] you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

As soon as Adam fell into sin, human nature was profoundly altered. Now man was not able not to sin. In the fall, human nature lost its freedom not to sin.

Why is man not able not to sin? Because on this side of the fall “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6), and “the mind of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8, my translation). Or, as Paul says in 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.”

Notice the word cannot twice in Romans 8:7–8, and the words “is not able” in 1 Corinthians 2:14. This is the nature of all human beings when we are born — what Paul calls the “natural person,” and what Jesus calls “born of the flesh.”

Too Rebellious to Submit to God

This means, Paul says, that in this condition we “cannot please God,” or, to put it another way, “we are not able not to sin.” The basic reason is that the natural person prefers his own autonomy and his own glory above the sovereignty and glory of God. This is what Paul means when he says, “The mind of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit . . . ”

Glad submission to God’s authority, and to God’s superior value and beauty, is something we are not able to do. This is not because we are kept from doing what we prefer to do. It is because we prefer our own authority, and treasure our own value, above God’s. We cannot prefer God as supremely valuable while preferring ourselves supremely. Continue reading