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What ?? too many questions maybe you can answer too!

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity on July 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

What do I have now that I haven’t had before? How was I blind for so long and now see truth in such a different light than just a few years ago? Why does the Personal God who is there bother with someone as rebellious as an indifferent as me? Just how useful can I be for the kingdom now? Does God through Christ by the Spirit really make an impact in my life every day? The questions keep coming and God in his infinite wisdom has granted answers on some and has me digging deeper on others? Francis Shaffer philosopher and author had a great quote:

To eat, to breathe to beget Is this all there is Chance configuration of atom against atom of god against god I cannot believe it. Come, Christian Triune God who lives, Here am I Shake the world again. [i]

The “Christian Triune God who lives” did answer that prayer and shook the world through Schaeffer’s ministry.

The Holy Spirit indwelling the individual Christian is not only the agent of Christ, but he is also the agent of the Father. Consequently, when I accept Christ as my Savior, my guilt is gone, I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and I am in communication with the Father and the Son, as well as of the Holy Spirit—the entire Trinity. Thus now, in the present life, if I am justified, I am in a personal relationship with each of the members of the Trinity. God the Father is my Father; I am in union with the Son; and I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This is not just meant to be doctrine; it is what I have now.[ii]

This is in line with the personal God who is there and is on the high order of the Trinity. Since beginning a deeper richer study of the Trinity it has completely changed my faith making it strong and at the same time more difficult to tolerate me! The more I see the Trinity and the way God exists, the Trinity has taken over my thinking I am acutely aware of the sin in my own life. Understanding the Father desires relationship and sent his Son to pay my sin debt while the Spirit indwells me teaching me the truth of the cost I am overwhelmed.

The Old Testament teaches, and the New Testament reaffirms, that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4; James 2:19). “The Bible also teaches that this one God exists in three distinct persons.” The first line of evidence for this claim is the divine plurals used in the language of the Old Testament: “Who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8); “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26); “Let us go down there and confuse their language” (Gen. 11:7). “In this verse, as in 1:26, the persons of the Trinity are in communication with each other.” These Old Testament plurals would not be enough to prove the triunity of the one God all alone. They are odd enough to require some explanation: Why would a consistently monotheistic revelation use words like we, us, and ours? The solid proof of this doctrine has to wait till Christ appears in human history and takes on flesh. Ours is a progressive revelation, From Adam, to Abraham, to David, to Jesus claiming to be God in flesh and the Son of the personal God who is there.

Now man has a new relationship with the creator, and the creator can now abide within us. The mystery I can’t reconcile is why the personal God who is there wants to have relationship with a dreadful, awful, terrible sinner like me. The law (10 commandments) illustrates the sinfulness of my sin! I can’t even keep one commandment for more than a day, and yet when I come to grips with the awful truth of my wretchedness and the hopelessness of my failure the Holy Spirit sent by the Father accompanied by the Son forgives me. Stated in Ephesians 2:18: “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Christian prayer, as a subset of Christian communion with God, is an approach to God the Father, through God the Son, in the Holy Spirit. John Owen called this passage “a heavenly directory,” and Horatius Bonar teased out a theology of worship from it:

The whole Trinity has to do with our return and reception. The Father throws open His presence chamber, the Holy of Holies where He dwells; the Son provides the way for our restoration, by answering in His death all the ends that could have been served by our exclusion; and the Holy Spirit conducts us into the Father’s presence along the new and living way.

Now as new creature in Christ as applied by the Holy Spirit from the direction of the Father I am an adopted son, a brother to Christ, sealed by the Spirit. How is this supposed to affect us? Am I conforming to the image of his Son?

(Romans 8:29 HCSB)  For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.

(Romans 8:14-17 HCSB)  All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ–seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

When John Bunyan defined true prayer, he built his definition around this Trinitarian structure from Ephesians 2.

(Ephesians 2:18 HCSB)  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

 Bunyan’s complete definition runs: Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

How does the Trinity make our prayer life more effective, and when we acknowledge how God exists does it complete us? If we don’t understand the Trinity or worse because we don’t understand try to find another mode of existence for God undermine the message of salvation? If the Trinity is salvation and salvation is the Trinity economically expressed why would we limit God’s existence to our understanding? If God is truly sovereign and has created all there is why couldn’t He be expressed in Trinity? Don’t we limit the limitless, build a box that has no room for its content; redefine in our terms the indefinable? Denying the Trinity is like gazing at the sun you can’t without severe consequences, ignoring the obvious to justify our inability to describe God. To use a saying my Dad used to use “I can’t see the forest for the trees.”


[i] Sanders, Fred (2010). The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (p. 178). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

[ii] Sanders, Fred (2010).  (p.214)

 

 

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The Dance of the low-sloping foreheads and Redefining Marriage

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity on June 30, 2011 at 7:10 am

Many New Yorkers feel their city is more than just the (self-proclaimed) capital of the world. They think it actually is most of the world, the rest of the planet merely being the unavoidable orchard in which their Big Apple grows

New York Times columnist David Carr responds to Bill Maher implying Alabama and Kansas are not the “smart states.”

David Carr: “If it’s Kansas, Missouri, no big deal. You know, that’s the dance of the low-sloping foreheads. The middle places, right? [pause] Did I just say that aloud?”

CNN’s Jack Cafferty has advice for the GOP: Park your morality at the door.

On June 14, Mr. Cafferty expressed surprise that, in the previous night’s presidential debate, “social issues—like abortion, gay marriage, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’—still manage to work their way into the conversation. And that may prove to be a problem for Republicans. . . . These are not the issues that middle America is worried about. They would like to be able to find a job.”
What Cafferty doesn’t understand is that every issue is a moral issue. The current bad economy didn’t just happen. It was the direct result of immoral choices made by our leaders.
The national debt, national security, taxation, the welfare state, border security—there’s not a single issue that doesn’t have a moral component. The government has a moral obligation to live within its means, to protect its citizens, to encourage industriousness and discourage indolence, and to secure our borders against terrorists and drug cartels.
When voters consider a candidate for public office, they should not just ask, “Can this person manage the economy?” They need to know, “Does this person have the values and character to hold public office?”
A candidate who doesn’t value innocent life shouldn’t be president. In 2002, Barack Obama voted to oppose the Induced Birth Infant Liability Act, outlawing infanticide of babies who survive late-term abortions. Mr. Obama didn’t merely vote in favor of abortion, but in favor of killing babies outside the womb. A man whose moral compass is this defective cannot make moral decisions.
He promised an end to earmarks, a secure border, no lobbyists in his administration, no recess appointments, airing the healthcare debate on C-SPAN, elimination of failed programs—and he didn’t keep even one of those promises. Candidate Obama opposed “same-sex marriage,” but as president he nullified the Defense of Marriage Act. A record of broken promises does not equal moral leadership.
GAY MARRIAGE is no longer a theoretical issue. Canada has it. Massachusetts is expected to get it any day. The Goodridge decision there could set off a legal, political, and cultural battle in the courts of 50 states and in the U.S. Congress. Every politician, every judge, every citizen has to decide:
Does same-sex marriage matter?
If so, how and why?
The timing could not be worse. Marriage is in crisis, as everyone knows: High rates of divorce and illegitimacy have eroded marriage norms and created millions of fatherless children, whole neighborhoods where lifelong marriage is no longer customary, driving up poverty, crime, teen pregnancy, welfare dependency, drug abuse, and mental and physical health problems. And yet, amid the broader negative trends, recent signs point to a modest but significant recovery.
Divorce rates appear to have declined a little from historic highs; illegitimacy rates, after doubling every decade from 1960 to 1990, appear to have leveled off, albeit at a high level (33 percent of American births are to unmarried women); teen pregnancy and sexual activity are down; the proportion of homemaking mothers is up; marital fertility appears to be on the rise. Research suggests that married adults are more committed to marital permanence than they were twenty years ago. A new generation of children of divorce appears on the brink of making a commitment to lifelong marriage. In 1977, 55 percent of American teenagers thought a divorce should be harder to get; in 2001, 75 percent did.
Cafferty says that middle America doesn’t care about “same-sex marriage.” But polls shows Americans overwhelmingly oppose it—not because they hate or feel morally superior to homosexual people. They simply want to preserve God’s plan for marriage. Marriage should remain what it has been throughout recorded history—a covenantal union between a man and a woman. Here are three reasons why Americans object to redefining marriage:
1. The best environment for children is a traditional family—one mom, one dad. Children from stable two-parent homes are significantly less prone to depression, addiction, and suicide than children from non-traditional families. A moral society should encourage the family structure that best nurtures children.
2. Marriage ideally brings together two people, one male, one female, who complement each other. Mothers are generally protective and nurturing while fathers tend to challenge children to confront risks and embrace opportunities. Children need both influences. Two “mothers” can’t teach boys to become men; two “fathers” can’t teach girls to become women.
3. Children need to feel connected to their biological origins whenever possible. Yale psychiatrist Kyle Pruett found that children “hunger for an abiding paternal presence.” They struggle with questions about their biological origins and identity.
Same-sex marriage, too, interferes with the core elements of wedlock in order to advance an unrelated goal — the dignity and equality of gays and lesbians. The fact that many decent people ardently embrace that goal doesn’t change reality: The essential, public purpose of marriage is to unite male and female — to bind men and women to each other and to the children that their sexual behavior may produce. It is rooted in the conviction that every child needs a mother and a father. Gay marriage, whether enacted by lawmakers or imposed by judges, disconnects marriage from its most basic idea. Ultimately, that isn’t tenable either.
Marriage — male-female marriage — is indispensable to human welfare. That is why it has existed in virtually every known human society. And why it cannot, and will not, be permanently redefined.
The scholarly consensus on the importance of marriage has broadened and deepened; it is now the conventional wisdom among child welfare organizations. As a Child Trends research brief summed up: “Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes. . . . There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.”
The state has no basic benefit in marriage outside the traditional definition of the nuclear family. It is the most affordable, least costly way to have an ordered, society capable of earning revenue that it can tax. A properly functioning nuclear family reduces violence, provides protection, nurturing and feeding of its young without any monetary expenditure from the state. Beyond this it requires more than 2 to reproduce (not economically feasible) and as experience is teaching us more expense to the state to provide those necessities of protection, housing and food. Outside of its own self-interest why would the state regard marriage of any type? Marriage is typically promoted and supported in the religious community and for the life of me I can’t understand why a pluralistic society bent on self-aggrandizements and gentile fulfillment cares one way or the other!
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, which among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. — That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …”
This declaration acknowledges that God grants individual people their human rights. People then loan power to our government. The government holds only as much power as we, the people, are willing to yield.
These “self-evident” truths seem simple, but are powerful. First, all men are created equal. We all have equal value at birth. It does not say that, regardless of whether people work, they shall end up equal. We are created equal and given equal rights by our Creator: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Not a guarantee of happiness. Happiness is up to every individual, not guaranteed by the government. We are a nation of believers in God. This provides us with optimism, a belief in the future, and solace and strength in times of crisis.

The SBC and it’s leadership

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Sin on June 22, 2011 at 7:30 am

Dever, Patterson share wide-ranging dialogue
By Gregory Tomlin
Jun 21, 2011

PHOENIX (BP)–Calling themselves “men of yesterday” in the Southern Baptist Convention, 9Marks founder Mark Dever and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson told younger pastors June 13 they should heed the wisdom of previous generations that upheld biblical authority and sound doctrine.

Speaking at a “9Marks at 9” gathering following the Monday evening session of the SBC Pastors’ Conference, Dever said: “I didn’t invent these things. These are the things our grandparents said. They are good things to keep saying.” The 9Marks group examines and promotes regenerate church membership, scriptural authority and elder-led church polity.

Patterson, who disagrees with Dever on the issue of church elders and Reformed theology (also known as “Calvinism”), said he had been on the earth long enough to “learn something about the ebb and flow of the Christian faith.”

“Every generation will be faced with a very significant decision and you are going to experience great sorrow because of it,” Patterson said. He told of how he learned this lesson from the Downgrade Controversy in England and Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s role in leading the Baptist churches of England to a firm, scriptural footing.

That controversy in 1887 centered on the authority and reliability of the Bible, which at the time was under attack from German theologians who applied an evolutionary framework to biblical studies.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” Patterson said, recalling the Conservative Resurgence among Southern Baptists during which the convention reclaimed its own heritage of biblical conservatism in the 1980s and ’90s.

DECLINE BEFORE RESURGENCE

Dever asked Patterson about the difference between legitimate vigilance and paranoia that sees theological enemies at every hand.

“Paranoia is a condition that exists when you are thinking about you and your pastorate,” Patterson said. Vigilance, he said, is when people think constantly about protecting the Kingdom and ensuring that the Christian faith is passed from generation to generation.

“A denomination is nothing more than a reflection of what is going on in the churches,” Patterson said, noting that churches must hold and teach sound doctrine.

Dever asked Patterson to diagnose how the Southern Baptist Convention had declined theologically prior to the Conservative Resurgence, indicating he believed a lack of expositional preaching caused the decline. Patterson agreed.

“There was not a lot of expositional preaching in the 1950s. In fact, W.A. Criswell experienced a fair amount of ridicule for his expositional preaching,” Patterson said. “Even though people found the Lord under topical preaching, churches became weaker and weaker in terms of knowing the content of Scripture and what the Christian faith was about.”

Patterson said this decline in doctrinal knowledge lead to “anemia” in the churches, which in turn led to a lack of discipline. Churches once published the number of instances of church discipline, he said, but after some churches abused the process of discipline, the practice fell out of favor.

“There is something to the separated, sanctified life for Christ,” Patterson said, adding that churches still need to invoke discipline when necessary. Patterson said he believes the best form of discipline is “withholding the table” from those disciplined — prohibiting them from partaking of the Lord’s Supper with the remainder of the congregation.

CHURCH MEMBERSHIP & LEADERSHIP

Dever said he thought church discipline is a less likely course of action if church members are truly regenerate. He asked Patterson if Southern Baptists had experienced problems in the past because they had not ensured those they baptized were actually born-again believers.

That was true then, Patterson said, but there are problems in modern churches as well. He noted the early church “did not baptize carelessly,” though they sometimes did baptize quickly. “I think we have done this sometimes carelessly.”

Patterson also said many churches almost could have been considered guilty of infant baptism, baptizing children as young as age 4. Many of these children grow up and leave the church or cannot remember their conversions, he said, emphasizing that churches must be sure that those who are baptized are regenerate.

“A lackadaisical policy toward baptism is a problem,” Patterson said. Without regenerate members, churches likely will have difficulty governing themselves.

That assertion prompted Dever to ask Patterson about a June 9 blog post in which James MacDonald, pastor of a nondenominational church and a voice in the Acts 29 church planting network, said congregational church government is not biblical. McDonald, who promotes an elder-led model, claimed pastors are “crushed” as the result of democratic voting and went on to call congregational church government “satanic.”

Dever asked Patterson if congregational government is, indeed, “satanic.” Patterson replied that this critique grows “out of a doctrine that has been abused in recent years — the priesthood of the believer.” Patterson said each believer is a priest, with the Holy Spirit indwelling the “temple” of his or her body. He noted the word used for “temple” by Paul was not a reference to the entire temple complex, but to the “Holy of Holies.” Believers must see themselves as part of the body, and not the whole or, worse, as individuals. And they must also submit themselves to the leadership of a shepherding pastor.

“Congregationalism of a sort, then,” based on a proper understanding of the priesthood of the believer, “is right theologically and it is the way God moves the people in a certain direction,” Patterson said. If the pastor is doing his job of listening to the Lord correctly, this movement should be in the direction the pastor desires based on his leading from the Lord,” Patterson added.

The pastor as a shepherd should be a “decisive leader,” Patterson said, noting that he is a servant but “rules” over his flock. “A shepherd doesn’t counsel with the sheep, asking, ‘Where would you guys like to graze today?'”

This, however, does not mean a pastor should be a chief executive officer (CEO), Patterson said. “The first responsibility a congregation has is to call a pastor,” he said. “Once they call the pastor, they need to follow the pastor.”

During his years as pastor, Patterson said he preferred not to have regular business meetings, which lead to “exercises in carnality” and “regular fights.”

GREAT COMMISSION RESURGENCE

Dever asked Patterson if the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) was part of, or a continuation of, the Conservative Resurgence. Patterson said he personally was not involved in the GCR and that he was not consulted on the plans or the report that was presented to and adopted by the SBC in 2010.

“They wanted to see the Great Commission put back in the lead position of what we do in Southern Baptist life,” Patterson said. Dever asked Patterson if he was pleased with the fruit of the GCR.

“I can’t say I’m not pleased with it, but I can’t say that I am. I haven’t seen enough of it yet,” Patterson said.

Asked by a pastor in the audience about the future of the SBC as a “red-state denomination with red-state sensibilities in a blue-state world,” Patterson acknowledged that Southern Baptists had to change. He said the convention must focus on urban areas, focus on universities and assume a New Testament mentality.

“We have to move Southern Baptists from being an agrarian, suburban denomination and move toward being an urban missionary force.”

COOPERATION

Dever noted that Southern Baptists have been cooperating and should continue to cooperate on social issues and missions, but he asked Patterson to describe the positives and negatives of cooperation.

Cooperation is valuable, Patterson said, as long as it focuses on the proper subjects.

Southern Baptists need to realize the SBC doesn’t constitute the entirety of the work of God on earth, Patterson said. Other Christians are sharing the Gospel and though they may disagree on minor points, those who believe the Bible believe in preaching Christ. This should be supported, Patterson said, just as the Anabaptists thanked God for Martin Luther but thought him “inconsistent” on a number of points. Christians can unite in evangelism, such as when Southern Baptists have participated in Billy Graham crusades, he said.

“However, when it comes to church planting, I’m going to plant Baptist churches,” Patterson said. Baptist churches are the closest to New Testament churches, he said, and Baptists have always been a “people of the Book,” “hot-hearted with compassion for people,” and a people of evangelism.

Patterson said Southern Baptists must be aware, however, that “a careless sort of ecumenism is slipping in.” Baptist doctrine cannot be softened to appease or changed for the sake of unity.

“Don’t I epitomize that?” Dever asked.

“No, you don’t,” Patterson said. “You have not taken Baptist out of the title of your church, you practice only believer’s baptism and you are a believer’s church.”

Understanding he is able to better educate seminary students by exposing them to various points of view, Patterson said he has invited people of different denominations to speak at Southwestern. “We have to recognize that God is doing some great things among people who are not Baptists,” he said.

CALVINISM

Many who came to the 9Marks meeting likely expected the discussion of the Reformed influence of the movement to be a topic for discussion. In reality, little time was devoted to it and none of the questions from the audience addressed Calvinism.

“You Calvinists scare me,” Patterson said, adding that he can always “put up with” people who hold different theological opinions as long as they are evangelistic. Dever said likewise he was frightened when people claimed to be Calvinists but refused to evangelize.

Dever asked Patterson if he believed in the total depravity of man, the first point of Reformed theology. “If I can define it, I do,” Patterson replied.

Dever followed with a similar question about unconditional election. Again, Patterson answered that he did believe the teaching “if I can define it.”

“If you mean by unconditional election that God arbitrarily decided in eternity past to create some people to save and some people to condemn, no,” Patterson said, drawing a loud “amen” from one pastor in attendance. “See, at least one brother here agrees with me.”

Dever told the audience that Patterson indirectly “helped start” the 9Marks movement. While Dever was at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, he wanted to print a pamphlet at the seminary extolling the marks of true Baptist churches. Patterson, then president of the North Carolina seminary, at first refused because the pamphlet promoted the use of elders. Dever eventually convinced Patterson to write a letter commending the pamphlet but stating his disagreement with the use of elders.

Dever is senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and chairman of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees.
–30–
Gregory Tomlin is a writer based in Dallas.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press
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What Changed about Him

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity on June 5, 2011 at 8:31 am

(John 1:1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:14) The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

First the question should give a sense of seeing not so much what changed as what didn’t change. The biggest thought that screams from scripture is “His divine nature didn’t change”! God remained God he didn’t stop being God besides being unbiblical, this would make Him a lesser God changing from divine nature to human nature. The scripture clearly states that God remained God and the Word remained God when He became flesh. Either this statement is nonsense or God has two natures? Neither! The possibility of seeing God as one being with two what’s, materializes and the best word we can find to describe this moment are persons.
A closer look at the word “became” needs to be addressed. In the incarnation (birth) became cannot mean “transformed into” or “underwent a change in which he stopped being one thing and turned into another thing”. At the incarnation the Word became flesh he took human nature as his own, he added human existence to his already existing eternal self (person).
Now to the heart of the secret that the prophets and gospel hid in plain sight: when the Word became flesh the Son was still Son the second person of the Trinity. He did not change either. Fred Sanders describes this in his book “The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity changes everything, page 152: It was the eternal Son, whose personal characteristic is to belong to the Father and receive his identity from the Father, who took on human nature and dwelled among us. His life as a human being was a new event in history, but he lived out his human life in the exact same son-ship that makes him who he is from all eternity as the second person of the Trinity. So as Jesus lived out his life on earth he behaved like the Son of God, he never changed who He was only how he existed. The only new thing here is taking up the flesh, not being the Son of God. Only the Son of God could accomplish the will of God set forth from all eternity.
(Rev 13:8) and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

The story of His Glory the Gospel that God “sent His Son” to be His Son. When Jesus was in the flesh walking on this earth he behaved like the Son of God, the same way He has always been from eternity past. Quoting Austin Farrer (1904-1968) an Anglican theologian the gospels do not portray Jesus acting and behaving like God. Instead they portray him walking around and behaving like the Son of God. “We cannot understand Jesus as simply the God-who-was-man. We have left out an essential factor, the son-ship.” When we leave out that son-ship, we may think we are affirming the deity of Christ more clearly (“he is God” is a simpler statement to teach and defend than “he is the Son of God”), but in fact we are obscuring the Trinitarian revelation. The loss is too great; we will miss so much that is right there in Scripture. “What was expressed here below was not bare deity; it was divine son-ship,” said Farrer. The gospels clearly show Jesus was the Son: he lived, taught, acted, died, and rose again as the Son of God. The temptation to move past the son-ship to affirm His deity is ever present, but the scriptures clearly do the opposite acknowledging His deity in order to dwell on His Son-Ship! The early believers who saw, touched and ate with Jesus saw “the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” They know Him as the one who was “with the Father and was made manifest” 1 John 1:1-2. We must resist the temptation the rush past Jesus as the Son in order to express the fact He was God. “God” describes what Jesus is but the “Son” describes who He is!
If we understand the son ship of Jesus Christ it becomes foundational to the deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ. The risk we take in trying to make Jesus change or become something that he was not in heaven is making him the creature and not the creator. If we allow the idea that Jesus changed from something, or became something it actually reduces his deity instead of promoting it. In Scripture, we are taught The Father sent his son and unto us a child was given. We see by his behavior on earth Jesus always acknowledge he was about His Father’s business, he surrendered to doing the Fathers will, in his language and actions he confirms his son ship.
As Farrer said, is impossible to imagine how God would act if God were a creature. When we ask ourselves this particular question it forces us into a constant unresolved paradox. In looking at the miracles Jesus performed through the context of this question was he acting as the incarnate creator or a creature? Only in the context as the son of God the second person of the Trinity could these actions make sense. When reading the gospels the writers are very intent on expressing the son ship of Jesus Christ, he lived and died as the Son. At the heart of the Trinity is the son ship of Jesus.
If we are too quick to rush past Christ’s relationship to the Father, we miss what God has revealed about himself and we are settling for less than the full counsel of God. Quoting from Fred Sanders book “The deep things of God. How the Trinity changes everything:”
What is so wonderfully clear with regard to the Son-that he is himself here with us, just as he has eternally been himself in the happy land of the Trinity-it is also true of the Holy Spirit.

10 Signs a Church is in Trouble

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity, Uncategorized on May 10, 2011 at 4:55 am

By Thom S. Rainer
May 9, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Prior to my present place of ministry, I spent more than 20 years consulting with churches across America. I have also had the wonderful opportunity to research churches primarily in the United States. Over time I began to notice certain patterns or signs that would indicate a congregation might be headed for trouble.

After reviewing my consultation notes and research, I found 10 warning signs for churches. If a church had four or more of these signs present, I would let the leadership know that remedial efforts were in order. If six or more signs were present, I was concerned that the congregation was in immediate trouble.

The warning signs below are not listed in any particular order. Nor are they the result of a scientifically accurate study. Though the information is both experiential and anecdotal, I found it immensely helpful in diagnosing the health of a church.

Church leaders should be concerned …

— If the pastor does not have adequate time to be in the Word or if he chooses not to do so.

— If the members are spending time arguing about how money should be spent.

— If none or only a few of the key leaders are actively sharing their faith.

— If there is no clear process of discipleship in place, just a plethora of programs and activities.

— If corporate prayer is not a major emphasis in the church.

— If church members are arguing about worship style or worship times.

— If church members expect the paid staff to do most of the ministry, instead of the staff equipping the members to do the work of ministry (“Why didn’t he visit me in the hospital?”)

— If there are ongoing disagreements about matters of the church facilities.

— If the church has more meetings than new disciples.

— If the leadership of the church does not have a coherent plan for what is taught in small groups and Sunday School classes.

There is a common pattern for most of the warning signs. Church members are more concerned about their preferences and desires. They are inwardly focused. They ask what the church can do for them, instead of asking how God can use them sacrificially and radically through the ministries of the local church.

True Christianity is a faith that always seeks to put others first. Sadly, in many of the churches across our land, members are more concerned about getting their own personal needs and preferences met.

I would love to hear from you about any of these signs in your church. I particularly would like to hear from some people how their churches address these matters positively and pro-actively.

Do some of the items on the warning list take place in your church? Are there others not on the list?

What is your story?

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. This column first appeared at his website, ThomRainer.com.

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fourth week in a row, a Chinese “illegal” church refused Sunday to follow government orders not to meet, and this time at least 31 of its members were arrested.

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity, Uncategorized on May 3, 2011 at 6:55 am

BEIJING (BP)–For the fourth week in a row, a Chinese “illegal” church refused Sunday to follow government orders not to meet, and this time at least 31 of its members were arrested.

Once again, reporters were blocked from the site.

The arrests of the members of Beijing’s Shouwang Church in a public square came after church leaders made clear in the preceding days that they would not buckle to pressure from the Communist Party. More than 160 were arrested the first week they tried to meet outdoors, about 50 were arrested the second week and approximately 40 on the third week, Easter Sunday. The declining number of arrests likely is due to the government placing so many other members under house arrest, which prevents them from even leaving their homes. On Easter Sunday, more than 500 church members — including every church staff member, lay leader and choir member — were under house arrest.

The church is attempting to meet outdoors because the government has blocked all attempts by the church to rent or purchase a building. Members say failing to come together and worship would be an abandonment of biblical commands.

The May 1 Shouwang Church order of worship — given to church members and printed online at ChinaAid.org — was intended to include congregational singing of “Amazing Grace,” “Because He Lives” and “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.” But the members were arrested before the services started. It is possible that smaller groups — particularly families — followed the order in worshipping in their homes.

Although a BBC camera crew recorded the arrests during the first week, the government has since tried to block media access, briefly detaining a CNN crew on Easter and preventing three Al-Jazeera reporters from accessing the site on May 1, Asia News reported.

The CNN crew was, though, able to set up an interview with one unidentified female church member away from the site, although the crew had to work to find a spot in the city where police would not interfere. At one point, authorities were following the CNN crew’s car.

“I am really afraid of torture … and I’ve heard many stories of that,” the woman told CNN, her face unseen.

CNN’s Stan Grant concluded his segment by saying, “In this spiritual war, the Communist Party has drawn its own battle lines, determined that the only worship here will be to the state.”

Churches in China must register with the government, and those that don’t are considered illegal. But registering brings restrictions on growth and evangelism — part of the reason the underground church movement has flourished in recent decades. The arrests of Shouwang members — closely watched worldwide — are part of a larger crackdown on what the government views as dissent. Communist Party members are apparently wanting to prevent an uprising in China similar to what has taken place in Egypt and elsewhere, and they see house churches as a threat.

Each week, the church has released a statement, explaining why it has chosen to confront the government. It has chosen to try to meet at the same location in the city each week.

“Some brothers and sisters have suggested that we might want to move our services to a new location so that we could gather together,” the church said in an April 29 statement. “However, at this stage of the development of the incident, it seems unlikely that we can gather together at all. Regardless of which location we choose, the result will be the same. What the relevant government agency is concerned about is not where we gather, but whether we are going to gather or not.”

Church members say they are being obedient to Christ. Some have lost their jobs and been evicted from their homes because of their stance, with the government pressuring employees and landlords.

“The Bible tells us, as Christians, we must not give up meeting together; furthermore, as the church of Jesus Christ, we should not change our mode of Sunday worship just because someone or some entity decides that we may or may not use a particular gathering place,” the church said in a statement Easter week. “Our attitude before God should be the same as Daniel’s, that is, despite the pressure and difficulties our circumstance presents, we should behave as we normally would, coming before our God weekly to worship Him and offer up our thanksgiving, praises and petitions.”
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Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. Visit http://www.bpnews.net. BP News — witness the difference! Covering the critical issues that shape your life, work and ministry. BP News is a ministry of Baptist Press, the daily news service of Southern Baptists.

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Just who is the Son of God?

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity on March 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm

 

 

Are there just 3 somebody’s in the Trinity is this some kind of mystic math? Isn’t loving Jesus enough why bother with all this 1st person 2nd person stuff? I mean really I just want to love Jesus and sing!

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

 

Mat 17:2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

 

(Heb 6:1-2 HCSB)  Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

 

Seeing God’s glory in the flesh witnessing how the Son existed with the Father and His revealing His true nature calls for some major rethinking and deeper investigating. The incarnation of the Son made a distinction and revealed more than a God that no one had ever seen. Language fails, minds fall short for explanation, disbelief tempts us, doubt and misunderstanding overtake our thinking, and then it becomes apparent God is one and more than one at the same time! HOW can this be? God introduced us to the Son and the Spirit and put them in human history. This was the mystery revealed from the prophets, they saw in the distance. This was the secret that was kept till the right time and place in history. We saw hints in the older testament of the preincarnate Christ and the best definition we have are theophanies but that is nothing to the revelation that happened in Bethlehem. Finally God allowed an encounter with how He truly is, how He really exists: as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We will never have the understanding it takes to grasp this, but what we do know goes all through eternity to who God is internally, eternally, and essentially. Remember the words we use fall short of accurate but are generally the only way we can express this marvelous revelation who knew that there are relationships of origin in the life of the Trinity.

One of the best examples of this is in the revelation of who the Son is. For Trinitarian reasons the second person of the Trinity is eternally the Son of the Father. The differences that make the word son expand from its earthly meaning and apply to a Son that is essential and eternal.

1st. First he cannot be younger than his father.

2nd. Second He is alone the son of the Living God because this exhausts the totality of essential son-ship in himself.

3rd. Third because of his eternal position He could not have a mother.

After we remove these particular temporal aspects of a son we are left with something that requires definition. The Son cannot be a different kind of being than his Father, which leaves someone from His very being. This allows for the Son to be co-equal with the Father not a lower being but on the same level as God. Next the Son exists in that relationship of originating from the Father- He comes from the Father. We define that relationship of origin with the word begetting, so the language we use to say that the Father begets the Son.  We could also say that the Father, fathers the Son. Different attempts to define this existence used expressions like the Father sires the Son this old fashioned word now has more to do with animal discussions than with eternal understandings. Beget is another word from the Queen’s English or the King James Bible type of speaking that is no longer used in modernity. For better clarity and to prevent misunderstandings we could express it as eternal begetting or eternal generation. The Bible is very clear regarding any language “that once upon a time the Son was begotten by the Father, never having existed before” being incorrect in understanding and language. There was never a time when the Son wasn’t the Son, the Father wasn’t the Father, and the Spirit was the Spirit. The Son always stands in this relationship of from-ness or eternal begottenness.

John 17:24 Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.

What we are describing after the addition of the Spirit is the ontological Trinity or the immanent Trinity which includes these eternal relations of origin. This is the classic way of describing the eternal life of the triune God in him. This has been the understanding from the very beginning of the primitive church. The early fathers of the church with the acceptance of the community of believers saw the single/plurality of God “the three oneness or one three-ness” of God. Until the sending of the Son then the giving of the Holy Spirit people could only catch glimpses and shadows of the Tri-unity of God. When the God who is here, through the Son that was given, Immanuel, Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man, Jehovah cried “tetelestai” it is finished, the veil was torn in half in the Holy of Holies and for the first time since the fall God would be able to commune with His creatures personally.

Matthew 13:35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

 

We need to be extremely careful how we handle the truth of the Trinity and explain it in a particularly careful way. More than anything we should never describe the Trinity in a way that goes in any direction beyond what God has revealed. God claims the things that are secret. Be careful of anything that over clarifies or defines something as infinite as the Triune God of this universe. The same concept applies to the dual nature of the Son. Nothing can completely describe the man God Jesus the Christ, how can we describe 100 percent God and 100 percent man? If we can explain the dual nature of Christ the Trinity is easy by comparison.  Information concerning the Trinity is most precious and we should not be found missing what God has revealed about himself to us. Those things revealed belong to us and the family of God for eternity. The Trinity keeps our understanding of relationships of origin and sonship in proper perspective. The Son and the Holy Spirit have always come from the Father.

 

The Trinity is the background of the gospel of salvation and redemption as provided by God. God for us only makes sense if there is a God in himself reconciling us to himself through the Son. The language of redemption only makes sense in this setting. The prayers that Jesus the Christ the Son of Man offered only make sense if they are spoken to some other in eternity. The prayer of Christ spoken in John is understandable only if there is more than one in the Godhead. If God the Father is sending the Son then the giving and receiving make sense otherwise why would this prayer would be spoken and described in Holy Scripture?

 

John 17:1-11 HCSB Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You,  for You gave Him authority over all flesh; so He may give eternal life to all You have given Him. This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent–Jesus Christ. I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed. I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.  Now they know that all things You have given to Me are from You, because the words that You gave Me, I have given them. They have received them and have known for certain that I came from You. They have believed that You sent Me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those You have given Me, because they are Yours. All My things are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one.

 

The concept of the Trinity has to be revealed since the Son was revealed in human history otherwise it would still be a secret yet to be discovered as the Son was prior to the incarnation. The language of Trinity comes from scripture and forces us to deal with how God is. Then the giving of the helper the Holy Spirit requires proper thinking and describing. Once the Son began His purpose of atonement that begins the process of describing how God exists. Jesus claimed to be God and the Son of God from all eternity at the same time. Obviously the Jews understood His claim because they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy and claiming equality with God was a crime unless you really were equal. That is when we were shown the proper meaning of the fatherhood of God the Father. At the same time the defining of the relationship of the eternal Son that has always existed with the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has been proceeding from the Father since eternity past. Remember the eternal life of God in himself is something “even better than the good news of the gospel” and we have the responsibility to handle this with reverence. This better explained that God’s eternal life as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a way of existing in eternal blessedness and perfection. God is the core of the gospel of repentance and salvation.  God in himself is perfectly happy; being perfect he cannot improve anything about himself. Susannah Wesley is quoted as saying that God is “perfect eternal blessedness” a being “that cannot receive any accession (attaining more of) of perfection or happiness from his creatures” He provides to us what he already has happiness and blessedness. Our vision of God with no unmet needs is how God exists already “in other words the good news starts far outside of us, in the life of the blessed Trinity which is complete in itself and suffers from no lack” quoted from The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity changes everything Fred Sanders author. What a wonderful and exciting moment when we realize that grace has a double portion when the Trinity is complete in itself and God still chose to redeem us! That is truly grace being unneeded, ungrateful, selfish, fallen evil creatures that rejected Him, he still choose in His completeness to seek and save us from our torment and sin.

 

Col 1:15-20 HCSB  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation; because by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.  He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross–whether things on earth or things in heaven.

 

Amen and Amen

Trust and Obey

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Trinity on March 17, 2011 at 5:30 am

Copy of devotional on LOGOS this morning!

But Samuel replied, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

Life can often be a restless, disrupted existence until we give ourselves wholeheartedly to something beyond ourselves and follow and obey it supremely. Such implicit trust in God’s great love and wisdom with a sincere desire to follow His leading should be every Christian’s goal. Our willingness to trust and obey is always the first step toward God’s blessing in our lives.In 1886 Daniel B. Towner, director of the music department at Moody Bible Institute, was leading the music for evangelist D. L. Moody’s series of meetings in Brockton, Massachusetts. A young man rose to give a testimony, saying, “I am not quite sure—but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey.” Mr. Towner jotted down this statement and sent it to the Rev. J. H. Sammis, a Presbyterian minister and later a teacher at Moody, who wrote the present five stanzas.

Salvation is God’s responsibility.

Our responsibility is to trust in that salvation and then to obey its truths.

“Trust and Obey” presents a balanced view of a believer’s trust in Christ’s redemptive work, and it speaks of the resulting desire to obey Him and do His will in our daily lives. Then, and only then, do we experience real peace and joy.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, but His smile quickly drives it away; not a doubt nor a fear, not a sigh nor a tear, can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, but our toil He doth richly repay;

not a grief nor a loss, not a frown nor a cross, but is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar we lay, for the favor He shows and the joy He bestows are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet, or we’ll walk by His side in the way; what He says we will do, where He sends we will go—Never fear, only trust and obey.

Chorus: Trust and obey—for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus—but to trust and obey.

Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 88.

When the preincarnate Christ arrived in the flesh He forced the apostles to think even father back than the prophets

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Trinity on March 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Joh 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,

Joh 17:2  since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

Joh 17:3  And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Joh 17:4  I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

Joh 17:5  And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Joh 17:6  “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

Joh 17:7  Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.

Joh 17:8  For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

Joh 17:9  I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

Joh 17:10  All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

Joh 17:11  And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

 

Where do we start with the beginning when it comes to thinking of Jesus the Christ the Son of the Living God! Old Testament prophets spoke of God choosing us but they never discussed anything prior to the beginning of the world. When the preincarnate Christ arrived in the flesh He forced the apostles to think even father back than the prophets. When the Son of God in the form of a human arrived He required man to seek the very foundation of God’s ways and works even before the foundation of the world.  Jesus left no options concerning who He is and His relationship to the Father. Is He the fulfillment of ancient prophecies, how is He connected to Abraham, David, even Adam?  Or maybe the best way to acknowledge Jesus the Christ is to acknowledge Him as the eternal Son of the Living God going back in eternity before the foundation of the world. Taking that one step past the foundation of the world is peering into the eternal nature of God. In John 1:1 we see that the Word was God and the Word was with God. In the prayer of Jesus above he is reclaiming the glory that was His with the Father before the world began. We see the Son receiving from the Father all that was promised and the Son glorifying the Father by presenting all He was given as gift back to the Father no finer or deeper love is expressed than this. Then we are promised a unity with the Father like Christ has with Him. This unity expressed here refers not to a union of nature, but of feeling, plan, and purpose. Any other union between Christians is impossible; but a union of affection is what the Savior sought, and this he desired might be so strong as to be an illustration of the unchanging love between the Father and the Son. This confirms we understand the newer testament and we are biblically sound. When we claim God was the Trinity from all eternity or God is Father, Son, and Spirit without reference to the creation of the world.

The eternal Son has eternally existed alongside the eternal Father always receiving the full goodness of divinity from Him. Without the Father’s self-giving to the Son creation becomes (metaphysically) necessary to the being of God. According to the theologian Augustus H. Strong (1836-1921) “Neither God’s independence nor God’s blessedness can be maintained upon the grounds of absolute unity. Anti-Trinitarianism almost necessarily makes creation indispensable to God’s perfection, tends to a belief in the eternity of matter, and ultimately, leads to pantheism.” This makes grace all the more great and gracious! God’s expression of love in the creation and redemption of His fallen creatures from the background of the Trinity shows the astonishing graciousness of God’s free grace to be seen for what it is.  Because God is self sufficient through the community, harmony, and diversity of the Trinity he didn’t create us from need, or loneliness but simply from love and to glorify Himself through us. Our purpose is complete in Him but his existence is not dependent on me! His favor, blessing and love come from His abundant love. If God had created us out of need or loneliness then it lessons and weakens Him making Him dependant on something outside of Himself, a lesser God. An eternally essentially self-giving God would require an eternal world. This in turn would make God dependent on the world he created for his own satisfaction. Without the world, God would be a frustrated giver. A God that is less than sovereign, unable to avoid frustration and unable to accomplish His will or decrees ends up a lesser God. An infinite gospel requires an infinite background of whom and how God reveals himself. To quote David Sanders ( The deeper things of God: How the Trinity changes everything) a balanced view of the fountain from which the river of salvation flows “keeps one foot in the happy land of the Trinity and one foot on the ground of the gospel. When evangelicals lose their sense of proportion, they begin to talk as if they no longer care about the character of God unless they get something from it.” Our best defense against this kind of thinking has always been the doctrine of the eternal Trinity. God is eternally Trinity because triunity belongs to his very nature. The actions of God creation and redemption are things He does, and he would still be God if he hadn’t done them. Without the Trinity the expression of who he is, he would not be God. God minus the Father, Son and Holy Spirit would not be God, if he did nothing more than exist he would still be God. The things God does are the result of who he is and His greater glory. He is the being capable of receiving worship and praise without it destroying who He is. We see in the fall Satan, Angels, and man cannot receive that kind of adulation without it consuming and destroying us.  This makes grace all the greater and praise all the more deserving and the object of our worship worthy.

 

Who said BIGGER is better when it comes to church?

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Trinity on February 7, 2011 at 7:14 am

Church growth is dead

At this time in 1993 I was getting ready to graduate from seminary. In the early 1990s many of the guys I graduated with were inundated with the hot model for doing church ministry known as “Church Growth” philosophy. Wanting to be successful in ministry we all devoured books to show us how to do it “right” in today’s world. Out with the old and in with the new was the ministry mind-set. It all sounded so promising: big churches with big budgets if we employed the right methods. Mega-church pastors told us we could do what they did, and a whole generation of pastors bought in hook, line and sinker. Now its been deemed a complete failure by its own advocates.

The ideas that became the Church Growth movement began taking hold in the late 1970s. If the Christian church was going to survive into the future (we were told) it needed to rethink its methods and embrace a new approach. Church growth gurus such as Bill Hybels, Donald McGavren, and C. Peter Wagner advocated making going to church as inconspicuously “Christian” as possible. One writer I read summed it up this way: “Churches were built by demographic studies, professional strategists, marketing research, meeting “felt needs” and sermons consistent with these techniques. We were told that preaching was out, relevance was in. Doctrine didn’t matter nearly as much as innovation. If it wasn’t “cutting edge” and consumer friendly it was doomed. The mention of sin, salvation and sanctification were taboo and replaced by Starbucks, strategy and sensitivity.”

The goal was to make unchurched Harry and Mary as comfortable in church as they would be in a movie theatre. Indeed many of the churches even designed their worship centers to look like a movie theatre. In short they made the church look like the world… and it failed.

The first crack in the church growth edifice came a couple of years ago when church growth advocate George Barna expressed frustration that – since the full-blown implementation of church growth principles 20 years ago – there has been no net growth in the Christian church to speak of; in fact it has declined in America. He found that mega-churches have both a big front door and an equally large back door.

All mega-churches seemed to have accomplished is to kill off smaller churches that resisted the temptation to compromise Biblical Christianity.

The final nail came when Willow Creek Community Church – the “Mecca” of the church growth ideology – recently released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, on staff at Willow Creek, conducted the study. The conclusion? Senior Pastor Bill Hybels said, to his credit, “We made a mistake.” They didn’t make disciples – they made dunces.

Very simply they made secular people even more secular. Rather than leading people to worship Christ they led them deeper into worshipping themselves. This should be no surprise: if you gear a church towards the consumer preferences of a fallen culture you will produce a fallen church. Why would anyone think that catering to man’s fundamental sin problem would do otherwise? Liberals say there is no sin, and church growth says sin is no big deal. The very heart of the gospel tells us otherwise: sin is real and its the main problem we must address. Any church that fails to address this will fail too.

One may wonder why they didn’t see this sooner. Its simple: in their minds large crowds meant they were successful. Many think that there is an inexorable relationship between numbers and success. But many religious movements boasted large numbers and turned out to be in gross error. When I hear this sort of thing I often ask, “Have you ever heard of Jim Jones?”

A Biblical church rejects innovation in favor of faithfulness. God has given us a specific mission and a specific message, and He has not made what He wants in a church a secret. Being successful according to Scripture comes not by embracing a fallen culture but by embracing Biblical directives. If you encounter a church driven by anything else take my advice: find another church. And whatever you do don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Marty Fields is pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church. Reach him at pastor@westminsterepc.com.

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