Monday, August 28, 2006

...without the law

On a recent edition of Way of the Master Radio I was reintroduced to a conflict with how we, as Christians, should evangelize. I am completely aware that there is a conflict between the biblical understanding of the Christian life following conversion and an unbiblical one. Namely, the Bible says that if someone is born again that it is God’s will that they be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:4). However, there is a segment, and it’s not a small one either, of Christians who believe and preach a gospel which makes no mandate of a changed life through sanctification. Basically this view says that you can be saved by Christ through faith, but you can live like the devil having no real fruit resulting from salvation. I try to deal with this false presentation of the gospel in some of my previous articles (“Is Turning from Sin Legalism?”, "If you is what you was, you ain't", “Do you have the Son?”, and “Repentance and Faith: two necessary sides of the same saving coin”) and clear up the confusion and bad teaching.

There is a ministry located in New Jersey called Loving Grace Ministries that produces a radio show called “Let’s Talk About Jesus” where the host was recently presented with a question about the necessity of using the law in evangelism. I listened to two episodes of this radio show (both dealing with this issue, as a matter of fact) and it seems that the host has a genuine and true faith in Christ but for some reason doesn’t understand the need for the law.1 I want to deal with what he promoted as the way to evangelize, but I don’t want to get into the specific comments or objections thrown up by the host, and let me tell you why. First of all the host was not aware with the evangelism training in question (Way of the Master) and so he was forced to go off of the characterizations made by the caller to his show about her pastor and the evangelism ministry of Way of the Master. So, I want to give the benefit of the doubt to the host during the first radio program because he seemed to have been reacting to what was said (or misrepresented) about using the law in evangelism as opposed to the actual structure of the Way of the Master evangelism training and the biblical case for it. Secondly, he didn’t seem to have researched this issue between his two programs, so the second show was much the same. He made it plain that he believes that regardless of the situation, all things are made clear in Christ and that if we just preach Christ and the cross then all things will be presented fine and they will be made clear in the head of the hearer.

I wholeheartedly agree that the cross needs to be central to any evangelistic endeavor and that in the Person of Christ Jesus, all things in salvation become clear. The problem is that I don’t believe that it is possible to truly preach the cross without dealing with sin and therefore, dealing with the law is necessary.

If I preach the cross and if I preach Jesus, the question will come up as to why Jesus had to die on the cross. The biblical answer is that He died to pay the penalty for the sin of all of those who would believe.2 The next question that must be dealt with is, “What is sin?” Or, better yet, “How do we know what sin is?”

What is sin?

Generally speaking, it is possible that James generally summed up sin when he said, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) I think that this verse is a good starting point when facing an objection to using the law in evangelism. If someone has been shown any revelation of God (all humanity has) and we don’t always do it, that person is sinning. Adam and Eve knew what they could and couldn’t eat, so when they ate what was not good or what they were allowed to eat, it was sin that resulted in our current fallen condition. Even though murder was not mentioned before in the scriptures, Cain surely knew that killing his brother was not the right or good thing to do, but he did it anyway and God cursed him for it.3 I think that these examples show us the principle that is stated in James, but the question still remains, how do I know what is right or good and what sin is?

Another way for us to identify sin comes from the apostle John, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4) This clarifies the picture a little further: sin is lawlessness. If sin is lawlessness, then we need to know what law (civil, ceremonial, etc) we will be judged by. It is no shock that the Law referred to by the biblical writers (especially in the context of sin) is the Law of Moses, or the 10 commandments. This is made clearer in Romans 3:20 “for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Also, later in Romans, Paul writes, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." (Romans 7:7)

However, I think one of the most compelling portions of scripture regarding the use of the law in preparing someone’s heart for grace is found in Galatians 3:19-29. The law didn’t “create” sin, but it exposed us to what our sin was and how God viewed it, “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions,” (Galatians 3:19). Furthermore, Paul then declares “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:24,25) The law was given in such a way that the Jews knew, and Christ expounded this, that no one could keep the law. James emphatically states that we are all guilty before God when he wrote, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)

How can you really explain the cross without explaining what sin is and what the just penalty of it is? You cannot, it doesn’t make sense. In one sense, if you remove the understanding of the Law of God from the New Testament, it doesn’t make any sense. There would be no real understanding God’s holiness, justice, or of man’s sin and therefore the sacrifice of Christ would be so ambiguous that it would lose much (if not all) of its understood meaning.

Do I think that we need to preach Christ, the cross, and the resurrection in evangelism? Absolutely. There is no other way to be saved! But, we dare not speak vaguely about the cross or skirt the issue of the sinfulness of sin that required the death of Christ when we are telling anyone about the hope that is found only in Christ Jesus.

In conclusion, I do not see how it is possible to present the true gospel without dealing specifically with why the gospel exists. It is called “good news” because correctly understanding the law and justice of God is bad news for all sinful people, and that is everyone (Romans 3:23). The heart of the good news of Jesus Christ is in His sacrificial substitutionary death on the cross where Christ, “who knew no sin” was made “to be sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV) We would cut out the very thing that shows our opposition to God and the fact that we are by nature His enemies, or children of wrath, because of our sin. Only with this clear understanding can a person truly value the sacrifice of our savior.4

1 The episodes in question were the 8/15/2006 and 8/16/2006 editions of “Let’s Talk About Jesus” hosted by Wayne Monbleau.

2 Also, consequently, it was this same sacrifice by Christ that actually saved all O.T. saints. The Old Covenantal system was built upon “types” and “shadows” of the sacrifice of Christ. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, just like Abraham was saved by faith even though he didn’t know Christ in His fullness of revelation as we do now.

3 The entirety of exactly what God did or did not reveal to Adam and Eve (and subsequent people prior to Moses’ time) is not exactly clear, but we can be sure that some revelations were passed down that were later expounded on and clarified in the written word of God.

4 On that same note, though, over time our knowledge of our own sinfulness increases as we are sanctified. So the things that we don’t now clearly see as sin will be revealed as just that as we grow closer to Christ.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Why I will not watch "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"

Recently, while playing video games online, a friend of mine asked if I had seen (or intended to see) the new Will Ferrell move about a NASCAR driver who…has some problems. My response was abrupt (as we were just about to start the game), and I stated that I would not see this movie. Why? The answer is simple. I am not going to go to this movie when I can see clear blasphemy in the preview. The movie (as the preview sells it) is about a NASCAR driver named Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) and his various adventures in the NASCAR world. One of the overarching themes is that the main character is kind of a doofus which is no surprise when considering Will Ferrell is known for his humorous roles. There seems to be a conflict when a rival driver named Jean Girard challenges Ricky Bobby for NASCAR supremacy, but there is no indication of this in the previews on TV (at least that I have seen).1

So far, this doesn’t seem like a bad movie. I like funny movies (sometimes the dryer or “dumber” the humor makes it better). I have found Will Ferrell funny when I’ve seen him in other venues. So what did I find blasphemous in the preview? There is a scene where Ferrell apparently thinks that he is on fire (though he is not) and he is running across the race track in nothing but his helmet and underpants. This paints a pretty funny scene of a hallucinating man running half naked on a race track that is (probably) currently in use. The problem comes when the camera cuts to a close-up of his face where he is yelling for aid. “Help me Jesus! Help me Oprah Winfrey! Help me Tom Cruise!”

I can understand the idea behind the humor in this scene. Oprah Winfrey is (whether she knows, admits, or understands) a New Age guru of self esteem who has publicly maligned the exclusiveness of Christ,2 and Tom Cruise is peculiar person especially when it comes to Scientology. Cruise and John Travolta are the most visible and notable members of the religion known as Scientology. As to the specific reason why these two people were picked instead of a myriad of other people or religious figures, I do not know. But the reason or the rationale is not my concern; it is the outcome that most concerns me.

My friend asked me how this scene was blasphemous. He had actually seen the movie twice and didn’t think anything was that bad. So, I explained my revulsion in this way:

Blasphemy is not just cursing and using the name of our LORD as the primary curse word (I’m not going to give any examples, because you know what I mean), but it is taking the name of the Lord in vain (Exodus 20:7). You can do this in so many ways in word and deed. It seems to me that the “name of the LORD” refers not just to the Names that God attributes to Himself (Yahweh, Adonai, Jesus, etc.) although it includes this, definitely, but the “name of the LORD” in a more broad sense refers to the character and nature of God Himself. And one of the chief characteristics of God is that He is like no other. And placing the name of the sinless Son of God in the same breath with modern day prophets of pagan and demonic religious ideas is an utter offense.

If someone were making the case for the exclusivity of Christ and the marvelousness of the sinless Lamb of God and commenting that crying out to Christ is effective and will be answered, but calling out to Oprah Winfrey or Tom Cruise or the gods that they represent is utterly wasted breath and the sin of idolatry, then it may be an acceptable use of the name of our LORD. But not in a flippant, slapstick, arrogant, and disrespectful moment just to get a laugh from an audience whose guard has been disarmed because of their laughter.

Is this a critical, maybe too critical, look at one line from one scene in a 30 – 60 second preview of a movie? Perhaps. But, doesn’t our God. who lowered Himself to be made like one of us and who so willingly endured the torment of hell on behalf of those who would turn from their sin and believe in Him, deserve more care in the use of His name and the maligning of His character and nature than my own reputation or the reputation of my wife and children? If someone were trying to get a laugh and used the names of two harlots and then used the name of my wife in the same breath, wouldn’t I have just cause to be offended on her behalf? Shouldn’t I defend her honor by speaking out? How much would I show her my affection, love, and devotion if I went to see the movie and said, “Sure that may not have been the best way to talk about my wife, but it sure was funny. Don’t you think, honey?” Or try it with your children (or nieces or nephews), and laugh at someone making fun of them publicly and see the hurt and you will see the sting of betrayal in their eyes. No. No man who is worth a wife and children, friends or family, would sit by and laugh at such an offensive abuse of the person who he loves. If we wouldn’t dare offend our family by acting in such a callous way, listen again to the words of Christ and let them work on your heart, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)

I made the mistake of sinning against my conscience in this way with another comedy, and I will not do it again. A few years ago, a close person in my life, and a brother in the Lord, told me about this movie that he went to see that was very funny. I was immediately interested because I thoroughly enjoy funny things. Well, the movie in question was Bruce Almighty. Basically, it is a story where God (played by Morgan Freeman) endows Bruce Nolan (Jim Carey) with all divine powers for a certain time. In the movie, Nolan uses his new power for selfish reasons and ends up finding that it is hard to be God. The problem that I had initially was with the concept of a human being given the powers of deity. I found it an offensive concept that, I felt, mocked the singularity and the holiness of God.

Well, this brother in the Lord and I talked and my concerns were disarmed by the humor and by his affirmation that the movie wasn’t that bad. So, I saw it. I watched it the first time and I was concerned with some of the contents, but it was very funny. I was more concerned with the universalism and other moral ambiguities (like God not having a problem with Nolan living with his girlfriend and once he is given the powers of God, Nolan then uses them to fornicate with her) that were so prevalent. But, it was just too funny and so I watched a few more times, and each time I was less and less offended by those same things. Well, fast forward to about 3 months ago when my wife and I, anxious to relax and watch a movie together, pick Bruce Almighty off the shelf. As any parent will attest, it is not often that one or both parties make it through an entire movie at the end of a long day, so we stopped in the middle somewhere and were going to head off to bed. Between that time and the next evening I wrestled with the issue of the blasphemous nature of this movie once again. I concluded that I could not in good conscience finish the movie nor watch it again because it is so utterly offensive to God. I will not make this mistake again with “Talladega Nights” and I encourage all Christians to examine what we put into our minds not on the basis of “it’s not that bad,” compared to other movies, but on the basis of how bad or good it is compared to God and His righteousness.

Can we then watch any movie? I honestly don’t know. But if we stop the idea that I am entitled or deserve to watch movies or TV, then we may just have a better mindset to choose what we do or do not watch.

As an aside:

I find it interesting and sad that people are so casual about defaming Christ in public. Can you imagine the fallout if instead of using Christ’s name that they would have used Muhammad or Allah. Or what if the name of God was used that was explicitly tied to Judaism instead of Christianity? Did you see what happened to Mel Gibson when he spouted anti-Semitic remarks to a police officer? He was lambasted, and rightly so, in the media. You cannot mock Allah or Muhammad. You cannot mock Jews or even imply that Jews (the Sanhedrin) are responsible for the death of Christ as we saw from the pre-release fallout for “The Passion of The Christ”. But, you can mock Jesus Christ. It is a sad day in America that Christians will have less zeal to defend the name of the True God than the followers of false religions.


2 This was seen in a video clip from Oprah’s TV show.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

through the eye of the needle

Have you ever read the Biblical account or listened to the story of the Rich Young Ruler found in Matthew 19:16-26? A young and wealthy man asked Jesus what he would have to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked if the man had kept the commandments, to which he replied, “Yes.” Jesus then made a shocking statement which is followed by the young man’s heartbreaking (but not shocking) reaction, “’go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” (Matthew 19:21b-22)

I fear that sometimes when we read this account we may have the same reaction that is all too common (at least it was for me) when reading the account of God giving the Israelites Manna. Basically, in Exodus 16 and Numbers 11 we see that the Israelites were grumbling about the food that they were missing in Egypt, so God graciously provided bread (wafers) from heaven that actually tasted like honey (Exodus 16:31) and could be eaten in various ways. The people took God for granted and after a while complained and said, “but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Numbers 11:6) You can almost hear the “yuck” sound (the sound that you make when you spit something out of your mouth that is detestable to you) at the end of that statement. We look at the Israelites here as ungrateful and disobedient fools, and we are flabbergasted that they would scoff at food that is literally set in front of them by God. In the same way, we are prone to look at the Rich young ruler with disgust and shock that someone would look at God, in the flesh, ask a question about how to inherit eternal life, and then walk away and reject the answer because of money.

My point so far is simply this: Don’t miss the direct application to you and me in the story of the rich young ruler.

What was the stated reason why this young man was unwilling to follow Christ? He had much wealth, and it was a lot to give up. Pastors thunder to their congregations saying that those who have great wealth will have a difficult time with being born again quoting Christ when they say, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." The problem that we have is that when preachers warn against the dangers of wealth, we look around us to see those who have more money than we do to form our understanding of who the wealthy are.1 When I hear the word “rich” or “wealthy” I think of people like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and other people who are worth billions of dollars. It is true, these people are exceedingly wealthy, there is no question about it. If I am able to think outside of the box and not be so egocentric in my thinking, I may ask the question, “How wealthy am I compared to other people in the U.S.?” That is a good question to ask because then, my definition of “wealthy” then becomes how much money constitutes being wealthy is determined upon those who are above and below me on the economic ladder. Now, I am no economist, but I know that if you make $100,000 per year in the U.S., you are in the top income level, or the upper class, for the whole country. With this in mind while, if you work an average job (where many Americans make between $25,000 - $50,000 per year) as I do, we would see ourselves as in the middle class and let most of the warning of Matthew 19 bounce off of us because, after all, I may not be poor (in the U.S. poverty level), but I am definitely not in the top income bracket either to be considered wealthy.

Let’s take one more step back, for one moment. Why should I only consider those people who live in my community, my state, my country, or western society when gauging how wealthy I am? The last I heard, there are over 6 billion people on the planet, and the US only has about 298 million people living here currently.2 Just think about the $25,000 or $50,000 in light of the 6 billion people. We all know that Africa is impoverished. We know that many people in various 3rd world countries live in complete and abject poverty. I went to a web site called the Global Rich List and I was shocked at how rich I am in comparison to the rest of the world.3 For instance, the same $25,000 that would put me at the low end of the middle class in the U.S. would put me in the top 10.8% of all people. If I worked at minimum wage ($5 per hour) for 40 hours per week and made around $10,000 in one year, I would still be in the top 13.31% richest people in the entire world. This means that about 5.2 billion people make less money than a 14 year old working at McDonalds.

Who’s the rich man now?

Make no mistake. If you live in the United States, even if you don’t really “make” or “have” any money, you are still far better off and have more wealth than most people in the world. The poor in our country, for the most part, are provided with good shelter, water, sewer, ventilation, food, along with other essentials. What will you hold onto that, like the rich young ruler, will cause you to discard Christ and His offer of salvation because you love your “stuff” more than Him? If you live in the United States, as I do, you are more than likely among the wealthy, and this warning is applicable to you and me. “If you’ve got clothes on and a full belly, you are wealthy.”4

Truly, it may be said that it is hard for an American to enter the kingdom of heaven. It may well be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for an American to enter the kingdom of God. Let us not be casual about the way that we spend our money nor on the things that occupy our time and attention lest we (who claim allegiance to Christ) play the harlot by giving our affections to objects of less worth than God Himself.

1 There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. Many of the Old Testament saints (including most, if not all, of the patriarchs), but it is undeniable that the Bible gives strong warning against the dangers of having, and trusting, in wealth.


3 I am not sure how accurate or up to date The Global Rich List web site ( may be. However, even if the figures are 10 years out of date or off by thousands of dollars, even the adjusted figures are shocking to say the least. I don’t endorse or support any of the causes that this web site solicits for; I merely chose this site for its usability of the income tool.

4 “Magnifying God with Money” by John Piper (Desiring God Radio broadcast 8/9/2006)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

on Doctrines, Tradition, and the Catholic Church

Responding to my Catholic friend's blog entry "Martin Luther's Devotion to Mother Mary":

I have found this post…provocative, to say the least. One main distinction between the protestant and Catholic theological formative processes is that protestant, or true, theology (did you catch that good natured jab) is influenced by the thoughts of God fearing men and women who have gone before us, but it is not determined definitively by them. I can disagree, and I should disagree, with someone who holds a view or doctrine that rests more on the philosophy and tradition of men (Colossians 2:8), which change and contort over the years, rather than on scripture which remains constant throughout the ages. I would be first in line to proclaim that the faith that I confess and that I hold dear and the truth of the scriptures has been understood in large part to the work of godly men like Athenasias, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and others, but all of them had faults with their theology as they expressed it. How arrogant to think that a man (whether pope or reformer) can accurately articulate divine truths without error and then that we should unquestioningly follow them in that, when we see that even the apostles themselves were not infallible in way that they handled themselves (Galatians 2:11-14), but only in the writing of scripture (2 Peter 3:15,16).

So, as interesting, and disturbing, as the Mariology of Martin Luther is, it is still subject to the same scriptural scrutiny that the any other doctrine of any professed believer or biblical institution. Believing the idea that Mary was taken into heaven in a miraculous way, not through death, is not found in scripture, and therefore I would strongly disagree with that idea, but holding that idea is not in and of itself heretical and therefore we can disagree in a loving, brotherly way. However, if one believes that our works add to the righteousness of Christ (i.e. that the righteousness from Christ is insufficient to fully save us), then we have a different issue. If someone believes that, it flies in the face of the gospel, and is heresy.

As a side note to Mariology, if Mary was “holiness personified”1 as Luther apparently stated or how the Roman Catholic doctrine esteems her, why then in her magnificot does she call God her savior? “And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46,47) The only One who is and was holiness personified is the Person of Jesus Christ, and the fullness of God dwelt in Him in bodily form (Colossians 1:19; 2:9). Christ didn’t ever make any comments or statements that put Him in the position of needing to be saved, but rather as savior. Being holy would make one not need a savior because, by definition, a holy person has no sin to be forgiven or cleansed of.

Subsequent thoughts:

“The reason [protestant fundementalists] are hard pressed [to convert others] is because they feel that their strengh lies in numbers.”2 This statement is what is known as a straw man. Basically, a “straw man” is where someone states an idea or truth as being held by someone else (usually an opponent), but the statement itself is not jermain to the accused parties actual beliefs or statements. This then allows the accuser to show the false statement as being utterly rediculous and dismissable. That being said, there is some truth that some “protestant” circles make all of their goals about numbers and size, but it must be understood that these men and women and the “churches” that they build are not fundamentalists, nor would many of them even be truly Christian in doctrine. Many of the mega-churches place more weight on self esteem and marketing than on the Bible at all.

“Catholics have been pursecuted for thousands of years.”3 Christians have been persecuted from the beginning, there is no doubt. To say that Catholics have been persecuted, and then to say that they have been persecuted for thousands of years is almost laughable. It was the Catholic church that was behind the various Crusades4 and the inquisition that Jews and others in our modern culture use as a primary reason for rejecting Christ. It was the Catholic church that persecuted people and burned John Huss, William Tyndale, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Thomas Cranmer,5 and many many other reformers (before and after the Reformation). I am greatly offended at the thought that it was the church of Rome that was the recipient of persecution as opposed to the institution which executed a truly Roman (in the sense of Nero) style persecution of believers.

“Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man;
we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace,
in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
– Hugh Latimer

1 quoting Martin Luther’s Sermon, Christmas, 1531

2 although not written by the main author of the work that I am responding to, he agrees with the sentiments by saying, “I agree…you make some very strong points.”

3 Ibid.

4 This is not to say that all Catholics then or now agree with it, but it is a simple fact. It is true that people who have distorted what the Bible says have been proponents of slavery in the U.S. and other non-biblical and despicable actions, and forced conversion and political conquest are in the “despicable” category along with justification for the enslavement of Africans.

5 These three, Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer, were known as the “Oxford Martyrs”


Friday, August 11, 2006

Prayer to Saints

A while back, a reader asked if I would comment on the issue of praying to saints. There are many different places or angles from which to attack this question, but the primary angle should be to answer the question “how should I pray?” The best place to look for this answer is the one given by our Lord Himself.

Before we get to the instruction of how to pray given by Christ, let me define what the Bible indicates prayer to be. The definition will, however, be based upon the instructions that Christ gave to us in what is called the Lord’s Prayer. Prayer is to be directed solely to God Himself (Matthew 6:9; Romans 10:1; 1 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 13:7), and it is primarily for the bringing of our petitions before God and the exercise of showing complete and total dependence upon God to provide all things and to elevate God in all things. It is a spiritual act of worship that finds it’s fullest that is most glorifying to God when the intention is of “Thy will” and not “my will” be done.

In Matthew 6:9, Jesus says this, “Pray, then, in this way: `Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.’” The question of whether or not people should be praying to saints should end here. It is inconceivable that people who claim to follow Christ ignore this template for all prayers. He doesn’t say “repeat after me” or “always pray this” but He seemed to give us the form of what God honoring prayer should look like.

I say that this is a template for prayer, and not the rote prayer that we should speak because in the previous verses, Christ tells us not to pray in the same manner as the hypocrites when they pray “that they may be seen by men” (Matthew 6:5) or with “meaningless repetition” (Matthew 6:7). But Christ tells us that we are to pray by going in private (Matthew 6:6) contrasting to the practice of praying to be seem by men.

I do not believe that Christ is saying that every prayer has to be done in a closed room where no one will hear ever us, nor does it mean that we cannot repeat requests if we are burdened about them. It means that we are not to make a spectacle for the purpose of being seem and esteemed by men.

But specifically to the point of this article, Jesus said that we are to pray to our “Father” and not to anything else. I am not going to into detail over whether we should pray to the other members of the Trinity in this article, but whether you hold that we pray only to the Father, only to the Son, or to all members of the Trinity, lets just agree (at this time) that Jesus says that we are to pray God.1

This is a clear text that shows us Christ Himself explaining how we are to pray. But I know that my Catholic friends will not be satisfied with this, I want to look at one other angle. Not only do we have the directed way that we need to pray, but we also have the reaction from beings other than God when they were prayed to.

John, the beloved apostle, made the mistake of falling down to worship the angelic messenger that was near him, but the angel rebuked him both times and said that he was a fellow servant (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-11). The point is that an angel of the Lord will refuse to be worshipped because only God is worthy of worship. Paul and Barnabus were the recipients of worship when witnesses of a miracle started referring to them as Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:11-15). Notice that Paul and Barnabus reacted by saying that they were men just like the people around them. There is nothing special about any believers, and all true believers will recoil at any hint of being elevated to “god”.

Furthermore, just looking through the Bible and seeing all of the times when “prayer” is used, you will find that prayer is made to God. Sometimes a petition (translated as “pray”) is made of other living me, but this is in a sense of a petition made to a government official or someone with authority to pronounce temporal judgment, and never in an eternal, spiritual, or heavenly sense.

My conclusion is that prayer that is made to anyone but God alone is nothing short of idolatry since it places the recipient of the prayer on the same level that the Bible shows God alone to occupy.

1 I believe that according to the example of Christ and the apostles, we are to address our prayers to the Father, in the name of the Son, in the power of the Spirit.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Statement of Faith

  1. I believe the Bible to be the written revelation of God, complete and sufficient in all respects. I believe the Scriptures to be "God-breathed" and therefore fully authoritative in and of themselves; they rely for their authority upon no church, council, or creed, but are authoritative simply because they are the Word of God. The Scriptures, as they embody the very speaking of God, partake of His authority, His power.

  2. I believe in one true and eternal God, unchanging, unchangeable. I believe God is the Creator of all that exists in heaven and in earth. The God who is described in the Bible is unique; He is unlike anyone or anything else in all the universe. God has all power, all knowledge, all wisdom, and is due all glory, honor and praise. All that comes to pass does so at the decree of God. All things will, in the end, result in the glory of God.

  3. I believe the Bible teaches that there is but one being of God, yet there are three Persons who share this one being of God: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Each Person is fully and completely God, each is described in Scripture as possessing the attributes of God. The Father, Son, and Spirit have eternally existed in the relationship described by the term "Trinity."

  4. I believe that man was created in the image of God. Man rebelled against his Creator, and fell into sin. As a result, man became spiritually dead, totally unwilling and indeed incapable of seeking after God. God, from eternity past, having foreordained all things, joined a certain people to Christ Jesus, so that He might redeem them from their sin and in so doing bring glory to Himself. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered and died in the place of this people, providing full and complete forgiveness of sins by His death upon the cross of Calvary. No other work can provide for forgiveness of sins, and no addition can be made to the completed and finished work of Christ.

  5. I believe that God, in His sovereign grace and mercy, regenerates sinful men by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by any action of their own, bringing them to new life. God grants to them the gifts of faith and repentance, which they then exercise by believing in Christ and turning from their sins in love for God. As a result of this faith, based upon the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, God justifies or makes righteous the one who believes. God's gift of faith, and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the believer, results in good works. These good works flow from true, saving faith; they are a necessary result of faith, but are not to be considered necessary to the gaining of justification, which is by God's grace through faith alone, so that no man can boast.

  6. I believe Jesus Christ established His Church, which is made up of all the elect of God. His Church, as an obedient bride, listens to His Word as found in the Bible. All who believe in Christ are placed in His body, the Church. The local expressions of the Church are very important, and each believer should be actively involved in such a fellowship.

  7. I believe that Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead. This promise is found throughout the inspired Scriptures. Till His return, believers are to live lives that bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. The Church is to be busy doing the work of evangelism and discipleship, proclaiming the pure, uncompromised Gospel of Christ by teaching the Word of God.

"The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again."
—C. H. Spurgeon

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Pleading for the Voiceless

I have yet to meet a true Christian who is not concerned with or at least wrestling with the issue of abortion. Of all of the issues that seem to motivate us, not one of them seems to drive us into a frenzy like this issue of abortion.

I look at abortion and see it as being no different than the child sacrifices to the detestable god Molech, and any Israelite who committed these acts was to be put to death (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; 1 Kings 11:7; 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35). Almost all people today would agree that the killing of infants as a sacrifice to a pagan (or any) god is detestable and would be an offense of the first order. Abortion is not a sacrifice to a fertility god, a harvest god, or another sort of the ancient gods. Abortion is a sacrifice to the more palatable gods of today; the god of commerce and the god of self.

The god of commerce is appeased in two ways, apparently. It is a major money making business to snuff out the life of the most helpless little ones. The doctors and nurses whose consciences are either silenced because of their continued rebellion in this unholy act of murder, or they try to console their nagging consciences with a steady paycheck, benefits, and by buying into the rhetoric of “women empowerment” and that this is an issue that is primarily about sexist oppression.

Now, I am a huge fan of banging the drum if it needs to be pounded a bit, but this issue is pretty much a no-brainer for any Christian who is aware of the current cultural trend of abortion. Now I’d like to notch it up a bit.

I am going to start with a word and a definition.

Abortifacient: an agent (as a drug) that induces abortion

Did you know that all forms of hormonal birth control methods have this effect? The “pill” (in all of its forms) has the potential to cause an abortion in an unsuspecting mother. Without getting into the depths of the medical facts and arguments about this, I would like to appeal to your common sense.

“The only sure way to not get pregnant is to not have sex.” That is the standard line about abstinence when the issue of “safe sex” comes up in any debate. The reason we say that is that we know that the chances are small (but they are real) that a woman can become pregnant even when she is using the pill correctly. This is not a shock to anyone who has ever thought about birth control. The fact is that if a woman can become pregnant by using any form of birth control, then we need to know what effect this same method of birth control can have on the young child and if it can contribute to the death of this child in it’s early stage of life. This would be the abortifacient effect of the birth control method.

To cut to the quick, let me say that again that all hormonal types of birth control pills or shots can have this effect. The pill (specifically) has 3 functions: (a) to thicken a natural barrier at the opening of the cervix, (b) to suppress ovulation, and (c) to make the lining of the womb harden. “This effect is on the lining of the womb. What this does is to harden the lining of the womb—we say, make it hostile to implantation to this one-week-old embryo. If this is the function that prevents “pregnancy” that month, then it is implantation that is prevented. And this implantation, if prevented, kills a tiny one-week-old baby.1

If you prefer an "unbiased" look at what the pill does, try this description from WebMD, a non-Christian medical web site. "The hormone in the pills also changes the lining of the uterus, so that implantation of a fertilized egg is much less likely to occur."2 Even when it is not in pro-life lingo, it is undeniable to see the known effect of the birth control pill.

Normally I would just talk about the pill or other similar hormonal birth control methods, but recent events and a conversation with someone close to me compelled me to go further. A less popular form of birth control is called the intrauterine device (IUD) which is a “T” shaped implant into the woman’s womb. It is known to be an abortifacient3 even if some dispute how likely a conception is to occur. “However, in the very unlikely event of successful fertilization, the ‘sterile inflammatory response’ provides a rather foreboding endometrial environment for implantation.4

If you (my lady reader) or your wife (my gentleman reader) or any of your good friends are using any type of birth control that has an abortifacient effect5 do you know that there is a real possibility that your choice has contributed to the death of your child who you didn’t even know was alive? You know that the pill or the IUD are advertised as being 98% effective at preventing pregnancy6 but remember, if it is possible to become pregnant while on one of these methods, then it is very likely that some of the “prevention” is in a post-conception mode.

It is my conviction that we, as Christians, cannot utilize these forms of birth control because of the possibility that it might be the cause of the death of a child. Some would respond saying, “We don’t know if we ever have been pregnant and that there’s no guarantee that if we did that it was the use of this method of birth control that caused the child to die.” My answer to that is that I agree. We don’t know. And not knowing for sure is not a license to “hope” for the fact that we won’t contribute to this happening.

Like many people, I had no idea about any of this until I had been married for a while. In that time, my wife and I used “the pill” and were none the wiser. My wife’s doctor never even mentioned the fact that it had an abortifacient effect, and we were naïve to even this possibility. I thought that if you got pregnant, that the pill had no other impact upon a growing baby since it didn’t stop conception. Once we were confronted with this reality about the possibility, and yes it is a small possibility, that our choice of birth control could cause an abortion, we stopped using anything like it all together.

I have not ever hidden the fact that my wife and I lost a child 2 years ago. This child died while still in the womb. The loss of my child and my anguish over it is simply hard to describe. Having experienced this – the loss of a child that I had never held, seen, or heard cry – is something that I will never forget. One of the consoling facts is that this child didn’t die because my wife consumed food or drink or participated in activities that are known contributors to miscarriage. I pray that my careless decisions to use the pill did not cause others of my children to die, because that would be more than I could bear.

I urge you to wrestle with this issue. It may not be as convenient or inexpensive to use condoms or other non-abortifacient types of birth control…but is that really the issue? If we are truly pro life, and we truly believe that life begins at conception, then hormonal and internal barrier device birth control (IUD) is not a valid option for any of us.

May God forgive the silence and laziness of the Church in speaking out about this horrible and deadly issue, and may those Christians who knowingly compromise the lives of innocent children for the sake of convenience plead with God for their willingness to put someone else’s life in danger as well as potentially being responsible for the death of the innocent.





5 Condoms do not have an abortifacient effect. My rule of thumb is that if your form of birth control works at the time of intercourse and not after, then you’re ok. However, if it affects the woman’s body and works with the hormones…be careful, because more than likely it has the potential to kill a young child.

6 Whether pregnancy is the right word here or not is questionable. The real question is how much do they stop conception, and then what part of that percentage are the children who are killed after conception.

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson