Thursday, November 30, 2006

credit where credit is due (attention Catholics)

I came across an audio file of a short debate between Richard Dawkins and David Quinn on a radio program in Great Britain (Ireland or England, I am not sure which one). Richard Dawkins is the current bright and shining star in atheism, and David Quinn is an Irish Catholic columnist, and I think he's even a Roman Catholic Priest, if I'm not mistaken. It doesn't matter whether or not he is a priest or not, but it would be interesting if I could find out.

The reason I'm posting this article and the following link is that it is no secret how strongly I disagree with Roman Catholicism. Specifically, I vehemently disagree with Roman Soteriology, but Mariology and the doctrines surrounding the papacy fall close behind. Also, it is not a secret that I believe that someone who believes in the gospel according to Rome (i.e. that Penance, Baptism, Eucharist, or faith + works, etc. are necessary for the attaining and maintaining of salvation), that person is not be saved.

I only state that here to illustrate my overall distance from anything Roman Catholic so as to frame my next comment in the proper light. Today, I am commending and applauding the work of this Roman Catholic man. It was truly a joy to here a clear, concise, and articulate argument for Theism (it didn’t ever get down to Christianity) leveled against Richard Dawkins.

I thought that the questions and objections raised by Richard Dawkins were easily handled by David Quinn, and especially when they were surrounding the two main issues that come up during the debate. The first issue concerned causality. Causality is basically the fact that there must be an uncaused first cause (or an unmoved first mover) for anything at all to exist. The second issue was concerning the role of religious systems and people in war and atrocities. Quite frankly, I think that Dawkins got shellacked with his double standard when Quinn gave examples of how Dawkins deals with humanist/atheist atrocities verses those motivated by religion.

Way to go Mr. Quinn.

You can listen to the debate by clicking here. The part where Mr. Quinn and Mr. Dawkins get involved in the causation issue starts around 11 minutes into the interview.

The final comment that I want to make about this interview was one other issue that was discussed (actually, Dawkins really avoided it). That was the issue of free will. The only reason I bring this up is that I have a different view of free will than some questions (it’s more an issue of the scope of a person’s free will than of the existence of free will) and how Mr. Quinn seemed to define it. He seemed to be defining free will as the ability to make decisions and be responsible for those decisions by some means apart from a genetic or chemical reason. Many atheistic evolutionists deny free will because everything must have its cause from matter or biology. Basically, David Quinn articulated that you (as a person) make the decisions and are responsible for them; they are not the natural outcome of a biological or physiological reaction.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Jesus and Justification

In my recent studies and conversations concerning justification I have come across a few bible stories that seem to show Jesus declaring someone as being forgiven. In other words, people were justified prior to the death of Christ. And the reason why I have contemplated this issue from various different angles lately is that this is such an important doctrine. It is this doctrine upon which the reformation exploded from. The understanding that at one moment in time, a sinner goes from being judged by his or her own deeds and unrighteousness, but now this same sinner is judged on the basis of Christ’s deeds and righteousness as He perfectly fulfilled the law of God. This singular event of being declared righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Christ Jesus is very different from other theological views that espouse a process of justification.

Before I go further, let me briefly illustrate why this is so vital. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” If we, in the sense of process justification, become righteous over time (over time is implied and stressed in these frames of thought) by being righteous, then this verse means that Christ also became sin by being sinful.

"’In Him’, don’t miss those two last, little, explosive, words. What this teaches is that because of our union with Him, because we are ‘in Him’, we become righteous [in] the same way Jesus became sinful. How did Jesus become sinful? Did He become sinful by sinning? No, nor do we become righteous by doing righteousness. He became sinful by having God recon to His account my sin, and I become righteous by having God recon to my account, His righteousness. And if that isn’t the best news in all the world, I don’t know what is because I know that in this life, both biblically and experientially, I’m not going to ever arrive at a point where I would qualify to be accepted by God. Ever! Therefore I must have the qualification from another, and it is His. And then the question is, ‘How do I get it?’ And the answer is ‘In Christ!’ United to Jesus, my sin is on Him, his righteousness is mine, and do you then see how huge this issue is? [Do you see] how important being ‘in Christ’ is? Union with Christ is not a throw-away, minor doctrine; it is at the center [of our doctrine]."1

Let us not miss the scale of how important this doctrine is. This truth of justification as an event where the sins of the sinner are imputed to Christ and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner is the difference between complete biblical grace in salvation and every other human and demonically contrived religious system of works righteousness. This doctrine of justification is, to use a colloquialism, a hill to die on.

The story of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof of a house where Jesus was teaching and performing miracles is one of the more famous of His miracles. This account can be found in Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-13; and Luke 5:17-26, and one of the reasons that it is probably so famous is due to the extraordinary length that the paralytic’s friends went to in order that he might be placed before Jesus. The point that all three of these gospel writers seem to be making with this story has less to do with the actual healing of the paralytic but is primarily focused on Jesus’ ability to forgive the sins of men.

In all of the accounts, the man is lowered down through the roof and then Christ proclaims that this man’s sins are forgiven. The account goes on to show that Jesus shows the validity of His first statement by commanding the man, “get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” (Mark 2:11) The interesting thing is that this man was declared to be forgiven. We know that it is only on the basis of Christ’s (then future) atoning work on the cross that this is possible and that this atoning work covers all sins, this man’s justification was pronounced to all who heard, but most especially for the benefit of the Pharisees.

Another story of the healing and forgiveness of Christ, that is somewhat less well-known, is the story of the ten lepers that is found in Luke 17:11-19.2 These ten lepers came to meet Christ, but stood at a distance (as was customary with lepers). They then requested mercy from Jesus, and He responded by telling them to go and show themselves to the priests and “as they were going, they were cleansed.” (Luke 17:14) However, the point of this account is not primarily about the ten lepers who were cleansed, but about the one who was thankful. Only one leper came back to offer thanks to Jesus after he noticed that he had been cleansed of his disease. The account ends by saying, “And [Jesus] said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.’” (Luke 17:19) The phrase “has made you well” literally means “has saved you.”3 Christ said that this man was saved, not that he had to become saved or that he would progressively become better in order to attain this salvation, but that he was saved by Christ in that moment. Furthermore, once we are saved, we possess eternal life (John 3:15,16; 3:36; 1 John 3:15; 5:11-13). And, by definition, eternal life cannot end, so you will not ever lose the salvation that Christ purchased and gave to you.4

On a quick side note, I think that one of the other very interesting characteristics of these two accounts of Christ saving men is that they both have another thing in common. Both stories tell us that these men were saved, that they had their sins forgiven, and both of them omit any indication that these men came seeking this outcome. Their primary goal seems to have been what the others seeking Jesus were, and that was to be healed of sickness or other physical ailments. Jesus declares that these men were saved, and it is not based on their request or their seeking Him for salvation. It seems to be an argument for the delight of God to save whosoever He wills to save, and it is not ultimately dependant upon man to seek to be saved by God.

The final account that I want to deal with today is also found in the gospel of Luke. It is the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican and how they prayed in the synagogue (Luke 18:9-13). The first interesting note is that Luke prophases the parable by saying that it was addressed to a certain group of people, “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). Jesus goes on to show how the self-righteous Pharisee compared himself to heinous sinners, even to the tax collector who was praying at the same time, and thanking God that he was not like them. However, it was the lowly sinner’s attitude in that he beat his breast and cried out for God to be merciful that Christ showed His approval for when He said, “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other.” (Luke 18:14) It was not the self-righteous attitude or actions of the Pharisee that find favor with God, it is just the opposite. It is the fact that the sinner knows and understands completely that there is absolutely nothing that he can do to please God, and that he stands totally condemned by his own actions.

It is in these passages that we glimpse one of the great doctrines and truths of all of scripture and redemptive history. This truth is the idea that justification, the once-for-all declaration of the forgiveness of sins and the righteous standing before God, is accomplished on the basis of Christ’s work alone. It is from this great and awesomely glorious truth that we can then see sanctification in its true light. The ongoing process of refining and becoming more Christ-like in our present condition (alive and redeemed, but still living in sinful flesh) is only possible when we are first made right before God.

1 “United with Christ in Death and Life” by John Piper 10/8/2000. I personally transcribed and added the information in the brackets of this transcription.

2 It is almost an entirely arbitrary personal accounting of how well known any of these stories are or aren’t. It primarily reflects my own familiarity with these stories prior to looking at them recently.

3 NASB footnotes on Luke 17:19. Also, the Greek word here has the root word that means saved in the sense of salvation.

4 There are other arguments for the perseverance of the saints (a.k.a. eternal security) that come directly from biblical texts, but my point is not to articulate those in this article. You can, however, read my thoughts on this wonderful doctrine by reading The Perseverance of the Saints (a.k.a. Once Saved Always Saved).

Monday, November 27, 2006

How I found out...

How I found out…

When one desires children and is joyfully looking forward to the day when God will graciously provide another member to the family, it is a very happy and surreal occasion when the news is revealed. I have said to my friends and family that when my wife was pregnant with my oldest, Micah, I went through various stages of realizing that this…was…real. If I recall correctly, I think that I called the inaugural events into these sequential stages “sucker-punches” of reality.

We found out that we were pregnant while we were visiting my parents. Stephanie and I were in total shock, we were excited, but we were in shock. As the husband and father, I am not blessed (or cursed) with the first-hand physical cues and reminders of the reality of the new child that is growing, so it is easier for me to not fully grasp the reality of this life at first.

The first sucker-punch came when we went to the doctor’s office one afternoon. I don’t remember if I was expecting anything profound, but when we were there, we were able to hear Micah’s heartbeat for the first time. I remember that once the pure ecstasy lost some of its hold on me, it felt like the blood drained out of my face. It was at this point that the reality of Micah’s little life was driven home a little further, and the responsibilities that I had for this new life began to terrify me.

While continuing on with life and taking care of my pregnant wife, I began to work through and deal with the various concerns and questions that were cropping up. I was still nervous about being a father, but I was trying to prepare for all of my new and upcoming responsibilities. It wasn’t too much longer (although at the time it seemed like an eternity) before we went in for one of the most anticipated things prior to the birth of the child – the ultrasound exam. It was in that little, dark room that I first saw Micah’s hands, feet, head, and body. And believe it or not, this was sucker-punch number two.

I have always believed (at least as far back as I have had to form an opinion on the matter) that babies are fully human from the moment of conception, even if their bodies form changes from being a mass of cells into being a fully formed baby over time. So it wasn’t the humanity of my child that was striking, but it was the fact that I could “see” his humanity. It wasn’t that he was just a little life, but he was a little life with a personhood all his own. I guess that it is hard to put it into words, but the basic idea is that the reality of the personal nature of my son hit home during that ultra-sound.

Prior to his birth (the mega-sucker-punch), there was one more time that the reality of his little life was hammered home. One day while I was almost out of the door going to work, Stephanie called me back into the bedroom where she was still laying in bed and she asked me to put my hand on her belly. Now, I do not know if I really felt Micah move before that day, but there was no mistaking it this time. I think that he actually drop-kicked me. I quickly kissed my wife and ran out of the apartment and off to work. It was on my way to work that the reality of Micah’s individual and personal will, thoughts, and actions sunk in.

All of this is to say that the stages of pregnancy (at least for me) are defined by these tangible benchmarks when I am able to experience (hear, touch, and see) the life of my child. Well, recently my wife and I found out that we are going to be getting another little crazy body in the house. In the past, I have been waiting in anticipation when she’s taken a pregnancy test (Micah, our second child, and the final test with Noah) when we found out, or I have been coming home from work to see my 1 ½ year old son Micah walking toward me with something sticking out of the pocket in his overalls (later revealed to be a positive pregnancy test for Noah). Stephanie had found out that she was pregnant while I was at work, and she came up with that fun way of telling me that we were going to have another child (even though the test was positive, the visit to the doctor the next day had a negative result…but we’ve still got Noah). This time, my wife was not short on ideas either.

We had been wondering if she were pregnant for about one week, and she had even taken a pregnancy test that came back negative, but we were still not convinced. So, on Saturday night while I was working on my Sunday school preparation, I needed some artificial stimulant to assist me in my late night studies. Stephanie volunteered to go to the store and get some groceries and to procure a special study treat for me. When she arrived home I was working and I didn’t look up at her right away, so she gave me a bottle of Mello Yello. She then said that she thought it might be an extra late night, and therefore she had bought two of them for me. She handed me the second Mello Yello… and I don’t think that I even looked closely to see what was in it. I just felt it, saw that things were awry (there was no liquid in the bottle, and there was a white “thing” in there), and then I looked at the jubilant expression on my wife’s face to confirm that we were having another baby.

God be praised! We are eagerly expecting to meet the newest addition of the family.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sola Fide Sermon

My good friend, Stuart, has been given the opportunity to preach during the Sunday evening services at Ambassador Baptist church. He recently finished a series on the 5 Solas of the Reformation. Regrettably I have not been able to attend these services as I am serving in a different ministry at the same time. However, Stu's sermons are posted on the church's website. I encourage you to listen to the sermon from 10/22/06 service where he goes through Sola Fide.

Click here to listen to this sermon. You can also right click this link and then select "save as" to save this sermon onto your computer.

May God bless you through the preaching of His Word.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Does the act of baptism save? In some circles of theology the answer is yes, and in others the answer is no. The differences on this issue are a microcosm of the differences on the overall theology of justification.

I hold to the position that the baptism is the act of a Christian who is obeying a command of Christ, and it is a symbolic and public profession of the faith that the believer holds. The act and meaning of baptism is summarized in the doctrinal statement of my church like this, “We believe that baptism is the immersion in water of a believer in Christ into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to show forth by solemn and beautiful symbolism, the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, and that it is a Scriptural prerequisite to church membership (Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:36; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38-41).”1

Before I go further, I must explain the reason why we hold that baptism (adult baptism by immersion) is a prerequisite of church membership. Jesus sets forth two ordinances, or acts, that are to be observed by all believers for all time, baptism and the Lord’s Supper (communion). The basic reason why baptism is necessary for membership at Ambassador Baptist Church is that baptism seems to be the first act of obedience to the Lord following conversion. All of the leaders, teachers, and other servants in the church must be found to be faithful and devoted servants of Christ. Since baptism is the initial basic command that believers are to obey, one cannot be an obedient servant of Christ if they have not been baptized.

John Piper was asked if you needed to be baptized in order to be saved. His answer was very profound. He said that one does not need to be baptized in order to be saved, but he went on to say that if a person willfully rejects being baptized after they have made a profession of faith, they might not be saved. Not for the lack of baptism, but for the lack of the fruit of baptism. If I reject to follow the command of my Savior, is He truly my savior? So, as much as I must affirm that baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation, the lack of submitting to the command of Christ to be baptized is a clear sign that one is not obeying Him, and this is a sign of an unbeliever.

Another point that I must articulate before going further is which position on baptism I am arguing against here. There are some traditions that embrace infant baptism as a symbol of the new covenant while not making the leap to affirm that one is saved by baptism (infant or otherwise). I do disagree with this understanding of baptism (held by Presbyterians and some other protestant denominations), but it is not nearly as big of a theological issue as the idea of baptismal regeneration held by others.

In my experience, two of the many verses that are brought up when someone is promoting a type of baptismal regeneration are John 3:5 and 1 Peter 3:21. On the surface, both of these verses seem to be saying that baptism is necessary for one to become a Christian.

“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’” John 3:5

“Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” 1 Peter 3:21

The first hurtle to jump over is the language barrier. The specific hurtle is with the Greek word “baptizw” that is translated baptize. The word and the use of this word don’t always require or imply a water ceremony, but it has gained that meaning because the Greek word was transliterated into English instead of translated. I deal with this issue in the first part of my pervious article, apostle.

John 3:5 is not a problematic verse when it is tossed in the face of someone who rejects baptismal regeneration. One of the ways that this has been argued in the past is that the baptism by “water” is referring to natural birth and the breaking of the bag of waters of the pregnant woman just prior to delivering her baby. Now, where this argument seems reasonable from a Western European standpoint, it would not have been the way that a first century Jew like Nicodemus. He was a teacher of the Law and any mention of baptism would have brought to mind the various places in the Law where cleansing was symbolized by baptism. One such place is with the story of Elisha and Naaman found in 2 Kings 5. The basic story is that Naaman (a Syrian) had leprosy and he went to see Elisha to be healed. Elisha told him that he needed to go to the Jordan and dip into the water 7 times, and if he did that, he would be healed. After some time, Naaman finally bends his will and humbles himself to go do the foolish act of dipping in the Jordan. Once he comes up the 7th time, the leprosy is gone.

This is not a story of the cleansing nature of water, nor is the point that the act of baptism saves. 1 Kings 5:13-14 show us what was going on in Naaman’s mind and why the humiliation of dipping in the Jordan was initially not acceptable to him. He wanted to do something, pay something, or otherwise have some credit for his healing. But the command of Elisha was to show that the power of God alone is what is able to cleanse a person.

Nicodemus would also have thought of Ezekiel 36 where the sprinkling of water was God’s way of saying that He was going to purify His people form the wickedness and idolatry that they were involved in. It was with not the sprinkling of the water that God would perform this cleansing; it was symbolic language to show the cleaning process of God.

1 Peter 3:21 seems a little more daunting to the Bible student at first, but once it is read in context, you can see that it is not advocating baptismal regeneration. The first key is found in the word “corresponding”, and we must understand to what illustration of Noah and the flood mean.

The story of Noah is found in Genesis 6-9. God was angry at all of humanity for our wickedness and he was going to destroy everyone, but He decided to save Noah. The text goes on to show that Noah and his sons built a very large boat, brought animals and supplies into it, and then Noah and his 7 relatives (his wife and his 3 sons and their wives) got into the ark. God then shut the door and He deluged the planet in a terrible flood that killed the men and animals that were not on the ark.

The question needs to be answered – what saved Noah. The obvious answer is God, but by what method did God save Noah? It was not the water that saved Noah, the water only brought death. Noah and his family were saved by the ark, by being inside of the ark they were protected from the wrath of God that He poured out on the world.

When did God pour out His wrath in order to deal with or judge the sinfulness of humanity? He did this to Christ on the cross. Christ was baptized into God’s wrath on the cross (Mark 10:38, Luke 12:50). We are saved by a baptism, but not the water baptism that the believer undergoes. No, we are saved by being found in Christ who was baptized in God’s wrath for the sins of those who would believe. The question then becomes, how can a man be found in Christ, and the overwhelming answer of scripture is that faith is the vehicle that God has divinely chosen to connect the sinner to the Savior (Acts 15:9; Romans 3:21-27; 4:5-20; 5:1-2; Galatians 2:16; 3:2-15).

1 Constitution of the Ambassador Baptist Church p. 4

Monday, November 20, 2006

a request for prayer

I (we) just found out that my wife is pregnant!


I humbly ask that you pray for my wife and the child, and that the pregnancy would go well and that my child would be healthy.

God be praised!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tony the Vegan

I sometimes wonder which one is harder: whether working in a secular place of business or working in a church or para-church organization. One thing that I am pretty sure about is that, most likely, the grass always seems greener on the other side.

Many people have nicknames, and almost no one picked it for themselves. Some are inside jokes, some are abbreviations (i.e. EJ), and some are just random. Well, the name Tony the Vegan came about in a very different way, I guess. You see, when I come home from my job, I like to tell my wife about the day’s goings on: what certain people said or did, who got fired or promoted, and other various things. Well, for some reason, whenever I’d talk about a really nice co-worker named Tony, my wife (or other people) would look puzzled and weren’t sure exactly who I was referring to even though there were various stories that included or focused on my interactions with Tony in the past. So, I decided during one of my re-explanations of who Tony was to call him “Tony the Vegan” because his name is Tony and he is a Vegan. Since then, whenever I tell a story that includes Tony in it, people know exactly who I am referring to and they can call to their memory various things about him that I have relayed in the past.

Tony and I have worked together for around 2 years, and Tony is one of those guys that just doesn’t seem to fit into any specific paradigm of people. In the past I had tried to communicate the message of the gospel to him, and I don’t know if I ever did it effectively. I tried so many times to steer a conversation to eternity and to Christ, but it always fell short, mostly because we were working with limited amounts of time. Also I felt that he was simply humoring me (which he may have been, and I’m not upset about that). On one such occasion where I was trying to use anything, any window that would allow me to angle a conversation to Christ and spiritual things was when Tony was getting ready to make some popcorn. I noticed that the plastic wrapping had a curious sticker on it, and I wanted to have it. I asked if I could have it and he, looking puzzled, agreed. I then opened up my bible that I had with me and told him that he had just given me a profound bookmark to use in my bible. Humorous? Yes. Did we have a small conversation about the bible and eternity? Yes. But it still didn’t get too far.

Tony took a different job soon after and I tried to salvage my failed attempts by letting Lee Strobel do some talking for me when I lent him A Case for Christ and A Case for Faith. He, being a book guy, seemed genuinely interested to learn a little about Christianity from a biblical, protestant, and fundamental standpoint. Before I lost contact with him for a while, he gave me the books back and thanked me for letting him borrow them.

After that, I didn’t have any contact with Tony for almost a year. In the interim time, I had learned better ways to bring up and articulate the message of the gospel than I practiced before (thank you Ray, Kirk, and Todd). I always had the right ingredients (repentance, faith, Christ alone, etc), but it was the revelation of how to use the Law in normal conversation that really opened some doors for me. Now that we’re working in the same office again, I have tried two different approaches with him, but both have had the lack of clarity that I was aiming for, and that was due to the lack of time and my faulty articualtion of the gospel in that time.

The first thing I tried was related to some conversation about a fire (we may have had a fire drill or something, I don’t know). I asked him what characteristics he thinks that a fireman would need in order to allow him do do his job well. He said that the fireman should be strong, fit, and brave (not afraid of the fire). I then asked him that if a person was unaware that the building was on fire or that person was in denial of the severity of the situation, should the fireman be a little more aggressive in trying to convince the individual of the danger? Should the fireman try to persuade him or her to see the solution (i.e. get out of the building)? He agreed that the fireman should make all attempts to save the person from the fire. Having run out of time, I then told Tony that I’d be back to tell him why I asked those questions. Well, I dropped the ball and never made the opportunity to bring it up again soon enough.

The next time that I made an opportunity occurred was when I was on break (bible in hand) and I stopped by his desk to say something (totally unrelated to evangelism, actually) and he asked if I was carrying “the Book” or something to that effect. He then said something about how nice it is (or something), and I saw an opening and took it. I said that it is a great book, and it is good to know that I have peace with God. “But,” I said, “the bible calls you a child of wrath, and God isn’t happy with children of wrath – nor will judgment day be favorable to them.” He then looked a little perturbed, nervous, concerned, or something, and I told him that I’d show him what Bible verse I was referring to when I came back (he was busy and I had to do something quick). But before I could show him the passage, he had already found it (Ephesians 2:3) and he was concerned at the severity of the statement.

So, to my dear friend Tony (or anyone else for that matter):

The bible is clear that God is angry, and that all liars (not to mention murderers, drunkards, fornicators, etc) will have their part in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). The just punishment of sin committed against a holy God is the torment in the lake of “unquenchable fire” and where the “worm does not die” (Mark 9:43,48) where it is eternal and “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night,” (Revelation 14:10). This is a place reserved for all of those people “name was not found written in the book of life” (Revelation 20:15).

That is why the good news of the gospel (gospel means “good news”) is such good news. Tony talked about the qualifications for a fire fighter, and one of them was that a good fire fighter would do all that he could to get the people out of a burning building, even if the people inside didn’t know or believe that it was on fire. That is what I am trying to do. It is not because I delight in making people feel uncomfortable, uneasy, or that I like to make people dislike me because of what I believe. I do it because God has chosen this, the foolishness of preaching His message of salvation, as the means by which people can know (a) that they are terribly guilty before Almighty God, (b) that God must punish them, and (c) that if they trust in the perfect life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection of Jesus Christ and repent (turn away or forsake) of their sins, then Christ’s perfect righteousness will be credited to them before God, and you will inherit eternal life with your Savior.

My bookmark says “Follow Directions to avoid SCORCHING” and it is true that if we obey what God has said in the Bible, we will not endure eternal punishment. However, don’t look to God to avoid hell (some sarcastically call it “fire insurance”), but turn to God because He is so kind that He will save you from hell. The difference is huge. One person will believe God until the fear wears off and never appreciate the grace of God whereas the other one will bask in the grace of a forgiving God and be amazed that God would save a sinful wretch.

He saved this sinful wretch. He saved a murdering blasphemer named Paul. He can save you.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

an annual "Spiritual"

Last Sunday was a transitional class period for the Contenders Sunday school class. We had finished studying the book of Titus the week before and we’re going to start studying Galatians this coming Sunday. So to have a little break I decided to have the class do a Spiritual.

We weren’t singing the great and moving songs of the faith that were made famous by African slaves and post-slavery African American singers and songwriters…no, we were taking a look at our spiritual lives in similar fashion as one would go to a doctor for an annual physical exam.

I got this idea from Lynn Wolters, but he got it from a Church Camp preacher/teacher…and he might have gotten it from somewhere else too. The point is that I didn’t come up with this idea myself, but I think that it has a solid enough point and purpose that it will be useful.

What is the point of a Spiritual exam?

Basically, the purpose of this is to facilitate a true introspection of your own Christian walk to see where you need to grow.

”Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?” – 2 Corinthians 13:5

”So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; “ – Philippians 2:12

”These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. “ – 1 John 5:13

The categories that we looked at were varied to show the far reaching scope of how the life of a believer is to be changed by Christ. The categories that we looked at were these:

  • My overall relationship with Jesus Christ (John 14:15; 15:10; 1 John 5:3)

  • Time in the Word (Psalms 1:2,3; Joshua 1:8)

  • Prayer Life (Matthew 6:8; James 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

  • Sharing the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Romans 10:14,15)

  • Service for God (Matthew 6:24; Galatians 1:10; 1 Timothy 3:1; James 4:4)

  • Church Attendance (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:25)

  • Obedience to his Word (Ephesians 2:10; 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 2:6)

  • Service & Servant leadership (Ephesians 5:22-27; James 1:27)

Other than seeing how well we are doing in these areas, one of the main things that I stressed was to find out which direction you are going? Is my life becoming more Christ-like, more holy, or am I staying the same or slipping down and becoming less Christ like.

I put together a web quiz where I tried to ask questions in such a way that tries to expose the trend of your spiritual life as well as what that says about your spiritual status. The results that you get are not the all-in-all truth, but they may help in telling where you’re at. In other words…take it, but take it with a big (mambo) grain of salt.

You can find the quiz by clicking here.

learning by studying and teaching

Since late 2004 or early 2005 I have been privileged to teach through Colossians, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Titus, and Jude. It has been a great blessing for me to be able to study these texts with the goal of being able to teach on the important points (a very few of them, at least) of these books to my peers. It amazes me to think about how much I have learned and how much I have grown in my appreciation and love for both the Word of God and for God Himself in this study.

Sometimes, it is a cause of guilt to think that if I didn’t study in order to be able to teach, I wouldn’t have studied as much or as deeply. It’s true. I wouldn’t have had the external motivation or paradigm to encourage me to study well. Along with teaching, this blog has also been an avenue that has encouraged and facilitated further and deeper study of the Word.

But in all reality, I don’t feel guilty that my studies aimed at teaching are what has been the vehicle for my growing in knowledge and understanding. I guess that it is comparable to what the experience of going on a missionary trip (at least a short-term one) is like.

I went to Africa for a 3 week mission’s trip in the summer of 2000. My team’s objective was to engage in evangelism, minister to kids at schools and orphanages, and to help out a local church in various other ways. Before I went, I had heard various people from previous missions trips say that they had gone so that they could be a blessing to the people who they would be ministering to, but, instead, it was the missionaries who came back with an overwhelming sense of God’s blessing and grace and having been ministered to. This was the case with my experience.

One of the most blessing experiences that I was able to do was to purchase a guitar to bring down to Africa in order to use during our trip and then to give it to the local church so that they would have another instrument in their worship services. The leaders of the church expressed gratitude and I am sure that it was (and hopefully is still being) well used. However, I felt overwhelmingly blessed and privileged to minister to them in this way.

John MacArthur made a comment during his sermon series on Luke 15 (dealing with the parable of the prodigal son) that lasted a period of about 5 weeks. And even with that amount of time, he said that he knew that he would be unable to communicate the whole of what he had learned and gleaned from his long study of the text. I would add, for myself, that my ability to effectively communicate what I have learned is also an impediment that makes the gap wider between what I know and have learned from what is taught to those to whom I teach.

In Sunday school we just went through the Spiritual (you can read about it in my previous article), and I wanted to make an impression on those in my class (and you too) of how important service is in a healthy Christian walk. Not everyone is a pastor or a missionary or any given role in the body of Christ. So I am not suggesting that every Christian should regularly teach a Sunday school class. But I do want to encourage all Christians to serve and to work in your local church. It can be as the sound booth tech, someone who runs the power point, an usher, a deacon, singing special music, or whatever. But serve regularly. And even though I said (and I still mean it) that not everyone can or should be a regular teacher, you can always study hard on something and offer to give a Sunday school teacher a break. If you study really hard, and work diligently in dedicated time, you can come up with a devotional that will be edifying for other believers.

When my brother-in-law and his wife were trying to settle in on which church to attend (they had been alternating between two good ones during their dating and engaged relationship), I was concerned for them. Not because I had any critical doubts about either of the two churches, but because I wanted to stress the importance of service. I think that I gave him 3 things to look for in a church (after the foundational theological issues have been addressed and satisfied), and they were:

  • The pastor needs to do good biblical preaching

  • The ability and desire to fellowship with peers and non-peers alike

  • You need to serve, in some way, and start as soon as you can.

I stressed these 3 things because they hit on three areas of where each individual can grow. Also, you will be ministering to people by being involved in their lives (fellowship), engaging the pastor on what he is preaching about, and ministering to the larger body of Christ in the area that you are serving in.

You may, or may not, have heard that 90% of the work of the local church is done by about 10% of the people. Well, it is so common that it is almost a cliché. However, this seems to be very true. Just imagine the impact that we could have on the world (not to mention the impact that it would have on all of our lives) if the other 90% did the same amount of gospel work that the other 10% are doing. If nothing else, I think that the body would be healthier and more eternally focused.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Happy Birthday


It was my wife's birthday yesterday. One thing that I have noticed about birthdays once you have kids is that there is no break for the parent on his/her birthday (at least while they're young like ours, but I assume that it just morphs into different forms of trouble and trials). Stephanie had a tough day with the boys yesterday, and it was all that I could do to try and ease the stress when I got off work. Having a vacation or a day off on your birthday is long gone for us.

All of the celebration and birthday fun aside, Stephanie is the love of my life, and she helps to make me the best version of myself. Thanks be to God for blessing me with a wonderful wife.

Friday, November 10, 2006

An Important Message for Evangelicals Concerning Roman Catholicism

About 1 year ago (sometime in May or June) I was given a sermon/lecture concerning Roman Catholicism focusing on the Pope and the Papacy. But before I talk a little bit more about this lecture, let me bring forward some of my background as it relates to this issue.

I grew up in a Christian home where we attended an Assemblies of God church. When I was in the eighth grade (or so), my parents decided to seek a better church for us to fellowship and worship in. Over the next two (or so) years we went to a few different churches, but I never felt comfortable with them. Finally, we settled in at a local church (LeMars Bible Church, called LBC), and my parents have been there ever since.

Over the course of my life, I have attended a Pentacostal church (Assemblies of God), a charismatic church (Cornerstone Faith Center - I never liked this church because even as a child I could sense the "ickiness" of the health and wealth gospel), a non-denominational Baptist-style church, and now I attend a very good fundamental Baptist church. I bring up this history for a few reasons.

First of all, my theological formation started out more on the Pentacostal and Arminian side and has developed (through study and agony) to be conservative, Baptist, and Calvinistic. So the first reason is to show the diversity of my exposure to various doctrines and traditions.

The second reason that I bring this up is that even though the various churches had different doctrines on Spiritual gifts, doctrines of the roles of men and women, different worship style, various preaching styles, and other issues, one thing remained consistent. These churches agreed on the essential truths of scripture - the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the inerrancy and infallibility and sufficiency of the Bible, and the message of salvation - the gospel.

The gospel message that I was given as a small child by Mrs. Sylvia Shultz is the same message that was proclaimed to me at LBC, at Ambassador Baptist Church, and it is the same one that I proclaim. Salvation is by grace alone through faith apart from works in Jesus Christ alone.

As a child (and now as an adult) I have had close friends and family members who were not Christians. Some of them professed to be Christians and even went to churches, some were basically irreligious. I also have and have had family and friends who are Roman Catholic. The gospel message that these people knew (and was established in their confirmation classes) was not the same gospel.

The gospel of Roman Catholicism is as different from the Biblical gospel as that of Mormonism in that they both are false, and they do not save. I say this not as a stick in the eye of a Catholic who might be reading this (although, that is unavoidably going to be the outcome). I say this to make plain that there is no fellowship of the faithful or believers that can exist in any real form between those who confess a biblical gospel and those who confess the doctrines of Rome.

There have been moves recently to reconcile the Protestants with the Catholics which many (on both sides) vehemently disagree with. For, even if traditional Roman Catholics disagree with my conclusion that their system is false (they charge Protestants with being false), they agree that our systems are so vastly different that there is no way to be acceptable to both Protestants and Catholics in any real theological sense.

With that background....

The lecture that I was presented was delivered by John MacArthur. He articulated, very well, in one message some of the very reasons why Catholicism and the true gospel message are not compatible. In fact, he opens his message by saying that if a Roman Catholic hears this message, they will surely be offended. But it is not the purpose of offending people or inculcating "anti-Catholic" sentiment that either he preached this message or that I talk about it here. It is to defend the gospel of Christ, defend Christ Himself, and to call out to those who are lost with the truth.

You can listen to the message as it was played on the Way of the Master Radio program. It is divided up into two parts (the two portions of the show) by clicking below:

For my brothers and sisters who desire to reconcile with the Catholic Church, I hope that this will help articulate or clear up why there can be no "blurring" of the distinctions between Catholicism and true Christianity. For my friends and relatives inside of Roman Catholicism, I hope that God will open your eyes, show you the false system that you are in, and call you out of it.

Soli Deo Gloria - Solus Christus - Sola Fide - Sola Gratia - Sola Scriptura

Thursday, November 09, 2006

on Ted Haggard and why being “above reproach” is so crucial…

I have previously written about the qualifications for elders and I have expressed my desire for adherence to the Scriptural standards and a plea for dealing decisively with moral failures from the pulpit. This issue resurfaced recently with the national news concerning the allegations of drug use and homosexual fornication, the confession of guilt, and then the removal from his pastoral office of Ted Haggard. Ted Haggard founded New Life Church, was noted as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals1, and he had been New Life's senior pastor since its founding until recently when he was removed by the elders of the church.

He has been accused by a male prostitute of having an ongoing (multi-year) relationship that included his paying for sex and drugs on a fairly regular monthly basis. Ted initially seemed to respond to the accusations by saying, "The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry." In his letter to the church that he pastured that was read on Sunday 11/5/06 by Larry Stockstill who pastors Bethany World Prayer Center2 in Louisiana, the “mother” church that planted New Life, Ted specified that he was guilty of sexual immorality.

I wanted to give some of the background for this story just to set it up for the purpose of thought and discussion concerning church eldership. I do not want to revel in the gross sin, but at the same time I feel that it is important to be clear on the situation and not hide the sin or try to cover the tracks of the sinner.

Before going any further, I need to say something very crucial. I believe that great violence has been done to the proclamation of the gospel because of the gross immorality committed by various men in the positions of leadership. This is certainly true for those in the evangelical community, and we don’t need to look far back from Mr. Haggard to find Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker and the relevant scandals and fallout for the gospel that resulted from their immorality. Unfortunately the unsaved do not see the important distinctions between some of these men and their ministries and others who are not associated with them. But the problem doesn’t just go across the lines inside of evangelicalism, they go beyond them.

For instance, I have been in conversations where the abuse accusations and scandals of priests in the Roman Catholic Church were used to bash and trash the gospel. Roman Catholics and I share nothing in common in our gospel messages other than some of the same words (but they mean very different things) but that does not stop Roman Catholic scandals being used against the gospel when I preach it and it probably doesn’t stop the use of Protestant scandals to go against the message of a Roman Catholic. So no matter how you slice it, whenever anyone who calls themselves a Christian (especially visible or high profile ones) are exposed for gross and immoral sin (like homosexuality, pedophilia, fornication, etc.), the gospel message is taken through the mud.

I also don’t want to rehash my arguments for why a pastor must be above reproach and why (biblically) I believe that once you go over the line, you are no longer fit to be an elder. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the person isn’t a Christian (they very well may be), but they no longer qualify to hold the office of an overseer. You can read my previous thoughts in the following articles:

I took the time to listen to the recording of the service from Sunday 11/5/06 at New Life Church to hear Ted Haggard’s words about this whole situation firsthand (well, his letter read by Larry Stockstill), to hear any comments made about his future with the church, and to hear what message was preached during this time. My goal is not to critique the style of the service3 or various stated doctrinal differences that I have with the church that are important4 but I do want to look at what they proclaim to believe by what they say and do during this service. My concern now with this issue is two-fold, and I have two main questions in this situation:

  1. Will Ted Haggard be restored to a pastoral role?
  2. Is Ted Haggard a Christian?
Will Ted Haggard be restored to a pastoral role? Well, it seems overwhelmingly clear from the information provided to New Life Church that Ted Haggard was permanently removed from the office of senior pastor of that church. The word “permanent” or “permanently” was used more than a few times referring to his no longer serving as the senior pastor. There are two points about this process that I want to comment on. First, I am very happy and joyful that there was an accountability structure in place that took action and quickly, decisively, and lovingly removed Ted from his ministry. Listening to the recounting of what happened gave me some peace, and I believe that the process was very biblical and God honoring. Pastor Larry Stockstill began by reading the qualifications of an overseer from 1 Timothy 3 and some verses from the 5th chapter relating to overseers as well before reading the letters from the Haggards. All in all, I was very blessed to hear and see the desire by the other pastors and elders to be very biblical in how they moved forward in dealing with this situation.

The second point is not as positive as the first, though. It actually seemed, well, rather ominous that he was being permanently removed from his office as senior pastor, but a door seemed to be left open for future pastoral ministry. When speaking about the structure of Ted’s “ongoing restoration”, there were to be a few pastors, “who are going to serve as an oversight committee so that Pastor Ted receives full, long term, therapeutic restoration and one day can minister in the larger body of Christ with joy, with dignity, and with hope in his heart. And that is our goal.”5 I whole heartedly believe that every believer should serve the Body of Christ in some way, so Ted would be no exception to that. However, the repeated stressing that he was being removed from his position of senior pastor was glaring in not mentioning that he would not be a pastor at all. Some churches hold that a pastor can and should be restored to a pastoral position if he grows in faith and is seen to be changed from when he was guilty of the grievous act that made him step down. I do not believe that this is the correct biblical model, and I do not agree with any church that holds to this model of pastoral restoration.

I hold on to the hope that if or when Ted ever wants to be involved in ministry again that he will be obedient to the scriptures and not be a pastor, elder, or deacon.

Is Ted Haggard a Christian? The ultimate and final answer is that neither you nor I know for a fact – only God does.6 However, we are instructed to judge teachers and elders by their fruit. So, I want to look at the fruit of Ted Haggard’s life – both in his sinful actions and in how he responded to it when his sin was brought to light. First of all, let us look to the Word of God and what it says about the fruit of false teachers.

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.

"Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” – Matthew 7:15-23

“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” – Titus 1:16

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;” – 2 Peter 2:1,2

“They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire." - 2 Peter 2:13-22

Ted made it clear that all of the accusations made against him are not true, but some of them are true. However, when he was initially confronted by reporters after the accuser had gone public, he responded with flat denials of any fornication or drug use. In one recorded encounter with a reporter, Ted explained that he was going to the accuser for massages. Also, he said that he did in fact buy drugs, but threw them away and never used them.7 Although all of the facts are not in, one thing that seems to be clear is that Ted was lying to cover his tracks, and only told the truth when proof was presented. He initially denied knowing the accuser until voice mails were released. He also denied being unfaithful to his wife, but later admitted to being guilty of sexual immorality in his letter that was read to his congregation.

He also alluded to the fallout of the scandal and the “confusion caused by my inconsistent statements” in the same address to New Life Church. I found it disturbing that he seemed to be spinning how he’d spoken to the press by referring to his statements as “inconsistent” as opposed to calling them what they were: lies. This was only compounded by the various words that Ted wrote describing his actions:

  • Dirt
  • Horrible example
  • Sexual immorality
  • Problem (mentioned several times)
  • There is a part of my life is repulsive and dark
  • Over short periods of time I would enjoy victory (no mention of victory over sin or a specific “sin”, just victory)
  • the darkness increased and finally dominated me
  • did things contrary to everything I believe

The pastor who read the letter referred to Ted’s actions as a “default” on a few occasions and Ted himself never mentioned the word “sin” until very near the end of his letter when he said, “I am a sinner and I have fallen….” This “coming clean” continued a little bit when he said, “I am a deceiver and a liar”, but it is still concerning that the word sin was not brought up more. It seemed like both Ted and those who were speaking about this issue were unwilling to use the word sin.

Do we know if Ted Haggard is saved? No. Should we assume that he is saved? I think that based on his actions, we should not. It is possible that he needs regeneration instead of restoration. This is good news! One person made the comment that God is being gracious to Ted. Why? Because God is causing his sin to be brought to light now and giving him the opportunity to repent before God and be forgiven if, in fact, he is not saved.

“God’s not angry at Ted. He loves him. He’s wrapping His arms around him. He is determined (God is determined) to erase the sin that ruins our lives and He has provided everything that Pastor Ted needs for life and godliness. This is His nature, it is His character, it is His Plan. He reaches for us, He finds us, He will not let us go no matter what happens. Today salvation is working, forgiveness is available, and God is extremely faithful.”8

I agree with Ross Parsley that God isn’t angry with Ted if he has repented of his sin and placed his true and saving faith (that will be evident by his actions) in Christ. But if he has not done that, now or before, then God is most definitely not happy with him, and he is an enemy of God.

I say all of this not to just dump on Ted Haggard. My true concern is for those who call themselves Christians all over the world. As a Christian, my life should reflect the fact that I am a new creation. When I sin, it should be a struggle as Paul describes of himself in Romans 7, but it shouldn’t be a planned rendezvous with a prostitute or a pornographic web site, or the intentional cheating on your taxes. Christians need to wake up and realize that there are those in our midst who claim to be Christians, but they are not (even if they think that they are). We need to use the law of God to evangelize unbelievers and we need to use the principles in Matthew 18 discipline and hopefully restore a brother or sister.


2 In no way do I endorse or agree with the ministries of either New Life Church or Bethany World Prayer Center. Actually, the more digging that I do (and I haven’t done much yet) the more wary and concerned I become over their doctrine.

3 It sounded more like a concert-style atmosphere with loud applause and whistling during the introductions of various pastors and elders than a reverent (or even somber or remorseful) church service.

4 It seems that there are women in positions of elders, and this was evident when the pastor who was about to read the letter from Mr. Haggard asked anyone who was an elder or “the husband or wife of an elder” to stand up and be recognized for the hard work that they had done recently. The “what we believe” page of their website seems very good on the gospel message, but it has elements of the health and wealth teaching too which I personally find to be somewhat cancerous in the modern church.

5 New Life Church Sunday Morning Service Podcast 11/5/06

6 I say that intentionally because Ted may not even really know. Some false teachers and many “Christians” think that they are saved, but they are deceived. So, only God and Ted (if he has a repentant heart, a brokenness over his sin – not being caught, and a true faith in Christ) know.


8 Ross Parsley – acting senior pastor of New Life Church taken from the New Life Church Sunday Morning Service Podcast 11/5/06

Monday, November 06, 2006

"Hell is real and wrath is awful and Christ is glorious"

I was listening to John Piper recently and he was preaching about the exclusivity of the gospel and of Christ, something that all Christians should be passionate about. Actually, perhaps one of the ways to find out if someone truly understands the gospel is to proclaim the exclusivity of Christ and then deal with their reaction. If they hesitate and argue that there are other ways to God, then this person doesn’t understand the gospel and most likely isn’t saved. I say this, and it’s true, because the “Jesus” that saves someone alongside a Judaism that saves, a Hinduism that saves, or an Islam that saves is not the Jesus of the Bible and therefore he has no power to save that person…because he isn’t real!

The real Jesus, the only Jesus of the Bible, is exclusive in His saving work. He does it through Himself alone. Faith in any other system or faith in a Jesus who is not totally exclusive in Salvation is not saving faith.

“so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” - John 5:23

“Here’s a paraphrase of that: If you do not worship Jesus, you do not worship God. That sentence will get you killed in some countries today; and in this city it will get you scorned, big-time. Because there are tens of thousands of Jews and tens of thousands of Muslims, and none of them honor the Son. You see when you really say the text for what it says, we’re in trouble. Do we realize (this is a mission driven church!), do you realize how offensive missions is?

What is missions if worship is this: If you do not worship Jesus, you do not worship God! Call Him Elohim; call Him Adonai; call Him Allah; call Him Gott; call Him Deos; call Him God; call Him what you will. If you don’t worship Jesus, you don’t worship God.

He who does not honor the son, does not honor the Father. Or in 1 John 2:23, He who has the Son has the Father. He who has not the Son has not the Father. Jesus said it right out to the Pharisees who knew the whole Old Testament by heart and went to the temple worshiping every day. ‘They don’t know Him,’ He said. So what should we say today in Guinea? What should we say today in the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Tunesia, Japan, North Korea, China, South Vietnam, Indonesia? What do we say? ‘Oh, you know God. You all know God. You’re all getting to Him in various ways.’ Well let’s just close up shop at Bethlehem if that’s what we’re going to say. What we’re going to say is ‘Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief, and I would like to share the best news in the world with you because there is no other escape from the wrath of God. Trust His Son, Jesus, who died that you might live. And if you don’t trust Him, you perish.

That made some people very angry here a few weeks ago. And it will make them more angry in the years to come because pluralism is going to get more and more the norm. Tolerance will become the law, and anybody who not only refuses to act in a tolerant way but speak in a tolerant way will be accused of hate mongering which leads to violence which puts you in jail.

So just decide, you can jump ship right now if you want to be a pluralist and say that ‘all religions are equal and we’re all on our way to God through various “saviours,”’ because when the pressure comes, you’re going to jump ship, if that’s your mind. You may as well jump now, and keep the church more pure. How many of you are spending your life doing something that counts. [There are] a lot of students in this room, you haven’t made up your mind yet, and I want to say [this] to even those who have made up their mind: If your job is letting you down in terms of significance… change it! There are ten thousand jobs available that are significant. Now, I don’t think that everybody should be a missionary, I’ve made that plain. But if you’re job makes you feel useless – day in and day out – change it! Come on, take some risk with your life, for goodness sake. You only have a few seconds left on this earth. And you students, you aren’t stuck anywhere yet. Dream a dream that counts, don’t dream about the American dream. Don’t dream about the house in the suburbs and the wife and the kids and the cars and the computers and the retirement and the vacations and all the accruements of refrigeration and electricity and heat and 911. Dream a real dream! Because Hell is real and wrath is awful and Christ is glorious. And one soul saved, as C.S. Lewis said, is worth more than the preservation of every classic that has ever been written.”1

1 “Much More Shall We Be Saved By His Life” a sermon by John Piper originally delivered on December 12, 1999 on Romans 5:9-11.

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson