Monday, August 18, 2008

Testing the Spirits...1 John 4:1-6

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this we know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

Not only is testing the spirits to see whether they are from God commanded by the Lord in His word but is also commended by the Lord in His word – “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false” (Revelation 2:2).

1 John 4:1-6 is very pertinent and potent in testing the spirits to determine whether they are from God. However, if we don’t keep the whole paragraph in its immediate context along with the overall context of Scripture, we may fail to understand how these deceivers are to be spotted. At first glance this passage seems to be saying that anyone who professes that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. That is not what it is saying! Overall context of Scripture and the immediate context of this passage points out clearly that professing Jesus as coming in the flesh and as Lord isn’t the same as confessing that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and is Lord.

The word “confess” is homologeo, from homos, “the same,” and lego, “to speak,” and therefore “confess” means to “speak the same thing as another.” This means that to confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh is to be actuated by the Holy Spirit of God and to say the exact same thing about the person and work of Christ that God Himself says. This is more than profession and head knowledge; this is confession and is heart knowledge. This confession of Jesus Christ coming in the flesh is to move into the realm of illumination concerning penal substitution and the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ alone based on His sinless life, death for sinners, and resurrection from the dead for the purpose of the imputation of righteousness to the unrighteous whereby God can be both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus Christ. This is clearly enunciated in Romans 10:9-10 – “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Jesus also addressed the issue of those who profess Him but do not really confess Him in Matthew 7:21-23 – “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.’”

Notice that these false prophets of whom Jesus was speaking professed Him as Lord but didn’t abide by the Word of God doing His Father’s will. Instead they practiced lawlessness; they were workers of iniquity – twisting the Scriptures to their own destruction. This brings us back to 1 John 4:1-6 where John went on to say that the many false prophets who have gone out into the world speak as from the world and the world listens to them. How do we know if someone is just professing Christ as Lord and is a false prophet or if he is confessing Christ as Lord and is a true prophet? The answer is in whether or not he twists the Scriptures and speaks as from the world in order to be heard by and listened to by the world or whether or not he is true to the Scriptures and speaks as from God with the world rejecting his message.

If what a man teaches violates Scripture then he is a false prophet regardless of his profession of Jesus because right belief (heart knowledge) determines right behavior! Workers of iniquity (Scripture twisters) may profess Jesus with their mouths but deny Him by their deeds (see Titus 1:16).

Some Disturbing Trends in the Blogosphere!

First let me say that I am all for discernment and both preach and practice it. Even my blog is to be considered a “discernment ministry.” And not only that, I believe that any ministry which fails to equip the saints to be able to discern the difference between truth and error, light and darkness, and good and evil, is not a genuinely biblical ministry but more like a positive only, stand against nothing, sugar-coated lie. With that being said, it is not the perpetuators of the “non-discernment” ministries that I want to address but my concerns with some of the disturbing trends among those of us with discernment ministries. I have several concerns regarding these disturbing trends that all of us (me included) who are earnestly contending for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints need to beware of and avoid. So I ask for prayers for myself and for others that we would be delivered from these unworthy tendencies.

First, what has come to my attention more than ever is the ungodly spirit of competition among many involved in this kind of ministry. It seems to me that the goal is to be the “first” to sound the trumpet against approaching danger possibly so that we can be considered the “greatest in the kingdom of God.” However we are forgetting that the work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another – and that when we hear the sound of the trumpet, we are to rally together in that place (see Nehemiah 4:19-20).

Next, I’m concerned with the tendency to be contentious rather than actually contending for the faith. Contentiousness is driven by the spirit of competition and especially shows up when we are more concerned with revealing our opinions as though they are God’s truth (see Proverbs 18:2, 13) than we are in not being quarrelsome, but being kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, and with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth (see 2 Timothy 2:24-25).

Finally, I’m concerned with the tendency to be duplicitous and hypocritical rather than being fully convinced from careful Bible study, prayer, and research on the various subjects on which we blog. For instance, if I am not fully convinced that someone is a false prophet/teacher and consider him to be a “brother in Christ” then I cannot say about him in one thread that what he teaches is “wicked, strange” and then in another thread sing his praises for what I perceive to be something good without being duplicitous and hypocritical. For one thing if I consider him my “brother in Christ” then I should never in any form or fashion accuse his teachings of being “wicked, strange” because that does not mark children of God but false prophets/teachers. Actually, this becomes a reversal of Matthew 7 and moves out of the realm of genuine discernment concerning false prophets (which we are commanded to do) and into the realm of the type of judgment that the Lord told us not to do in that chapter. This type of action, speaking out against someone we consider to be a “brother in Christ” using words that characterize false prophets/teachers and then singing his praises later because he helps to further our “opinion” on another subject is tantamount to leading a charge into the battlefield as though we are some kind of great soldier for the Lord and then refusing to fight because we “misidentified” the enemy – it is duplicity and hypocrisy.

You may have other concerns about disturbing trends among discernment ministries in the blogosphere but these are the ones that I see at this time and pray that God would deliver us from.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Speaking about Faith in Christ

In Acts 24:24-25 we read, “But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.’”

Notice that speaking about faith in Christ Jesus entailed more than a reduced down and minimized formula but rather included an explanation of the implications of the Gospel. The apostle Paul began his discussion with the first implication of the Gospel being righteousness. Surely he explained to Felix how the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ the sinless Son of God was necessary for God to maintain His own righteousness while forgiving and declaring sinners righteous. Penal substitution through a sinless sacrifice is an absolute necessity for God to be both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Christ Jesus. There is no other way of salvation.

While Paul was speaking on righteousness, the truth of man’s unrighteousness would have been discussed. There is none good, not even one – and the proof of that is that in order to save us God had to sacrifice His own Son!

Discussing righteousness, both the righteousness of God and the unrighteousness of man, establishes the biblical truth that justification is a gift of God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Here is the high and holy doctrine of imputation and penal substitution through which we are saved from the penalty of sin.

Next in his discussion, Paul spoke of self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and is the outworking of having the imputed righteousness of God through justification by faith. This is the result of a new nature – “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we were justified we were “buried with Christ through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). We have been given a new life principle – the Holy Spirit of God – to enable us to walk in newness of life and He gives self-control and self-control gives us victory over today’s temptations. This is how we are sanctified! Here is the high and holy doctrine of implantation through which we are being saved from the power of sin.

Last in his discussion, Paul spoke of judgment to come. In the judgment to come there will be a just condemnation of the unrepentant based on God’s absolute righteousness – hell is right and is a necessity. God will not violate His own righteousness and justify someone some other way other than through faith in Jesus Christ the only righteous way He has provided – “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

In the judgment to come there will be a just salvation of the repentant based on God’s absolute righteousness – heaven is right – forgiving sinners through penal substitution imputes and implants the righteousness of God in them.

In the judgment to come, those who have been redeemed through faith in Christ Jesus, will be transformed from the body of their humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself (see Philippians 3:20-21). Here is the high and holy doctrine of impartation through which we will be saved from the presence of sin! Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Here is a poem that I wrote a little while back that I pray will help make application with these wonderful doctrines of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:

Adam’s Song

I failed to be like Jesus; I failed to justify my wife; I failed to remain pure and holy, and become her sacrifice! My life I could not give for hers, from the penalty of sin to save; I could not pay the debt she owed, when mine was just as great. There could be no imputation, of my perfect righteousness, for I failed to be like Jesus and to justify my wife.

I failed to be like Jesus; I failed to sanctify my wife; I failed to wash her with God’s Word, and cleanse her daily life! My presence I could not give to her, from the power of sin to save; I could not break sin’s controlling bondage, when in its grasp I too must stay. There could be no implantation, of my perfect righteousness, for I failed to be like Jesus and to sanctify my wife.

I failed to be like Jesus; I failed to glorify my wife; I failed to make her without spot or wrinkle, and present her as a holy bride! My power I could not exert on her, from the presence of sin to save; I could not remove sin’s crippling presence, when in its presence I too was slain. There could be no impartation, of my perfect righteousness, for I failed to be like Jesus and to glorify my wife.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Orthodoxy Determines Orthopraxy!

The coming counterfeit revival, the apostasy that must take place before the Lord returns, is in process and is being called, “a new reformation.” This is nothing short of an ecumenical movement that will culminate in a one world religion whose unity will have to be something other than sound doctrine as its quintessence. Since sound doctrine (orthodoxy) is seen as too divisive then there must be another essence to allow unity in diversity and give embodiment to the movement as a whole. It will be this other essence that will be used to unify the diverse and false religions of the world under one umbrella; the common ground that will allow a working together and getting along with one another. This will be a return to Babel, an unholy and ungodly unity, under the disguise of bringing in world peace and the utopian age.

However, this will be a counterfeit unity because it will be based on the pursuit of philosophy and culture to the exclusion of God derived unity. The unity and peace God provides is always based on truth – first pure then peaceable! But genuine unity and peace based on truth (orthodoxy) is also divisive dividing the true from the false and the wheat from the tares. Therefore world-wide unity is only possible based on something other than truth and therefore the ecumenical movement will actually serve as a gathering up (bundling up) of the tares (counterfeit Christians who are not lovers of truth) based on that which is a lie (See Matthew 13:30 and 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

Since truth only unites those who are lovers of truth so as to be saved and divides because of its exclusiveness - orthodox, fundamental, and creedal Christians will be disdained as trouble-makers, enemies of the ecumenical movement (falsely called the evangelical movement), and those who cause division. Even the reformation will be viewed as a failure and of a divisive nature because it failed to unite Christendom. Orthodoxy, right beliefs, sound doctrine, will have no place in the ecumenical movement because it is not the means that can bring about the desired end – world unity and peace. But there is one major problem for the ecumenical movement and its proponents – those who know and love the truth and take their stand for the truth in-spite of consequences.

These are the children of God who have received the love of the truth so as to be saved. They will be caricatured, belittled, and even persecuted as narrow minded, arrogant, fundamentalist, legalistic, sectarian, enemies of the movement of God. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Well, dear friends, we are content with the old wine since it is the best; Christ's gospel is no new gospel; and moreover, we are old-fashioned enough to believe that not one doctrine is to be altered, nor half a doctrine, nor the thousandth part of a doctrine, no nor yet the form of a doctrine. We would "hold fast the form of sound words"—not only the principle mark, but the words; and not only the words, but the very form in which the words were moulded."Words, words, words," says somebody; "what is the use of words, and forms, and creeds? Why, these are old musty crusty documents, only sectarians care about them."Ay, then let us be sectarians; let us hold with force and strength of mind the very form of sound words which has been delivered unto us. Not one of the stakes shall be removed, nor one of the cords thereof be loosened.

So what will be the quintessence, the unifying force than can pull the many into one, and out of plurality bring singularity, and from diversity achieve unity, giving embodiment to the ecumenical movement? ORTHOPRAXY! Sound doctrine or right beliefs (orthodoxy) must give way to what is falsely being called right behavior (orthopraxy). The rally cry for the ecumenical apostasy which is falsely being called "a new reformation" is away with creeds and unite with deeds.

However, right behavior (orthopraxy) only flows from right beliefs (orthodoxy); doctrine determines duty and in the Bible the doctrinal is given before the practical is given; we are not told how to behave until we are told how to believe because our behavior is transformed by the renewing of our minds (what we believe). There can be no divorce or disconnect between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. To have orthodoxy without orthopraxy is to be like the demons and believe but unsavingly (see James 2:14-19). To have orthopraxy without orthodoxy is to pursue righteousness as though it were by works and not be subject to the righteousness of God which is by faith (see Romans 9:30 – 10:4).

Therefore a unity that is based on orthopraxy with no regard for orthodoxy is unbiblical and ungodly. It is rebellion and disobedience for God Himself has said, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Beliar, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord. And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

This is the biblical and orthodox reason based on sound doctrine to reject the ecumenical movement and its proponents. And don’t forget – doctrine determines duty; behavior flows from belief!

First the doctrinal then the practical; first right belief then right behavior – so now we move from preaching to practice – it’s time to make application!

Having established the truth that the ecumenical movement cannot and will not have as its unifying essence orthodoxy (right beliefs) but will unify under under deeds (counterfeit of right behavior), let us make application with this orthodoxy and practice genuine orthopraxy – let us see who is violating God’s truth and come out from their midst and be separate as the Lord says!

You know, 500 years ago, the first Reformation with Luther and then Calvin, was
about beliefs. I think a new reformation is going to be about behavior. The
first Reformation was about creeds; I think this one will be about deeds. I
think the first one was about what the church believes; I think this one will be
about what the church does.
The first Reformation actually split Christianity
into dozens and then hundreds of different segments. I think this one is
actually going to bring them together. Now, you're never going to get
Christians, of all their stripes and varieties, to agree on all of the different
doctrinal disputes and things like that, but what I am seeing them agree on are
the purposes of the church. And I find great uniformity in the fact that I see
this happening all the time. Last week I spoke to 4,000 pastors at my church who
came from over 100 denominations in over 50 countries. Now, that's wide spread.
We had Catholic priests, we had Pentecostal ministers, we had Lutheran bishops,
we had Anglican bishops, we had Baptist preachers. They're all there together
and you know what? I'd never get them to agree on communion or baptism or a
bunch of stuff like that, but I could get them to agree on what the church
should be doing in the world.
And the way I expressed it is that the Bible
calls the church the body of Christ, and what's happened in the last 100 years
is that the hands and the feet have been amputated and the church has just been
a mouth, and primarily it's been known for what it's against. It's been known
for what it's against. And I am working toward a second Reformation of the
church which could create a Third Great Awakening in our nation or world, and it
may not happen in America; it may not. (Source)

Now notice that Rick Warren is saying that orthopraxy will be the unifying essence of a “new reformation.” Notice that he also implies the failure of the first reformation because it, “actually split Christianity into dozens and then hundreds of different segments.” However, this is the nature of truth and the nature of the ministry of Christ – He did not come to bring peace but a sword nor unity (except for those who are truly His disciples) but division (see Matthew 10:34-36).

Also notice that Rick Warren equates the church standing firm in truth as being known for what it stands against which he is “tired of”:
"The New Testament says the church is the body of Christ, but for the last 100
years, the hands and feet have been amputated, and the church has just been a
mouth. And mostly, it's been known for what it's against," Warren said during a
break between services at his church campus. "I'm so tired of Christians being
known for what they're against." (Source)

However, you cannot stand for something while at the same time not standing against something. You cannot stand for truth and righteousness without standing against lies and unrighteousness. This is also another serious violation of the Word of God which says that true prophets are known for what they stand against (Jeremiah 28:5-9) and that the equipped church while standing firm in the truth is standing against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-13; read these verses and see how many times we are told what we are against).

But then again if you are for an ecumenical movement you are also against whatever resists that movement (even Rick Warren can’t live by his own philosophy because of the law of non-contradiction) – after all, he’s against fundamentalism:
JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: Picking up on this business about the disagreements between
the fundamentalists and the Pentecostals, I mean, this struck me as news because
when journalists write about it, we go to people like Robertson and Falwell to
represent the evangelicals. And that's the way it comes across, so it strikes me
that we're ill informed or you're wrong. (Chuckles.) And secondly, that you're
not using this God-given influence you spoke of, because your influence is not
showing up in the American media in terms of supplanting people who you would
tell us are bogus.
MR. WARREN: Well, I tell you, that's the reason I accepted
this meeting, because I'm just tired of having other people represent me and
represent the hundreds of thousands of churches where the pastors I've trained
would nowhere, no way, relate to some of the supposed spokesmen of a previous
Now the word "fundamentalist" actually comes from a document in
the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very
legalistic, narrow view of Christianity, and when I say there are very few
fundamentalists, I mean in the sense that they are all actually called
fundamentalist churches, and those would be quite small. There are no large
ones. (Source)

Rick Warren also said at The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that religious pluralism will be the answer to the world’s problems and that he doesn’t care why you do good (deeds) as long as you do good.

Right belief determines right behavior; orthodoxy determines orthopraxy – have nothing to do with this ecumenical movement and its proponents!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Popular or God's Spokesman?

Whenever one is more concerned about what man desires than what God desires, he is motivated by the fear of man rather than the fear of God; he is more interested in reverencing man than he is in reverencing God. Deeply ingrained in a man-centered approach to ministry is self-preservation – no persecution when all men speak well of you – and self-promotion – desiring to be popular in order to receive glory from one another and not the glory that is from the one and only God (see John 5:44).

So the question that we must answer is will we be popular, market driven, motivated by the fear of man or will we be God’s spokesmen, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, truth driven, motivated by the fear of God?

If we truly trust the Lord then we will be God's spokesmen. Being God's spokesmen requires faith as we trust Him with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. Also our love for Him motivates us to desire to please Him more than anyone else so that our interest is not "what will others think" but "what will the Lord think!"

In this matter of serving God and being His spokesmen, speaking the truth in love inspite of the consequences, God has given us all that we need to empower us and equip us for the task. On February 2, 1998, the Lord spoke to me and called me into the gospel ministry setting me immediately on the right path by settling for me the issue between being popular or being His spokesman. Dr. Warren Wiersbe was preaching on Four Wonderful Discoveries for Leaders and through it the Lord spoke to me and asked me if I would be popular of His spokesman, to which I replied in my heart and wrote in my notes, "Your spokesman Lord!" The difference between those two possible responses is the difference between the fear of man and the fear of God and the difference between false preachers and teachers and true preachers and teachers.

Listen to this short clip

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What's Driving the Market Driven Church?

The question, what’s driving the market driven church, may seem absurd and ridiculous and one may feel that the obvious answer is “the market.” However, that any church is driven by the market is only the fruit of the problem and not the root of the problem. So let me rephrase the question: what is at the root of the market driven church?

Now most surely those within and promoting the market driven church would assign pure and noble motives to their actions. They would say that they are serving God with zeal through their man-centered and market driven methods. They would see nothing wrong with taking, what Robert Schuller describes as, “the human-needs approach”, in order to impress and attract the un-churched (Robert H. Schuller, Self Esteem: The New Reformation, Word Books, Waco Texas, 1982, page 12-13). Therefore not only are the programs of the church marketed to the “needs” (and I should also say “greeds”) of the community; the preaching of the church is also marketed in the same fashion. When this happens man becomes the focus and audience, culture is elevated to the place of preeminence, the Word of God is lowered to the place of being less than the prime authority in ministry, and Christ is dethroned as the head of the church.

However, pleasing men by meeting their desires through the programs and preaching of the church has never been and never will be God’s design for His church. The programs and preaching of the church must please God and not man. The message of the Master judges men and is sovereign and not the judgment of men on the message. One of the preacher’s primary responsibilities is to remember who is the real audience and who is the real judge of the message he proclaims – “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

So now we can see two totally opposite approaches to ministry: a man-centered approach where pleasing men is the goal; and a God-centered approach to ministry where pleasing God is the goal. A man-centered approach to ministry requires no biblical faith at all to do while a God-centered approach to ministry can’t be done without it.

This brings us to the place where we can answer the question: What’s driving the market driven church? The fear (reverence) of man!

Whenever one is more concerned about what man desires than what God desires, he is motivated by the fear of man rather than the fear of God; he is more interested in reverencing man than he is in reverencing God. Deeply ingrained in a man-centered approach to ministry is self-preservation – no persecution when all men speak well of you – and self-promotion – desiring to be popular in order to receive glory from one another and not the glory that is from the one and only God (see John 5:44).

So the question that we must answer is will we be popular, market driven, motivated by the fear of man or will we be God’s spokesmen, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, truth driven, motivated by the fear of God?

The fear of man is at the root and is driving the market driven church!