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Posts tagged ‘Gospel’

{ Day 329 }.


I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. —Psalm 27:13-14

God‘s personality is infinite in its complexity and creativity. We think of God as being perfect in every way. God has a divine personality, perfect in His wisdom, love, and goodness. His dealing with each of us is in terms of building a relationship of love. But more often than not, our monolithic misunderstanding of how God should act in a given circumstance sometimes causes His action to seem contrary to our way of thinking. One of the things we should learn from the Gospels is that Jesus often did not answer people in the way we think our Lord should have. Then, when we think He should have answered, He was silent. At times when we suppose He should have intervened, He was inactive. If for no other reason than this, prophetic ministers should be careful not to presume what God should say or do in any given situation.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Keep me, Spirit, from drawing conclusions about Your ways. You are infinitely more wise and knowing than I could ever understand. I will patiently wait to see what You have planned for me and for Your people.

We sometimes draw wrong conclusions from
God’s silence or His presumable lack
of intervention on our behalf.

By MIKE BICKLE.

Does the Gospel Come With Strings Attached?.


steeple
Has the gospel become merely a business transaction for some? (Sandralise/rgbstock.com)

Even with the best of intentions, things have a way of going south. When we launched our outreachministry at Mariners Church in Orange County, Calif., the first thing we thought to do was meet the basic needs of the people we were serving. Sounds reasonable, right? They need groceries; we’ll give them a bag of food. They need winter coats? Got it. School supplies? Check. Then we’ll teach them about Jesus, and they’ll pray the prayer and bam! We’re all good.

But wait. If we really believe in an irresistible Savior whose love is the most powerful force on Earth, why do we cling to manipulative tools and gimmicks to all but bribe someone into the kingdom of heaven?

Let’s say you’re handing out mosquito nets in an African village. The long line of people waiting is a clear sign they really need what you’ve brought. It’s a captive audience. As you pass the nets across the folding table, do you say, “This is a free gift to you and all your neighbors from God-loving people who care about you”? Or do you start asking them about their relationship with Christ?

There’s a subtlety here I don’t want you to miss because I have missed it many times. If you’re still holding on to the gift as you ask them about Jesus, there’s a very good chance the two will be connected in their minds—and not in the way you may have intended. Just for a moment, they may think something such as, “Do I need to say yes to Jesus to get this net?”

If/Then Generosity

Most of the time, we’re unaware that we’re still hanging on to the gift, but sometimes we are. At these times, the way we present the gospel can feel like a business transaction: “If you give me this or respond to what I’m asking, then Jesus will do this for you. He’ll save you from hell if you say these words. He’ll provide a meal for you if you raise your hand.”

Certainly there are people who recognize the business aspect and work the system to their advantage. But the people we minister to have taught us that receiving the gospel is more than just a simple transaction.

We often assume we need material resources to motivate people. But more often, despite the apparent material needs they have, the resources aren’t what they really want. More than anything, what they want and need is relationship.

Being Authentically Generous

This transactional method—offering people a reward for the right behavior or response—is very effective at motivating people. Intentionally or not, we manipulate people using the power of stuff. But when we achieve success this way, though our numbers may look great, the success we achieve isn’t consistent with the heart of the gospel message.

Transactional ministry is often done with good motives, but I wonder if deep down we embrace it because we like the immediate, visible results and how they make us feel. The people we are serving need what we offer them, even if they have to jump through a hoop to get it. Yet true spiritual fruit isn’t always produced immediately. And when we minister in this way, we focus on the short-term results and lack faith in God’s work over the long haul.

So is there a way for us to be authentically generous with people without trying to get something in return? Yes. It’s generosity that overflows from a heart that is satisfied in God, a heart that’s willing and ready to sacrifice for others—not to get something in return but as the natural fruit of God’s love for us. And this requires a deeper commitment to knowing and loving people.

Our conversations about Jesus shouldn’t be the only ones we have with the people we serve. We have to earn the right to be heard and to share the gospel with people. And we do this to sacrificially love and serve them—not because we have to but because we want to. When it comes to the work of Jesus, we need to show up with a loving heart and open arms, letting the Holy Spirit do the work of bringing people closer to God.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

LAURIE BESHORE

Laurie Beshore is the founding pastor of Mariners Outreach Ministries in Orange County, Calif. She has been married for 34 years to Kenton Beshore, the senior pastor of Mariners Church (marinerschurch.org). Adapted with permission from Love Without Walls: Learning to Be a Church in the World for the World by Laurie Beshore (Zondervan).

Op-Ed: Pastors Call for Global Billy Graham Revival.


 

Image: Op-Ed: Pastors Call for Global Billy Graham Revival

 

By A. Larry Ross

Dour stories currently dominate the media — a government shutdown, talk of defunding the Affordable Care Act, the global economy just limping along, and conflicts raging in the Middle East.

But amidst the negative news, an unprecedented phenomenon occurred the last weekend of September, as the good news of the Gospel was simultaneously preached by six of the pre-eminent evangelists of our time in separately organized evangelistic crusades, festivals, and celebrations across the country and around the world.

And in November, coinciding with Billy Graham‘s 95th birthday, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will sponsor My Hope America with Billy Graham.

Urgent: Should GOP Stick to Its Guns on Obamacare? Vote Here. 

Thousands of individuals from more than 22,000 participating churches will gather with friends and family in their homes to watch programs featuring a new message from the veteran evangelist. Even if the government shuts down, God will never shut down, not so long as there are those who are passionate to share His message with the hopeless.

“America needs hope, and the church has two secret weapons — preaching and praying,” said Greg Laurie, whose Harvest America Crusade in Philadelphia on Sept. 28-29 was live-streamed to more than 22 countries.

“But we don’t use them enough, because we spend too much time boycotting and complaining. Harvest America demonstrates the potential of what can happen when we focus on the two things the Lord has commanded us to do,” Laurie said.

Bright spots glowed in the darkness from cellphones held by young people packed shoulder-to-shoulder, their cellphone screens glowing, inside dimmed arenas and stadiums across the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa to hear the Gospel message.

In Philadelphia, as Christian rapper Lecrae chanted into the microphone, “You get one life and it will pass; only what you do for Christ will last,” a girl in the front row recorded a few verses on her phone then posted the video to her Twitter feed.

Across the floor of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, many of the 27,500 attending used social media during performances by Kirk Franklin, Jeremy Camp, and MercyMe. By the end of the weekend of prayer, and messages from Harvest America evangelist Greg Laurie, nearly 2,500 people in the arena made faith commitments — which more than doubled with the Internet response.

Thousands of attendees shared their experiences on social media, including group “selfies,” or self-portrait photos. These yielded 51,000 likes, 24,000 tweets, and 13,600 Instagram photos, catapulting #HarvestAmerica as the No. 1 trending Twitter topic both evenings.

Over the same weekend, five other major evangelistic crusades were held around the world, including Reinhard Bonnke in Orlando, Jay Lowder in Northern Ireland, Will Graham in Japan, and Franklin Graham in Iceland.

In Orlando, Bonnke announced he’ll take his Good News crusade to more cities across the country, proclaiming “Our God is able … We don’t look into the past, we look into the future. And the Gospel is our nation’s future.”

And yet, to accurately gauge the future of the Gospel message in America and the world, we can look to the past — at history, when seasons of great social and political upheaval dovetailed with emerging technologies and entire generations responded with tidal waves of religious fervor.

In an era of political unrest and bureaucracy in the Catholic Church, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses of Contention to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Thanks to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press a half-century earlier, Luther’s ideas spread  across Europe, spawning the Protestant Reformation.

As the Industrial Revolution began crowding a formerly rural population into urban centers, people began to doubt the cold, rational ideas of the Enlightenment. At the same time, revivalist preachers such as John Wesley and George Whitefield, and activist William Wilberforce spearheaded movements to address social ills and found missionary societies.

By the 1950s, television and radio were ubiquitous in households across the Western hemisphere; in a society turned upside down by Cold War nuclear fears, the Civil Rights movement, and economic woes, evangelists like Oral Roberts and Billy Graham sought to steer the panicked masses back to assurances of Christ’s power for salvation. According to Rick Marshall, Graham’s longtime crusade director, Billy Graham was “a creative genius for the utilization of media,” and was among the first to leverage new mediums for the presentation of the Gospel.

It is no secret that we as a global community have entered a time of great tribulation: Ireland and Japan face high suicide rates; Japan still struggles with the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown; Iceland, like other European nations, struggles with a post-Christian secular culture; the U.S. government can’t seem to agree on anything; and people are concerned for the future of healthcare.

Doctor Reveals Healing Powers of Prayer 

Though the Internet is an effective tool for spreading ideas and innovation, it also scatters bad news far and wide — more than ever, people need the good news. At a recent Jesus Culture conference in California, Bonnke declared that God “takes the nobodies and turns them into somebodies.” As never before seen in history, smartphones and social media have equipped the individual believer — the Everyman Christian — to become an influencer for transformative change.

As the use of social media baptizes the globe, evangelists such as Lowder, Bonnke, Laurie, and the Grahams have a unique opportunity to amplify the numbers of those touched through mass-evangelism events by also reaching out to their online social networks.

Larry Ross is president of A. Larry Ross Communications, a Dallas-based media/public relations agency that provides crossover media liaison at the intersection of faith and culture. With more than 37 years’ experience influencing public opinion, Ross’ mission is to restore faith in media by providing Christian messages relevance and meaning in mainstream media.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Billy Graham on Sin, Salvation and ‘Trendy Religion’.


 

Billy Graham
Billy Graham

Evangelist Billy Graham, who preached the gospel for more than seven decades, has written his 32nd book:The Reason for My Hope: Salvation.

The book, to be released Oct. 15, comes at a time when the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association finishes preparations for the “My Hope America” evangelistic campaign that will involve more than 21,000 churches in November.

Here is a sampling of the thoughts of the 94-year-old evangelist in his newest book:

Sin
“The truth is that every last one of us is born in sin, and while some may not think of themselves as sinners, God does. He hears every word we utter and knows the deepest secrets we lock away in the vaults of our hearts.”

‘Trendy Religion’
“Many churches of all persuasions are hiring research agencies to poll neighborhoods, asking what kind of church they prefer; then the local churches design themselves to fit the desires of the people. True faith in God that demands selflessness is being replaced by trendy religion that serves the selfish.”

A ‘Simple’ Gospel
“I am afraid that many Christians, in their zeal to share their faith in Christ, have made the Gospel message of making disciples for Him too simple. Just to say ‘believe in Christ’ can produce a false assurance of the hope of Heaven. Jesus spoke often about the gift of eternal life. To make it clear, He said, ‘Count the cost.’”

‘Earning’ Salvation
“Giving up something to follow Christ is not earning salvation; it is giving up what keeps you from salvation. When we hold on to something that is dearer to us than receiving the greater gift of salvation in Christ, we lose.”

‘When Terror Strikes’
“We see the world kicking God out of education, government, marriages, the home, and even church. Yet when terror strikes, people clasp their hands and bend their knees, calling on God to meet them in their time of distress, asking Him to lift their burden, begging for a different outcome.”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Is Joseph Prince’s Radical Grace Teaching Biblical?.


Joseph Prince
Joseph Prince
Since there has been a wave of articles against “hypergrace” preaching and churches in the past year, I decided to read a key book authored by Joseph Prince, who is considered by many to be the main progenitor of this genre of teaching.
I read Prince’s book Destined to Reign last week with the idea that I would find out for myself what he really teaches. Half of the Christians I know who read this book loved it, and the other half thought it was heresy, so I was quite interested in the content because I’ve never seen mature Christians who know the Word of God be so divided on any author since the beginning of the Word of Faith teachings by Hagin and Copeland in the 1970s and ’80s.
I must admit I started the book with a suspicious view because for the last 35 years, I have seen some of the catastrophic results of various types of “hypergrace” Christianity. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the book, and as a result I will make some adjustments in how I present the gospel.
This is not to say there were not some theological issues I was concerned with. Prince makes the same mistake thousands before him have made: They come up with some kind of theological system they are comfortable with (he is a “once saved always saved” classical dispensationalist) and then deductively read every passage of Scripture with their biased lens, resulting in forcing the Scriptures to fit their interpretation. Many people make the mistake of wanting to fit God into a concise theological box, resulting in blanket statements that are not always easily proven or true.
The greatest thing about Destined to Reign and Prince’s theology is that it is Christ-exalting and Christ-centered. Prince’s main passion is not grace but Jesus, which is the place the whole church needs to be but often is not. (Prince believes grace and the person of Christ are synonymous.)
In spite of its flaws, I will actually recommend the book to certain Christians suffering from a performance trap in which they try to earn God’s favor and love by the things they do instead of through the merit of Christ’s finished work. There is enough good stuff in the book for new believers and those struggling with guilt to get them on a good foundation—if it is coupled with other books and teachings to bring it balance.
What is probably happening with Prince is what happens with many popular preachers who start trends. Other preachers read their stuff and take it to an extreme, teaching things the founder never intended. I do not get the impression Princebelieves in cheap grace or that a person who really understands Prince’s heart and teaching will dive into sin—but there are certain places where it is easy for the theologically untrained to take his teaching too far and preach a cheap grace or hypergrace message. Prince makes it clear he hates sin and also preaches from the Old Testament to exalt Christ.
The following are some of my concerns with the book. (Since this is not an academic treatise, I am not citing the exact page numbers of Prince’s statements—you just have to read the whole book.)
1. Prince Makes Blanket Statements and Tries to Fit All Scripture Within His System
For example, he says it is not necessary to confess our sins and that Paul’s epistles never give an example of a believer confessing sin. He says this because he believes all of our sins, both past and future, have already been forgiven (something I agree with in principle) and that we should just be honest with God and speak to Him about our failures. ButPrince says this is not the same as confession of sin for forgiveness. I say this is a merely a cute play on words because speaking to God about our sins is going to lead to confession anyway.
The challenge I have with this teaching is that in 1 John 1:9, John teaches us to confess our sins. Although Princeacknowledges that this passage refutes his teaching on radical grace, he tries to get around it by saying this passage was written to the gnostics in the church—something he states without citing any commentaries, sources or historical evidence. I counter that the context of 1 John shows that John was writing to believers. He calls them his “dear children” in 1 John 2:1 (NIV). Also, remember that originally the book had no chapters or verses; thus, the “children” in 1 John 2:1 are connected to the first chapter of the book.
Although the apostle John was dealing with gnosticism in this epistle when he spoke about the humanity of Christ in 1 John 1:1 and 4:2-3 and the fact Jesus came in the flesh—a fact gnostics refute because they believe Jesus only came as a spirit because they believed the realm of the flesh was evil—the recipients of this letter were not gnostics but true believers who were being warned against gnosticism.
Furthermore, if 1 John 1:9 was written to unbelievers, why would John tell them to confess their sins? Its impossible for an unbeliever to recount and confess all the sins they ever committed. When I came to Christ, I did not confess each and every individual sin of my past 19 years. I just surrendered my heart to Christ and asked Him to forgive me for being a sinner. When a person comes to Christ, they are not commanded to confess their sins but to receive Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 16:31). Only a Christian can remember and confess individual sins as they are committed.
Furthermore, James 5:16 also teaches believers to confess their sins. Lastly, Paul actually implies confession of sin in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 when he encourages the Corinthian church to repent and have “godly sorrow.”
2. Prince Bases His Theology Only on the Writings of Paul  
I find it interesting that Prince says he only preaches the gospel Paul preaches. Although I admire Paul, Prince has to be careful with statements like this because he can give the impression that the other writings of the New Testament are not inspired or even canonical. (Even the gnostics only cited Paul and disregarded the other epistles as well as the Old Testament.)
Prince seems to quote the Gospels only occasionally, which gives me the impression he probably believes much of the teaching is not relevant to the church age because the Gospels were written before the Resurrection. This enables Prince(and typical hyperdispensationalists) to avoid dealing with the command for believers to take up their cross (Mark 8:34-36) and other such passages that demand high commitment.
I believe any teacher who is called to preach like Paul the apostle must preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), which means they need to include equally the Gospels and the epistles of John, Jude, Peter and James as well as the book of Hebrews and the Old Testament.
3. Prince Doesn’t Clearly Define the Role of the Moral Law of God 
Prince teaches that the Old Testament Law is not necessary anymore for the church, and he makes a simple dichotomy between both covenants. He doesn’t even make an allowance for the need for the moral law of God (the Ten Commandments), except to show us how sinful and lost we are.
The challenge with this simplified view of the Old Testament is that Paul the apostle told us to know the Old Testament so we will not set our heart on evil things and sin as the Jewish nation did (1 Cor. 10:6). Thus, the moral law was still necessary to keep the church in line, according to Paul.
Prince says there is no room for preaching the law of God in the church and that God only blesses the message of grace. However, church history does not back this up. Charles Finney was perhaps the greatest evangelist in American history, and he would regularly preach the moral law of God to get people convicted and then use the gospel to get them saved and consecrated. He preached the law of God to both saint and sinner. You can also throw Jonathan Edwards into the mix as a powerful preacher who used the law of God in his messages.
Prince would probably say these men preached a mixture of law and grace. However, the fruit of their ministries shows that their work and message was greatly blessed of God and had historic results. I personally teach regularly on the law of God in the church with great effect and fruit. Prince would probably say I preach a mixture of law and grace—but if I stand in the company of Finney and Edwards, who used the moral law as a standard to convict sin, I will take Prince’s criticism with a smile!
I believe the moral law is still needed, or else there would be no conviction of sin and our standard of righteousness would collapse down to the ethos of the surrounding culture. Furthermore, the moral law was repeated in the New Testament, even by Paul in Ephesians 4-6, when he told the church not to steal, not to be angry, not to covet, not to commit sexual immorality, not to be idolaters and to honor their fathers and mothers. Furthermore, all the New Testament writers repeatedly used the Ten Commandments as the standard of holiness for the church because it reflects the nature and character of God.
Even when Jesus gave His followers a new commandment to love one another (John 13:34), He was still using love as a law to obligate the church to a standard of living—something Paul repeated in Romans 13:8-10.
Prince thus lumps the moral law (the Ten Commandments) with the ceremonial law of God and says both have been done away with and are not relevant to the church. What he fails to realize is every time the law is dealt with by Paul (in Galatians, Romans, Hebrews and Colossians), the context is always circumcision, animal sacrifices and the observance of the Sabbath and holy days. Hence, Paul is primarily referring to the ceremonial aspects of the law, not the Ten Commandments.
Prince brings out the fact that Paul calls the Ten Commandments the “ministration of death” in 2 Corinthians 3:7 (KJV). However, I would counter that in spite of this, Paul and the other New Testament writers continually used the Ten Commandments as the standard of ethics for the church. The ministration of death has to do with the fact that without Christ, we are all guilty before God—a point we all agree with. Galatians 3:24 calls the law our schoolmaster that leads us to Christ; thus, it is a standard of holiness that brings conviction and leads us to depend on the grace of Christ to fulfill it. Romans 8:4 clearly teaches us the Holy Spirit empowers us to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law; thus, it’s standards are still a requirement for functional holiness. Furthermore, the strength of sin is the law (1 Cor. 15:56).
But the point of the New Testament is that Jesus gives us the power to live righteously through His Spirit. It is not just imputed righteousness from Christ with no obligation on our part. When we break the Ten Commandments, that is still a sin that we believers have to repent of and confess to the Lord for forgiveness.
I do agree with Prince that we need to be Christ-focused and Christ-conscious to have victory over sin and that we can only have faith and grace to walk in victory through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness—not our own merit. Where we depart ways is that I contend the Ten Commandments are still necessary as our standard for how Jesus wants us to live by His power and grace. The law doesn’t save us. It reminds us of our sinfulness and, as a schoolmaster, leads us to depend on Christ alone.
To summarize this point, I don’t agree with Prince when he says we don’t need the law to govern our behavior—we just need grace, he says—because, in my perspective, grace uses the standard of the moral law, as is repeated over and over in the New Testament.
4. Prince Believes in “Once Saved, Always Saved”
As a typical dispensationalist, Prince believes that once a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior, they can never lose their salvation. (Some know this as the doctrine of eternal security.) The challenge I have with this is that it fails to interpret individual passages honestly that disagree with this particular system.
For example, Hebrews 6:1-8 and 10:24-29 clearly teach that people, after receiving the saving knowledge of Christ, can fall away and lose their salvation. Second Peter 2:20-22 and James 5:19-20 are as clear as tar on snow that a believer can fall away and once again be called a sinner who has to be restored. There are numerous other passages I can cite but will not because of the time.
I am more comfortable with the Reformed understanding of salvation, which teaches people can experience the fruits of salvation while never being chosen from “the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), in which case they will not remain in the body of Christ because they were never a part of it to begin with. (First John 2:19 seems to teach the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.) This is the only position I have found sufficient to effectively deal with the conundrum of Scripture that seems to teach both eternal security and that a believer can fall away. I take the position of the apostle Peter: I may think I am saved, but I have to endeavor to make my calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10).
5. Prince Teaches That God Can’t Get Angry With or Punish Christians 
Prince says God does not get angry with Christians. But what about the admonition in Ephesians 4 to not grieve the Holy Spirit? (In Ephesians 4:30, grieve means “to cause great sorrow and distress,” which is akin to causing anger). Even stronger is Paul’s warning in Ephesians 5:6 against living an immoral life that brings God’s wrath on the disobedient. The clear context here, for those who are disobedient, is that this is written to the church of Ephesus; thus, God can have wrath toward Christians.
What about the sin that leads to death referenced in 1 John 5:16? Whether this refers to physical or spiritual death has been debated for centuries; however, the main point is that a believer can commit a sin so severe it can result in death. (I believe it is referring to physical death, which correlates to 1 Corinthians 11:30 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-6, where Paul wanted to hand a man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh because he slept with his father’s wife.)
Finally, what does Prince do about Jesus’ words to the seven churches in Asia Minor in Revelation 2-3? In these letters, Jesus not only punishes but also threatens to remove whole churches from their cities unless they repent (Rev. 2:5). In Revelation 2:16, Jesus tells the church of Pergamum to repent or else He will come and fight against some in their church. In Revelation 2:22-23, Jesus tells those who are under the influence of Jezebel that He will kill them unless they repent. Finally, Jesus tells the church of Laodicea that He is about to vomit them out of His mouth (Rev. 3:15-16), Strong words, indeed, that do not nicely fit into the theology of Joseph Prince.
6. Prince Says God Is Not Judging Any Nation Because of the Cross 
Prince teaches that God did not judge Sodom until Lot was removed, thus making a case that God will not judge any nation that has a presence of believers in it. What Prince fails to realize is that the Old Testament is replete with illustrations in which God judged the nations of Israel and Judah by disinheriting them even though there was a remnant left who believed. (See, for example, Isaiah 6:13.)
Furthermore, in Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus speaks about corporate judgment coming upon cities and towns because they rejected Him. Obviously it is difficult to subjectively prove post-biblically if God has judged nations and empires after the cross, since God often uses the militaries of other nations, natural disasters and their own foolishness to lay low people and nations. Furthermore, God judged the nation of the Jews and Jerusalem for rejecting Christ in A.D. 70, when the Roman armies sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish temple, as Jesus predicted would happen within one generation (Matt. 24:34; Luke 21:20) even though this was almost 40 years after His resurrection.
7. Prince Preaches an Individual Gospel That’s Disconnected From the Cultural Commission of Genesis 1:28
Perhaps one of the biggest flaws in Prince’s radical grace doctrine is that his dispensational belief doesn’t allow him to connect the gospel to the cultural commission of Genesis 1:28. Believers who embrace the original cultural commission God gave humanity through Adam and Eve (and reconfirmed to Noah after the fall in Genesis 9:1-2) realize we need the moral and civic law to understand how to disciple a nation (Matt. 28:19). The Ten Commandments were not just individual commands for piety and holiness but were primarily given as a corporate structure to disciple the burgeoning nation of Israel (Ex. 20:1-2). First Timothy 1:8-11 alludes to the corporate reality of the law when it says the law wasn’t given to righteous men but for the unrighteous. (There has been only one righteous man on the earth who didn’t need the law to know how to be holy—Jesus!) The fact that Paul deals with slave-trading and kidnapping shows that he was also dealing with systemic sin and not just individual sin in this passage.
In Summary
Although I think Prince’s book has a lot of great insights and was worth the read, I am concerned many will take his writings to an extreme and that his radical grace perspective could lead people to just seek Jesus without obedience to simple and obvious things like being committed to a local church, tithing and walking in love. (Even though Prince pushes church attendance and giving, in principle his theology can make it easy to dismiss these practices.) Prince also seems to be against the spiritual discipline of fasting. Although I understand his point in this matter, I still believe fasting very important to practice, albeit not for salvation. Not connecting his teaching to the cultural commission in Genesis 1:28 also puts Princeon a faulty foundation and can lead a person to disconnect the gospel from the kingdom of God, thus leading to self-focus and narcissism. (The kingdom message connects redeemed individuals to their corporate responsibility to serve their communities.)
In spite of all this, it may be a great book for some new believers—although I believe young children and new Christians need to be taught the Ten Commandments as a standard for ethics in the church and world—and especially for those who constantly walk around with guilt and condemnation. If radical grace is taught in the context of the message of the kingdom of God to give it balance, it can be a great teaching that lifts up Jesus and transforms individual lives who can transform nations.
Source: CHARISMA NEWS.
Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can read more on josephmattera.org or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

Three Crosses.


Earlier this year, the Crossing Church in Chattanooga, TN erected three giant steel crosses that can be seen from Interstate 75. The center cross is 125 feet tall while the crosses on each side are 100 feet tall. The intention of the Crossing Church was to remind the public of the central theme of the Bible: the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross that washes away our sin.

Not surprisingly, when the general public learned how much it cost to put up those three crosses, they whined and complained about how much better use the $700,000 that was spent to erect these three crosses could have made by supporting various charities.

There are two things that stand out from the public’s reaction and criticism of erecting these crosses: the spirit of Judas Iscariot and the world’s hatred of the cross.

In the book of Mark Chapter 14 we read, “3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.”

Verse 4 stated there were some who were indignant when the woman poured the oil over the head of Jesus. Bible scholars believe that “some” to be none other than Judas Iscariot who never truly believed in Jesus and never did accept Him for who He was until it was too late. The claim was the oil was wasted by an act of worship when it could have been sold and given to the poor. It is highly unlikely that Judas had any interest in helping the poor.

When the public criticized how the money was spent in erecting those three crosses, do you really think they had concern for the poor? If they were concerned with the poor, how much money or work have they personally done to assist the poor? Were they demonstrating the spirit of Judas Iscariot here? Jesus said the poor would always be with us and we can assist them anytime we wish. Jesus was saying it was proper to put Him above all else and that message never hit home with Judas.

The great commission of the church is to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. The money that was used to put those crosses up came from public donations. This means that there were a few people from the general public who thought putting those crosses up was just one way they could help spread the good news that Jesus died on the cross to wash away our sins. There are an estimated 75,000 cars that drive by those crosses each day.

The Bible teaches us to take all our cares and lay them at the foot of the cross. How many drivers and passengers who pass by those crosses are reminded that they need to take their problems to the Lord in prayer? If only one person in history would have accepted what Jesus did on the cross, then Jesus would have died for that person. If only one person was motivated to turn to Jesus after being inspired by those crosses, don’t you think Jesus would have thought it was money well spent? We know from history that far more than one person has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and we have no idea how many will come to Christ after driving by those crosses.

The simple fact of the matter is that the world despises the cross and what it represents. The cross is a constant reminder to the world that they are sinners and the world hates that. The world likes to think man is basically good but the Bible teaches just the opposite. When the world rejects the redemptive work of Christ, they invent their own religions and deceive themselves into thinking they can get into heaven by their own good works.

Here is what the Bible says about man’s supposedly good works: ““There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.” Romans Chapter 3 “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away” Isa. 64:6 “10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James Chapter 2

It is impossible to get to heaven by our good works yet the world tries and tries and tries and never succeeds. Faith in what Jesus did on the cross is the only way to heaven and the world hates that message. It is this hatred of the cross that inspired the public to protest the erection of the three crosses at the Crossing Church in Chattanooga. It is this hatred of the cross that causes Muslims and Communists to kill Christians and attempt to drive them out of their homes. It is this hatred of the cross that has led to the banning of prayer in our public schools. It is this hatred of the cross that has led to the legalization of murder and call it abortion. It is this hatred of the cross that is forcing the acceptance of homosexual behavior down our throats.

Jesus, who not only died for us but also created us, had this to say about the world’s relation to Him and His followers: “19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” John Chapter 15

Why does the world hate Jesus and those who follow Him? We see this played out in the public’s reaction to those three giant crosses put up by the Crossings church. We see this played out when our government makes laws forcing businesses to accept homosexual behavior. We see this played out everyday in the rampant immorality of our nation.

What is behind this hatred of any and all things related to Jesus and the cross? The answer is found in the Bible: “3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”2 Cor.4

The god of this age is Satan and Satan has blinded all who refuse to believe in the gospel. Satan despises the cross because the cross represents his defeat and Satan will do his best to bring others down with him because he wants to be worshiped as God. This is why there was such a public outcry when three giant crosses were put up. They declare to the world, “Satan you lose!”

Copyright 2013 by Gary Goodworth 

Why Do We Need Gospel Repetition?.


One of the most common objections that those of us who are committed to preaching the gospel of grace week in and week out hear is, “Ok…I get it. Can we move on now? We hear the same thing week after week. Can we hear something different already?” Considering the way our consumeristic culture has conditioned us to always crave “what’s next”, the objection is understandable. Add to that a fundamental misunderstanding inside the church that the gospel is not for Christians but for non-Christians, and you have the perfect recipe for Christian people thinking that it’s “time to move on.”

Over the years I’ve come up with a variety of ways to explain to people that once God saves us he doesn’t then move us beyond the gospel, but rather more deeply into the gospel—that Christian growth is always growth into grace, not beyond it. But just recently I discovered another way to help people understand that we never, ever outgrow our need to hear the gospel.

In Galatians 5:6 Paul makes a stunning statement. He says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” So, the thing that matters most is faith expressing itself through love. And then in Romans 10:17 Paul makes the point that “faith comes through hearing the word about Christ.” Put these two statements together and you have what is, in my opinion, the strongest biblical argument for why we need to hear the gospel of grace week in and week out.

According to Paul, real love is impossible without faith. Faith is vertical (it’s upward)—it’s trusting that everything I need and long for, I already have because of what Jesus has accomplished for me. Love, on the other hand, is horizontal (it’s outward)—because Jesus has done everything for me (faith) I can now do everything for you without needing you to do anything for me (love). You could put it this way: love is faith worked out by us for our neighbor horizontally; faith is love worked into us from God vertically. The implication, of course, is that love is absent to the degree that faith is missing. If I’m not trusting that everything I need in Christ I already possess (lack of faith), then I will be looking to take from you rather than give to you (lack of love). I’ll be concentrating on what I need, not what you need. I’ll be looking out for me, not you.

So if we ever hope to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (which is precisely what God’s law calls for), it will depend on faith. And faith, according to Paul in Romans 10:17, depends on hearing the gospel—over and over and over again. God stokes faith through the preaching of the gospel, and since our faith needs constant stoking, the preaching of the gospel needs to be constant. As long as love is needed (which is always), faith must be fueled. And the only fuel for faith is the gospel. The logical formula, then, goes like this:

No faith = no love
No gospel = no faith
Therefore, no gospel = no love.

The preaching of the gospel alone activates faith, and faith alone activates love.

If the church is ever going to experience the kind of reformation that many of us long for, preachers are going to have to understand that they are not called to say many different things, but rather the same thing over and over in many different ways from every different text.

So preachers, do everything you can to help people understand why they will never outgrow their need to hear the gospel of grace. But don’t ever apologize for the rhythm of redemptive redundancy that should always mark your preaching week after week after week.

Tullian Tchividjian

Pastor & Author

William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. A Florida native, Tullian is also the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham, a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a contributing editor to Leadership Journal.

A graduate of Columbia International University (philosophy) and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando (M.Div.), Tullian has authored a number of books including Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Crossway). He travels extensively, speaking at conferences throughout the U.S., and his sermons are broadcast daily on the radio program LIBERATE. As a respected pastor, author, and speaker, Tullian is singularly and passionately devoted to seeing people set free by the radical, amazing power of God’s grace.

When he is not reading, studying, preaching, or writing, Tullian enjoys being with people and relaxing with his wife, Kim, and their three children—Gabe, Nate, and Genna. He loves the beach, loves to exercise, and when he has time, he loves to surf. 

Unbelievable? Two Reasons Why Some People Reject the Reliability of the Gospels.


During my recent interview on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley (airing tomorrow, Saturday, August 24th2013), I responded to the objections of two atheists who rejected the reliability of the Gospel accounts on the basis of apparent contradictions with Josephus’ record and a concern about-corroborative evidence. I’ve learned to employ a four-pronged template when assessing the reliability of a witness, and I took this approach when I first examined the Gospels as a skeptic (I was 35 years old before I became interested in the Gospel accounts). As I evaluated the Biblical text with these principles in mind, I became convinced they were a reliable record of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. I understand, however, when others come to a different conclusion, and I think there are two reasons why someone might disagree about the most reasonable inference from the evidence. Before I address these two reasons, however, I want to ask you to imagine the existence of a historical account related to an ancient teacher. Imagine investigating this ancient record and discovering the following:

There are multiple accounts related to the life of this teacher. Several of these accounts date back to within the lifetimes of those who knew the teacher personally. These early records were accepted immediately as the true account of the life and teaching of this ancient “master”. Even those who are skeptical of the contents of these texts admit they are the earliest written record related to the ancient sage.

There are many internal and external pieces of evidence that corroborate the claims of these early records. They contain accurate “unintentional eyewitness support” between authors, accurate descriptions of ancient regional proper names, governmental functions, and little-known geographic locations, and they use the forms of ancient language we would expect. In addition to this, external evidential support for the claims of these texts is available in the archaeological record and in the testimony of ancient hostile writers. These early critics confirm the description of the teacher, even though they opposed his students and teaching.

The transmission record of the early accounts is robust and thorough. They were handled like few other ancient documents; they were copied, preserved and cherished by generations of disciples, resulting in over 24,000 fragments and complete manuscripts from antiquity. There are also ample ancient descriptions of these early accounts from disciples who were students of the first eyewitnesses. The writings of these students confirm the narrative described in the original texts. As a result, we can have certainty about the original content of the documents.

The original accounts were attested by people who cherished their testimony and were willing to die for the veracity of their claims. None of these eyewitnesses gained anything financially, relationally or sexually. None of them became powerful as a result of their claims. Instead, they often had to “scratch and claw” for respect, even within the context of their own communities. They were sometimes rejected by the people within this community, even as they were vigorously persecuted by those outside the group. They were beaten, starved and eventually killed for their testimony, yet none of them ever recanted.

If you were examining this ancient record fairly, I think you would find it to be reliable given the evidence related to early dating, evidential corroboration, accurate transmission and the lack of bias. There are very few ancient accounts that pass a test this rigorous, but the New Testament Gospels do. In fact, the second section of Cold Case Christianity provides a glimpse of how the evidence confirms the reliability of the gospel narratives. They pass the test, yet many still doubt their reliability. Why? I think there are two reasons:

Miraculous Details
First, the accounts include supernatural events. The ancient teacher, Jesus, performed miracles and was resurrected after his crucifixion and death. For many in the post-enlightenment era, the presence of miracles automatically disqualifies any ancient record ashistory and relegates it to the ranks of mythology. But stop and think about this for a minute. The writers of the Gospels were testifying about something they knew to be unusual: They were testifying about a man who was more than a teacher, He was a miracle worker who claimed to be God and rose from the dead to prove His claim. The witnesses knew their claims would be controversial and resisted. As we examine their testimony to determine whether or not we can trust them, we cannot begin by rejecting the very nature of their claim. Yes, we can be skeptical, but we cannot begin by rejecting supernaturalism before the witnesses even make a case for the supernatural.  We cannot start our investigation with our conclusions predetermined. We would never want to do that in a criminal investigation, and we should be similarly hesitant to begin with our conclusions when examining the gospels. Instead, let’s evaluate them for reliability and suspend our presuppositions until we hear what the witnesses have to say.

Moral Directives
The gospel accounts, for better or worse, are not merely descriptive, they are prescriptive as well. Jesus didn’t come to teach algebra or grammar; He came to teach us about our true condition as humans, our need for a Savior and the way back Home. He illuminated the dark nature of our souls and the truth about God and Himself. He called it like it was (and still is), and He didn’t pull many punches. He offended many who listened to his teaching in the 1st Century and He continues to offend listeners today. Sometimes the ugly truth is… ugly. The right way is seldom the easy way, and truth, by its very nature, is exclusive. The message of Jesus has been difficult to hear (and accept) for over two thousand years. Many who hear it today quickly equate the claims of Christianity with moral directives they seek to reject at any cost. Don’t be surprised, then, when people reject the prescriptive Gospels as unreliable, even though they accept other ancient descriptive accounts far less attested or corroborated.

Not every claim is gets rejected solely on the basis of a rational, evidential examination. There are times when our presuppositions and desires have a greater impact on our decision making than we might care to admit. If the Gospels did not include supernatural elements and a moral prescription, I doubt anyone would find them historically unreliable.

J. Warner Wallace

Author, Cold-Case Christianity

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker at Stand to Reason, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

How to Take Radical Risks for God.


Whitney Hopler

Editor’s Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Caleb Bislow’s upcoming book, Dangerous: Engaging the People and Places No One Else Will (Bethany House, 2013).

God is still powerfully active throughout our world today – even in the most dangerous places – redeeming people from the devastating effects of sin. But too few people respond to God’s call to join Him in that work, because they’re afraid of taking the risks necessary to reach out in the midst of danger.

You can experience the thrill of God’s power working through you if you’re willing to take radical risks for Him. When God sees that you trust Him enough to follow Him anywhere – even to dangerous places – He will use your life in amazing ways.

Here’s how you can take radical risks for God:

Tune into the Holy Spirit. Developing and nurturing a close relationship with the Holy Spirit is crucial to being able to take bold risks for God, since it’s the Spirit who empowers you to do so. Incorporate prayer into your daily life, and spend at least as much time listening as you do talking. The more you practice listening to the Holy Spirit, the better you’ll be able to recognize Him speaking to you. Every day, ask the Holy Spirit to give you fresh doses of faith and courage to do the work God wants you to do.

Pay attention to impressions, burdens, and whispers. All three represent ways that God may choose to communicate with you. Impressions come in the form of visual images that present pictures of something or someone God wants to bring to your mind. You may see impressions in a dream while sleeping, or in a mental vision while praying. Burdens involve compassionate feelings about a particular group of people that motivate you to reach out to them. You experience them as mental urges that call you to action. Whispers are messages from God in words that you hear like strong whispers within your mind, or sometimes even audibly. Pay attention to all of these types of messages as you seek God’s guidance for specific ways He wants you to join Him in His work.

Never mark anyone as unreachable. Even the people whom you think would be least likely to respond to JesusGospel message may actually begin relationships with Him if someone like you shares that Gospel message with them. Keep in mind that it’s always worthwhile to share the Gospel with anyone (even those with the hardest hearts) because you serve a God who knows how to do the impossible.

Consider the cost and value of taking risks. Recognize that the process of taking risks to join God’s work in dangerous places will cost you investments of time, energy, money, and emotions. Keep in mind, too, that your work won’t always lead to the results you’d expected or hoped to see. However, whenever you’re doing what God has led you to do, your work is worthy of great sacrifice, because the hope that you bring to others is invaluable. Be confident that your victories (big or small) will always outweigh your defeats when you work for God.

Reach out to the world’s unreached people. Ask God to show you how He may want you to help reach people who have haven’t yet heard the Gospel message – from refugees living in your local community, to people living in areas of the world where the Gospel is rarely communicated.

Reach out to the world’s restricted people. Pray for the wisdom to discern how you may help bring spiritual hope to people living in nations where the government restricts religious freedom and is hostile to those who try to share the Gospel message. One way to do this is by building relationships with people through global business rather than formally working as a missionary.

Reach out to the world’s hunted people. Consider how God may be calling you to help people who are the victims of the world’s atrocities, such as warfare or genocide. Get information about how people worldwide are currently suffering in this way and ask God to show you how He may want you to help some of them, such as by supporting organizations that work with them.

Reach out to the world’s convicted people. Pray about how potential opportunities to help people whom society considers scandalous, such as prisoners.

Reach out to the world’s infected people. Ask God to show you ways you may help people who are afflicted with infectious diseases.

Reach out to the world’s marginalized people who are discriminated against. Consider what opportunities God may present for you to help people whom society considers unimportant and therefore lack power in society and become victims of bigotry. People may be discriminated against for many reasons, such as their physical appearance (people of minority races and disabled people), their gender (women), their age (senior citizens), or their economic status (poor people).

Reach out to the world’s enslaved people. Pray for the wisdom to discern how you may help people who are enslaved worldwide, such as child laborers and prostitutes in the sex trafficking industry.

Ask some key questions to discern the opportunities on which you should act. If you think that God may be urging you to take action in a specific way to help a specific group of people, ask these questions before stepping out: “Have other spirit-led people confirmed what I feel called to do?”, “Is it biblical? Can I find circumstances in the Bible of people doing what I feel called to do?”, “Is this endeavor expanding God’s kingdom, or mine?”, “Will it ultimately bring God glory?”, and “Are circumstances leading toward this actually happening?”

Go to where the people are rather than expecting them to come to you. Many of the people who are currently caught in dangerous sin won’t come to church, but they will listen to you if you build friendships with them in places they frequent, such as bars. Don’t be afraid to go to the places that are hangouts for the people God is leading you to reach. But cover yourself in prayer and take precautions to prevent falling into sin yourself when you’re in those environments.

Give people love instead of judgment. When you’re reaching out to people who are living dangerous lifestyles of sin, push away judgmental thoughts and let God’s love flow through you to them – that’s the only way you’ll be able to truly help them, since love is the force that will inspire people to turn to God.

Adapted from Dangerous: Engaging the People and Places No One Else Will, copyright 2013 by Caleb Bislow. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Bloomington, Mn., www.bethanyhouse.com.

Caleb Bislow jumped off the “cliff” of safety and security in 2005, and since then has been humbled to advance God’s kingdom on every inhabited continent in the world. He is a sought-after speaker through Kingdom Building Ministries. Caleb and his wife, Jessica, and their three children, call Franklin, Nebraska their home. Learn more at www.unusualsoldiers.com.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood’s golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.

Publication date: August 16, 2013

Seven Ways the Old Testament Deepens Our Love for Jesus.


Seven Ways the Old Testament Deepens Our Love for Jesus

One of the ways that children sometimes try to deepen their relationship with their parents is to travel back to where their father or mother grew up. They might visit historical societies, read archives, and gather newspaper stories and artifacts from old friends. Doing so, they build a bigger and better picture of their father or mother and experience a deeper sense of connection with them and love for them.

In a similar way, Christians go back to the Old Testament to build a bigger and better picture of Jesus Christ. By connecting with His past, we connect better with Him and deepen our love for Him. The Old Testament connects us with Jesus’ past in the following ways:

1. We are reading Jesus’ Bible: The 39 books of the Old Testament are the Scriptures He heard and read. These are the verses He memorized. This was His Sunday school syllabus. He fed His hungry soul on the Law, the Prophets, and the Poets. They nourished and edified Him.

2. We are learning Jesus’ language: Jesus was so familiar with the Old Testament that His vocabulary was saturated with Old Testament words and concepts. He spoke the Old Testament, taught the Old Testament, applied the Old Testament, and consciously and deliberately fulfilled the Old Testament. Like Bunyan, if you were to prick Him, He would “bleed Bibline.”

3. We are singing Jesus’ songs: The Psalms were Jesus’ hymnbook. They were what He worshipped with in the Temple and Synagogue. He used them to express faith, hope and trust; but also fear, anxiety, and even abandonment. He sang them on the eve of his death and even many of His last words were Psalm words.

4. We are feeling Jesus’ feelings: Paul prayed that he might know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (Phil. 3:10).One of the best ways to do this is to read the Psalms that predict Christ’s sufferings, especially the emotional sufferings, the agony of human betrayal and desertion, and ultimately the horror of divine abandonment (e.g. Ps. 2269). We feel Christ’s feelings there in a an even deeper way than in the Gospels.

5. We are hearing Jesus’ voice: We must banish the false idea that it’s God the Father who speaks in the Old Testament and it’s God the Son who speaks in the New. Even if we say that it’s the voice of the triune God we hear in the Old Testament, the Son’s voice is equally joined to the Father’s and the Spirit’s. However, we can go further and say that it is God the Son who is specially speaking in the Old Testament. He is the Word of God, the usual way God speaks to sinners, the one mediator between God and man. “Thus says the Lord” effectively means “Thus says the Messiah.” (Rev. 19:10).

6. We are seeing Jesus in action: The Son of God visited the earth as the Angel of the Lord at least 20 times (and maybe many more times that are not recorded). We can see what kind of Savior he was in human form long before He came in human flesh as He frequently brought gracious messages and powerful help to His needy people.

7. We are admiring Jesus’ trophies: In some ways the Old Testament saints are even more amazing than New Testament saints. When you think of how little truth they had, how little of the Holy Spirit they had, how few the believers were, and how rare their encouragements, it’s utterly amazing that they believed in the coming Messiah and kept believing. It can only be explained by the almighty work of Christ in the soul by His Holy Spirit. His Old Testament trophies of grace shine with a special luster in His “showcase.”

Open the Bible at Genesis, travel back in time, connect with Christ in the Old Testament, deepen your relationship with Him, and increase the heat of your love for Him.

David Murray, Professor, Pastor, Author

Dr. David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and pastor of the Free Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI. He is the author of Jesus on Every Page and blogs regularly at HeadHeartHand.

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