Monday, October 31, 2011

Third generation syndrome

"The "third generation syndrome" is the tendency for third generation Christians to walk away from the faith. The first generation of people saved tend to be enthusiastic and "on fire" for the things of the Lord. The children of the first generation are in church and saved but tend to be less enthusiastic for the things of the Lord. By the third generation many children are typically nominally involved in church, or not involved in the things of God at all, or in worse case scenarios, not even saved."

Is this true?  And if so, why do you think it happens?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The ministry of the Spirit

What if we are meant to interpret Isaiah 54:13, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:24-26 and Joel 2:28 literally?  Then from looking at the contexts of these passages, it seems to me that the full accomplishment of these prophesies is still in the future — namely the millennial kingdom.   

 For example, look at what is specifically prophesied in these verses:

...So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you. Nor will I rebuke you...All your sons will be taught of the LORD; and the well-being of your sons will be great. In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; and from terror, for it will not come near you (Is 54:9-17).

…And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules… (Ezek 36:22-38).

…And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD... (Jer 31:31-34).

…And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions… (Joel 2:18-32).

Certainly this is all more than what He's doing today. For example, look at Ezekiel 36:26-27; "cause" seems to be saying "make," doesn’t it? In fact, the Hebrew word used here is `asah (aw-saw'); it is a primitive root, meaning to create, do, or make. In English, "cause" used in this way is a transitive verb and means "to bring about or compel by authority or force." But the Holy Spirit isn’t making or compelling us by force to follow His commandments today. He convicts and we can appropriate His power by faith, but “causing to obey” is different — something more.

And in Jeremiah 31, it will no longer be necessary to teach anyone about the Lord because they will all know Him? Certainly this isn't true today either. This comes right after it says "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts." When we put Ezekiel 36 together with Jeremiah 31, it makes sense. But again it’s different, and more.

But another question has been niggling at me for quite some time now: Did the Holy Spirit work somewhat differently when He first came than how He works in us today?  Notice the immediate change that took place in the behavior of the Pentecostal believers in Acts 2-4. Not only did they prophesy and speak with tongues (Joel 2:28), but they all began living for one another. Was the Holy Spirit causing them to do this? Was He working "differently" and "more" at that time? I rather think He was. If He wasn't, then the Pentecostals are right in trying to model the Church today after Acts 2, are they not? 

Stam suggests that the Holy Spirit could not have been working the same then as now and for these reasons:  At Pentecost the Lord Jesus was the Baptizer, baptizing His people with, or in, the Holy Spirit (Mk 1:7-8), but today the Holy Spirit is the Baptizer, baptizing believers into Christ and His Body (Gal 3:27-28; 1 Cor 12:13).  He also makes the point that only Jews were baptized with, or in, the Spirit at Pentecost, so how could this have been the baptism by which "one Spirit" baptizes believers "into one body, whether they be Jews or Gentiles"?

The reason the Holy Spirit worked the way He did at that time is pretty easy to answer — it was prophesied — but why and when it changed to how He works today, not so much. So when did the change take place?  Perhaps it began right after the stoning of Stephen.

Before Stephen was stoned, Scripture tells us that "all who believed were together and had all things in common and they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need (Acts 2:44)" and "there was not a needy person among them" (Acts 4:34). Looking back in the gospels we see that Jesus had commanded, in connection with the kingdom, to “sell all that you have and give to the poor" (Matt 19:21; Mk 10:21; Lk 12:33). And in Acts 2 — when the Holy Spirit came — we see that they all did exactly that.  There was also the case of Ananias and Sapphira sinning against the Holy Spirit and being put to death for it (Acts 5). Going against the Holy Spirit would certainly be a very deliberate deliberate and more serious offense if He were compelling obedience at that time.  Is this how it will be when He comes "to rule with a rod of iron"? (Rev 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).

But shortly after Stephen's stoning “there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria" (Acts 8:1), and later we see Paul bringing relief to them in Rom 15:25-26. Were they no longer selling all they had and sharing among themselves?  There were certainly needy people among them by that time.  It seems the stoning of Stephen was the last straw, so to speak, for Jews in Jerusalem, the seat of Israel’s government, to accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Perhaps this is the reason why it changed.  It was also not long after that that the Spirit came upon the Gentiles, apart from the Jews and water baptism (Acts 10).

Looking at it from a little different perspective, in Acts 2:4 we are told that the believers at Pentecost "were all filled with the Holy Spirit," but the Apostle Paul never says anywhere that all the members of the Body of Christ are filled with the Holy Spirit.  Clearly the Corinthians and the Galatians were not filled with the Spirit because Paul's letters to these churches contain a lot of rebuke and correction. It's also evident that believers today are not — even the best of us — wholly filled with the Spirit. The filling with the Spirit is now a goal that is set before us. We are not all filled with the Spirit as a matter of fact, as were the Pentecostal believers. While the Spirit does indeed dwell within us by God's grace, we must daily appropriate His help by faith.  This is why Paul told believers to "be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18) just as he prayed for them, that they may be "filled with the fruit of righteousness" (Phil 1:11); "filled with the knowledge of His will" (Col 1:9); "filled up to all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19).

So why does all this matter? Well if true, it certainly removes every underpinning upon which the Pentecostal movement rests.  We should not be trying to model the Church today after the Acts 2 church.  With Israel's full rejection of Messiah (Acts 13:46; 14:27; Rom 11:25-31), that time has come and gone, though it will come again after the rapture of the Church.

It also gives further evidence that salvation is now by faith alone rather than faith plus works; the time for that has also come and gone, to be reinstated after the rapture of the Church — when He will rule with a rod of iron.  If Ezekiel 36:27 is being fulfilled today, then belief and works would have to go hand in hand; there couldn't be one without the other.  But, if we aren’t being compelled to obey His commandments today and instead must appropriate His power by faith to resist temptation and sin (put off the old man, put on the new), then we need not, and should not, be continually looking to our works for assurance of salvation. (How many works does it take to be absolutely sure we’re saved anyway? After all unbelievers do good works, too.)  Rather, we should be resting in Him and His promises (Rom 3:21-22; 4:5, 23-25; 10:4).

With a conclusion like this, I always assume people will think I'm advocating license; that it doesn't really matter how we live.  I'm not!  As I've said in an earlier post, "Don't grieve the very Spirit who in love and mercy has sealed you forever as His own. Don't repay such love with such ingratitude."

So what do you think?  Did the Holy Spirit work somewhat differently when He first came than He does today?  These are my current thoughts on the matter, but I have to confess I'm still struggling with it all.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Feelings come and feelings go
and feelings are deceiving. 
I’ll rest upon the Word of God,
none else is worth believing.

 Martin Luther 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interesting tidbit - 12

Q:  What is progressive revelation?  And should we go according to when the books were actually written?  For example, in the New Testament 1-2 Peter, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts were all written after the Pauline writings except for the Pastoral Epistles and Hebrews. John's gospel and epistles as well as the book of Revelation were written after all of these. If we were to credit someone with giving us the final Revelation, it would have to be John, right?

A:  The term "progressive revelation" refers to the idea and teaching that God revealed various aspects of His will and overall plan for humanity over different periods of time.    

Most Christians recognize this. In fact, anyone today who doesn't bring an animal sacrifice with them when they wish to approach God or make a parapet around the roof of their new house or put tassels on the four corners of their cloak (Deut 22) understands that distinctions in practice and knowledge have been progressively revealed and applied throughout history.

But how are we to discern how revelation progressed so that we know how to live today?  Do we go by when the books of the Bible were actually written?  Well we can't go entirely by that.  Some books are history books and, even if written later, may cover an earlier period, while other books speak of prophesy, things that are yet to come.  But clearly Christ chose Paul to bring the Word of God to completion with the revelation of the mystery, which is for us today (Rom 16:25-26; Col 1:24-27).

Unfortunately, many people today fail to observe progressive revelation.  It just isn't taught. Consequently, the fact that people were still under the Law when Christ lived on the earth is often overlooked.  I think this author makes this point rather well:

"In your Bible, after the book of Malchai and before the book of Matthew, no doubt there is a title page, declaring in bold print: "New Testament." And were you asked to turn to the first page of the New Testament, most likely you would turn to Matthew's first chapter. These verses [9:15-16] in Hebrews declare that the book of Matthew has no part in Israel's New Testament prior to chapter 27:50. In Mark the Old Testament runs through chapter 15:41, in Luke it is chapter 23:49 and finally, in John, Old Testament doctrine operates through 19:37. It is at those verse locations where we find the death of the testator, the Lord Jesus Christ; and these verses in Hebrews teach that the New Testament cannot exist before those points. While it would be wrong to disregard the gospels, it is equally wrong to attempt to live according to Israel's Old Testament doctrine. What [isn't being] taught is that every verse in our Bible operates on three levels in that every verse contains historical information, spiritual information and doctrinal information. Anyone at any time may profit from the historical or the spiritual information; but to apply doctrinal information one must be operating within the economy to which the doctrine applies."

Revelation continued to progress even after the death and resurrection of Christ.  I recently blogged about this here when I compared "selling everything" with "providing for one's family."

Yes, all Scripture was given on the installment plan. There is progressive revelation from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. But then and there it ceased.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Hymn Sing cont

The Hymn Sing was two hours long so we sang many other songs.  But I'll share just one more with you — the song with which we (now apparently referred to as "the Sunday night singers":) and the instruments closed the evening.  My former voice teacher sang the solo last night, and I think he did a better job of it than the soloist in this rendition does:

The sky shall unfold
Preparing His entrance
The stars shall applaud Him
With thunders of praise

The sweet light in His eyes, shall enhance those awaiting
And we shall behold Him, then face to face

O we shall behold Him, we shall behold Him
Face to face in all of His glory
O we shall behold Him, yes we shall behold Him
Face to face, our Savior and Lord

The angel will sound, the shout of His coming
And the sleeping shall rise, from there slumbering place
And those remaining, shall be changed in a moment
And we shall behold him, then face to face

We shall behold Him, O yes we shall behold Him
Face to face in all of His glory
We shall behold Him, face to face
Our Savior and Lord
We shall behold Him, our Savior and Lord
Savior and Lord!

Fall Hymn Sing cont

Of course we had to include several songs by Stuart Townend in our Hymn Sing.  His songs are becoming as beloved as George Beverly Shea's.  Such beautiful music and his lyrics are unrivalled!

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev'ry bitter thought,
Ev'ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
"Finished!" the vict'ry cry.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Fall Hymn Sing cont

Another song we sang last night.  Wonderful words!

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Fall Hymn Sing

I haven't been blogging much lately because I've been attending a lot of rehearsals preparing for last night's fall Hymn Sing.  Everything went very well.  In fact, I think last night's Hymn Sing was the best one yet!  People came from all over again, both young and old alike, and consequently the sanctuary was packed.  It was a great night of singing praises to our Lord, with 800+ voices nearly lifting the roof off!

We did one thing a little differently this time — we paid tribute to George Beverly Shea.  He turned 102 this year and was presented the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award this past February.  I'm sure many of you know that he was the soloist for the Billy Graham crusade ministry for many, many years.  According to Guinness World Records, Shea has sung before more people than anyone else — an estimated combined live audience of 220 million people. But not only did he sing during his 80 year career, he also recorded more than 70 albums and wrote several popular worship songs. Someone once asked Shea, "Why have you been doing this all these years?" He put his thumb up to the air toward heaven, and I answer, "I've been doing it for him."

Here's a song George Beverly Shea wrote that we sang last night.  It's one of my favorites!

I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I'd rather be His than have riches untold
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands
I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.

I'd rather have Jesus than worldly applause
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause
I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I'd rather be true to His holy name.

Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin's dread sway
I'd rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Show and tell

A kindergarten teacher gave her class a "show and tell" assignment of bringing something to represent their religion.

The first child got in front of the class and said, "My name is Benjamin.  I'm Jewish and this is the Star of David."

The second child got in front of the class and said, "My name is Mary.  I'm Catholic and this is the Crucifix."

The third child got in front of the class and said, " My name is Tommy.  I'm Evangelical and this is a casserole."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just wondering ...

Why is it called lipstick if you can still move your lips?

How do you get off a nonstop flight?

If you're not supposed to drink and drive, why do bars have parking lots?

Why is it that night falls but day breaks?

When sign makers go on strike, is anything written on their picket signs?

How do you write zero in Roman numerals?

Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

If all those psychics know the winning lottery numbers, why are they all still working?

Why do they report power outages on TV?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word "lisp" to have an "s" in it?

Is there another word for synonym?

Why do ballet dancers always dance on their toes? Wouldn't it be easier to just hire taller dancers?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road,
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who've found their home with God.

It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears,
And wake in joy before Your throne,
Delivered from our fears.

Oh Jesus, conquering the grave;
Your precious blood
has pow'r to save;
Those who trust in You
Will in your mercy find
That it is not death to die.

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust,
And rise with strong and noble wing,
To live among the just;

It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore.

Oh Jesus, conquering the grave;
Your precious blood
has pow'r to save;
Those who trust in You
Will in your mercy find
That it is not death to die.

Oh Jesus, conquering the grave;
Your precious blood
has pow'r to save;
Those who trust in You
Will in your mercy find

That it is not death to die.

by Henri Abraham Cesar Malan, George Washington Bethune, and Bob Kauflin

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil 1:21).

Friday, October 7, 2011

The good news

There is only one gospel today. It was given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul (Rom 2:16; 16:25; 2 Tim 2:8), namely that salvation is by faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. This good news is clearly laid out for us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, and it includes the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It's important to note that Peter didn't preach the same thing as Paul. It’s true that he also preached about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, but he preached about it in regards to Israel's earthly kingdom program. When we look at Acts 2:22-36 and 3:13-15, we see that Peter preached about the crucifixion of Christ as the cause of judgment upon the Jews.  We don't find him preaching faith alone at Pentecost.

In fact, Peter told the Jews to repent of killing Jesus Christ. If they (as a nation) would repent, then the times of refreshing from God would come upon the nation Israel. While it’s true that Jesus Christ is the source of the good news for both the Jews and Gentiles under the earthly kingdom program and us today, we certainly can’t say that Peter understood the gospel of "the word of the cross" (1 Cor 1:18) at Pentecost. After all, it wasn't revealed until the Apostle Paul.

Does any of this really make a difference? Well yes, it makes a big difference. If we fail to observe progressive revelation, we may wrongly try to evangelize by preaching the gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ) according to Israel's earthly kingdom and not according to what was later revealed to us through Paul. The New Testament clearly teaches both. For example, Ephesians 2:8-9 flatly contradicts the message of faith plus works as the expression of their faith that we find in the gospel accounts (Matt 5:19-20; 12:50; 23:2-3; Mk 11:26; Lk 3:10,12,14; 6:46; 8:21; 10:25-28; 17:10; 18:18-20). If we try to combine the two, we will have a contradictory gospel. So in an attempt to harmonize the Scriptures, most theologians do one of three things:

•Read the kingdom gospel into Paul's gospel
•Read Paul's gospel back into the kingdom gospel
•Observe the progression of Scripture

The first choice is what some Bible teachers have done in an attempt to make sense of the good news of the earthly kingdom and the good news later revealed to us. An example of this is the teaching of Lordship Salvation.

The second choice is what most fundamentalists do. They understand the gospel of salvation as revealed in Paul's epistles. They teach that salvation today is apart from works and totally by faith alone in the finished work of Christ, but then explain away, rationalize, or spiritualize the teachings of the gospels that clearly teach faith plus works.

The third choice is the only choice that allows God's Word to say what it means and mean what it says. Understanding Paul's unique apostleship and message allows the Bible to teach what the literal sense of the words clearly indicate — a message of faith plus works to the Jews in keeping with their earthly prophetic program under the law, and a message of faith alone to everyone today in keeping with the heavenly program revealed to us through Paul.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

When the Israelite who hears that Christ's sacrifice has taken away his sin continues to go on the Day of Atonement to offer animal sacrifices, what is he saying about the blood of Christ? When the Catholic continues to rely on his priest for forgiveness, what is he saying about the Spirit of grace? When the Protestant continues to send up prayers of confession to bring about forgiveness, what is he saying about the blood of the covenant? The Christian world tells the Israelites, "You no longer have to offer animal sacrifices." The Protestants are saying to the Catholics, "You don't have to confess to a priest, you can go directly to God." And God in heaven is saying to all of us, "IT IS FINISHED." 
(Bob George)

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'" When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb 10:1-14).

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pithy sayings - 5

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.

By three methods we may learn wisdom. First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.

Forgiveness is not an emotion, it's a decision.

Your mind can only hold one thought at a time. Make it a positive and constructive one.

I want to know the thoughts of God. Everything else is just details.

An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject and who manages to avoid them.

One makes mistakes; that is life. But it is never a mistake to love.

Give love and unconditional acceptance to those you encounter, and notice what happens.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.