Christianity and theology

Happy 499th Reformation Day!

Happy Reformation Day!

Today we celebrate 499 years since the Protestant Reformation began. We need to thank the Lord for his faithfulness and goodness to his church.

As I was reflecting on the Reformation, I thought of the common saying, “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (latin for “the church reformed, always reforming”). No doubt this one of the abused sayings in the Church today. Often it has been used to argue that the church needs to keep reforming or changing according to times.

For instance, I heard one arguing for female leadership in the church basing on the phrase. The argument went something like this: the church has been led by male leadership over the centuries, but now it’s time to embrace female leadership because the Church is reformed and always reforming.

What an abuse of this well-meaning phrase. The Church does not reform with times, it reforms with the word. Christ reforms his Church by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word. Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (the church reformed, always reforming according to the Word of God).

When the Old Testament church was deformed, God used the word to reform it (Nehemiah 8). The Pharisees also deformed the Church with their man made rules and Christ used the word to reform it (Matt. 5:17-20). The same thing happened in the 16th Century. God used his Word to Reform his Church. Reformation without the word is not Reformation at all. If the church is reforming without the Word, it is actually deforming.

Happy Reformation with the Word!

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My Life as a Christian

Lecture #2: The Call to the Ministry (Second Session)

Pastor Spurgeon continues with his lecture…

“The first sign of the heavenly call is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.  In order to a true call to the ministry there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling others what God has done to our own souls…If any student in this room could be content to be a newspaper editor, or a grocer, or a farmer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a senator, or a king, in the name of heaven let him go his way.

“We must feel that woe is unto us if we preach not the gospel; the word of God must be unto us as fire in our bones, otherwise, if we undertake the ministry, we shall be unhappy in it and unable to bear the self-denials incident to it, and shall be of little service to those among whom we minister. I speak of self-denials, and well I may; for the true pastor’s work is full of them.  (Therefore), the desire to ministry must be thoughtful one and must be thoroughly disinterested one meaning that if a man can detect, after the most earnest self-examination, any other motive than the glory of God and the good of souls, he must turn aside from it at once.

“In the second place, combined with the earnest desire to become a pastor, there must be aptness to teach and some measure of the other qualities needful for the office of a public instructor.  I do not claim  that the first time a man rises to speak he must preach  as well as Robert Hall did in his later days…If a man be called to preach, he will be endowed with a degree of speaking ability, which he will cultivate increase. If the gift of utterance be not there in a measure at the first, it is not likely that it will ever be developed.

“I have heard of a gentleman who had a most intense desire to preach, and pressed his suit upon his minister, until after a multitude of rebuffs he obtained leave to preach a trial sermon. That opportunity was the end  of his importunity, for upon announcing his text he found himself bereft of every idea but one, which he delivered feelingly, and then descended the rostrum. “My brethren,” said he, “if any of you think it an easy thing to preach, I advise you to come up here and have all the conceit taken out of you.”

“I should not complete this point if I did not add, that mere ability to edify, and aptness to teach is not enough, there must be other talents to complete the pastoral character. Sound judgment and solid experience must instruct you; gentle manners and loving affections must sway you; firmness and courage must be manifest; and tenderness and sympathy must not be lacking.

Gifts administrative in ruling well will be as requisite as gifts instructive in teaching well. You must be fitted to lead, prepared to endure, and able to persevere. In grace, you should be head and shoulders above the rest of the people, able to be their father and counselor. Read carefully the qualifications of an elder, given in 1 Timothy 3:2-7, and in Titus 1:6-9. If such gifts and graces be not in you and abound, it may be possible for you to succeed as an evangelist, but as a pastor you will be of no account.

“In order further to prove a man’s call, after al little exercise of his gifts, such as I have already spoken of, he must see a measure of conversion-work going on under his efforts, or he may conclude that he has made a mistake, and therefore, may go back by the best way he can…There must be some measure of conversion-work in your irregular labors before you can believe that preaching is to be your life-work…Brethren, if the Lord give you no zeal for souls, keep to the lapstone or the trowel, but avoid the pulpit as you value your heart’s peace and your future salvation.

“A step beyond all this is however needful in our inquiry. The will of the Lord concerning pastors is made known through the prayerful judgment of his church. It is needful as a proof of your vocation that your preaching should be acceptable to the people of God. God usually opens doors of utterance for those whom he calls to speak in his name…Standing up to preach, our spirit will be judged of the assembly, and if it be condemned, or if, as a general rule, the church is not edified, the conclusion may not be disputed, that we are not sent of God.

“Churches are not all wise, neither do they all judge in the power of the Holy Ghost, but many of them judge after the flesh; yet I had sooner accept the opinion of a company of the Lord’s people than my own upon so personal a subject as my own gifts and graces.”

Professor Spurgeon wraps up the session with this deep insight borrowed from John Newton’s letter to a friend:

“If it be the Lord’s will to bring you into his ministry, he has already appointed your place and service, and though you know it not at present, you shall at a proper time. If you had the talents of an angel, you could do no good with them till his hour is come, and till he leads you to the people whom he has determined to bless by your means. It is very difficult to restrain ourselves within the bounds of prudence here, when our zeal is warm: a sense of the love of Christ upon our hearts, and a tender compassion for poor sinners, is ready to prompt us to break out too soon; but he that believes shall not make haste.”

The lecture to be concluded later…

 

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My Life as a Christian

Lecture #2: The Call to the Ministry (First Session)

Our professor, Charles Spurgeon, just finished his lecture #1, two days ago. Today, he is bringing us his second lecture which he has entitled, “The Call to the Ministry.” This lecture will be divided into three sessions. The first one is more of an introduction. In the second session, the professor will lecture on 5 essentials to be considered in ascertaining a call to the ministry. He will conclude the lecture in the third session by sharing his personal experiences to aspirants for the ministry.

“Any Christian has a right to disseminate the gospel who has the ability to do so; and more, he not only has the right, but it is his duty to do so as long as he lives (Rev. 22:17). The propagation of the gospel is left, not to a few, but to all the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ according to the measure of grace entrusted to them by the Holy Spirit, each man is bound to minister in his day and generation, both to the church and among unbelievers.

“Indeed, this question goes beyond men, and even includes the whole of the other sex; whether believers are male or female, they are all bound, when enabled by divine grace, to exert themselves to the service, however, need not take the particular form of preaching-certainly, in some cases it must not, as for instance in the case of females, who public teaching is expressly prohibited (1 Tim. 2:12; 1 Cor. 14:34).

“I do not, however, in this lecture allude to occasional preaching, or any other form of ministry common to all the saints, but to the work and office of the bishopric (pastor), in which is included both teaching and bearing rule in the church, which requires dedication of a man’s entire life to spiritual work, and separation from every secular calling (2 Tim. 2:4); and entitles the man to cast himself for temporal supplies upon the church of God, since he gives up all his time, energies, and endeavors, for the  good of those over whom he presides (1 Cor. 9:11; 1 Tim. 5:18).

Professor Spurgeon then goes no to highlight the importance of God’s call to ministry rather than self-calling, so to speak. He writes, “No man may intrude into the sheepfold as an under-shepherd; he must have an eye to the chief Shepherd, and wait his beck and command. Or ever a man stands forth as God’s ambassador, he must wait for the call from above; and if he does not so, but rushes into the sacred office, the Lord will say of him and others like him, “I sent them not, neither commanded them; therefore, they shall not profit this people at all, says the Lord,” (Jer. 23:32).”

Spurgeon at this juncture cites instances of prophets Isaiah (Is.6:8), Jeremiah (Jer. 1:4-10), Ezekiel (Ezk. 2:1-3; 3:1-4), and Daniel who had been called into ministry by God. He then applies the truths regarding the calling of these prophets to the present day. “In the present dispensation, the priesthood is common to all the saints; but to prophecy, or what is analogous to be moved by the Holy Ghost to give oneself up wholly to the proclamation of the gospel, is, as a matter of fact, the gift and calling of only a comparatively small number; and surely these need to be sure of the rightfulness of their position as were the prophets; and yet how can they justify their office, except by a similar call?”

“Brethren, I trust you may be able one day to speak of the flock over whom “the Holy Ghost has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28), and I pray that every one of you may be able to say with the apostle of the Gentiles, that your ministry is not of man, neither by man, but that you have received it of the Lord (Gal. 1:1). In you may that ancient promise be fulfilled, “I will give them pastors according to mine heart,” (Jer. 3:15)…As the Lord Jesus went up to the Mount and called to him whom he would, and then sent them forth to preach (Mark 3:13), even so may he select you, call you upward to commune with himself, and send you forth as his elect servants to bless both the church and the world.”

The first session of this lecture ends here…

 

 

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My Life as a Christian

The Minister’s Self-Watch: Be sure you are converted

     It has been some time since our last class.  It seems our professor, Pastor Spurgeon, was tied up with other equally important assignments but now is back and is bringing his second lecture which he has entitled, “The Minster’s Self-Watch.”

     In this lecture, Spurgeon discusses the need for constant self-evaluation of a minister or a pastor. Of course, this is to be done by the grace of God. He opens with this profound thought:

     “It is true that the Lord can work with the faultiest kind of instrumentality, to be useful in conversion; and he can even work without agents, as he does when he saves men without a preacher at all, applying the word directly by his Holy Spirit; but we cannot regard God’s absolutely sovereign acts a rule for our action…This is a practical truth for our guidance, when the Lord makes exceptions, they do but prove the rule.”

     By this Spurgeon emphasizes on the need for a minister or God’s servant to prepare themselves, by God grace, for service every day. There is no room for neglecting this responsibility on pretext that God can use anything, even that which man intends for evil, to accomplish good (Genesis 50:19).

     Spurgeon goes on to illustrate how negligence of our both spiritual and physical preparation for God’s service can ruin even the good things we would like to accomplish for God as he writes: “It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or organize societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself; for books, and agencies, and systems, are only remotely the instruments of my holy calling; my own spirit, soul and body are my nearest machinery for sacred service; my spiritual faculties, and my inner life, are my battle axe and weapons of war.”

     Professor Spurgeon goes on to list the following important points.

First, “It should be one of our first cares that we ourselves be saved men…How horrible to be preacher of the gospel and yet to be unconverted… Unconverted ministry involves the most unnatural relationships. A graceless pastor is a blind man elected into a professorship of optics.” Spurgeon has a great sense of humor but here he drives home a very important truth.

     Spurgeon then quotes from “Reformed Pastor” by Richard Baxter and writes: “Believe it, brethren, God never saved any man for being a preacher, nor because he was an able preacher; but because he was a justified, sanctified man, and consequently faithful in his Master’s work. Take heed, therefore, to yourselves first, that you be that which you persuade others to be, and believe that which you persuade them daily to believe, and have heartily entertained that Christ and Spirit which you offer unto others.”

     While asserting the need for a preacher to be a converted man, Spurgeon still accepts the fact that: “The word of an unconverted man may be blessed to the conversion of souls, since the Lord, while he disowns the man, will still honor his own truth.”

     Oh, it’s already time! Professor Spurgeon will stop here for today. May God grant us the grace to reflect on these matters and instill in us the hunger to seek to be his better instruments through His grace alone. 

 


 

 

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Christianity and theology

Jesus Christ is the Final Word

“In sum, great benefits come to God’s people if they are willing to take seriously the fact that the ‘final revelation’ has come in the Christ of Scriptures. Far from hindering enthusiasm and a sense of the immediacy of God’s presence in their midst, faith in the sufficiency of Scripture will move them to serve him with the full vigor of their beings. It must not be forgotten how the resurrected Christ stirred the hearts of his depressed disciples. The Gospel of Luke explains that Jesus enlivened his followers by opening to them the Scriptures. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). Why? Why did the resurrected Christ speak to them in this way? Why did he not simply give them a new revelation?

The resurrected Jesus opened the scriptures to them because that would be the way by which spiritual life would be sustained for them from this point on. As a consequence of his opening the Scriptures, their hearts burned within them (Luke 24:32). The same principle has continued through all the ages. As the resurrected Christ through his Spirit opens the Scriptures to his people, their hearts have burned within them. Much greater than depending on the stimulus of new revelations of the Spirit is living out the sufficiency of the final word as it is found in the Christ of the Scriptures.

And why not both? Why not the illumination of Scripture coupled with new revelations of the Spirit? Simply because if you declare a need for both, you have implied the insufficiency of the one. You have placed yourself back in the framework of the old covenant, in a time when new revelations were required because of the incompleteness of the old. But Christ is the final word. No further word for the  redemption of men in the present age in needed. In Scripture is found all the truth that is needed for life and godliness.

May the Lord grant his church today a full unleashing of its potential that comes from the full knowledge of the truth as it is found in Jesus. For he is the final word.”

Taken from: “The Final Word: A Biblical Response to the Case for Tongues and Prophecy Today” by Dr. O. Palmer Robertson.

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Christianity and theology

Beware of ‘Revelations’!

“Is the truth that which I imagine to be revealed to me by some private communication? Am I to fancy that I enjoy some special Revelation and am I to order my life by voices, dreams and impressions?

Brothers and Sisters, fall not into this common delusion! God’s Word to us is in Holy Scripture. All the Truth that sanctifies men is in God’s Word! Do not listen to those who cry, “Lo here!” and, “Lo there!”

I am plucked by the sleeve almost every day by crazy persons and pretenders who think that they have Revelations from God. One man tells me that God has sent a message to me by him—and I reply, “No, Sir, the Lord knows where I dwell and He is so near to me that He would not need to send to me by you.”

Another man announces, in God’s name, a dogma which, on the face of it, is a lie against the Holy Spirit. He says the Spirit of God told him so-and-so, but we know that the Holy Spirit never contradicts Himself. If your imaginary Revelation is not according to this Word of God, it has no weight with us! And if it is according to this Word, it is no new thing!

Brothers and Sisters, this Bible is enough if the Lord does but use it and quicken it by His Spirit in our hearts. Truth is neither your opinion, nor mine—your message, nor mine! Jesus says, “Your Word is truth.” That which sanctifies men is not only truth, but it is the particular Truth of God which is revealed in God’s Word—“Your Word is truth.” What a blessing it is that all the Truth that is necessary to sanctify us is revealed in the Word of God, so that we have not to expend our energies upon discovering the Truth of God, but may, to our far greater profit, use Revealed Truth for its Divine ends and purposes!

There will be no more Revelations—no more are needed! The Canon is fixed and complete—and he that adds to it shall have added to him the plagues that are written in this Book! What need of more when here is enough for every practical purpose? “Sanctify them through Your truth: Your Word is truth.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon

This Post has been copied fromhttp://www.erictyoung.com

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Sound Teaching

Why False Teachers and False Teachings?

This is the question that has lingered in my mind for the past weeks. Believe you me, false teachings and false teachers break my heart and stir agony and anger deep within my soul. I wish I had all the powers to stop them but I can’t. As a matter of fact, the Bible clearly declares that we will always have them.

On this blog, I have for a number of times exposed and rebuked false teachings and teachers. I don’t do this because I love or enjoy it as some have mistakenly thought. Honestly, I do it with agony in my soul. Nevertheless, I still have to do it as the goal of this blog is to “Give a reason for our (Christian) Faith and contend for it to the glory of God.”

Now back to the question of false teachings and false teachers. Why do they exist? I have searched the Scriptures to find answers.  But before we tackle the question, it is important to note that the Bible clearly states that we will always have false teachers and false teachings. Christ reminds us: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them (Matthew 7:15, 16).

Apostle Peter also says, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2 Peter 2:1). So make no mistake about it, false teachers and teachings will be part of this life until Christ comes back.

Again, back to our question:  Why do we have false teachings and false teachers? First, we need to note that some false teachers and teachings are out there due to ignorance. The wise of the old once noted that ‘ignorance is bliss.’ It is true! Some false teachers out of ignorance enjoy teaching false doctrines. They are not aware that they are in the wrong.

An example of Apollos comes to my mind right now. Apollos was a faithful servant of God and the Bible describes him as “a learned man, with thorough knowledge of Scriptures…he taught about Jesus accurately, although he knew only of the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25, 25). Apollos ignorantly taught about John’s baptism instead of baptism in Christ. Perhaps, his error was not much deadly but still he was in the wrong and acted in ignorance.  It took Aquila and his wife Priscilla to help Apollos to teach the truth more accurately (Acts 18:26).

Some of us have been there too. I remember early in my Christian life strongly refuting the biblical teaching that for one to be saved, it means that God unconditionally chose them to be saved before the foundations of the earth were laid (Ephesians 2:4-6).   I vividly recall preparing Bible studies to refute this teaching. But one day while in my first year at a Bible college, God opened my eyes as I was in class studying Romans 9.  Oh, what a day!  For the first time in my Christian life, my eyes were opened to this wonderful truth and silently in my heart I prayed:  “Father, forgive me. I was wrong. I now believe it. There is no one who can choose you unless you choose them.”

Now, you ask me.  Was I sincere when I refuted the doctrine of election? Yes I was! But were I Biblically right? No! I acted out of ignorance but at an appointed time God led me to the truth. So indeed, there are some who spread false teachings out of ignorance.  As the body of Christ we need to be on our knees praying that God will open their eyes to the truth and let’s take a step further like Aquila and Priscilla to reach out to them in love and graciously show them the truth as given to us in God’s holy and inerrant word, the Bible.

Secondly, let’s face it, false teachings are usually appealing. Now, due to our fallen nature we love those things that make us feel better. We, strongly, hate those things that disturb us in our comfort zone. Some false teachers have risen out of the desire to please men rather than God and in the process they gain materially. Two important issues motivate this type of false teachers namely the desire to please men and the desire to gain materially.

There is a passage that breaks my heart and provokes tears in my eyes, John 12:37-43. In the passage we read that some Jews believed in Jesus as the Savior but they could not openly confess this because they feared angering their religious leaders. The Bible highlights this sad truth about these Jews: “they loved the praise from men more than praise from God” (43). The Jews opted to please fellow men rather than God.  Believe you me, there are some false teachers who are motivated by the desire to please men rather than God. They know the truth but they intentionally go around it to please men.

Why do they do this? There might be many reasons but one of them is to gain materially (Jude 11). If these teachers are to be bold one day and decide to teach nothing but the truth, they know that they will not please many. The number of their followers will drastically shrink and they might not be able to live a more luxurious and extravagant life as they do now since their financial base will also shrink. So, they opt to please people at the expense of God’s truth. Sad, isn’t it?

Thirdly, there are those who have deliberately chosen to be agents of Satan to advance false teachings. Of course, all false teachings come from the evil one but as we have noted above some false teachers have been blinded by ignorance and the pleasures of this life.  But this third group has willfully offered themselves to be agents of the evil one. They teach doctrines of demons to harm and destroy the Body of Christ. They forget as Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) put it in that  famous hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers, that “Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that church prevail.”

Apostle Paul describes this group better in 1 Timothy 4:1: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” Notice that these people have deliberately ‘abandoned and followed things taught by demons.’ What do they gain from that? The Bible has not specified but this the most dangerous type of false teachers.

They are like Judas Iscariot who heard the truth of Christ daily but later intentionally decided to rebel against his Master and transferred himself from the Lordship of Christ to the lordship of Satan.  The Bible advises us to have nothing to do with this type of false teachers for their condemnation was already written long ago (Jude 4; 2 Peter 2:3). It’s hard, isn’t it?

Well, these are the thoughts that have entered my mind as I have been studying Scripture and reflecting on the question of false teachers and teachings.  However, the Bible has a word for all those who love Christ and are concerned with false teachers and teachings:

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen (Jude 20-25).

 

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