Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cameron Buettel Open Air Preaching At Huntington Beach

I have been so busy of late with Seminary and my new job at Grace to You that I have not had time to post on my blog. There is so much material now anyway that many people dig into the archives for a particular article they are looking for. Anyway, just to say that my blog is not dead, just a lot less new material.

For those who are interested, I was recently videoed preaching at Huntington Beach. I welcome any thoughts, feedback, or criticism. Take a look and see what you think....

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Church Creeds And Rob Bell's Lies

On September 11 3001 A.D., a team of archaeologists began an excavation on Manhattan Island. They were surprised to uncover a legal document, from precisely 1000 years earlier, that classified colliding an aircraft with a building as an act of terror. The scientific team examining this artifact are certain that this answers the ancient mystery of where all laws banning aircraft from flying into buildings originates from. Based on this information they were able to deduce that, prior to September 11 2001, the practice of crashing planes into buildings was widely accepted and practiced by the general public. Scientists are still working on potential theories as to what caused the residents of Manhattan to go through such a dramatic shift in public opinion.

Clearly, the previous paragraph is a work of fiction - but what follows is not. In 2005, Rob Bell wrote a book called Velvet Elvis. It was in this book that Bell's historical research concluded the following about the Christian doctrine of the Triune God:

This three-in-oneness understanding of God emerged in the several hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection… But over time this belief [the Trinity], this understanding, this doctrine, has become central to how followers of Jesus have understood who God is. It is a spring, and people jumped for thousands of years without it. It was added later. We can take it out and examine it. Discuss it, probe it, question it. It flexes, and it stretches.[1]

It is readily apparent that Bell is making the exact same erroneous assumption that the archaeologists in 3001 A.D. are making. Bell's referral to the Nicene Creed as the first recorded instance of Trinitarian dogma assumes that it marks the first recorded instance of Trinitarian belief. But if Bell was a true student of Church history, he would know that Creeds are an affirmation of what Christians at that time already believed. Creeds were always necessitated by false teaching that attacked the very doctrines they were designed to defend. In the same way that the horrific acts of terror perpetrated on 9-11 clearly violated the unwritten morality of the citizens of Manhattan, so too the Arian attacks on Christ's divinity in the fourth Century A.D. clearly violated the unwritten convictions of the citizens of Christ's Church. Anti-terror laws and Church Creeds are both retrospective - a reaction to new assaults with ancient truth.

Throughout church history, creeds have always been necessitated due to the heresies that have arisen at that time. These creeds do not introduce new doctrine formulated by the church leaders of that time, but rather affirm what most Christians had always believed prior to the creed being written, and repudiate the contemporary heresies that brought these truths under threat.

This also helps to explain why creeds have become more and more detailed over the course of church history. Each new heresy demands a new rebuttal to create a clear line of distinction between Christian orthodoxy and false teaching. It logically follows then that The Apostles Creed, being the earliest church creed (its earliest form appeared around the middle of the second century AD), is relatively short and does not cover every essential doctrine we might see posted in a typical evangelical faith statement of the 21st century.

The best possible construction I can put on Rob Bell’s “research” is that he is an unbeliever who has no clue what he is doing (if that is not the case then he has been engaging in deliberate deception) and has been tragically let down by church leaders who failed to retrospectively react to his clear statements of unbelief. Unfortunately, it took several more heretical books before the wider evangelical community responded appropriately to Bell's perversions of history and theology.

Even in the most recent of times, the rise of new heresies has demanded that genuine defenders of Christian truth expand upon their already detailed doctrinal confessions. Together for the Gospel is a band of Christian pastors[2] who came together in 2006 in order to make a robust defense of the Christian gospel that they perceived to be under ominous threat. This prompted these men to draft a doctrinal statement of affirmations and denials. Article II reveals their own retrospective expansion of essential Christian doctrine:

We affirm that the authority and sufficiency of Scripture extends to the entire Bible, and therefore that the Bible is our final authority for all doctrine and practice. We deny that any portion of the Bible is to be used in an effort to deny the truthfulness or trustworthiness of any other portion. We further deny any effort to identify a canon within the canon or, for example, to set the words of Jesus against the writings of Paul. (emphasis mine).[3]

This statement may seem bizarre on face value, but entirely legitimate and necessary when one recognizes the precision with which it responds to postmodern attacks on biblical authority. The 21st Century gospel preacher is also faced with the same necessity in expounding the biblical gospel. Firstly, he is burdened with the necessity of precisely proclaiming it:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9 emphasis mine).

The apostle Paul did this for us in his first letter to the church in Corinth:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 emphasis mine).

Secondly, the rise of newly seductive and deceptive heresies demands that the preacher unpack and explain many of Paul’s terms within his simple definition of the gospel message. We need to biblically define Who Christ is in contrast with the false christs of cults. We need to define sin in terms of God’s Law because many are ignorant of what it is and the extent of its offence. We need to explain why Christ died. We need to explain the propitiatory transaction that took place during Christ’s death for sinners. We need to explain the personal consequences of having this perfect atoning sacrifice or not having it. We need to explain the response this truth demands of the sinner. These are all issues that are fair game for the subjective assault of postmodern idolaters. The faithful preacher must preach the gospel Paul proclaimed all the while insulating it from the fog of reinvention.[4]

This is a gospel that cannot be lived out. Its effects are certainly worked out in the sanctification of believers as salt and light in a fallen world, but the modern cliché to "live the gospel" is just plain ridiculous. How do you live the resurrection? How do you live the crucifixion? How do you live the fulfillment of God's law? The Gospel is a message about someone Who has lived a unique life that nobody can replicate. That is why we must testify. It is why Paul asks the question “how are they to hear?” (Rom 10:14). The oxymoronic statement "preach the gospel, if necessary use words" is like saying "wash always if necessary use water".

Rick Warren says that: "deeds not creeds will be the next reformation".[5] He is suggesting that we have the right doctrine but we are not living it. Wrong!!! The real problem is that he has the wrong doctrine and he is living it.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:21-24).

[1] Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005), 22.
[2] The keynote speakers at their initial conference were Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, R. Albert Mohler, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul. Certainly not lightweight theologians by anyone’s estimation.
[3] This entire statement of affirmations and denials can be viewed at http://t4g.org/about/affirmations-and-denials-2/
[4] I have thoroughly addressed this issue in my blog series “The Anatomy of the Gospel” http://onceuponacross.blogspot.com/2009/12/anatomy-of-gospel-part-1.html
[5] This statement can be viewed at http://www.religiousherald.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=650&Itemid=110

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Is There No Repentance In The Gospel Of John?

Recent decades have given way to many theologians arguing against the necessity of repentance in conversion and gospel preaching. People might not talk about it but please ask yourself, do they call people to repentance from sin when presenting the gospel in your local church? The evidence is in the silence. Hillsong have been guilty of this for years - they are even guilty according to their own doctrine statement. Brian Houston avoids the subject like the plague and is even willing to change Bible translations to avoid mentioning the word (as he did during his recent visit to Rick Warren's fellowship).

The wholesale abandonment of repentance preaching really took root at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) in the 70's. It has created a sub-culture of professing Christians who live lives that look no different to the world. It has been a mission field catastrophe and created mass confusion as to why people claim to be Christians and yet persist in bringing reproach on the body of Christ through their lives of perpetual unrepentant sin. The Bible has a name for this kind of Christian - non-Christians! 

Without a doubt, Zane Hodges from DTS was one of the leading voices in spreading this poison. He wrote:

One of the most striking facts about the doctrine of repentance in the Bible is that this doctrine is totally absent from John's gospel. There is not even so much as one reference to it in John's twenty-one chapters... Since John's Gospel does omit the message of repentance, are we to conclude that its gospel is not the biblical gospel after all? The very idea carries its own refutation. The fourth evangelist explicitly claims to be doing evangelism( John 20:30-31 ). It is not the theology of the gospel of John that is deficient; it is the theology found in lordship salvation.[1]

This post has been written in order to respond to Hodges beliefs, which are still very influential on the global mission field. I stand with John MacArthur in my assessment that this is one of the defining theological issues of our time and must be fought with unyielding resolve. This article is designed to show that it is the gospel Zane Hodges advocates that is deficient and not even a Christian gospel at all. Following is a list of ten reasons that Hodges assertion is wrong regarding the absence of repentance in the gospel of John.

1. This is a Very Easy Game to Play

I can easily play the same game with Zane Hodges. The word love makes no appearance in the book of Acts. Therefore we should ignore the importance of love in fulfilling the Great Commission and make sure we don’t make it a necessary part of our preaching. A little closer to the issue at hand, I could also argue that Jesus never mentions grace in John’s gospel and therefore we should also avoid preaching or insisting upon God’s grace. Though my comments are sarcastic, these ludicrous ideas reveal a major deficiency in Hodges’ argument.

2. John is Not the Only Book in the Bible

This is simple but it is true. John’s gospel is not the entire Bible. The true theologian has to deal with the subject of repentance as it is dealt with within the entirety of Scripture. The 66 books of the Old and New Testaments comprise one canon – not 66 canons!

3. John Wrote More Than One Book

John’s gospel is not the only book he wrote. In fact, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation were all probably written later as well.

The word, repent, features prominently in the book of Revelation. It is used to describe wicked sinners who refuse to repent (Rev 9:20, 9:21, 16:9, 16:11). Their refusal to metanoia[2] means much more than a change of mind because the context in these passages reveals their unrepentance by their continuation in their sinful practices. Jesus also commanded five of the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 to repent – Ephesus (Rev 2:5), Pergamum (Rev 2:16), Thyatira (Rev 2:21-22), Sardis (Rev 3:3), and Laodicea (Rev 3:19). John’s context is clear here that the repentance demanded requires outward action – “repent and do the works you did at first” (Rev 2:5).

Although the word repent is not used in John’s three epistles, the concept is both dominant and clearly portrayed. He who perseveres in disobedience and wicked works is described as someone who “does not have God” (2 John 1:9). Those who do good are from God and those who do evil have “not seen God” (3 John 1:11). In his first epistle, John goes so far as to say that God’s children are those who practice righteousness and the Devil’s children are those who continue in their sinful ways (1 John 3:4-10). Repentance was clearly not a concept that was foreign to John, nor was it a subject he treated as anything less than a matter of eternal importance.

4. True Biblical Repentance Has a True Biblical Context

As mentioned previously, when Jesus tells the church in Ephesus to repent, He elaborates on His point by telling them to do the works they had been doing previously (Rev 2:5).

5. True Biblical Repentance Results in a Change of Mind that Results in a Change of Action

When John the Baptist preached repentance he commanded his sinful audience to bear fruits in keeping with repentance. He was asked by the crowds:

"What then shall we do?" And he answered them, "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise." Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than you are authorized to do." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:10-14).

6. True Biblical Repentance is Tangible and Humanly Quantifiable

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him (Luke 17:3-4).

Jesus is clearly implying, in these verses, that repentance is measurable to humans. His command to the offended party is based on the repentance of the guilty party. The offended party has to be able to determine if repentance is forthcoming – it must be something more than a change of mind because it is only the outward change in behavior that is discernable to a human observer.

7. True Biblical Repentance is Inseparable From Saving Faith

Jesus’ death for sins was an act of salvation. To receive God's gracious gift Scripture explicitly teaches that:

Truly, then, God overlooking the times of ignorance, now He strictly commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day in which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He appointed, having given proof to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).

The Apostle Paul said that; “Godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Cor 7:10a). This repentance from sin and turning away from it is also a turning to Christ in saving faith in order to receive salvation:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

And how I kept back nothing that was profitable, but have shown you and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21).

Some people claim that "faith alone" in Ephesians 2:8 negates the need to repent. But we must remember this hermeneutical rule: Scripture cannot contradict itself - therefore in understanding it rightly, it must harmonize with the rest of Scripture. As we harmonize all of Scripture we can clearly see that sometimes only faith or belief is mentioned, sometimes only repentance is mentioned, and sometimes both are mentioned (refer to the verses above).

By harmonizing all of these (rather than focusing on a single verse) we can see that the salvation call is a call to turn away from sin in repentance and a turning to Christ in faith – trusting Him alone to save us. The turning to Christ (faith) necessitates a turning away from our carnal affections (repentance). Man cannot serve two masters. As Todd Friel says; "Repentance and faith are two wings of the same bird that fly us to the Savior."[3]

8. True Biblical Repentance is a Work of God

This salvation is ultimately a work of God. Both repentance (Acts 11:18) and faith (Eph 2:8) are works of God. We cannot come to God unless the Spirit draws us (John 6:44). We are not saved by praying a prayer or walking down to the front of a church. It is God who saves. It is God who gives us a love for His law and a desire to live in holiness. It does not mean we stop sinning but it does mean we have a new relationship with sin manifest in a love for God's law and a desire to obey it:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezek 36:25-27).

9. True Biblical Repentance is the True Biblical Fruit of True Biblical Conversion

The regenerative work described in Ezekiel 36:25-27 produces the repentance described in verse 31:

Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations (Ezek 36:31).

Within its context, this repentance is brought about by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. As we have seen earlier in John’s epistles, a lifestyle of repentance is the fruit and sign of a truly regenerate Christian.

10. True Biblical Repentance is in the Gospel of John

There is so much that can be said here, I could take up a great number of pages in discussion of this one point. For the sake of brevity I will point out some of the big ones:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God (John 3:19-21).

Repentance is clearly included by implication in these verses that follow right on the heels of John 3:16.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36).

Notice here that the opposite of belief is disobedience. The belief John describes is clearly a repentant belief. Turning to Christ means turning away from sin.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:15-17).

John MacArthur drives the whole issue home:

To say that John called for a faith that excluded repentance is to grossly misconstrue the apostle's concept of what it means to be a believer. Although John never uses repent as a verb, the verbs he does employ are even stronger. He teaches that all true believers love the light (3:19), come to the light (3:20-21), obey the Son (3:36), practice the truth (3:21), worship in spirit and truth (4:23-24), honor God (5:22-24), do good deeds (5:29), eat Jesus' flesh and drink His blood (6:48-66), love God (8:42 , cf. 1 John 2:15), follow Jesus (10:26-28), and keep Jesus' commandments (14:15). Those ideas hardly concur with no-lordship salvation! All of them presuppose repentance, commitment, and a desire to obey.[4]

Thomas Watson responded to this 20th Century invention 300 years earlier:

“He commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Repentance is not arbitrary. It is not left to our choice whether or not we will repent, but it is an indispensable command. God has enacted a law in the High Court of heaven that no sinner shall be saved except the repenting sinner, and He will not break His own law. Though all the angels should stand before God and beg the life of an unrepenting person, God would not grant it. “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, keeping mercy for thousands, and that will by no means clear the guilty” (Exod 34:6-7). Though God is more full of mercy than the sun is full of light, yet He will not forgive a sinner while he goes on in his guilt: “He will by no means clear the guilty!”[5]

Repentance Properly Defined and Applied

Repentance is clearly important to God. The Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and Jesus Himself all began their ministries with a call to repentance. Jesus made it very clear when He spoke about a natural disaster of His time where eighteen people died. He said that although they did not die because they were more sinful than others, “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3).

What is repentance? Perhaps it is better to initially state what it is not. repentance is not reformation. Repentance is not remorse. Repentance is not regret. Wayne Grudem defines repentance as “a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”[6] Repentance is genuine sorrow for offending God that changes us to be more like Jesus.

Jesus said “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Our repentance starts a celebration in heaven. It is repentance that sets us truly free. Free from the fear of being found out. Free from condemnation. Free from the facades that we live behind. Free from guilt. Repentance should not be a one-off event but a lifestyle practice. We all need to live this way because we are all sinners. The Bible makes it clear that we are all sinners (Romans 6:23) therefore we’ve all got stuff we need to repent of. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Heavenly Father, Maker of heaven and earth, Your ways are so much higher than our ways. All that You do is perfect and all of Your ways are just and right. I come to You in the name of Jesus Christ knowing that I cannot stand in Your presence in any other way. I have sinned against You and have no excuse. You know all the thoughts and intents of my heart. I confess them to You. I am not sorry because of the consequences but because it damages my relationship with You. I repent of it, turn away from it, and plead Your forgiveness. I put all of my trust in Your promise that You will immediately totally cleanse me of all my unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Thank You Lord for the greatest act of love in history by dying for my sins so that I can have right standing with You and eternal life instead of hell. In Jesus name amen.

[1] Zane Hodges, Absolutely Free, p146-47.
[2] The Greek word for repent.
[3] Quote heard on Wretched Radio (www.wretchedradio.com).
[4] http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/a238/repentance-in-the-gospel-of-john
[5] Thomas Watson. The Doctrine of Repentance, p59.
[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p713.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

You Might Be A False Teacher If...

1. You might be a false teacher if your website is not blocked by the Chinese government.

2. You might be a false teacher if you think choosing the base model demonstrates modesty and good stewardship every time you purchase a private jet.

3. You might be a false teacher if your last name is also a monetary currency.

4. You might be a false teacher if you think having a Bible Mantra is an alternative to reading it.

5. You might be a false teacher if Oprah invites you onto her show.

6. You are a false teacher if you appear on Oprah's show and she never objects to anything you say.

7. You might be a false teacher if you don't know what an elephant looks like.

8. You might be a false teacher if Brian McLaren endorsed your book.

9. You might be a false teacher if you think you are the one who has finally figured out what the Apostle Paul was on about.

10. You might be a false teacher if you think tithing puts Satan in a cage.

11. You might be a false teacher if you think "Thou shalt not criticize" is the 11th Commandment.

12. You might be a false teacher if you think "Thou shalt tithe" is the 12th Commandment.

13. You might be a false teacher if you think that when Jesus said, "On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets," He was referring to the 11th and 12th Commandments.

14. You might be a false teacher if Barack Obama finds your spiritual advice to be helpful.

15. You might be a false teacher if you think firing an elder is a form of church discipline.

16. You might be a false teacher if you believe it is the sheep's job to protect the shepherd.

17. You might be a false teacher if you wear a suit when you're in the White House and an Hawaiian shirt when you're in the Lord's House.

18. You might be a false teacher if you agree with Rob Bell about anything.

19. You might be a false teacher if you use the Council of Trent to defend your theological position.

20. You might be a false teacher if you think that Herman Newtix is the guy who keeps telling John MacArthur to be mean to Charismatics.

21. You might be a false teacher if you think that "The Message" is a Bible translation.

22. You might be a false teacher if you think the Bible is subject to your editorial process.

23. You might be a false teacher if you think that the Reformation was a speed bump on the highway of church history.

24. You might be a false teacher if you think church history refers to the different phases of your building project.

25. You might be a false teacher if the promise of the forgiveness of sins found in Jesus Christ underwhelms you.