Illogical and Incoherent Thinking and Theology

This week, a church member sent me a link to this article: “Americans Love God and the Bible, Are Fuzzy on the Details.” In this article, Lifeway, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention, surveyed thousands of people to determine if they agree, disagree or are neutral to certain statements.  The results are disconcerting and reflect problems in the way people think in America.  For example, researchers identified that “7 in 10 say there’s only one true God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—two-thirds say God accepts the worship of all faiths.”  These kinds of answers reflect confusion and a lack of clarity. It seems Americans no longer feel the need to be coherent in their thinking.  The same person often voices ideas that are incompatible and conflicting. Christians must recognize that our God is not the author of confusion. We must be able to articulate what we believe to be true and why in a way that is defensible and reasonable. Let me give you one example of what I mean.

Orthodox Christians believe that Christ Jesus is the only way to the Father. We believe that when Jesus said he was ‘the way’ he meant ‘the way’ and not a way. Christians often say things that do not reflect confidence in this truth.  In reality, we often hope in some crazy way that there is a backdoor of good works or decent living so that our Mormon neighbor or Muslim coworker doesn’t have to go to hell.  We don’t realize the theological implications of our dualistic thinking.

If there is a plan B or plan C to salvation, that is to say, multiple roads that all lead to heaven; then we must ask this question: ‘Why did God send his only begotten Son to a Roman cross?' 'Why did Jesus have to endure God’s wrath for the sins of the whole world, if there is another way to heaven?’ If I say ‘yes’ Muslims can find God through the Islamic faith, then why did Jesus have to suffer? Why did he have to die? Why was he whipped, scarred, beaten, abused, and mocked? It doesn’t make sense. And it needs to make sense. It must make sense because the very character and nature of the Creator God are at stake. If I hold to a theological position that is conflicting and incompatible, my God is more like a human and less like the Sovereign Divine being of the Universe.

When I explain why Christ had to die and when I articulate the reality that Christ perfectly kept the law of God to be the ultimate Lamb of God, I am presenting tenants of truth that serve as foundational stones to a theological system that is dependent upon particular truths undergirding each other.  Jesus gave his life as an act of love from the entire Godhead. Jesus experienced incompressible wrath from God to satisfy God’s righteous indignation against sin. These ideas are not conflicting; they complement each other.

Check your thinking. Demand nothing but the best from yourself. Think about what you believe to be true and insist upon a system of faith that is rational, defendable, coherent, Christo-centric and Biblically sound. To be Christian, it must be 100% in compliance with the Apostle’s doctrine of the first-century church as revealed in the NT.

Is Isaiah 54:17 meant for Christians today?

Is Isaiah 54:17 meant for Christians today? Can we say no weapon formed against us will prosper? I was asked this question via email and here is my answer:

No Isaiah 54:17 is not a promise that individual Christians can claim and somehow think that the bullet will not be effective against them. Let me remind you that God permitted Stephen to die of stoning in Acts chapter 7. So the final stone that knocked the life out of him did prosper. In fact, nearly all the apostles died for the faith--some weapon meant to harm them prospered.  Read the devotion on this web page:

Now notice how there is some truth packed throughout the page, but the author did not consider to whom was the promise given. In Isaiah 54 the promise is given to corporate Israel.  Notice how the web page author claims nothing will harm the believer. How is she using ‘harm’?  Is she using 'harm' in the sense that no matter what happens to your physical body you are secure in Christ? Or is she using it like the lion will not be able to rip the arm off of the Christian in the Roman coliseums Nero?  The believer is secure in Christ, but Christ did not promise that a believer's body will not be destroyed or harmed. Christ’s body was crucified, and he died. Furthermore, he told his apostles to expect the same for themselves. Read Matthew 24 slowly and carefully and remember Jesus was talking to followers.

We know weapons formed against Christians are being effective in Iraq. Even today as I am writing this note Christians are being put to death for their faith in Christ.  Are you familiar with the ministry Voice of the Martyrs? ( )  Spend some time on that website and tell me weapons are not prospering in the hands of those who would seek to kill and destroy Christians.

If you want a promise to claim that applies to you, if you believe, read John 10.  John 10 is packed full of promises from Christians can claim, and John 10 provides clarity as to who genuine sheep are.  For they hear his voice and follow the true shepherd and bishop of our souls.

The promise you have as a Christians is the promise of life found in 2 Timothy 1:1!

Did John the Baptist Have to be Saved Since He was Filled with the Holy Spirit?

Is there evidence in scripture that John the Baptist needed salvation like everyone else though he was filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb?

It is Luke who tells us that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit ‘even from birth’ (Luke 1:15), which could cause someone to wonder if John was exempt from the need to believe the gospel for the forgiveness of sins. There are several evidences from scripture that in spite of being filled with the Holy Spirit, John still needed to be saved.

First, the scripture says that John was filled with the Holy Spirit it does not say that John was sealed with the Holy Spirit. Paul teaches us in Ephesians 1:13 that those who believe the truth of the gospel are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.  The Greek word behind the English ‘sealed’ is quite literally ‘to set a seal upon, to mark with a seal’. The next verse goes on to teach us that this action of God in marking the believer as His own is the equivalent of God making a down payment on the believer so as to show his intent of completing the redemption of those who belong to Him. So John was ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit, but nothing in the text indicates that he was ‘sealed’ with the Holy Spirit.

Second, John is not exempt from the “all” of Romans 3:23—‘for all have sinned (including John), and come short of the glory of God.’ When Paul writes ‘there is none righteous no not one’ (Rom 3:10), John is included in that statement. In fact, we seem to see John’s own understanding of his need for the forgiveness of sin when Jesus approaches John for baptism in Matthew 3 and John is hesitant to proceed. John responds, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Third, while John was filled with the Holy Spirit, the wrath of God still abided on him until he believed in Christ (John 3:36).  Certainly one could suppose that being filled with the Holy Spirit would lead to John believing the truth, but nonetheless, John still had to believe. No one is exempt from the requirement to believe in order to be saved. Those who do not obey the gospel imperative to ‘believe’ will experience the wrath of God (2 Thess 1:8).

The fourth reason from scripture that John still needed to be saved comes from John 3 and Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus very plainly that everyone (including John the Baptist) had to be born again (or born from above) in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Again, being filled with Spirit in order to be the forerunner of Jesus is not the same as being born again.

Fifth, John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets (Luke 16:16), and the Holy Spirit’s activity among the people of God in the Old Testament, oftentimes called “theocratic anointing’, was temporary in nature and usually designed to empower the recipient for a specific task. The scripture is replete with these events: Bezalel is anointed with the Spirit to build the Tabernacle (Ex 31:2-3); Judges such as Gideon and Samson are given power (Judges 6:34; 14:6); and of course, both Saul and David are filled with the Holy Spirit as kings of Israel (1 Sam 10:10; 16:13). The Holy Spirit rather dramatically departed from Saul (1 Sam 16:14), and David pleads with the Lord not to take His Spirit from him (Ps 51:11), indicating the tenuous and temporal aspect of the Old Testament ‘filling’ of the Spirit.

Finally, nothing in the scripture indicates how long this state of being filled with the Spirit lasted and to what degree it impacted John’s actions, but we see the fallen nature of John when he is in prison. In Matthew 11, we see John asking a question that did not come from the Holy Spirit’s leadership.  Matthew writes, “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3).  Evidently being filled with the Holy Spirit does not keep one from doubting. John’s doubts unequivocally show us his vulnerable humanity.

In spite of being filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, John was born a member of Adam’s fallen race, and all who are in Adam die (1 Cor. 15:22). John still needed to be born again, marked as God’s own by being sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise and placed in the body of Christ in order to be saved from sin and the wrath of God. Ultimately, John had to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world (even John’s), which he seems to do in John 1:29 when he prophecies of the atoning death of the Son of God.

Who did Christ die for and what did he accomplish?

Join me at the deep end of the pool.

Please take the time to watch the video again and listen to the message Elder D.J. Ward is communicating for it is certainly biblical! Christ did not die to create the potential for souls to be redeemed. Christ died to redeem souls—the souls of the elect. He came to save his people from their sins (Mt. 1:21). On the cross Christ accomplished the redemption of the elect. Now before you get too excited about that word ‘elect’ remember Jesus said very clearly and plainly, ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out’ (John 6:37).  Do not for even a moment create a fictional non-existent person who is NOT elect but desires to be saved with all their heart. That person has not, does not, and will not exist. Apart from God’s grace the heart of a sinner will never desire Christ—no not even one (Rom. 3, Eph. 2).

Does this mean that the atonement of Christ is limited to only the elect?

For 2000 years the church has wrestled with this hard concept. Freewill Baptists would argue that Christ died for all humans past, present, and future, but in the end salvation is left up to each person. Ultimately, this means that Christ’s death may have been in vain—dying only to create the possibility of redeeming a people, but not actually redeeming anyone. Particular Baptists rejected this suggestion as absurd and argued like Elder D. J. Ward that Christ actually accomplished something on the cross. Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) may have been one of the first Baptists who attempted to balance these two ideas—particular redemption and general redemption or limited atonement and unlimited atonement. Fuller taught that Christ’s death was sufficient for the redemption of the whole world, but efficient only for the elect of God. In this way, Fuller suggested that ‘yes’ Christ tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9), but because it was not efficient for all—everyone would not be saved in the end (often called universalism) (see 2 Peter 2:1). Fuller taught that the application of the atonement was limited to only the elect, but he argued for a crucial distinction. He also taught that Christ’s death was sufficient to satisfy the wrath of God for the sins of the whole world (see 1 John 2:2). Fuller’s position is most appealing because of the degree to which it reconciles two truths both taught in Scripture.
Some came to identify Fuller’s position as ‘evangelical Calvinism’ which I think is a great label if a label is necessary. 

What are your questions?

My Church Doesn't Have an Altar Call--Is it Wrong?

Let’s talk about the traditional ‘altar call’.

Throughout the years, the traditional altar call has been a special time at the end of a church service for people to respond to the gospel by stepping out of the pew and going forward to bow at the altar and ‘receive Jesus as one’s Savior’. People who come from this tradition may even wonder exactly how a person gets ‘saved’ if there isn’t an ‘altar call’.

This past Easter Sunday morning, an older gentleman came up to me after the early service and specifically complimented how Christ and gospel-centered the sermon was and then lamented that it was too bad there wasn’t an altar call so someone could get saved. I can understand how someone might feel this way if all they have seen is this particular approach. Week after week, service after service, everyone is instructed to bow their heads and close their eyes, and then people are asked to respond to the gospel with a traditional salvific hymn playing in the background. Congregants are told just one last verse and then the ‘altar will be closed’ seemingly suggesting that the preacher has the power to close God’s offer of salvation if someone doesn’t respond right now. Let me go on the record as saying all of this is done with the very best of intentions—we want people to get saved! But is it biblical? Is it effective? Does it work?

Most give the evangelist Charles Finney credit for creating and executing the altar call in such a masterful way that people would respond, often in droves to the altar to ‘receive Christ’. With the appropriate words and music, the conditions can be set for humans to respond. Even the most hardened soul can be broken if the sermon and altar call are executed flawlessly. I once had a professor in seminary who said he had never met a person he couldn’t lead to the Lord. Is that what the Bible teaches? Is that what Jesus did? Did He create the perfect conditions and then invite someone to pray to receive Him as their Lord and Savior? Do we get any sense from the book of Acts that any kind of an altar call was used by the Apostles? Is it the evangelist who does the work of salvation or the Holy Spirit?

Who ‘gets them saved’?

The Bible is very clear: it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates an unsaved heart (see John 3). Nicodemus was told he had to have a spiritual birth and that spiritual birth was a work of the Holy Spirit who works in a mysterious way among those whom God has ordained to salvation (Acts 13:48). It is the Spirit, not the music, Who takes the Word of God and creates faith to believe the gospel in the heart of the new convert (Romans 10:17). This traditionalism can become so ingrained in our thinking that we may even subscribe to unbiblical ideas. In my first or second year as a pastor, I had a faithful woman who repeatedly complimented me on how gospel-centered the sermon was and then repeatedly challenged me to realize that we were not playing the right songs during the altar call to get people to respond. The more she handed me notes, the more I realized she had an unbiblical understanding of how God saves people.

Salvation is a work of the Lord from beginning to end.

The Holy Spirit does use words spoken by an evangelist. The apostles clearly challenged people to respond to the truth they were hearing, but the response was repentance toward God (Acts 17), faith in Christ and the gospel (Acts 16), and obedience to water baptism (Acts 2).  Sinners were never invited to walk an aisle, bow the knee, or say words so all could know they were saved.

According to their Facebook posting this week, the largest church in Fayetteville reported that 486 people were saved at their Easter service, but the truth is no one apart from the person saved knows if even one person got saved at that Easter Sunday service. Read Matthew 7:21-24—these are some of the toughest words ever spoken by Jesus. Time will tell if anyone got saved on Easter Sunday anywhere in Fayetteville. Saved and unsaved sinners need to be challenged to respond in obedience to the gospel throughout a church service. By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, a person can be born again in the middle of the sermon by believing the Gospel.

It is time we recognize that salvation is the work of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).

Preaching Defined

Preaching is the authoritative proclamation of truth from the Word of God with the
objective of effecting the salvation of sinners and the edification and sanctification of the righteous by God’s grace, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God.” 

Now if this is true then it should be the desire of all disciples of Christ to hear the preaching
of God’s word. So then ask yourself this tough question: Am I a disciple of Christ if I don’t enjoy being fed from the Word of God?

Why ask such a question? 

The answer is found in the reality that anyone who isn’t a disciple of Christ is going to hell when they die. I don’t want you to sit in church all your life and go hell. If you are not sure if you are saved—please reach out to me so we can talk about salvation and biblical assurance of salvation. I pray one person reads this and is compelled to ask the hard questions.