Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Evangelicalism

Critical Thinking Out Loud

Let me do some critical thinking out loud for a moment.  I am pondering two questions.  First, if God is speaking to us through visions, dreams, personal prophecies, etc., why is it that so often those who receive these visions, dreams, personal prophecies are some of the weakest people I know?  I am not going to lump all charismatics together here as I don’t know all of them of course and that would be unfair but those that I do know who claim God is speaking to them in a dream or a “word” in their spirit are typically not committed to studying the Bible, are often ignorant of basic doctrines, don’t pray too much, are not serious in evangelism, and for the most part are weak spiritually.

Secondly, how can we claim that we believe in the sufficiency of the Bible if in fact we are not making a commitment to study it or apply it to our lives?  This is true for both evangelicals and charismatics.  We have all been guilty in knowing too much and not obeying what we know (James 4;17).  The truth is that we all need to take serious our study of the Bible.  The Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and is true in all that it says (John 17:17).  David said in Psalm 119:142 that he would not forget God’s precepts but have we?  Do we know God’s precepts?  I believe the answer is that we know much but obey little and in reality, we don’t know as much as we think we know.  Remember Jesus’ disciples are those who hear His Word and put it into practice (Luke 11:28).  James the Apostle says that is true faith, to put into practice the truth of God (James 2:14-26).

So the bottom line for me is this: people are running around seeking a “word from the Lord” when in fact He has spoken faithfully and truthfully in the Bible.  The Bible is sufficient to teach us the ways of the Lord and we must be faithful to heed His voice in the Bible.  In reality, we don’t need any other voices.  We have a prophet in the Lord Jesus.  We have a king in the Lord Jesus.  We have a rabbi in the Lord Jesus.  We have a faithful high priest in the Lord Jesus.  We have an advocate with the Father in the Lord Jesus.  We have One who died in our place for our sins as our Passover lamb in the Lord Jesus. We have a sabbath rest in the Lord Jesus.  All of this is revealed not by some revelation apart from Scripture but in the Word of God.  We would do well to go to the Bible and hear it (Psalm 119:151).

Ten Reasons To Do Expository Teaching

I remember hearing John MacArthur say that he wrote down over fifty reasons to be committed to expository preaching.  I possibly could write down that many myself but will stick with just ten.  Expository teaching is dear to my heart.  I believe it to be the best way to teach people the Scriptures.  But I am jumping ahead of myself so let me state my ten reasons.  These are not given in any order.

1.  Expository Teaching Exalts Christ As Head of His Church (Colossians 1:18).

Expository teaching is Christ-focused.  The Bible teacher is aware that his responsibility before God is to exalt Christ through the text.  Spurgeon said that he takes his text and then makes a bee-line to the cross.  The Bible was given to us by God to reveal His Son (John 20:31).  The entire purpose of the Bible is to show the coming of the Messiah and His eternal reign.  Our focus then in teaching must be to show Christ in the Scriptures (Luke 24:27).

2.  Expository Teaching Avoids Seeking To Please the Flesh.

Too often series preaching (that is topical in nature) is focused on pleasing the flesh and giving people what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  I know of some churches that ask the church to give them suggestions on what they would like to hear preach.  I also know of churches that go out into the world and ask sinners what they would like to hear preached (to draw them to church).  However, I don’t hear much these days about hearing from God in His Word.  Expository teaching is focused on the Word of God.  Certainly one can develop a series from the text but the focus is on Christ and the Word and not the flesh.  If anything, the faithful Bible teacher wants to kill the flesh by the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12; 1 John 2:15-17).  Expository teaching keeps the focus on the Word and not on the opinions of the flesh.

3.  Expository Teaching Teaches People How To Correctly Study the Bible.

People don’t know how to study the Bible correctly so they don’t.  In many churches, people don’t even read the Bible during the week but allow the Bible teacher to do that for them.  All of us, as disciples of Jesus, must be in the Word (John 8:31-32).  The Word keeps us from error (1 Timothy 4:16).  The Word protects us against the lies of Satan (Ephesians 6:17; James 1:21).  How few though know how to study the Bible.  Expository teaching shows the people of God how to study the Word of God by going verse-by-verse through the Scriptures comparing Scripture with Scripture.

4.  Expository Teaching Creates A Biblical-Worldview.

Topical teaching can provide Christian opinions about the world but expository teaching shows the people of God the biblical view by going deep into the Word.  When we preach verse-by-verse through the Bible, we are showing people the full council of God.  We are revealing God’s thoughts, God’s ways, God’s actions toward sin, toward humility, toward repentance.  People learn about how God feels above the points of the preacher.

5.  Expository Teaching Exalts the Bible as the Final Authority.

If we truly believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, this should be displayed in our teaching.  Verse-by-verse teaching is committed to the full authority of the Bible.  Every word counts.  Nothing is to be missed or skipped.  If God gave us His Word (2 Timothy 3:16) then every part of it is vital.  We must not avoid tough passages simply because we are lazy but we must go deep into God’s Word to allow it to have its full authority over the Church.

6.  Expository Teaching Doesn’t Avoid Difficult Texts.

I once heard a topical church going through the book of Romans.  They were skimming the book but claimed to be going verse-by-verse through it (they were done with the book in just about 6 weeks whereas it would probably take several years to go through the book).  They came to Romans 9-11 and avoided the text by just skimming through it.  The teacher didn’t teach the text at all nor did he deal with the Arminian-Calvinist debate over the text.  Being a seeker church, the people would not have known the theology behind the views on Romans 9-11 but the teacher didn’t even deal with any of the issues Romans 9-11 raises.  The faithful Bible teacher should be willing to tackle tough texts not for the sake of controversy but because verse-by-verse teaching demands it so.

7.  Expository Teaching Exposes People To Biblical Theology.

Unlike systematic theology, expository teaching shows how the Bible fits its theology together perfectly.  When we teach verse-by-verse, we are able to show how the doctrines of Scripture come together but instead of jumping around to prove our points, we take our text and allow the text to prove our point.

8.  Expository Teaching Heeds the Voice of God Above All Others.

I know of churches that have preaching calendars where the Bible teacher plans various sermon series’ around the holidays, vacations, etc.  I know of other churches that have preaching committees where people give input to the Bible teacher about what they would like to hear, what people are saying, where they feel he is lacking, etc.  Still yet, I know of many Bible teachers who search the Internet for the latest fads, latest cool sermon series, the latest sketch from “skit guys” or clips from popular shows.  All the while, the Word of God takes a backseat to all these voices.  Not so with expository teaching.  By making the Bible the focus in our teaching, we are listening to God and making His inerrant and infallible voice the one that we want to hear from (John 8:47).  Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice (John 10:27) and His voice is loud and clear when we lift up His Word.

9.  Expository Teaching Avoids Chasing the Latest Evangelical Fads.

Whether it be Purpose Driven Church, The Prayer of Jabez, Your Best Life Now, etc., the evangelical church seems to never lack fads.  Driven by pragmatism, the seeker church looks to the culture to help them plan what to preach and teach.  The evangelicals, longing for the pragmatic success of the seeker churches, looks to the seeker superstars to help them plan their teaching.  Yet the faithful expository teacher is looking to one place alone to help them: God’s Word.  Verse-by-verse teaching avoids the trap of fads that rob God of His glory and make the focus on the flesh.

10.  Expository Teaching Lifts Up the Means-Grace By Which Sinners Are Saved.

Romans 10:14-17 tells us that people must hear the gospel to be saved.  Jesus said that we must go and make disciples of all nations by teaching His Word (Matthew 28:19).  The means to regeneration is the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23).  Isaiah 55:11 promises that the Word of God will accomplish what God sent His Word out to accomplish.  People get saved by exposure to the Word.  The Word reveals our sinful hearts (Romans 7:7) and the Word shows our need for a Savior (Romans 3:19).  The Word reveals that Savior to us.  Faithful verse-by-verse teaching allows the means of regeneration to go forth and for the Word to bring true salvation to the lost.  I have heard countless testimonies of people who thought they were saved but when they begin to sit under a faithful Bible teacher going verse-by-verse through the Word, they begin to see their need for salvation and that they were not truly saved but only familiar with the things of God.  The Word produces true salvation (Matthew 7:24-27).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/03/2014 at 1:54 PM

Finding Psychiatric Help on Every Page

There was a time when Bible teachers would find theology dripping on every page.  Great truths of the Word of God ranging from theology proper (God) to other forms of biblical theology were the focus.  Sermons (even open air sermons) were focused on theology and how we can learn about God from the text.  After all, the Bible was given to us to reveal the Lord Jesus (John 20:31; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21).

Yet today I find that modern evangelicalism is finding psychiatric help on every page of the Bible.  Sermon series are now designed around how we can not learn about God or about sound doctrine but about “life lessons” from the text.  In the passion for “real and relevancy” to the masses, the church has abandoned looking for God on every page to looking for psychiatric help on every page.  Churches take stories from the lives of saints such as Moses or Elijah and make them fit into this psychiatric flow so that now we can read the story of Moses or Daniel or Paul and we can learn how God wants us to have an awesome life too.  God just wants to bless our socks off and He wants to teach how to have a great marriage, how to be a better person, five steps to a new me, ten steps to raising godly children.  The entire focus seems to be on making us all better now that we come to realize that our biggest struggle isn’t sin but self-esteem and so God’s Word helps me see myself as God sees me.

The entire focus of the church service seems to flow toward that one goal: to make a new me.  The songs are focused on my dating relationship with God (with no thought if the song is biblical or not).  The prayers are for those who had a tough week and need grace just to make it through.  The sermons are focused on my felt needs and what I need to hear from God to make me a better person.

And tossed out is the gospel.  Tossed out is sound doctrine.  Stop and ponder this for a moment: when was the last time you heard a sound theological sermon at your church?  When was the last time you heard the church teaching on the holiness of God?  On sin?  On justification by faith?  When was the last time you heard a sermon on the Trinity?  What about a sound theology of prayer?  When was the last time you heard someone defending the deity of Christ from the pulpit by looking to the Word of God?

Instead we get sermons focused not on God proper but upon how God can help us.  Even salvation is summed up with “the sinner’s prayer” or altar calls.  Salvation as a doctrine is not examined.

We must get back to glorifying God in our teaching.  I rejoice that not every church is like the above.  Most I know of are.  Theology is vital because what we think about God shows in our actions (Psalm 14).  1 Timothy 4:16 is a key text as is John 8:31-32.  To merely claim to know God but not truly know God is foolishness (Jeremiah 9:23-24).  Wisdom begins in fearing God (Proverbs 1:7) but the user-friendly god we find preached today is not the God of the Bible.  The God of the Bible has a wonderful plan for your life: come and die (Luke 9:23-25).  Lay down yourself (Luke 14:25-35).  The God of the Bible calls you to look to eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) and not to the here and now.  The God of the Bible even demands that you hate all things (including yourself) in your love for Him.  God is to be first and foremost (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).  The God of the Bible calls us to holiness (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).

But like those in Romans 1:18-32, we don’t want a God like that.  We want a god we can control.  We want a friendly god.  We want a loving god who does not care what we do or how we act.  We want a god who looks like us, talks like us, walks like us, and is there for us.  We have so removed ourselves from the God of the Bible that we can’t even recognize Him anymore.  He is fading from our memories and has been replaced by this false god who does not save.  I pray that we all lay down our idols (Isaiah 40:18-23).  We need genuine repentance.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/23/2014 at 12:17 PM

What Gospel Are We Preaching?

Missions trips, evangelism tips, etc. have been a focus of mine for the last few posts.  Let me return again to missions trips just for a moment before I dive into my point here.

Let’s take the average evangelical church.  They come up when the idea that they want to go to Bolivia with on a missions trip.  The trip dates are set, fliers are posted and announcements are made that they are going to Bolivia to spread the gospel.  It is still many mouths away but people begin to register for the trip.  Some take talking into while others join right up.  In the next few months, money must be raised for each person to go on the missions trip.  The cost is set at $1800 per person.  This will include their flight to Bolivia, their place to stay (at a local Christian camp near the city of  Santa Cruz de la Sierra.  The city has over 1 million people so it’s a great place to evangelize), and their meals.  Typically a group like this will have about 20 people so let’s just make it that many.  They are going to do a Bible club for kids and some other forms of evangelism.  They also will work with the local missionaries there to do some repairs to the church buildings.  They will be there for 10 days.  Usually you also have to have  a day of “fun” (sometimes two days) where the Americans can be tourists.

I am not here to be critical of the hearts of the people who want to go on the missions trip.  Some of them truly want to make an eternal impact for the gospel.  Many others just want to visit Bolivia.  To them, this is a glorified vacation where they get to ask others to fund their trip to Bolivia.  For the missionaries in Bolivia, many of them need the workers (even for minimal jobs) and they need the cash support from the American churches to continue their mission.  If a Bolivian church where to reject Americans from coming to their churches their financial support would also be hurt by this.  They are in a no-win situation when it comes to welcoming American missions trip teams.

For me, the danger is not in people raising money to go to Bolivia or even the fact that American churches want to go on missions trips because I see the good that come from missions trips in the hearts of the people who truly are broken by the Spirit of God for the lost.  My problem is what gospel are we preaching to the lost people of Bolivia?

Here you take 20 people from an evangelical church and my question would be: do they understand the gospel and are they able to tell others the gospel?  I have watched time after time as evangelicals in the United States prepare missions teams to go to the nations but they themselves don’t know the gospel.  I have seen people sign up for mission trips who never share their own faith here in their own Jerusalem.  They act like they are burdened to go to the lost in these far off places but never share the gospel right where they are and yet we trust them to go to Bolivia and preach the true gospel?  Perhaps we should make sure they know the true gospel and have been preaching the true gospel before we send them to preach the gospel.

What is the gospel?  This is a fundamental question.  We must be able to answer this or we will never be effective witnesses for Christ.  The gospel is not the “sinner’s prayer.”  The gospel is not merely knowledge about Jesus or the Bible.  The gospel is not about being a certain type or denomination (I have seen people think that just because a nation is primarily Catholic like Bolivia then the gospel is already there).  The gospel is not about just going through some steps (the “ABC”s of the gospel).  The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).  The gospel is faith and repentance toward God after the law of God has broken our hearts over our sins (Romans 7:7; Galatians 3:23-24).  The gospel is the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5) that comes after we repent and believe.  The gospel response is to be baptized (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16; Colossians 2:12).

Yet we take a group of people who can’t articulate the gospel to nations and places all the time.  I am not saying that good can’t come from this.  Again, I think many who go on missions trips need the gospel themselves.  Some think that because they are going on a missions trip, this pleases God (Isaiah 64:6).  Yet they come to see their own depravity before a holy God and they soon either truly repent of their sins or they hide on the missions trip doing odd jobs and avoiding any talk about Christ with the lost (because they don’t know Christ either and have no clue how to tell others about Him).

What do we do?  First, we preach the gospel to our people.  We all need the gospel each and every day.  The fact that Jesus is alive and at the right hand of God is necessary for me each day.  I can’t be a disciple in my own power.  I need His grace (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Grace is what saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9) and grace is what keeps us.  I need to hear His voice daily to know Him and follow Him (John 10:27-29).  The gospel is not something that I did back then and now I am right with God but the gospel is an ongoing relationship with God through Christ Jesus alone (Romans 5:1).  My justification before a holy God, my sanctification, my discipleship – all this is based on Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  I depend on Christ to save me initially and forever (Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 7:25).  The gospel is not then something what we preach just at the end of our sermons but all the time.  The gospel is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).

Secondly, we make sure those who want to go on a missions trip understand the gospel and have truly been born again.  God knows those who are His own (2 Timothy 2:19) but there are signs that we can see if the person has truly been saved by God’s grace (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Repentance involves the entire person and not merely a change in mind about Jesus or acknowledgement of our sins.  Biblical repentance will transform the person as they surrender to the absolute Lordship of Christ.  Our heart, mind, emotions, intellect, will, etc. are broken by the gospel and Jesus rules over them and He transforms them.

This will make an impact on the nations.  Can you imagine taking a team of 20 people who truly understand the gospel, know how to share their faith, and have been saved by the grace of Christ to Bolivia?  What would this mean not just for the gospel but for the people going?  I believe that it would strengthen them as disciples of Christ and would spread the fire of the gospel to the lost in Bolivia.  It would bless the missionaries there because they wouldn’t have to clean up the evangelical mess that typical groups from the States bring.  Instead, the gospel could go forth and God saves sinners by His grace (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

I want to post one more post on this subject and I will do that next.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/11/2014 at 12:01 PM

Counseling and Cheerleading Preaching

I’ve noticed that a trend among evangelical preaching now is to counsel from the pulpit.  No matter what the topic may be (and typically this is topical preaching), the preacher uses the pulpit to counsel the sheep.  The preacher will even do entire series’ on subjects and will use each of them to counsel the people on how to overcome their addictions, their poor self-esteem, their lack of trust in God, their poverty complex, their apathy over social ills, etc.

Counseling preaching seeks to help everyone with their problems but it ignores the major issue with people: their sins.  Further, it fails to truly teach the gospel of the finished work of Christ and point people to him.  Instead, counseling preaching points people to the preacher (as the counselor) and themselves (as they client).  They are always looking to flesh and not to Christ.  Christ is used only to “help” them.  He becomes their great helper, their divine healer.  But Christ is not exalted this way.  He is not glorified in this manner.  Who He is and what He has done is either ignored or a side issue because the main issue is helping the hurting person overcome their hurts.  I am tempted to call this, “Heal my boo boo’s” preaching.

The other type of preaching I find prominent today is cheerleading preaching.  This is camp meeting style preaching where the preacher uses phrases over and over again to get the crowd pumped up.  “Gotta get you excited so you can make it one more week as a Christian.”  The preacher speaks as if the people are on the very cliff of apostasy and he sees it as his job to get them to hang on just one more week!  So this preacher takes his text and usually has some hyped up points in there.  He usually lifts up his voice to almost a yell (like a good cheerleader would do) and tries to get the people just as excited about God as he is.  Hopefully this excitement will carry the people through just one more time before they collapse from despair.

In both cases, these type of preaching styles fail to be theological (because it would defeat their purpose) and both fail to teach the Bible.  Both would proudly say that they used the Bible and quoted often from the Bible (topical sermons have a way of doing that) but they fail to explain the Scriptures.  This is what the main goal of the Bible teacher should be: to explain the Bible.  In the process of explaining the Bible, we lift up the gospel of Christ so that both sinners (who need Christ for salvation) and disciples (who need Jesus always for salvation as well) are pointed to Christ alone.  The Bible teacher is not there to lift up themselves (topical preachers have a tendency to tell many stories about themselves I have noticed) nor to make the people of God feel good.  Our job is singular in focus: to explain the Bible.  What does the Bible mean?

This theological desert that we find among the evangelical landscape has caused many problems.  Of course the major issue is the doctrine of God is attacked.  People are creating a god in their own image these days that looks nothing like the biblical God.  Further, precious doctrines such as the person and work of Christ or the Holy Spirit are under attacked and abused.  The doctrine of the Trinity is ignored.  Precious doctrines such as justification by faith is misunderstood or summed up with “the sinner’s prayer.”  The Bible itself is challenged and there are none to defend it because who knows what it means?

Cults prey upon evangelicals as well.  The lack of doctrinal discernment leads to people not knowing what they believe or why they believe and so they fall prey to cults who give them pat answers to their theological questions about God, heaven or hell, salvation, etc.

This also leads to very poor books such as Heaven is for Real being welcomed and praised by evangelicals.  Rather than knowing what the Bible teaches about heaven, evangelicals blindly accept what a 6-year-old boy says about heaven.  Blogger Tim Challies calls this the “I Went To Heaven” books.  There are so many “I went to heaven” books out there one can hardly count.  Why is this happening?  Because people are not being taught the Word of God and people don’t know what the Bible already says about heaven so they turn to visions, dreams, angels, other religions, etc. to find out what heaven is like.

When I read the sermons of greats like the Puritans, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Spugeon, or even Arminius or Calvin I am struck by their depth of the word of God.  Their passion is to exalt Christ.  As Spurgeon famously stated, “I take my text and then make a bee line to the cross.”  Jesus is the center of Scripture.  Not us.  The entire Word of God is focused primarily on one person: the Lord Jesus Christ.  John 20:31 and 1 John 5:13 are clear: the focus is on Jesus.  Hebrews 1:1-4 speaks to this fact as well:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Christ is the One that Scripture ultimately exalts and this should be the cry of the Church as well.  After all, Jesus is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18).  Jesus is the only one who can wash away our sins (John 14:6; Hebrews 9:27-28).  Jesus is the only one by whom we are able to pray and God hears our prayers (John 14:13-14; 1 John 5:14-15).

In closing, I know that some will read this and cry that their seeker sensitive, topical preacher does exalt Christ.  And how I might ask?  I suppose they would say that he mentions Jesus “a lot!” and that Jesus is always presented as our friend and the one that we are to trust in for salvation.  I am thankful that Jesus is spoken of as our Savior but the reality is that He is more than that!  He is Lord and God (John 20:28).  The depths of who He is is not explored.  One need only read the works of Stephen Charnock to see that the modern church is largely lacking in exploring the depths of the God’s Word about Christ nor are we truly explaining what Scripture means to people.  In the end, we are failing to exalt Christ.  May the Lord change this for His glory.

Is the Open Air Preaching community in a Down Grade? A response to Tony Miano

Excellent thoughts on open air preaching in a friendly response to Tony Miano.

The Practical Theologian

I consider Tony Miano a dear brother in Christ. He is one of the men who have helped me develop into a man concerned for a lost and dying generation. His training of me and many other men and women in evangelism will be a blessing that will be remembered in eternity as both he and I cast our crowns at the feet of the One who is worthy of our worship and service.  I stand behind his right to rightly handle the Word of Truth, the Holy Bible, and divide it and interpret it rightly. I believe that he believes (and some others with him)that he has done this with his most recent offering Should She Preach.  I do not believe that Tony has studied and written and even given a mea culpa (“I was wrong”) regarding training women to open air preach because he desires to divide…

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/13/2013 at 3:31 PM

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