Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Loving God

Never Confuse Knowing Theology With Knowing Christ

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by pointing out that they studied the Scriptures but missed Him.  John 5:39 reads, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

These were men who studied the Scriptures.  They were regarded as experts in the Law of God.  Yet Jesus said that they missed God in the process.  He didn’t rebuke them for studying the Scriptures but for missing Him while doing so.

I pray that is not me.  I met a man a while back who has a deep knowledge of the Word.  He has studied at some of the finest universities in the United States and his goal in life is to teach theology and Greek at a seminary level (which he is now doing).  Yet as I talked with this man, I realized that his whole view of the Christian life was one of theology.  He looked at things through the lenses of his theology.  When I spoke with him about witnessing, he begin to talk about the various methods of evangelism and which he felt was more sound.  When I asked him about his prayer life, he looked offended and told me that prayer was between him and God and it was none of my business how much time he spent in prayer.  After all, he reasoned with me, time proves nothing.  Of course I agreed but merely wanted to know how his prayer life was.

What saddened me about this encounter was the fact that this man knew theology.  He knew much about God.  Yet in my speaking with him, I never detected a deep love for God.  He could tell me facts about the Bible and could explain to me aspects of theology but he didn’t seem to have any passion for the gospel itself.  I challenged him to come witnessing with us sometime and he just stared at me with a blank look.  I told him that we could use his intellect when we go evangelizing on college campuses but he said that he would be very busy with his theological studies and teaching.

I love theology.  I have enjoyed reading theology books for many years.  I am not on the level as this man above.  I would never say that I am an expert on theology nor do I feel qualified to teach on a seminary campus but I do love theology but I love theology because of where it leads me: to Jesus.  I want to know Jesus more and more.  I want to love Him more and more.  I have so far to go.

Paul the Apostle was a major theologian both before his conversion to Christ and afterwards.  One cannot read the book of Romans and not see that Paul was a theologian.  Yet in Philippians 3:2-11 he wrote this:

2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul showed that in his former way of life, he was very religious indeed.  He studied under Gamaliel who was one of the leading theologians of his day (Acts 22:3).  Paul writes in Philippians 3:6 that he was blameless under the law.  Yet he considered all that loss to knowing Christ.  Paul was willing to trade his theology for knowing Christ.  And yet he was still a great theologian as his New Testament letters prove!  Paul went from loving theology to loving God.  He learned that Christ is not found in a book.  He is found in reality.

I pray that my own theological studies drive me toward Jesus, toward holiness, toward worship, toward prayer, toward evangelism.  I don’t want to have a head knowledge relationship with Christ but a true relationship with Him.  I don’t want my love for Jesus to be based just on what I know.  I want to show my love for Jesus in what I do (John 14:15).  It is easy to confuse theological knowledge with a relationship with Jesus but I want to demonstrate my love for Jesus not just in my studies but in my actual obedience to the gospel (1 John 2:3-6).

My fear is that we are educated beyond our level of obedience.  We know much about God but do little for His kingdom.  We can preach a fine sermon on prayer but do we pray?  I think of the Jews Paul rebuked in Romans 2:17-24 by pointing out their hypocrisy.  Is that me?  Do I know many facts about the gospel but don’t really love Christ from the heart?  Do I study the Word of God but fail to obey His Word in the process?  Do I study God but fail to stand in awe of Him in worship and prayer?  Can I debate a theological position but never share my faith with the lost?  How easy it is to sit in a room and open the Greek New Testament and do word studies but never leave that room to go into the world with the light of the gospel (Matthew 5:13-16).

The balance is to study theology but to obey.  Obedience to the Word that the Holy Spirit teaches us is the best way, the disciple’s way.  Jesus, no doubt, was the greatest theologian ever to live since He was God incarnate (John 1:14).  Yet the Word of God in flesh (John 1:1) spent time with normal men and He taught them using normal means.  Jesus could have taught His disciples the attributes of God (and we should study that) but instead He often taught them about practical obedience to Himself (Matthew 7:24-27).  Obviously, all of Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and Jesus gave us theology in the New Testament letters but Jesus Himself focused on helping His own disciples obey the gospel more than upon theologically explaining it.

I pray that I have that balance.  Let me teach theology but let me also teach people how to obey the gospel by the grace of God that He has given us in His Son (Titus 2:11-14).  We are saved to obey (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/22/2013 at 10:40 AM

Obeying the Gospel

Have you ever noticed a little word tucked away in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8:

7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Notice that Paul the Apostle uses the word “obey” in verse 8 for those whom God will pour out His wrath upon.  It is not enough to hear the gospel to be saved.  It is not enough to even have believed the gospel at one time to be saved.  Rather Paul says that God will pout out His wrath on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  Obedience is necessary for salvation.  Those whom God saves through Christ must obey Him as Lord.  While we don’t “obey” to be saved, we do “obey” because we are saved.  The reason that we are baptized in water is because we are obeying the Lord Jesus who commanded that we be baptized (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).  Baptism flows from our believing the gospel and proving our trust in Him as Savior and Lord of all.

Ironically, such preaching about the requirement of obeying Jesus as Lord is rare today.  People want a cheap gospel that presents Jesus as Savior but not Lord.  They want to divide the Person of Christ.  They read passages about obedience to Jesus as Lord and see this as “works-righteousness” despite them coming from the very lips of our Lord.  For example, Jesus said in Luke 6:46-49:

46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Jesus said in Luke 8:21:

But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

He said in Luke 11:28:

But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Jesus said in John 14:15 about how we prove our love for Him:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

He said in Matthew 7:21-23 that only those who obey the Father are saved:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Jesus tells us in John 8:31-32 how we prove we are His disciples:

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

James the Apostle tells us how we are to abide in His teaching in James 1:21-25:

21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

And John the Beloved tells us in 1 John 5:1-4 about our loving obedience to Jesus as Lord:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Obedience and salvation go hand in hand.  We are saved to obey Jesus as Lord.  We submit to His authority in our lives and we adore Him for taking away our sins.  He alone is our salvation and our obedience to Him is natural since He has set us free by His grace.  1 John 2:3-6 makes it clear that our obedience proves we are saved by His grace:

3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Praise God for His grace and praise God for His power that works in us to help us to obey.  As Charles Wesley wrote, “My God assists me to obey.”  He truly does assist us to obey Him as Lord and what a joy it is to serve the King of kings.

A Word To Struggling Pastors

Anyone who has kept up with my blog knows that by in large I oppose the clergy-laity system.  I oppose the idea that one person is to lead the church and to be a professional Christian who alone does most of the work of the ministry despite Ephesians 4:11-16.  However, I want to speak a work to struggling pastors.  I have been there.  I have had friends who were there and a few who are there now.  I want to give you some advice from one brother to another, from one who has been where you are and now is out of “the ministry” though I feel I am doing more now for the kingdom than before.  So here is my advice.  These are not written in any sequence.

1.  Be Faithful

Jesus told the disciples in Revelation 2:10 to be faithful unto death and He would give them the crown of life.  I would urge you, no matter what you face as a small time pastor to be faithful to Jesus.  Don’t worry about what others think of you.  Be faithful to Jesus.  Pray, seek Him, love Him, adore Him, worship Him, and most of all, preach Him.  Exalt Jesus.  Bless Him.  Make Him great before the people of God.  Let all that you do glorify Jesus (Colossians 3:16).

2.  Avoid Preaching For Money

If you must work, work.  Don’t compromise the gospel for money.  Don’t preach watered-down sermons that lack the fire of God, the passion for Jesus and His kingdom.  Don’t steal sermons from pragmatic churches.  Be faithful to preach the Word of God and don’t worry about money (Matthew 6:24-25; 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19).

3.  Avoid Pragmatism

I urge you to read John MacArthur’s book, Ashamed of the Gospel.  Here MacArthur reveals the error of pragmatism in the Church.  I have had talks with brothers who did things in their churches because they simply worked but not because they were biblical.  The “sinner’s prayer” is such an example.  I know of pastors who use the “sinner’s prayer” but have no biblical basis for it.  Don’t do things or worst, copy things from pragmatic churches because they are seeing results.  Be faithful to God and His Word and avoid being pragmatic.

4.  Pray

Pray in the secret place.  Pray while you drive.  Pray while you cut the grass.  Pray during the midnight hour.  Pray!  Jesus prayed often (Luke 5:16).  Paul said to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Charles Spurgeon said, “The best type of prayer is that which can be called nothing more than a cry.”  Cry out to Jesus.  Even if the enemy is attacking you and the finances are failing and the attendance is dwindling, pray!  Pray with an eye not on success but on God and His glory.  Pray that Jesus would be exalted in your life more than anything else (Philippians 1:20-21).

5.  Read Dead Men Who Were Faithful

I love reading dead men and women of God because they can’t fail me.  They have now completed their race and are in heaven rejoicing before God’s throne (Hebrews 12:22-23).  I can’t wait to meet the great saints of God from the dawn of time and into the future if Jesus should tarry.  I love to read the great writings of men such as John Wesley, Arminius, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, Francis Asbury, Frank Bartleman, David Wilkerson, Leonard Ravenhill, A.W. Tozer, D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, E.M. Bounds, Andrew Murray, Alexander Campbell, Amy Carmichael, and so many more.  They were not all perfect but they all loved Jesus and sought to exalt Him completely with their lives (Hebrews 11:4).

6.  Make Scripture Your Final Authority

Don’t read a popular church growth book and then make that your standard.  Read the Bible and preach it faithfully.  Make the Scriptures your favorite book of all.  Quote them often.  Build your life and ministry on the authority of the Bible and not on anything or anyone else (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

7.  Preach Expository Sermons

Avoid preaching to the heart without preaching to the head.  Preach verse by verse through Scripture.  Avoid series preaching that is not biblically based upon verse by verse commentary of the Word of God.  Your duty as a Bible teacher is not to entertain people but to educate them in the Word of God.  Keep in mind also that your passion should always be to exalt Jesus and not you.

8.  Avoid Sin

Don’t play games with sin.  It has been said, “Idle hands are the devil’s hands.”  When you are in a small church, its easy to have too much time on your hands.  Don’t waste your life or time.  Pray, study the Bible, evangelize.  But don’t abide in sin.  Don’t dabble in pornography on the Internet, watch ungodly movies, or compromise when no one is looking.  Be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

9.  Teach Your People How To Share Their Faith

Read books by Ray Comfort.  Read Charles Spurgeon’s book, The Soul Winner.  Read Leonard Ravenhill’s Why Revival Tarries?  Take your people through the Scriptures and teach them how to share their faith.  Preach on true salvation (Romans 1:16-17).  Preach on the power of the Holy Spirit in evangelism (Acts 1:8).  Preach on the sovereignty of God in salvation and how He uses the gospel to draw sinners to Himself and for His glory (John 6:44).  Teach your people how to pray for the lost (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

10.  Believe Acts 2:47

Believe that the Lord is the One who adds to His Church.  Not you.  Not your preaching.  Not your people.  Not your methods.  Jesus saves the lost as you exalt Him (John 12:32) and He will save sinners and add them to His Church by His own power.  In eternity, only Jesus will be exalted as the Savior (Revelation 5:9-10).

 

And there is much more I could write.  Oh how we need men of God who will be faithful to Him and exalt Him above all else.  We have so many preachers today who boast only in what they do and who they are and they want everyone to like them.  Don’t do that.  Love God.  Love people.  Hate sin.  And most of all, exalt Jesus in all that you say or do.  And if Jesus should shut the door, let Him shut it.  I am thankful that He did that for me.  When I left the ministry, burdens were rolled away and now I am closer to Jesus more than ever before.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/14/2012 at 10:00 AM

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