RESTORING PASSION IN THE MINISTRY

The pastoral ministry is filled with the exhilaration of glorious mountain top experiences as well as discouraging valleys that seem too low from which to ever crawl out. The pastoral ministry is both rewarding and leaves one scratching their heads why they ever entered the ministry. The pastoral ministry is more than a profession, but a calling. I was once asked by a pulpit committee if I was a God called preacher. My response was, “Yes I am, for no one in their right mind would do this if they weren’t called.”

Pastors must develop fresh sermons every week, deal with sickness, surgeries and death among the members, listen to the personal problems of others, try to answer critics of why something was done a certain way, serve as a referee between squabbling parties, smooth ruffled feathers over trivial issues, try to keep a fresh vision before a congregation that often doesn’t want to latch on to the vision, is on call twenty-four hours a day, expected to keep confidences when they themselves often have no confidant, and the list goes on. One can see why it is easy for pastors to grow weary, discouraged and lose their passion.

A pastor is not superhuman as some might imagine. In the demanding age in which we live it is becoming all too common for a pastor’s passion to wane. Many great “pastors” have lost the fire in their embers. Moses got so agitated at the Israelites he wanted to throw in the towel. Jonah got irritated and went off into the corner and pouted. Elijah got discouraged and went off into the wilderness and asked God to take his life. Jerimiah got so provoked he turned in his resignation. The Disciples briefly went back to the fishing industry. So ministers losing their passion is not a twenty-first century phenomenon.

The question is what does a pastor do when his passion needle is heading toward empty or seems to have vanished altogether? How can passion in the ministry be restored?

First, the pastor must remember who called him into the ministry and that the One who called him is still on the throne. The one who has been called into the ministry is following in the steps of the Greatest Shepherd of all. Ministry is a holy and divine calling. And He who calls men into the journey of pastoral ministry has not vacated the throne. The author of Hebrews reminds that when one becomes weary and discouraged, consider Christ who endured untold hostility yet He remained faithful in His calling (Hebrews 12:3). One called into the ministry is not greater than his Master, so hostility and weariness will result… but the One who issued the call still sits on the throne serving as the example and imparting His strength to continue in the task at hand.

Second, the pastor must remember who dwells within. Paul stated that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells within each believer (Romans 8:11), and that being so every pastor needs to realize they face no issue or problem in their own strength but have dwelling within a supernatural power from above (Holy Spirit). When one realizes that the power of the Lord of Glory indwells, it should not only bring humility but it should lite a passion in the heart to think that the Lord who spoke the universe into existence is willing to infuse us with Himself.

Third, when passion seems to be ebbing low the pastor must “offer the sacrifice of praise” (Heb 13:5). This is essential. It is easy to praise the Lord when all is going well. However, we must praise the Lord when it is not easy, when it is a sacrifice. Something unique happens when a pastor in personal worship, begins to praise God when the winds of life seem to be blowing contrary. Instead of concentrating on external issues and how one “feels,” give thanks in personal worship for God’s sovereignty, for God’s gift of His Son, for the salvation you have experienced, the call that has been placed upon your life, for His indwelling Holy Spirit, for the hope of heaven, etc. When the focus is removed from self and focused praise offered to the omnipotent God, there is a transformation that takes place in the soul that is supernatural. When one offers the “sacrifice of praise,” one embraces the truth that God is still good and can be trusted in spite of the storms. In habitual praise He is honored, and our faith grows deeper and passion restored.

Fourth, the pastor must recognize loss of passion is a spiritual battle. The devil wants the pastor to become discouraged and throw in the towel. The devil wants the pastor to magnify problems and interpret God in the light of the circumstances instead of interpreting the circumstances in the light of who God is. That is why the pastor must read the Bible for personal, spiritual nourishment and not just for a sermon. That is why the pastor must pray for his own spiritual growth not just the growth of his church. If the pastor is not growing spiritually, he can’t expect the members to be growing. There is no way to stand against the Evil One if we are not filled with the Word and we are not drawing upon His divine strength through prayer.

Fifth, the pastor must get proper rest and exercise. No matter how superhuman a man is, if he doesn’t get proper rest and exercise, he will find himself eventually going through the motions in his “ministerial” duties on a tank that is empty. It is called burn out. The Bible says one’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and when it is not properly looked after it will deteriorate. When Elijah became discouraged the Lord told him to do something very “spiritual” …. eat a nutritious meal and get some rest (1 Kings 19:5-18)! The pastor needs to at least three to four times a week do something considered physical exercise which will clear the mind and get the temple in better shape to do God’s work.

Sixth, the pastor must refuse the temptation to go it alone, to become a lone ranger, to withdraw from fellowship with fellow pastors. A pastor should never become so busy he doesn’t have time to intermingle with other pastors. Every pastor should have one or two ministers he can laugh with, cry with, pray with, and share his deepest secrets. No pastor is Atlas, who can bear the weight of the world upon his shoulders. A pastor needs some trusted friends who can help make the weight on the shoulders a whole lot lighter and help reignite the embers in the soul.

Do you need a restored passion in the ministry? Every pastor needs the kind of passion found in the words of Charles Spurgeon: “I no more believe it possible to stop ministers, than to stop the stars of heaven. I think it no more possible to make a man cease from preaching, if he is really called, than to stop some mighty cataract, by seeking, with an infant’s cup, to drink its waters. The man who has been moved of heaven, who shall stop him? He has been touched of God, who shall impede him? With an eagle’s wing he must fly; who shall chain him to the earth? With seraph’s voice he must speak, who shall stop his lips? Is not his word like a fire within me? Must I not speak if God has placed it there? And when a man does speak as the Spirit gives him utterance, he will feel a holy joy akin to heaven; and when it is over he wishes to be at his work again, and longs to be once more preaching. I think if God has called a man, he will impel him to be more or less constantly at it, and he will feel that he must proclaim among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

Lord Jesus let it be so that a fire burns in our souls, a passion that is contagious, a passion that is greater than any earthly cause, a passion that forever exalts the atoning cross of Christ.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

HOW CAN ONE DISCERN THE WILL OF GOD?

For the child of God, discerning the will of God for one’s life is of the utmost importance. The desire of a surrendered Christian is to be in the center of God’s will. But discovering the will of God is not always easy. Some liken it to a fish flopping on the pond bank trying to make it back into the water. Is it possible to grasp the will of God or is it simply guess work? The will of God is not a nebulous concept that is ambiguous in its understanding. The will of God is not some mystical experience that is reserved only for those on a higher spiritual plain than us “common” folk. The Lord has a plan for the life of every Christian and discovering the will of God is not an elusive game of trivial pursuit.

How can one discern God’s will for their life? I share with you seven principles and insights that over the years I have employed in my own life that have been most beneficial when seeking to discover God’s will when faced with decisions.

First, if one is to discern God’s will it must begin with a prayerful surrendered desire to know His will above all else. We must be surrendered to the Lord, not clinging to unconfessed sin or deliberate sin which hinders us from hearing the Lord’s voice. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me nor can I hear His voice (Ps. 66:18). We all have our preferences, but if we are to know God’s will we must come before the Lord as Jesus did, “Lord, not my will be done, but your will be done.” The more we pray and the more we walk with Him daily, the better equipped we will be to hear, understand and do His will.

Second, we must pray for wisdom. The Bible says if anyone lack wisdom let Him ask of God who gives liberally to all those who have an open heart to receive it and who truly desire to hear from heaven’s throne (James 1:5). One must ask God to make the conscience sensitive to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. We must ask the Lord to give us insight beyond our limited wisdom which is often tainted with our own selfish desires. We must acknowledge Him in all our ways, and he will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Third, we must read the Word. Pursue the Bible, reading verses that are related to hearing God’s voice and asking are there any Scriptural verses prohibiting what is being considered? When a heart is surrendered, reading the Word makes hearing the Voice of God easier. We say we desire to hear the Lord’s voice, yet we shut out his voice when we ignore His word. Praying through Psalm 119 is a good way to prepare the heart to hear from heaven.

Fourth, don’t throw out common sense. Seeking God’s will doesn’t mean we put our minds in neutral. God expects us to think things through, use our minds, and not abandon common sense. While it is true, sometimes God’s will may go against the grain of what appears to be the logical choice, yet we are not to forsake sound reasoning either. Right down the pros and cons about the decision you are considering. Are there any red flags that have been raised? Are there questions you haven’t considered? Will the decision be in line with Scripture? Am I acting out of impulse or have I researched it thoroughly? Is my spouse in agreement?

Fifth, seek wise counsel from trusted, godly friends. Don’t seek out people who will tell you what you want to hear, but seek out counsel from those who love you and will pray for you and will tell you the truth, even if it is not what you want to hear. Godly people who love you will be objective and may see the situation from a perspective you have not considered and spot a matter you missed.

Sixth, heed that “check” in your spirit/conscience that warns not to proceed. Now there is a difference between being fearful of a new chapter in one’s life that comes with the apprehension of embarking upon an unknown path, and what I call a “check” in the spirit. Even if circumstances look favorable, but there is no inward peace and there is an uneasiness inside about proceeding forward, then don’t proceed forward. In time it may be revealed why you didn’t need to proceed forward or it may not be revealed, but regardless, if there is no inward peace and a “check” in your spirit, don’t go forward. Take that “check” in the spirit as the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Seventh, once you discern the voice of God move forward with confidence. While there will always be anxiousness when making a decision, once you have discerned what you believe to be God’s will, then move forward with confidence and don’t look back. Whether you decide to not move forward or to move forward, once you have made your decision believe it to be the right one and walk forward with assurance you made the decision that was in accordance with God’s will.

Are you seeking God’s will in a matter? These seven principles can prove beneficial as you seek His will. Remember, God doesn’t operate by the same calendar we do, so be patient. He will not withhold His best from those who seek Him.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

CAN YOU BE SURE THERE IS NO GOD?

An atheist once visited Martin Buber (1878-1965), the Austrian philosopher and ten-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and challenged Buber to prove to him the existence of God. When Buber refused to enter into a debate with the persistent man, the skeptic grew angry and abruptly headed to the door to leave. As he departed out the door, Buber in a loud voice posed the question, “But can you be sure there is no God?” The man wrote forty years later, “Buber’s question has haunted me every day of my life.”

Through the years I have been confronted by skeptics who have asked me to articulate proofs that God exists. While there is without question many reasoned and self-evident proofs that God exists, one not wanting to believe will dismiss them all as intellectually lacking. I have come to conclude over the years that the problem of unbelief in God is not a head problem (lack of evidence), but it is a heart problem. Instead of skeptics demanding that believers prove there is a God, let them prove there is no God. I concur with G.K. Chesterton who stated “the riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.”

To those who claim there is no God, can they answer Buber’s question, “But can you be sure there is no God?” If man possesses an eternal soul which will someday return unto the God who gave it and one must give an account for the life lived, is the short years one is granted on this earth worth the gamble of betting there is no God? Atheism is a terrible bet.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), a French mathematician, religious philosopher and Christian, poses the question to skeptics, “Is it worth the wager that there is no God?” Known as “Pascal’s Wager,” found in his work Pensées (“Thoughts”)(1670),  Pascal contended it is the height of folly not to “bet” on God, even if you have no certainty, no proof, no guarantee that your bet will win. Pascal says, “Either God is, or he is not. But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance [death], a coin is being spun that will come down heads [God] or tails [no God]. How will you wager? Let us estimate these two cases: if you win, you win everything, if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then it is without hesitation. Do not hesitate then: wager that he does exist.” [1]

Paschal argued that if one cannot arrive at reasoned conclusions that God exists, and since one can’t prove He does not not exist, the wise option is for one to live life as if God does exist because in doing so one has everything to gain and nothing to lose. If one lives as though God exists, and in reality, He does indeed exist, one has gained heaven and eternal happiness. And if God doesn’t exist, one has lost nothing. However, if one lives as though God does not exist and He really does exist, one loses their soul and loses heaven. If one weighs the choices, clearly the wise choice is to live as if God exists.

It is recognized that If one believes in God only as a “bet,” that is not the highest ideal or reason to believe, but it is a start. Pascal encourages the skeptic to believe in God not because one’s reason may be able to prove with certainty that God exists, but because the will seeks happiness, and God is one’s only path to  attaining happiness now and eternally. Pascal even contended that when one lived as if God does exist, the one living as if they had faith will lead one to actually coming to faith. He wrote, “That will make you believe quite naturally and will make you more docile.” Pascal’s Wager may not appeal to the highest ideals found in faith and speaks more to “our natural lights,” but in time will lead to full light.

The skeptic may say, “I am not going to wager at all.” Pascal replies, “But you must wager. Because of the fact of death there is no choice.” If God does not exist, it does not matter how you wager, for there is nothing to win after death and nothing to lose after death; however, if God does exist, one’s only chance of winning heaven is to believe, and one’s only chance of losing it is to refuse to believe. As Pascal says, “I should be much more afraid of being mistaken and then finding out that Christianity is true than of being mistaken in believing it to be true… Should a man be in error in supposing the Christian religion to be true? He could not be a loser by mistake. But how irreparable is his loss and how inexpressible his danger who should err in supposing it to be false.”

When one considers there are only two options: God exists or God doesn’t exist, then skepticism/atheism is a terrible bet. Pascal concludes, by calling “heads” God does exist, “I tell you that you will gain even in this life —purpose, peace, hope, joy, the things that put smiles on the lips of martyrs.” But if one calls “tails” God does not exist, and then he does, one has lost for eternity.  And if one is unable to believe, Pascal contends it is the result of selfish passions that hinders clear reasoning, for reason longs to believe. Pascal wants the skeptic to know his words urging one to “bet” the God exists “come from a man who went down upon his knees before and after..in prayer.” Pascal urges skeptics who seem bound by unbelief to learn from men like him who were once bound but now have wagered their all…and found it to be true.

Jesus warns that nothing is worth losing one’s soul, “What will it profit a man though he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26). And to those who want to gamble with their souls, the question of Buber is most thought provoking, “But can you be sure there is no God?”

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

[1] Quotes from Blaise Pascal, Pensées (trans. John Warrington), London: Dent (Everyman’s Library No. 874) 1932.

MY GRANDCHILDREN WILL NEVER KNOW

Someone remarked to me the other day, who was only a few years younger than me, that times have always been like they are today. The person who made the statement was old enough to know better. The person who made such a remark either carelessly misspoke or their memory has badly faded as to the way it was when we were growing up. When I first saw the light of day, Dwight Eisenhower was serving as President of the United States. While America has always faced tumultuous issues; no, times have not always been like they are today. We are living in times, as Paul stated that are “perilous” or savage (II Tim. 3:1). The Greek word he uses speaks of a wild beast jumping on its prey.

I must say when I pause to ponder the America of today, I am fearful for my grandchildren. My grandchildren will never experience what it is like to grow up in the America  in which I grew up. They will never know what it is like for the national conscience to be influenced by Christian morality and common decency. They will never know what it is like to be seated at their desk at school and begin the school day by hearing the teacher read from the Bible. They will never know what it is like to have the teacher say a “blessing” before marching to the lunchroom to eat. They will never know what it is like to see the Ten Commandments posted on the classroom wall. They will never know what it is like to not have history sanitized, but to actually hear a teacher teach that this country was founded by men and women who came to the New World for religious freedom and the opportunity to worship Jesus Christ without persecution and the reason this country has been blessed is because of its acknowledgment of the God of heaven and earth.

My grandchildren will never know what it is like to go to school without fear of some madman bursting through the door and shooting people. They will never know what it is like to not have police officers roaming the halls while school is in session. They will never know what it is like to walk through the door of a schoolhouse, a courthouse or an airport without walking through metal detectors or being patted down. They will never know what it is like when everyone owned a gun but to hear of mass shootings was a very, very rare occurrence. They will never know what it is like when everyone respected each other’s property and you could sleep at night with your door unlocked and not worry about someone breaking-in. They will never know what it is like when everyone knew they were either a male or a female. They will never know what it is like when there was no confusion over which bathroom one was supposed to go in.

My grandchildren will never know what it is like when marriage was only between a man and a woman. They will never know what it is like when there was a national conscience that revered the sanctity of life and politicians and abortion advocates didn’t stand up and applaud because they can kill a baby. They will never know what it is like to actually see a two-party system work and witness both sides sitting down and coming to workable solutions to problems that plague society. They will never know what it is like when everyone knew their neighbor. They will never know what it is like when capitalism, not failed socialism, was touted as the best economic system. They will never know what it is like for all people to proudly stand for the National Anthem without having to stomach someone protesting that for which the flag stands. They will never know what is like for patriotism to be embraced and a reverence for God understood, instead of now patriotism being shunned and godless secularism embraced.

Now those are just a few of the spiritual and moral characteristics of the America in which I grew up, and it is an America my grandchildren will never experience. No, it has not always been like it is today. There was once a more kind, gentler, decent, safer, law-abiding, God-fearing  and patriotic America that existed. That is no more. Sadly, America today is no longer being influenced by the moral and spiritual qualities that made her great, but instead today she is being influenced  by secularism, atheism, socialism, ecumenism, and those who tout anti-Americanism.

You see, we thought it wise to abolish prayer and remove the morality of the Bible from our schools. We thought it wise to rip the Ten Commandments from the schoolhouse walls. We thought it wise to declare killing babies is ok. We thought it wise to label morality relative and God an afterthought. We thought it wise to redefine traditional marriage. We though it wise to embrace gender fluidity. We thought it wise to say it is ok to trample the flag and label patriotism offensive. We thought it wise to shake our fist in the face of a holy God and say, “We don’t need you, we can make our own morals and do as we please and get along just fine.” And we are clearly reaping the myriad of consequence from declaring ourselves to be wise in our own eyes apart from God, and in the process have become as fools (Romans 1:22).

Yes, I am fearful for my grandchildren who will never know the greatness that once marked this great land as a result of the moral and spiritual foundation upon which it was built. That foundation has crumbled badly and as a result, unless a spiritual and moral awakening sweep across this land, the young people of America today will only know her as she goes through the death rattles.

God have mercy upon America.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

DIVING INTO THE DEEP WATERS OF DIVINE ELECTION

For some time I have desired to pen a blog of my understanding of Divine Election, but I realize the philosophical and theological implications involved in such an endeavor stirs up a myriad of emotions in people who take opposing views. I realize I am diving into deep, deep waters of God’s eternal ocean, where all who undertake the task must eventually come up for air realizing the ocean is much deeper than one can fathom. One must confess the subject of divine election shines like an unreachable star among the majesty of God’s galaxy of unfathomable wisdom. In attempting to penetrate the boundaries of the truth contained with the inspired Word regarding such a subject one discovers that our finite minds can only go so far before we turn away, finding that we must bow in wonder before the Sovereign of the universe. Like a majestic snow-covered mountain soaring into the heavens, gaze as earthbound man may upon it his eyes can never capture the entire mountain’s glory. Divine Election leaves us in awe as we recognize we can only touch the hem of the garment of such a subject.

It is not my intention to be critical of or critique another’s view of Divine Election, but only articulate my perspective. The position I articulate usually results in Calvinists saying I am too weak on the sovereignty of God and results in Arminianists saying I am too weak on the free will of man. This I know, the Bible teaches both; therefore, I embrace both the total sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man for his free choices. While harmonizing God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill can leave us grasping for words of explanation that don’t yet exist, my perspective of Divine Election involves the interplay of both God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom to choose.

I contend that Divine Election must begin with Jesus Christ, who is the Electing God and the Elected Man. Christ is the Predestined One. Karl Barth has succinctly stated, “The Triune God eternally elects, or chooses, in divine freedom, to be for humanity the God of grace and love. Therefore, in Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, God is both the elector and the elected…It is the event which God willed from eternity” (Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, 1959, 69).

Christ is the ground and starting point for God’s electing actions. The starting point in divine election is in a Person, in an Act, the Act of the Christ of the Cross. Divine Election is in Christ, and nothing is elected outside of or prior to Him. Outside of Christ there is no election of any individual. God justifies individuals on the grounds of the perfect life, perfect obedience, and perfect sacrifice on the cross of Jesus Christ, foreknown in eternity past. God elects on the grounds of the perfect, atoning work of Christ; it is election based on the Holy Father foreknowing the perfect life and finished work of Christ on the cross.

If the starting point of Divine Election begins with other than Christ then there is a tear in the seam of biblical revelation. Christ is the eternal thread woven into the fabric of divine revelation that binds ALL biblical truth tightly together. As the eternal “Word,” who was with God and was God in the beginning, as the divine Reason and Revelation, there cannot be a higher cause of election than Jesus Christ. If there is a prior cause for election other than Jesus Christ, it would result in one’s election being outside of Christ not in Christ. This is not possible as the Bible says in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Bible records in Colossians, “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: and He is before all things and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).

Since Christ “is before all things,” this means that before a decree to elect, there was/is Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, the Elect One. And it is “in Him” all things consist, not outside of Him or prior to Him. Nothing was prior to Christ; therefore, Christ being the Chosen One from the beginning means that before any decree of election there stands Jesus Christ towering over eternity, in which nothing or no one was planned or chosen before Him. Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah to come, “Behold my servant, whom I up hold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth. I have put my spirit upon him” (Is. 42:1). The disciples saw in Jesus Christ the fulfillment of the Elect One/Chosen One. Peter says of Jesus that He is the “chief corner stone, elect…” (I Peter 1:6). There is only one Elect Man and that Man is Jesus Christ.

Shifting the focus of Divine Election away from a decree to save only selected individuals to the exclusion of others, onto Jesus Christ being the Elect One/Chosen One, gives validity to the invitation, “Whosoever will may come.” Such an invitation is valid because the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is THE ELECT ONE (Isaiah 42:1; Luke 23:25; I Peter 2:4-6), the Predestined One (I Peter 1:19-20). Divine Sovereignty doesn’t eliminate human freedom to respond to God’s invitation, or else man would be nothing more than a pawn without a choice. Dale Moody has written, “Christ is the Predestined One in his death and resurrection. In his death Christ is both rejected and accepted by God. At the cross he stands as both a rejected sinner and the accepted Son of God. He was rejected because he bore our sins. He was accepted because he knew no sin of his own” (Moody, Word of Truth, 1981, 341). God in His sovereignty has taken the initiative in salvation, but man must respond to the call of conviction and respond in the affirmative in order to be saved.

The election of Christ as the Predestined One is initiated by God; therefore, to Him is due all glory and honor. Christ is the Captain of the elect. And a person whose faith is “in Him” is justified, apart from one’s works or merit, as the result of trusting the ELECT ONE, Jesus Christ. His atonement is sufficient to save all who put their trust in the Elect One, but is only actualized by those who believe. As Paul clearly declares, “The righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22). The Holy Father’s saving purpose is as wide as the world (John 3:16). In Christ we see the purpose and principle of election, the election of ONE for the salvation of those who see their need of a Savior and respond in faith.

Christ in His becoming a man didn’t take the nature of some men and not others, but he took upon Himself the nature that is common to all humanity. He came to earth in the “likeness of men and being found in fashion as a man” (Philippians 2:5-11). In Christ’s work on the cross all humanity was acting in Him. As all are guilty in Adam (Rom. 5:15), now in Christ man has had his legal standing before the Holy Father changed. We enter into what He has done for us by faith in His finished work. Paul proclaimed, “Be It known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him ALL that believe are justified from all things, which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).

What Christ presented to the Father for His complete satisfaction was perfect obedience on behalf of all humanity. It was not the perfect obedience of a select few but all humanity. He paid the debt of sin, not just for some, but all men. It was a universal holiness Christ lived and a universal paying of man’s debt. Christ presented to God, as man’s Representative, the Elect One, the obedience and holiness owed the Father from all men. When one thinks of what Christ did, he did for humanity as a whole (John 3:16). By being One with us, and the Elect Man, man has been provided a Savior. Christ in a universal holiness and a universal curse, provides a salvation that is offered to all, which our souls enter into by faith. Holiness alone could answer Holiness and only the Holy God can provide for us what we cannot provide for ourselves. The debt of sin must be paid and, again, our Holy God in Christ made payment for us. The answering to God in holiness is owed by all and the debt owed for not complying is owed by all. What love, for in Christ God met both demands on behalf of all.

P.T. Forsyth writes, “The need for satisfaction for God’s wounded holiness can only be met by a personal holiness upon the scale of the human race, upon the universal scale of the sinful race. Anything less would be insufficient. What Christ presented to God on the cross was therefore not the perfect obedience of a saintly unit of the race but a perfect universal obedience.” However, only those who respond in faith to the Elect One is the perfect work of Christ actualized in their life. Paul wrote to Timothy, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. Who gave himself a ransom for all” (I Tim 2:4-6). Of course, not all will be saved for not all will embrace the all-sufficient atoning work of Christ provided on behalf of humanity.

God in His sovereignty has determined the terms of salvation, and only when one responds with faith in the Elect One, Jesus Christ, will salvation be actualized in experience. Herschel Hobbs writes, “So God elected that all who are ‘in Christ’ will be saved. All outside of Christ will be lost. God in his sovereignty set the conditions. Man by his response [appropriates] the results” (Herschel Hobbs, The Axioms of Religion, 1978, 71-72). God’s ground of accepting us is anchored in the electing of Jesus Christ in our place and on our behalf through the Incarnation, the cross and the empty tomb. Christ is the Elector and the Elected One, and by virtue of one’s faith in the Elect One, the Predestined One, they are by the awakening power of the Holy Spirit “baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free” (I Cor. 12:13).

It is realized Classical Calvinism will argue such a perspective of Divine Election as presented limits the sovereignty of God and exalts the free will of man. While harmonizing the two will always remain a mystery, God in His sovereignty in making allowance for the exercise of man’s choices does not weaken God’s sovereignty but in actuality demonstrates His sovereignty. One is truly sovereign who can in their sovereignty make allowances for the exercise of freedom of choice for the sole purpose of demonstrating His total sovereignty in guiding the universe to His own glorious end. God is sovereign in his plan of salvation and His guiding of history, but he does not deny the freedom of man to make his own decisions even to his own eternal destruction.

While it is understood the perspective on Divine Election as I have presented will find disagreement with those who embrace Classical Calvinism, we can agree to disagree. This one truth we can agree on, those who recognized their lostness, repent of their sins and embrace Christ as their Savior are counted among those who are called the elect.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

TRUE SUCCESS IS FAITHFULNESS

One of my favorite quotes comes from the lips of our nation’s twenty-sixth President, Theodore Roosevelt, who wisely stated, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Wise words indeed! Those words can be applied to any endeavor we undertake. No matter what one undertakes to do there are always critics who are ready to criticize and point out where it could have been done better or will tell you how much better they could have done it, you knowing and they knowing, too, that they would have never embarked upon such an endeavor to begin with. I have always said, tongue-in-cheek, an expert is someone who has never done it before!

While Roosevelt’s words are true in any endeavor one embarks upon, it is especially true for those who are faithful laborers in the Lord’s vineyard. One who is attempting to plow a straight row with the Gospel plow is always visible in their labors and is always open to scrutiny. It is easy to spot the stumbling of a man or to point out where he could have done better. While “attempting” means the possibility of stumbling and coming up short, but it is better to have swerved  a bit in the row than the alternative which is far worse….to never have been faithful in plowing. Laboring in the Lord’s vineyard may produce blisters along the way, but the Master’s heavenly ointment soothes and heals hands of faithful service.

It is easy to measure success only by what one sees, not realizing success often takes place in the realm of the unseen. Too often success is defined as visible results that that can be measured by the physical eye and takes us beyond what has previously been accomplished. If results can’t be measured by sight, there are those who are quick to label the effort as unsuccessful. Such criteria must not be the measuring stick for judging spiritual success. When Paul wrote First Corinthians he defined success as a person who was “found faithful” (I Cor. 4:2). Paul’s criteria for “success” was faithfulness, which cannot always be measured by visible results or the grandiose being accomplished.

Oswald Chambers echoed Paul’s wisdom when he wrote, “God has not called us to success but to faithfulness.” The Bible requires us to be loyal to the Master regardless if we don’t measure up to the world’s definition of successful. Faithfulness is a characteristic that is lacking in many arenas today. While success can be short lived, faithfulness is a quality that is enduring and in the long run has the greatest impact.

Faithfulness is not always exciting and often deals with the mundane. Faithfulness doesn’t always find itself in the spotlight, but is often found in the background getting done the things that need to get done. Faithfulness doesn’t always receive accolades from the crowd, but it carries with it its own reward. Sometimes faithfulness doesn’t get press, but it gets the Lord’s attention. Let us never dismiss the importance and value of faithfulness. Faithfulness doesn’t always receive applause, but it looks forward to those words from our Lord, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” What we label as success can be momentary and vanishing, but faithfulness possesses an enduring quality priceless in the eyes of the Lord. While every servant of the Lord should set goals and strive to fruitfully reach them, let us never sacrifice faithfulness on the altar of perceived success as defined by culture.

Sometimes we may grow weary in our faithfulness, but let us keep on keeping on being faithful in our service and relationship with Him. Sure there are always rocks in the field and stumps to avoid when one plows for the Lord, but that is no reason to slacken the pace; keep faithfully plowing. Faithfulness keeps the plow sharp. Let the critic continue to criticize, let the finger-pointers keep pointing, let the whispers keep whispering, but may those who are diligent in duty and service continue to be faithful.

Let it be said of each servant of the Lord as was said of David’s loyal followers who were faithful to guard the supplies, David commending them for faithfully “staying by the stuff” (I Sam 25:13). Let us always strive to be faithful to “stay by the stuff,” and in so doing our “place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Being faithful…therein is found success.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

DOES IT MATTER HOW WE ADDRESS GOD?

There is a theological revolution taking place in Christendom that seems to be gaining more traction with each passing year. It is a revolution that is seeking to transform the very structure and composition of the Christian faith. As the walls of gender identity continue to be torn down in the secular realm, we see exerted efforts by those who support the feminist reconstructionist agenda to abolish gender identity in regard to the doctrine of God. Their goal is to permanently eliminate from Scripture the use of the masculine pronoun when referring to God by either substituting “God” with feminine terminology or using neuter terminology when referring to Deity.

Is such a change warranted? Does it really make any scriptural difference as to whether one uses masculine or feminist pronouns when referring to biblical Deity and if a terminology change was made to accommodate feminist reconstructionists would it affect the integrity of Scripture and the presentation of the Gospel message? While it is recognized that a blog of this nature cannot give adequate attention to such a broad topic, the issue at stake is of such vital importance as it relates to the integrity of Scripture and the Gospel that the issue needs to be addressed, although somewhat briefly.

The contention of those who seek to reconstruct gender identity is that all masculine pronouns as it relates to God are only metaphorical and come from an antiquated time when women were considered nothing more than property with little or no rights; therefore, such terminology should be changed to better adapt to the changing times so as not to offend women or foster the idea that women are inferior to men. Those who champion such a change in biblical usage do so by pointing out there is female imagery found for God in the Old Testament. Let it be pointed out that there are only four instances of incontestable feminine imagery for God in the Bible, all found in the book of Isaiah (42:14; 45:10; 49:15; 66:13). While there are a few OT similes that allude to God’s care as that of a mother bird (Duet 32:11-12. Isaiah 31:5), Hebrew scholar Mayer I. Gruber writes that only in Isaiah does the “prophet explicitly compares the Lord to a mother, while throughout the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures the Lord is explicitly compared to a father but not a mother” (Gruber, “The Motherhood of God in Second Isaiah,” Revue Biblique, Paris, 1983, 351-359). While found in Isaiah are four instances where a mother’s love and comfort for a child is used as a simile for God’s love and comfort for hurting Israel, in the Old Testament God is NEVER called mother. And let it be added, in the New Testament God is NEVER addressed as mother. In both Testaments God is referred to as Father some 250 times, but NEVER as mother.

It is understood from Scripture that God is a Spirit (John 4:24); therefore, He has no sexuality. If that be the case, then why not attach to God neuter language? If one believes the Bible is inspired and if one believes the Bible is the self-revelation of God, then the Scripture teaches the self-revelation of God as Father. Elizabeth Achtemeier correctly states, “The Bible uses masculine language for God because that is the language with which God has revealed himself. The biblical, Christian faith is a revealed religion. It claims no knowledge of God beyond the knowledge God has given of himself through his words and deeds in the histories of Israel and of Jesus Christ and his church” (“Exchanging God for ‘No Gods’: A Discussion of Female Language for God,” 1992, 5).

Alvin Kimel writes, “‘Father’ is not a metaphor imported by humanity onto the screen of eternity; it is a name and filial term of address revealed by God himself in the person of his Son…No matter how other groups of human beings may choose to speak to the Diety, the matter is already decided for Christians, decided by God himself. To live in Christ in the triune being of the Godhead is to worship and adore the holy Transcendence whom Jesus knew as his Father” (Kimel, A New Language for God? A Critique of Supplemental Liturgical Texts – Prayer Book Studies 30, 1990, 11-12). If God has been revealed through the Son, then God has made Himself known as “Father.” As Jesus told Phillip, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” (Jh 14:9).

The Triune God has self-revealed Himself in masculine terminology. Why did God reveal himself in masculine terms? The addressing God in masculine terminology is a mark of Judaism and Christianity in contrast to the world’s other religious traditions, as God sought to distinguish Himself from the surrounding cultures of other nations who worshipped female deities. The God of the Bible being revealed in masculine terms was unique in the world of that day, as feminine deities were the norm. Let it be noted that religions where worship centered upon feminine deities the worship of nature/the natural instead of the Creator was prominent and the slide into unrestrained passions and moral debauchery was rampant. So, it was not man who attached masculinity to God, it was the result of God’s self-revelation to differentiate Himself from the feminist-based paganist religions of other nations. Achtemeier observantly writes, “It was not that the prophets were slaves to their patriarchal culture, as some feminists hold. And it is not that the prophets could not imagined God as female: they were surrounded by people who so imagined their deities. It is rather that the prophets, as well as the Deuteronomist and Priestly writers and Jesus and Paul would not use such language because they knew and had ample evidence from other religions surrounding them that female language for deity results in a basic distortion of the name of God and of his relation to his creation” (Achtemeier, Female Language for God, 2006, 109).

One finds in the New Testament Jesus always addressed God as Father. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told his disciples that when they prayed, they were to address God as “Father” (Matt. 6:9). Throughout his ministry Jesus set the example by always referring to God as “Father” (Matt. 7:21; Mark 13:32; John 10:36; 14:6, 9, 28; 20:17). In the New Testament, “Father” is always the preferred personal name for the first person of the Trinity. Jesus before ascending back to His “Father” instructed His disciples that when they baptized new converts they were to do so in the name of the Triune God, “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The Triune formula given to the Church by Jesus clearly identifies and linguistically defines the first person of the Trinity as Father. In our addressing God, there is no greater authority for which we are to appeal than the mandate of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Triune God who is confessed in the baptismal creed as given by Jesus, became normative and authoritative. Basil the Great (329-379) stated that all other terminology that sought to be substituted for the verbal identification of the Triune God as given by Jesus should be rejected. He wrote that “it is enough for us to confess those names which we have received from the Holy Scriptures and our Savior” (Basial, Ep., 175).

The Apostle John, a disciple of Jesus, followed the example and mandate of his Master, as he uses the term “Father” when referring to God 122 times in the gospel he wrote. Matthew, also a disciple of Jesus, in the first book in the NT uses the term “Father” 64 times when referring to God. It is clear the disciples addressed God as they were taught to do so by Him who came to reveal God—as “Father.”

Paul in obedience to Christ who transformed his life, did not deviate from the Master’s terminology of “Father” when speaking of the First Person of the Triune God (Gal. 1:3; Eph. 6:23; I Cor. 8:6; Col 1:2). In Romans Paul affirms that as the result of Christ’s atoning work we have been enabled to address God as Father. He writes, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Addressing God as “Father” was not one of many designations used by Paul to speak of the first person of the Trinity, but “Father” was the only name used by Paul. Paul in identifying God as “Father” was using intimate and personal language by which believers were to address the One who is Wholly Other: “Father” being the very name which Jesus used to address God.

Kimel profoundly writes of the Christian usage of the word “Father”: It is a filial, denominating title of address revealed in the person of the eternal Son. “On the lips of Jesus,” Wolfhart Pannenberg states, “‘Father’ became a proper name for God. It thus ceased to be simply one designation among others. It embraces every feature in the understanding of God which comes to light in the message of Jesus. It names the divine Other in terms of whom Jesus saw himself and to whom he referred His disciples and hearers.” Jesus names the Holy God of Israel Abba, “Father,” thereby expressing, and indeed effectuating, the intimate inner communion between them, a unique relationship of knowing and love. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son” (Matt. 11:27). By this historical address God is acknowledged as the hope, joy, ultimate source, and final authority in our Lord’s life; by this address he is constituted as the Father. The dominical naming occurs within the being of the Godhead. It is an event of the divine biography, an eternal act of self-differentiation occurring in time. When uttered by the incarnate Word, “Father” (defined exclusively by Christ himself in the totality of his filial existence) is a created, performative word of eschatological power–analogous, on a different level, to God’s speaking forth the universe in Genesis 1–which eternally calls into being the One who loves his Son beyond all imaginings, beyond all conditions and limits. The Father receives from Jesus, through the power of the Spirit, his hypostatic identity as Father. (Kimel, “The God who Names Himself,” Speaking the Christian God: The Holy Trinity and the Challenge of Feminism, 1992, 204-205)

For one to seek to alter the name of God to other than “Father” strikes at the core of biblical authority and what was normative for our Lord Jesus Christ and the whole of the OT and NT writers. To identify God other than “Father” is to abandon how He is clearly addressed in Scripture and Church history. To call Him other than His self-revelation as “Father” is not “adjusting” the Christian faith for the twenty-first century, but in actuality is creating a new god different from the God of biblical revelation. And anytime  there is a departing from the authoritative biblical normative, a god is created by one’s own hands that has not the power to save nor the power to change one’s life.

The God of the Bible has distinguished Himself from a culture that desires to gravitate toward religiosity that identifies itself with feminine deities, which invariably follow the path of substituting the God of the Bible for the worship of the creation and the creature leading to a rejection of the Triune God (Romans 1) and a de-personalization of God. When God is de-personalized inevitably a laxness in biblical morality is embraced as the norm.  We always err and start down a slippery slope when we seek to “update” God’s Word and “dumb-it down” to conform to the culture. God’s Word doesn’t need adjusting or updating, it needs to be unapologetically and boldly proclaimed.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3).

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

WHY THE DOCTRINE OF BIBLICAL CREATION IS IMPORTANT

Most Christians don’t see the importance of articulating a theology of biblical creation. While most Christians give an accepting nod to  the premise that God created the heavens and the earth, it is not a doctrine many see as one of significance in comparison with more “important” Christian doctrines. However, one’s view of biblical creation is the foundation from which all other biblical doctrines find a sturdy foundation upon which to rest. The doctrine of creation is the necessary starting point for the Christian faith. Why is a biblical view of creation important?

First, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms God as Creator. The first verse of Genesis begins, “In the beginning God created…” Genesis 1:1 identifies God as the Source, Reason, Creator of all that exists. The Bible never seeks to argue the existence of God, but contends it is a fact established by creation itself and the conscience of man (Ps. 19, Rom. 1& 2, Rev. 4:11). The Bible clearly affirms that the universe, man and the existence of all things didn’t happen by accident or by some unknown cosmic event, but all was created by a holy God. It has often been said that if a person can embrace the first verse of Genesis, they will have no trouble with the rest of the Bible. Genesis identifies our Creator-God creating Ex Nihilo (out of nothing). He did not need matter or energy or have to use material which previously existed, but there was nothing and then there was! The theories of man to explain the existence of the universe have to begin with matter or energy or “material” which already existed. The God of Genesis created from “scratch” by the power of His Word (Genesis 1-2; John 1:1-3). All that exists didn’t happen by “accident” but was purposely created “in the beginning” by God who is the Source by which all things exist and continue to exist.

Second, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms Biblical Authority. One discovers from a careful reading of Scripture that the whole of divine revelation is held together by threads that are woven tightly to Genesis 1-3 as historical narrative. Old Testament authority rests upon the events and promises as found in Genesis 1-3 (Exod 31:17; Deut 4:32; Ps 33:6; 90:12; 136:5–9; 148:2–5; Isa 40:25–26; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13; Amos 4:13; Jer 10:12; Zech 12:1). The great biblical doctrines Paul sets forth in Romans regarding God, man, sin, the work of Christ, and God’s continued dealing with man and Israel, clearly rest on an understanding of Genesis 1-11 as historical. As well, when one turns to the New Testament, the theology and worldview of the NT writers had deep roots in the creation narratives, Jesus accepting the writings of Genesis as historical and authoritative (Matt 19:4–5; John 1:2–3; Rom 4:17; Eph 3:9; Col 1:16; 1 Tim 2:13; Heb 1:2; 11:3; Rev 4:11; 10:6–7). If the recorded events in Genesis are not rooted in actuality this casts doubt on the entire biblical record. It is clear that the foundation of biblical authority cannot be separated from divine revelation as found in the beginning chapters of Genesis.

Third, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms Man as Created by the Creator. The Bible is clear that man didn’t come into existence through the “accident” of evolution, but that man was purposely created by God. The Bible teaches that man draws his worth from the truth that he was created as the crown of God’s creation. If there is no Creator then man has no worth or value other than what he himself creates or has imposed upon him. If there is no God which breathed into man the breath of life, then man has no soul which separates him from other beings. If there is no God and man is only a cosmic accident, saying life has meaning is a futile pursuit that becomes elusive in life and vanishes at death. Man, though, is more than a “just so happen” of atoms, molecules, or chemicals that came into being by natural processes, but man came into being by the direct creation of God who created man in His own image and breathed into man the breath of life, giving him value and worth. As one created in the image of God man is endowed with life, a soul, personality, creativity, mind and with the ability to communicate with his fellowman and his Creator.

Fourth, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms Man’s Disobedience before his Creator and the Entrance of Death. When one reads the first two chapters of Genesis, God states that all of creation is “good.” If one skips chapter 3 and begins reading with chapter 4, one has to confess something colossal happened — death entered the world. Where did it come from? Genesis 3 records that man deliberately disobeyed his Creator and as a result of sin, death, which was not part of the original creation, entered the world. If death and sin were a natural aspect of God’s creation then He would not have been able to declare all things “very good” (Gen. 1:31). While death is a natural component of the evolutionary process, in the Bible death is abnormal. Lee Anderson astutely observes that “death before the fall thus destroys everything that the Bible teaches about the goodness of God, the goodness of the original creation, and the prospect of goodness in the future creation” (Anderson, “The Relevance of Biblical Creationism,” JMAT 18:1 (Spring 2014), 106).

As the result of man’s disobedience, the Fall resulted in the fruit of sin birthing death into the world. Paul is clear in Romans 5:12 that as the result of sin death entered the world. Death was not part of God’s creation in Genesis 1-2, so what happened? Again, death entered the world as result of man’s mutiny to his Creator. To contend otherwise, is to say death was a natural part of creation. If death is not related to the fruit of sin as the Bible teaches, then the death of Christ was not necessary as death is not the curse of sin from which man needs deliverance and atonement. If death was initially a natural part of creation and not the consequence of sin, then there is no need for the atoning sacrifice of Christ as death would not be related to sin. However, the Bible teaches death is the consequences of sin which was not part of God’s “very good” creation; thus, because of one man’s sin bringing death in the world, another Man through his life, death and resurrection defeated death for humanity (Rom. 5:12-15).

Fifth, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms the Creator’s Initiative in Redeeming Man and Restoring His Creation. Because our first parents sinned against the Creator, their fellowship with Him was broken and the consequences of their sinful choice resulted in far-reaching ripples that affected all creation (Rom 8:22). How can man’s broken communion be restored? How can man pay the sin debt which he owes the holy Creator? One truth is certain, man is unable to restore the broken fellowship, nor can he pay the debt he owes for his sin offending a holy God. We find in Genesis 3:15 that God took the initiative by making a promise that One would come who would be the “seed of the woman” who would restore the broken fellowship between God and man and pay the sin debt that man was incapable of paying. The Old Testament is the history of God bringing to fulfillment the promise He made in Genesis 3:15 of a Redeemer and Restorer. All that came before Christ was fulfilled by Him and all that comes after Him is determined by Him.

Genesis 3:15 was fulfilled when God clothed Himself in human flesh, stepped into time, and as the Representative of humanity assumed the responsivity for our sin debt. The Good News is that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing (counting) their trespasses (sins) unto them” (2 Cor 5:19). In Christ man’s broken fellowship with His Creator is restored, in Christ’s resurrection we become partakers of His victory over death, and in His divine destiny creation awaits the day it will experience Paradise Restored (Rom. 8:22).

Sixth, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms that the Creator is directing His Creation toward a Divine Goal. Natural evolution is an purposeless ongoing process that has no destiny for which the creature or creation anticipates. The Bible teaches that in Christ all history is flowing toward a New Heaven and New Earth. Because of man’s disobedience, sin marred the first creation,  but because of the obedience of one Man, the Man Christ Jesus, restoration of broken felllowship caused by sin can be found and the promise of the day when Christ makes all things new is the living hope of those who have in faith embraced the Creator who became the Redeemer in Jesus Christ. The cross is our assurance that sin and death will not win at last, for when man sought to do His worst to the Son of God, He came out victorious and in faith His victory is our victory.

More reasons could be given why a proper biblical view of creation is important, it is clear to see the doctrine of creation is the thread that is woven into the very fabric of the Christian faith. For one to contend that the doctrine of creation is not important is to deny the very truths that are foundational to biblical authority and the Gospel message of Christ’s atoning work. As David Noebel has excellently written, “When presenting the Christian worldview, then, we take the Bible at face value…. When the writer says, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ we understand him to say that there is a God, there was a beginning to creation, that heaven and earth exist, and that God made them. When the writer says, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish but have everlasting life,’ we understand him to say that there is a God, that God loves, that God sent His Son, and that those who believe Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. It does not take a Ph.D. or a high IQ to comprehend the basic message of the Bible. God’s special revelation is open to everyone” (Noebel, Understanding the Times, 2015).

Yes, the biblical doctrine of creation is important. And the Creator desires to make you and me a new creation, “For if any man be in Christ they are a new creation, old things are passed away, behold all things become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THE CHURCH THAT MADE CHRIST SICK!

Any church that compromises with the culture becomes ineffective in impacting that culture….and a compromising church makes Christ sick!!

When studying the Seven Churches Jesus addressed in Revelation, most readers of the NT are familiar with the words of Jesus to the church at Laodicea. Jesus Christ, who is the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness (3:14), the One whose words can be trusted, the One who is the Head of “creation” (3:14), indicts the church saying, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (3:15-16). The church made Christ nauseated!

Three times He pleads with them to be hot or cold. Why would Christ prefer the church to be “cold” as well as “hot” (3:15)? The words of Jesus indicate that “hot” and “cold” are desirable alternatives to lukewarmness. The contextual interpretation has to do with the “hot” waters from Hierapolis and the “cold” waters from Colossae that were piped into Laodicea and when they mixed lukewarmness resulted. Just as when the waters are compromised, when the church compromises with the culture the result will always be spiritual ineffectiveness, unfruitfulness, and lukewarmness in the church.

Let us examine the text to gain an understanding of Jesus’ picturesque words.

To understand the full impact of Christ’s words a look at the local background is necessary. While the city of Laodicea was a place of industry and wealth, it did not have a suitable water supply. Hierapolis, which was only six miles away from Laodicea, was known for its hot mineral-laden springs which people came to for its cleansing and healing qualities. Colossae, which was only ten miles away, was known for his cold waters which brought refreshing to those who drank it. Laodicea had their water piped in from a six-mile long aqueduct. When the water arrived it was lukewarm, disgusting to the taste, not fit to drink. One historian wrote, “The water supply of Laodicea was derived from an artificial pipeline, bringing water which was literally lukewarm and so impure as to have an emetic (vomiting) effect.”

The contrast in the words of Jesus is between the hot spa-like healing waters of Hierapolis and the refreshing cold waters of Colossae. Jesus is saying to the church at Laodicea that He desired they have “works” (v. 14) that supply the city/community with spiritual cleansing and healing for the spiritually sick (hot) or spiritual refreshing for the spiritually weary (cold), but they were doing neither. Instead, they were spiritually like the lukewarm water piped into the city, disgusting to the taste, unfit to drink or use. While the church should have been ministering to the city and providing spiritual waters of cleansing, healing and refreshment, their compromising with the culture around them made them spiritually ineffective in providing healing and refreshing waters to others. They should have been proclaiming the gospel of Christ to their city, but because of their compromising the Word they were unfit of being used by Jesus.

Jesus knew their works (3:14), which were devoid of spiritual quality. He rebukes the church for their disgusting lack of witness, barrenness and ineffectiveness which was distasteful to Him like the drinking of lukewarm water that makes one want to “spew” it out of their mouth (3:16). The Greek word translated “spew” is intensely strong and used nowhere else in the New Testament and paints a vivid picture of someone about to vomit. Albert Barnes writes that “the image denotes deep disgust and loathing at the indifference which prevailed in the church at Laodicea.” Their spiritual condition made Christ sick!

Anytime a church compromises the Word of God under the delusional assumption that compromise will attract those outside the church, the church is weakened, becomes lukewarm and loses its effectiveness to make an impact for Christ. The church will never win the world by becoming like the world, it only becomes barren and fruitless.

The words of Christ contain a touch of irony. The church at Laodicea was to be His mouthpiece to spread the Good News, but because in their works they had failed to do so, He who is called the Word was ready to spew them out of His mouth. Jesus’ charge against the church was their total lack of ineffectiveness in ministering to those who needed spiritual healing and refreshing. They needed to repent, because their compromising with the culture around them had resulted in their loss of a community witness, fruitfulness and effectiveness, the loss of being Christ’s mouthpiece for truth.

John R. Stott has written, “The Laodicean church was a half-hearted church. Perhaps none of the seven letters is more appropriate to the twenty-first century church than this. It describes vividly the respectable, sentimental, nominal, skin-deep religiosity which is so wide spread among us today. Our Christianity is flabby and anemic, we appear to have taken a lukewarm bath.”

Even though Christ said He was about to spew them out of his mouth because their ineffectiveness was so distasteful to Him, there was still opportunity to repent and be restored to fellowship and fruitfulness. Sadly, many churches today have compromised with the culture in a delusional attempt to impact the culture, and as a result have become barren, fruitless and non-impactful. May the Church today heed the words of Jesus and once again be uncompromising, “zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THE PRICE OF A SIGNATURE

On the Fourth of July the USA will celebrate another birthday. It all began on July 4, 1776, when fifty-six brave men put their signature on a document called The Declaration of Independence. This wondrous document is built upon a premise that seems forgotten in our day, that premise being each person derives their rights from “their Creator,” the “Supreme Judge of the world” (God is mentioned four times — twice at the beginning at twice at the end), and the chief purpose of government is to ensure and protect those rights. The Declaration of Independence only contains 1,321 words, yet it is one of the greatest documents ever conceived and penned by man.

The document, which declared independence from the British, was signed by fifty-six brave men “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” The fifty-six men from the thirteen colonies who penned their name on the document, twenty-six were lawyers, nine merchants, six farmers, six physicians, two statesmen, one planter, one surveyor, one shoemaker, one minister, and one printer. Eighteen of the men were under forty years of age, three in their twenties, and the oldest, Benjamin Franklin, was seventy years old. Two who signed it would later become President, two were to be fathers of future Presidents.

These fifty-six men knew the minute they signed the document they would be labeled as traitors by the British and there would be a price upon their head. They were risking their lives for the cause of freedom. What did it actually cost these men for signing the Declaration of Independence? I am afraid we have forgotten what it cost them. Not one of the signers escaped the battle for independence without suffering some loss or penalty.

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died; twelve had their homes ransacked and burned; two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured; nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War; Layman Hall of Georgia had his property confiscated; George Walton of Georgia was imprisoned; Joseph Hewes of North Carolina died from utter exhaustion from the strain; William Hooper of North Carolina was driven from his home; John Penn of North Carolina had his health wrecked and died in 1780; William Floyd of New York was driven from his home and his property confiscated; Philip Livingston of New York had all his property taken from him; John Morton of Pennsylvania became forsaken by friends and died eight months after the signing; Richard Stockton of New Jersey was dragged from his bed in the middle of the night and thrown into prison; Caesar Rodney of Delaware died from cancer not long are signing; John Hart of New Jersey was forced from his home, his house burned and he lived as a fugitive; Roger Sherman of Connecticut efforts during the battle for independence took a toll on his health and was relieved of many of colonial duties; Lewis Morris of New York was a man of considerable wealth but lost it during the war; Carter Braxton of Virginia lost his wealth and his property seized; Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton and Edward from South Carolina were all thrown into prison; Thomas Nelson of Virginia lost his fortune and died in poverty; Francis Lewis of New York had his home burned and his wife taken prisoner; Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured and put in prison; John Witherspoon of New Jersey had his voluminous library burned; Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey had his home taken and became a fugitive; Thomas McKean of Delaware was so pursued by the British that he was forced to constantly move his family; George Ross a minister from Pennsylvania died in 1779 from broken health; William Whipple of New Hampshire developed heart problems which eventually took his life.

More examples could be given of the price paid by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, but a portrait of the noble character of these men is clearly imprinted on the canvas of history. The clothes these men wore were not held together by thread, but by principle, honor and a selflessness that led them to pledge their all for the cost of freedom. They had steel backbones forged in the fires of convictions and courage. These men were brave and  fearless who knew the consequences and penalties that awaited, yet they signed anyway, pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

One truth is certain, freedom was and is not free. For that one prize – freedom – these men signed a declaration and suffered horribly. Two-hundred and forty-three years later we must not forget the price paid for freedom nor forget the spiritual and political heritage of the birth of this nation. To forget our heritage is to head down a road that will eventually lead us away from liberty back unto tyranny. In a day when political correctness sees patriotism as offensive, it is a position that will find liberty being swallowed up in the quicksand of weakness and cowardice that will lead to loss of freedoms.

One can’t help but wonder in the day in which we live where so many want something for nothing; who feel like they are owed something without earning it or sacrificing for it; who don’t believe in personal responsibility; who contend there are no eternal principles on which to base one’s life or govern society; would such individuals pay one-tenth the price those 56 brave men paid for freedom and liberty? The answer is self-evident.

As we pause to celebrate the birthday of this Nation, let us not forget the sacrifice and commitment of those fifty-six stalwart men. While our Forefathers battled the British, we today are waging a battle for the very soul of America. It is a battle of greed versus sacrifice, spiritually versus secularism, God versus godlessness, good versus evil, decency versus indecency, right versus wrong, principles versus political correctness, responsibility versus irresponsibility. To the observing eye, that for which the signers of the Declaration of Independence gave so much, appears to be slowly slipping away from you and me.

The freedoms for which our Forefather fought and sacrificed for demands that we never yield to the tyrants of vice over virtue, for when we do, we will discover the brave signers penned their names in vain. May it not be so.

Have Blessed and Safe Fourth of July

Blessings,
Dr. Dan