Friday, November 14, 2014

Wesley Sermon #24

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 4:31)

The earliest church consisted of people who were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were radically changed at the heart level. They were passionate to spread the Gospel. They were turning the world right-side-up.

To be a member of the earliest church meant a dramatic change of heart had taken place. You now recognized Jesus as Lord and were filled with the fruit of the Spirit. Your life was marked by love for God and people. You daily grew in grace. You abstained from evil and did good.

To be a member of the earliest church meant being passionate to reach the world. You possessed the best of news. The world was full of bad news. How could you sit idly by? You became a witness. You faced persecution, but witnessed all the more. You shook the gates of hell.

To be a member of the earliest church meant bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth. As a church, you were fulfilling outstanding prophecies. You were on a trajectory toward a planet filled with holiness and love.

Where does this Christianity now exist? Are we, in any sense, a Christian nation? Do we have Christian leaders? Christian Pastors? Christian Scholars? Christian Students? Or do we merely trifle with God? Scriptural Christianity and contemporary Christianity seem to be at odds.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Wesley Sermon #22

“Paul, thou art beside thyself!”

True Christians, filled with the love of God, are often said to be beside themselves… out of their minds… crazy… insane… mad. But I will tell you what true madness is like. True madness, in a religious sense, is falsely imagining the influence or inspiration of God where there is none.
I shall address three sorts of madness within Christianity.

First, there is the madness of those who imagine they have the saving grace of God when they do not. It is clear that they do not because they are unholy and unloving. But they imagine that they do because they take on the label, were baptized as infants, hold the right opinions on doctrine, attend church, receive communion, do good, etc. And since this type of madness is so common, they imagine they are sane and others crazy!

Second, there is the madness of those who imagine they have the gifting of God when they do not. They feel God will work miracles through them, speak through their every word, direct them in every particular choice of life through supernatural means… delusions of grandeur.

Third, and closely related, there is the madness of those who imagine they can attain the end (holiness) without the means of grace. All three sorts of madness lead to pride. And pride makes one stuck… stuck in madness… stuck in un-holiness. Be careful not to fall into the many-headed monster of madness.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Wesley Sermon #21

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,
that we are children of God (Romans 8:16)

The Methodist movement has a great role to play in proclaiming the balance between mere formalism and wild enthusiasm on the topic of the witness of the Spirit (that inward impression that we are now a child of God).

Yes, the fruit of the Spirit confirm within our own spirit that we are children of God. But, here, we are referring to the direct witness of the Spirit of God. The fruit of the Spirit spring from this initial witness of the Spirit.

One cannot object that this doctrine is not Scriptural, for what else does Romans 8:16 mean by distinguishing the witness of the Spirit from the witness of our own spirit?
Nor can one reject the doctrine due to the fact that it has sometimes been abused. Nor is it unnecessary, for the truth of something is established by multiple witnesses.

We believe, then, that is vital to recognize the reality of a direct witness by the Spirit of God on a child of God in addition to any awareness within their own spirit via a consciousness of the fruit of the Spirit.

Neither of the witnesses is to be neglected in our doctrine or practice. None should rest in a witness of the Spirit that does not produce the fruit… and none should rest in apparent fruit without the direct witness of the Spirit.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Frightful Forms of Faith

4 Frightful Forms of Faith to think about this Halloween...

The Zombie Christian
A Zombie Christian is a person who has some of the same habits as a Christian (church attendance, Bible knowledge, etc), but has actually never made a commitment to follow Christ. They may appear to be alive, but they are actually dead in their sins.

The Vampire Christian
A Vampire Christian is a person who has asked that the blood save them in their sins, but they have no intention of recognizing Jesus as their Lord. They just want a little bit of Jesus' blood and have no interest in actually following Jesus.

The Werewolf Christian
A Werewolf Christian is a person who is generally committed to Christ, but there is one area that they refuse to surrender and/or repent of. They have a secret that they hope no one will discover. They know it and, usually, try to hide it from others.

The Head-Hunter Christian
The Head-Hunter Christian is a person that claims to have a deep spiritual relationship to Christ, but has no interest in being connected to Jesus' body (the church). They only want the head, a decapitated Jesus. They individualize the Kingdom of God.

Ask yourself... "Do I have a frightful form of faith? Have I found life in Christ? Am I following Jesus daily? Is there an area of my life I haven't submitted to God? Have I given up on the church that Jesus calls His body?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hell is not ECT

Recently I read an article from Answers in Genesis on the subject of Hell. As anyone familiar with this particularly fundamentalist ministry might expect, the article was a defense of the doctrine of eternal conscious torment. As a conservative Christian (I actually happen to be a Young Earth Creationist) who rejects the doctrine of eternal conscious torment, I offer a critique of this article.

The author, Tim Challies, begins with a startling statement that includes a typical bait and switch: “if you want a God who is just and holy, then you must have this God, this God who condemns people to suffer the eternal torments of hell. You cannot have the God you want unless there is a hell.” The idea here is that a holy God must deal with sin (I agree) and that dealing with the sin of those who die as sinners requires some sort of doctrine called hell (I agree). The bait and switch, however, is that Challies takes a leap from the necessity of hell to his particular opinion of what hell is like (eternal conscious torment).

Next, the article attempts to defend this leap with a section titled “Scripture is clear about hell.”  But if you actually read the scriptural references contained therein, you won’t find a strong case for eternal conscious torment. For example, the very first reference given is Matthew 10:28, which reads, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” A destroyed soul/body doesn’t sound much like eternal conscious torment to me.

Since the references in that section obviously weren’t all that helpful for his argument, the article makes a mini-argument for each word of its doctrine:

Why ETERNAL? Well, because, of course, “When you sin against an infinite God… you accrue an infinite debt.” Not only is this a non-sequitur, but it also fails to recognize that extinction would be just as ‘eternal’ a consequence for sin as conscious torment.

 Why TORMENT, then? Umm… because “God’s holiness is unable to tolerate anything or anyone that is unholy; His holiness is like a gag reflex.”  OK? Are we to think of God as, somehow, out of control of His own emotions? And, again, why is torment a better ‘reflex’ than destruction?

Why CONCIOUSLY? The author says that because “those who have sinned consciously must also bear their punishment consciously.” This is some sort of ‘the punishment must fit the crime’ argument.  But clearly they didn’t sin consciously forever! So by the author’s own logic, his argument doesn’t make sense. Why not a doctrine of hell that allows for some conscious torment, but not eternal conscious torment? The author uses Jesus’ conscious torment on the cross as an example, but, obviously, his conscious torment wasn’t eternal (yet I’m sure the author would say it satisfied God’s holy demands!).

Frankly, the article simply doesn’t make the case it sets out to make. It’s flawed on various fronts. Perhaps most significantly, it comes from what I would consider a very flawed theology. The author states, “God’s goodness flows out of His holiness.” I would say the opposite. God’s holiness flows out of God’s goodness (God’s love). Love deals with sin, so there is such a thing as hell. But hell must be loving… or it cannot have been created by God.

Meanwhile, the author (I'll assume he's a Christian man with a transformed heart) admits that his “heart naturally cries out in rebellion against the thought” of his own doctrine, but apparently he is more eager to follow a particular interpretation of the Bible than a possible impression God has put on his heart. I would suggest that he not so quickly attribute his heart’s cry to worldliness and, instead, recognize it as identical to the kind of love that Jesus commands us to have for our enemies. The article asks, "What kind of God would condemn people to eternal torment?" My answer... not a God like Jesus.