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A friend sent me an email with this link and these comments:

http://www.kansascity.com/2013/09/19/4494140/ku-rebukes-journalism-professor.html#storylink=cpy

“While I agree that the statements made were offensive, I thought Ann Brill’s comment was a unique one. While the First Amendment allows anyone to express an opinion, Brill said, ‘that privilege is not absolute and must be balanced with the rights of others.’”

My reply:

I think its interesting too and I think I know what you mean. I don’t agree with Brill and I don’t think this is even a First Amendment issue. The comment about “civil discourse” is probably more to the point. Guth has the freedom to say whatever he wants, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t/can’t be fired for saying it. First Amendment just says we can’t/shouldn’t throw him in jail for saying it.

BTW: Guns don’t kill people; gun-control laws kill people.

The fog in the ear

The youth in our church like to play a game they call telephone. Everyone sits in a circle and one person starts with a phrase from a movie or TV show or song or even a verse from the Bible. They whisper it in the ear of the person next to them and that person—having heard it only one time—has to repeat it to the next person and so on until it goes all the way around the circle. The last person has to say out loud what they heard. Usually it sounds nothing like what the first person had whispered.

Communication is often like that. No matter how clear you try to be, sometimes people just don’t understand. They hear your words through a fog of preconceived notions and misinformation and prejudices.  Sometimes, the words one person says are completely different than what another person hears. For example, when I say I am a “cessationist,” some people don’t know what that word means. But, many who do tend to have preconceived notions and misinformation and prejudices about it.

God in a box?

A cessationist is someone who believes that people are no longer given the miraculous gifts of healing and tongues. What many people hear when the word “cessationist” enters their ears is, “God doesn’t do miracles anymore.” Or, “God is in a box and can’t do what He wants.” Nothing could be further from the truth! The question is not, “Does God still do miracles?” Of course He does—whenever and however He wants. We pray because we believe God can miraculously heal and provide and change hearts and open doors and change the course of history!

The point is not to say what God cannot do. The point is to examine the Biblical and historical evidence and ask, “What has God done?” In other words, what does the Bible teach and suggest about whether people are still given miraculous gifts. The question being addressed is, “Are miracle-workers present today?”

No one could ever put God in a box. I certainly don’t want to. Please don’t accuse me of wanting to do that. I don’t mind when people listen and disagree. But it grieves me when brothers and sisters in Christ don’t listen to each other, but jump straight to accusations and name-calling.

In fact, I wish God would give me the gift of tongues. I really wish God would give me the gift of healing.

If God gave me the gift of tongues, I’d travel as fast as I could and spend every dime I owned to get to the remote parts of the world that have never heard the gospel in their own language and I’d talk for a week or a month or a year about the good news of Christ with them. I’d go to hostile tribes who don’t understand any of the missionaries who’ve tried to reach them. I’d spend day and night in the great cities of the world where the nations gather and I’d prove to them that I represent the resurrected Christ by speaking to numerous people in numerous languages.

If God gave me the gift of healing, I wouldn’t hold “healing services” where eight or ten people were delivered from internal aches and pains or bad backs after I took up an enormous offering. I wouldn’t go on TV and tell people I’d send them healing oil or healing towels if they sent me $1,000 first. I’d heal people instantly and completely like Jesus did. I’d give sight to people born blind—like Jesus did. I’d make people who’ve never walked jump up and dance—like Jesus did. I’d raise dead people (stinking, dead corpses) come to life again—like Jesus did.

If God gave me the gift of healing, I’d go the hospital—I’d start in the children’s cancer ward—and I’d heal everyone I could get my hands on. I’d go right now to my mother-in-law and heal her of her cancer. I’d go to my friends’ grandson who was born with multiple birth defects and I’d raise him up on two strong legs so he could run and play for the first in his life! I’d drive all night to get to my sweet friends whose two daughters are deaf and I’d open their ears so they could throw away their cochlear implants and hear perfectly! I wouldn’t sleep! I’d heal anyone and everyone and would never take a dime of their money. I’d say, “In the name of Jesus, I freely and joyfully heal you for His glory, and that you might know that He loves you and wants you to be with Him forever in heaven.”

I wish that you all spoke in tongues

I believe with all my heart that God could give me these gifts this instant . . . if He wanted to. But, He doesn’t want to. Think about it: If God wanted every Christian to speak in tongues (languages), they wouldn’t have to be coached (as I and so many others have been)—it would just happen as it did to the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2:4 says, “The Spirit was giving them utterance.” It was instant and required no coaching or even a decision from the Apostles. They just did it. If God wanted all Christians to speak in tongues, the Spirit would give us utterance. He would simply make it happen.

I watched a sincere brother in Christ on YouTube. He teaches that God wants all Christians to speak in tongues. He quotes 1 Corinthians 14:5 as proof: “Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues…” But, he didn’t mention 1 Corinthians 12:30 when Paul wrote, “All do not speak with tongues, do they?” Read it in context. The expected answer and Paul’s point is no! All do not speak with tongues. It was obvious to the Corinthians that they didn’t. That YouTube brother’s reading of the great gifts passage in 1 Corinthians 12-14 is selective. It is eisegesis (reading into), not exegesis (reading out of). In other words, he—and many others—read into verses and passages what they want them to say, not what the writer was actually saying.

Did Paul wish that every Christian could speak in tongues? Yes, he did. Did Paul believe every Christian did and could and will speak in tongues? No, he did not. He didn’t even think it was important. In 1 Corinthians 14:19, he wrote, “I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.” Point? A whole lot of tongues-speaking is worth less than just a little bit of clear, teaching or preaching in a way that people can understand.

If God wanted every Christian to have the gift of healing, it would follow that He wanted everyone to be healed—which is what most who disagree with me teach. But Jesus had the gift of healing and he didn’t heal everyone. Mark 1:34, for example, tells us that Jesus “healed many who were ill”—not all. And while multitudes waited for Him to heal them the next morning, Jesus went off to pray by Himself. When His disciples came and found Him and tried to get Him to come back, He said, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” Jesus didn’t come to heal everyone. He came to bring a message of spiritual and ultimate healing. The relatively few healings He did served to confirm that the message He brought was true and could be believed.

Charis-mania makes me nervous?

If you take a good, careful look at what the Bible reveals, I’m convinced you will agree that God’s will no longer includes giving people gifts like tongues (languages) and healing. I can’t say I know all the reasons why, but I can say that the Old and New Testaments—especially the Book of Acts—as well as church history, my own personal experience and the experiences of many people I’ve spoken with back up this conclusion.

Is this simply my own personal preference because I’m a cynical person and all that crazy charis-maniac stuff makes me nervous? That’s what some people will believe, even if they could read my lips: No way!

My personal preference would be for every Christian to be able to speak in tongues (languages) and to be able to heal others. It would be awesome if missionaries could receive the Biblical gift of tongues (languages) and not have to go to language school. Imagine how many more missionaries could go out more quickly! Imagine how much money could be saved and devoted to more important things! But even those denominations and ministries that believe the gift of tongues is still being given today send their missionaries to language school.

It would be my personal preference for evangelists and missionaries to be able to walk up to people and heal them as they share the gospel with them. Wouldn’t a lot more believe? Wouldn’t it silence all critics of Christianity and the Bible and the Church? It would be my personal preference to have several with the gift of healing in my church so that any time my wife or children or close, personal friends got sick, a healing touch would be available within minutes.

But, the issue is not my personal preference or yours. The issue is God’s preference—God’s will. The issue is what God has revealed and what God has done. If God has not ceased to give miraculous gifts to people, then silly, party-pooping cessationists like me have gotten it all wrong and we’re missing out on some amazing experiences and more effective ministry. But, if God has ceased to give miraculous gifts to people (i.e., we’re right), then it is His will and it is the very best thing. Whatever God chooses for His children is always best. What we—His children—have to do is consider whether our beliefs are based on our own personal preferences or on God’s revelation, the Bible.

My invitation

My invitation to you is to consider the evidence I’ll be presenting in this series of posts—does it support the idea that God has ceased to give miraculous gifts to people? If so, I also invite you to consider why He would do such a thing. Then, consider how this affects what we as His church should say and do.

This is a family discussion. I don’t question your salvation or your motives or your intelligence if you disagree with me. But God-lovers must be truth-lovers. If what I write is not true, then may it be miraculously stricken from the internet. But, if what I write is true, may it edify and encourage God’s people and bear much fruit for the glory of God.

To be continued…

Abound in Grace

Christian:

  • You have received grace (John 1:16), you are saved through grace (Acts 15:11), you are justified by grace (Romans 3:24), you stand in grace (Romans 5:2), you are under grace (Romans 6:14), you are called by grace (Galatians 1:16), you are forgiven by grace (Ephesians 1:7), you have eternal comfort and good hope by grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16), and you are a steward of grace (1 Peter 4:10)!
  • Remember that God is able to build you up in grace (Acts 20:32), God is able to give you grace in abundance (2 Corinthians 9:8), and God’s grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9)!
  • So don’t abuse grace (Jude 4), nullify grace (Galatians 2:21), come short of grace (Hebrews 12:15), or fall from grace (Galatians 5:4)!
  • Instead continue in grace (Acts 13:43), abound in grace (2 Corinthians 9:8), speak with grace (Ephesians 4:29), be strong in grace (2 Timothy 2:1), and grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18)!

Pre/Non/Uncertain/Anti-Christian: Be saved right now by grace through faith in Jesus Christ—it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Cost of Discernment

[Wanted to share this excellent quote from an interview with Dr. Robert A. Morey]

QUESTION:

Dr. Morey, what advice do you have to give to those of us who believe in asking questions; to those of us who believe that the life of the mind is important, who believe that we must defend the faith and witness for Christ at all costs. What can you share with future generations of the Church? How can we fight for truths survival?

DR. MOREY:

After Walter Martin died, I was asked to speak in his place at a major apologetic conference in Rockford, IL. The title of my lecture was, “The Cost of Discernment.”  It has proven to be very popular for those who have been attacked for asking questions and defending the Faith.

1. There is a personal cost. Truth becomes all consuming, and the most important thing in your life. You cannot simply accept what people say without checking it out.

2. There is a family cost. Your wife, husband, parents or children will attack you. They will tell you that you need to be more “positive” and “accepting.”

3. There is a financial cost. You will spend countless thousands of dollars on books, references works, DVDs, CDs, etc. in your pursuit of the truth.

4. There is a friendship cost. Friends will desert you because you are too “negative.”

5. There is a church cost. You will find it hard if not impossible to find a church that shares your love of apologetics. Many pastors will not like you and may view you as a troublemaker. They will pray and hope that you will move on to another church. They value money, buildings, and numbers while you value truth, justice, and righteousness.

6. There is a reputation cost. You will be maligned, slandered, and put down as mean, nasty, unloving, unkind, etc. You get tired of fighting the good fight.

7. There is a professional cost. Since you will not compromise; call good evil and evil good; are bold to condemn heresy; name names; and warn people against false popular false teachers, you will not be hired at most seminaries or called to pastor big churches.

8. There is a spiritual cost. Your spirit will be grieved over all the heresy being taught today. You are tempted to become depressed and discouraged. You live in an age where truth is not valued. No one seems to understand why you care about truth and holiness. Thankfully, the godly have always faced this same situation: We are,

“Afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

We must keep in mind 1 Cor. 15:58,

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

The smile of God is all you need to endure the frown of man.

Q: What is the torture we receive, according to Matthew 18:34-35, for unforgiveness?

A: This torture is discipline. These passages are not talking about justification or we must conclude that justification requires our work of forgiveness. I like how Dr. Thomas Constable handled Matthew 18:34-35. He tersely listed all the various interpretations:

The idea of God delivering His servants, the disciples, over to endless torment has disturbed many readers of this parable. Some have concluded that Jesus meant a disciple can lose his salvation “if” he “does not forgive.” This makes salvation dependent on good works rather than belief in Jesus. Another possibility is that Jesus was using an impossible situation, endless torment, to warn His disciples. If the disciples knew it was an impossible situation, the warning would lose much of its force. Perhaps He meant that a disciple who does not genuinely forgive gives evidence that he or she has never really received God’s forgiveness.[904] That person may be a disciple, but he or she is not a believer (cf. Judas Iscariot). However, many genuine believers do not forgive their brethren as they should. Perhaps the punishment takes place in this life, not after death, and amounts to divine discipline (v. 14).[905] Another possibility is that Jesus had in mind a loss of eternal reward. Or perhaps this is simply another case of hyperbole to drive home a point. (http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/htm/NT/Matthew/Matthew.htm)

It’s so important to see this parable in its context. The context is addressing humility and forgiveness among brothers (See Dr. Constable’s notes on this entire chapter for more on this). It’s not a salvation passage. So, I agree that the “torture” is either divine discipline—punishment in this life—or loss of reward in the next life. Probably the former. Dr. Homer Kent of Grace Theological Seminary agrees:

Delivered him to the tormentors. Herein is the crux of the interpretation. It cannot refer to the eternal ruin of one truly saved, for that would conflict with the clearest teaching elsewhere. Neither can it refer to some nonscriptural purgatory. Yet the fact that the servant had been forgiven the debt makes it unlikely that he was a mere professed believer. However, if we view the torments as temporal evils visited upon unforgiving believers by their heavenly Father, the previous difficulties are avoided. Tormentors (basanistai) is derived from the verb basanizo, which is used to describe sickness (Mt 4:24; 8:6), and adverse circumstances (Mt 14:24). Lot “tormented his soul” by contact with evil men (II Pet 2:8). Such torments God may use to chasten and produce a proper spirit among his children (I Cor 11:30-32). Thus the divine forgiveness here is that which we must experience daily in order to enjoy perfect fellowship with our heavenly Father, and it fits well this context in which relations among believers are discussed (vv. 15-20). (Pfeiffer, C. F., & Harrison, E. F. (Eds.). (1962). The Wycliffe Bible Commentary: New Testament (Mt 18:28). Chicago: Moody Press.)

Even John MacArthur—who, as a Lordship guy, tends to assume all punishment is hell—got this right and agrees:

18:34 his lord, moved with anger. Because He is holy and just, God is always angry at sin, including the sins of His children (cf. Heb 12:5–11). torturers. Not executioners. This pictures severe discipline, not final condemnation. all that was owed him. The original debt was unpayable and the man was still without resources. So it seems unlikely that the slave was saddled once again with the same debt he had already been forgiven. Rather, what he now owed his master would be exacted in chastening by his master until he was willing to forgive others. (MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 18:34). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

Hope this helps. Now, get out there and forgive!

Grace and Peace

Every letter of the Apostle Paul includes the greeting “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Makes it seem pretty important, huh?!

See 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2 (adds mercy); 2 Timothy 1:2 (adds mercy); Titus 1:4 and Philemon 1:3.

 

I like this explanation from MacDonald and Farstad:

“Paul’s characteristic greeting combines grace and peace. Grace (charis) is a Greek emphasis, and peace (shalom) is the traditional Jewish greeting. The combination is especially appropriate because Paul’s message  (in Romans) tells how believing Jews and Gentiles are now one new man in Christ. The grace mentioned here is not the grace that saves (Paul’s readers were already saved) but the grace that equips and empowers for Christian life and service. Peace is not so much peace with God (the saints already had that because they were justified by faith) but rather the peace of God reigning in their hearts while they were in the midst of a turbulent society.” (William MacDonald and Arthur Farstad, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments).

I include it on all my emails as a prayer…

Father, I pray that You would shower us with Your grace and peace. We thank You for Your saving grace—that through Christ You have blessed us with forgiveness of our sin and eternal life even though we deserve nothing from You. But we also ask for the grace we need to be equipped and empowered for Christ-like living and service. We cannot live the life You’ve called us to apart from Your grace. We thank You for the peace we have with You. Though we were once Your enemies, separated from You and dead in our sins, because of Your mercy You have reconciled us to Yourself through the sacrifice of Jesus and given us peace. But we also pray for the peace we need in such an unpeaceful world. All around us there is war, hatred, violence, anger, bitterness, turbulence, unrest, uncertainty—without the blessing of Your peace reigning in our hearts, we will surely be pulled into this storm. Please give us the peace that defies comprehension that we may please You and display the reality of Your presence in our lives to the peace-less individuals all around us—peace that can only come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I ask for Your grace and peace in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Jones’ commentary on Romans 6:1:

“…If it is true that where sin abounded grace has much more abounded, well then, ‘shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound yet further?’

First of all, let me make a comment, to me a very important and vital comment. The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel. Let me show you what I mean.

If a man preaches justification by works, no one would ever raise this question. If a man’s preaching is, ‘If you want to be Christians, and if you want to go to heaven, you must stop committing sins, you must take up good works, and if you do so regularly and constantly, and do not fail to keep on at it, you will make yourselves Christians, you will reconcile yourselves to God and you will go to heaven’. Obviously a man who preaches in that strain would never be liable to this misunderstanding. Nobody would say to such a man, ‘Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?’, because the man’s whole emphasis is just this, that if you go on sinning you are certain to be damned, and only if you stop sinning can you save yourselves. So that misunderstanding could never arise…

…Nobody has ever brought this charge against the Church of Rome, but it was brought frequently against Martin Luther; indeed that was precisely what the Church of Rome said about the preaching of Martin Luther. They said, ‘This man who was a priest has changed the doctrine in order to justify his own marriage and his own lust’, and so on. ‘This man’, they said, ‘is an antinomian; and that is heresy.’ That is the very charge they brought against him. It was also brought George Whitfield two hundred years ago. It is the charge that formal dead Christianity—if there is such a thing—has always brought against this startling, staggering message, that God ‘justifies the ungodly’…

That is my comment and it is a very important comment for preachers. I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you are really preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.”

Lloyd-Jones commentary on Romans 6, pp 8-9, quoted in The Grace Awakening, by Chuck Swindoll, pp. 39-40.