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Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Life and Gospel go Together

Gospel and Life go Together
The church can go astray in many different ways - Satan will make sure of that. One of the most subtle ways is a growing disconnect between what we believe (our doctrine) and how we live.

What do I mean?

It is possible to be doctrinally correct and pure and yet for our lives not to line up with the Gospel. I am not thinking here about sinful behaviour, speech or even thought. I am referring to a reluctance to gladly endure suffering for the sake of the Gospel.

Jesus and his Message
Jesus insists that everyone who follows him must deny themselves and take up their cross (Luke 9:23). This means a life of humble self-denial and cross-bearing. If we want to know exactly what this looks like we are to consider the life of Jesus himself, who was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows acquainted with grief.

There must be something "cross-shaped" about the life of every genuine follower of Jesus Christ.

In our comfortable Western Culture where we are rarely persecuted this cross-bearing must take a deliberate form:
  • we might give sacrificially of our time to serve others
  • we may give sacrificially of our money to help build the kingdom
  • we may be prepared to speak out on issues that are unPC and suffer the consequences for it
Paul and his Gospel
When Paul defends his Gospel he often defends his own life-expression of it. This is most noticeable to the church at Corinth where false teachers and super-apostles were threatening the church. Paul does not merely defend the Gospel, he defends his lifestyle which flows out of the Gospel. The two are connected. He explains how much suffering he has passed through. While the super-pastors of his day boasted about numbers and miracles and power he boasted about the sheer amount of sufferings he had endured:
  • worked hard
  • been in prison
  • exposed to death
  • on five occasions received the notorious 39 lashes
  • on three occasions beaten with rods
  • three times shipwrecked
  • plus, plus, plus (2 Corinthians 11)
His reason for such "boasting" was that Gospel and life go together: the life you lead reveals the Gospel you preach. A true Gospel is revealed by a sacrificial life, a false Gospel by an easy-going life.

How to spot false Christianity and false teachers
It is possible to be 100% doctrinally correct and yet in fact to hold to a false Gospel. If our lives do not reveal the cross-bearing that is the external mark of all true Christianity, then our intellectual attachment to the Gospel cannot be authentic.

This is perhaps the greatest temptation of western evangelical Christians living in an age of ease. It is possible to believe all the right things but to live a life of ease which in point of  fact denies the truth of a crucified saviour.

A sobering self-examination
What kind of Gospel do I really believe? If I examine my life - and most esepcially the cross-bearing, sacrifical aspects of it - how much of the Gospel do I really believe?

Friday, 23 March 2018

Community Church Warndon - Good News

Good News!
It is good news when young and small churches get mentioned in the Christian press. So often the only ones we hear about are those which are judged "important" by the standards of the world. The biblical analysis is this: there is not a single encouragement in the NT to a church because it was large and not one discouragement to a church because it was small.

What matters are things like love, faith and fidelity to the Gospel. And by those standards, CCW are way up there!

Read all about them here: An Adventure of Faith

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Jordan Peterson - Five Reasons to Listen

Jordan Peterson?
Not heard of Jordan Peterson? What planet do you live on!?

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian Professor who has gained remarkable global attention in the last year or so. And for very good reasons. He represents the silent majority of Western Culture - voices that are fearful of speaking out because of political correctness. As far as I am aware he is not a Christian believer, but he is respectful of Christians and in the main his views seem to be shaped by the Judaeo-Christian consensus.

Start with that Cathy Newman interview:
Peterson interviewed by Cathy Newman (1-0)

Next watch the opposition he is receiving today:
Queen's University

Here are five good reasons for listening to this man:

(1) He could be a modern day Cyrus?
God is able to raise up unbelievers to do his will. King Cyrus, a pagan king, allowed the people of God to return to their promised land (see for example Isaiah 45). Could not Peterson be one of God's modern Cyrus's bringing certain truths into the public sphere and exposing lies?

(2) He is exposing the pathetic thinking - and plain lies  - behind PC
In talk after talk Peterson exposes the lies behind PC head quotes. The myth that there is a"Gender Pay Gap" for example (that Gender alone is responsible for pay differentials) is exploded in the Cathy Newman interview - Gender turns out to be just one of many factors why men and women are paid differently.

The way in which Peterson destroys these myths reveals how pathetic all man-made lies really are. It does not take much to unmask them. Lies are light, truth us heavy.

(3) He is remarkably calm in debate
Peterson deals with opponents in a remarkably calm way. He does not get ruffled, he does not get cross. There is much to learn here!

(4) His push for freedom of speech could aid the cause of the Gospel
If Western culture continues to move in its present direction, it won't be long before the Gospel is banned. Peterson argues hard for the freedom for folk to say what they want rather than be compelled by the law to say things.

(5) He needs the Gospel
Peterson's message is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ - and so when you listen to him, pray for him too, that he might come to know not merely the cultural inheritance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ himself.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Apostles Today?

A Growing Issue
Two events recently took me back to the Bible's teaching about Apostles. First, this fine book about a new movement (fad?) passing through some of the more charismatic churches.

Second, a retired pastor shared his concern that someone in his home church was trying to connect the church up with some bigshot preacher in a nearby city - in some kind of apostolic "oversight" arrangement.

Fortunately the church was having none of it. The bigshot preacher says on his website that he has "a growing apostolic ministry amongst a number of churches that look to him as a wise father or master builder."

So what's going on?
Well, historically, the church has always believed that the gift of Apostle, capital A has gone. It was given at the founding of the church for the founding of the church but since the foundational documents of the church are all completed (i.e. the New Testament) these capital A Apostles are no longer necessary.

No-one,  by the way, has a problem with small a apostles. The Greek word apostle simply means sent one. All sorts of Christians can be regarded as sent ones, from missionaries to church planters.

No, we're thinking here of capital A Apostles - like Peter, John, James and Paul.

Some charismatics are saying that capital A Apostles are still around and that in neglecting this gift the church will fail to accomplish her calling to reach the world. They teach that every local church should voluntarily put themselves under one of these so-called apostles.

What wrong with modern-day Apostles?
In a word, they are deceivers and impostors. An impostor is someone who says he is something that he is not, a deceiver is someone who pretends to be someone he is not. Modern day Apostles are both impostors and deceivers, and here is why.

Jesus left foundations to thirteen Apostles
Jesus wrote no books but left thirteen men to the task of establishing the church for all time. Eleven of these were the men who followed Jesus around during his earthly ministry and were witnesses of his resurrection. One (Matthias) was appointed to take the place of Judas - and he too had to be a witness of Jesus' earthly ministry and resurrection (Acts 1). The thirteenth apostle was the apostle Paul who felt keenly being an "outsider" to the Twelve by calling himself "one abnormally born" (1 Cor 15:8). Paul's unusual calling pointed to his unique status as apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13, Galatians 2:8).

All Apostles had to bear at three demanding qualifications
Every capital A apostle had to prove the following qualities:

(i) seen Jesus in person - the risen Christ (see 1 Cor 9:1)
(ii) performed remarkable miracles (2 Cor 12:12)
(iii) were able to point to significant fruit from their ministries (1 Cor 9:1)

All the 27 books of the New Testament were written by Apostles or close associates of Apostles (Luke an associate of Paul, Mark, an associate of Peter). In other words, Apostles wrote Scripture. Of course they did! When they wrote under the guidance of the Spirit, Jesus spoke! Therefore, if there are Apostles today it must follow that their writings are on a par with the writings of the New Testament.

Let us suppose that a modern day "Apostle" says he has seen Christ (number (i)) and let us even say that he says he can point to significant fruit (number (iii)). Although we might investigate both claims and find them wanting, what about the second requirement?

When Paul touched handkerchiefs they could be sent away to heal people (Acts 19) and when Peter's shadow fell on people it healed them (Acts 5). All the miracles of the Apostles were spectacular. They didn't heal headaches and backaches, the blind saw, the lame leaped, the dead were raised.

This second requirement alone rules out every single modern "Apostle." If miracles of the nature of the original Apostles were being performed anywhere in the world today the Internet would be alive with the news and every news outlet in the world would follow that Apostle everywhere he went and record the wonders of his miraculous powers. We would have non-stop TV channels dedicated to him and teams of independent doctors confirming every case.

Where - we challenge - is any man anywhere in the world performing Jesus-an- his-Apostle kinds of miracles? Nowhere is the answer. Why? Because there are no Apostles in the world anymore, they all died out in the first century.

A Growing Menace
Tragically the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is growing. And it is our duty to warn Christians to avoid anyone who calls himself an apostle of the New Testament variety. We have absolutely no need of Apostles today. What we need is to return to the Gospel of the true Apostles and preach it in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Have nothing to do with such deceivers and impostors!