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It is easy for believers to lose sight of how privileged we are to participate in the New Covenant. Giants of the faith such as Abraham, Moses, and David only looked forward to the spiritual blessings that every single Christian receives. For this reason, the New Covenant is fundamentally better than the Old Covenant.

The clearest section of scripture that describes this superiority is 2 Corinthians 3. There Paul lists nine ways the New Covenant is superior to the Old:   Continue Reading…

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The claim is heard often these days. It usually goes something like this: “How could you cessationists believe that the miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased? You must not believe in the Holy Spirit.”

I have encountered this accusation many times from misled continuationists. It is as grievous as it is ill-informed. The implication is that charismatic views of the apostolic-age miraculous gifts are all there are to the Holy Spirit. If you reject those, then you must not believe in him. But this is a severely anemic understanding of the true Holy Spirit.

Even worse, it is an accusation of heresy. Charismatics and continuationists who make this claim are, in effect, accusing cessationists of affirming a heretical view of God. The biblical God is Trinitarian. That is, he is triune: God is one in essence and yet three distinct Persons (Father, Son, Spirit). To conclude that one disbelieves in the Spirit, therefore, is to accuse of believing in dinitarianism; that God is di-une: one God, two Persons. It is similar to the old error of socianism. But this is a view of God which differs greatly from than that of Scripture. Therefore, the dinitarian comment could not be more serious.

Traditionally and historically, however, cessationists believe in the triune God. They hold that there is one living and true God (Deut. 6:4, Isa. 45:5-7, 1 Cor. 8:4), an infinite, all knowing Spirit (John 4:24), perfect in all His attributes, one in essence, eternally existing in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)—each equally deserving worship and obedience.

So, if cessationists reject a charismatic pneumatology, is there anything remaining to believe about the Holy Spirit? If so, what do they believe about him? Far from being dinitarians who do not believe in the Spirit, here are 20 things cessationists affirm:

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It is said that there are creatures in the depths of the oceans that remain undiscovered to this day. Astronomers keep finding new stars and new planets each and every year that, for millennia, have been seen only by God.  Every undiscovered animal, plant, and planet brings glory to God by the mere fact that He sees them, and He gets glory from their beauty even if He is the only one who knows that they exist.

In much the same way, despite the fact that there is much to be discouraged about when we look around at the situation in churches today, I do believe that there is, also, much to be encouraged about. I believe that God has men whom He has specifically placed around the world that bring Him glory every single Sunday, and no one other than their congregations know anything about them.

Last week I went on vacation with my family. And since we were on vacation on a Sunday, I looked for a church for us to attend. It wasn’t the easiest choice to make as zero churches came up on the TMS and 9 Marks church finder websites, but eventually, I settled on a church based on a Google search. We showed up right as it was starting. The first song began. As I walked into the room, there were about 40-50 people present. My expectations were not very high based on previous vacation experiments we had tried.

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great expectationsCharles Dickens’ classic novel, Great Expectations, chronicles a tale of a young, poor boy, named Pip. The little guy is an apprentice blacksmith and has no hope of ever being rich on his own merit. He is fascinated by the genteel society and opulence of the upper crust. His fantasy is to one day be a gentleman himself. Then one fine day he is visited by an attorney who informs him that he has come into some serendipitous fortune of property and unimagined wealth.

Pip’s dream of being a gentleman is suddenly within reach. But he soon discovers that his great expectations of fitting into the haut monde of 19th century London will require more than just the position his money affords him.

His practice belies his origins. So, with the help of a friend, he is discipled in the arcane ways of etiquette and sophistication. He painstakingly observes and mimics the nuances of the behavior, fashion, and mannerisms of those he now considers his peers. He masters the accentuation of their speech and employs skilled tailors to create fashionable clothing that completes the metamorphosis from urchin to elite.

In the same way any of us may be suddenly declared holy and righteous by God in our position, but our speech, conduct, and attitudes will undergo incremental improvement before our practice matches our position. We call that metamorphosis sanctification.

Last week we saw the Apostle Peter laying a foundation of hope, building his argument on… four foundation stones of salvation.

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After a brief hiatus (things can get crazy around here during Shepherds’ Conference time!), we’re back to our study of dealing with in in the church from 2 Corinthians 2:5–11. Once again, I encourage you to read the other posts in the series if you haven’t already, as we’ve examined the first four stages of faithful, successful church discipline. First, there is the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary; second, there’s the corporate discipline itself; third, there is genuine repentance from the sinning party; and fourth, there is comforting forgiveness granted to the repentant brother or sister.

Restoration

That brings us to the fifth and final stage of dealing with sin in the church that Paul outlines for us in this passage. And that is: the loving reaffirmation of a repentant, forgiven sinner. We see that clearly as we look again at verses 6 through 8: “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.”

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Last week I reviewed The Kingdom of Speech, by Tom Wolfe. Wolfe is not religious (the New York Times calls him an atheist, for whatever that’s worth), but he delivers a stunning critique of modern evolutionary theory as being entirely devoid of substantial evidence.

Which in turn reminded me of David Berlinski’s book The Devils Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions. Berlinski, despite himself being an atheist, cannot tolerate the intellectual arrogance demonstrated by today’s atheistic evolutionists. While I don’t want to review the whole book, I will pass on its main point: a scientific theory should only claim what it can prove. The problem with evolution is that it claims to explain everything, while it actually is able to prove nothing.   Continue Reading…

Author. 1825. Public Domain

Author. 1825. Public Domain

Rod Dreher’s book The Benedict Option has gained a foothold in the minds of many. David Brooks from the NYTimes calls The Benedict Option “the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade.” What makes The Benedict Option‘s influence striking is that it made such a big splash before the book was even released.

For many, however, the Benedict Option (BenOpt) is an unknown entity or fuzzy concept. In light of these factors, I will explain what the BenOpt is and will try to explain why the BenOpt has gained so much attention over the past few weeks.  Continue Reading…

Over the years I’ve seen that one of the most powerful moments in a new believer’s life is the realization that there is such a thing as a false convert. The sudden realization that salvation is not dependent on a prayer, a baptism or family history propels true believers to a whole other dimension in their walk with Christ. They begin to examine themselves properly (2 Cor 13:5), they become more evangelistic, they care more about theology and they appreciate being at church so much more. Understanding the fact that false converts are a reality is so important for those who call themselves Christians.

dying plantAs we saw last week, there are few things more disappointing than when someone from our church walks away from the Lord. Especially when you’ve spent countless hours not only teaching and discipling that person, but you have shared a myriad of hours of ministry with him.

Maybe at some point in the grieving process, you will wonder why you weren’t able to tell that he was a false convert. Maybe you question your ability to discern over the fact that you were unable to tell, and you are beating yourself over the head.

Philip was one of the first deacons in the Church. He was selected by the disciples to be one of the seven to serve the tables in Acts 6:1-6, and he went on to becomes an incredible evangelist soon after that. In fact, when Stephen was martyred, Philip was the one who was sent to Samaria and Judea in order to spread the Gospel past the confines of Jerusalem. And we see that the Lord used him greatly. But, what we also see is the first false convert. Simon, the magician, was a man whom the people practically worshiped. He was able to do incredible tricks that caused the people to say to themselves, “This man has what is called the Great Power of God.”  When Philip showed up, the Bible tells us that 1) he believed, 2) he was baptized, and 3) he continued on with Philip. As soon as Peter and John showed up, though, we realize that Simon was a false convert and we are left wondering how did Philip miss it? Perhaps Philip was left wondering how he missed it as well.

Of course, no amount of time spent discipling people is wasted time, but there is a sense in which we want to use our time wisely and be able to water where the grass is green, rather than spend our time watering dead grass. Is there a way to tell? Is there a way to be able to recognize the sheep from among the goats in this life? Well, Simon had four red flags that Luke points out in the short story of Acts 8:9-24 which we can apply to all false converts. These don’t encompass all the red flags, but they are a helpful start. So, here are four characteristics of a false convert.

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One disturbing memory of my early childhood involved a TV show I saw when I was six years old. My parents were away for the weekend, and had left me with my grandmother. She plopped me in front of the hit TV series, The A-Team. Little did she know that it was the night Murdock would be shot.

I had learned to know and love BA, Hannibal, Face, and of course Murdock. What my parents liked about the show was that while many bullets flew around in each episode, no one ever got shot.

Until that fateful night.

In the melee of some fisticuffs with random bad guys, one of them pulled out a gun and shot Murdock in the stomach. I was horrified. My grandmother tried to explain to me that he wasn’t really hurt, that it was part of the story. She first tried the tactic of convincing me it was not real blood. But it looked real to me, and Murdock seemed to think it was real. His teammates looked concerned too. He appeared to be seriously hurt.

Then she changed tactics. The comfort she then proffered was that the writers of the show knew all along that he was going to get shot, and they knew how they are going to save him. I just had to give it time and I’d see the pre-written plot unfold and work out for the good of Murdock and the A-Team in the end.Hannibal-Smith

Sure enough Murdock lived to see another season of the A-Team. I learned to take comfort in the truth that as long as the writers knew what was going to happen, they were in control, and all would work out in the end. Or as Hannibal would quip with smug satisfaction: “I love it when a plan comes together!”

That is the same tactic the Apostle Peter employs when comforting Christians of the dispersion, whose homes had been raided by Nero’s gestapo. Perhaps they had lost jobs, or even loved ones to martyrdom. His purpose was to encourage them so that they would stand firm in their faith. So, Peter lays a foundation of hope because this is the best antidote for suffering.

Over the next three Mondays we shall see four foundation stones, or building blocks, of salvation…

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The Kingdom of Speech, by Tom Wolfe, is a fun tour of the folly of evolution. While Wolf himself is an atheist, he is a vocal critic of the atheistic materialism that grips the Western world. He traces much of this materialistic swagger to the arrogance of modern evolutionary science, which he critiques in The Kingdom of Speech.

The problem with evolution, Wolfe notes, is that it overplays its hand. It tries to be too much. It tries to explain everything, and in so doing it ends up explaining nothing. Wolfe writes, “Darwin had fallen into the trap of cosmogonism, the compulsion to find the ever-elusive Theory of Everything, an idea or narrative that reveals everything in the world to be part of a single and suddenly clear pattern.”

Because no evidence for such a theory exists, evolutionists grasp at straws for the faintest semblance of corroborative affirmation, as seen by Darwin often employing his dog as a stand-in for actual research (as in, “If my dog were left on an island…” or “even my dog has figured out how to…”). All of evolutionary theory is ripe for the mocking, and Wolfe is up to the task.

There are five standard tests for a scientific hypothesis, and evolution can hardly meet the easiest (observation) much less any of the others, such as recording or replicating. Despite this, evolutionary theory bred Nazism, and soon led to something Wolfe calls “worse than the great wars: the total eclipse of all values.”   Continue Reading…