Last week I was doing a Q/A session with AWANA students, and one of them asked this question:

In light of the shooting in Oregon, where the gunman asked students if they were Christian, and if they said ‘yes’ the gunman shot the student in the head, what would happen if a Christian lied? What if it would have been me, and I would have said ‘no’? Would I still go to heaven when I die?

This question is of particular importance because Christianity contains no exception to prohibitions against lying. Islam, for example, has a doctrine called Taqiyya, which allows a Muslim to temporarily deny his faith if his life is in danger—so long as it is not a “heartfelt” objection. Continue Reading…

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I recently took our adult Sunday School classes through a short series on rethinking biblical application in relation to expository listening. From that study, I was reminded that biblical change is a synergistic work of grace which often involves the preacher (2 Tim. 4:1-2), the expository listener, and the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:12-13).

In earlier articles I addressed the biblical expectations of the preacher (Ezra 7:10, James 3) and the listener (James 1:21-27; Luke 12:48). I also included some helpful thoughts by Pastor John MacArthur with regards to the role of application in expository preaching.   In today’s article, I will identify some practical principles that will hopefully instruct Christian listeners and expository preachers alike in order that both might better profit from the preaching of the Word. Continue Reading…

Today’s post is intended to answer an important question from a historical standpoint. However, it ought to be stated at the outset that Scripture must be our final authority in the determination of sound doctrine and right practice.last_supper

The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving” and was an early Christian way of referring to the celebration of the Lord’s Table. Believers in the early centuries of church history regularly celebrated the Lord’s Table as a way to commemorate the death of Christ. The Lord Himself commanded this observance on the night before His death. As the apostle Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

In discussing the Lord’s Table from the perspective of church history, at least two important questions arise. First, did the early church believe that the elements (the bread and the cup) were actually and literally transformed into the physical body and blood of Christ? In other words, did they articulate the doctrine of transubstantiation as modern Roman Catholics do? Second, did early Christians view the eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice? Or put another way, did they view it in the terms articulated by the sixteenth-century Council of Trent?

In today’s post, we will address the first of those two questions. Continue Reading…

legal alien greencard“I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in New York.” That oddball 80’s hit single by Sting could have been the soundtrack to my experience as I arrived at JFK airport in 2000. Coming to America as a South African on a student visa, I was greeted at passport control by a sign indicating the narrow way—US Citizens Only—and the broad way, marked unblushingly, “Aliens.” Yes, the US customs considered me a foreign invader of sorts. But at least I was legal.

To obtain the coveted status of legal alien to the promised land of the free and home of the brave, I had to jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops of fire designed to intimidate anyone not dead set on obeying American law.

The process included comprehensive background checks, police clearance certificates, fingerprinting, interviews, proof of insurance, surety of a $17,000 deposit, and a hefty admin fee charged in USD but paid in my country’s languishing currency. I was eventually awarded a three year “F-1” study permit. I was permitted to work on campus, 20 hours per week. I legally and painstakingly obtained a social security card, bank account, and driver’s license. I never once availed myself of the welfare food stamps I was entitled to (since I was living below the poverty line) because I didn’t want a government hand-out I hadn’t earned.

When I wanted to remain in the country for another three years to complete a second degree, I had to go to the consulate in Canada and re-apply from scratch (and again pay the then heftier fee), despite by then being married to a US citizen.

All that to say I find it difficult to sympathize with people who enter any country illegally.

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Problem of EvilSeveral weeks ago, I began a series of posts by outlining some foundational biblical teaching about God’s decree. We examined numerous passages of Scripture that speak of God’s decree as eternal, unconditional, unchangeable, and exhaustive. As a result, we concluded that God is properly said to be the ultimate cause of all things. As the Westminster Confession states, “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (WCF, 3.1).

Whenever you say something like that in a theological discussion, immediately the question is raised: How can God be the ultimate cause of whatsoever comes to pass—even actions and events that are evil and sinful, things which God Himself prescribes against—and yet not be rightly charged with unrighteousness. Perhaps the most common answer to that question is an appeal to the notion of divine “permission.” In other words, though God is ultimately in control, He doesn’t ordain evil; He merely allows it. In a second post, I demonstrated why such a solution is unsatisfactory, both theologically and biblically. After considering a number of passages that don’t shy away from attributing to God a very active role in the bringing about of evil events, we concluded with John Frame: “God does bring about sinful human actions. To deny this, or to charge God with wickedness on account of it, is not open to a Bible-believing Christian. Somehow, we must confess both that God has a role in bringing evil about, and that in doing so he is holy and blameless” (Doctrine of God). That post demonstrated that Scripture plainly teaches both (a) that God is unquestionably righteous and (b) that He indeed ordains sinful events and actions. And if that’s what Scripture teaches (and it is), it is not our place to sit in judgment upon and question the consistency of those declarations. That only breeds the worst of biblical and theological mischief. To argue that God is unrighteous for ordaining evil is to sit in judgment upon both the Word of God and the Judge of all the world. Instead, it falls to us to receive both propositions as true on the authority of God’s infallible and inerrant Word.

But is there any way to understand how it can be that God is not the chargeable cause of sin, even though He ordains that it be? There is a way for the worshiper of God to ask that question submissively, not because we demand that God give an account of His understanding of justice that satisfies our sensibilities, but simply because we desire to know Him and worship Him for what He has revealed of Himself. And there is a way to answer that question that remains faithful to sound biblical interpretation and theological reflection.

The answer that Scripture seems to give can be boiled down to two propositions. First, though God is the ultimate cause of all things—even evil—He is never the proximate, or efficient, cause of evil. Second, Scripture regards only the efficient cause of evil as the chargeable or blameworthy party. Let’s look to a sample of texts that bears this out.

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I love evangelism. It’s constantly on my mind. It is impossible to see a human and not think about where they will spend eternity. It brings joy to my heart when people tell me about their gospel conversations. I love watching evangelistic encounters on YouTube and seeing the way that others do evangelism. It is because of all these things that when I see someone misrepresent Christ that my heart is troubled. The Gospel message is already Angry Preacheroffensive enough.

And because of all these reasons I haven’t been this disgusted by something I’ve seen done by “street preachers” since I got to see Westboro Baptist face to face. In a video entitled “Street Preacher Invades Starbucks” (I don’t recommend watching it since it is filled with profanity) a group of men “invade” a Starbucks and then start following and screaming “repent” to a few pedestrians. As the scene got more intense, a lady said some words that should have stopped them in their tracks.

I would rather go to hell than be with you!

Instead of being proud of this encounter, to the point of posting it as an example of proper evangelism on YouTube, they should have been ashamed.

“I would rather go to Hell than be with you”, are not some words that I ever want someone to say to me. And although Westboro and heretical “street preachers” are extreme examples, I think we are all tempted to sin during evangelistic encounters.  So here are some marks of an evangelist who seeks to represent his Savior in a way that would please Him.

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It’s easy to be drained of joy these days. All you have to do is exist.

But for God’s people, there is joy that is to be regularly had. One of the preeminent places for that is in a biblical local church. None of us would dare say that any local church is thoroughly utopian. Even so, it is a place where joys are to be uniquely experienced.

Here are a few joys we get to experience by immersing ourselves in God’s kind of a local church:

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October 6, 2015

The Simplified Guide

by Jesse Johnson

I recently came across two principles that, when put together, show the spiritual difficulty that we often have in dealing with Christian gray areas. Before I share the principles, let me tell you about where I read them:

David Hazelton is a well-regarded attorney in the DC area. He wrote a book, The Simplified Guide to Paul’s Letters to the Churches, that systematizes all of Paul’s instructions to local churches in his Epistles. What makes this book so fascinating to me is that it reads almost like a legal brief—and I mean that as a compliment. Over the past few years I’ve developed a hobby of reading briefs filed with the US Supreme Court. A good brief asks the right questions, then answers the questions by assimilating the conclusions from many different cases, and then presents the desired conclusion in light of all of the evidence.   Continue Reading…

cold feetLarry King is getting cold feet about dying. The iconic interviewer has a reputation that is larger than life, but is fixated on his own death.

In the New York Times article titled, “Larry King prepares for final cancellation,” Mark Liebovich reported that King told the journalist he was avoiding death by taking four human growth hormone pills every day, but that in case of death, has arranged to have his whole body put on ice pending the discovery for a cure for whatever killed him.

Cryonics is the process of dropping a human body’s temperature to -200F. The idea is to wait until the remedy for your disease is perfected and then they basically pop you into the microwave, thaw you out, and cure the revenant you…until you contract the next incurable, life threatening woe, whereupon I suppose you would hop back in the freezer and repeat the cycle.

In theory, if you avoided fatal accidents you could conceivably live happily ever after by dint of intermittent jaunts in the freezer. There are only a few problems that still need to be ironed out…

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By now we’ve all heard of Chris Harper Mercer, the man who killed ten people on the campus of Umpqua Community College.

Can you imagine the despair in the room? Put yourself in the shoes of the students in that classroom as they watched their teacher drop. As the gunman shouted to the Christians to make themselves known! What would you do?

As a College minister I can’t help but be deeply affected by it. Tragedy has struck yet another college campus. Just yesterday I talked with several students on their way to class, and asked them if they were to die tonight gun-pointed-at-you-in-your-face-aim-aimedwhat would they say to God. Words like these are not scare tactics. We all are literally on the verge of eternity.

So many people are using this situation as a political tool. Some are calling for stricter gun control. Some say that the man specifically targeted the school because it was a gun-free zone. Others are blaming anti-depression medication as they say that all of the major shootings in the last few years came from kids who grew up taking drugs. It’s obvious that the world is confused, is without direction, and is jumping to conclusions. As Christians we know that the only place to get the answers is the Scripture. I wish I could visit Oregon and spend a few days praying with students and bringing them the hope that they need.  We need to pray for the Church in Oregon to wisely know how deal with this situation. Here are some truths that we know when tragedy strikes.

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