Count it all joy when you face various trials. --James the brother of Jesus

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Praise God! He Gives Boldness for Evangelism

The Lord did something wonderful this morning. I had two witnessing encounters this morning where God was clearly guiding me and giving me more boldness that I usually have. First, an older man eating breakfast at the shelter started talking to me about the Seminary and saying how “they don’t believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” and “they tell you there that the ending of the book of Mark shouldn’t be there.” Then he said, “Yeah, preachers all say that people have to believe before Jesus would heal them, but I think he heals first and then people believe.” Of course for this Calvinist, that was like saying sick’em. I told him I agreed. I said you have to be born again before you can believe. We talked about that for just a little bit, and then I said, “Are you born again.” Immediately he said no, but then backed up and said, “well I might be, I believe that Jesus died and rose again,” to which I responded, “Is he your king? Is he your Lord?” To which again he said immediately “No.” I pressed the issue of Lordship until he eventually finished eating and left the shelter. I don’t know his name. Then another guy which I have been getting to know, named David, had been listening to the conversation, and I had already agreed to give him a ride to a place that wasn’t far out of my way. So when I left I picked him up at the curve, and I didn’t even have to get the courage to say something, he started in saying that what I had said didn’t sound right to him. In a nut shell he told me that he thought that God would forgive people because of his love and that people have to obey to earn God’s favor (not in so many words). To which I clearly told him that each of us is dead in our sins, deserving hell, and we can’t do anything to save ourselves but to cast ourselves on the mercy of God trusting in the payment that Jesus secured in the Cross. Then we obey because we have a changed heart, not in order to earn God’s favor. He told me he could see how what I was saying was different, and said that he would think about it through the day. I went home and called Amy to tell her about it and as I was telling her I began to weep for joy because I don’t thing God has ever given me that kind of boldness in witnessing before, and as far as I can tell I think that I clearly communicated the Gospel faithfully and without compromise.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Trouble with Calvinists

OK. That title was a hook to get people to read this. I don't really have a problem with Calvinists. In particular, Baptist-Calvinists. In fact, I am one. I'm a genuine, convince, consistent, 5-point Baptist-Calvinist. I believe in:

Total Depravity--We are born sinners, and totally unable to do anything to save ourselves apart from God's work on us.
Unconditional Election--I believe that God chooses us not on the basis of any foreseen goodness in us, but out of His mere pleasure. He does not choose us based on our supposed advantages such as ethnic background or socioeconomic status, but rather He chooses anyone, anywhere, out of His mere pleasure.
Limited Atonement--I prefer the more accurate term "particular redemption." I believe that on the cross Jesus did more than make salvation available, but that he actually secured the salvation of everyone who would believe.
Irresistible Grace--Once again, I prefer the term "effectual calling." But I believe that God is strong enough that he overcomes any resistance that those who he chooses can put up. God speaks through His word, and spiritually dead sinners come to life and are enabled to believe. It is like a blind man who is healed by God from his blindness--there is no way on earth that the man would then resist the healing that he has just received. In the same way, when God saves a person, he reaches down to a spiritually dead, rebellious sinner, and changes his heart so that he wants to please God.
Perseverance of the Saints--I believe that all who God saves have been brought from death into eternal life and true Christians will persevere until the end.

Like I said, I am a Baptist-Calvinist. But is there something true to the title of this blog entry? Well, I purposefully titled it the "trouble with Calvinists" not with "Calvinism." I affirm all 5 points of Calvinism, but there may be trouble with some of my brethren who share this commitment with me. I will just give two things that I see as a common temptation that some (and I don't even think that this is the case with most or even a lot) Calvinists have:
1) There may be a temptation among some to break fellowship with other true believers, who have a genuine desire to be Biblical, who do not see things the same way we do.
2) There also may be a temptation for young pastors who embrace Calvinism to push too fast to change there churches--and this may end up blowing up in the face of the young pastor, as well as giving a bad taste for Calvinism to those in the church.

I must say three things in response to these two temptations:
1) These temptations are not limited to Calvinists. Some (and probably not most and maybe not even a lot) non-Calvinists are very antagonistic toward Calvinists and might push to break fellowship. Also, young non-Calvinists also have a problem some times with trying to change their church too quickly. So clearly these issues are not so much about Calvinists but about the personal temperament of the person who holds the doctrine.
2) I would encourage my Calvinist brothers to seek common ground and foster brotherly love with those who disagree on one or more points of Calvinism but who clearly desire to follow the Bible.
3) I also encourage my Calvinist brethren to be patient as you teach your people. It is highly unlikely that a young convinced Calvinists who holds to the regulative principle (as I do) and to a biblical pattern of plural-elder congregationalism (as I do) can go into a church and make any kind of progress until he first spends years and maybe even decades laboring to show his people that he loves them.

With all that said, I'm sure that I might get a few comments from both sides. I don't know what to expect. Will I get attacks--maybe, but I've spoken what I believe to be true.

God bless you all, and may He help us all to work toward preaching the biblical gospel so that we might see men and women be brought out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

Friday, February 15, 2008

ThM Progress

I'm currently in my last course for my degree. I've got 7 books to read and though I'm less than a month into the class I've already finished 4. I've spoken with my Thesis supervisor about my topic, and I've got some direction for completing. I hope to have my prospectus complete by the Fall and press hard at writing to finish the thesis as quickly as possible. I plan to write about the ecclesiology of some of the early British Baptists. I'll be working first to try to narrow my thesis topic and find something significant to argue for.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Homeless and Me, Part IV

For the last week I've been recovering from the flu. I got off work on Monday morning and by the end of the day Monday I'd come down with the worst flu I've had in recent years. I went back in to work last night (Friday), and I suffered through the night. I almost thought I was the only one going to show up. One of my coworkers was late and the other one had been scheduled off to make up for a holiday that he had worked earlier. But God smiled on me. My manager was only 20 minutes late and all was fine. Nothing major happened and I was able to sit all night without much trouble--and with the help of some over the counter medication.

This is actually one of the hazards of working this job. There is a large quantity of various diseases in the homeless population that when you work in a shelter your bound to catch some. I've had a week long flu, but there is the possibility of TB, or other things that most people don't come into contact with that much.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Baptists, Blogs, and Liberty of Conscience

I just finished reading a wonderful book called The Anabaptist View of the Church by Franklin H. Littell and I found it fascinating and challenging. After completing it a somewhat random thought came to mind.

I've recently heard Dr. Patterson say that posting inflammatory statements anonymously on blogs is the ultimate act of cowardice. It takes no courage at all to slander someone anonymously and is ultimately a very unchristian thing to do. I believe that he is exactly right, and to argue for this I want to mention the Anabaptists. They lived in a time when they could be persecuted, imprisoned, or even executed for saying what they believe--yet even they signed their works, knowing that they could face being burned alive or drowned. My thought is this. Yes, today a person could face legal issues, or even loosing a job for saying something on a blog, but to anyone who has a word of criticism to say about anything my suggestion is that you sign your name in honor of our Baptist and Anabaptist brethren who came before us. We live in a society today that we don't have to worry about the consequence of death for the things we say, and any consequence that we face pales in comparison to that. My suggestion is that if you have something that you want to say, but you are afraid of the consequences for saying it, just don't say anything at all, or go to the person who you have the issue with (following Matthew 18's advice). Hiding in a dark corner and throwing criticism anonymously dishonors those Baptists before us who died for their faith.

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