Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Significance of Birth

         Teach us to number our days,
         That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
         Psalm 90:12

Today is my birthday.  No, I'm not going to get a red sports car or dye my hair blonde.  None of that foolishness.  I am going to reflect on the last 25 years though.  25?  Yeah, 25.  Because, you see, that is the birth that really matters to me.  It was on this day in 1989 that a proud, rebellious young man laid down his arms and bowed his head to his Conqueror.  Yep, on my physical birthday I gave up my life of sin and God in heaven brought forth my spiritual birth.  A birth of far more significance than my puny little physical birth.  A reflection of my own father who I can still hear saying, "just bury me in a pine box, no big deal."  Similarly, this physical life is insignificant to me and the spiritual is far, far greater. Therefore, it is attempted to be lived fully pleasing to God that He might have significance in it.  As this truth guides me.  He must increase but I must decrease. ~ John 3:30

I wasn't a "bad" kid.  I was well loved by many gracious friends, some of whom have stuck around me, despite my sometimes porcupine personality and my Christian faith.  The problem with not being "bad" enough is that I just was never good enough, never could be, never would be. There's is none righteous, no, not one. Romans 3:10  A good many things in my first couple decades are quite shameful.  But God!  He was rich in mercy and loved me before I was born, loved me from eternity past.  He knew a day would come, in fact, He planned it!  A day where I would fumble through a prayer while standing in the hallway of my house as I departed to go see one of my favorite bands, The Alarm.  I felt kinda good that night, going off to see some guys who had at least some kind of Christian faith, in my pea brain mind of what faith was at the time, as opposed to the darkness I submerged myself in so many other nights.

I really had little clue what I was doing I just knew that I knew that I knew that change was necessary and change had to come.  I did not darken doors of churches.  I grew up in a "moral family."  That simply is code for a great bunch of sinners who believe in God, even Jesus, but are whitewashed tombs full of dead men's bones, headed for a terrible destruction that will shock them when they arrive.  Two days prior I grudgingly got out of my bed and gave up my football to attend a quaint little church in Sunland, CA.  Life was about to be forever changed!  I wrestled with God those two days as the message rang in my head (David at Ziglag) but even more so the 3 baptismal testimonies that roared from the waters.  Never before, nor since, did I feel like I was the only one of 270 people in a building.  But God!

So after wrestling those two days, I crumbled and God won and oh what a victory!  Graciously in every way I was placed among a people zealous for the Lord and earnest in His truth.  Seminary guys from a somewhat young school called TMS were in my path.  I distinctly recall three of them who were God's chisel on this wreck of a young man.  One is gone now.  Dear Samuel who took me under his wing in every way.  Made me prepare a lesson in 1 Peter, 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Peter 1:3–7

and preach it to my roommates in our living room, drove me to kingdom come and back for 4 months while my father lived his last days on earth, and simply set an example for me to follow. Then there was Wayne and Carlos in my Berean's Sunday school class.  What grace I was given!

Ok, ok, so what's the point of writing this you may ask?  Well, way back then in 1989 I thought about 25 years ahead.  Since I'm the weird numbers guy these are things I think of.  The amazing senior citizens that were my Wednesday night (and Sunday morning) for so many days were my end goal.  I wanted to be a Christian for 25 years and be more like them.  I wanted to possess that level of maturity and love for Christ.  (Still working!)

    Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
          Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
          I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12–14

Now I'm here.  Not what I was and nowhere near what I desire to be. But God! 

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. ~ Philippians 1:6 

To God alone belongs glory and majesty and honor and dominion for He is able to keep His own from stumbling and falling and to present His people blameless before His throne, with great joy. (Jude 24-25)

So I guess today begins the last 25 years, should God ordain as many.  What is life?  Is it about personal happiness? Personal achievements?  Personal fulfillment?  Simply raising "good" kids and living a decent life that others say nice things about you when you're dead?

The point of it all, I suppose, is why are you here?  Why am I here? The Westminster Catechism says it perfectly in question one.

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Which takes me to my guiding verse, thanks again to Samuel, that came at the end of King Solomon's life;

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

    Fear God and keep His commandments,
    For this is man’s all.
~ Ecclesiastes 12:13

My friends who have stuck with me this far, are you truly fearing God and keeping His commandments?  Are you more focused upon His glory than your own?  Are you seeking His wisdom and forsaking your own?  Are you willing to submit to His authority and lay down your own?  Are you confessing Christ as Lord and you as His servant?  Are you living for eternity and not for the present?  

Have you been born again, born from above?!  Or are you still in your sins and prepared to be held responsible for them?  Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life and that He came to give life abundantly.  

Whom are you living for and what will be your legacy?

~ He must increase,

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

More Than Animals

Last week was a difficult time. Our beloved cat of 6 years passed. We had just taken Charlie to the veterinarian to determine what was wrong with him. After draining 5 pounds of fluid from his abdomen, a large tumor was discovered on his liver. We were told we may have weeks or possibly a few months. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. I came home from work that night to find my wife crouched by the litter box, crying uncontrollably. I removed the lid to find Charlie face down in litter with little time remaining. His breaths were shallow yet rapid and his eyes showed fear. I placed him on the bed and we held him while softly speaking his name. It was incredibly sad to see death creeping in. There was nothing beautiful about it. I choose to believe Charlie had already clocked out while his body went through the violent motions. After a few minutes, he stopped moving and his eyes were blank. The sweet boy who had slept by my wife’s pillow every night was gone.
Of course, the following days would be difficult. We had to figure out how to break it to the kids the next morning. Needless to say, there were a lot of tears involved.
We held a small ceremony in the backyard where everybody said their last goodbyes. My wife kept saying how she’d never see him again and how the spot next to her pillow would feel so empty. One of my children asked if Charlie would be in heaven. That left me with the unpleasant task of explaining how animals, upon dying, simply cease to exist. There is no heaven or an afterlife. When my wife said Charlie was gone, that was a very accurate statement. It was at that moment that I saw the beauty behind the sorrow. Yes, Charlie was gone but there was so much more going on.
 To many of us, pets are an extension of the family. They’re like our four-legged children. They have different personalities, express love, show loyalty, and clearly perceive the world around them. However, despite all this, they are vastly different from mankind. The beauty that I could now see was in just how special humanity was. Genesis 1 presents us with the narrative of Creation. We see, in verses 24-25, God simply makes the beasts of the earth. They’re made each after their own kind and God saw that it was good. This had been the pattern in each of the previous days as well. However, verse 27 brings a whole new twist. When God created man, he didn’t simply bring us into existence. We see a very personal act taking place. We were made in the image of God. He breathed into us the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word for “breath” is nÄ•shamah which means either breath or spirit. If we look deeper, we see God is breathing HIS breath into man. We see a similar act in John 20:22 when Jesus breathes on the disciples and tells them to, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Indeed, mankind is vastly different from the animal kingdom. Though we may share a great many traits, the very breath of God is what sets us apart. We have a spirit that lives on eternally. We have a spirit that will spend eternity with the Father in heaven through the reconciliation of the Son (2 Corinthians 5:18). Our pets are loved by their owners but we are loved by God Almighty! It’s precisely because we have an eternal destination that we also have a responsibility to proclaim Christ at every turn. It’s only through faith in Christ that one will ever see heaven. The alternative is dark and dismal, filled with terror (Matthew 13:42). The alternative is not only death but eternal death and torment. For as much as we care about our beloved pets, should we not also care deeply for those made in the image of God?
As I stated earlier, though there was nothing beautiful about what took place on our bed that night, I was still able to eventually see the beauty of the gospel in the midst of it. My hope is that, whenever you may be presented with a challenge, you will be able to see it as well. My further prayer is that it will encourage you to act upon it and be a faithful witness for the cause of Christ.

~Travis W. Rogers

Monday, November 3, 2014

Knowledge of God and Of Ourselves

I received this classic gem in the mail Sunday and I could not wait to sink my teeth into it. John Calvin was one of the greatest theologians ever to walk the face of the earth, and it is such a privilege to be able to open up the Institutes of the Christian Religion and see his thoughts available to be engaged. So here I would like to share my thoughts and some of his quotes as I work through this magnum opus of doctrine gleaned from the Holy Scriptures through years of study.

The first chapter has to do with the knowledge of God and of ourselves, which he says consists of two parts, which I mentioned in the first sentence of this paragraph. He then poses his thought as to which one comes before the other. As I pondered it, my thoughts were taken to Proverbs 1:7 which tells us that the beginning of all knowledge, both spiritual and natural, is the fear of the Lord. Calvin stated it this way: "No man can truly survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts toward the God in whom he lives and moves," which reminded me of Acts 17:28. It is in God alone that we live, move, and have our being -- Him alone. And according to Colossians 1:17, He holds all things together. Now imagine if God allowed one of your molecules to slip away, or if He allowed the earth to spin a little slower, or tilt a little sharper, where would we be? Think about the composition of our atmosphere, and if he changed one of the elements one-tenth of a percent...where would we be? Where would anything be? As Shai Linne so eloquently stated, "Without Christ, reality would collapse on itself." As Calvin says, "Our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone."

Calvin moves on to speak of God's infinite goodness, and the fact that we cannot truly see it, nor enjoy it, unless we confess our poverty (Matt. 5:3). But it can be difficult to see because we live in a fallen world, and it is necessary for us to realize that His goodness is not just there to provide for us our daily needs; it is there also to teach us humility. None of us is as well off as we may think. Calvin says that, "Our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, remind us that in the Lord, and none but He, well the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, and exuberant goodness." The Bible is deafeningly clear that there is nothing good in us (Rom. 3), therefore any goodness that we may produce is derivative from God's infinite storehouse.

The problem is that we don't think we're impoverished. We act like the Laodiceans and declare our self-sufficiency. But Jesus declared in John 4:10 that if the woman at the well KNEW the gift of God, then she would have given Him a proper response, that is, to ask for the living water. But as Calvin stated in his commentary on that verse: 

"Knowledge of Christ begins with a conviction of our poverty; for, before anyone desires a remedy, he must be previously affected with the view of his distresses...Why would Christ be sent with the fullness of the Spirit, if we were not empty?
When Christ appears, we no longer wander in vain, seeking a remedy where none can be obtained, but we go straight to Him. The only true and profitable knowledge of the grace of God is, when we know that it is exhibited to us in Christ, and that it is held out to us by His hand."

We can't begin to "aspire to Him" until we have developed an utter displeasure with ourselves, and that is the major problem that lies within each of us. Have we truly contemplated God in all of His self-disclosure? We may say that we have, we may even know how to regurgitate what we have learned of Him...and yet, we still parade around our peacock feathers of self-righteousness. Why is that? Calvin declares that it is because we have not been truly convinced "by clear evidence" of how foolish we are to think in such a manner. He says that "The Lord is the only standard by which conviction can be produced." But when we see any inkling of self-righteousness, of self-empowered living, we place God on the back burner and become satisfied as if somehow we have accomplished something. This is folly at its finest. Calvin says that we know how to speak concerning ourselves by using the "most flattering terms," puffing ourselves up to a little "less than demigods." 

But if we ever keep a constant eye upon God, if we ever keep our thoughts constantly on Him, and contemplate His attributes, His character, and His glory, "what formerly delighted us will become polluted with the greatest iniquity." Those respectable sins, as Jerry Bridges calls them, will become the utmost of disrespect to the holy God. Those sins that you sweep under the rug will become an eyesore that must be removed from the house. Those "little" sins that you think are of no consequence will become the ultimate treason before God, and you will fight tooth and nail to eradicate them so that you can see the God who is rich in all things more clearly, and in turn understand yourself more clearly. All knowledge, whether of God or of man, begins by fearing God and then grows by continued devotion of every fiber of your being to build upon that foundation of truth that God has entrusted to your care.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What If Today Was Your Last Day On Earth?

Monday was a sad day around my workplace.  A man I've known for 23 years lost his mother. She lived a good, long life.  Nevertheless it was and is sad.  I will have fond memories of her.  Add to that a couple workplace killings in Alabama and Oklahoma.  Then the realization of a friend of my wife being declared terminally ill with just 2 months to live.  The old saying is two things are certain, 'death and taxes.'  Well, the one thing more certain than taxes is that after death we will all stand before our Maker and give an account of our life.  It will all boil down to one question.....but I'll save that for last.

Friends, Jesus was not simply a good man who wants us to be nice and treat people kindly.

He proclaimed that He was God, very God, that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), that He is the exact image of His nature (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:15), that no one gets to the Father but through Him (John 14:6), that all of us
like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6), that He Himself bore iniquities and will justify many (Isaiah 53:11), that none of us is righteous (Romans 3:10), that all our works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), that unless we believe that He is God we will die in our sins (John 8:24), that the wages of sin is death, physical and spiritual, but that the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23).

There is no second chance, for it is appointed for a man once to die and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27) where Christ will appear a 2nd time without reference to sin for those who eagerly await Him (Hebrews 9:28), those whose sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Not so for the one who rejected His word.  They can expect..... a fearful expectation of judgment for those that go on sinning willfully after receiving the truth (Hebrews 10:26-27), of which you are if you have read this blog or known me for any length of time at all.

The death rate remains 1 out of every 1. The reality of sin is that 1 out of every 1 is held captive by the power of sin. The offer of forgiveness of sin and freedom from its power is found in Christ alone (Acts 4:12). Sin requires a wage (Romans 6:23) and all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Yet if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Then how do we know we have passed from death to life? By keeping His word and walking as He walked (1 John 2:5-6).

There is a 2nd death (Revelation 20:6,14) where this happens; "the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8) All that can be avoided. Only then will any living person be fit for heaven and not only gain it at physical death but live life abundantly until that final breath is drawn. (John 10:10)

Did you catch that list?  Unbelieving is right there with murderers.  Immorality and liars are side by side with abominable.  Belief is trusting something can bear your weight, hold up a load. Saying that plane will get you across the Atlantic is quite different than stepping onto it and buckling a seat-belt for takeoff. Saying you believe in Jesus is quite different than actually letting Him take your load of sin and bear that awful weight.  Saying you believe in Jesus is much different than placing every ounce of energy into understanding Him and following His commands.  Saying Jesus is too narrow and you'll make it another way is looking God in the face and saying "you're a liar!"

So the question begs, the same question Jesus posed to His followers 2000 years ago.

"Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15)  

...and will you reply as Peter? "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16)

Because the death rate is one out of every one.

He must increase ~

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Disease Called Silence

There exists a world where disease is spreading rampantly. Daily, it claims its victims and ravages them from the inside out. Neighbors and friends fall prey to the devastating effects of this war while the vast majority does nothing to stop it. It’s slowly taking over loved ones and won’t stop until it overtakes the children. There is a form of resistance but, when compared to the general population, they are in the minority. Will the battle ever end or will the denizens of this world ultimately be destroyed? Sadly, this world being described isn’t hypothetical or imaginary. Nor is it a distant land yet to be discovered. No, it’s the very world we live in and, as it stands, we are slowly destroying ourselves. Thankfully, there’s  hope in the form of a cure. All we have to do is stand up.

You may be scratching your heads right about now, wondering what I’m talking about. Please read on and allow me to clarify. The world I’m referring to is called the church. It’s filled with people who call themselves Christians. The purpose of this post isn’t to differentiate between false converts and genuine Christians. Instead, I’d like us to focus on what I feel to be an even more pressing issue. After all, it’s to be expected that local church attendance will spike around Christmas and Easter. It’s even expected that some of the people in the pews may not really know the Lord regardless how long they’ve been going to church. What isn’t expected is that those who truly know Christ would sit down and forget to stand up. We’re called to teach all nations of Christ (Matthew 28:19). In a world that hates us (John 15:18) and is at war with God (Romans 8:7), we’re called to be the resistance (1 Corinthians 1:23). As for the final outcome, we know that not all will believe and that there will be an ultimate eternal darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth for all who don’t know Christ.

Ask yourself when the last time was you were presented with an opportunity to preach Christ crucified. Did you take advantage of the opportunity or did you remain quiet? Did you stand up for Christ or did you sit down? What about the time before that? In fact, when was the last time you stood up at all? There are a number of reasons why we may remain quiet when opportunity presents itself. Some may get nervous. Others may have a fear of public speaking. While both of these are valid concerns, where do they stack up in the grand scheme of things?

Life isn’t lived inside a bubble in complete isolation from the outside world. For every action taken, not only does one need to accept the consequence on his life, but he also needs to accept responsibility for the impact it has on the lives of those around him. What will it take for you to see the importance of this subject matter? How many people will miss hearing the gospel unnecessarily? How many will die of the disease called silence? How widespread will the pandemic have to be before you become aware? If you are already aware, who will have to die before you care?

Sadly, evangelism has steadily been reduced to the other guy's job. It's taken a back seat to the
struggles of daily life and the already tight time constraints. As the bride of Christ, my fear is that we've simply lost our evangelistic fervor. How can this be when Scripture tells us the very souls of men are at stake? I love the way Charles Spurgeon had a zeal for evangelism. He understood God's sovereignty yet he also understood God's natural method for bringing new saints to Himself. Spurgeon said, "We believe in predestination; we believe in election and non-election: but, notwithstanding that, we believe that we must preach to men, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and ye shall be saved,' but believe not on him and ye be damned."

There will come a day when the unsaved will hear of their inability to save themselves. Would you rather they hear it from you first or from God Himself on the day of judgment? Evangelism is a joyful privilege that encompasses our entire lives. It's an opportunity to preach Christ crucified and extend the offer of eternal life to all who will believe. Is there no sweeter encouragement?

~ Travis W. Rogers

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Man vs. God

I’d like to share a story with you. Though it’ll probably enrage many, I ask that you reserve judgment until the end. It’s a story of a school bus filled with kids on their way home from a tiring day at school. All was normal in the world. The driver was making her way down the winding country roads. The elementary aged
children were playing with their friends while trying to avoid the attention of the driver. Parents were waiting at home to greet their children. Sadly, the bus wasn’t the only vehicle on the road. What nobody knew, nobody could have predicted, was that the town drunk had gotten started early that day. It was barely into the afternoon and he was already completely intoxicated, focusing intently on the road ahead of him. In an instant, life got turned upside down. The screeching of tires pierced the ears of anybody within range. Though the car was smaller, the impact couldn’t have been more precise. The car was already a mangled mess as the bus began to roll a seemingly infinite number of times down the adjacent hillside. For the solitary witness, it was a nightmare that had become reality. He got out of his car and ran full speed down the hillside, desperately praying he wouldn’t break an ankle before reaching the bus. As he approached the wreckage, it was lying on its roof and flames were beginning to roll with billowing smoke coming from the windows. The only thing he could think to do was rip open the back door and climb in. Some of the children were beyond hope but, much to his surprise, he found most of them to be alive and pleading for help. Before he could think, he had two children, one in each arm, and was jumping out the back door. Upon bringing them a safe distance, he returned to save more. The smoke was getting thicker and it would be only minutes before the flames overtook the children. He had to act fast. After he had saved another four children, he looked at the bus one more time. He knew he could easily save the remaining ten if he acted quickly. However, instead of racing for the coughing and crying children on the bus, he put his arms around the six he had saved and began to walk back up the hillside where he loaded them in his truck and brought them home. Not once did he look back. Not once did he ponder whether he should save the rest. Not once did he regret his decision. He could’ve saved them all but that simply wasn’t his intention. He saved as many as he wanted and that was just going to have to be good enough.

Where do you stand in regards to this story? Do you praise the man as a hero or do you condemn him as a monster who left children to die unnecessarily? Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle. Thankfully, this isn’t a true story. Instead of being found in the latest headlines, it resides nowhere other than my brain and this blog. Truth be told, that’s not even an honest declaration. In reality, though I embellished a bit, it’s the foundation of an old theological argument against the doctrine of election. I know, shocking! Perhaps you’ve even heard the argument from someone else. Many who despise the doctrine of election love to use a similar story, placing God as the main character who is saving children from a burning fire. The claim is that, if God could save everybody yet chose to let them perish while only saving some from the flames, it would make Him a monster. The next claim tends to be that a monstrous God should never be worshiped. In and of itself, I could agree with the last claim. However, is there really any validity in correlating God to the hero/monster in the above story? Is there any relation at all or is this a case of apples to oranges?

Unfortunately, too many would say the above story is accurate. I believe this is the direct result of knowing neither the righteousness of God nor the wretchedness of man. So long as man exalts himself to a loftier position than he ought, he will always demote God to a position other than that which He deserves while denigrating the Most High. Scripture speaks loudly of both God’s character and man’s status.

Deuteronomy 32:4 - “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.

Isaiah 6:3 - And one called out to another and said,Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Ezra 9:15 - O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this.”

Numbers 11:15 - So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”

Romans 7:24 - Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

James 2:10 - For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
No, the story told above shouldn’t be taken seriously. If you hear somebody telling it, stop them any way you can and preach the gospel for they either do not know Christ as they should or they don’t know man as he is. A better analogy would be one of the same bus on the same road. Yet, instead of being filled with children on their way home from school, it’s filled with heinous convicted murderers being carted off to death row in a maximum security prison. Instead of being a drunk driver, it’s an interception with a prison break in mind. The mastermind behind the ordeal leaps into action. Everybody is confused. They never saw it coming. In fact, for the most part, the mastermind is so quick, they still don’t realize what’s happening. Yet, here we are again at a crossroads. The mastermind can break all sixteen prisoners out but he chooses to only grab six. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason behind who he selected but selected they were. The remaining ten sit in silence as they too don’t even realize what’s happening. They don’t even realize six of their fellow prisoners are no longer with them. The six who were broken out are stashed away at a safe house, given new identities, and are now walking amongst the world, minding their P’s and Q’s in an effort to avoid going back at all costs while forever indebted to the mastermind.

Surely, we aren’t thanking the mastermind for breaking out those who were convicted of murder. Nobody in their right mind would think this was a righteous move. In fact, most would be thankful he only snagged six instead of pulling out more. If the mastermind were ever to be discovered and captured, most reasonable people would demand he be put up on trial and convicted of his crimes. Are we now putting God on trial? Are we demeaning His character even in this story? While not all the details match up perfectly with God’s redemptive story, the concept is still there. Simply put, prior to regeneration, we more closely resemble the convicted murderers than we do the sweet and innocent children. As it stands, God took guilty men and set them free. He chose to save some while leaving others to perish. If one wants to tout fairness, instead of
crying over God not saving anybody, he should be seething over the fact that God, in His own infinite wisdom, chose to save ANYBODY! After all, we were guilty! We were wretched! We were vile! We hated God, cursing His name and trampling His goodness under our feet. We were bound for death row but He chose to take us off our collision course, give us new life, and abide with us forever. What a gracious God we serve!

It continues to amaze me that He would ever choose to save those who never would’ve chosen Him if the roles were reversed. For those who still despise the doctrine of election, it’s okay. So long as you trust that Christ is God, born in the flesh (Colossians 2:9), lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21), died a horrific death (Matthew 27:26), rose on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4), and ascended to be seated at the Father’s right hand (Mark 16:19) for all of eternity in order that you might be saved so long as you trust in Him (Ephesians 2:8), it really doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in the doctrine of election. You’re a part of it regardless and for that you can be thankful. God is good and, though we can now call ourselves saints (Ephesians 2:19), it’s only because of what He first did for us.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Doctrine's Destructive & Divisive Nature

We care neither for devout dunces nor intellectual icebergs.
~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Doctrine is a killer.  Those who staunchly promulgate doctrine are often cold hearted, ice cold killers.  In today's world they thrive in internet discussion groups.  But that isn't enough, they stalk about Facebook pages seeking whom they may correct.  They aren't content railing on their own pages but must scour the web looking for theological fallacies, which in most cases are just inside the mirror. They are theological bullies, blasting their shotguns often and everywhere, spraying bullets far and wide. They are the self appointed defenders of Almighty God, who needs their help.

Often they come under the guise of love as they insist on telling the truth. Like Theological Thors they come flying onto your computer screen or flashing upon your smartphone where they deal a crushing blow with their theological hammer.  Why?  Because the world is so messed up and Christianity has gone so awry.  These theology hounds are desperately needed to straighten out the skewed beliefs of the masses.  

Such men and women think it is their sworn duty before God to swoop upon the dolts of Christianity who are not willing to label every Arminian a hell bound heretic headed for eternal damnation.  They love to pounce upon the guy who says as a baby believer he did not understand the Trinity.  They annihilate the mature saint who is unsure if the bible teaches preterism or premillenial dispensationalism.  Depending on what camp you are in (or worse yet, you don't have a position) they drop their hammer and tell you you're an idiot and how can you possibly be saved believing such things.  They accuse people of not rightly understanding the gospel, as they have a firm grasp on it now, when they came to faith decades ago, insisting without a doubt that you weren't saved back then.  Because after all, the thief on the cross could have given a clear gospel presentation that even Calvin would be proud of.  The theology ogres are heavy on truth and bereft of love.  As my wise pastor has said, "There is no truth in you if you are devoid of God's love." Check it out here

So is doctrine in fact destructive?  Should we just love Jesus and leave all this theological hair splitting behind?  I mean after all didn't Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners and hang out with winebibbers? Didn't He embrace everyone with an all-encompassing love?  Gentle Jesus meek and mild?  Or is the Thor approach more biblical?  Do we need more theological superheroes? Maybe we ought to be thankful and listen to these theological Hulks.  Since the error is portrayed as so deep and so crucial, maybe it's best to have these guys and gals thrashing about the internet, making Christianity stronger. They're doing us a service, bringing us closer to Christ.  Or are they?

But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance. ~ 2 Timothy 3:10

Wait a second, as the Theological Superheroes start charging me! Are you saying doctrine isn't important? Get ready for a Hulksmash pal!  No, not so fast. Doctrine matters.  Greatly!  As we see above it was not only commendable but crucial in the life of Timothy and Paul.  The problem isn't with right doctrine but wrong actions.  Pride.  High-mindedness.  Contempt. Basically an attitude of 'you're wrong, I'm right and I must show the internet world just how smart I am.' Trouble is while you flex your theological muscles your hard black heart is popping out of your chest. The mass of believers who watch such silly displays shake their heads at the pious antics of glaring immaturity.  Worse, the unregenerate sinner who still shakes his fist at Holy God laughs and becomes more content in his rebellion, even plotting his excuse before his future Judge.

If you're a theological superhero, do you really want that on your resume when you meet your Judge?  

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 
1 John 3:14

Lest you mistake me, we must speak truth.  We must rightly divide the word.  (2 Timothy 2:15)  We must stand for the inerrant, infallible truth of scripture.  We ought to come alongside brethren when error is present.  We must contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)  We must present the rich truths of doctrine found within Holy Writ.  But if it is from a harsh stance where all we do is bash and crash then we have serious, serious problems.  We have forgotten the sins we were saved from. (Titus 3:3 2 Peter 1:9)  So I point to the Spurgeon quote that heads this, we cannot be intellectual icebergs and far be it from us to be devout dunces.  We must know our bible.  We must remember ourselves. We must have compassion on the brethren.  

Doctrine matters, immensely!  The Apostle Paul would not have mentioned it more times in the pastoral epistles than you have fingers if it wasn't.  So before the "I just wanna love Jesus" crowd gets too puffy chested, shake yourself and study doctrine because correct doctrine leads to correct practice which leads to greater doxology.

So in the end, doctrine is not destructive, unless it's in gross error (see TBN or just about any other "Christian" television station).  What is destructive and divisive is the proud Thors and Hulks that stomp around the internet looking to promote their knowledge while claiming to promote Christ.  What's destructive and divisive is the peacocks that strut their theology and trample their brother.  Sadly, when you try to point this out you just get lined up and pile driven as if you were the opponent in an Ultimate Theological Cage match.  You end up bloodied but somewhere behind the adoring Theological Superheroes is a loving Father ready to begin the school of understanding with a walk to the divine woodshed.

So if you find yourself, bashing the brethren take a step back and remember that Christ had mercy on you when you were deep in sin and destined for destruction.  Think about the fact that trials and sufferings are part and parcel of the Christian life.  Take heed that your lack of compassion may only be a prelude to some deep, dark trials that will soften you and temper you in order to make you look like Christ.

Friend, your theology ought bring you to the ground in humility not lift you up to some lofty position of authority.  You see, you don't really know you're bible until that clanging cymbal and banging gong go silent. When you stop parading yourself and puffing yourself up, when you stop behaving rudely, you will not only gain some ears but you will prove your theology is pure and true.  Unless you pour contempt on all your pride and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, all your words will be nothing more than judgment building up for you to hang your head in shame later.

You, like me, were an enemy of Christ, held by the curse, totally depraved, unwilling and unable to come to Christ apart from the electing love of the Father, the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, and the redeeming love of Christ, our Good Shepherd.  That being so are you and I in a position to tread upon our brethren and blaspheme our God by bashing through walls and dropping our hammers on every brother or sister who doesn't think just like us?  Who may be undergoing some immense trial?  Who is at a different point along the journey? 

So then, would it not be better if we reasoned together and spoke the truth in love? 

He must increase
~ Kevin