Looking at the Cross

Tonight we’ll sing this hymn by John Newton, to the tune Prospect:

In evil long I took delight,
Unaw’d by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp’d my wild career.
I saw one hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fix’d his languid eyes on me,
As near his cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seem’d to charge me with his death,
Though not a word he spoke.
My conscience felt and own’d the guilt,
And plung’d me in despair;
I saw my sins his blood had spilt,
And help’d to nail him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did;
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look he gave, which said.
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid,
I die that thou mayst live.”

Thus while his death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue
(Such is the mystery of grace),
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit now is fill’d,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I kill’d.

What Do United Methodists and Muslims Have In Common?

According to at least one pastor, they worship the same God!

The front page of the United Methodist Church website points to an article detailing how one of their pastors is observing the fast Muslims observe during their holiest month, Ramadan. Listen to his opening statement:

“I have no doubt that Muslims and Christians worship the same God,” Magruder said. “We have some of the same core foundations.”

Our immediate response would probably be, “This guy Magruder is way off base. Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.

Welllll, actually he’s probably right, and here’s why: Muslims do not worship Jesus as God; to them he is merely a prophet. If Magruder says they worship the same God, evidently he does not believe in the biblical Jesus and as such does not worship the God of the Bible.

Jesus said that if anyone does not believe Him to be equal with God the Father and the only hope of eternal life, such a person does not believe in or worship the true God. They do not believe the truth, and the reason they don’t is because they respond to biblical truth in accord with their sinful natures, just like Satan does (John 8:44).

This UMC minister observed the fast to show his “solidarity” with this Imam by walking in the Muslim’s shoes. I’d be interested to hear if the Muslim would do the same thing! I’d be interested to hear if he could do the same thing–could you imagine what would happen to an Imam for, say, observing the Lord’s Supper, being baptized, or participating in Good Friday and Easter (better, resurrection Sunday) services so he could walk in the shoes of a Christian?

Do you think when the UMC minister closes his prayers with his Muslim Imam friend with, “In Jesus name, Amen”?

One last thing from the article: One of the objectives this UMC minister has is to “be a bridge” between Christians and Muslims to help the former have a better understanding of the latter. The only destination that bridge will lead to is away from the Christian faith (which he already departed from anyway).

Naturally, the Imam is thankful for the Methodist’s efforts.

“I think it sends a message of unity of mankind,” he said. “We may have differences, but our differences are there to be celebrated.”

Friends, this is not what the NT says Christianity is about! A Christian pastor is to proclaim the Christian message, calling for repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave pagan idolatrous religion behind, and follow Christ exclusively.

I know and have heard that there are genuine Christians in the United Methodist Church. Here are some questions I have for my brothers and sisters:

  • Do Christians and Muslims really worship the same God?
  • Do Christians really have spiritual unity (“solidarity”) with Muslims?
  • Where in the Bible are Christians called to have spiritual union with unbelievers like this?
  • How does your association and partnership with a denomination that tolerates and promotes this kind of thing (it was on the main page of the UMC website) square with 2 John 7-11?
  • What relationship should real believers like yourself have with apostates like this UMC minister and denomination? (Hint: 2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
  • How do you feel about your money going to support and promote this kind of thing? (In case you don’t think that isn’t happening here, who pays for the official UMC website that promotes this kind of thing?)

If I have any brothers and sisters in the UMC who recognize how utterly wrong and unbiblical this kind of thing is, I encourage and exhort you to leave the UMC and find a church that not only believes and preaches the Christian faith but is committed to ministry relationships that are consistent with Christian truth!

Defend the Faith Biblical Challenge

I received an email today from one of many news services about religious items. Wow, talk about invective!

The low-down: An author asks folks to supply evidence that he has used the Bible incorrectly in his latest book, The Case Against Evangelical Christianity, specifically these points:

The book makes several controversial claims: among them I argue the Virgin Birth story is a fictional account, and that there is little credible evidence within the New Testament to support the physical resurrection of Jesus. With respect to the Rapture, I conclude belief in it reflects profound biblical illiteracy. Finally, I present important biblical evidence to shed doubt on the idea that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

He offers anyone $100 if they can demonstrate that he has improperly used the Bible “as supporting evidence.” Perhaps that’s where the rub lies–the Bible isn’t viewed as the only source, just supporting evidence.

The author has some “rules” that you have to abide by to successfully mount a challenge, the most interesting of which is the first:

I will only pay for scriptural evidence I use incorrectly. I will not pay for evidence that supports another viewpoint.

So you’ve got to change his mind about what he thinks about the Bible. Given the blinding effects of sin and Satan upon the unbelieving mind, the only One who will successfully accomplish that is the Holy Spirit. And I doubt he’ll pony up the $100 then.

Matt 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.’”

Matt 28:6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”

John 14:3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Deut 5:4-5 “The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I [Moses] was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord”

Hark! the Voice of Love and Mercy

We learned and sang this hymn this past Sunday to this tune (but not at quite that tempo):

Hark! the voice of love and mercy
Sounds aloud from Calvary;
See it rends the rocks asunder,
Shakes the earth and veils the sky:
“It is finished! It is finished!” Hear the dying Saviour cry;
“It is finished! It is finished!” Hear the dying Saviour cry.

“It is finished!” What assurance
Do the wondrous words afford!
Heav’nly blessings without measure
Flow to us from Christ the Lord:
“It is finished! It is finished!” Saints, the dying words record;
“It is finished! It is finished!” Saints, the dying words record.

Finished all the types and shadows
Of the ceremonial law;
Finished all that God had promised:
Death and hell no more shall awe.
“It is finished! It is finished!” Saints, from hence your comfort draw;
“It is finished! It is finished!” Saints, from hence your comfort draw.

Saints and angels, shout His praises,
His great finished work proclaim;
All on earth and all in heaven,
Join to bless Immanuel’s name:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Endless glory to the Lamb;
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Endless glory to the Lamb!

–Jonathan Evans (c. 1748-1809)

The Way, the Truth, the Life

1 Thou art the Way: by Thee alone
From sin and death we flee;
And he who would the Father seek,
Must seek Him, Lord, by Thee.

2 Thou art the Truth: Thy word alone
True wisdom can impart;
Thou only canst instruct the mind,
And purify the heart.

3 Thou art the Life: the rending tomb
Proclaims Thy conquering arm;
And those who put their trust in Thee,
Nor death nor hell shall harm.

4 Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life,
Grant us that Way to know,
That Truth to keep, that Life to win,
Whose joys eternal flow.

G. W. Doane, #221 in The Baptist Hymnal (1885)

 

Who Said Liberalism is Dead?

It’s been the opinion of some that theological liberalism is dead. Simplistically, theological liberalism describes those who call themselves Christians but deny many (if not most) of the doctrines that make Christianity Christianity. Some believe that liberalism’s sun has set and its dead and buried.

I don’t think so. Come to Orwell sometime, and I’ll show you. Or Grand Rapids, MI. Or Mentor, OH. But if you can’t make the visit, consider Martin Thielen…

Thielen is pastor of a United Methodist Church, and has also served as a Southern Baptist pastor. He served for four years as a national worship and preaching consultant and editor of Proclaim for the SBC.

He’s just published a book titled, “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still be a Christian?” In it he lists ten things Christians do not need to believe to be a  Christian–

  1. God Causes Cancer, Car Wrecks, and Other Catastrophes
  2. Good Christians Don’t Doubt
  3. True Christians Can’t Believe in Evolution
  4. Women Can’t Be Preachers and Must Submit to Men
  5. God Cares about Saving Souls but Not about Saving Trees
  6. Bad People Will Be “Left Behind” and Then Fry in Hell
  7. Jews Won’t Make It to Heaven
  8. Everything in the Bible Should Be Taken Literally
  9. God Loves Straight People But Not Gay People
  10. It’s OK for Christians to be Judgmental and Obnoxious

You have to note the whimsical, almost sneering tone of this list. That kind of attitude is typical of theological liberalism, almost an ecclesiastical snobbery, looking down the nose at “those fundamentalists.”

It would take a significant post to comment on each of these. It almost makes me want to get the book and read it so I don’t misrepresent him. From the list, though, it appears that one can believe that–

  • Either God is not sovereign over all things or that there is no such thing as the effects of sin in the world  (#1)
  • Genuine faith does not require absolute submission of the mind, will, and emotions to God’s Word (#2)
  • The Bible should not be taken as an authoritative standard on the issues it speaks to (##3-4)
  • Salvation and ecology are on the same plane (#5)
  • The biblical account of divine judgment should not be taken literally (#6)
  • There is not an exclusiveness to salvation, despite what Jesus taught (John 3:18; 14:6; #7)
  • The Bible is not the written Word of God divinely authoritative in all it addresses (#8)
  • Homosexuality is not sinful (#9)
  • You can believe whatever you want to believe (#10)

Read some of the reviews of this book, and you’ll see that theological liberalism is not dead.

Thankfully, we’re not caught offguard by this sort of thing, nor are we left without hope–

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Tim 3:14-4:5).

Continue in the Word! Preach the Word! Faithfully serve Christ until He comes!

Idolatry

If there was any doubt about idolatry in the Roman Catholic Church, the following from this news release should clear the fog away–

A vial containing blood drawn from Pope John Paul II shortly before he died will be installed as a relic in a Polish church soon after his beatification later this year, an official said Monday.

Piotr Sionko, the spokesman for the John Paul II Center, said the vial will be encased in crystal and built into the altar of a church in the southern city of Krakow that is opening in May.

The exact date of the opening is not yet known, but it should be shortly after John Paul’s beatification at the Vatican on May 1.

Sionko said the idea came from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow and the longtime friend and secretary of the late Polish-born pontiff. The blood was drawn for medical tests at Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic shortly before John Paul’s death on April 2, 2005, and is now in Dziwisz’s possession, he said.

“It was the cardinal’s proposal,” Sionko said. “He is of the opinion that this is the most precious relic of John Paul II and should be the focal point of the church.”

What blood should be the “focal point of the church”? The New Testament makes it abundantly clear, the blood of Christ!

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ

I’m submitting the following for this week’s “Pastor’s Column” in our local newspaper. If you have thoughts or suggestions, let me know by noon today! :-)

—————–

We just finished what for many is their favorite time of the year, Christmas. Increasingly our culture views this season in purely secular terms instead of praising God for the incarnation of Jesus Christ. However, regardless of what people may think, the Bible unequivocally says that Jesus of Nazareth was and is fully God and fully man!

The incarnation was necessary for a variety of reasons, but especially for the salvation of sinners. Before a holy God everyone stands as a guilty sinner, deserving eternal judgment. In and of ourselves we are incapable and unwilling to fix the situation—no amount of good feelings or religious works can ever remove sin’s guilt and pay the full price sin requires.

This is the reason for the incarnation, why the eternal Son added to His Person a human nature—so that a perfect man could offer Himself as a sinless sacrifice of infinite value being also eternal God. Believing anything short of this results in denying the Person and work of Jesus Christ and, sadly, the loss of any hope of eternal life. Let me encourage you—believe in and depend on Jesus Christ alone for deliverance from your sin!

The great hymn writer John Newton—who wrote “Amazing Grace”—also wrote another hymn that clearly sets forth the Biblical truth about Jesus Christ:

“What think ye of Christ?” is the test
To try both your state and your scheme;
You cannot be right in the rest
Unless you think rightly of Him.
As Jesus appears in your view—
As He is beloved or not—
So God is disposed to you,
And mercy or wrath is your lot.

Some take Him a creature to be—
A man, or an angel at most;
But they have not feelings like me,
Nor know themselves wretched and lost;
So guilty, so helpless am I,
I dare not confide in His blood
Nor on His protection rely,
Unless I were sure He is God.

Some call Him a Savior in word,
But mix their own works with His plan;
And hope He His help will afford
When they have done all that they can:
If doings prove rather too light
(Admitting their efforts may fail),
They purpose to make up full weight
By casting His name in the scale.

Some call Him “the pearl of great price”
And say He’s the fountain of joys;
Yet feed upon folly and vice,
And cleave to the world and its toys;
Like Judas the Savior they kiss,
And while they salute Him, betray;
O what will profession like this
Avail in His terrible day?

If asked what of Jesus I think,
Tho’ still my best thoughts are but poor,
I’ll say He’s my meat and my drink,
My life, and my strength, and my store!
My husband, my trust and my friend,
My Savior from sin and death’s gall,
My hope from beginning to end,
My portion, my Lord, and my all.

 

The Second Advent

Let these things sink down into our minds. In all our thoughts about Christ, let us never forget His second advent. It is well to know that He lived for us, and died for us, and rose again for us, and intercedes for us. But it is also well to know that He is soon coming again.

J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke, p. 299.

Christ in the Old Testament

There has been an effort among many to “find Christ in the Old Testament.” This has brought both good and bad results, and such from both covenant and dispensational perspectives. I unashamedly align with a “classic” dispensational approach to the Scriptures (a la Ryrie’s Dispensationalism), but I will be the first to say that some dispensationalists have gone a bit too far in trying to find Christ in every peg and cord in the Tabernacle, for example.

Much of the effort to “find Christ in the Old Testament” finds its impetus from this verse:

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27).

It is helpful, as well, to hear Jesus’ words just before this:

O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? (Luke 24:25-26)

These men walking with Jesus–as probably the vast majority of Jews then–believed in and looked for the Messiah the prophets foretold who would redeem and rule Israel (see Luke 24:21a, “we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel”). But they had a truncated, incomplete view of Christ, not believing “all that the prophets have spoken” because they did not see, believe, or understand what the prophets said about the suffering of the Christ.

Not every Old Testament passage says either something or everything about Christ, but as a whole the Old Testament clearly foretold about Christ. This is what Jesus was doing on the Emmaus road. He wasn’t revealing nuggets of hidden truth about Himself in the tabernacle furniture, nor did He unload Old Testament truth of what it originally meant and then reload it with a “Christological” focus.

Jesus went to Moses and pointed out God’s promise in Eden of victory over Satan (Gen 12:3), His promise to Abraham of blessing all through one of his descendants (Gen 12:1-3), of a coming prophet from among the Israelites (Deut 18:15), and of course of the Messiah who would provide salvation (Isa 61:1-2a; cf. Luke 4:18-19) and would rule with a rod of iron, redeem Israel, establish His kingdom, and bring judgment on the nations (Isa 61:2b-9, and loads of such prophecies in “all the prophets”). And Jesus, after working through all these Old Testament promises essentially said–”This is everything the Scriptures say about the Messiah!”

The Old Testament clearly foretold this about the Messiah: That He would both suffer and reign. The New Testament, however, is necessary for solving the prophets’ dilemma (“If the Messiah will reign, why must He die? How can He reign if He dies?” 1 Pet 1:10-11)–there would be two comings of the Christ and between them would involve something previously unknown but presently revealed (a “mystery”), the church.

So when you’re reading your Old Testament, remember that while not every Old Testament passage says something about Christ, as a whole it clearly tells about the Person and work of Christ.