December 7, 2015

Facing the Challenge: Now What?

Maybe we have had enough time now to get used to the idea that the Supreme Court has changed our country’s official definition of marriage. Certainly Christian people in the United States ought to draw conclusions and make decisions about what they will do about the new situation. Here are seven things we surely ought to do.

1. PULL THE KIDS OUT
Without a doubt, it is time for Christian families to take their children out of the public schools. Public education has been wrong and dangerous for Bible-believing families for many years, but it is even more so now with the new marriage mandate. It will not be permissible for state-sponsored schools to present traditional marriage as the norm any more. Since same-sex “marriages” are as legal as traditional marriages, they will be presented as equally normal and acceptable. It will not be allowed for teachers speak of daddy-and-mommy homes as the standard, nor two-mommy or two-daddy homes as anomalies. A child’s whole view of family and marriage will be perverted, and his life will likely be ruined. We cannot afford to leave the kids in public education. It is now absolutely necessary that Christian families choose a Christian option for the schooling of their children. Some may worry that if there were a mass exodus from the public school districts there could be real damage done. Yet, if you think about it, the widespread abandonment of the school system could be the best and most powerful wake-up call of the people in response to the cultural collapse that is now happening. Hardly anything would do this country more good than a wholesale withdrawal of students from the public schools. Every other response would be weak in comparison. Now the disaster of the court ruling is being met with barely a whimper of protest. Pulling our kids out would do a lot of good for society as well as for our families and the next generation.

2. JOIN THE PUSH-BACK
It is time to take a stand against the new definition of marriage. We will have to take our stand in order to stay true to our faith in the Word of God. In 2016, just a few politicians running for office will openly oppose the court decision, and propose constitutional steps to undo it. Christians should openly support those who do. Everybody running for any office this coming year should know about the millions who reject “gay marriage,” and should fear us to some degree. We must not be silent. Both Republicans and Democrats should expect to pay a political price for compromising with the immoral, illegal, untraditional, irrational, and unnatural concept of homosexual “marriage.” Some Christians ought (as the Lord directs them) to run for office this year, and the rest of us must consider supporting them.

3. MAKE SURE TO THINK RIGHT
Get your nose in the Bible, and renew your mind for these confusing days. Study the Word and learn what it says about marriage, sex, and homosexuality. Don’t just repeat slogans or follow your gut feelings about this emotional issue. Study it out from the viewpoint of scripture. Ask your pastor to preach sermons and teach lessons on these subjects. Know the facts, and think along with the Lord about this whole thing. Make scriptural and reasonable statements about the issue to those you can influence.

4. HAVE COMPASSION ON HOMOSEXUALS
Love those who have “come out” as living the homosexual way, and seek to win them to Christ. Recognize that “homosexual” is not a word that describes what someone is, but rather identifies something that he or she does. See the person trapped in this lifestyle as a person, and not as an object of scorn. Approach them with the Gospel, and not first with condemnation for this particular sin. In other words, seek to win them to Christ in the same way that you witness to other sinners. Remember that you are a sinner, too, and that Christ came to save sinners (First Timothy 1:15). Of course you should be ready to answer questions that they may have, just as you should be prepared to answer the questions of others with special hindrances to coming to Christ. Treat them all as human beings, and let God break your heart for their predicament (Matthew 9:36-38). The Gospel is the solution to their bondage and misery (read again Romans 1). Have compassion on them all, and tell them the Good News.

5. REFUSE TO RECOGNIZE THE “MARRIAGES.”
“Gay marriages,” although recognized by the state, are not marriages by any rational, natural, traditional, or scriptural definition of the term. So we must not recognize them as such. Christians must be ready to lose their money, respect, and even their freedom, as a consequence of standing for and telling the truth. It isn’t love that would motivate us to recognize same-sex unions as marriages. It is the fear of reprisals. It is a lie to describe them as marriages, and the consequences to the partners are many and dire. The homosexual lifestyle is the most degrading, disease-producing, and depressing way of life known to man. The statistics prove it. Don’t be rude but don’t treat the weddings as weddings or the marriages as marriages, and don’t treat homosexuality as normal and healthy.

6. PROMOTE GENDER DISTINCTION AT HOME
Homosexual people are not “born that way.” Science contradicts the popular notion that the homosexual orientation is genetic. Other factors lead to it, as counsellors have recognized for years. The current idea that people discover their sexuality as they grow up, and that gender cannot by determined by anatomical factors, will draw many more of the young and impressionable into the homosexual life. This is a reason to keep kids out of the public schools, away from the popular media, and from influences that blur correct gender distinctions and roles. Bring up little girls as girls, and little boys as boys, and dress them appropriately. The Bible makes a distinction in gender appearances and activities (Genesis 1:27, Deuteronomy 22:5, First Corinthians 11:4-15), and Christian families should do so also.

7. WORK AND PRAY FOR REVIVAL
The answer to society’s ills and insanities is the answer to mankind’s plight: His name is Jesus Christ. Sins and every perversion of God’s original and ideal plan for mankind have resulted from Adam’s original rebellion. The answer to all of these evils has been provided by the Second Adam, Jesus (see Romans 5:10-15 and First Corinthians 15:20-49). Those who have believed in Him for their personal salvation are charged with taking the message of His love and redemption to every person in the world. The reason our world has become so dark is the failure of Christians to keep the Gospel charge. And revival is the work God does in which He brings His people back to the place they ought to be. The great American revivals transformed our society by making the Christians what they are intended by their Lord to be: the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and empowered witnesses for the Savior. Our nation needs another “great awakening,” and we can have one, if believers will forsake their sins, humble their hearts, and seek the Lord (see James 4:1-10). The homosexual crisis is upon us because God’s servants have failed to be revived, and the Gospel has not gone forward as it should. Our primary responsibility today is to draw near to God for the revival we need. In every community, we should gather for revival prayer meetings, for preaching aimed at revival, and for efforts to spread the Gospel everywhere. The disintegration of society has resulted from the failure of Christians to take their place in the world. We must step up to the plate, and show the world that Jesus is the Way to peace and to deliverance.


Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

November 12, 2015

RACISM” by Dr. Rick Flanders

“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
(Colossians 3:9-14)
Dr. Rick Flanders

When a black man was elected president of the United States, it seemed that a thick barrier had been destroyed that marred American life for many years. Progress in relations between the races in this nation had apparently come to the point where white people were not unwilling to vote black people into high office. It appeared to be a break-through. However, distrust and anger over race matters have clearly worsened since 2009. Who can deny it? Some of the problems come from confusion over the issues of race, with faulty ideas gaining favor with passionate people “on both sides.” The situation is dangerous as well as distressing, but there is a solution to it in the Bible.
Let us learn or re-learn five facts about this subject in order to help ourselves and our countrymen finally get past this unhappy and unnecessary strife.
  1. NOT EVERYTHING THAT IS CALLED “RACISM” IS REALLY RACISM!
Originally the term “racism” had a much more specific meaning than it does in common usage today. A racist is a person who believes that certain people’s actions and habits are determined by their “race.” Flaws in character as well as admirable characteristics are rooted in the D.N.A., and genetic causes for good and bad are carried in races. Racist views are those that were propagated by the Nazis and by the Ku Klux Klan. Racism is an ideology; it is not just unkindness or prejudice toward people of a different color or belonging to a different race. Lack of love for anyone is wrong according to God’s “royal law” (James 2:8-9), but not all unloving words or actions constitute racism. The reason this distinction is important is that more and more voices today are raising the alarm that racism is rampant in this country, and that something radical must be done about it. The fact is that true racism, although more available to more people because of the internet, is considerably less influential and widespread than it was even fifty years ago in America. When certain famous people were recently punished for using an unkind racial slur, they were accused of racism. But there is little evidence that they actually espouse Klan or Nazi doctrine because they used the hurtful word. Seeming mistreatment of anyone because of racial bias is called “racism,” although it really isn’t. It is unchristian and unkind, but it isn’t racism. Racist ideas have been spread for many years, and actually prominent leaders have espoused and propagated some of them, but every kind of racial bias is not racism.
  1. ETHNIC PREJUDICE AND PREFERENCE IS ALMOST UNIVERSAL.
The truth is sad, but it is the truth, that preference for one’s own group is an almost universal human characteristic. To set the goal of wiping out racism in the United States, while defining racism as preference for one’s own perceived ethnic group, is to aim at an unreachable target and to excuse the rapid and unwarranted spread of government power. It can also be the means of fomenting further racial hatred and even violent behavior. Although prejudice is not Christian, and racial bias can be hurtful and ugly, they will not be eradicated by mobs or laws.
  1. PREJUDICE AND RACISM CAN ONLY BE CURED BY GOD.
The royal law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” is God’s law (James 2:8) and it can only be fulfilled when God’s love enters the human heart.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”
(First John 4:7-12)
The Source of love is God, and God is love. He sent His love to sinful man by sending His Son to be our Savior. Those who receive Jesus, also receive love into their lives. This is how the hatred in human nature is counter-acted. Before regeneration (the experience of being born again), a man is prone to hate.
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
“But after the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour…”
(Titus 3:3-6)
Insisting that wrongs be righted, that we must be treated with respect, or that racial injustice must be punished seldom rises out of love for others, and often engenders hate. The Bible teaches us to think about things that are true, honest, just, and pure (read Philippians 4:8) in order to maintain peace of mind, but we are constantly reminded of wrong, impure, dishonest, and unjust things that have been inflicted upon our perceived group throughout history. And such thoughts create outrage and anger in our hearts and minds, to our detriment. This is how black people, women, Muslims, Mexicans, and Native Americans are being taught to think, and the regular reminders of injustice only bring more hate. It is God that puts love into hearts. When we have been “justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” and “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
  1. THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN FREED FROM SIN CAN OVERCOME HATE.
The New Testament speaks of a life of liberty that is experienced by the believer in Jesus Christ (see John 8:30-36). Jesus not only saves men from Hell, but also from their sins, including the hatred in the human heart. Colossians 3 is a passage of scripture that says the Christian is “risen with Christ” (verse 1), that “Christ…is our life” (verses 2-4), that “the new man…is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (verses 9-10), that “Christ is all, and in all” (verse 11), and that “charity [love]…is the bond of perfectness” (verses 12-14). Jesus breaks the chains of sin and hate, and brings love into the life of one who trusts in His salvation. No political or ideological movement or revolution can do that. His love in the heart breaks down the barriers of prejudice (read Colossians 3:1-14 again).
  1. JESUS CHRIST IS THE ANSWER FOR HATE AND THE AUTHOR OF LOVE.
So Colossians 3 concludes that in Jesus Christ the distinctions of ethnicity, class, race, or group, no longer mar the love in the family of God, but instead “Christ is all, and in all” (read verse 11 again). It is amazing how revived Christians get along. The need of our nation is not a renewal of old racial offenses, but rather a revival of the Christian religion. Evangelical revivalism turned the tide of American opinion against slavery in the nineteenth century, as it also did in England in the previous century. The love of God and not angry agitation will be the cure to our racial problems, and will give racial harmony a deep and practical application on a personal level in every town and community. Let the Gospel of Jesus Christ be preached, and the love of Christ be lived and spread by those who believe in Him!

Dr. Rick Flanders


November 4, 2015

How to Know When the Emerging Church is Emerging in Your Church

WARNING!!! To keep you from having a “hissy fit,” please keep this in mind. Most of the things on the following list are not bad in themselves. This is not a condemnation of change or of things that are new; rather, it is a list of things that almost always appear on the road to the Emerging Church and its denial of biblical authority and sufficiency.

My heart is grieved by the fact that many of my long-time friends have been fooled into replacing a theology that is biblical with “culture authority.”  They do this by mocking things of the past and ridiculing those who press for biblical responsibility. Theology is a nasty word to them, but theology is actually a growing understanding of the God whom we serve.

HERE IS A PARTIAL LIST
 
Hymnals disappear. The Psalms are actually a hymnal. There is nothing wrong with a hymnal, even though there are things in some hymns that are errant. The Bible doesn’t command us to have hymnals in our churches. On the other hand, many people need to see the notes in order to be able to sing. Some churches have put the score on the screen to solve that problem. Without it, the blending of voices in harmony is nearly impossible.
 
The organ disappears. The Bible does not require that a church should have an organ, but trying to replace it with a tinny technical sound does not solve the issue. Nothing in our world can possibly replace the majestic sound of a pipe organ.
 
The platform is renovated. Anything that represents the past is bad and has to go. The choir loft and other furniture, including a communion table, are all replaced with new items designed to modify worship activity. Even the pulpit has to go, one way or another. It is certain that none of these things are commanded in Scripture, but their removal is the first hint that the Bible is no longer the center of worship.
 
The building is renovated. In this war on history, anything that speaks of the past has to go. When walking into some of the today’s new facilities, it’s hard to even know for sure that you'’e in a church. We can worship anywhere, but that is not the question. The question should be, “Is real worship going on here at all?”
 
Music does a turnabout. There are many kinds of music, much of which can be used tactfully. This is not an easy area to discuss, but replacing beautiful harmony with discord, yelling, repetition, and songs written by low-talent writers is certainly not helpful. It’s not that all current music is by any means bad; but when lyrics fly in the face of Scripture, there is a problem. It seems that the great majority of “worship leaders” don’t really even have enough theology to know when they are offending God.
 
Sermonettes replace biblical preaching. This is the second thing that reveals a turn away from Scripture. Preaching of the text is derided. Certainly some truth is spoken, but there is so little solid teaching of what God has said that people are starving spiritually. This happens when the communicator only knows about the Bible and very little of what God has actually said in the Bible.
 
Services dry up and disappear. The assembly of the local church is necessary for the health of the fellowship. Even with three services a week, there is a dearth of Bible teaching. People should be doing studies personally and with their families, but it is probably less than ten percent of the congregation that actually does. The Bible gives no strict rule on this, but during the persecution in the first century, they met daily. After all, how could once a week possibly provide for the coming persecution?
 
Evangelism almost disappears. For most churches, this is long gone. The task of reaching the lost should not be relegated solely to the preacher. The first line of evangelism is each true believer living and sharing the gospel in a needy world. Some human theological inventions have removed this from the believer’s responsibility, but it is still there.

Altar calls are non-existent or non-effective. Invitations at the end of a service are a recent invention, but they do have value. The important issue is why they have disappeared. If no one ever responds, why should you even bother to have one? And why doesn’t anyone one respond? This has to be a topic for another discussion, but a lot of it has to do with poorly crafted messages.
 
Unregenerate membership. This is an old problem. We invented a church membership concept that allows professing Christians to be part of a local church. When attendees act and talk like pagans and confess that the Spirit of God does not dwell in them, they should not be part of a membership. The new approach today, however, is to welcome pagans into the church without any clear testimony of conversion. The percentage of unsaved people in today’s congregations is now staggering. This is a third major area identifying the departure from scripture.
 
Man-centered worship. Worship is about God, to God, and for God; but you wouldn’t know it in most of today's "worship" meetings. Yes, there are lots of words about God, but it hard to actually find Him. How can you worship when the words being used are offensive to God and to His Word? Who in such a meeting can really worship? Unsaved Christ rejecters, as well as carnal, out-of-fellowship believers can’t truly worship. So, how many true believers who walk in the Spirit and who are able to worship are present? Man-centered entertainment "worship" is carnal and fleshly. One certain “worship leader” has confessed that “We do what we like.”
 
A hatred of history. This is the mantra of liberalism, socialism, and communism. Those on the road to the Emerging Church must shake the dust of history off their feet. The true believer rejoices in factual history, learns from it, and respects it, but does not live in the past. The road to “what we like” can have no historical markers.
 
A disdain for doctrine and scorn for theology. This is where it all ends. It is why churches often change their names, neuter their public doctrinal statements, and make fun of exegetical preaching. Their sick defense is that “We change our methods, but not our message.”  Sorry, but that is an impossibility and, frankly, it is a lie.
 
WHOA!! Don’t waste one breath in trying to argue about any of the above. The fact is that we need change, and many new things do indeed have value. The standard, however, should ever be the Holy Word of God. The tragedy is that most people don’t know enough of a theology that is biblical to allow them to avoid the dead end. That dead end is the Emergent Church mob. How much of this has emerged in your world?
 
 
Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.
 
A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or at ShepherdStaff

October 25, 2015

Archival Series: Lordship Salvation’s Misuse of Scripture, 1 Thess. 1:9-10



For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.


There is one passage of Scripture that virtually always comes up in the discussion of repentance with advocates of Lordship Salvation and needs to be carefully explained. How does John MacArthur, for the Lordship view of repentance, interpret the first verse of this passage?

As metanoia is used in the New Testament, it always speaks of a change of purpose, and specifically a turning from sin. In the sense Jesus used it, repentance calls for a repudiation of the old life and a turning to God for salvation. Such a change of purpose is what Paul had in mind when he described the repentance of the Thessalonians: “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Note the three elements of repentance: turning to God, a turning from evil, and the intent to serve God. No change of mind can be called true repentance if it does not include all three elements. The simple but all too often overlooked fact is that a true change of mind will necessarily result in a change of behavior. Repentance is not merely shame or sorry over sin, although genuine repentance always involves an element of remorse. It is a redirection of the human will, a purposeful decision to forsake all unrighteousness and pursue righteousness instead. 9

What is the gospel, after all, but a call to repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30)? In other words, it demands that sinners make a change—stop going one way and turn around to go the other (1 Thess. 1:9). 10

Those quotes represent Lordship’s classic misuse of 1 Thess. 1:9. MacArthur starts by addressing the Greek word metanoia as it is used in the New Testament, and then quotes a verse that does not even contain the word metanoia. The Greek word for “to turn” is completely different; it is epistrepho (epistrephō) and means simply “to turn, turn to or toward.” Epistrephō does not mean “to repent.”

Through the balance of this section I am going to draw from the Inspired Commentary, the Word of God, to bring out the meaning and context of 1 Thess. 1:9. Before we can draw a conclusion on 1 Thess. 1:9 we need to begin by reviewing Paul’s initial evangelistic ministry to the Thessalonicans. In Acts 17:1-4 we find Paul arriving at Thessalonica and, “as his manner was,” preaching the gospel. He was preaching Jesus who suffered and rose again. He said, “…Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” He is exhorting the Thessalonians, in their unsaved condition, to change their mind about Jesus. In verse four we see that some were persuaded, “some of them believed,” but some “believed not.” What was it in Paul’s preaching that some were persuaded of and believed? That Jesus, who suffered, died and rose again, was the Christ. In Paul’s evangelistic appeal to the Thessalonians is there any call or exhortation for “turning from evil” or the “intent to serve” for salvation? No, there is not! MacArthur is forcing “turning from evil (sin) and the intent to serve God…to forsake all unrighteousness” into the narrative of Paul’s sermon.

Those who “believed not” set in motion a wave of persecution against the new believers (Acts 17:5-9). The events at Thessalonica set a pattern for what we find in Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonian believers.

In 1 Thessalonians 1 Paul acknowledges and praises them for their “work of faith” and “labor of love.” They set an example for others on what Bible Christianity should look like. Their fine example was being set with “patience” (v. 3) in the face of “much affliction” (v. 6; Acts 17:5-9). They were setting the right example for fellow believers (Macedonia and Achaia, vv. 7-8) to emulate how to go through persecution. The reputation of the Thessalonian church preceded Paul in his missionary travels; therefore he did not need to speak of it (v.8). Their testimony of faith and patience in the face of persecution was a living example and a sermon without words. With respect to Lordship Salvation, this raises a serious problem. If the example of the Thessalonians in their willingness to change their behavior after they believed is considered the necessary condition of true saving faith, then in what way were the Thessalonians “examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (v. 7)? How could they be the example to all other believers when all believers in Christ will necessarily live and behave just like the Thessalonians as Lordship advocates insist?

1 Thess. 1:9 opens with, “For they… .” The “they” is their “faith to God-ward,” which became known abroad. The Thessalonians “turned to God,” which put them in a position for the capacity to serve God. The example they became to other believers was the result of their believing the message Paul preached unto themthe One who suffered and rose again is the Christ. The “patience of hope” (v. 3) is defined in verse 10, “And to wait for his Son from heaven.” While they expected and patiently waited for Him to come they kept working out their faith and labored in love. Today when so many are occupied with His coming, we would do well to learn from the Thessalonians that we should keep occupied (doing something for Him) until He comes.

Lordship advocates who use this passage as an illustration of repentance only quote verse 9, “and how ye turned (epistrepho) to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Grammatically, however, there are two parallel infinitives of purpose, which are found in verses 9 and 10. The sentence structure, therefore, if breaking it down into main points and sub points, could be visualized this way:

v9, For
     they themselves shew of us
           - what manner of entering in we had unto you
             and
           - how ye turned to God from idols
                 - to serve (douleuein) the living and true God
v10,             and 
                 - to wait (anamenein) for His Son from heaven,
                              -whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus,
                              - which delivered us from the wrath to come.

There is a major problem for the Lordship position in claiming that 1 Thess. 1:9 is making the intent “to serve” a necessary description (thus condition) of genuine repentance/faith. If “to serve” is a condition/necessary description, then syntactically so must the phrase “to wait” be as well. Wait for what? “His Son from heaven,” i.e. the Second Coming of Christ. There is no other passage in Scripture that conditions the reception of eternal life on believing in Christ’s Second Coming or waiting for it!

There is simply no way the two infinitive clauses can be separated. They are both present tense, active voice, infinitives, and they are both subordinate, dependent clauses that are parallel to one another and dependent upon the main, independent clause of 1:9, “how ye turned to God from idols.”

To be born again do the lost need to believe in the Second Coming of Christ? If we accept MacArthur’s view that the Thessalonians were saved by “turning from evil and the intent to serve,” then the Scriptures also demand waiting for the second coming of Christ as a third condition for conversion.

There is, however, an even larger point with 1 Thess. 1:9-10. This passage is not even describing their initial, saving faith. The emphasis of the passage is clearly upon describing their faithful example in following the Lord subsequent to their initial, saving faith. In 1 Thess. 1:9 Paul is not speaking of how to become a believer; he wrote to them about their growth and testimony as believers.

This interpretation fits perfectly with Paul’s introductory description of these Thessalonians in 2 Thess. 1:3-4. Notice there too they are described not as to their initial, saving faith, as if Paul is saying to them there, “Your conversion was genuine.” No, he is pleased with the fact that their “faith groweth exceedingly” (1:3) and that they were exercising “patience and faith” amidst the trials they were enduring (1:4).

This interpretation, furthermore, fits perfectly with the Inspired Commentary on the Thessalonian Epistles that we have in Acts 17, where the Thessalonians’ initial, saving faith is described in 17:1-4, esp. v. 4 “persuaded” (peitho) or “believed” (KJV) and v. 5 “were not persuaded” (apeitho) or “believed not” (KJV). The content of their faith is described in v. 3, that is, they believed in Christ’s substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, which were according to the Scriptures (1 Thess. 4:14; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). There is no mention of turning from idols, serving the living God, waiting for the Second Coming, etc. Instead, what we see is that immediately upon believing, these baby Christians in Thessalonica were persecuted for their faith (Acts 17:5-9), particularly by Jewish unbelievers (1 Thess. 2:14-16).

From the Scriptures we can firmly conclude that 1 Thess. 1:9-10 is a post conversion passage. Paul is addressing the things that followed their conversion. He was teaching them post conversion truth. In verse ten he concerns himself with their growth in light of the Lord’s imminent return. At the time of their persecution Paul and Silas were ministering to them as new believers (1 Thess. 2:8). In both epistles to the Thessalonians Paul is ministering to them as new believers. Every chapter in 1 Thessalonians ends with Paul referencing the Second Coming of Christ, which is a vital truth for believers. In 2 Thessalonians 1 we find Paul speaking of their growing faith, charity toward one another and patience in persecution. Paul is commending them for their faith that grew out of their believing the gospel.

Lordship’s repentance, as MacArthur defines it, is to “stop going one way,” i.e. stop sinning and replace sinning with the “intent to serve,” i.e. do the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of a born again believer. MacArthur changes the gospel from repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to a man-centered message that conditions the reception of eternal life on the lost man’s, “purposeful decision to forsake all unrighteousness,” which is an upfront commitment to certain expected levels of behavior. Believing the gospel should result in some form of a change in behavior as one grows in grace. However, nowhere in Scripture is the gospel for the reception of eternal life defined by a sinner’s intention, commitment or resolve to change his behavior.

In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation, from the chapter, What is Biblical Repentance, pp. 133-138.

Footnotes:
9) John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith,
p. 178.

10) John MacArthur, Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles, p. 33.

For related reading see, Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page of John MacArthurs The Gospel According to Jesus.

October 12, 2015

Ignorance & Apathy

The story was told of a reporter who was taking a brief survey on a city street.  He asked a passerby to comment on the biggest problems in our country, ignorance and apathy. The individual supposedly replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”  That response reflects the attitude in the average church toward the Bible. I am amazed at the gross ignorance of the scriptures amongst those in our circles. The same is also true of the average church leadership and, unfortunately, of some pastors.

And now, if I have your attention, let me explain.  Most people I know have knowledge about the Bible, but few actually have knowledge of the Bible.  To know about Adam in the garden, Joseph’s coat of many colors, Daniel in the lions’ den, or David and Goliath is to know about the Bible.  That is not the same as knowing what God is communicating to us.  The Bible is a book about God.  The scripture is there for us to understand who He is, what He has said about Himself, and what that means to us.

It doesn’t take an extended conversation to see that the average person in the church has surface information about the Book, nor does it take very long before they demonstrate a lack of understanding of what God has actually stated.  They tend to repeat what other people have said or written, but they have never tested it with the text.  A greater tragedy is that, when you ask them to explain their beliefs, they simply don’t care.  Their ignorance is displayed when they say, “I think” or “I believe” or “my view is.”  What is even worse is to hear them say, “That is what my pastor, or my church believes.”  Apathy is evident when they say, “It’s not all that important.”

ILLUSTRATIONS OF THIS

Over the past year, I have been grieved again and again by people from my past who don’t know or even care what God has said.  As students or members of the church, they have all had the same basic teaching.  Some have done very well in embracing “what the Bible says,” so at least there is some success.  Others have no shame in rewriting the Bible anytime it doesn’t agree with them.  Some of these folks who sat under biblical teaching have joined churches that are actually cultic.  Most of them do not even have a clue about the doctrinal position of the church and have never asked.  Many have moved to the “emerging church” because of its entertainment emphasis as opposed to true worship.  They have no idea where the church is or where it is headed theologically, and they don’t seem to care.  Even when God has written Ichabod over them and closed the doors, they just move on to another church tragedy filled with ignorance and apathy.

I have been tempted to use some of the names of those churches and the individuals who have turned their back on God’s word, but then ignorant people would call that “judging.”  One thing that seems evident is that this curse is caused by the fact that so many people in those churches have never been born again, and so they have no ability to understand the text that is spiritually discerned.

Do you have any idea why so many so-called churches today have changed their names?  There was a time when you could see a church name and at least know where to begin with your questions.  With the “dishwater” types of names so many churches have now adopted, you have to begin at the beginning;  there is no other obvious place to start with your questions. Church websites have deliberately watered down their statements of faith in order to prevent your realizing that they are a cult.  They know that most folks don’t know what questions to ask, nor do they know why certain doctrines are a key for understanding.

ACCEPTING THE CHALLENGE

This problem often begins with churches when they try to select a new pastor.  To start with, it is Christ who calls pastors, not local churches.  The church’s main task is to find out who it is that Christ has selected as His under-shepherd for that congregation.  Countless hours are wasted in ignorance and apathy as those who are responsible discuss surface issues and miss the main focus.  If Christ designates a man as local shepherd, you can be sure that person will be equipped and qualified.  You can be sure that Christ would approve a man of the Book - not a man who knows just about the Bible, but one who actually knows what God is saying.  We often end up with someone who is telling only what they think God is saying.  God help us!  When it comes to finding out what a man really believes, who in the average local church would be able to do that?  Get off your high horse!  Yes, it is true that all of us know some basic Bible facts, but who is going to protect the church from doctrinal error?  Who in the church’s leadership has understanding that would root out false teaching in a candidate?

This is why so many churches have fallen prey to the “emerging church” movement and to entertainment in lieu of true worship.  Pastors who know what God has said in His Book and who are called of Christ have backbone and will stand up to such nonsense.  A man who is called by Christ will be a man who understands God's holiness as being central to what we know about Him.  He would be reviled by the worship of man and intolerant of having the filth of the world dragged into a congregation.

OUR RESPONSE TO THIS PROBLEM

How do we deal with ignorance?  There is no end to opportunities in this arena.  Ask yourself, “How many minutes each week does the average church member spend in solid, serious study of God’s Word, including church meetings?”  There you have the heart of ignorance.  The first step is to make sure that any and all teaching and preaching are carefully crafted and filled to overflowing with who God is and what He says.  Then ask in what ways we can increase valuable study of the Word by each member.  It should begin by setting aside books written by humans and then moving to studies of the Book.  How do we deal with apathy?  Challenge people to search their own hearts.  God will speak to them if they have not become His son by faith.  A spirit of revival is needed in the church that is self-absorbed, and that includes the preaching of God’s word regarding sin.  Because they love their sin, the “emerging church” hates preaching on wickedness.  They breed immorality because to them God’s word is only a toy.

Only God can break through to the mind that has embraced ignorance.  Only He can break the heart of someone who doesn’t care.  I grieve for those who are comfortable in their trap, but there surely must be some of them who are still open to preaching about a holy God.


Shepherd’s Staff is Prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the email address Shepherdstaff2@juno.com or Shepherd Staff

September 15, 2015

Israel is a Tough Nut

A lot of opinions have been tossed around as to who Israel is, and it is time to ask some questions. To begin with, what is behind the “replacement theory?”  That is the idea that the Church replaces Israel. Actually, this theory comes from a humanly developed hermeneutic. The one biblical hermeneutic recognizes the clear, distinct, and eternal differences between Israel and the Church: Israel is the wife of God, and the Church is the Bride of Christ. This distinction cannot be changed and will remain in eternity.

At least the replacement idea is clearly stated and is easy to recognize. The problem for those in our camp is that there are small encroachments on this subject. Any narrowing of that clear biblical distinction has to use the same hermeneutic that the replacement theory uses. Any distinctive that belongs to the Church and is assigned to Israel is a step in the wrong direction. It even appears to be a mild form of anti-Semitism.

PRESENT ISRAEL

In the Arabic world, we teach some of the finest believers I have ever known. This subject is difficult for them because of things that have been done to them. I don’t excuse anything that anyone does that is wrong or inconsistent. On the other hand, though, this discussion deals with who they are and not what they have done.

The nation of Israel that is now in the land is a nation. It is foolish not to recognize that fact. This present nation, however, is not equal to the Old Testament theocratic nation of Israel. It is not equal to the nation of Israel in the Millennium. The people in this present nation are God’s chosen people despite their rejection and hard-heartedness. The Bible does tell us that they will return to the land, but that they will return in unbelief. They will be a different people in heart when the “New Covenant” is fulfilled just prior to the Millennium. That will be a miracle of God, just as your own personal salvation was a miracle of God.

WHO OWNS THE LAND?

Many writers have been proposed opinions about this subject. It has been suggested that the nation now in the land has no claim on the land. This would be the Reformed position, but it is wrong. It is the Jews that God has chosen as His special people, no matter when or where they are on the earth. The land grant - all of it - was given to the people, not to the nation. (Genesis 15:18-21) Even when there was no organized nation, the land belonged to them, the people; thus the people in the land at this hour do indeed retain the promise of the land grant.

I have often been asked, “If the present nation of Israel were driven into the sea, would that affect my understanding of prophecy?" The answer is no. We know only what we see and what is clearly stated in the Bible text, but God knows what He intends to bring to pass. On this subject we must be careful about assigning to Old Testament texts meaning that is not clearly tied to the specific subject.

BEWARE OF OFFENSE

Bible history is very clear: any nation, group, religion, or individual who offends God’s chosen people will, without question, be judged by God. In due time, any nation that has turned its hand to God’s chosen people will be destroyed. Theologians ignore this judgment by simply having those people disappear. In the end, scholars will be judged for their philosophical and allegorical treatment of Israel. The problem is that any offense, whether large or small, offends a Holy God. This is not just a matter of disagreement; it is a serious consideration.

The leadership of our country has turned its hand against God’s chosen people and has opened the door to their destruction. If the nation that is now in the land were to be slaughtered, how is that any different than what Germany did to the Jewish population? This is not about what the present nation is doing; it is about who they are. They are in unbelief and have rejected their Messiah, but they are still God’s particular people, like no other people in history. It is a backdrop for those who try to blend the Church and Israel. No matter how small, it is not a light matter; and everyone who has participated in this, no matter who they are, should expect judgment.

One has only to read the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to see what happens to those who set their teeth against this ancient people. Without doubt, it ends in the greatest bloodbath in the history of the earth.

THE PROBLEM OF THE LAND

You can do your own study from scripture and history as to why God’s people lost possession of the land. It was their own fault. They failed to obey, to keep the covenant; and God promised they would be dispersed and that others would take their land. In God’s time, though, they will have all of the land that God willed for them. While they are driven out of the land, not occupying it, the land still belongs to God’s chosen people. He has never revoked that promise of ownership.

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

The cancer of the “emerging church” has swept through our own ranks. The mantra is, “We have changed our methods, but not our message.”  It is possible that some do not understand what they have done, but that is a bold-faced lie. The “emerging church” is filled with theological error, and on the subject of Israel they are dead wrong. I find it difficult to understand why people who have been taught truth seem to find it so easy to ignore doctrinal error when moving to one of the “entertainment churches.”   In their disobedience they now say, “It doesn’t matter.”  Even those who have moved into cult congregations are unable to see the false teaching. They appear to be blinded to truth, and what is worse is that they actually enjoy the Laodicean congregations they have joined! Perhaps the “noise” has helped to impair their hearing and their hearts. In the end, they have no idea how these false teachers have arrived at ideas that offend a Holy God.


Shepherd's Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.

A communication service of Shepherd's Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address, Shepherdstaff2@juno.com or visit Shepherd's Staff.

Related Readings:
An Introduction to Dispensationalism

George Zeller's: Introduction to Dispensationalsim

August 5, 2015

Dr. Rick Flanders: Who Was John Birch?

Most people who have heard of John Birch associate his name with the John Birch Society, a public-policy educational association founded in the 1950s to combat communism. But the truth is that if nobody had named an organization for him, his name would be properly honored today, especially by fundamental Baptists. On August 25, 1945, John Birch was murdered in China, which was a significant event at the beginning of the Cold War because he was killed by Communists who, at the time, were supposed to be our allies. The seventieth anniversary of his murder occurs this year, and there are many reasons for Christians to remind themselves at this time of who this great man was.
 
1. HE DID NOT FOUND THE JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY. The John Birch Society was organized in 1957, but not by John Birch, who had been dead for more than a decade. The founder was Robert Welch, a successful candy manufacturer who had made himself a serious student of world events and saw the need to take action against forces he saw were threatening the freedom of the United States and the so-called“Free World.” The society was named for John Birch because of the significance of his death to the larger situation we called the Cold War. Not only was the young Birch killed by the Communists, but the murder was covered up by the United States government. This cover-up of an act of aggression against us by the Communists, along with several more such cover-ups that were exposed in the post-war era, revealed a tangled web of treason and conspiracy that moved some to take action for the preservation of their liberty from powerful forces that threatened them. The death of John Birch, and the efforts of the American government to hide the facts about it, demonstrated the awful predicament in which our nation has been since World War Two. It also relates the remarkable story of the bravery and dedication of a young American Christian to his country and to his Lord in the face of great peril.
 
2. HE WAS A BAPTIST PREACHER! John Birch was born in India to Presbyterian missionary parents in 1918, and was twenty-seven years old when he died. At seven years of age, he was “born again” (read John 3:1-17) by trusting in Jesus Christ for his salvation after hearing the gospel in the Baptist church his parents (who had been Presbyterians but left them over theological liberalism) had joined. When he was eleven, he surrendered to the Lord’s call to be a missionary. John was a dedicated Christian as a teenager and a strong Bible-believer as were his parents. When the time came for him to go to college, he went to a Southern Baptist Convention institution, Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, to begin ministerial training. He was already an accomplished preacher and preached often as a student, even pastoring a Baptist church for a time while in school.
 
3. HE WAS A FUNDAMENTALIST. As a student at Mercer, John Birch came to see clearly the issue of infidelity in the churches, and took a stand against professors at the university who were undermining the faith of the students. He also had a chance to hear the famous fundamentalist preacher, J. Frank Norris, preach against what in those days was called “modernism” (a term for the liberal theology that had crept into the churches, which questioned or denied cardinal doctrines of the Christian Faith), and determined to take his stand. In his senior year, Birch united with a dozen other Mercer students to petition the state Baptist convention to investigate certain teachers on charges of heresy. In the midst of the furor that ensued, University officials threatened to expel the upstart. The newspapers made his name a household word in Macon, in either positive or in negative terms. In time, the heresy charges failed to convict the professors, and John Birch finished his senior year. He was graduated magna cum laud from Mercer. Instead of going on to a Southern Baptist seminary to further his education, he enrolled in the new Fundamental Baptist Bible Institute that had been organized in Fort Worth, Texas, by Norris, who was a leader in the national “fundamentalist” movement. Fundamentalists contended that Christianity must be defined in terms of the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, and that those who denied any of these cardinal tenets of the Faith, even if they are ordained ministers, are not really Christians. Fundamentalism was a grassroots movement in the historically evangelical churches against the influence of liberalism. John Birch was an all-out fundamentalist, and his intentions were to train to be a missionary and go to China to help the Baptist fundamentalists who were laboring courageously and faithfully there.
 
4. HE WAS A MISSIONARY. In 1939, God sent John Birch to China as an independent Baptist missionary. He worked with two legendary fundamental Baptist men, Oscar Wells and Fred Donnellson. When he arrived, China was torn in the conflict that became the Second World War. Japan had invaded China, and the United States was putting pressure on them while seeking to stay out of the war. The government of Nationalist Chaing Kai-Shek over China was being challenged both by a Communist insurrection and the Japanese invasion. As the war progressed, his missionary support diminished to a trickle, and the place of his service came under Japanese control. Nevertheless he vigorously and zealously spread the Gospel, won souls to Christ, and nourished the Baptist churches in occupied China. American interest in the plight of China brought military help from the United States even before Peart Harbor. Volunteers from our country formed a unit of air force to aid the Chinese that was famously called “The Flying Tigers,” which fought the Japanese bravely until they were absorbed into the U.S. Army after we entered the war. All this time John Birch served the spiritual needs of the Chinese people with the war raging around him.
 
5. HE WAS A PATRIOT. In this situation, Birch volunteered to join the United States Army. He made application to be enlisted, based on two appeals: (1) he wanted to help his country and the Chinese he came to serve, and (2) he needed an income. He argued that his fluency in the language and familiarity with the culture of the people would make him valuable to the war effort of the United States. As an ordained Baptist minister, he was seeking appointment as a chaplain. Eventually he made an attempt to join General Claire Chennault and the Flying Tigers, the fighting unit of American volunteers this great man commanded. It was the general that told Birch that they had no need for a chaplain, but that they did need an intelligence officer who could work behind Japanese lines and provide important information for the 14thAir Force (as the Flying Tigers came to be known). Eventually Birch was appointed an officer and served in the Army during World War II while he served the Lord as a missionary and an evangelist in war-torn China. He preached on Sundays and spied for Chennault during the week. After Birch was killed, General Chennault said, “John was more than just a very good officer in my command. In fact, I have always felt toward him as a father might feel toward a son.” In a letter to the Birch family after John’s death, General Charles Stone, his commander after Chennault, commended his service.
“As an intelligence liaison officer of the Fourteenth Air Force, Captain Birch performed invaluable services which greatly aided the achievement of ultimate victory. His work was performed to a great extent behind enemy lines and often under hazardous conditions, in circumstances of extreme personal hardship and immediate danger. His unassuming manner, unswerving loyalty, and personal courage earned him the respect and admiration of officers and enlisted men among both American and Chinese units.”

John Birch played a unique role in wartime China: he was a combination of Baptist missionary and American intelligence officer. His service at to both God and country was virtually unprecedented.
 
6. HE WAS A HERO. While interviewing with General Chennault regarding his application to serve in the Army, Birch played an important role in the renowned mission of Colonel Jimmy Doolittle to bombard Tokyo. After the attack on Japan, Doolittle’s squadron of planes ran into trouble over China, as the famous flier’s plane ran out of fuel. He and his comrades wandered the Chinese landscape until providentially they ran into John Birch. Birch and his cohorts were able to get the great pilot and his men to American troops and safety. The news of his heroic efforts in this incident gave Birch credibility and favor before General Chennault, and got him a commission as captain. As the war with Japan came to a close, Birch had proven himself to be a remarkable soldier. He also had come to serious spiritual and political conclusions about the significance of the war. He wrote to his family,
“I believe that this war will set the stage for Antichrist. I’ll have a lot to tell you when I get home. Things about the future of China and of the world.” 
As he prepared to come home, John Birch was to fulfill one more mission. Under orders of General Albert Wedemeyer, commander of American forces in China, he and ten other soldiers (three Americans, five Chinese, and two Koreans) were to take a train to Suchow to inspect the airport there before Birch would make his way back to the United States. In their journey the eleven where detained by Communists and eventually John Birch and his Chinese personal aid were shot and Birch was killed. The aid (whose name was Tung) was badly wounded and basically left for dead but survived and gave an eyewitness account of the captain’s abuse at the hands of the Communists. John Birch repeatedly refused to surrender weapons and other equipment carried by his men, insisting that since the war was over and Americans were supposed to be allies of the Communists, they were under no obligation to be subject to this treatment. They would not be disarmed by the Red Chinese. The arguments were heated and repeated. Tung warned John Birch against antagonizing the Communists, and several times the captain replied, “Never mind, Lieutenant, I want to see how the Communists treat Americans. If they kill me, America will stop the Communist movement [advance] with atom bombs.” They did kill him. He was buried we think in Suchow. But instead of holding the Communists responsible for this hostile action, the American government decided that the incident should not be made known. The story of the murder of John Birch became a tightly-guarded secret.
 
7. HE WAS A WITNESS FOR JESUS CHRIST!
In a letter to his parents in 1944, John testified,
“If my hour to depart should strike, I am ready to go, thanks to the merits of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The source of his bravery in the final hours of his service to his country was the assurance John Birch had in his mind and in his heart that he would go to Heaven. His decision to risk his life by standing for the rightful interests of the United States was based on the conviction that his life could be a sacrifice for the betterment of the world. All of these amazing qualities in the life of John Birch resulted from the work of grace wrought in his heart by Jesus Christ.
 
After the war a newspaper reporter who had spent much time in China (Adeline Gray) wrote in amazing terms about John’s life and service in a letter to his parents.
“Yesterday, I read of John Birch’s death in the [Washington, D.C.] Evening Star and was very shocked. Your son was one of the finest men who ever came to China. He never drank, smoked, swore, or did an unkind thing to anyone. He believed that wars were due and are due to lack of religion. He talked of this in most lofty and beautiful worded sentences. He exerted a profound effect upon the thousands of people who came in contact with him…

“His loss is a great loss not only to China, but to America and the world. He loved China and the Chinese people dearly and planned to stay in China all his life. During the war he performed many dangerous and heroic feats. As a member of the U. S. Army Intelligence, he often was parachuted out into Japanese areas and spent weeks and months behind the lines. He was a beloved man of the U.S. Army in China; he was widely known all over China…

“I understand that no news agency was allowed to send out the story of your son’s death from China for fear of arousing Chinese Communists and American relations to a higher pitch of instability and ill-will. So his death was not mentioned in any news story from China. Otherwise, it would have been on the front page of every paper in the U.S.”

On the Fourth of July in 1945, he had written a letter home that eloquently stated his perception of the need of the world:
“There is only one real problem in the world with all its complicated evils, and there is only one answer, amidst the maze of futile plans. Here is the problem and the answer: ‘The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).”

Over the years after his death, the heroism and martyrdom of John Birch occasionally leaked out from the classified report, with statements made about him in Congress and the press. But the report itself was never seen by the public until it was de-classified in 1980. However, the testimonies of soldiers and family-members who knew his story have inspired thousands of Christians and patriots for seventy years. How he lived, what he said, and what he did tell us all that there is more to life than staying alive, that only in Christ can the needs of men be met, and that the still-spreading collectivist conquest of nations is evil at its core and essentially spiritual in its errors. May he be remembered, and the lessons of his life heeded.
Have you bowed to Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Savior? Reader, have you received the gift of eternal life by faith in the Son of God? Christian friend, will you stand bravely for the truth of God in these dark days when many may be challenged to pay a price to live for Christ? As we remember John Birch, may the Lord use the testimony of his life and death to draw us to love the One Who loved us, and gave Himself for our salvation.
 
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
(Revelation 6:9-10)
 
SOURCES OF INFORMATION ABOUT JOHN BIRCH:
1. Welch, Robert. The Life of John Birch. Belmont, Massachusetts: Western Islands, 1960.
2. Hefley, James and Marti. The Secret File on John Birch. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1981.
3. The John Birch Society, 770 N. Westhill Blvd., Appleton, WI 54914—920.749.3780.
4. Arlington Baptist College, 3001 West Division, Arlington, Texas 76012—817.461.8741: ask for information on John Birch.

 
Dr. Rick Flanders