If we emphasize the differences between New Testament and Old Testament faith, and fail to point out their similarities, we drain the New Testament warning passages of all meaning and put our brothers and sisters in serious danger.

How are we different?

April 1, 2016

Is the Christian’s salvation somehow more permanent than Abraham’s? Is our faithlessness — reflected in our apathy toward injustice and oppression — any less vulnerable to judgment than Israel’s?

“I will test you with the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness. Since your refuge is made of lies, a hailstorm will knock it down. Since it is made of deception, a flood will sweep it away. I will cancel the bargain you made to cheat death, and I will overturn your deal to dodge the grave. When the terrible enemy sweeps through, you will be trampled into the ground.” (Isaiah 28:17-18 NLT)

The Lord’s word to the church in Sardis is heavy on my heart this morning.

He wrote to a people who had a reputation for being alive, but who in fact were dead. He knew they were dead because he knew their deeds. While a few members of the congregation had kept themselves unstained by the world, most had not. He promised that those faithful ones ultimately would overcome and “walk with him in white.” Because they had not denied him before the world, he would confess them before the Father and the angels.

He promised that the names of those few would not be erased from the book of life.

On the other hand, the majority of the church was in serious danger. Their deeds were not complete in the sight of God. (v.2) They thought they were alive, but they were dead. It reminds us of James’ words that “faith” is useless if it is not accompanied by works. Dead faith cannot save. (James 2:14-26) The faith that saves, that keeps a person unstained by the world, is found in those who do things like visit orphans and widows in their distress. (James 1:27)

The church at Sardis was warned to not just talk about faith while leaving their works of faith incomplete before God. What little remained of their saving faith was about to die. While their fellow church members would be welcomed by Jesus and see their names remain in the book of life, the “faith without works” crowd would find themselves suddenly and unexpectedly confronted by Jesus the Righteous Judge.

They would not be in the group whose names remained in the book of life.

The Lord warned then, and warns now: “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. … He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (3:3,6)

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. ‘But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. ‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:1-6 NAS)

Dear brothers and sisters, don’t think for a moment you can keep indulging your sinful nature and still inherit the kingdom at the end of your life.

God declared an end to sin’s control over us by sending his Son to live as one of us, and then giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Christ lives within you, and because you have been made right with God, the Spirit gives you life.

Because you belong to Christ, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. If you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, through the power of the Spirit, you will live.

Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace, but letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. Dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. If you live by its dictates, you will die.

Romans 8

 

Anyone who trusts his life to God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life, but remains under God’s angry judgment. (John 3:36)

Because if you aren’t obeying the Son, you aren’t trusting your life to him.

Our happy apostasy

January 4, 2016

‘Heresy’ and ‘apostasy’ have long been hurled as epithets by the ne’er-do-well fringe of Christianity. But I’m now hearing the words more frequently in mainstream evangelical quarters. Usually they target readily identifiable examples, like off-the-deep-end theological liberalism or the so-called prosperity gospel. There’s also good reason to apply it to legalism, in both its behavioral and doctrinal modes.

But not many members of mainstream conservative evangelical churches would see themselves as being in danger of accepting heresy or committing apostasy, when in fact the danger lurks close by.

I was glad to see this article by Mike Livingston, which brings the issue of heresy and apostasy much closer to home. Here’s an excerpt from The heresy of worshiptainment:

The great heresy of the church today is that we think we’re in the entertainment business. A.W. Tozer believed this to be true back in the 1950s and 60s. Church members “want to be entertained while they are edified.” He said that in 1962. Tozer grieved, even then, that it was “scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction was God.”*

More recently, David Platt has asked: “What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would His Word still be enough for his people to come together?” (Radical) …

Like Tozer, we should be concerned that so many people in our churches want to be entertained while they worship. We should be concerned when we no longer recognize the difference between the two. And we should be concerned by the growing belief that adding more entertainment value to worship is necessary for the church to accomplish its mission.

We have had too little teaching about apostasy among evangelicals in the past century, to the point that many laypeople have no idea what the word means, much less how it threatens them or what its consequences might be. Without thinking long and hard, anyone can grasp how the concept of apostasia might apply to those walking with Jesus. In the common usage of the day, it meant “defection.”  It is rooted in a word that means, among other things, to desert a compatriot.

Mike Livingstone has put his finger on a real problem. Regardless of worship style or doctrinal tribe, many evangelical congregations are plagued by a demand for feel-good worship. This excitational spectatorism reveals the captivity of God’s people to a culture shaped by individualism, consumerism, subjectivism, and materialism.

And the flip side of the “worshiptainment” heresy is an even more insidious and widespread apostasy that presents a danger to virtually every Christian who does not struggle each day with hunger or violence. It’s a heresy that can be rampant in comfortable houses in a way it could never be under highway overpasses. It lurks in the hallways of church buildings, but would never darken the recesses of catacombs where persecuted Christians take refuge.

Like “worshiptainment,” this heresy is rooted in self-absorption. It’s a happy apostasy committed simply by being completely preoccupied with everyday life, pursuing business as usual, rather than seeking first God’s kingdom and his justice.

We’re talking about complacent Christians who are indifferent toward needy people in a world wracked by violence, oppression, and injustice.

We busy ourselves with First World distractions while around the globe children die of easily preventable diseases, widows starve as outcasts, refugees lie down at night hungry and cold, men and women miss work because they are sickened by dirty water, entire families slave away at backbreaking labor under a master’s whip, and women and children are beaten, drugged, and chained to brothel beds.

We enjoy the comforts of home, food, and bank account while in our own cities children grow up fatherless, young men despair of work and drift without purpose, young women are “liberated” into promiscuity and abandonment, destitute souls live hand to mouth on the government dole, fathers and sons are enslaved by pornography, unborn children are slaughtered for their parents’ sins, hurting souls medicate themselves into oblivion, and multitudes pretend brokenness is wholeness.

But you enjoyed worship this week at your church? How nice for you!

Do you not know that God rejected Israel’s earnest worship and sent his people into captivity because they tolerated injustice?

Have you not read how they were warned, in their prosperity, not to forget the Lord and quit walking in his ways?

Have you not understood God’s displeasure that, when he expected a crop of justice from his people, he instead found oppression in their world?

Has it never occurred to you that in Matthew 25 the “sheep” inheriting the Kingdom and going into eternal life are those who got personally involved in helping people in need?

Brothers and sisters, “you must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.”

“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Our salvation is a journey into justice.

Reblogged from here.

No coincidence

August 13, 2015

No coincidence: Christians who have no teaching about the role of obedience in salvation also offer no warning about the danger of apostasy.

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