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My Convictions About the Holy Spirit

When I was ordained to the ministry in 1988, I had to write a paper stating my views on a number of areas of theology—Scripture, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Man, Salvation, Church, Future Things, Angels & Demons, Spiritual Gifts—as well as several current issues—Marriage & Divorce, Homosexuality, Abortion, Social Drinking, and the Role of Women in the Church. When I transferred my ordination to the Evangelical Free Church in 2005, I had to rewrite the paper. Since people periodically ask me questions about these areas, I think it is time to restate my convictions about what Scripture says on these issues.

Here are my convictions about what Scripture says about the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19). He is declared to be God (Acts 5:3-4). Rather than being a mere influence or a divine power, the Holy Spirit is a person. This is evident through the use of the masculine personal pronoun (John 16:13ff), and through the characteristics of personality that are ascribed to him such as intellect (1 Corinthians 2:11), feelings (Ephesians 4:30), and will (1 Corinthians 12:11). He is not, however, merely a person. He is a divine person. He possesses attributes of deity such as being eternal (Hebrews 9:14), omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10-11), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7), true (1 John 5:7), and holy (Romans 1:4). Works of deity are also ascribed to him, such as creation (Genesis 1:2), inspiration of Scripture (2 Peter 1:21), and raising of the dead (Romans 8:11). He is associated with the Father and the Son in the baptismal formula (Matthew 28:19), the apostolic benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14), and in the administration of the church (Ephesians 4:4-6).

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon certain people to equip them for a specific function or task (Exodus 31:3; Judges 3:10; 6:34). His personal relationship with men in the Old Testament was limited and he was at times removed (1 Samuel 16:14; Psalm 51:11).

The Holy Spirit had an active role in the ministry of Jesus Christ. He caused Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb (Luke 1:35), and anointed Jesus at his baptism (John 1:32; Acts 10:38). Christ was filled, led, and empowered by the Spirit (Luke 4:1, 14). The Spirit endeavors to bring glory to Christ (John 16:14).

In the work of salvation, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11). He regenerates believers (Titus 3:5), indwells them (1 Corinthians 3:16), baptizes them into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), and seals them (Ephesians 1:13-14). He also fills (Ephesians 5:18), guides (Romans 8:14), teaches (John 16:13), gives spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1), and prays for the believer (Romans 8:26).

One of the blessings of the New Covenant is the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which was given at the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4). At the moment of salvation, Christ baptizes each believer into his church (1 Corinthians 12:11). This promise is conditional upon repentance and faith, universally available, and outwardly signified by baptism (Acts 2:38-41). Each believer is commanded to be filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This filling is to be a continuous yielding to the Spirit in obedience and faith, with the result being the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:19-21).

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2018 in Scripture, Theology

 

How Do I Survive Change?

Many people approach change like my good friends Calvin and Hobbes.

Like Calvin, many say “I hate change!” and avoid it at all costs.

Since change is part of life, we should not be saying, “How can I avoid change?” Even “How can I survive change?” is perhaps not the right question to ask either. Instead, we should be asking, “How can I thrive in change?”

The Old Testament leader, Joshua, was no stranger to change. Throughout his lifetime, he progressed from slave to servant to spy to soldier to statesman. Along with way, he had to deal with the death of his mentor, Moses, and the loss of friends. He faced a fear of failure, the challenge of leading a nation into the unknown, and facing numerous enemies.

The first chapter of Joshua’s book provides us with a several principles of how to survive and thrive in change. We are to anticipate and prepare for change, step out in faith, be strong and courageous, and fill our life with God’s Word. The first principle comes from an observation about verse 1. The remaining three principles are direct commands in verses 2-9. Weaving them together, we learn that we are to take the first step of faith and then follow it with further steps of obedience.

Anticipate and Prepare for Change (Joshua 1:1-2). Verse 1 begins with a statement of change, “After the death of Moses …” While it sounds sudden, it was not unexpected. In Deuteronomy 27, Moses was told by God of his impending death. Moses took the necessary steps to prepare his successor, Joshua. Moses commissioned Joshua in the sight of the people. Joshua and the nation of Israel knew this change was coming.

As a pastor, I’ve had the joy of performing many weddings over my 30+ years in ministry. Before agreeing to perform the wedding, I require the couple to meet with me for 6-8 sessions of premarital counseling. I want to make sure they are prepared for marriage, not just for the wedding itself.

The better you anticipate the change … the better you prepare for change … the better you are able to adapt and thrive.

Step Out in Faith (1:2-5). Joshua is given a direct command in verse 2, “Go over this Jordan.” Considering the river was at flood stage (3:15), this was a daunting challenge. When you add in the fact that crossing the Jordan was like throwing the gauntlet and declaring war on the people of Canaan as well as the fact that Joshua was not taking in a group of hardened soldiers, you can imagine his trepidation and fear.

It is significant that the promise of success comes after the command to obey. Like the Oklahoma land rush of 1889, God explains that Israel can claim every piece of land they walk on. While there will be opposition, no one will be able to stand against them.

Like a child is unafraid to walk through a scary forest because they are holding on to their daddy’s hand, so Joshua and Israel do not need to be afraid. God promises, “I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”

Be Strong & Courageous (1:6, 7, 9). The command to “be strong and courageous” requires more than a superhero’s mask and cape. It requires stepping out in obedience to what God calls us to do.

When my children were younger, we read a number of stories and books. Many times we would come to the end of a chapter and the hero or heroine would be in danger. When my kids would beg to know what happens next, I’d say, “Wait until tomorrow.” After they went to bed, I’d flip ahead a few pages to see how they story would turn out. When God tells Joshua that Israel will inherit the land, God was explaining how the story would end.

God again encourages Joshua with the promise of his presence. “…for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua could be confidence because of God’s promise and his presence.

Fill your Life with God’s Word (1:7-8). When we talk to young believers about spiritual disciplines, we encourage them to read God’s Word. I find it interesting that God gives Joshua two instructions. He is to obey God’s Word and to meditate on God’s Word. Rather than emptying his mind, he is to fill it with God’s promises and instructions. Instead of merely reading and thinking about it, he is to commit himself to obedience. Only then will he enjoy true success. Only then will he accomplish what God wants him to do.

As you think about your life this week, what obstacles are in your way? What Jordan Rivers do you need to cross? What is God calling you to do? What is the step of obedience that he is asking you to take? Take the first step of faith and then follow it with further steps of obedience.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 23, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

My Convictions About Jesus

When I was ordained to the ministry in 1988, I had to write a paper stating my views on a number of areas of theology—Scripture, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Man, Salvation, Church, Future Things, Angels & Demons, Spiritual Gifts—as well as several current issues—Marriage & Divorce, Homosexuality, Abortion, Social Drinking, and the Role of Women in the Church. When I transferred my ordination to the Evangelical Free Church in 2005, I had to rewrite the paper. Since people periodically ask me questions about these areas, I think it is time to restate my convictions about what Scripture says on these issues.

Here are my convictions about what Scripture says about Jesus

Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God (Matthew 28:19). He is both fully God and fully man (Colossians 2:9). He pre-existed from eternity past (John 8:58). He willingly left the riches of heaven to take on human poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9). When he did this, he voluntarily chose not to use his prerogatives of deity. Rather, he took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:6-7) so that he might identify with man. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) and born of a virgin (Matthew 1:23). Though he was tempted in all things, he was completely sinless (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus Christ came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Through his death, he paid the penalty of our sins and satisfied or propitiated God’s wrath (1 John 2:2). His sacrifice was vicarious (1 Peter 2:24) and completely satisfied God’s righteous requirements for sinners (2 Corinthians 5:21). The resurrection is proof that Christ is indeed God (Romans 1:4). It also gives the believer confidence that God has accepted Christ’s sacrifice (Romans 4:25), and it also provides a sympathetic High Priest in heaven (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Jesus Christ came to the earth in order to save mankind (John 3:17). He was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:23), in Bethlehem (Luke 2:15), was baptized in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:16), and was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). While his temptation was real, he was not able to sin (Hebrews 4:15). He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, and went about doing good, healing people, and casting out demons (Acts 10:38). His death was by crucifixion on a Roman cross (Matthew 27:38). He rose bodily and personally from the grave three days later (Matthew 28:5-6), just as he had earlier predicted (Matthew 16:21). After the resurrection, he appeared to more than 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:5-6), and then was ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). He is presently in heaven, interceding for believers (Romans 8:34), and preparing a place for them there (John 14:3). At a future time, he will return to the earth personally and visibly (Revelation 1:7), in order to establish his kingdom and to reign over it (Revelation 20:4-6).

In regards to the kenosis problem of Philippians 2:7—“(He) emptied himself”—the critical question is: “Of what did Christ empty himself?” I believe that Christ emptied himself of retaining and exploiting his status in the Godhead and took on humanity in order to die. The context of Philippians 2:7 provides the best solution to the kenosis problem. The emptying was not a subtraction but an addition. Four phrases found in Philippians 2:7–8 help explain what took place: “(a) taking the form of a bond-servant, and (b) being made in the likeness of men. And (c) being found in appearance as a man, (d) He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” The “emptying” of Christ was taking on an additional nature, a human nature with its limitations. His deity was never surrendered.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2018 in Scripture, Theology

 

My Convictions About God

When I was ordained to the ministry in 1988, I had to write a paper stating my views on a number of areas of theology—Scripture, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Man, Salvation, Church, Future Things, Angels & Demons, Spiritual Gifts—as well as several current issues—Marriage & Divorce, Homosexuality, Abortion, Social Drinking, and the Role of Women in the Church. When I transferred my ordination to the Evangelical Free Church in 2005, I had to rewrite the paper. Since people periodically ask me questions about these areas, I think it is time to restate my convictions about what Scripture says on these issues.

Here are my convictions about what Scripture says about God

God is a self-existent being who has always existed (Psalm 90:2). His self-existence is implied in his affirmation, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). The Bible assumes his existence from the very beginning (Genesis 1:1) and attempts no formal proof of his being. Man has evidence of God, both within his heart (Romans 1:19), and through nature (Romans 1:20). God has also revealed himself to man through the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16), and through his Son (John 1:14).

The attributes of God are those properties which are intrinsic to God and by which he can be described or identified. God is spirit (John 4:24), a self-existent (Exodus 3:14), immense (Jeremiah 23:24), and eternal being (Psalm 90:2). God is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12), omniscient (Psalm 139:1-6), and omnipotent (Revelation 19:6), immutable (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17), holy (Isaiah 6:3), just (Romans 3:26), good (Mark 10:18), loving (1 John 4:8), gracious (Ephesians 2:8), merciful (Ephesians 2:4), and true (John 17:3).

The Bible teaches that there is only one God (Ephesians 3:6). It also teaches that he exists in three persons (Matthew 28:19-20). These three persons are co-equal and co‑eternal with one another. While they share the same essence, they are distinct in their person. The Father is God (Matthew 6:9), the Son is God (John 10:30), and the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). Each member of the Trinity possesses the same essence as God and each possesses the fullness of God. This is in contrast to the teaching of Modalism, which states that one God merely manifests himself in three ways.

Within the Trinity, there is a functional subordination in a non-oppressive hierarchy. The Father sent the Son into the world to do his work (John 10:36-37; 14:31). The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father in the name of the Son (John 14:26; 16:7) in order to bring glory to the Son (16:13-14).

In the beginning, God created the universe out of nothing, but merely spoke it into being (Hebrews 11:3). This creation, as recorded in Genesis 1, took place during literal, 24-hour solar days. (I believe that the grammar of Genesis supports the 24-hour day position. The Hebrew word for “day,” “yom” is used primarily to refer to a 24-hour period of time. Also, the phrase, “and there was evening and there was morning” is used to describe each day of creation (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). While I hold this position, I recognize that there are other valid viewpoints, such as the “day-age” theory. I do not believe that one’s position on creation is an essential doctrine that we need to require complete agreement and unity on. This is one position where I would follow the advice of Philip Melancthon, “In essentials, unity; In non-essentials, liberty; In all things, charity.” I believe this is one position where believers can agree to disagree.)

God created man in his own image on the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31). God preserves all of his creation, including man, and holds them together in Christ (Colossians 1:17). He exercises sovereignty over the universe and is actively involved in the affairs of men (Daniel 4:35). He has provided redemption for man through the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:17). God’s ultimate purpose in all things is to bring himself the glory, honor, and power that are due his name (Ephesians 1:3-14; Revelation 4:11).

In the Bible, the use of the “Father” in relation to God refers to the First Person of the Trinity (John 14:26). God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ, share a close and intimate fellowship (John 17:1-5). The Son is described as the only-begotten of the Father (John 1:14) and is co-eternal with the Father, since he too existed from eternity past (John 1:1). Man cannot know the Father except through his Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Only those who have received Jesus Christ through faith may call God their Father and be his sons (Galatians 3:26).

 

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2018 in Scripture, Theology

 

Rehab & Recovery, Round Two

As some of you may be aware, I’ve spent the past 10+ months rehabbing a broken leg. While putting up Christmas lights in early November 2017, I fell off a step ladder and broke my right femur in two places at the hip. ER, surgery, rehab, physical therapy, daily exercises … been there, done that, still doing it.

This morning, my wife begins her season in the crucible. In a few short hours, Carol will be in surgery to have her right knee replaced. Assuming it all goes well, she will begin PT this afternoon. In mid-November, she will have the left knee taken care of. And the PT cycle will continue.

Two years of rehab … one for me … one for her. I think this falls under the “… in sickness and in health …” portion of the marriage vows.

Thanks for praying.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2018 in Health

 

My Convictions About Scripture

When I was ordained to the ministry in 1988, I had to write a paper stating my views on a number of areas of theology—Scripture, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Man, Salvation, Church, Future Things, Angels & Demons, Spiritual Gifts—as well as several current issues—Marriage & Divorce, Homosexuality, Abortion, Social Drinking, and the Role of Women in the Church. When I transferred my ordination to the Evangelical Free Church in 2005, I had to rewrite the paper. Since people periodically ask me questions about these areas, I think it is time to restate my convictions about what Scripture says on these issues.

Here are my convictions about what Scripture says about Scripture.

Revelation is that act of God in which he discloses himself to man. (I use “man” in this paper to refer to both men and women.  It is not intended to be sexist or to avoid political correctness.  I am simply following the pattern of Scripture where “man” refers to “mankind.”) It refers to the communication of truth that cannot be otherwise discovered. God reveals himself through nature (Romans 1:19, 20; Psalm 19), conscience (Romans 2:15), providence (Acts 14:15-17), the Scriptures (1 John 5:9-12), and through his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).

The Scriptures themselves declare that they are fully and verbally inspired, that is, that they are God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Inspiration has to do with the recording of truth. The Spirit of God moved upon men to write the sixty-six books of the Bible (2 Peter 1:21).

The Scriptures carry with them the divine authority of God and are therefore binding upon man—on his mind, emotions, will, and conscience. They are the believer’s supreme authority for faith and practice.

Since God, the Author of Scripture, is true and cannot lie (Psalm 31:5; Titus 1:2), and is himself without error, it naturally follows that the Scriptures themselves are without error. In addition, the Scriptures declare themselves to be true (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17). This inerrancy extends to all of Scripture as it is found in the original manuscripts. The Bible is inerrant in all that it affirms—history, science, moral, doctrinal. In telling the truth, the Bible allows for approximations, free quotations, language of appearance, and different accounts of the same event.

Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit which enables man to understand God’s divinely-revealed truth (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). The Holy Spirit illumines both the unsaved man by conviction of sin (John 16:7-11), and the saved man by his teaching ministry (John 16:13-15).

I believe that Scripture should be interpreted using a literal (also called normal or plain) hermeneutic. It incorporates the following principles: 1) Interpret literally. Accept the literal meaning unless that meaning does not make sense. 2) Interpret grammatically. One must study the grammar of the text. This allows for figures of speech and the language of appearance. 3) Interpret contextually. Each verse must be interpreted in its various contexts (immediate context, context of the book, other books written by the same writer, whole of Scripture). 4) Examine the historical context taking the culture and historical setting into consideration. 5) Compare Scripture with Scripture, allowing it to interpret itself. 6) Recognize the progressiveness of revelation.

Canonicity concerns the recognition and collection of the God-inspired, authoritative books of the sacred Scriptures. Inspiration indicates how the Bible received its authority, whereas canonization tells how the Bible received its acceptance.

There were five key principles used in canonization. These are illustrated by the following questions: 1) Is it authoritative?  Did it come with the authority of God?  2) Is it prophetic?  Was it written by a man of God?  3) Is it authentic?  Did it tell the truth about God, man, etc.?  4)  Is it dynamic?  Did it come with the life-transforming power of God?  5) Was it received, collected, read and used?  Was it accepted by the people of God?  The first two questions were used explicitly, while the last two were applied implicitly.

Scripture, rather than cultural values, forms the basis of all our decisions and actions.  Expository preaching and teaching is vital because it helps to equip people to think biblically in order to measure their lives by the standards of Scripture.  The proclamation of the Word of God supported by prayer is the most effective tool we have to transform our people’s lives for the glory of God.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2018 in Scripture, Theology

 

Ministry in a Post-Truth Culture

How do we minister in a culture that no longer recognizes and/or accepts truth? How do we minister to Christians who no longer recognize and/or accept the truth? How do we speak truth to Christ followers who are more committed to personal happiness than personal holiness?

I am currently teaching an online course for Regent University entitled, “Intro to Bible.” One of the required textbooks is Abdu Murray’s volume, Saving Truth: Finding Meaning & Clarity in a Post-Truth World. The author begins by explaining the we live in a culture of confusion in large part because we are no longer committed to truth.

The Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as their 2016 Word of the Year. Murray explains that post-truth has two modes. One is a “soft” mode where we don’t care about the truth if it gets in the way of our personal preferences. In this mode, truth exists objectively, but our subjective feelings and opinions matter more. The second mode of post-truth is “hard,” where we show a willingness “to propagate blatant flasehoods, knowing they’re false, because doing so serves a higher political or social agenda.”

In the first chapter of the book, Murray explains how post-truth permeates our culture. In the second chapter, he shows how it has infiltrated the church.

The church has succumbed to post-truth’s soft expression in two seemingly contrary ways. On one hand, Christians have compromised the clarity of Scripture for the sake of acceptance and to avoid conflict. On the other hand, Christians have indulged the cultural practice of vilifying those with whom they disagree. These two seductions seem contradictory, but when they work together, they harmonize in a grisly degree.

I have experienced both aspects of this soft expression of post-truth. I’ve had some conversations with individuals who were more concerned with personal happiness. If Scripture contradicted their preference, they chose they preference. If obedience to Scripture meant sacrifice, they chose an easier path. “You have your truth and I have my truth,” I was told, showing that subjective feelings trumped objective statements from Scripture. If I disagreed and pointed out what Scripture said, then I was labeled as harsh and legalistic, in large part because I was unsupportive of their viewpoint.

Ministry is challenging to begin with. But when Christ followers buy into the prevailing philosophy of the day, it becomes even more challenging.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Books, Culture, Ministry, Scripture