RSS

Monthly Archives: September 2018

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.

 
Leave a comment

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).

 

 
Leave a comment

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.

 
Leave a comment

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.

 
Leave a comment

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.

 
Leave a comment

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

 

How did God prepare Joshua for Leadership?

If you were asked to design a leadership training course, what would the curriculum consist of? What lessons would you want your protégé to learn? What characteristics would you desire to develop in your students? What experiences would you involve them in? How would you prepare someone for the task of leadership?

As we begin a new series in the book of Joshua, that is the question we want to start with. The book opens with Joshua as the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the armies of Israel. He was standing on the eastern side of the Jordan River, facing the challenge of crossing the river and conquering the Promised Land. But how did he get to that point?

Joshua did not suddenly appear like a jack-in-the-box at the death of Moses. Joshua was probably 80 years old when God placed him in this position of leadership. Scripture divides his life into three periods: forty years as a slave in Egypt; forty years as a servant in the wilderness; and twenty-five years in subduing the Promised Land.

The time in the wilderness served as a forty-year internship under the instruction of Moses. It included at least seven different experiences when God taught him significant lessons. All of the lessons could be summed up in one phrase—spiritual leadership requires a heart that is fully devoted to following God.

Preparation in the Battle with Amalek at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-16). When we are first introduced to Joshua, he is leading the army of Israel into battle against the Amalekites. While Joshua is fighting the battle, Moses is lifting up his staff to God. When Moses’ arms get tired, Aaron and Hur help support Moses. Joshua learns that all battles are spiritual ones and that victory comes by depending on God. Leaders work as though it all depends on them, but pray as though it all depends on God.

Preparation at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:9-18). Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel (of whom Joshua was one) are called to join God on Mt. Sinai. They enjoy a time of worship and a covenant meal in God’s presence. Leaving the seventy behind, Moses and Joshua go up further and spend six days with God in the cloud covered mountain. On the seventh day, Moses went on alone, leaving Joshua by himself on Sinai for forty more days. While the time alone tested Joshua’s patience and faithfulness, it also enriched his perspective of God’s character and majesty. Joshua learned that leaders need an enlarged vision of who God is.

Preparation in the Tabernacle (Exodus 33:7-11). As the servant of Moses, one of Joshua’s assignments was to be present in the Tabernacle while the pillar of cloud towered above the tent. True spiritual leadership demands a love for the quiet place. To lead well, we must desire God’s presence. We have to constantly fight the battle of doing versus devotion.

Preparation within the Camp (Numbers 11:24-29). Leaders are constantly told to promote themselves and to toot their own horn. Joshua apparently bought into that principle and was jealous for Moses when two men were prophesying in the camp. Moses helped Joshua learn that leaders allow others to share in the ministry. There is no limit to what a person can do if they don’t care who gets the credit.

Preparation in Spying out the Land (Numbers 13:1-14:45). Joshua was one of the twelve men commissioned by Moses to spy out the Promised Land. After forty days, the men brought back a good news, bad news report; a majority, minority report. The majority said it was a wonderful land filled with giants who would kill the Israelites. Joshua and Caleb said that God had already given the land into the hand of the Israelites. As Joshua learned that day, the majority is not always right. Leaders focus on the promises of God rather than the fears of the people. They need to stand for truth even if it means standing alone.

Preparation through his Commissioning (Numbers 27:12-23). Because of his outburst of anger and not honoring God, Moses was forbidden to enter the Promised Land. God held him accountable for his actions. Being a caring shepherd, Moses made sure Israel had a capable leader. So he commissioned Joshua to take his place. Joshua’s chief characteristic was not his military skills. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual leadership is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit.

Preparation through the Death of Moses (Deuteronomy 34:1-12). While Moses was the greatest spiritual leader Israel ever had, he was expendable. God’s plan depends on no one for all time, but all to serve him at a certain time.

7 Principles of Spiritual Leadership

  • Hard work + prayer = victory
  • Develop a large vision of God
  • Spend time alone with God
  • Share the credit with others
  • Stand for truth; Stand alone
  • Depend on the Holy Spirit
  • No one is indispensable

Spiritual leadership requires a heart that is fully devoted to following God.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 16, 2018. It is the opening message in a series on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Treating People Like Jesus Did

Book Review: Love Like That: 5 Relationship Secrets from Jesus, by Dr. Les Parrott

The Great Commandment instructs us to love God and love people. The first part is certainly challenging but the second part seems impossible because of the culture in which we find ourselves. Dr. Les Parrott believes that by following the example of Jesus, we can be successful in practicing this commandment. That is the theme of his latest book, Love Like That: 5 Relationship Secrets from Jesus.

The author presents five ways to help us love more like Jesus. He devotes a chapter to each principle. (1) Be mindful—not indifferent—by seeing what others don’t. (2) Be approachable—not exclusive—by moving out of your comfort zone. (3) Be grace-ful—not judgmental—by not limiting your love to people who deserve it. (4) Be bold—not fearful—by speaking truthfully and risking rejection. (5) Be self-giving—not self-serving—by emptying yourself for empathy.

Each chapter follows a similar format. After an opening illustration, the author shows how the principle was demonstrated by Jesus. The author then provides a basic definition of the concept followed by several reasons that prevent us from practicing it. He includes a self-test to determine how well we are currently practicing the concept. He then explains what Jesus taught on the subject and then concludes the chapter with several practical ways to further practice the principle. Lest we think we can produce these qualities on our own, the author explains the role of the Holy Spirit in the Conclusion and how he empowers us to practice the five qualities.

The author combines biblical teaching, studies from psychology and sociology, insightful quotes, questions to ponder, as well as personal illustrations to explain his ideas. The book is relatively short and has a larger than normal font size which makes it very easy to read. A very helpful, practical book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 14, 2018 in Books, Jesus, Scripture