Thursday, March 30, 2017

More Discipleship Hows and Whys

For those of you who were absent a couple of Sundays ago when we studied Exo 18:13-27, the main application of the message was that we are called to grow spiritually and to be involved in the spiritual growth of others.  A way of doing this is to get together with another believer to read the Scriptures together and talk about it.  In another post, I’ve suggested a method of Bible reading for long-term retention – this method can be used with another believer to facilitate the kind of one-anothering prescribed in Eph 4:12-16. 

I’ve been so encouraged by the number of people who have told me that they have pursued this kind of relationship since that message.  (Some folks were already doing it! Awesome.)  But I’ve gotten some questions since then that I’d like to answer here for the benefit of all.  I’d also like to share a couple of exhortations for the purpose of perpetuating this new movement at Providence.

In the message on Exodus 18:13-27, I shared a series of questions that can be used to generate discussion when reading the Scriptures with another person.  If you are both reading the same portion of Scripture in the manner prescribed in the above mentioned post, these questions may not be necessary, since you will likely have plenty to talk about without them.  But since I mentioned the questions very quickly in that message, some folks did not have the opportunity to write them down, so here they are:

1) What is one thing that you did not understand in the text read?

2) What is one thing that you had never noticed before?

3) What is one thing that you found particularly moving/convicting/helpful?

To these questions I would add a fourth:

4) How does this passage point us to the Lord Jesus?

If we use Hebrews 10:24-25 as a guide for these meetings, we will approach them with a view toward stirring one another up to love and good works.  So along with the above questions about the text, we should give thought to how we can use the passage to encourage our reading partner to (1) greater affection for the Lord and the church and (2) greater striving for holiness.

I also mentioned in the message that ideally we would do this with a couple of people, one believer who is more mature who can challenge us and another believer who is less mature whom we can help along.  I received a good question about this: does this mean having two one-on-one meetings or one meeting of a group of three?  I had in mind two one-on-one meetings, so that you are able to focus on a different purpose for engaging with the two different people.  That being said, it wouldn’t be a violation of any “rule” to do a group of three.  If you have a group of three excited to get together, do it!

There are two kinds of people that may be slow to pursue this kind of relationship.  The first is people who are introverted.  This is a generality, not a universal truth.  Consider that this is really a matter of obedience to the Scriptures.  You don’t have to engage in this exact mechanism of being involved with other believers, but to be a faithful, participating member of the body, you do need to be having meaningful interaction with other believers in some capacity.  Sunday morning worship simply is not conducive to this kind of interaction.  If our only meaningful conversations about the Lord take place during the greeting time and before and after the service, can we really say that we are stirring one another up and encouraging one another as we’re commanded to do?  Are we really speaking the truth in love as we’re told?  Again, these are not commands given to some elite strata of believers.  They are given to all of us, and the body will not grow as it is designed if we are not all functioning properly. 

The other group of people who may be slow to pursue this kind of relationship is men.  Pretty broad, huh?  Again, a generality, not a universal truth.  The typical reason we give for not doing it is that we’re “too busy.”  This is somewhat comical to me given that a large number of our members already engaging in these kinds of relationships are mothers of small children.  I’ve never been a mother of small children, but I’ve been married to one.  I’m betting that all of us “too busy” men are able to carve out a good ten to twenty minutes here and there to at least close the bathroom door and read.  If the typical mother of small children ever experienced ten uninterrupted minutes alone in any room, she would assume her children had died because it never happens.  If these mothers can meet together, so can the men.  We’re not too busy.  We make time for what’s important to us.  And those of us who went through the Men’s Boot Camp in 2015 know better than to try to go it alone. 


There is wave of Christ&Church affection and good works swelling at Providence.  It has everything to do with the fact that people are taking seriously their responsibility to be involved with one another, pointing each other to Jesus.  If you’re not involved in this, jump in.  If you don’t know who to ask, ask one of the elders and we’ll get you connected to someone.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How quickly should we use the word "heresy"?


While considering the sovereignty of God over salvation last night in our continuing study, Walking in the Excellencies of God, the question arose, “Does the rejection of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty ever cross over into heresy?”
To begin to answer that question, let’s consider a couple of main criteria the church has historically used to decide what errors were so far outside the bounds of Scripture that they constituted heresy.  First, does it affect an essential component of the gospel?  The Protestant Reformation represents one of the most serious of theological hills in that it was largely based upon the struggle for the doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone.  The Catholic church had adulterated the gospel to the point that it proposed a salvation by works.  When you introduce works as a means unto justification, you have a “different gospel,” as Paul taught in Galatians 1.  
A few years back, there was a broad attack on the doctrine of substitutionary atonement in some of the more liberal pockets of the church.  Even now, Paul Evans, in his Lies We Believe About God, makes a sustained assault on multiple essential components of the gospel, including substitutionary atonement.  A gospel that prescribes a mechanism for salvation other than Christ absorbing God’s wrath in our place is rightly called heresy.  It guts the gospel.

The denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ would also rightly be considered heresy.  Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ was not raised, “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”  Do away with the resurrection and you do away with the gospel.  So if a belief removes an essential component of the gospel, it is heresy.  A good diagnostic question could be, “if I hold this particular belief, do I still have the gospel?”  If the answer is “no,” it is heretical. 

Second, does this belief affect the nature of the Godhead?  Most of the theological controversies of the early church surrounded the orthodox understanding of the members of the Trinity.  This is why all of the early creeds are so heavy on the deity of Christ – they fought long and hard to win that theological battle.  We should be willing to stand anytime there is a movement in the church to downgrade a member of the Trinity from our biblical and historically orthodox understanding of them, or to deny the existence of the Trinity in any sense.

So what about the doctrines of grace and unconditional election in particular?  I don’t think that the Arminian view of salvation does harm to any essential component of the gospel.  But the concern is that it does damage to a biblical view of God.  Does Arminian theology affect the nature of the Godhead in such a way that we no longer have biblical Christianity? 

My opinion is that it does not.  With an Arminian view, you still have an orthodox Trinity, and even a sovereign God, although the outworking of that sovereignty is somewhat out of line with the clear teaching of the Bible.  You would be hard pressed to find an Arminian who would disagree with the statement, “God is in control.”  They are going to have an errant understanding of the mechanics and extent of that control, but they still believe that in some sense He is in control and will bring about the fulfillment of all His promises.  

Something to keep in mind is how inflammatory the word "heresy" can be.  I'm all for exposing serious error and calling a spade a spade, but there may be wisdom in engaging in a conversation about why something is a dangerous teaching before pulling out the "heresy" billy club.  We are more likely to be winsome and persuasive if we make our approach in a patient and caring way.  "You're a heretic" tends to shut down communication immediately and lose us a hearing with those who need the truth most.  Additionally, there is nothing that will make us less effective in persuading people of the truth than gaining a reputation as "the boy who cried heresy."  If we label every error "heresy" then we're not going to be taken seriously when it really matters.

I would reserve the word “heresy” for those errors that directly assault the gospel and the nature of the Godhead in such a way that we are no longer left with Christianity.  We may disagree on where that line is.  May the Lord give us wisdom, charity, and grace in our interactions on all such issues. 

I’m happy to continue with this topic.  If you have a follow-up question, you can post it in the comment section or send it to me via email. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

New Podcast - Truth & Circumstances!


PBF is launching a new podcast today called Truth & Circumstances.  Some questions of the Christian life lend themselves to easy answers from the Bible.  Questions like, “should I pray?” or “what is the proper motive for everything I do?” – these questions require little reasoning from the Scriptures.

But other questions are a bit more complicated and require more digging in the Word.  Truth & Circumstances is a podcast dedicated to answering these kinds of questions.  Along the way, we’d like to help train believers to reason from the Scriptures so that they can find guidance for such issues themselves, and ultimately, live in a way that reflects the glory of God.

The first episode has been posted today.  The second will be posted this coming Tuesday, and subsequent episodes will be posted each Tuesday after that.

You can find out more at truthandcircumstances.com.  You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and follow us on Twitter.  If you have any questions you'd like to hear answered on the podcast, those can be submitted via Twitter, the podcast website, or via email to questions@truthandcircumstances.com.

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