Doctrine


The Elephant Room.  Some of you have been wondering about this event that has been offered through simulcast and online. Enough has been said over the web on it and the controversy that it created.  I just want to point you to some good posts on grasping why it was controversial and some wise thoughts on its implications.  Bottom line (this is my opinion), it was unwise to hold such a venue (online and to thousands) with the people that were invited (TD Jakes, a Oneness Pentecostal, who is considered outside the bounds of orthodox Christian doctrine, alongside other pastors who are within the bounds of orthodox Christian doctrine).  It further exacerbates doctrinal confusion and portrays that doctrine doesn’t matter as a pastor.  Not convinced?  Confused?  Then click and read some of the posts below that explain it much better…

Justin Taylor breaks down what happened and offers very thorough and wise reflection…

Thabiti Anyabwile offers a brave and passionate response why he is disappointed…

Tim Raymond explains how the Elephant Room can be a danger to redefining the pastoral office…

Kevin DeYoung offers seven thoughts on the event (very poignant)…

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There are no “grey areas” when the Bible speaks about the heart- the central core of who you are.  It’s pretty much black or white on its description of the heart. I subscribe to Tabletalk magazine, and I thought Sinclair Ferguson wrote an excellent article titled “A Catechism on the Heart“.  Do we not as Christians want to have a heart for God?  Then read Sinclair Ferguson explain below…

Sometimes people ask authors, “Which of your books is your favorite?” The first time the question is asked, the response is likely to be “I am not sure; I have never really thought about it.” But forced to think about it, my own standard response has become, “I am not sure what my favorite book is; but my favorite title is A Heart for God.” I am rarely asked, “Why?” but (in case you ask) the title simply expresses what I want to be: a Christian with a heart for God.

Perhaps that is in part a reflection of the fact that we sit on the shoulders of the giants of the past. Think of John Calvin’s seal and motto: a heart held out in the palm of a hand and the words “I offer my heart to you, Lord, readily and sincerely.” Or consider Charles Wesley’s hymn: 

                  O for a heart to praise my God!
A heart from sin set free.

Some hymnbooks don’t include Wesley’s hymn, presumably in part because it is read as an expression of his doctrine of perfect love and entire sanctification. (He thought it possible to have his longing fulfilled in this world.) But the sentiment itself is surely biblical.

But behind the giants of church history stands the testimony of Scripture. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart (Deut. 6:5). That is why, in replacing Saul as king, God “sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), for “the Lord looks on the heart” (16:7). It is a truism to say that, in terms of our response to the gospel, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. But truism or not, it is true.

What this looks like, how it is developed, in what ways it can be threatened, and how it expresses itself will be explored little by little in this new column. But at this stage, perhaps it will help us if we map out some preliminary matters in the form of a catechism on the heart:

Q.1. What is the heart?
A. The heart is the central core and drive of my life intellectually (it involves my mind), affectionately (it shapes my soul), and totally (it provides the energy for my living).

Q.2. Is my heart healthy?
A. No. By nature I have a diseased heart. From birth, my heart is deformed and antagonistic to God. The intentions of its thoughts are evil continually.

Q.3. Can my diseased heart be healed?
A. Yes. God, in His grace, can give me a new heart to love Him and to desire to serve Him.

Q.4. How does God do this?
A. God does this through the work of the Lord Jesus for me and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in me. He illumines my mind through the truth of the gospel, frees my enslaved will from its bondage to sin, cleanses my affections by His grace, and motivates me inwardly to live for Him by rewriting His law into my heart so that I begin to love what He loves. The Bible calls this being “born from above.”

Q.5. Does this mean I will never sin again?
A. No. I will continue to struggle with sin until I am glorified. God has given me a new heart, but for the moment He wants me to keep living in a fallen world. So day by day I face the pressures to sin that come from the world, the flesh, and the Devil. But God’s Word promises that over all these enemies I can be “more than a conqueror through him who loved us.”

Q.6. What four things does God counsel me to do so that my heart may be kept for Him?
A. First, I must guard my heart as if everything depended on it. This means that I should keep my heart like a sanctuary for the presence of the Lord Jesus and allow nothing and no one else to enter.

Second, I must keep my heart healthy by proper diet, growing strong on a regular diet of God’s Word — reading it for myself, meditating on its truth, but especially being fed on it in the preaching of the Word. I also will remember that my heart has eyes as well as ears. The Spirit shows me baptism as a sign that I bear God’s triune name, while the Lord’s Supper stimulates heart love for the Lord Jesus.

Third, I must take regular spiritual exercise, since my heart will be strengthened by worship when my whole being is given over to God in expressions of love for and trust in Him.

Fourth, I must give myself to prayer in which my heart holds on to the promises of God, rests in His will, and asks for His sustaining grace — and do this not only on my own but with others so that we may encourage one another to maintain a heart for God.

This — and much else — requires development, elaboration, and exposition. But it can be summed up in a single biblical sentence. Listen to your Father’s appeal: “My son, give Me your heart.”

God has richly blessed the C&MA with an amazing history to what it is today.  It’s all about Jesus and obedience to the Great Commission he has called every fully-devoted disciple of Christ to make disciples, both locally and globally. I’m pleased that the C&MA has put together an excellent video series to be used in local churches to explain and rediscover the C&MA movement’s “Spiritual DNA”. Look for it coming soon to Atlanta Road Alliance Church!  In the meantime, watch the promo video below.

For whom does Rob Bell’s view on hell toll?  I know this post is ringing late in light of all the news on the blogosphere and cable news networks concerning Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, but I figured I’d point you to 2 good worthy responses to his book.

Bottom line, Rob Bell’s view on hell is not biblical.  And for the sake of brevity…

-The reality for the non-Christian… Hell is real. Repent of your sin and turn to Jesus Christ.

-The reality for the Christian… Hell is real.  Spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

For the sake of those who need a larger discourse on these two…

-Read Kevin DeYoung’s review of Rob Bell’s book.

-Watch David Platt’s (pastor and author of the book Radical) comment.

A.W. Tozer has said, “Nothing is new that matters and nothing that matters can be modernized.  The old way is the true way and there is no new way.”

And C.H. Spurgeon has said, “Clean the grand old pictures of the divine masters; hang them up in new frames; fix them on the walls of your people’s memories, and their well-instructed hearts shall bless you.”

I am thankful this year for the men and women of the Christian faith that have went before me.  And a book I just finished that reminded me of this great blessing is by Ian Murray called The Old Evangelicalism: Old Truths for a New AwakeningIt is probably one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  It’s an instant classic in my view and I’m sure not that many know of Ian Murray.  This man has labored well in keeping those “old” pilgrims of the faith before us.  Below are the Table of Contents from the book.

Table of Contents:

1. Preaching and Awakening: Facing the Main Problem in Evangelism

2. Spurgeon and True Conversion

3. Christ our Righteousness: God’s Way of Salvation

4. The Cross: The Pulpit of God’s Love

5. What Can We Learn from John Wesley?

6. Assurance of Salvation

7. Christian Unity and Church Unity

Knowing God and knowing yourself… a few personal thoughts reflecting on knowing the nature and character of God and my appropriate response…

1. God is eternal (Revelation 22:13) – Knowing this frees me from  anxiety as I realize that the Lord has counted my days and is using them for His purpose.  Remembering His timelessness calms me and restrains me from a frenetic hurried pattern of life.

2. God is great (Psalm 96) – God is not small.  He is not limited.  He is majestic and no one can map out His coordinates.  Compared to the living God, what is the wisest person, the strongest athlete, the scariest enemy?  Remembering this causes me to rein in my natural arrogance and worship the great God of heaven and earth.

3. God is lovely (Psalm 90:17) – As beautiful and amazing things here on earth are, nothing can compare to His splendor and excellence, especially in the radiance of His glory in the Son, Jesus Christ.  Remembering this, lifts me from giving in to temptation to lesser things when I raise my vision on a regular basis to behold the beauty of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).

4. God is powerful (Psalm 93) – His strength, like His scope, is limitless.  My strength will fail.  I will inevitably and repeatedly lose the ability to control my life and create good for myself and loved ones.  It is helpful to me to know confidently about the might of God and His strength in order to lead me to humble dependence on Him.

5. God is wise (Proverbs 2) – My heart can be swayed in sinfulness to stray from God’s wisdom and admire the wisdom of the world or my own foolish “wisdom”.  Remembering this reality and nurturing the discipline of constantly reading Scripture, so that I may come into contact with His divine wisdom, will keep me from embracing folly.

6. God is holy (1 Samuel 2:2) – He has no blemish and is set apart to uphold His glory.  I am called to be holy, as He is holy (1 Peter 1:13-16).  The chief way to become holy is not to start out by following a list of rules, but to examine the Lord’s character, to know His Word, and to follow the Son.  And His church, his loving and redeemed people, are crucial to help me in learning what it means to be holy.

7. God is good (Psalm 135:3) – God’s goodness extends throughout my life.  As my heavenly Father, He does not withold His goodness.  His supreme goodness to me has been this: Himself!  This is the good news of the gospel.  What makes the good news good is God!  May I always live a thankful life in light of His goodness in saving me to know and make much of Him (Psalm 16:11).

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