Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Reactions to the SBC "Sinner's Prayer" Vote

Last week, the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution regarding the "sinner's prayer." Previous to the Convention, I wrote of some concerns that I have concerning use of a "sinner's prayer" and that, by extension, I had concerning the "sinner's prayer" resolution. In reading that the resolution passed-- and reading the amended wording of the resolution-- I have the following reactions:

1) Thankfulness for the Resolutions Committee of the SBC and their work. Read both the original resolution and the final, amended version HERE. I definitely understand why many people who would not have voted for the original resolution may have decided to vote for the final resolution. There were many good things in the final resolution, and:
a) The resolution defined the "sinner's prayer" in the broadest possible sense-- as "a crying out for mercy and a calling on the Lord"-- I cannot imagine anyone in the SBC objecting to the "sinner's prayer" if only understood in these terms;
b) The resolution affirmed "any and all biblical means of urging sinners to call on the name of the Lord in a prayer of repentance and faith"[emphasis added] this seems to leave the question open as to whether a scripted prayer not found in the Bible can be called biblical, and so the resolution allows for debate.

2) Thankfulness for my brothers and sisters in Christ in the SBC who have diligently been engaged in evangelism. Often SBC evangelists have used tracts provided by SBC agencies-- such as the Eternal Life tract-- that have many excellent features and that also end in a "sinner's prayer." Now, I would question the use of the scripted prayer at the end of these tracts for reasons I have discussed previously, but as a guide to essential gospel truths these tracts are extremely useful. SBC evangelists may have a hard time objectively thinking through the idea that there may be a more "biblical means of urging sinners to call on the name of the Lord in a prayer of repentance and faith" than with the scripted prayers that they are used to, but Southern Baptists who question the "sinner's prayer"-- as it is commonly used-- must re-affirm our thankfulness for the zeal of many who have been faithful in evangelism while graciously challenging SBC evangelists to think through the issue (and to, perhaps, use a gospel tract-- like the Experiencing God's Grace tract distributed through the Billy Graham School of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary-- that does not use a scripted prayer).

3) Prayerful concern over continuing abuses regarding the "sinner's prayer." For all of the good intentions of the Resolutions Committee-- and for all of the language they included to argue against abuses-- many of the worst offenders regarding use of the "sinner's prayer" will see passage of the resolution as an affirmation of their disorderly and unscriptural practices. We are currently in the middle of the Vacation Bible School season, and it is all too easy for preachers to get elementary school age children to repeat some prayer and then count "decisions" without doing the work of an evangelist in clearly communicating gospel truth in an understandable manner and in guiding hearers to carefully scrutinize their own hearts before God. I pray:
a)That SBC pastors and leaders would exercise tenderness and wisdom regarding those who need Christ more than they need to be counted as "decisions;"
b) That SBC pastors and leaders who have come to seek "decisions" out of a sense of pride in self-accomplishment would find true repentance;
c) That the Holy Spirit would grant true revival in SBC churches and abroad, so that men and women, boys and girls, would call out to Christ for salvation from their hearts; that they would be so burdened by their sin and that they would be so enamored by the Savior that they would need no scripted prayer.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Sermon Notes from "A Vision of the Future: Four Beastly Kingdoms and the Victory of God." Sermon by Mitch Chase.

[From the 10:45AM worship service yesterday at Kosmosdale Baptist Church.]

Daniel 7:1-14.

I. General Introduction:

A. The Bible as great literature;

B. The Bible as God's Word.

II. Introduction to Daniel 7

A. Daniel 7 as Apocalyptic Literature:
1. The details may be controversial;
2. We must grasp the main point.

B. This chapter is of utmost importance:
1. It is centrally located in the book;
2. It is quoted several times in the NT.

III. Four Beasts

A. Introduction to the Four Beasts
1. Daniel 7 does not pick up where Daniel 6 left off, but it recounts a previous event.
2. The sea in turmoil sets the stage for Daniel's strange vision.

B. The four beasts symbolize four kingdoms:
1. Lion w/wings = Babylon Empire
2. Bear w/ribs in mouth = Medo-Persian Empire
3. Four-headed winged leopard = Greek Empire
4. Terrifying beast = Roman Empire

IV. Ancient of Days

A. "Ancient of Days" refers to God's eternality.

B. Description of the Ancient of Days:
1. Clothing and hair as white symbolize His purity and wisdom;
2. Description of the throne recalls Ezekiel 1;
3. Fire may symbolize judgment;
4. God's angels are numerous;
5. Books symbolize God's extensive knowledge of our deeds.

V. Son of Man

A. The Identity of the Son of Man
1. The Son of Man is clearly depicted with divine imagery.
2. The Son of Man will reign forever.

B. The NT testimony of Jesus as the Son of Man:
1. Matt 24:30ff.
2. Luke 9:22. "Here is our hope!"

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Great Father's Day Presents This Morning

When I first saw Christian this morning, he (unprompted, at least since Abby talked to him yesterday) smiled real big and said, "Happy Father's Day!' Christian also behaved very well during the sermon at church. (Georgia Grace is, of course, oblivious to what day it is.)

Abby had to work at the hospital today, but she left me an excellent present: the audiobook version of Radical by David Platt. I listened to the first CD on the way to and from church and have already been blessed and challenged.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Concerns Over the "Sinner's Prayer:" An Example

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the primary reason that some [members of churches that are in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention] are concerned about the "Sinner's Prayer" is because the "Sinner's Prayer" is not biblical. Use of a "Sinner's Prayer" is found in neither the commands nor examples of evangelism in Scripture, and the idea that a person needs an unbiblical scripted prayer is inconsistent with what the Scripture teaches concerning repentance and faith: i.e., if a person truly desires to call out to God in "godly sorrow" and love for Christ, he won't need to use another person's words.

The fruit of using the "Sinner's Prayer" in evangelism also renders the practice suspect. I would contend that using the "Sinner's Prayer" has been a major contributing factor as to why LifeWay research has shown that about 60% of Southern Baptist church members are not present in any church on any given Lord's Day. I had intended to give three examples of how I have seen the "Sinner's Prayer" directly lead to bad results, but it is getting late-- and this post is already getting long-- so I will limit myself to one personal example.

The last time that I utilized the "Sinner's Prayer" in a gospel presentation was several years ago, when I was an employee at Publix Supermarkets. During shift breaks, I was committed to telling my co-workers the good news of who Jesus is and what He has done. One day I had a very good conversation with a co-worker who I'll refer to here as "T." I asked him if anyone had ever personally explained the gospel to him. He said "no," so I asked him if I could show him a booklet I had. He said "sure," so I led him in looking through the Four Spiritual Laws tract, because that was the gospel tract that I happened to have on me at the time. T didn't seem to be very interested, so I was surprised when we got to the end, and he said he was willing to pray the "Sinner's Prayer" printed there. I led T in praying the prayer and encouraged him to come to church with me the following Sunday. He said that he would probably go to the church where his family attended. Then we had to get back to work.

My shifts at Publix didn't really match up with T's for a couple of weeks after the conversation I just related, so I didn't get to talk with him much to "follow up." I asked T a couple of times whether he had been to church and he said "no." Then I overheard T talking to some friends about going out and partying over the weekend in terms that seemed decidedly unChristian.

So I wanted to ask T about our previous conversation: to ask him if Jesus had really made any change in his life. "Hey, man," I said to him the next time we were in the break room together, "do you ever read your Bible or pray?" "I pray every day!" T said. "What are your prayers like?" I asked. "Every day before I go to bed I pray the prayer in that back of that booklet you gave me!" he answered. I realized that he was using the "Sinner's Prayer" as some kind of magic charm to make him feel like he was spiritually OK. Now, I was in the position of needing to tell him that the "Sinner's Prayer," which had been the culmination of the previous gospel presentation, was useless to him without a changed heart.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Stephen Tobolowsky on Conspiracy Theories (with some additional thoughts of my own)

The Tobolowsky Files are a series of podcasts [and now broadcasts, heard on stations such as 89.3FM here in Louisville] in which "legendary character actor Stephen Tobolowsky shares a series of short stories about life, love, and the entertainment industry."  Now, if there was a series of podcasts/broadcasts in which someone told tales taken from the life of someone like Abraham Lincoln or Nikola Tesla, it would make sense that people would find it captivating. But you might think that stories from the life of a "character actor" that you may or may not have heard of [remember Sammy Jankis(?)] would be boring, and there is no reason you should be wrong; nevertheless, everyone I know who has listened to at least five minutes of The Tobolowsky Files has found it to be inexplicably riveting.

One thing that makes the Files so interesting is that Tobolowsky does something that is fairly rare: he looks back and carefully reflects on events and issues from his life. Now I certainly disagree with some of Tobolowsky's presuppositions (he is a Jew and not a Christian), but (due, I believe, to common grace) I often find that he comes to insightful conclusions.

In Episode 40, "The Man in the Closet," Tobolowsky considers conspiracy theories (in distinction from science, art, and religion); he observes:
Conspiracy theories aren't so interested in finding the light; they take another approach: they jump into oblivion with both feet, shouting, "Hey, the dark isn't so bad after all! Follow me! Last one in is probably one of THEM"... Conspiracies can disguise themselves as science or as history, but you can always spot them because their goal is never to reveal the truth but only to reveal a villain; once you name a villain, then you create the need for a hero, which usually turns out to be the person telling you about the conspiracy in the first place.
I think Tobolowsky makes some good points about conspiracy theories. I also think that-- because we do believe in a villain who is ultimately behind at least a great deal of the evil in the world-- Christians can be more susceptible than most people to falling for a conspiracy theory type of mindset. But I would like to point out that Christians must consistently distinguish ourselves from conspiracy theorists in at least two related ways:

1) We must not be content with naming villains, but must focus on knowing and proclaiming the Light: specifically, the true Light, Jesus Christ (John 8:12);

2) We must be humbly and consistently clear that we are not the "heroes" of the story; rather, the Lord Jesus is the hero. Ultimately, we are all just "character actors."

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Concerns About the "Sinner's Prayer" Resolution at the SBC

As reported by the May 31, 2012 edition of The Christian Index, Eric Hankins-- pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, MS-- has submitted a resolution to be voted on at the 2012 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention; this resolution is designed to affirm that the "Sinner's Prayer" is a "biblically sound and spiritually appropriate" means for calling people to place their faith in Christ. As reported in the article, Hankins's resolution is a result of concerns that he and others have about challenges to the "Sinner's Prayer" that have been voiced by the "New Calvinists" [a label that seems to be applied in this article, as in recent posts on SBC Today, to anyone who has attended a Together for the Gospel Conference and/or meeting of the Gospel Coalition]. Reading this report concerning Hankins' proposed resolution raises a number of issues: first, I am reminded to check my own evangelistic practices and to call upon fellow "New Calvinists" to check their evangelism as well; then, I must express concern over gross misrepresentations that Hankins and others have published about the "New Calvinists;" finally, I would like to clarify why "New Calvinists" and others have expressed concern over how the "Sinner's Prayer" is commonly used in evangelism.

Closing With Christ

5 When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. 6 And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7 And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! 8 The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”

9 Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” 10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” (2 Sam 16:5-12 ESV)


As the rebel Shimei unjustly cursed King David, the king did not allow Abishai to seek revenge; instead, he trusted in the sovereignty of God. How much more should we "New Calvinists" express forbearance toward our misguided brothers in Christ and look at their misrepresentations of us as an opportunity to see if there is any way that we might improve our efforts in evangelism?

I myself have often been guilty of faltering when I come to the end of a conversation in which I have presented the gospel to a lost loved one, friend or co-worker. I have not pressed people to respond to what they have heard: to "close with Christ," as the Puritans used to say. This is not due to "Calvinism," because I had this same problem with my witness before I'd ever considered the "five points," etc.; rather, this is due to giving in to temptation: temptation to the sin of cowardice.

Beyond that: "Calvinism" can, indeed, provide an excuse for why some are not passionate in their pleas for sinners to repent. This does not mean that the doctrines of grace-- commonly called "Calvinism"-- are incorrect, anymore than the fact that some use the doctrine of eternal security to neglect pursuing holiness nullifies that doctrine. However, some preachers are so focused on Romans 9:16-- a verse that DOES glorify God, and DOES provide comfort that others' salvation is not dependent upon our powers of persuasion-- that they forget to have the same broken heart for the lost that Paul expresses in Romans 9:1-3.

Makin' Stuff Up

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Prov 18:17 ESV)

Concern for the lost and a commitment to plead with them to "be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20) does not lead us to the conclusion that we should use any means whatsoever in evangelism; rather, we should be committed to use biblical means to reach unbelievers for Christ. Some evangelists and preachers-- and not just those who self-identify as "Calvinists"-- have questioned whether the "Sinner's Prayer"-- at least as it is commonly used-- is truly biblical.

Hankins contends:
The real problem that the New Calvinists have with the sinner's prayer is that they believe only certain people can come to faith, and they don't want the hopelessly condemned thinking they are saved or joining churches when they actually have no chance for life in Christ.
Hankins's statement is false. Hankins does not quote any of the "New Calvinists" expressing a concern about the "Sinner's Prayer" in anything like the terms he uses, nor can he do so. In fact, The Christian Index-- in the article from which the above quote from Hankins was taken-- quotes David Platt (apparently a representative of the group being referred to as the "New Calvinists") very explicitly stating some objections to use of the "Sinner's Prayer" in terms that are very different from those used by Hankins; Platt says:
Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament? .... It is a very dangerous thing to lead people to think they are Christian when they have not biblically responded to the Gospel.
Platt-- like others, as will be demonstrated below-- is concerned about use of the "Sinner's Prayer" because he believes that the prayer: 1) is unbiblical; 2) leads to false assurance. The idea of people being "hopelessly condemned" or having "no chance for life in Christ" never enters into the discussion.

Hankins may still disagree with Platt. Hankins may think that Platt and other "New Calvinists" should-- according to his understanding of "Calvinism" and its supposed implications-- object to the "Sinner's Prayer" for the reasons he has invented. But unless Hankins can produce an actual "New Calvinist" that expresses concerns about the "Sinner's Prayer" in anything like the terms he uses, Hankins should repent of misrepresenting his brothers in Christ.

The Real Issue

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37 ESV)

For Southern Baptists, the real issue on whether or not we should use the "Sinner's Prayer" in evangelism is NOT whether the "Traditionalists" say we should use it or whether the "New Calvinists" object to it; the real issue is ONLY: what does the BIBLE actually say?

Consider the following:

1) The Bible gives many examples of evangelism; does the Bible contain any example of an evangelistic encounter ending with the evangelist leading the other person in a scripted prayer?

2) If we are meant to use a scripted prayer in evangelism, then why do we not have the script for the "Sinner's Prayer" in the New Testament itself?

3) Does the need for a scripted prayer match what the Bible teaches about repentance?

-Consider the following illustration from Ray Comfort (who does not self-identify as a "Calvinist," but who objects to the standard use of the "Sinner's Prayer" in evangelism for many of the reasons discussed here):

If a man committed adultery, and his wife is willing to take him back, should you have to write out an apology for him to read to her? No. Sorrow for his betrayal of her trust should spill from his lips. She doesn’t want eloquent words, but simply sorrow of heart. The same applies to a prayer of repentance. The words aren’t as important as the presence of "godly sorrow."

4) Why not teach a person to model their prayer of repentance on a specific passage of Scripture?

-If a person desires to call out to the LORD for salvation, but insists that he is stumped about what words to use, instead of repeating some scripted prayer not found in the Bible, why not direct him to Psalm 51 or some other appropriate Psalm of repentance? [This is a suggestion I've seen from Ray Comfort.] In doing this, the evangelist is actually teaching the repentant sinner how to read and apply the Bible from the outset of his new spiritual life.

5) We should never urge assurance of salvation on the basis of the "Sinner's Prayer."

-This is, perhaps, the most crucial issue: the issue Platt addresses in the quote above. If you have been active in evangelism for any time at all, then you have certainly come into contact with at least one person who seems to eagerly receive what you have to say about the gospel, but who then seems to demonstrate absolutely no sign that his life has been changed by the Lord: on Friday your friend says he's saved, on Saturday he goes out partying with the boys, on Sunday he gives no thought to going to church, on Monday he's back to cussing out his co-workers, etc. If you wait for a few days or weeks and continue to see no change, what do you eventually say? Do you ask if he prayed a certain prayer and meant it with all his heart? Well, his actions seem to indicate that his heart is not changed, and if his heart is not changed, then God's Word declares that it is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jer 17:9); so if he asks his heart, "Heart, did you mean it when we prayed that 'Sinner's Prayer'?" Then his unregenerate heart may very well tell him, "Heck yeah, I meant it! Now go get us another beer!" Instead, shouldn't you direct your friend to 1 John-- to a book of the Bible that is all about assurance-- and urge your friend to allow Scripture to be his judge?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Effects of Wisdom vs. Foolishness

Notes from Proverbs 10:13-14


Translation
13
Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is found for the back of the one lacking willpower.
14 Wise men will store up knowledge, but the mouth of the fool will store up quick destruction.

Notes
13
“Lacking willpower” is literally “lacks heart.” The phrase “lacks heart” refers to one who is foolish due to lacking discernment and the wisdom that comes from experience. This phrase could be translated “simple, naive, 'green,' unacquainted with the ways of the world and thus easily fooled.” Belshazzar in Daniel 5 is a perfect example of one who “lacks heart.”
14 The second phrase in this verse lacks a verb, so the verb is supplied from the first half of the verse. [The second phrase would literally be rendered “fool destruction near.”]

“5 Ws”

Who? 1) The discerning = wise men; 2) the one lacking willpower = the one speaking foolishly.

What? 1) wisdom = knowledge; 2) a rod = quick destruction

How? 1) wisdom is acquired by those who seek God by means of His Word; 2) punishment/destruction is acquired by those who do not care about God, who spend their lives speaking foolishly and chasing after passing pleasures

When? at all times, but also with a reference to future judgment

Where? 1) on the lips = in the speech [the overflow of the heart, Luke 6:45] <– knowledge of God stored up within the heart; 2) the fool “lacks heart” his spiritual component is dead, he speaks foolishly, and his mortal shell is subject to punishment and destruction

Why? The reason that we exist is to glorify God, enjoying Him forever. Those who are fools, who “lack heart,” are living contrary to the purpose for which they are created; they make themselves increasingly offensive to God. Their sin is primarily noticeable to others due to their foolish speech. The wise honor God; they benefit themselves and benefit others.

So what? We must ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to discern if we are foolish, if we lack heart, or if our hearts crave God’s wisdom. Do we see the effects of wisdom in our lives? Do we store up knowledge through means of prayerful consideration of God’s Word? Do we find ourselves speaking with wisdom: encouraging Christians and evangelizing the lost?

II Tim. 3:16 hermeneutic

Teaching: This passage teaches us concerning the outcomes of wisdom and foolishness.

Rebuking: This passage rebukes those who are characterized by foolishness or lack of willpower, declaring the punishment/destruction that they will face.

Correcting: This passage would correct those who have started out on the path of wisdom, but whose speech lacks wisdom.

Training in righteousness: This passage trains those who seek godly wisdom that we should examine ourselves in terms of our speech and endeavors in storing up knowledge.

Passages for Application

James 1:5 (NIV 1984),
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James 3:6 (NIV 1984),
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Commentary

Matthew Henry “Of him that wants [lacks] a heart: he exposes himself to the lashes of his own conscience, to the censures of the magistrate, and to the judgments of God.”

Christological consideration- Jn. 5:39 and Lk. 24:27 hermeneutic

Each one of us comes into this world “lacking heart,” lacking a will to do what is right; we– like our first parents, Adam and Eve– each turn away from God and seek our own way. We are all, by nature, children under wrath (Eph 2:3): we have sinned against God, and we deserve punishment; we deserve swift destruction. Jesus Christ, who is truly God, was also the only truly wise Man. He was the only one who was perfect in His speech, as well as in all His actions. Jesus, on the Cross, took the punishment that we deserve: He suffered destruction in our place, on our behalf. On the third day, He rose again, victorious over destruction and offering new, eternal life to all who believe in Him. That life comes about by the Holy Spirit, who fills followers in Christ and who grants us true wisdom– wisdom from above– in the place of our natural foolishness.

Point of the Passage

Wise men are discerning, and their lives will be characterized by storing up knowledge and righteous speech; fools lack willpower, and their lives will be characterized by foolish speech, punishment, and quick destruction.

Point of the Message

Check your heart, mind, and speech, see what you are storing up; seek after Wisdom.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sermon Notes from "Judgment Written on the Wall: The End of Belshazzar and Babylon." Sermon by Mitch Chase.

[From the 10:45AM worship service this past Lord's Day at Kosmosdale Baptist Church.]

Daniel 5.

I. Introduction

A. What would you do if you were a king and you knew it was the last night of your reign?

B. We should be careful if we point accusingly at Belshazzar, lest we fall under the same judgment.

II. The Party Scene, and the Appearance of the Hand

A. As this story begins, Nebuchadnezzar had been dead for 20 years.

B. Belshazzar-- a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar-- is now king.

C. In Chapter 1, the text mentions that items from the temple were taken to Babylon.

D. Belshazzar commands that vessels from the temple be used in his idolatrous feast.

E. This feast is taking place in order to invoke the gods to help Babylon against its enemies.

F. After the hand writes on the wall, the queen mother tells Belshazzar about Daniel.

G. Belshazzar summons Daniel, but does not honor Daniel as he deserves.

III. Daniel's Interpretation of the Message

A. Daniel's answer points to the fact that divine interpretation cannot be bought.

B. Daniel recounts the history of Nebuchadnezzar, emphasizing God's sovereignty.

C. Daniel rebukes Belshazzar for not learning from Nebuchadnezzar's experience.

D. Daniel exposes the foolishness of idolatry.

E. Daniel interprets the words.

F. Daniel is honored for giving the interpretation.

G. That night (October 11, 539 B.C.) the kingdom falls.

H. The calculation of the weights indicated by the handwriting on the wall = 62, which is the age of Darius, who would have been born about the time that Israel was taken into captivity.

IV. Conclusion

A. We are limited in our ability to see God's work.

B. We will all be held accountable.

C. Our hearts are 'idol factories.'

D. Escape from the LORD's judgment is only through Christ, the ruler of the eternal kingdom.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Confession: A Failure in Greeting the Mockers

Last month I was considering God's will for my life and the Lord impressed my heart with the conviction that His will is for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As part of being filled with the Spirit involves prayerfully studying the Word of God, seeking to put what I find in His Word into practice in my life, I have been trying to pay more careful attention to daily applying what I study, looking for blind spots in my spiritual walk.

Part of my recent Bible study has been devoted to considering what God says about love and hate. I noted that one way that Christian love should be expressed is through greeting others (Matt 5:47): civilly and cordially acknowledging even our enemies.

In considering how I practice "greeting others" I realized that there is one group of people that I have systematically NOT been greeting: namely, the "escorts" outside of the abortion clinic here in Louisville. These "escorts" surround any woman coming into the abortion clinic so that the woman will not have to deal with anyone who may urge her to reconsider her "choice" and to seek help with her baby rather than have her baby murdered. Generally speaking, these "escorts" are vile individuals: they have been known to ridicule, cuss-out, shove, or even throw water on Christians in front of the abortion clinic. Lately-- realizing that they were making themselves actually look like the bad guys in the situation-- the "escorts" seem to have definitely toned down their harassment, but I've still overheard them lying about my brothers and sisters in Christ. Seeing my brothers and sisters in Christ treated this way, I have come to hate these abortion clinic "escorts." Now, I genuinely believe that at least part of my hatred toward them is holy, righteous, biblically-justifiable indignation. But regardless of whether my hatred is justified, it does NOT excuse my disobedience to the Spirit of Christ as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount: as God extends mercy even to us when we earned His wrath (see Eph 2:1-10), I should lovingly greet those who would make themselves my enemies. In desiring to preach the gospel of grace-- in desiring to see the ungodly won to faith in Christ-- I must make sure that my attitude is gracious and winsome, commending my verbal witness.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Godly Hate and How It Should be Expressed


When Indiana Jones says, "Nazis. I hate these guys." No one viewing the film ever says, 'Oh, the hero of the movie shouldn't say he hates anyone.' Yet there seems to be an idea that Christians should never hate anyone or anything. However, the Apostle Paul wrote that he hated the sins that he still committed (Rom 7:15), and the Lord Jesus Himself commended the Ephesians for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also hated (Rev 2:6).

The Psalmist hated every false way (Psa 119:104), but he also hated those who lived deceptively (Psa 119:113); furthermore, he hated those who hate God (Psa 139:21). [Importantly, I think: it does not seem that Scripture ever mentions God or his saints naming any specific individual as one who is hated, other than Esau (Mal 1:3; Rom 9:13), the hatred of whom seems to be best defined in terms of covenantal rejection.]

There are people-- groups of people-- who are committed to oppressing others, committing gross acts of injustice. And Christians should not be too timid to say, "I hate these guys." If we love God and love people, we must hate those who would seek to oppose God and slaughter those made in His image. We must hate al-Qaeda, the Assad regime, Nazis, NARAL, etc. But how should we express our hatred? We must remember that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual (2 Cor 10:4). And the gospel expresses a conquering love. As God is love (1 John 4:8) even when He expresses wrath (Rom 1:18; 2:5-8), we cannot-- in expressing holy hatred-- forget the self-sacrificial love Christ commands us to have for our enemies (Matt 5:43-45). And so we pray, for example:

Lord, by all accounts it seems that the Assad regime is unjustly slaughtering the Syrian people. I pray that You would take out this regime and replace it with a more just government. First and foremost, I pray that you would end this regime by raising up  modern-day Jonahs: those who could go to this modern Ninevah and preach repentance to Assad and his men. We pray that You would vanquish these wicked men by making them new creatures in Christ, so that they would turn their backs on violence and follow the Prince of Peace.
When God answers this kind of prayer [as He has in the past, and can do so again!] our holy hatred for the wicked is replaced by a holy love for our new brothers in Christ.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Denial of Original Guilt: Benefits, Problems, and a Call for Exposition

In responding to charges of semi-Pelagianism regarding A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation, Rick Patrick-- one of the signers of the document-- focused on Article Two of the document. Article Two says, in part:

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin.

And:

We deny that Adam’s sin... rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.

Rick Patrick stressed that the document does not deny original sin, but "what is being denied here is more properly understood as original guilt" [emphasis added]. Laying aside the question of whether a denial of "original guilt" is sufficient to merit the charge of semi-Pelagianism, I would like to point out that this denial of "original guilt"-- without a denial original sin-- is what I've attempted to explore in my theoretical proposal in my personal inquiry regarding original sin.

My theoretical proposal was stated as follows:

IT IS PROPOSED THAT just as the elect person is not counted as righteous on the basis of Christ's righteous work until he or she actually believes in Jesus Christ as Lord, that the unbeliever is not condemned on the basis of Adam's unrighteous deed until he or she acts in accordance with this unbelief through a personal sin against God. IN OTHER WORDS, that as personal faith in Christ is the means through which the righteousness of Christ is appropriated, in a similar way, personal sin is the means through which the condemnation of Adam is appropriated.

Benefits of Denying Original Guilt

The benefits of denying original guilt are [at least] twofold: first, a denial of original guilt aids in dealing with some 'problem passages' for original sin, such as: "everyone will die for his own iniquity" (Jer 31:30) and "the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father" (Eze 18:20); second, a denial of original guilt solves some theological problems, such as how infants-- incapable of personal faith-- can yet be saved if they die.

Problems With Denying Original Guilt

At the time of my theoretical proposal, I noted a possible objection, namely:

Does the truth of Ephesians 2:3- that we are, by nature, under wrath- suggest that no personal act of sin is necessary, but that each individual is under God's wrath from the moment of conception due to Original Sin?

The more I have meditated upon this objection, the more I have seen how serious it is in relation to the question at hand. Especially when one considers the death of infants. Death is seen in Scripture as a judicial sentence against sin. If infants do not share in original guilt, then why do they ever die?

Call for Exposition

Those who signed A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation-- those within Southern Baptist life who have gone on record firmly asserting a denial of original guilt-- MUST do MORE than assert this denial as a "traditional Southern Baptist understanding." They MUST show Southern Baptists HOW Scripture teaches original sin and how this sin is uniquely divorced from guilt. They MUST show how Ephesians 2:3-- teaching that we "were by nature the children of wrath, even as others"-- does not teach original guilt, if possible.

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Monday, June 04, 2012

Excerpt from David Powlison, "The Pastor As Counselor."

[HT:: Justin Taylor]


The uniqueness of your message is easy to see. But you already know this. I won’t rehearse the unsearchable riches of Christ, or the 10,000 pertinent implications.
But I do want to note the uniqueness of your message by contrast. Every counselor brings a “message”: an interpretation of problems, a theory that weighs causalities and context, a proposal for cure, a goal that defines thriving humanness. How does your message compare with their messages? Simply consider what our culture’s other counselors do not say.
  •       They never mention the God who has a name: YHWH, Father, Jesus, Spirit, Almighty, Savior, Comforter.
  •       They never mention that God searches every heart, that every human being will bow to give final account for each thought, word, deed, choice, emotion, belief, and attitude.
  •       They never mention sinfulness and sin, that humankind obsessively and compulsively transgress against God.
  •       They never mention that suffering is meaningful within God’s purposes of mercy and judgment.
  •       They never mention Jesus Christ. He is a standing insult to self-esteem and self-confidence, to self-reliance, to self-salvation schemes, to self-righteousness, to believing in myself.
  •       They never mention that God really does forgive sins.
  •       They never mention that the Lord is our refuge, that it is possible to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.
  •       They never mention that biological factors and personal history experiences exist within the providence and purposes of the living God, that nature and nurture locate moral responsibility but do not trump responsible intentionality.
  •       They never mention our propensity to return evil for evil, how hardships tempt us to grumbling, anxiety, despair, bitterness, inferiority, and escapism.
  •       They never mention our propensity to return evil for good, how felicities tempt us to self-trust, ingratitude, self-confidence, entitlement, presumption, superiority, and greed.
  •       They never mention that human beings are meant to become conscious worshipers, bowing down in deep sense of personal need, lifting up hands to receive the gifts of the body and blood of Christ, lifting voices in heartfelt song.
  •       They never mention that human beings are meant to live missionally, using God-given gifts to further God’s kingdom and glory.
  •       They never mention that the power to change does not lie within us.
In other words, they always counsel true to their core convictions.
As a pastor, you mention all these things, or you are no pastor. Even more, you are never content merely to mention or list such realities, as if a troubled person simply needed the bare bones of didactic instruction. Like a skilled musician, you develop a trained ear. In every detail of every person’s story, you learn to hear the music of these unmentioned realities. You help others hear what is actually playing. A relevant, honest pastoral conversation teaches another person how to listen, and then how to join the song. Need I say more? No one else is listening to what you hear. No one else is saying what you have to say. No one else is singing what you believe. No one else is giving to others what you have been given that you might freely give. Every person who “needs counseling” actually needs your unique message.

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Sermon Notes from "The Fall That Follows Pride: One King's Journey from Delusion to Doxology." Sermon by Mitch Chase.

[From the 10:45 A.M. worship service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church.]

Daniel 4:28-37.

I. Introduction

A. Warnings in Scripture

B. The Vice of Pride
1. "There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. The vice I am talking of is Pride" (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
2. "In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you" (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

C. Background of Nebuchadnezzar

D. Context of This Passage

E. God's Sovereignty is Revealed With the Result of Humbling the Proud

II. Nebuchadnezzar Humbled (vv. 28-33)

A. Nebuchadnezzar Glorifies His Own Majesty

B. Nebuchadnezzar Becomes Like an Animal

III. Nebuchadnezzar Restored (vv. 34-37)

A. Nebuchadnezzar Praises the Most High God

B. Nebuchadnezzar Confesses That God's Kingdom Will Last Forever

C. God is Sovereign

D. Three Reasons Nebuchadnezzar Extols God
1. God's Right Works
2. God's Just Ways
3. God's Humbling Power

IV. What Should We Learn?

A. God's Total Sovereignty

B. Repentance

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Friday, June 01, 2012

Some Notes from the End of Today's AOMIN Live Webcast

Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, responding to "A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation."


According to the document, election is not personal, but refers to a general plan.


However, according to Ephesians 1:4ff., election is clearly personal.


"Sovereignty" is affirmed, but undefined in this document. What is the basis for God's knowledge? Does He passively 'look down through the corridors of time'?


The document defines "actual free-will" as "the ability to choose between two options." What does the view of 'free-will' expressed in this document say about being dead in sin or enslaved to sin?


"God does not believe in Himself for me... the 'gift of faith'" means that God in His mercy has remade my heart; my renewed heart [now] naturally responds in faith to God.


The document denies an effectual call. The "call" found in Romans 8:28-30 is clearly effectual.


The document denies "even the possibility of apostasy." The New Testament speaks of apostasy. If all faith is humanly derived, then there can be no possibility of a "false faith."



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