Secular Church

Secular - Sacred signSecular Church, two words that seem to contradict one another. Apparently that is no longer the case. A “church” in Baton Rouge is about to have their first service. A secular church providing “life enhancement” messages about how to be a better person and how to enjoy life more.

In some ways this is nothing new, the Unitarian Universalists are almost to the point of being a secular church. Many of the churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), and United Methodists no longer seem to believe in Jesus, or that He is the only way to the Father anymore.

A few things did stand out from the article though. First is DeWitt’s own testimony, that his background is Pentecostalism and that he was “saved” (emphasis in original) at Jimmy Swaggart’s church at the age of 17. As a follower of the Reformed tradition, or Calvinism, if you will, I don’t believe that someone could be saved and then somehow have lost that salvation. Rather, we believe that God does not lose His sheep. But, I definitely believe that false converts are often made, especially when emotionally manipulated into the semipelagian act of “making a decision” for or “accepting” Jesus.

Is it possible that DeWitt was emotionally manipulated, or even somewhat convicted about his sin, and told to pray a prayer, to accept Jesus, or to go and do better? Maybe he was told that God helps those who help themselves and he should live better and God would save him? And after Mr. DeWitt prayed that prayer, was he told by Mr. Swaggart that he was saved?

If the Gospel is not rightly proclaimed, and if the command given is something other than to repent and believe, what should we expect but false converts?

Jimmy Swaggart is known for his rather charismatic Pentecostalism. The charismatic church is known for its “experiencing the Holy Spirit.” Seeking after feelings rather than trusting in God’s promises. Seeking personal revelation rather than God’s Word. Seeking that which God has not promised rather than trusting in what He has. When someone no longer “feels” this experience what do they turn to? If they’ve never been taught to read and trust God’s word and promises, what will they seek? From where does assurance come?

A false convert in a church that sought after, and likely even manufactured, experiences rather than truth is a bad recipe. A false convert told to live better or do your best and God will do the rest is a tragedy. A tragedy as the false convert likely for awhile thought he was saved, but then comes to realize the things he was taught aren’t true, that is, he never heard the true Gospel and believed.

The other point that really stood out to me though, and which leads to my assumptions above, is what DeWitt thinks the churches preach. And, sadly, I would have to agree with him, that most churches do preach exactly what DeWitt says.

The sermons will be about “life enhancement” – a subject that DeWitt says successful ministries already focus on, with lessons about how to be a better person and how to enjoy your life more. DeWitt’s church just won’t wrap those messages in a religious context.

The sermons will be about “life enhancement”, how to be a better person, and how to enjoy your life more. There are many sermons like that, there are many so-called pastors that preach that. But, that isn’t what Jesus and the Apostles taught. A sermon is supposed to be about Jesus, about how He died in the place of sinners paying for their sin and giving them His righteousness. If the Christianity I believed in was what DeWitt seems to believe the church teaches, I too would become an atheist.

Fortunately, the Gospel isn’t about life enhancement, it isn’t about becoming a better person, and it isn’t about enjoying this life more. It isn’t even about “life change” as many preach today. It is about Jesus dying for the sins of the world to save those who believe. Repent and trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins.

And to Mr. DeWitt, I’m sorry that you heard a false Gospel of life enhancement for those 25 years. I’m sorry that you were probably told to pray a prayer to accept Jesus into your heart. I’m sorry that you were probably told that you were saved because you prayed a prayer. And I’m sorry that you were probably told to look to feelings and experiences rather than God’s promises as found in His word. If by chance you come across this post please contact me and I’d be glad to hear and discuss your experiences and, if you are willing to listen, to talk about Jesus and the Gospel. I live within a few hours of Baton Rouge, so if you see this and want to talk, let’s make this happen.

Homosexuality and the Christian Response

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Can a person be a Christian and be gay? 1st Corinthians 6:9-11Homosexuality is sadly a very common topic these days. Ten or eleven states have legalized gay marriage, the Boy Scouts of America is sitting on a fence waiting on opinion polls to decide if they should allow gay leaders, the CEO of Starbucks, and former CEO of JC Penney have come out supporting gay marriage, the United Methodist General conference is divided over the subject, and recently many Christians ate “mor chikin” at Chick-Fil-A due to the CEOs stance opposing it.

Today John Daniel at one of the Christian Post blogs ran a post asking ten questions about the Christian response to homosexuality. (Entire post consists of the ten questions, nothing more, I have all ten listed below.)

So, with one of Johnny Cash’s last albums playing in the background, I will attempt to give my thoughts on his questions.

1. How should Christians deal with societal acceptance of homosexuality?

The Christian’s response must be one of repentance and faith. We must repent of our own sexual immorality, of our pride, of our resentment, and any malice toward the homosexual and those who are pushing the homosexual agenda. We must remember that homosexuality is a sin, and like all sins that it comes from a wicked heart, and like all sins it leads to death. And, we must remember that like all sin, Christ paid for it.

With that said, we need to pray for our pastors, as they will face these questions often, and we must pray that they will remain faithful in opposition to what God calls sin, and boldly proclaim the Gospel.

As for society, the only way to deal with this sin, as with others, is to proclaim the Gospel to those who suffer with it, or suffer because of it. We must tell the world that Jesus died to pay for their sins, and that they must repent and believe.

2. How to stop myself from being [a] gay Christian?

Without knowing more about the author of the original post, I can’t answer this other than generally. If you are attracted to your own gender, or are lusting after people of the other gender, the response is the same, repent and trust in Christ, who paid for your sin. Pray that God would deliver you from the temptation. And, it is advisable that you confess to a mature believer, preferably an elder or pastor, and hear that Christ has forgiven your sins. You should also be in a healthy church that properly distinguishes between Law and Gospel, focuses on Christ and His finished work, and regularly receives the sacraments.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, ESV)

3. How should Christians respond to the question of homosexual marriage?

This one can be a little more difficult, and Christians will react differently.

Some Christians will seek to prevent gay marriage through politics; while that method may have worked at one time, ten states have now legalized gay marriage, and it is likely a couple more will in the next few weeks. The US Supreme Court is also discussing the issue, and President Obama is clearly in support of gay marriage. I don’t think the political response is going to work.

Rather than take the political approach, I think the approach we should take the approach I gave in question number one. Repentance and faith and the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners.

The Church has a prophetic voice to the nations for sure, but it is clear this nation isn’t really hearing that on this issue. This is largely due to compromised churches that either have agreed with the world, or adopted the world’s methods, rather than Christ’s methods. If the churches in America were all proclaiming the Gospel weekly, and in the streets, we wouldn’t need to be discussing this issue.

4. Is it possible to be a gay Christian?

Yes and no. Yes, it is possible to be a Christian who hates his homosexual attraction and repents of it daily. It is even possible to be a Christian who doesn’t understand that homosexuality is sinful, but believes the Gospel. It is not however, possible to be one who sees God’s condemnation of homosexuality in Scripture but says “I don’t believe God, and I’m going to be a gay Christian anyway.” If one is in the latter state, either the Holy Spirit will convict them and they will repent, or they were never a Christian in the first place.

5. Should a Christian attend the wedding of a gay couple?

Adiophora. Some Christians will take different stands on this, and for many it depends on the situation. The Christian must make it clear that whether they attend the wedding or not, that they do not accept that homosexuality is acceptable. The relationship with the person or couple definitely plays into the decision. Sometimes it may be right to attend, other times it clearly will not be.

I personally don’t think I could attend such a wedding, but I won’t condemn those who decide differently on this.

However, a Christian can not officiate the wedding, as that would be promoting what God has clearly stated is sin.

6. As a Christian, how to get along with gay people?

A Christian gets along with “gay people” the same way he gets along with other sinners. Repenting of his own sin, and loving his neighbor as himself. This includes giving them the Gospel and not backing down on what God has called sin.

7. Can a person be born gay?

Maybe. This is a very common question, and very much debated. I don’t personally believe people are born gay, however, whether the person is born gay or not makes no difference in how it is to be handled.

It is a sin either way. God’s command to the homosexual, whether due to sin in the world they were born gay, or due to sin in the world they became gay, is to repent and believe the Gospel, believing that Christ paid for the sin of the homosexual just as he paid for the sin of the adulterer, the murderer, the rapist, the thief, the liar, the tax collector, the prideful, and the arrogant.

8. How to tell a gay friend that homosexuality is wrong?

Lovingly, with lots of Scripture, and with the Gospel, telling them that Christ died for them, and that they must repent and believe on Him to be saved. Which is the same way you would approach any other sinner.

9. How should Christians let gays to know or feel a sincere love from them?

See question 8? Love them, proclaim the Gospel to them, and repent of your own sins.

10. How should I pray for my gay friends and other gays?

Pray that your pride, arrogance, and misunderstandings would be removed; pray that God would send people to proclaim the Gospel to them and that He would save them.

 

All sin leads to death, and all who’s sin is not paid for will be judged and cast into the lake of fire for eternity. Homosexuality, despite being a huge issue today, is no different than other sins in this regard. All sin must be atoned for, or the sinner will be forever punished for it. Christ paid for all sin for those who believe. Repent and believe and you will be saved.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, ESV)

On the handling of Michael Servetus by John Calvin

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Heretic Michael ServetusOne of the frequent arguments against Calvinism is John Calvin’s handling of the heretic Michael Servetus. The theology shouldn’t be looked down upon based on the actions whom it is named after though. (Calvin’s theology is not unique or original to Calvin, but rather he summed it up well.) Instead it should be weighed against the Bible. However, few seem to understand Calvin’s role regarding the heretic Servetus, or understand exactly why Servetus was executed.

I’ve had this note sitting in my computer for some time, though I didn’t write it I think it is valuable to share.


Short Version: 1. Calvin was not a citizen of Geneva, so did not have
the authority to kill or order the execution of Servetus 2. Calvin
risked his life to press Servetus to recant of his heresy, and press
for a milder death That (2b) did not happen, proves (1).

Long Version: Servetus was a heretic. He wrote a book in 1530 titled
“On the Errors of the Trinity.” To provide one quote, Servetus called
the Trinity “a three-headed Cerberus, a dream of Augustine, and an
invention of the devil.” One of the most famous church historians
Schaff, called Servetus “the most audacious and even blasphemous
heretic of the sixteenth century.”

Calvin responded in detail to many letters from Servetus, where
Servetus was trying to convince Calvin that the Trinity is unbiblical.
Calvin stopped replying as Servetus became insulting. Servetus then
went to Geneva with the intention of overthrowing Protestantism with
heresy. Servetus was arrested, given a 2 month trial, and found guilty
of blasphemy. The civil court found Servetus guilty, sentancing him
“to be burned alive, at a slow fire, till his body he reduced to a
cinder.”

Calvin pressed for a milder death; “I hope that Servetus will be
condemned to death, but I desire that he should be spared the cruelty
of the punishment” – John Calvin (a letter to Farel, 20.8.1553 &
“Tomorrow Servetus will be led out to execution. We have done our best
to change the kind of death, but in vain. I shall tell thee when we
meet why we had no success.” – John Calvin (a letter to Farel,
26.10.1553). Moreover, Calvin pleased with him to repent (risking his
own life to do so): “Would that we could have obtained a retractation
from Servetus” – Calvin & “I neither hate you nor despise you; nor do
I wish to persecute you; but I would be as hard as iron when I behold
you insulting sound doctrine with so great audacity.” – John Calvin.

It was not a case of “Calvin thought the Mormon who lives down the
street should be killed”. It was “Calvin believed that an arroagant
heretic who despite warnings, came to Geneva to cause chaos in soceity
and overthrow and drive out the established religion and replace it
with damnable heresy, should be given a fair trial and pleaded with to
repent. If he came to Geneva to carry out his agenda, and did not
repent after a 2 month trial, then and only then, should he be put to
death in as less pain as possible.” Calvin supported ‘a’ death
Servetus, but Calvin himself did not give or carry out the punishment.


Here is what Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the
History of the Church at Oxford University, says about Calvin and
Servetus:

“Calvin was as clear as the Roman Catholic inquisitors in Lyon or the
papal Antichrist in Rome that Servetus must die. The Genevan city
authorities determined that the heretic’s fate should be the
traditional one of burning at the stake, and although Calvin would
have preferred a more mercifully summary method of execution, he did
not oppose the burning on October 27, 1553. Quite apart from his own
feeling that Christendom was under threat, there was a political
consideration: To show mercy would be to show weakness, and that would
encourage his enemies in Geneva just at a moment when they hoped to
triumph. He had ensured that there had been careful international
soundings among Protestants about the sentence: after all, the
legality of Geneva burning someone who had merely been passing through
the city was not immediately obvious.” — “The Reformation,” (Viking,
2004), p.238.

If this testimony by a leading historian of the Reformation is
dismissed because MacCulloch is an agnostic (which he is), then
perhaps the following testimony by Carl Trueman will be more
acceptable:

“That John Calvin burned Michael Servetus in Geneva is certainly true
but hardly the whole truth. Attention to the life and times of
Servetus reveals that he was wanted by Catholics as much as
Protestants, and that Calvin tried to have his mode of execution
changed to beheading as a small act of mercy. Without pardoning Calvin
or lessening the nastiness of what happened, Calvin’s actions were
simply not exceptional by the standards of the time, a point that
should temper our judgment of him.” — Ligonier Ministries on-line
article, “Fallacious History” by Carl Trueman at
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/fallacious-history/

Or perhaps Carl Trueman’s bold statement in his “History and
fallacies” (Crossway, 2010) p. 189:

“That Calvin was buried in an unmarked grave tells us much about how
he viewed his own significance in the grand scheme of things; and that
he was chief prosecutor of Michael Servetus tells us all we need to
know about how much Calvin himself valued original and unique
contributions to theology in his day.”

Fallacious History by Carl Trueman

Credits to Jonathan Williams for the first part and George S. Whitten for the second.

Traditional Southern Baptist Dead Parrots

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While doing research for another post I came across an article about some documents that the “Traditional Southern Baptists” had put out on how to “smoke out Calvinists”

That article is worth reading, whether you have any ties to the Southern Baptist Convention or not. I am Confessional Presbyterian, though in the past I was an SBC member.

What is more tragic than these “Traditional Baptists” hatred for Calvinists, is the theology they promote. If they were Arminian, or the Baptist form of Arminianism that somehow believes in Perserverance of the Saints, I wouldn’t be so bothered by it. However, it seems that at least some of the more vocal leaders of this movement are at best semi-Pelagian, if not fully Pelagian, believing that man on his own volition can offer up a prayer at any time to be saved, and that God’s regenerating works is not necessary. This belief was condemned by the Church as a whole in 529 A.D.

Traditional Baptists anti-Calvinists memo

 

The above image comes from the article linked at the beginning of my post. While some of what they said in these papers misrepresented Calvinists, this part is accurate as to what Calvinists believe. Why they chose to call Calvinistic Baptists “Extreme Calvinists” I don’t know.

“Traditional Baptists believe while we were dead in our sins, we are still able to hear, understand, and respond to the Gospel…”

Have you ever tried to talk to a corpse? Most likely you wouldn’t, because a corpse cannot hear, understand, or respond to what you are saying. A corpse cannot respond because it is dead.

It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that the man who is dead in sin is regenerated, given the gifts of repentance and faith, which he then uses to repent and believe. Without this miraculous work of God none would ever be saved.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV

With that said, I leave you with an illustration of what exactly it means to be dead, and the actual traditional beliefs of the Southern Baptist Convention from their Abstract of Principles.

Ten Reasons To Not Ask Jesus Into Your Heart

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repent_with_shadow_xmmiI received this via a tweet a few days ago. Todd Friel of Wretched Radio and Wretched TV has graciously granted permission to post this article. The original can be found here. I listen to Wretched Radio daily, you should too.

Ten Reasons To Not Ask Jesus Into Your Heart

by Todd Friel

The music weeps, the preacher pleads, “Give your heart to Jesus. You have a God shaped hole in your heart and only Jesus can fill it.” Dozens, hundreds or thousands of people who want to get their spiritual life on track make their way to the altar. They ask Jesus into their heart.

Cut to three months later. Nobody has seen our new convert in church. The follow up committee calls him and encourages him to attend a Bible study, but to no avail. We label him a backslider and get ready for the next outreach event.

Our beloved child lies in her snuggly warm bed and says, “Yes, Daddy. I want to ask Jesus into my heart.” You lead her in “the prayer” and hope that it sticks. You spend the next ten years questioning if she really, really meant it. Puberty hits and the answer reveals itself. She backslides. We spend the next ten years praying that she will come to her senses.

Telling someone to ask Jesus into their hearts has a very typical result, backsliding. the Bible says that a person who is soundly saved puts his hand to the plow and does not look back because he is fit for service. In other words, a true convert cannot backslide. If a person backslides, he never slid forward in the first place. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (II Cor.5) No backsliding there.

Brace yourself for this one: with very few if any exceptions, anyone who asked Jesus into their hearts to be saved…is not. If you asked Jesus into your heart because you were told that is what you have to do to become a Christian, you were mis-informed.

If you have ever told someone to ask Jesus into their heart (like I have), you produced a false convert. Here is why.

1. It is not in the Bible.

There is not a single verse that even hints we should say a prayer inviting Jesus into our hearts. Some use Rev. 3:20. To tell us that Jesus is standing at the door of our hearts begging to come in.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” There are two reasons that interpretation is wrong. The context tells us that the door Jesus is knocking on is the door of the church, not the human heart. Jesus is not knocking to enter someone’s heart but to have fellowship with His church.

Even if the context didn’t tell us this, we would be forcing a meaning into the text (eisegesis). How do we know it is our heart he is knocking at? Why not our car door? How do we know he isn’t knocking on our foot? To suggest that he is knocking on the door of our heart is superimposing a meaning on the text that simply does not exist.

The Bible does not instruct us to ask Jesus into our heart. This alone should resolve the issue, nevertheless, here are nine more reasons.

2. Asking Jesus into your heart is a saying that makes no sense.

What does it mean to ask Jesus into your heart? If I say the right incantation will He somehow enter my heart? Is it literal? Does He reside in the upper or lower ventricle? Is this a metaphysical experience? Is it figurative? If it is, what exactly does it mean? While I am certain that most adults cannot articulate its meaning, I am certain that no child can explain it. Pastor Dennis Rokser reminds us that little children think literally and can easily be confused (or frightened) at the prospect of asking Jesus into their heart.

3. In order to be saved, a man must repent (Acts 2:38).

Asking Jesus into your heart leaves out the requirement of repentance.

4. In order to be saved, a man must trust in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).

Asking Jesus into your heart leaves out the requirement of faith.

5. The person who wrongly believes they are saved will have a false sense of security.

Millions of people who sincerely, but wrongly, asked Jesus into their hearts think they are saved but struggle to feel secure. They live in doubt and fear because they do not have the Holy Spirit giving them assurance of salvation.

6. The person who asks Jesus into his heart will likely end up inoculated, bitter and backslidden.

Because he did not get saved by reciting a formulaic prayer, he will grow disillusioned with Jesus, the Bible, church and fellow believers. His latter end will be worse than the first.

7. It presents God as a beggar just hoping you will let Him into your busy life.

This presentation of God robs Him of His sovereignty.

8. The cause of Christ is ridiculed.

Visit an atheist web-site and read the pagans who scoff, “How dare those Christians tell us how to live when they get divorced more than we do? Who are they to say homosexuals shouldn’t adopt kids when tens of thousands of orphans don’t get adopted by Christians?” Born again believers adopt kids and don’t get divorced. People who ask Jesus into their hearts do. Jesus gets mocked when false converts give Him a bad name.

9. The cause of evangelism is hindered.

While it is certainly easier to get church members by telling them to ask Jesus into their hearts, try pleading with someone to make today the day of their salvation. Get ready for a painful response. “Why should I become a Christian when I have seen so called Christians act worse than a pagan?” People who ask Jesus into their hearts give pagans an excuse for not repenting.

10. Here is the scary one.

People who ask Jesus into their hearts are not saved and they will perish on the Day of Judgment. How tragic that millions of people think they are right with God when they are not. How many people who will cry out, “Lord, Lord” on judgment day will be “Christians” who asked Jesus into their hearts?

So, what must one do to be saved? Repent and trust. (Heb.6:1) The Bible makes it clear that all men must repent and place their trust in Jesus Christ. Every man does have a “God shaped hole in their hearts,” but that hole is not contentment, fulfillment and peace. Every man’s heart problem is righteousness. Instead of preaching that Jesus fulfills, we must preach that God judges and Jesus satisfies God’s judgment…if a man will repent and place his trust in Him.

If you are reading this and you asked Jesus into your heart, chances are good you had a spiritual buzz for a while, but now you struggle to read your Bible, tithe, attend church and pray. Perhaps you were told you would have contentment, purpose and a better life if you just ask Jesus into your heart. I am sorry, that was a lie.


I hope this has been helpful. If you asked Jesus into your heart rather than repenting and believing, look at God’s commandments, see your sin, then look to Christ, who died to pay the penalty that you deserve, repent and believe the Good News.

Hopefully this too will be helpful to you: