Archive for August, 2010

Evangelical pastors joining with a Mormon in public prayer for America’s revival over the weekend.  Should that be a big deal?

Do you know what Mormons believe?  There’s been a movement in recent years to bring credibility and respect to the table when it comes to Mormons and Christianity.  What should we think about this?

Justin Taylor provides some very helpful material from the ESV Study Bible appendix:

“The following is adapted from the section on Mormonism (or The Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-Day Saints) inthe ESV Study Bible article on religious cults. The attempt is to be concise yet still accurate. I’ve added questions in bold to break it up a bit.

What do Mormons believe about apostasy and restoration?

Mormons claim that “total” apostasy overcame the church following apostolic times, and that the Mormon Church (founded in 1830) is the “restored church.”

What’s the problem with this understanding?

If the Mormon Church were truly a “restored church,” one would expect to find first-century historical evidence for Mormon doctrines like the plurality of gods and God the Father having once been a man. Such evidence is completely lacking. Besides, the Bible disallows a total apostasy of the church (e.g., Matt. 16:18; 28:20Eph. 3:21; 4:11–16), warning instead of partial apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1).

What do Mormons believe about God?

Mormons claim that God the Father was once a man and that he then progressed to godhood (that is, he is a now-exalted, immortal man with a flesh-and-bone body).

What does the Bible teach about the nature of God?

Based on the Bible, God is not and has never been a man (Num. 23:19Hos. 11:9). He is a spirit (John 4:24), and a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Furthermore, God is eternal (Ps. 90:2; 102:27Isa. 57:151 Tim. 1:17) and immutable (or unchangeable in his being and perfections; see Ps. 102:25–27Mal. 3:6). He did not “progress” toward godhood, but has always been God.

What do Mormons believe about the Trinity and polytheism?

Mormons believe that the Trinity consists not of three persons in one God but rather of three distinct gods. According to Mormonism, there are potentially many thousands of gods besides these.

What does the Bible teach about the Triune God?

Trusting in or worshiping more than one god is explicitly condemned throughout the Bible (e.g., Ex. 20:3). There is only one true God (Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:18; 46:91 Cor. 8:4James 2:19), who exists eternally in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:192 Cor. 13:14).

What do Mormons believe about human exaltation?

Mormons believe that humans, like God the Father, can go through a process of exaltation to godhood.

What does the Bible teach about humanity?

The Bible teaches that the yearning to be godlike led to the fall of mankind (Gen. 3:4ff.). God does not look kindly on humans who pretend to attain to deity (Acts 12:21–23; contrast Acts 14:11–15). God desires humans to humbly recognize that they are his creatures (Gen. 2:7; 5:2Ps. 95:6–7; 100:3). The state of the redeemed in eternity will be one of glorious immortality, but they will forever remain God’s creatures, adopted as his children (Rom. 8:14–301 Cor. 15:42–57Rev. 21:3–7). Believers will never become gods.

What do Mormons believe about Jesus?

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was the firstborn spirit-child of the heavenly Father and a heavenly Mother. Jesus then progressed to deity in the spirit world. He was later physically conceived in Mary’s womb, as the literal “only begotten” Son of God the Father in the flesh (though many present-day Mormons remain somewhat vague as to how this occurred).

What does the Bible teach about Jesus?

Biblically, the description of Jesus as the “only begotten” refers to his being the Father’suniqueone-of-a-kind Son for all eternity, with the same divine nature as the Father (see note on John 1:14; cf. John 1:18; 3:16, 18; see also John 5:18; 10:30). Moreover, he is eternal deity (John 1:1; 8:58) and is immutable (Heb. 1:10–12; 13:8), meaning he did notprogress to deity but has always been God. And Mary’s conception of Jesus in his humanity was through a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20).

What do Mormons believe about our eternal destiny?

Mormons believe that most people will end up in one of three kingdoms of glory, depending on one’s level of faithfulness. Belief in Christ, or even in God, is not necessary to obtain immortality in one of these three kingdoms, and therefore only the most spiritually perverse will go to hell.

What does the Bible teach about our eternal destiny ?

The Bible teaches that people have just two possibilities for their eternal futures: the saved will enjoy eternal life with God in the new heavens and new earth (Phil. 3:20Rev. 21:1–4; 22:1–5), while the unsaved will spend eternity in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46Rev. 20:13–15).

What do Mormons believe about sin and atonement?

Mormons believe that Adam’s transgression was a noble act that made it possible for humans to become mortal, a necessary step on the path to exaltation to godhood. They think that Christ’s atonement secures immortality for virtually all people, whether they repent and believe or not.

What does the Bible teach about sin and atonement?

Biblically, there was nothing noble about Adam’s sin, which was not a stepping-stone to godhood but rather brought nothing but sin, misery, and death to mankind (Gen. 3:16–19;Rom. 5:12–14). Jesus atoned for the sins of all who would trust him for salvation (Isa. 53:6;John 1:292 Cor. 5:211 Pet. 2:24; 3:181 John 2:2; 4:10).

What do Mormons believe about salvation?

Mormons believe that God gives to (virtually) everyone a general salvation to immortal life in one of the heavenly kingdoms, which is how they understand salvation by grace. Belief in Christ is necessary only to obtain passage to the highest, celestial kingdom—for which not only faith but participation in Mormon temple rituals and obedience to its “laws of the gospel” are also prerequisites.

What does the Bible teach about salvation?

Biblically, salvation by grace must be received through faith in Christ (John 3:15–16; 11:25; 12:46Acts 16:31Rom. 3:22–24Eph. 2:8–9), and all true believers are promised eternal life in God’s presence (Matt. 5:3–8John 14:1–3Rev. 21:3–7).”

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The biggest controversy over the weekend involved Glenn Beck.  Just glancing at most of the headlines it seems that the biggest questions was this:   how big was the crowd at the Glenn Beck rally held at Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.

But many well-meaning, patriotic Christians are likely missing some of the bigger, more important controversy, that has been surfacing on the web the last few days:  Should we join Glenn Beck in prayer for revival in America?  Should we work with him to bring America back to God?

Here are a couple responses–that may surprise Christians who love God and our country!

“God, the Gospel and Glenn Beck” by Russell Moore

“I am sorry, Glenn, but I cannot join you” by Pastor John Samson

Take the time to read the articles and interact with them.  How should a consistent biblical worldview influence our answer to the question:  should we join Glenn Beck in prayer for America?

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So far in this brief series, we have considered what the unpardonable sin isn’t and what it is

Now today’s questions is. “Can people today commit the unpardonable sin?” My answer is, “Sure they can.”  Not in the exact same way that the scribes were in danger of doing in Mark 3:28-30.  I understand that but people can hear the gospel, study the Scriptures in-depth, be fully aware of Jesus’ claims, works, and miracles and reject it all!  I have known people who have done that.

That’s why there are warning passages all throughout the book of Hebrews, for example. Those are real warnings―severe warnings to people who had a full awareness of Jesus and what the apostolic teaching was―and the author was saying, “Don’t reject it! If you do, that will have eternal consequences.”

“how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. ” (Hebrews 2:3–4)

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, ” (Hebrews 6:1–5)

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, ” (Hebrews 10:26)

“How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? ” (Hebrews 10:29)

Do you understand this?  All that is left for you―if you have a full knowledge of Jesus Christ and reject Him―is fearful, terrifying, severe judgment. The hottest corners in hell are reserved for those who have a full knowledge of the gospel and reject it.  So if you are here today and reject Christ, you are in danger of this sin. Your knowledge is greater after hearing this message. So if you understand the gospel and conclude it isn’t true―that Jesus isn’t who He said He is―then you ought to be frightened.

Now again, let me remind you this is not an isolated act sometime in one’s life where you hear the gospel and reject it.  No, because if that were true everyone of us would have committed this sin, right? Most people don’t hear the gospel one time and confess Christ as Lord.  I know of people who have rejected the gospel for 50 years or longer but then one day, the Holy Spirit draws them to Christ and they believe.  I doubt there are many here today who heard the gospel the first time and believed.  So, that’s not it.

And furthermore, we don’t really know―we aren’t God―when someone has fully crossed that line.  So, we never stop giving them the good news that they can be reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus Christ.

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Yesterday, I began writing on the unpardonable sin.  Yesterday’s post provided some context to one of Jesus’ most well known sayings and pointed out what the unpardonable sin was not.

As Jesus is talking with the scribes (the certified religious teachers of the day), He says,  “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” ” (Mark 3:29–30, ESV).

So what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  What is the sin that never is forgiven? What does one do that makes him or her “guilty of an eternal sin?”

Here’s my answer.  It is the ongoing, continual rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit to the deity and to the work of Jesus Christ.  It is a perversion in the heart that calls good evil and evil good.  It is an ongoing, continual and ultimate rejection of the Holy Spirit’s testimony which is displayed in the miracles and signs Jesus performed as well as in our conscience and through the knowledge of the Word of God.

So to commit this sin,  one has to refuse to acknowledge and be defiantly hostile toward the truth that God is working and has worked in Jesus Christ who was empowered by the Spirit and whom the Spirit bears witness that He is God.

It is a sin then that requires a knowledge of who Jesus says He is, a knowledge of the substantial evidence which He presented while on this earth as to His person and work and then an utter rejection of these truth.  Who was committing this sin?  It was the accredited, certified theological teachers of God’s people―the scribes.  Their daily responsibility was to study and teach the Scriptures which were the witness of the Spirit.  So the ones who need to be most concerned I think about committing this sin are those who are well schooled in the Scriptures―even the approved teachers and official leaders in churches―the vast majority of which today reject the witness of the Spirit as to to the deity of Jesus Christ.   And I would hasten to add, it is a warning to those who have grown up in the church and may even have a pretty solid foundation in theology and yet willfully now reject Christ in their hearts!

That’s what these scribes were doing or would ultimately did.  Jesus is warning them.  They studied all the evidence, they sifted through all the teaching, they saw the miracles and his power over demons and after it was all in they concluded that Jesus was doing it all by Satan, not by the Spirit.

You see, when Jesus came, He was sent by the Father and He was empowered by the Spirit of God.  He was very clear about. He didn’t come to do His will. He came to do His Father’s will. And He did everything He did by the power of the Spirit.  The Spirit came upon Him at His baptism after which the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness to triumph over Satan’s temptations and then the Holy Spirit anointed Him to preach and work His miracles.  And these men rejected all that!  They had full exposure to the truth, to the gospel, to the revelation of God and their final answer was, “It’s not true!  We reject Christ!  He’s a fraud!”

Jesus warned the scribes of this unforgivable sin? May this warning be extended even today?  Tomorrow I will answer, “Is it possible for people to commit this sin today?”

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“but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” ” (Mark 3:29–30, ESV)

Much debate has surrounded this statement that Jesus makes regarding an unforgivable sin. When Jesus makes this statement he is engaged in a conversation with the Pharisees regarding the source of his power to exorcise demons. He has, in fact, just cast out a demon from a man who could neither speak nor see. And since the miracle was indisputable, the Pharisees could not claim that Jesus was just sort of liar or lunatic. So, not being able to dismiss the fact of the miracle, they impugn the source of his power. He is in league with the devil and is doing these miracles with satanic power.

Jesus correctly points out that if this were so Satan would be fighting Satan. And then he offers a stunning promise regarding the possibility that all sins will be forgiven. But he quickly adds, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” ” (Mark 3:29–30, ESV). So what is this unpardonable sin? Is it possible to commit it today? Who is liable to commit it? What makes it unpardonable? I will answer the first question today and the others in future posts.

First of all, notice that whatever it is, it is the context of them saying that Jesus “has an unclean spirit” (v.30.) So the unpardonable sin isn’t simply cursing or cursing the Holy Spirit. It’s not taking the name of the Lord in vain. Over the years people have suggested that it might be adultery or some other sexual perversion, murder, genocide or even suicide. But none of those square with the context of this passage. And they also don’t measure up with other Scripture.

For example, if blasphemy or swearing or some other way of slandering God were the unpardonable sin, then Peter certainly would never have been forgiven. He was guilty of a triple, profanity-laced denial of Jesus and yet was restored by Christ Himself (Mark 14:71; John 21:15-17). There was forgiveness for David who murdered an innocent man, lied, stole, and committed adultery (see Psalm 51). Christ forgave the woman of ill-repute in Luke 7. The prodigal son was forgiven for his wicked lifestyle (Luke 15). And consider Paul’s testimony:

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. ” (1 Timothy 1:12–17)

Also, from the context itself I don’t believe that the unpardonable sin is simply a single act, but is rather a habitual heart attitude Verse 30 shows this: “And they were saying.” So whatever this sin is, it is not some word or act that a person commits once and that is it.  No, it is more than that.

Now that we better understand what the unpardonable sin is not, tomorrow we will consider what it is.

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William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armor, 1:13-15

The Christian is to proclaim and initiate an irreconcilable war against his choice sins.  Those nearest his heart must now be trampled under his feet.  This takes great courage and resolution.  O how a lust will plead for itself!  Satan pleads: ‘Is it not just a little one, O spare it!’  He will flatter the soul with the secrecy of it: ‘You can have it, and your honour also.’  If this does not work, Satan will try to get you to wait just a little while for its execution.  Do not be deceived by this strategy.  Most lusts that have received a delay in execution will eventually obtain a full pardon and regain full favor with your soul.  It takes great resolution to break through such violent pleading and bring your lust to full execution.  We must walk with a single purpose, without an eye on the world’s glitter.  We must stand fixed to heaven’s principles and so prove our citizenship in heaven by our faithfulness to the truth.

HT:  Pure Church

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“What is the best safe-guard against false teaching? Beyond all doubt the regular study of the word of God, with prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. The Bible was given to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Psalm. 119:105.) The man who reads it aright will never be allowed greatly to err. It is neglect of the Bible which makes so many a prey to the first false teacher whom they hear. They would have us believe that “they are not learned, and do not pretend to have decided opinions.” The plain truth is that they are lazy and idle about reading the Bible, and do not like the trouble of thinking for themselves. Nothing supplies false prophets with followers so much as spiritual sloth under a cloak of humility.”

J. C. Ryle

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Last evening our church fellowship viewed the talk that Dr. Albert Mohler in which he defended the view of a young earth and showed the high theological cost of not taking Genesis 1-2 in its normal sense.  He interacted quite a bit with the Biologos website and their positions.  Biologos has decided to respond to Dr. Mohler in an unusual venue.  Dr. Mohler has now responded to their critics (pretty vicious ones) of his position.  Here are several links of interest.

Ligonier’s post which links to Dr. Mohler’s video presentation and some commentary on the current debate.

Dr. Mohler’s response which also links to the Biologos forum of criticism

Justin Taylor’s analysis of the current debate.

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What are my idols?

Kenny Stokes, who is filling the pulpit for John Piper, ended his message on Sunday sharing 13 questions that will help one identify idols in his or her heart. These questions were adapted from some questions the Puritans posed:

  1. What do you most highly value?
  2. What do you think about by default?
  3. What is your highest goal?
  4. To what or whom are you most committed?
  5. Who or what do you love the most?
  6. Who or what do you trust or depend upon the most?
  7. Who or what do you fear the most?
  8. Who or what do you hope in and hope for most?
  9. Who or what do you desire the most? Or, what desire makes you most angry or makes you despair when it is not satisfied?
  10. Who or what do you most delight in or hold as your greatest joy and treasure?
  11. Who or what captures your greatest zeal?
  12. To whom or for what are you most thankful?
  13. For whom or what great purpose do you work?

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“For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35, ESV)

“The addition of “sister” in the final declaration emphasizes the rightful place of women in the Christian fellowship. The fact that Jesus does not add “father” probably indicates that Joseph has died. But the absence of “father” may further indicate that the role of father cannot be transferred symbolically to others. No one except God can be called Father by Jesus. The divine Sonship of Jesus is unshared, and his unique relationship with God as Father is nontransferable.”–James Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark. The Pillar New Testament commentary. p. 125

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