The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, March 5, 2011

You Might Be A Universalist, And You Don't Even Know It

The more I hear about Rob Bell, Deepak Chopra, the more I get excited. Coming from a fundamental, conservative, staunch Calvinist, that may sound surprising. And on one hand, I am not excited about the deception these men have caused. Satan is no doubt well-pleased with them. But I do know that the devil is God's devil, and as we see in Job, the devil only does what God allows, and we know that God only allows what will ultimately bring about His greatest glory and His people's greatest joy. And while I realize many of my friends who are fundamentalists are probably amening this at this point, I don't think you, and perhaps even some of my friends who call themselves Calvinists, will be in my next paragraph.

God's greatest glory and our greatest joy will be, in part, the damnation of billions of soul into hell where the wrath of God against their sins will eternally be poured out. Can I get an amen for that?

And this is why I say that, unless we can amen that last sentence, we may be something akin to universalists in practice. As in, we go about this life thanking and praising God for giving us life, never thinking about the fact that the same God that sovereignly chose to save us has sovereignly chosen to damn others- many, many others.

Now non-Calvinists will disagree and say that God doesn't damn that we just hop into hell all on our own, and the purpose of this blog is not to refute that, although all I will say at this point is read your Bible, God damns for His glory and we will praise Him for it in heaven forever (Rev. 19:1-7, esp. 3). As much as people love to read the Proverbs, I have yet to hear anyone praise God for Proverbs 16:4,
"The Lord has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom."

There is an interesting paradox in Christians today. And I say Christians in all seriousness, I REALLY believe that there are true Christians, born again, filled with the Holy Spirit who love God and seek to do His will, who think God wants all men everywhere to be saved, that God is saddened when people go to hell and don't repent, and I believe there are Christians who have no idea what to think of verses like Proverbs 16:4, so they just ignore it and pretend it does not exist. Or, they think that, since a loving God could never take pleasure in sending someone to hell, that whatever Rev. 19 or Proverbs 16:4 means, surely it does not mean that God has purposed the damnation of unbelievers to glorify Himself (even though this is exactly what Romans 9 teaches).

And at this point, what you need to realize is, the only difference between a universalist and yourself is that you still believe unbelievers go to hell even though God hates the thought of sinners in hell! 

I would argue that, given the choice between a God who allows unbelievers to go to hell yet gets no joy out of them being in hell and a God who, BECAUSE HE HATES THE THOUGHT OF HIS CREATED HUMAN BEINGS GOING TO HELL, CHOOSES INSTEAD TO SAVE THEM AND BRING THEM TO REPENTANCE, that the God who saves everyone is a far more loving, kind, and good God. Why? Because He does not deny Himself, He saves everyone, which makes Him happy, and in turn would make us happy. So I am saying that I would rather be a universalist than be like most Christians today, even some mixed-up Calvinists, who think that God wants all men to be saved and gets no glory or joy from the damnation of unbelievers.

So now I close with this: the paradox that I referred to earlier is that we have so many Christians who think that many people are going to spend a Christless eternity in hell suffering God's wrath despite God not being happy about this. So God is pouring out His wrath on those in hell, yet He hates doing it? This makes no sense, yet this is what many of you believe. Further, you seem to think that this is ok, that God can hate to punish sinners, yet still punish sinners and be a good and loving God. Friends, a human being, let alone a god, that torments others all the while not really wanting to do so is not a good human being. We call people that do that kind of stuff psycho. The same would apply for a god like that.

So here is the question: Will you believe the Bible when it says that God gets glory and joy in the damnation of sinners, and that we will praise God for pouring out His wrath on them for all eternity in heaven too, or will you become a universalist and denounce any God that would ever dare send a single soul to hell and get pleasure from it?

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Short Paper Regarding Abortion I Submitted For My Ethics Class

The question was this:

Jim and Sue had been plannign to have a child for two years. Finally, she became pregnant. However, their marriage had been a rough one, and by the time she was in her thrid month of pregnancy they had decided to divorce. At that point, both parents were ambivalent about the pregnancy. They had both watned the child, but now things were different. Sue finally decided that she did not want to raise a child alone and did not want to raise Jim's child. She wanted to get on with her life. However, Jim had long wanted a child, and he realized that the developing fetus was partly his own because he had provided half of its genetic makeup. He did not want Sue to end the pregnancy. He wanted to keep and raise the child. The case was currently being heard by the court. Although the primary decision is a legal one, do you think that Jim had any moral rights in this case or should the decision be strictly Sue's? Why or why not?

My answer:

This is an interesting question, because I remember when I was at UNC-Pembroke our freshman seminar teacher asked the class to stand on one side of the room if they were in favor of abortion being legal, and to stand on the other side of the room if you opposed abortion being legal. I opposed it, and a few others did as well, mostly men. The majority were for abortion being legal. One of the guys who was against abortion being legal told me it was mainly because he got his girlfriend pregnant, they broke up and she aborted the baby, but he wanted the baby yet had no power to stop her. He said it was his baby too, and I think he is right. After all, the baby is half of the man’s genetic makeup.
          Similarly, I think Jim in our discussion case has a right to the child equal to the right of the mother, Sue. I think of the Bible, when two women, both claiming to be the mother of a certain baby, went before King Solomon, hoping he would arbitrate and decide who the baby’s mother actually was. Solomon, in his wisdom, said that he would cut the baby in half and give the one-half to each woman. One woman then cried out and told Solomon to give the baby to the other woman. King Solomon now knew that the mother was the one who told him to give the baby to the other woman, because only the true mother would rather not have her baby at all and yet it at least gets to live, than to have half of her baby dead. So, in a court situation, I think the judge should side with Jim. Maybe the court can make Jim “compensate” Sue for carrying the baby to term, and maybe he should have to pay a pretty penny, but the mother should not be allowed to act against the wishes of Jim and end the pregnancy. She does not have to raise the child; she can just let Jim raise it if she does not want it.
Something else to consider- if Sue just gave birth to the child, then right after divorced Jim and said she didn’t want to raise the child alone and did not want to raise Jim’s child, nobody would allow her to end the life of the baby at that point. So, what is difference? Why call it murder after it is outside of the mother, and not call it murder when it is inside the mother? If you say that it is not fully developed in the mother, or that it is just beginning to develop very early on in the pregnancy, my question is this- does the embryo ever turn out to be anything other than a baby? I am not talking about manipulating it to make it into a lung or another organ, I am referring to the natural progression of things. Does a woman ever give birth to another kidney, or lung, or a tree or a dog? Of course this does not happen, that is because there is something uniquely human about this union between sperm and egg from the very beginning, from conception. So I argue that if it murder to snuff out the baby after it is born because it is human, then it is murder to snuff out the developing baby in the womb too, and because murder is illegal, Sue should not be allowed to have an abortion, but she can give up the child after it is born to Jim if she does not want it.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No Hell For Rob Bell?

I adapted this from an online conversation I had concerning Rob Bell, his new book Love Wins, and his theology on salvation and hell.

Love wins? It depends on what you mean by that. God wins, and God is love, but that is not all God is. So yes, God wins, and in the goodness of God's love, He also wins. But I think the tacit assumption is that God's overarching, highest attribute is His love, and that His love obligates Him to save all of mankind (at least for Rob Bell, and if you like Bell I would think your leanings would at least be in that direction).

But, Scripture is quite clear, that God extends love to whomever He wills, because it is His sovereign choice to extend it however He sees fit. We, as fallen, sinful, God hating humans, deserve nothing less than eternal torment in hell, however, Rob Bell seems to disagree with that, perhaps you do too. So when you have our sinfulness and wickedness to where God calls us sons of the devil and not sons of God, and you have God's holiness, justice, righteousness, and goodness, it is clear that we deserve nothing less but God's eternal wrath against our sinfulness and our sins.

If you are anthropocentric (which, because we are so wicked and dead in trespasses and sins we all are by nature) then you will think that God is obligated to save everyone, or at least the MOST loving God would save every single person from their sins. But, the truth is God does not exist for us, we exist for God. The Bible gives a strong theocentric view of the God of Scriptures (and would we really want it any other way?) where God does everything to glorify Himself, and for Him to display His glory in all His attributes is the best thing for us.

God was no more obligated to offer up His son on the cross for sinners who hate God and love self than you would be obligated to offer up yourself for the person who (hypothetically speaking) murdered your wife. And let's say that you did do that, that you took the death penalty in the place of the person who killed someone you loved, someone who was very dear to you. Do you call that highest form of love, or even love at all? I certainly do not.

So why would God offer up His Son for sinners? It’s not because of us, for we are completely unworthy, estranged from God and the children of the devil rather than the children of God. Further, it would seem that God did offer up His Son in the name of love, but it was certainly not out of the obligation of a man-centered view of "love," nor was it out of a direct love for us, the sinner.

God offered up His Son for us because He loved His Son and was purchasing a holy bride for His Son. Also, God was demonstrating His goodness in all His attributes, by damning some to hell which is good righteous, just, and holy, and by redeeming and sanctifying some to demonstrate His love, grace, mercy, and goodness. Both salvation and damnation is good and should give us reason to praise God. The problem is, it would seem that Bell disagrees and says that damnation of wicked, God hating sinners is not good, and that a loving God would never send God-hating sinners to hell to bear the punishment that they deserve for their God-hatefulness and sins. Scripture and logic however seems to say that a good, loving, holy, just God WOULD give God hating sinners what they deserve, which is His holy wrath for their sinfulness. The real question that is hard to answer is why God would save anyone at all? On what grounds? What makes the atonement of Jesus Christ for sinners good and loving? That's the difficult question.

Only when we have a theocentric understanding of God and all things will we understand why God saving sinners is actually good and loving. To say that God is obligated or to take the logic that:

-love demands that God saves all sinners from what they deserve-

-God is love-

-God saved all sinners from their sins-

-therefore, love wins-

that kind of thinking is simply unbiblical and illogical. Say I am married and have a son, and a man murders my wife. They arrest the man who murdered my wife, he goes to court, and the judge declares him guilty and gives him the death penalty. I intervene and say that I will have my son, and my son agrees, to pay the death penalty for the murderer who killed my wife. Quite frankly, the judge and the local community would consider me and my son’s actions an outrage, and the judge would probably never allow it. Nobody considers this an act of love, nobody gets angry or says "oh, it’s so unloving that they arrested that criminal. True love lets criminals go scotch free and instead punishes an innocent person for their crime." NOBODY thinks that.

So what I am saying in all of this is that, if God's love obligates Him to save sinners and punish an innocent person (Jesus) instead, I will gladly spend an eternity in hell. I will never bow the knee to a god like that. But when I see what Scripture says, that God sent His Son to die for sinners NOT because sinners deserved it but because God was demonstrating His grace and purchasing a bride for His Son (and as we now see, Jesus Christ is willingly dying in order to both obey and please His Father and to purchase His bride, He is dying for His bride) I can now understand why this act is truly loving- it is God loving His Son, and from the outflowing, or overflowing of the love for His Son His love extends to us BUT ONLY BECAUSE WE ARE BECOMING THE BRIDE OF CHRIST.

God loves us in Christ, and He sets His love on His chosen people ONLY because He is purchasing them to be a holy, sanctified bride for His Son Jesus Christ and to show that He is capable of taking children of the devil and making them holy, righteous, children of God by His own power. In other words, God’s love for us emanates solely from Himself, there is nothing within us that is lovable. It is in fact God’s love itself that cleans us up from our sins and makes us holy, righteous, and lovable in His sight. He saves us based on a love that cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness, makes us the bride of His Son, adopts us into His family so that we become His children, and as the bride of His Son and child of God, pure and holy, we are now lovable and God loves us for who we are in Christ.  

And the key point is, it is through the very shedding of the blood of Christ for our sins that we become united with Christ, the bride of Christ, and children of God. Without Christ dying for us, without God shedding His blood and taking the wrath of God we deserve for us, we have no part in Christ. But the Bible says that the atonement of Christ for us is what unites us together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 6). So we see that God sent His Son Jesus to shed His blood for sinners NOT because "love" demands it, but because God's love for His Son has overflowed to us (God wanted to purchase a bride for His Son because He loved him, and He demonstrates His own glory by cleaning us up and making us the pure and holy bride of Christ).

So the truth is, unless there is an ulterior motive for God pouring out His wrath on His innocent Son Jesus for guilty, God hating, children of the devil (humans), then the atonement is actually evil and therefore God is evil, because God would be unjust and unloving to offer up His innocent Son for guilty God hating sinners. But, there is an ulterior motive, for the very act of offering up His Son Jesus for sinners was to turn sinners from their sins, make them holy through the power of the Holy Spirit, and purchase this holy bride for His Son Jesus. And, as I have already said repeatedly, it shows God's grace and mercy by extending what is not deserved (salvation from sin) to sinners, and it also shows His power in the fact that He not only gets them out of punishment but actually regenerates them, turns them from their sin and makes them holy.

I don't think Bell gets this at all because He can't seem to understand why a good and loving God wouldn't save everyone (including himself) from what they deserve, yet what I can't see is why a good and loving God WOULD save ANY God-hating sinner (including myself) from what they, and I, deserve. Thankfully, God has a good and loving ulterior motive that makes Him loving us good, righteous, just, gracious, merciful, and loving.

Segregation By Gender In Youth Groups?

Tonight I discussed with some friends why a particular youth group that some of them attend segregate their youth by gender. We had a bit of a disagreement and it got rather tense, but I would like to articulate my position for others (and hopefully them if they read this).

I do not understand why we should segregate youth where boys sit on one side of the room and girls on the other. The answer given by a guy who attends this youth group did make some sense- he said they do this for the unsaved that may be visiting. For instance, say an unbeliever walks in, sits next to someone of the opposite sex, and is distracted by them because of his insatiable lust; by obligating guys to sit next to guys and girls to sit next to girls, this distraction and problem is alleviated, or so the reasoning goes.

While I think that line of reasoning carries some weight, I do not think it actually works all that well. I was also told that in this particular youth group, as well as another, that guys and girls were having a hard time keeping their hands off of each other during the message being given by the youth pastor! They seemed to think I was crazy for finding this shocking, but it is hard for me to imagine even an unbeliever physically touching someone else during a church service, even a youth church service. But it seems that those who were professing Christians and regular attenders of these youth groups were the ones who were getting handsy.

Here is my response to all of this: Will a person's sexual lust simply go away because they are not sitting next to someone of the opposite sex? Obviously I can't physically touch someone of the opposite sex where I am sitting if I am not sitting next to someone of the opposite sex, but that doesn't prevent me from thinking about or looking at someone of the opposite sex and still being distracted, does it? Why not carry these segregation even further and have girls in one room and guys in another? Most people would think that crazy, but I think even segregating sitting arrangements is a little crazy and ultimately not what is needed.

What is needed then? Good teaching and preaching. And I was told that they do get good teaching and preaching at this church and youth group. I hope this is the case, although I can say that I have heard this particular youth pastor on many occasions and, while I have no doubt he is a godly man who wants to serve Christ and help his youth spiritually, his gospel message, as so many pastors are, was faulty. And if the foundation is faulty (and the gospel is the foundation), no matter what you build on top of it, even if it is well constructed, is in peril of collapsing.

It is my belief that, normally speaking, a church that is preaching the truth of God and practicing church discipline will not have a problem with their youth group getting physically involved during a youth worship service. I understand that hormones exist, believe me I experience them myself, but I believe that the power of the gospel and the power of sound biblical doctrine and the Holy Spirit is stronger than hormones. Therefore, my premise is that, if a youth group is experiencing an epidemic of physical contact or distractions just by the very presence and proximity of members of the opposite sex in the building, either the preaching in this particular area is bad, many in the youth group are unsaved/unregenerate, or both.

I think that my premise is biblical because of the gospel. The gospel teaches that a person who is saved from their sins will be regenerated (given new desires to serve Christ and righteousness and put off sin) and given the Holy Spirit which will indwell the believer, convict of sin and righteousness, and enable the believer to serve Christ and live righteously. Since this is true, and since Jesus says that it is the constant preaching of the gospel and biblical truth that sanctifies (John 17:17), then a regenerate Christian with the Holy Spirit indwelling him WILL respond to good biblical preaching, understand it, be convicted by it, and will make every effort to live righteously. Since this is true, a situation where good preaching is regularly being delivered in regards to this specific area of sexual sin and the desires and feelings that come with our sexuality, it is not possible for the regenerate recepients of this good preaching on a regular basis not to be affected by it in a God-glorifying way that will inevitably and irresistibly produce holier living in the area of purity, chastity, and sexuality.

Therefore, if a youth group is sitting under good preaching, and yet they are not growing in holiness and sanctification in the area of sex and purity, then many in the youth must not be regenerate. If the youth group is struggling with sexual sin to such a degree that they cannot keep their hands off of one another during a youth service with the youth pastor speaking, yet many who are struggling with this sexual sin to this degree are regenerate, then the preaching they are hearing must be poor. My conclusion is that there is never a situation where good, biblical preaching is being delivered on a regular basis to regenerate believers where sanctification is not the result. Why? Because the truth of Scripture sanctifies by working with the Holy Spirit which indwells the regenerate Christian.

Ah, but somebody will say, "Yes, the Holy Spirit convicts the regenerate, but the regnerate Christian must be willing for the preaching to take effect." And now we are coming to the heart of the matter. This is why being a Calvinist and understanding the gospel is so important. God saves us by changing our heart's desires through regeneration and making us willing to trust in Him. Faith and repentance are gifts of God, not something man conjures up or creates by the power of his will. Man would never create nor be willing to repent and believe the gospel, much less put off the sinful deeds of the flesh in the area of sexuality, unless God changed their wills. The gospel teaches us that God changes our wills through regeneration and gives us the means to live righteously by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible also says that it is the Spirit that sanctifies us by the truth of God's Word. The question for the Christian is never a question of are they willing or not, it is only a question of how willing they are and how good and biblical the preaching they are sitting under is.

How do I know this to be true? By the clear teaching of Scripture. Titus chapters 1-2 for starters teaches us this. For instance, in Titus 1:9 we see that one of the qualifications to be a pastor is that he "holds fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." This verse alone teaches that sound doctrine produces conviction (by the Holy Spirit) which produces repentance and holy living (also see Titus 2:1-10).

We see this same thing being taught by Paul again in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Notice it is learning doctrine and instruction in righteousness that makes the man of God, the Christian, complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work. So good teaching WILL produce righteous living out of a regenerate Christian, because a person who is regenerate is, by definition, willing and desiring to live for Christ and abstain from all sins, including sexual immorality. A person who is not willing to do so is not regenerate and is not saved.

Now I would like to give another more example, though I could go on since Scripture is saturated with them. 1 Timothy 4 teaches us that preachers are to "give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" (v. 13) and to "meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you."  Apparently, sound doctrine is so important and so central that it can even save a person.

Now for my final example, and I believe this one puts the nail in the coffin. I am simply going to quote 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:6.

13 "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

 1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.
3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.
5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.
Warning Against Idleness
6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he[a] received from us."
 This is striking. From these verses, it is clear that God has chosen not only that we would be saved but that we are in fact saved through sanctification which is by the Spirit and belief in the truth. So salvation and sanctification are inseperable and inevitable and in fact, sanctification by the Spirit itself is part of beign saved. So the Spirit sanctifies, and we must be sanctified, we must grow in holiness, in order to be saved. Sanctification is a part of salvation. How can this be true unless it is God through the Spirit who is making us willing not only to believe but to live righteously? And as we read from before, Jesus Himself said that we are sanctified by the sound teaching and preaching of the truth Scripture.

All of this is precisely what Philippians 2:12-13 teaches:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."
Notice that it is God Himself working in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. This is sanctification. God saves men by working inwardly in their hearts through regeneration when the gospel is being preached, and in the same way God sanctifies men by working inwardly in their hearts through the Holy Spirit when sound doctrine is being preached. Philippians 2 again reiterates that sanctification itself is a part of salvation, because the verse says to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." So this is not optional for salvation, in a sense this is salvation, a part of it at least. This is also what I believe James has in mind when he says that we are saved not by faith alone but also works.

So, to maintain the teaching that the Christian has to be willing and constantly make himself willing as a Christian to love God and live righteously and become sanctified is grossly unbiblical, an outright heresy, and is predicated on a false gospel that says you must make yourself willing to live righteously and promise God you will do that in order to be saved in the first place. To continue to assert that man makes Himself willing before and after salvation has serious consequences, eternal consequences. Notice, for example, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

 1 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given[a] us His Holy Spirit.
In other words, if you disagree with me on this point, you are not in fact disagreeing with me, but with God. Now let us tie this full circle to the whole segregation issue in this particular youth group due to sexual sin. My contention that I think is clearly biblical is that it is an impossibility for true Christians to sit under true, solid, biblical preaching and teaching and not become sanctified in any area of sin, particularly sexual sin.

Now here is the biblical proof of my contention. As we just saw, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says that God's will is our sanctification, and in this particular instance God is referring to being sanctified in the area of being less sexually immoral and more pure. Will this sanctification occur only if the Christian makes Himself willing and keeps Himself willing? No! By no means! God will sanctify us, God will make us willing to become more pure and less sexually immoral just as He made us willing to believe the gospel and trust in Christ for salvation. This is true because in the next chapter, 1 Thess. 5:23-4 says:

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
God Himself will sanctify us completely, God is faithful, and God will do it.

Now it is true that we are all at different levels of sanctification, and not all of us are going to die as sanctified as another person. But the point is that God is sanctifying us, and we are working out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that God is working in us both to will and to do. One of those things that contributes to our sanctification and how sanctified we become is sound preaching, sound doctrine, correct theology. This demonstrates that a person who is saved and under good doctrine and preaching will grow in holiness and sanctification and put off sin, including sexual sin. Therefore, a good pastor who is sound in his theology and has been reading the Scriptures would know what to do if indeed he was preaching biblical truth to his youth group. Instead of segregating the youth by gender, he would begin to practice church discipline.

We could go back to the verse I quoted earlier, 2 Thess. 3:6 which says to withdraw from every brother (meaning every person who professes to be a Christian) who walks disorderly and not according to what is righteous. In other words, a person who is living in sin and not repenting when confronted and rebuked concerning their sinful lifestyle should not be kept company with. In other words, you do not associate with them at all. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 makes it abundantly clear that a person who is living in sexual sin, a sexually immoral person, is to be excommunicated from the church, and not to be regarded as a true believer, even calling such a person evil in verse 13:

9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”[d]
I kept the first two verses for context because I think it continues to labor my point. Paul says that unbelievers are immoral and that we are not to seperate from them, yet we are to seperate anyone who professes to be a true Christian. Why is this? Because a true Christian cannot live in unrepentant sin after being rebuked for an extended period of time. It is not possible, because God sanctifies. To say it is possible is to slander the nature and power of God and the Holy Spirit. It is also clear Paul is at least telling us to regard such sexually immoral people as unbelievers, because he calls them evil persons.

So if the youth pastor at this youth group was biblically sound, instead of segregating his youth because of sexual immorality going on during the actual youth service, he would rebuke those who were committing such sexual sins. This would either end the problem, the true believer would repent and quit, or if they continued in this sexual sin and did not heed this rebuke then the pastor should not regard the sexually immoral youth as a Christian and remove him from the youth group and church. This is church discipline, its biblical, and to not do it is a sin and has far reaching consequences. First, it is BAD for the person committing the sexual sin- the worst possible thing to do is to segregate them and allow them to continue in the church as if they don't really have a problem. To rebuke them and, if necessary to expel them from the church and regard them as an unbeliever may also convict them and bring them to true faith and repentance and possibly salvation if they were not already saved. Secondly, because so many churches do not practice church discipline, to be a member of a youth group and church is very easy, and this defiles the whole church body, giving Christianity and the church a bad, hypocritical name. This is what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 5.

So segregation is not the answer. Sound preaching and church discipline is. God will convict and sanctify the regenerate Christian under sound preaching, and the biblical pastor will have the wisdom and faith in God to expel the immoral brother or sister who will not repent from the church and no longer regard them as a believer. I even disagree with segregating the youth just in case an unbeliever shows up and might be distracted because he is sitting next to a pretty girl. The girl should be dressing modestly if she is a Christian, and if the unbeliever actually does touch or or distract her, because she is a Christian she will get up and sit somewhere else and if necessary tell a pastor or parent. That is how you handle those situations, not by segregating the youth. Segregating the youth to me says that the preaching is not strong and the youth is not very spiritually mature.

I would advise a young person who is a true believer who is not getting the good preaching they so desperately need and want to overcome sin to leave such churches that preach free will theology, which says that you have to make yourself willing to serve God and live righteously by your own power in order to be saved and to grow in sanctification/holiness. That is not possible, that is not true, and that is not good preaching, and you will not grow very much in your faith under that poor teaching and preaching.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review: Radical by David Platt

Radical is a New York Times Bestseller and I believe was number one on Amazon for a while. It is written by Pastor David Platt, regarded as the youngest mega church pastor ever. The book is just over 200 pages long, and is a light, quick, yet very convicting read. In fact, it is probably the most convicting book (outside of the Bible of course) that I have ever read. 

The subtitle of the book is "Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream," and that is exactly what Platt does in this book. We have grown comfortable and complacent in our faith, living in luxury and spending our time and energies on stuff- we have become materialists. And not just secular America, but Christian, evangelical America. 

While we may all agree that we are neither thankful enough nor generous enough with what we have, Platt really shows us just how unthankful and ungrateful we really are, and he shows us that this is sinful and goes contrary to the gospel itself. Platt seems to be in favor of creating a sort of "salary cap," meaning that it is ideal to say that you will live off of x amount of annual money, and whatever you get above that you give to gospel-centered charities for people overseas and around the world to advance the gospel and feed the poor. He talks about how many live on less than a dollar or two a day, which is the same we spend on French fries. He emphasizes giving to where it is a sacrifice, giving until it hurts. He cites John Calvin as saying that he believed half of the church's money should be given for the poor and that no one is allowed to starve. He also suggests that God may be calling some people to literally give away everything they have, and he cites from Scripture Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler as evidence. 

Before Platt jumps into our need to share the gospel to all nations and be far more generous in our giving than we are, He lays out the gospel in the first couple of chapters and even devotes an entire chapter to the importance of relying on God's power, the Holy Spirit, rather than relying on our own ability to carry out His will. Platt's message on the gospel and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit alone is worth the $12 bucks I paid at Wal-Mart for this book. It is very encouraging to me to finally see a well-known pastor who is spreading the true, biblical gospel and has a passion for the unreached peoples of this world who also understands that giving to the poor is always to be tied together with and connected to the preaching of the gospel. And the fact that Radical is a NY Times bestseller to me confirms that Calvinism and the true gospel are on the rise here in America, and that we could be on the threshold of a revival! 

Platt also emphasizes, particularly early in the book, the need to be men and women of the Word of God. He stresses that we need to spend more time studying the Bible than studying theological or practical living type books, and that is very convicting for me. Platt detailed the passion for God that many in third world countries have where it is illegal to read the Bible and assemble for worship. Yet these brothers and sisters in the faith secretly assemble anyways, at the peril of their own lives. Most of them undoubtedly study the Word of God far more than I do, and I have no threat whatsoever to my life to read God's Word. This was particularly convicting as well. 

So far, all I have given is praise for Platt's Radical. He preaches that all Christians are to live a radical, sold out for Jesus lifestyle where we study the Word of God till our head hurts, preach the gospel until our voices crack, and give to the poor and needy until all of our spare cash is gone (he even emphasizes downgrading the size of your house and not buying the best cars to give more money to the poor and for the gospel). If Platt stopped here and left it at that, I would have zero complaints about the book. Unfortunately, Platt goes too far. 

You will find fairly early on in Radical that Platt believes that all Christians, as in each and every Christian, is not only to share the gospel, but to intentionally go overseas and share the gospel, and to not do this is a sin and disobeying the Great Commission. He ridicules those who just give money for missionaries and others who go overseas to propagate the gospel, saying that Jesus did not tell us to send our money but to send ourselves. Then, Platt rebukes those who claim that foreign missions are not for everyone but only for those whom God has called to such a field: 

"I wonder if we have in some ways intentionally and in other ways unknowingly erected lines of defense against the global purpose God has for our lives. It is not uncommon to hear Christians say, 'Well, not everyone is called to foreign missions,' or more specifically, 'I am not called to foreign missions.' When we say this, we are usually referring to foreign missions as an optional program in the church for a faithful few who apparently are called to that. In this mind-set, missions is a compartmentalized program of the church, and select folks are good at missions and passionate about missions. Meanwhile, the rest of us are willing to watch the missions slide shows when the missionaries come home, but in the end God has just not called most of us to do this missions thing. But where in the Bible is missions ever identified as an optional program in the church? We have just seen that we were all created by God, saved from our sins, and blessed by God to make his glory known in all the world. Indeed, Jesus himself has not merely called us to go to all nations; he has created us and commanded us to go to all nations. We have taken this command, though, and reduced it to a calling, something that only a few people receive....The result is tragic. A majority of individuals supposedly saved from eternal damnation by the gospel are now sitting back and making excuses for not sharing the gospel with the rest of the world?"

While this may sound well and good and cause great conviction initially, I think this is a very dangerous, harmful, and unbiblical teaching by David Platt. Platt even seems to insinuate that a person who does not go overseas to share the gospel may not even be saved from their sins. While Jesus does tell all the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, Paul later on clearly tells us that not everyone is called to be an evangelist, teacher, preacher, and so on (1 Cor. 12, Rom 12, Eph. 4, 1 Peter 4). These verses also make clear that teaching, preaching, evangelism, are gifts that God gives to certain people, and not all people have each of these gifts, although all people do have at least one spiritual gift given to them from God. I have written extensively on this subject in a blog post entitled   We Are The Body, But We Are Not All The Same    that I think is worth looking at. Suffice to say for now, God has designed things so that we each have certain spiritual gifts, that we are all part of the body of Christ, but each individual person is not the ENTIRE body of Christ. In other words, I am not a foot, arm, shoulder, and torso, I am just one particular part of the body, wherever my particular spiritual gift is, and we are to develop and cultivate that spiritual gift and primarily use it to advance the kingdom of God and the gospel. For some this may be working at a homeless shelter, or giving away much of their money, or both. For others this may be in a teaching or evangelistic/missionary sort of role, or a combination of these things. But I do not believe that anyone is called to be a missionary, evangelist, preacher, teacher, deacon, leader, AND exhorter as our primary gifts from God.

Please do not misunderstand me- we are all called to preach and proclaim the gospel, we are all called to be generous to others with our money, and we are all called to stir up one another to good works. But to say that we are all commanded to be missionaries, going overseas to spread the gospel, simply isn’t biblical. Now I do agree that Platt is right that many who say they have a “passion for people in their country or nation” really don’t have a passion for people in their country or nation but are just using that as an excuse for not being a missionary or doing short-term missionary work. Is there anything wrong with going overseas and doing short-term missionary work? Of course not, it may very well be beneficial, but God has not commanded that each and every Christians MUST go overseas and preach the gospel and feed the poor or else they are sinning and are possibly not even Christians. Yet Platt seems to suggest this.

This is neither good theology nor is it very logical. For example, if everyone did go overseas and spend the majority of their time ministering to the poor, what about those who are not poor, what about those in our hometown and country? What about the science teachers, the atheists, the football players, the CEO’s, the politicians of the world? We are called to not forget the poor and the unreached, yet we are NOT called to exclusively minister to the poor and unreached either. Platt isn’t suggesting that we exclusively minister to the poor and unreached, but you can come away from this book feeling like if you do not become a missionary to some third world, Muslim cannibalistic nation that you really don’t love Jesus like you should.

Further, all of life isn’t about evangelism. I know that may be news to some people, but I believe we have a more fundamental job than evangelism, and that is living righteously. Yes, sharing the gospel is essential to living righteously, but I am talking about living righteously from an introspective position. “Make your calling and election sure,” “put off the sinful deeds of the flesh by the power of the Spirit,” and so on. If we are not living holy, righteous lives, then our hearts are not truly concerned about others getting saved and living holy, righteous lives! I have seen some young people who hardly care at all about living righteously claim to have a great passion for missions and evangelism and have gone overseas sharing what they called “the gospel” and have actually shared a false gospel that does far more harm than good. So we need to be sure we are looking to put off the sinful deeds of the flesh before we start sharing the gospel with others, otherwise we will be seen as the hypocrites that we actually are and do more harm than good. Finally, God is glorified through us living righteously, putting off sin, and putting on longsuffering, meekness, temperance, faith, gentleness, kindness, and the other fruits of the Spirit, as He is when we share the gospel to an unbeliever. Both are necessary, and to overemphasize one to the neglect of the other is sin. This means that are time will be divided up between growing in holiness, communing with believers and ministering to their and our needs, defending the faith, and evangelistic endeavors. Platt would agree with this I am sure, but his book paints an imbalanced picture making it seem like 90 percent of our time should be spent on evangelism or else something is wrong with our walk with Christ.

Overall though, this book is outstanding and I highly recommend it, keeping in mind the cautions I just listed. We do need more missionaries to foreign fields, to people who have never heard the gospel, and we do need more people who have the spiritual backbone to proclaim the true gospel right here and right now to our friends, family and neighbors locally. Radical will convict us and teach us how to do that.