The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, February 9, 2013

How To Fix America (Without Condemning Queers, Despising Anti-Christ Obama, and Damning Satanic Abortionists)

By: Thomas Fletcher Booher

Something is wrong with America. According to Christians that is, and it has been for a long time. Gay marriage, abortions, Obama, wars, government, Arminians, it is all just wrong. I guess we better cry and complain about it some more and wait for God's judgment to pour down on all those wicked people. 

Sometimes that's what it sounds like to me. Doom and gloom. No hope for America because she's already taken on too much water. What a sad lot of sovereign gracer's we are if we actually believe that. Cannot God do anything? Yes, He can do all His holy will. Or at least, isn't that what reformed people learned to mimic as children? 

I'm reformed. I'm late to the party as I didn't become a Calvinist til I was 19. I love the reformed faith, I agree with Spurgeon that it is just a nickname for biblical Christianity, but that doesn't mean that I think all is well in the reformed world. You see, I think we are taking on just as much water as America, and it is because we are taking on water that America is taking on water. If we are the standard of orthodoxy, if we are indeed the true heirs of biblical Christianity that can trace their teaching and lineage right back to the Apostle Paul, then as we go, the culture goes. And I think we are going because we are forgetting to take the gospel outside of the classroom and church. 

With what message did Christ turn the world upside down? The message of political activism, of taking up the agenda of one particular prevalent sin and blowing the bullhorn till the walls came tumbling down? No, He came with the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, lest I need to remind anyone (Rom. 1:16). The government and social standing of the land back then? Worse than ours today. The leaders were cruel, murderers (has our President killed his own people? And being pro-choice doesn't make a President a murderer), openly dishonest, and unjust. Oh, and they killed Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The tax collectors, soldiers, and others were despised by the people for taking more money than they were supposed to collect, or for demanding that the people carry their loads. 

Did John the Baptist, in calling people to repentance and preparing the way for Jesus Christ, tell these tax collectors to cease collecting taxes because it was stealing, wicked, and evil, and did He tell soldiers to quit being soldiers even though they were working for wicked rulers who would deploy them in nefarious affairs, including crucifying Jesus Christ? No, actually, John told the tax collectors to only take what they were appointed to take and he told the soldiers to not intimidate anyone, accuse falsely, and for them to be content with their wages (see Luke 3).  

Compare that to the "ghastly" Obamacare and gun reduction, and I think we aren't in nearly as dire a situation folks. And regardless, the principle isn't to call out tax collectors, the President, and abusive soldiers (or policeman may better fit for us here today) to fix the problem. Should these things be decried? If it is stealing and if there is abuse, absolutely. But that's not going to fix it. The gospel is what will fix it. Right reasoning with people is what will fix things. Christ turned the world upside down with the gospel, and that is what He has commissioned us to do as well.  

Did Christ spend most of His time yelling at the wicked, unbelieving leaders or the hypocritical religious pharisees? I think we know the answer to that. I think the finger needs to be pointed squarely at us, the Church, those who believe in election and are sure we are elect. We have not championed the gospel to the lost as we ought, but worse still, we have not entrenched our families in the Word. This, I believe, starts at the top, in the seminaries. If the preaching curriculum is poor in the seminaries, then pastors will not come out preaching strong, parents will not be parenting strong, and the next generation will be led by the culture around them rather than the Word of God. For all our conferences and talk, I think this still happens a lot more than we would like to think. We are doing some good on some levels, but not on every level, not on the mass populace level.  

For starters, the preaching. I am incredibly thankful for some of the reformed pastors out there, both the well known ones and the not so well known ones, because I have learned much theology from them. I have been taught the true gospel and the primacy of it, but when the rubber meets the road, like right now in America, I don't see it being primary. I see too much compartmentalizing of today's issues and I don't always see the solutions being firmly rooted in the Word of God. I get on Facebook, read what many reformed leaders are saying, and I don't always see the gospel as being the means to overcome the world's woes. There must be conquered hearts if there is going to be conquered living for the Kingdom of God. So let's let abortion be legal, homosexuals marry, and taxes increase if we don't preach the gospel, because no matter how much we huff and puff without the gospel, all those things will be legal and will increase. 

Raise your hand if your family devotional time is modeled off of Deuteronomy 6. What does that say? This: 

6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Until this is our model and we consistently put it into practice, why would we presume to fix America? In fact, do we not realize that the way we fix America is, in large part, by focusing on our family first? That if we steep ourselves, our spouses, and our children in the Word, this will spill out of our mouths and actions with unbelievers, and that by our words, behaviors, and deeds we can be salt and light? And 20-30 minutes a day with the family after dinner isn't even close to matching what the above verses say. The above verses essentially say that the Word of God is like the air that we breathe, it is ever present in the Christian family, so much so that teaching and learning doesn't always even have to take place in a formal, designated time slot, but happens as you go about your business because it is the main subject of God's people and speaks to every issue and every thing that we do. 

This will produce Christ-likeness in ourselves and our families, which will spill over into our interactions with unbelievers. Christ spoke truly with a righteous Spirit, and His deeds matched His words and His spirit. We must not only say the right things, but say them the right way, both firm and loving, uncompromising and compassionate, and then live our lives in the same manner, so that people will glorify God because of our good deeds. 

Yet our young people are still enamored with Hollywood. We want the latest fashion, the latest gizmos, the latest pop romance. Our men are neck deep in porn, and are women dress like porn stars. We decry abortion, yet Christians commit abortion, or at the very least, refuse to trust God with the size of their family and put a muzzle on the future generation not by killing them, but by preventing them from ever even forming! Our orthodoxy isn't doing a great job of informing our orthopraxy, and I am convinced that because of this, American morality on the whole is sinking. 

So I am advocating we fix America by first fixing ourselves, the Church. And yes, even the reformed. Especially the reformed. In fact, what I am saying is that you fix America by fixing the Church, by focusing on her as much as we possibly can. If we are sanctified- as in separate, holy, other, then the world will take notice, and by God's grace, armed with the gospel, the world will follow the Church. America will follow the Church. 

I pray that God would make me more holy, that I would study His Word more, love it and live it, that God would raise up great preachers and not just great teachers, who will bring us under the authority of the Word, leave us filling convicted and wanting to repent and to change, so that at the end of each and every Lord's Day you and I can cry out to God Almighty and Christ our Lord and Savior what David cried in repentance for his adultery in Psalm 51:  

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How Grounded is Your Faith?

By: Nathan Fox 
The Problem
For one reason or the other, I feel as if Christianity in America is on a rapid downhill climb. We can blame it on theological faultiness (and that would be correct), or on immorality in the church (correct also). But I will give one overarching reason for what I believe to be a continual decline of Christianity in this country: shallow faith. For many reasons, the Christian faith in this country is slowly fading into an activity, and not a wholly devoted lifestyle. Many “Christians” now walk into church not because they want to grow closer to God, but because it is something that they have traditionally done. And believe me, I was no exception to this growing up. I went to church because my parents did, and thought that my faith was something that I did, not something that I was. There was no depth to my faith growing up, and I would venture to say I was not the only one. I often wonder how many of us go through the motions like that. I often wonder how sincereand deep the faith of the people in this country is. How deep is our faith?
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not stereotyping all Christians in this country. There are people in this country whose faith runs deep, and ultimately their faith enables them to withstand the storms of life and the wiles of this world (of which I am proud to say my parents are a great example of strong believers). But, for the most part, generally speaking, this country is no longer a country where Christianity stands strongThis country is now a country where Christ is magnified on Sunday, but no longer is a Christian willing to live out their faith on the other 6 days of the week. Oh yes, we will praise God with our voices when the problems of life are at bay. But the moment that the storm of life comes up, we are so quick to abandon our faith and to cast all of our cares upon ourselves. And therein lies the problem: our faith is not that deep.

The Passage
There is only one verse that I want to focus on today (though I would like to say that it is indeed a powerful and impactful verse). One verse from the book of Colossians that I think will ultimately shed a great deal of light on how we as Christians can address this issue. Take a look at Colossians 1:23 as it says this (and take a note of the underlined words): “If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Several years ago, as I read this verse I made a note underneath it saying this: “A problem for the church today is that we are not that deep in Christ.” How ironic that a note I would make then would end up being a topical point that I would blog about years later!
The passage is pretty much as clear as it gets: stay grounded in your faith in Jesus, no matter whatLet’s compare our faith to a tree, if you don’t mind. If the tree’s roots are deep and strong, then no amount of storms can topple it over (for its roots have firm foundation in the soil). Yes, there will be storms in this life, but a strong foundation on Christ will be able to withstand any storm that could possibly happen (remember the story of the builder who built his house on the rock instead of the sand?). But if the tree’s roots are brittle, weak, and shallow, then even the slightest storm will lift the tree up and topple it over. Likewise, if your faith is weak, brittle, and not growing deep into God’s Word and God’s Son, then you better be ready for the slightest storm in this life to shatter your faith, because you will be toppled. The questions you have to ask are these: how deep is your faith? How grounded is your foundation in the Gospel? Have you moved away from the true foundation of the faith (which is Jesus Christ)?

The Point
God doesn’t want Christians who will walk into church on Sunday because they have to. God doesn’t want Christians who will call His name out in worship when it is convenient, and then refuse to acknowledge Him as the rest of the week progresses. From as far as I can tell in my limited understanding of the Bible, God wants whole-hearted followers. God wants people who no matter what, will stand firm on his Word and will stand firm for the Gospel. Can you just imagine how much different our churches, and even our country, would be if Christians would take the name of Jesus seriously? Can you imagine if Christ was the center of all that we did, and no amount of storms in this life would sway us? I want to be that kind of man; the kind of man that in every stage of my life I am wholly devoted to Jesus Christ.
My encouragement to each believer that reads this is pretty simple: stay firm in your faith. I am not talking about going to church, saying some prayers, and singing praises when times seem good. I am talking about something that is deep, and real, no matter the circumstance of your life. I am talking about singing praises to God when life hits you hard. I am talking about standing firm on the Word of God when no one will stand with you. I am talking about not apologizing for speaking the truth of Jesus Christ in love. That kind of Christian is the one that makes the impact. That’s the kind of Christian that God is truly honored by. The questions remains: how deep is YOUR faith?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Called To Be Saints (Part 7): Called into Light

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

1 Peter 2:9 that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light

Peter begins his first epistle by identifying the recipients as the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1:1)Exactly what the Dispersion refers to is not entirely agreed upon by Bible scholars and commentators. Onecommentator correlates the word, dispersion (Greek diaspora), with the LXX translation of Deuteronomy 28:25, [Thou] shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth (KJV). The translators used the same word. He considers it the first use as a technical designation of Jews who lived outside of Palestine. On that basis, he believes Peter is writing to Jews who, by their own choice, are living in the regions listed in verse one.

There is merit to that idea as there was a general division of labor between Paul and Peter, wherein Paul ministered among the Gentiles while Peter among the Jews (Gal 2:7, 8). Interestingly, this commentator writes nothing about 2 Pet 2:10, which we will see has an important bearing on the matter.

Another commentator agrees that Peter’s primary reference is to Jews scattered by the Babylonian captivity, but also sees a secondary reference to the Gentiles.

In 4:3, Peter speaks of his readers as doing the will of the Gentiles, and gives a short list of what he means - walking in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, abominable idolatries. This is the kind of list Paul might give, who without question was writing to Gentiles (Eph 5:3-5; Col 3:5-8). If Peter were addressing Jews in 4:3, he would have to mean they were walking like the Gentiles, not as actual Gentiles. However, abominable idolatries would hardly be a believable charge against the Jews of the first century, even unconverted ones.

In our text, Peter describes his readers as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own special people. It is true that God looked upon Old Testament Israel as his own special people, chosen out of all the people of the ancient world (Ex 19:5; Deut 4:10; 7:6; 14:2; 26:15; Ps 135:4). Yet, in ancient Israel, the offices of king and priest were separate, so the designation a royal priesthood is not a fitting accolade for Jews, even Jewish Christians, if the rationale for the ascription is their ethnicity as Jews.

The clearest idea that Gentiles are at least equally in mind as Jews, if not more so, is found in 2:10, which immediately follows our text. The ‘you’ of verse nine are also those in verse ten who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. This parallels Paul in Ephesians 2:11-13 where he relates how the Gentiles were once without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, without hope and God in the world. But that all changed for them as Paul writes, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were for off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Peter’s words also reflect the Old Testament anticipation of the conversion of the Gentile, those who found God even though they did not seek for him, to whom God revealed himself even though (historically) they did not ask for him (Isaiah 65:1; Rom 11:20).

In this context, Peter speaks of our calling. It is a call out of darkness into light. Peter is presenting us with a calling that did not merely take place in the past. It was not a calling that was reached after a time of evaluation or analysis on God’s part. The act of calling was punctiliar not progressive. This has special significance when we think of the one who is doing the calling, the one of whom we are to proclaim praise because of his call. Since it is God who has called, we must think of the call as always in his mind. It did not suddenly appear in his thinkingAs such, it is a call that has had no change, and will never change. If it were a call that was reached after an investigative process, there would be nothing in the nature of it to prohibit further evaluation resulting in its reversal. But we thank God that it is a once-for-all, unchanging, eternal call.

The call is effectual. It accomplishes something. It has a power in it that brings into being that which is not. The call of God inherently brings into being everything entailed in the call. This is clearly seen in the creative call of Genesis 1, which invoked something out of nothing. It was instantaneous; one moment there was nothing, the next, everything. The divine fiat of creation had everything within it to bring about what was purposed in it.

The creation motif is useful in understanding God’s saving work, and it is not absent in the New Testament. Paul sees an analogy between God’s original lighting up of the cosmos and his shining the knowledge of his glory (emanating from the face of Jesus Christ) into our dark hearts (2 Cor 4:6). Peter follows the imagery in our text – the call results in a transfer from one state to another, from darkness to light.

We may draw further comparisons. The original creation was in darkness (Gen 1:1, 2) and God commanded light to shine into the darkness and lighten the world (Gen 1:3). The creation was taken from a state of deep darkness into a state in which the unformed, empty world was exposed. In the subsequent creation days, the world moves from destitute barrenness to teeming life in the sky, land, and sea. God transforms the world.

Our transfer from darkness to light by the call of God results in our own transformation. This idea of is picked up by Paul, But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18). The call results in the Spirit’s work which changes us to be more and more like the glorious Lord. Paul also uses darkness and light to paint what salvation looks like. To be called out of darkness into light is to be called from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18). Those without Christ walk in ignorance because they are blind and their understanding is darkened (Eph 4:18). The implication is that those who are in Christ walk in understanding and therefore know and follow the will of God. Their life is not marked by the flagrant and heinous sin of the unbelieving world.

In line with the likelihood that Peter is at least including Gentiles as the recipients of his letter, the light into which they are called has a worldwide effect as they themselves are lights. Paul states as much when he exhorts his Gentile readers as children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Phil 2:15).

The eternal, unchanging call of God will accomplish what it purposed. It will effectively work through the preaching of the gospel and the internal operation of the Spirit. Just asthe entities of creation and light could not thwart the will of the one who called them into being, so can no man confound the purpose of God in his call. Not only does it transfer from darkness to light, but it also transforms. That is a certainty, and we should be encouraged by that. It assures us that the success of our evangelism is not dependent on usIt also ensures our sanctification. God will progressively sanctify us in this life and will perfect us in the next.