Monday, June 30, 2014


[There is a difference between the failures in the churches and the degradation of the church. The failures are not serious in a basic way. Whereas the failures in the churches are not that basic, the degradation of the church is more than basic, for it cuts the root of the life, living, and growth of the church. Unlike failure, degradation not only brings in wrongdoings but cuts the root of the church “tree.’’]

A. As Described in the New Testament

Gnostic Philosophy—[The first aspect of the degradation of the church was the church’s being taken over by the Gnostic philosophy and the elements of the world—the rudimentary teachings of both Jews and Gentiles, consisting of ritualistic observances in such things as meats, drinks, washings, and asceticism (Col. 2:8, 16, 20-22; Titus 1:14-15). Gnosticism is a composition of Greek and Oriental philosophy and Jewish religion. When the church spread to the Gentile world, the church was contaminated by Gnosticism. This contamination became a root problem in the church; it nearly cut off the entire root of the church life. Therefore, Gnosticism was a serious threat to the existence of the church life.]

Different Teaching—[Another aspect of the degradation of the church was the teaching of things different from the economy of God taught by the apostle, resulting in turning away from the apostle’s teaching. Acts 2:42 tells us that all the new believers continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles. What the apostles taught was according to God’s New Testament economy. But at a certain time some teachers began to teach certain biblical things, yet those things were different from the economy of God, that is, different from the teaching of the apostles.] [To teach differently was to teach myths, unending genealogies, and the law (1 Tim. 1:7-8), all of which were vain talking (v. 6), differing from the apostles’ teaching centered upon Christ and the church.] [Eventually this resulted in a turning away from Paul’s teaching (2 Tim. 1:15).]

Base Gain—[In 1 Timothy 6:5b Paul speaks of those who suppose “godliness to be a means of gain.’’ They make godliness a way of gain—material profit, a gain-making trade. The desire for material gain is another reason certain ones teach differently from the economy of God taught by the apostles. Thus, because of pride and the desire for profit, for riches, some are teaching differently. Pride is related to wanting a name and a good reputation, and gain is related to money and material profit.]

Turning Away from the Apostle—[Paul’s Epistles are the completion of the divine revelation concerning God’s eternal purpose and economy (Col. 1:25). His ministry completes the revelation concerning the all-inclusive Christ and His universal Body, the church as His fullness to express Him. Nevertheless, in the degradation of the church, many turned away from Paul’s ministry. “This you know, that all who are in Asia turned away from me’’ (2 Tim. 1:15).] [Those who turned away from Paul’s ministry deviated from God’s complete revelation, the center of which is Christ as the mystery in the saints (Col. 1:27).]

Heresies—[Second Timothy 2:16-18 says, “Avoid profane, vain babblings, for they will advance to more ungodliness, and their word will spread as gangrene, of whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who concerning the truth have misaimed, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and overthrow the faith of some.’’ Here Paul refers to those who bring in heresies as gangrene.]

Factious—[Titus 3:10 and 11 say, “A factious man after a first and second admonition refuse, knowing that such a one has been perverted and sins, being self-condemned.’’ A factious man is a heretical, sectarian man who causes divisions by forming parties in the church according to his own opinions. The Gnostic Judaism referred to in the preceding verse must be related to this. The divisiveness is based on differing teachings. This is the reason that verse 10 comes after verse 9. Certain believers may have insisted on the teaching of the law and in so doing became divisive.]

Backsliding to Judaism—[In Hebrews 10:25-29 Paul warns the Hebrew believers not to forsake the church to sin willfully, that is, to go back to Judaism to offer the sacrifice for sin which has been terminated.]

Denying the person of Christ—[First John 2:22 says, “Who is the liar if not he who is denying that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, who is denying the Father and the Son.’’] First John 4:2 says, “In this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses Jesus Christ having come in the flesh is out of God.’’ These verses reveal to us that some did not believe that Jesus Christ is God Himself come in the flesh (John 1:1, 14; 10:30; 20:28; Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:8).

Not Abiding in the Teaching of Christ—[Second John 9 says, “Everyone who goes beyond and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; he who abides in the teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son.’’ Literally, the Greek word translated “goes beyond’’ means to lead forward (in a negative sense), that is, to go further than what is right, to advance beyond the limit of orthodox teaching concerning Christ. This is contrasted with abiding in the teaching of Christ. The Cerinthian Gnostics, who boasted of their supposedly advanced thinking concerning the teaching of Christ, had such a practice. They went beyond the teaching of the divine conception of Christ, thus denying the deity of Christ. Consequently they could not have God in salvation and in life.]

Forsaking the Faith—[In the degradation of the church some forsook the faith. This was the reason Jude wrote, “Beloved, using all diligence to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you, entreating you to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints’’ (Jude 3). The faith in this verse is not subjective; it is objective. It does not refer to our believing, but refers to our belief, to what we believe. The faith denotes the contents of the New Testament as our faith (Acts 6:7; 1 Tim. 1:19; 3:9; 4:1; 5:8; 6:10, 21; 2 Tim. 2:18; 3:8; 4:7; Titus 1:13), in which we believe for our common salvation. This faith, not any doctrine, has been delivered once for all to the saints. For this faith we should contend (1 Tim. 6:12).] There were more points of degradation in Revelation. We will consider those in the next lesson.

(Lesson Book, Level 5: The Church—The Vision and Building Up of the Church, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)

Singapore gays rally to counter opposition

Singapore theatre director Ivan Heng attended the Pink Dot event, dressed as a Samsui woman, in a nod to Singapore's Pioneer Generation.
Yahoo Newsroom - Singapore theatre director Ivan Heng attended the Pink Dot event, dressed as a Samsui woman, in a nod to Singapore's Pioneer Generation.

SINGAPORE (AP) — Thousands of gay rights activists gathered in downtown Singapore on Saturday for an annual rally that came under unprecedented criticism from religious conservatives, with one influential Christian pastor calling on the government to ban the event.

Previous Pink Dot rallies have been held without much opposition. But as they grew in numbers from less than 3,000 people when the first event was held in 2009 to more than 20,000 last year, so did their disapproval. Organizers said a record 26,000 people showed up Saturday.

On paper, gay sex remains a criminal offense in the wealthy, multi-cultural city-state of 5.4 million, although authorities rarely enforce the British colonial-era legislation, known as Section 377A.

Lawrence Khong, founder and pastor of the 10,000-member Faith Community Baptist Church, has been the most vocal critic of homosexuality and the Pink Dot rally.

In a statement, he said he could not understand why authorities were allowing the rally to take place.

"I find it even more disconcerting that the event is being used as a platform of public persuasion to push their alternative lifestyle," he said. "I would like to see our government leaders draw a clear line on where they now stand with regard to this moral issue."

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said he believed Singaporean society should be one "where you don't go pushing your own beliefs and preferences, but at the same time everyone else keeps the balance in society and avoids creating conflict."

Former lawmaker Siew Kum Hong, who tried to get Parliament to repeal Section 377A unsuccessfully, said he believed that the legislation will be overturned eventually.

"I've always maintained that the government's position is untenable. When presented with a chance to repeal 377A, it decided to avoid making a principled decision and instead opted to kick the can down the road."

Other opposition came from an Islamic teacher who encouraged Muslims to wear white Saturday on the eve of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which was interpreted as a response to a Pink Dot video showing a Singaporean Muslim declaring his support for the LGBT community.

The LGBT supporters wore pink in the rally, whose highlights include large crowds standing together with pink torchlights at night, creating a spectacular aerial view.

Thousands of Singaporean Christians wear white to protest Pink Dot gay rally

The turnout at Faith Community Baptist Church's Sunday service. (Photo courtesy of Faith Community Baptist Church)

Over 6,400 Christians dressed in white on Sunday afternoon to attend a special “family worship” service conducted by Singapore’s Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC), according to organisers.

The service was held at a full-house Suntec Convention Centre and led by FCBC founder and pastor Lawrence Khong, who earlier called on his followers to wear white over the weekend to protest the annual Pink Dot gay rights rally on Saturday.

Khong, who supports keeping a Singapore law that criminalises sex between men, released a statement on Friday pointing to the Pink Dot movement as a “decline of moral and family values".

Into its sixth year running, Pink Dot saw an estimated record-breaking crowd of 26,000 gather at Hong Lim Park to discourage gay discrimination.

Despite the increasing number of people participating in Pink Dot annually, Singapore remains a largely conservative society.

In a survey on social morality released by the Institute of Policy Studies earlier this year, 78.2 per cent of respondents said sexual relations between two adults of the same sex was wrong, and 72.9 per cent did not agree with gay marriage.

“Pink Dot is right to protest for greater freedom and equality. I respect their push for greater inclusion,” said FCBC member Teo Yee Nam ahead of the Sunday service. “But I feel they have to be mindful of society’s stance on the traditional grounds of marriage.”

Other FCBC members Yahoo Singapore spoke to concurred, saying they were wearing white not to explicitly oppose Pink Dot, but to support their pastor Khong and the idea of a traditional family unit involving one man, one woman and children.

“We’re just coming together to worship God, and wearing white to have the spirit of supporting family,” said Maisy, a 39-year-old homemaker. “Pink Dot have their own position. We don’t have anything against them… after all, we’re all Singaporeans.”

The campaign to wear white was originally started more than a week ago by Singaporean Muslim teacher Ustaz Noor Deros, who asked Muslims to avoid Pink Dot and instead don white garments for Ramadan eve prayers on Saturday night.

Not all Muslims seemed to be aware of the initiative when Yahoo visited the prominent Masjid Sultan at Kampong Glam, but others elsewhere posted photos of themselves wearing white on social media under the hashtag “#wearwhite”.

Ex-City Harvest Centre Members Reveal Pressure to Donate 'As Much As We Can'

By Kai Fong

City Harvest Church (CHC) started off as a modest Bible study group of 20 more than two decades ago.

Organised by a fresh-faced National University of Singapore graduate named Kong Hee in 1989, the church grew rapidly, converting many young and passionate individuals to the Christian faith.

At its peak in 2009, the religious group, which by then had been registered as a charity, could count 33,000 followers.

Many of them would rock the halls of the Singapore Expo where services were held, repeating the shouts of “Hallelujah!” by Kong, a proponent of the charismatic movement in Singapore.

In interviews with Yahoo! Singapore, current and former church members recounted their experiences with CHC, which has now come under the spotlight after Kong and four other key members of the ministry were charged Wednesday over the alleged misuse of church funds to finance Kong’s pop-star wife’s career.

“I think one of the factors that draw people to our church is how the services are conducted,” shared 22-year-old CHC member Michelle Weers. “The praise and worship is vibrant, the gospel is preached creatively.”

Besides holding weekly services in English, Mandarin and dialects, the CHC also caters to Indonesians, Filipinos, children and the intellectually-disabled.

About 46 per cent of the congregation was below the age of 25 years, based on statistics provided by the church in 2010. With an average age of 24, majority of the churchgoers are believed to be young professionals aged 25 to 35.

Most, if not all, of CHC’s followers are also very much attracted to the church’s charismatic founder, a man they said is “talented” and “inspiring” and who always “lives out what he preaches”. “He's like our spiritual father,” said James Yeo, an active CHC member for the past eight years. “And as our senior pastor, he really practises what he preaches, and acted like a role model to all of us.”

Echoed a 28-year-old executive who’d be known only as Ms Ong, “I believe it is the doctrines and preaching from Pastor KH that continues to draw the crowd and retain its members despite the upheavals it has been through over the years.”

The ‘prosperity Gospel’ of CHC

Church funds grew with the rise in membership. Net assets in 2009 amounted to an estimated S$103 million.

Members who listened to Kong, 47, would open their pockets wide to contribute to the church.

The pastor would often preach what became known as the "prosperity Gospel"one reaps what one sows, and up to a hundred-fold returns could be harvested.

In a video of one of his sermons uploaded onto YouTube in 2008, Kong stressed that one’s faith proclamation “must be backed up by our giving” and, if not, was essentially empty.

"What we give every week is the measure of the value that you place on your Lord and your saviour Jesus Christ,” he told the crowd. “We can lift up our hands to worship god, but if the tithes are still in our pockets, then due tribute has not been given. Then our praises are empty. Our words are empty. There is no value to back it up.”

CHC’s online donation page, which allows churchgoers and the public alike to give their offerings via eNets and credit cards, also states that the church believes one’s giving is “a form of worship unto the Lord”.

Not everyone, however, bought into this belief, which gradually turned into a focus of many critics. Some CHC members left as a result.

“I joined the church initially because he (Kong) preached very well and knows how to create a program that appealed to youths,” said 26-year-old Terence Lee, who was a member of the church for seven years until 2010. Citing “a lack of transparency” in the running of the church as his reason for leaving, the assistant editor shared that he no longer agreed with the doctrine, which he now feels is based on a “shaky Bible interpretation concocted by self-styled Bible gurus”.

A former cell group leader, who declined to be named, also let on that “there was definitely pressure to donate”, especially among younger church members. "Those who consistently gave more would be applauded; those who didn't give so much would be 'strongly encouraged' every week to 'give as much as you can',” he told Yahoo! Singapore. “We were always told that God would make rich those who donated more.”

Marketing executive Mary Lim too, felt the pressure. The 29-year-old eventually chose to leave the religious organisation three years ago when she became depressed that she couldn't give enough.  "When we signed up, they would give us forms, GIRO forms, encouraging us to donate to CHC via GIRO to make sure our tithes were regular," she recalled. Her friends who continue to attend CHC still donate via GIRO, she added. Three other CHC members confirmed this.

Continued support

Over the years, CHC has been hounded by controversy over how it may be using members’ funds.

Nine years after its main church building – a 2,300 seater – was built in Jurong West, CHC announced in early 2010 its big plans to build a double-floor 12,000-seat auditorium in Suntec Singapore for worship services at a whopping S$310 million. Questions over the church’s ambitious plans began to surface among the public and the press. For one, should religious organisations, registered as charities, be allowed to make investments using what are essentially donor funds?

In March 2010, the Commissioner of Charities (COC) and Commercial Affairs Department came knocking on CHC’s door after receiving complaints alleging the misuse of the church’s funds. Even then, the megachurch managed to secure S$22.9 million last November in pledges towards a building fund that will pay for the church’s S$310 million investment in Suntec Singapore, said a 2011 Straits Times report. This, despite a falling membership amid police investigation for possible abuse of funds.

Numbers dwindled to an estimated 23,000 in 2010, down from 33,000 a year before.

A two-year investigation ended last Wednesday with Kong and four other senior CHC members charged for allegedly misappropriating about S$24 million from CHC's building funds for unauthorised use, among other charges. Despite the put-downs, many CHC members whom Yahoo! Singapore spoke to continued to show unwavering support for the church and their pastor.

“The church does preach about prosperity, but that is only one aspect of the gospel,” shared Weers, who’s been a member for six years. “Teachings are done on the full gospel.” The 22-year-old SIM undergraduate also added that “testimonies shared are not always on financial blessings”, contrary to what many have alleged.

Mdm Lim, a 50-year-old homemaker, was another who shared the same sentiment and believed wholeheartedly in “God’s principle of Sowing and Reaping”. “Whatever seed we sow, we will reap the harvest of its kind – when we sow love, we reap love; when we sow money, we will be blessed financially,” she said. “But it’s more than that,” Lim was quick to add. “Pastor Kong has preached on love, sacrifice and many areas, it’s not just about money.”

But the churchgoer of two years, who contributes about S$500 to the CHC every month, shared that she understood where detractors were coming from, especially since “money’s a sensitive issue”. “But my stand is that people give because they want to give to the Lord. And we know that the church will do good works from whatever we’ve contributed.”

While some churchgoers such as Lim acknowledged “the wrong Pastor Kong has done”, many maintained that their leaders are innocent and voiced confidence in their integrity.

Said one from the latter group, James Yeo, “I believe that no individual personally benefited from this, no one pocketed any money, and there was no embezzlement whatsoever.”

Referring to the controversial project at the heart of the probe, the 21-year-old added, “Crossover is not a project of five individuals, it is a project of the whole church. Members gave willingly and with great support as to what Sun (Kong's wife) is doing.”

Related articles: The Health & Wealth Assembly
‘Health and Wealth’ or Signs and Wonders? Discover the Difference and Unleash God’s Supernatural Power in Your Life by Larry Sparks
Kenneth Hagin’s Forgotten Warning By J. Lee Grady Charisma Magazine

(City Harvest) Who is the Fairest One of All Part II - The Insinuations of Pastor Tan Kim Hock's

by Not Under The Table

In two earlier articles written on 29 and 30 Jan 2014, "Are Members of CHC Unconsciously Manipulated or Influenced to Toy with the Sedition Act?" and "Who is the Fairest One of All?", we saw how City Harvest Church leaders and pastors openly insinuating that the government and media had been "biased", "scared of CHC" and "unfair" in its judiciary process.

It got so bad that the church leadership even changed their statement of beliefs to remove clause 17 (recognizing that the government is ordained by God) and replacing it with another belief about marriage. They have since re-instated clause 17 and removed "about marriage". Somehow one cannot help but observe the wavering of their "statements of belief".

Insinuations of a Church Pastor

Recently, after the judge ruled that the 6 accused have a case to answer, a City Harvest church pastor, Mr Tan Kim Hock, in 2 tweets, insinuated again that the judicial system is biased in giving the Straits Times "preferential and privileged access to information" regarding the outcome of the "no case to answer" trial. The Attorney General Chabers (AGC) further took issue with his first tweet which insinuates that the State Court is "biased and unfair" (source:
AGC warns City Harvest pastor for 'contemptuous' tweets)

The AGC further states in their statement: "AGC takes the view that the insinuations set out in the two tweets are insinuations which scandalise the Judiciary of the Republic of Singapore. These insinuations are scurrilous, false, and made without any objective basis".

After his tweet was picked up by a local blog, TR Emeritus (source), Pastor Tan was quick to make an abrupt u-turn of his 2 tweets, with the following:

Obviously, the AGC did not share his opinion. The actions of the Pastor, who is also the Dean of the School of Theology, seems to be his undoing. He probably forgot his own wise words:

Pastor Tan was required to make a public apology which he has duly complied (source) on 6 June. It was not clear however, if this was acceptable since it was not displayed publicly but as a downloadable pdf file.

Implications of Such Insinuations

The effects of such insinuations by the leadership is a cause for concern, since leaders command an implicit form of trust and credibility among their followers. Perhaps the top-down effect of such leadership can be seen filtering down the ranks, resulting in the occurrences of members challenging the authorities - such as challenging COC's decision to suspend the 9, citing Operation Spectrum, and other occurrences.

Parents of young members should be aware of what was told to children and teens, and adult members should seriously check the facts from third-party sources before buying into a leader's opinion. For every official response so far related to the case, the court has proven that there's another story behind it. So it does weigh in to be extra cautious.

There Is a Case To Answer

At the end of the day, the facts revealed and evidences produced in court do speak for themselves. As much as City Harvest diehards (a.k.a. "Jihadists") have confessed, prayed and fasted for "no case to answer", there is a case which the 6 has to answer in regards to the CBT and falsifying of accounts charges. It should not be construed that the Christian God is powerless and cannot answer prayers of a sincere and faith-fill congregation. However, it should be seen that a righteous God cannot simply let such wrong unpunished, and that crime demands a price to pay. The facts itself proved that the courts and media has not been biased (at least compared with CityNews' selective omissions). Rather, on the contrary, it shows that the accused and those suspended by COC have something to hide.

There is more than meets the eye. Meanwhile, our most diehard fan should perhaps directing his tweet to our PM instead, for suing Roy Ngerng just because he was compared against Pastor Kong Hee in one of his blog post.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos by John Piper

Christian minister John Piper is seen in this photo shared publicly in 2012 by his Desiring God ministry on Facebook
Desiring God

One month ago, John MacArthur hosted a conference titled “Strange Fire.” The conference opposed the so-called “prosperity gospel” and with it the excesses of “charismania.” But somewhere along the way all things charismatic and continuationist got swept up into the conference conversation, too, igniting a strange online conflagration of its own.

The conversation prompted a variety of questions from listeners of the Ask Pastor John podcast. Before boarding a flight for the Middle East, John Piper agreed to field a few of the questions, particularly:

If you’re a continuationist (believing the supernatural gifts of the Spirit continue still today), why doesn’t this show up more often in your ministry?

Why do you not seem persuaded enough to advocate that others pursue the gifts of tongues and prophecy today?
How do you define contemporary prophecy?
Are there charismatic abuses that need to be addressed?
Open, Cautious, or Advocate?

At the conference, Piper was characterized as open to the gifts but not advocating for them or encouraging others to pursue the gifts themselves. This is a misunderstanding, says Piper. “I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 12:31, ‘earnestly desire the higher gifts.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:1, ‘earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you might prophesy.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:39, ‘earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ I want Christians today to obey those texts.”

And Piper seeks to obey those texts himself. “I pray for the gift of prophecy almost as often as I pray for anything, before I stand up to speak.” This prayer for prophecy is a desire to preach under an anointing, in order to “say things agreeable to the Scriptures, and subject to the Scripture, that are not in my manuscript or in my head as I walk into the pulpit, nor thought of ahead of time, which would come to my mind, which would pierce in an extraordinary way, so that 1 Corinthians 14:24–25 happens.”

But has Piper advocated for gifts like prophecy enough over his decades of pastoring and writing? “My effort to prioritize may be imperfect, but my answer is that I try to live up to what I see in the text and advocate for it as I see it in relation to all the other things that I preach on.”

A sampling from his ministry shows Piper’s consistency both in his definition of prophecy and in his encouragement that others pursue the gift (see resources from 1981, 1990, 1991, 2004, and 2013).

What Is Prophecy Today?

Piper’s view on prophecy raises another question. If MacArthur believes the gift of prophecy has ceased, what exegetical proofs would Piper argue to the contrary?

Four crucial texts came to Piper’s mind. First, 1 Corinthians 14:29 seems to indicate New Testament prophecy endures in the church age, but not as a prophecy that’s on the same level of authority as Scripture. It’s fundamentally a different type of prophecy.

Second, 1 Thessalonians 5:20–21 makes the same point. This passage indicates that the discernment of prophesy in the local church takes on a different shape. “You are not choosing between people here [false prophet/true prophet], it seems to me, like in 1 John 4:1. Rather, you are choosing between what they say [true prophecy/false prophecy], which you would not do if they spoke with infallible, inerrant Scripture-quality authority.”

“The issue here is that some in the church are despising not the prophets, but the prophecies. Now why would that be? Probably because they are sometimes whacko. Despise is a very strong word. Paul says, ‘don’t despise.’ So somebody in the church at Thessalonica is saying, ‘Look. You told us that prophecy is a gift from God. Frankly, we do not like what we are hearing, because it is stupid. It is weird. They are saying things that are off the wall.’ And so they tend to despise them. And Paul seems to be trying to keep the people from throwing the baby of true prophecies out with the bathwater of weird ones.”

Third, 1 Corinthians 11:4–5 encourages prophecies from women in the church. Said Piper, “I don’t see how women prophesying in the assembly fits with an infallible Scripture-level authority when Paul forbids that kind of authority to be exercised over men by women in the church in 1 Timothy 2:12. So the fact that women are encouraged to do this, and yet women are told not to exercise authority over men, says to me that we have got something going on here besides what is Scripture-level authority.”

The fourth text, 1 Corinthians 13:8–10, is “a pretty clear argument, I think, that the gift of prophecy and tongues will continue until Jesus comes back. And it seems to me that the reason they pass away, it says, is precisely because they are imperfect; they are not Scripture-level authority. Verse nine says we prophesy ek meros (Greek for ‘in part’), just like a little child trying to reason and think and talk. And when he grows up and becomes a man in the age to come, he won’t need that kind of help anymore.”

These few texts don’t settle all the issues, but they do combine to establish a legitimate exegetical basis for an ongoing gift of prophecy, distinguished from Scripture-level authoritative prophecy, a unique channel of prophecy to be discerned and then embraced in the healthy local church.

Charismatic Abuses?

Looking more broadly at the Church today, Piper was eager to address charismatic abuses and excesses (charismania). “But,” he began, “we really need to keep in mind that every charismatic abuse has its mirror image in non-charismatic abuses. Nothing I am going to say is unique to charismatics. In some of these cases, the non-charismatic church is more guilty than the charismatic.”

He addressed four abuses in particular: doctrine, emotion, discernment, and finance.

Doctrine Abuses

“There are many doctrinal abuses in the charismatic church where experience is elevated above doctrine, and doctrine is made minimally important. I think that is a huge defect in many charismatic churches. The fear is this: if you try to study the Bible with a view to assembling a coherent view of doctrine, you are going to quench the Spirit, and you won’t have as much vitality in your heart, because the mind and the heart are at odds with each other. That is a mistake, I think, and it is an abuse of experience to make it the enemy of — or the alternative to — doctrine.”

He shared a firsthand example. “I have been in prophetic meetings with charismatic groups where the Bible was treated like the priming of the pump for phenomena. So what you really want in this room is some fireworks: you want somebody to fall down, or somebody to laugh, or somebody to tremble, or somebody to raise their hands, or somebody to hear a word of extraordinary prophecy like, the man in the red shirt is going to Argentina next week, and nobody could know that, but the prophet. You want all that stuff to happen. And so what do you do with the Bible? You use it like pouring water into a pump. And everybody knows you don’t care about the text, you don’t care about this sermon; you are using the sermon to get us ready for the fireworks at the end. Wherever I saw that happening, I knew we were in trouble. I knew that no matter what kind of fireworks were coming they were going to be skewed and misused because the speaker, the one in charge, was not God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated.”

Emotion Abuses

Second, Piper addressed emotional abuses.

True prophecy is displayed not in emotional madness, but in orderliness (1 Corinthians 14:29). “If you are a true prophet, if you have got the Holy Spirit, if you are real, . . . you can sit down and wait your turn. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience, and kindness, and meekness, and thankfulness, and self-control. So sit down Mr. Prophet and wait your turn.

“And I think there are a lot of people who don’t think that way. They don’t think that biblically informed principles of good behavior can trump the ecstasies of a person who is, say, speaking in tongues or prophesying,” he said. “Application of the Word governs life in the church, not the emotional sway of some strong person in the moment.”

Both these doctrinal and emotional abuses can be flipped around.

“Think of all the doctrinal errors in the history of the Church. Those weren’t charismatics, by and large. Think of all the dying mainline churches today with all their moral and doctrinal aberrations. These aren’t charismatics. And think of the emotional deadness in thousands of non-charismatic evangelical and mainline churches. Those are deadly emotional abuses. And we just need to remember that if we target the charismatic church because of things that are happening there doctrinally and emotionally, let’s remember the mirror images which are equally deadly, that are happening among non-charismatic churches as well.”

To reiterate this second point, Piper said, “There are emotional abuses in the non-charismatic church, namely the absence of emotion, which is probably more deadly than the excesses.”

Discernment Abuses

Another abuse is a failure to differentiate genuine prophecies from hollow ones. This helps explain why Paul says, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything, hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20–21).

“That is very strong language,” commented Piper. “And I think it is because some of those folks were claiming to speak for God, and it resulted in foolishness. They weren’t speaking for God. And it resulted in an emotional pushback in the church. The church said, ‘We don’t want that.’ And Paul was trying to rescue prophecy from a broad brush sweeping it away entirely by saying, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. Discern what is good here and discern what is bad here. Don’t throw it all away. Make distinctions in the various claims to hold it fast.’”

Again, Piper shared from experience. “I have been prophesied over numerous times, and two of them were just whacko. It was so hard in those [early ministry] days to take prophecy seriously. I resonated with the folks who were starting to ‘despise prophecies.’

“A lawyer one time prophesied over me when my wife was pregnant and said: ‘Your fourth child is going to be a girl, and your wife is going to die in childbirth.’ And that lawyer with tears told me that she was sorry she had to tell me that. So I went home and I got down on my knees and I said, ‘Lord, I am trying to do what you said here in 1 Thessalonians 5:20–21. And frankly, I despise what that woman just said.’ It proved out that my fourth child was a son, and I knew as soon as he came out that that prophecy was not true, and so I stopped having any misgivings about my wife’s life. She is still with me now thirty years later. That’s the sort of thing that makes you despise prophecy.”

This failure to discern prophecies within charismatic churches tempts others to simply dismiss all prophecies outright.

Finance Abuses

Finally, there are financial abuses. The key text here is 1 Timothy 6:5. Some false teachers within the charismatic movement “imagine that godliness is a means of gain.”

“So it is possible to have a teaching gift or a healing gift, some kind of a remarkable gift that is so popular you make millions of dollars. And you start feeling entitled to all the lavish clothes, lavish cars, lavish houses, lavish jets, and lavish hotel accommodations, turning godliness into a means of gain, and justifying it by the fact that you are so gifted and so many people are benefiting from what you say. To whom Paul would say: ‘But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction’ (1 Timothy 6:9).

“My alternative is to preach ‘Christian Hedonism’ that says: pursue contentment in God, not in things. ‘But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content’ (1 Timothy 6:6–8).”

But this abuse, too, can be flipped. “We tend to think of charismatics when we think of people abusing finances in this way. All you have to do is listen to the Twittersphere to know that is not the case. There are just as many non-charismatic leaders who are using their status as an effective spiritual leader to make a lot of money, and accumulate a lot of money, and look like they have a lot of money. And I want to say that there are a lot of simple, honest, humble charismatic pastors living on modest salaries who are less guilty than many non-charismatics when it comes to financial abuses.”

Not on a Warpath

On each point, it is surely misguided to single out charismatics, says Piper. “Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches.” Of charismatics and non-charismatics alike, “we all stand under the word of God and we all need repentance.”

But those charismatic abuses remain. So how are these excesses best policed? How are Christians today protected from the abuses of the charismatic church? Is it through attack-centered books and conferences?

“I don’t go on a warpath against charismatics. I go on a crusade to spread truth. I am spreading gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Calvinistic truth everywhere, and I am going to push it into the face of every charismatic I can find, because what I believe, if they embrace the biblical system of doctrine that is really there, it will bring all of their experiences into the right orbit around the sun of this truth.”

John Piper Talks John MacArthur's Strange Fire Conference; Pursuing Gifts of Prophecy and Speaking in Tongues

Christian minister John Piper is seen in this photo shared publicly in 2012 by his Desiring God ministry on Facebook

John MacArthur during his anti-Charismatic Strange Fire conference last month said that he believes fellow Christian theologian John Piper's "openness to modern charismatic gifts is an anomaly" and may inadvertently lend support to an aspect of Christianity he finds unbiblical.

MacArthur, expanding on those comments with evangelical Christian blogger Tim Challies earlier this month, mentioned D.A. Carson, Wayne Grudem and Piper as men who he loves as "as co-workers in the ministry of the gospel" but expressed concern that their openness to the charismatic gives the movement weight.

"My major concern is that their openness to the issue unwittingly gives the whole movement an aura of theological credibility that it does not deserve," said MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif.

MacArthur is a cessationist who believes charismatic gifts like prophecy and speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues ended with Jesus Christ's first century apostles.

In October, the California minister used his Strange Fire conference to speak out against what he considers unbiblical aspects of the charismatic movement, insisting that members of the movement have been attributing to the Holy Spirit things that are ungodly.

While MacArthur and Piper both subscribe to some form of Reformed, or Calvinist theology, the later, like Carson and Grudem, is a continuationist. Piper supports the belief that the Holy Spirit continues today to empower Christians with spiritual gifts.

Piper, through his Desiring God ministry website, has addressed MacArthur's Strange Fire conference, as well as questions from many of his ministry supporters regarding charismatic gifts.

Tony Reinke, a blogger for Piper's, explains:

At the conference, Piper was characterized as open to the gifts but not advocating for them or encouraging others to pursue the gifts themselves. This is a misunderstanding, says Piper. "I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 12:31, 'earnestly desire the higher gifts.' And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:1, 'earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you might prophesy.' And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:39, 'earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.' I want Christians today to obey those texts."

As explained in the post, Piper not only advocates obedience to those New Testament passages, but he himself pursues such spiritual gifts, specifically prophecy, which means for him preaching "under an anointing" from God:

This prayer for prophecy is a desire to preach under an anointing, in order to "say things agreeable to the Scriptures, and subject to the Scripture, that are not in my manuscript or in my head as I walk into the pulpit, nor thought of ahead of time, which would come to my mind, which would pierce in an extraordinary way, so that 1 Corinthians 14:24–25 happens."

The post points readers to two video interviews with Piper posted in January of this year in which the theologian answers two questions: What is Speaking Tongues? and What is the Gift of Prophecy in the New Covenant?

Piper explains in the videos that he does not believe that he has ever "authentically spoken in tongues," but has prayed for God to give him the ability, he says in obedience to 1 Corinthians 12:31.

While Piper disagrees with MacArthur on the issue of spiritual gifts still being given by the Holy Spirit to Christians today, the two men do agree that there are "abuses and excesses" in the charismatic movement — particularly in cases where experience is given priority and the importance of doctrine is minimized.

"I think that is a huge defect in many charismatic churches," explained Piper. "The fear is this: if you try to study the Bible with a view to assembling a coherent view of doctrine, you are going to quench the Spirit, and you won't have as much vitality in your heart, because the mind and the heart are at odds with each other. That is a mistake, I think, and it is an abuse of experience to make it the enemy of — or the alternative to — doctrine."

The former Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor did not neglect to note his concerns regarding discernment and finance abuses present in the charismatic movement, but noted again that these abuses are not present only in Christian charismatic communities.

"Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches," says Piper.

Piper also cautioned that there was a danger tied to the absence of emotion in some non-charismatic churches, which he suggested "is probably more deadly than the excesses."

He shared that his approach in correcting these abuses was not to "go on a warpath against charismatics," but instead to "spread truth."

"I am spreading gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Calvinistic truth everywhere, and I am going to push it into the face of every charismatic I can find, because what I believe, if they embrace the biblical system of doctrine that is really there, it will bring all of their experiences into the right orbit around the sun of this truth," he said.

Visit to read and hear Piper's responses in full regarding John MacArthur's Strange Fire conference, their differing theologies on spiritual gifts, and his take on "charismatic abuses":

Read more about the Strange Fire conference:
MacArthur Responds to Critics Who Believe His Strange Fire Conference Is Divisive, Unloving;
'Strange Fire' Conference: John MacArthur Calls Out Charismatic Movement as 'Unfaithful'

Prepare for Judgment by Rob Winters

Prepare the Way International

Approximately a week after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Japan on March 11, 2011, I abruptly awoke at 1:23 AM. I did not give it much thought, until the very next night I again suddenly awoke at precisely 1:23 AM. Knowing that the Lord was speaking through this prophetic sign, I carefully examined all of the 1:23, 1:2-3, 12:3 and 123 scriptures in the Bible. I discovered within the 123 scriptures the following clear and timely prophetic message to America. I am elaborating on this message in six consecutive editions of The Messenger, this one being the second.

For most people, judgment is a rather unpopular and unpleasant topic. We would much rather hear about God’s promises, blessings, grace, and healing power than be instructed regarding His judgments. However, our clouded understanding regarding this aspect of divine nature has kept many from receiving the heavenly rewards associated with keeping His judgments. Indeed, the psalmist David declared that “the judgments of the Lord are more to be desired than gold, sweeter than honey and the
honeycomb” (Psalm 19:9-11).

Three Stages of Divine Judgment

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul stated, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world” (I Corinthians 11:31-32).

The first stage of divine judgment is self-judgment. When temptation comes, yielding to the conviction of the indwelling Holy Spirit enables believers to abort the seeds of lust and selfish desire that germinate into sin. In other words, when carnal enticements come knocking at our door, the Holy Spirit not only sounds an alarm in our spirits to warn us, but also provides a means of escape (James 1:14-15, I Corinthians 10:13).

Thankfully, if we do sin, we have an Advocate with the Father - Jesus Christ. Surely, if we confess and forsake our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Unfortunately, the sin standard set in the minds of many Americans is much lower than that of Holy Scripture. We have been conditioned to render judgment upon unrighteous acts such as rape, murder, child abuse, and stealing. However, other sins such as abortion, adultery, fornication, and pornography have become socially acceptable. Moreover, our consciences have been seared and hearts hardened to the point where pride, jealousy, greed, gossip, gluttony, lust and lying are not even labeled sin, but instead considered mere weaknesses. In contrast, the psalmist David considered secret faults, presumptuous sins, unrighteous words and heart meditations as “great transgression”. How we have fallen from the Biblical standard regarding sin! (Psalm 19:13-14, I Timothy 4:2, I John 1:9; 2:1-2).

If we fail to judge ourselves, we become subject to the second stage of divine judgment – the chastening of the Lord. His chastening may manifest in a multiplicity of ways, ranging from a trusted mentor’s rebuke, to an exhortation from a minister’s sermon. Though unpleasant and even grievous, believer’s subjection to the Father’s chastening ultimately yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness and holiness (Hebrews 12:5-11).

However, if we grieve the Holy Spirit by repeatedly resisting or ignoring the Lord’s chastening, we subject ourselves to the third stage of divine judgment – condemnation with the world. When rebellious teenagers altogether reject godly parental counsel and correction, they not only forsake their protective covering, but also leave a door open for the enemy to wreak havoc in their lives. Similarly, those who walk away from Christ after tasting the good word of God and partaking of the Holy Spirit, forfeit divine provision and protection, and become subject to the law of sin and death. In other words, those who repeatedly and willfully disobey the Holy Spirit, walk out from under God’s protective hand, and expose themselves to Satan’s destructive devices (Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26-31, Romans 8:1-2).

The Law of Sin and Death

The law of sin and death applies not only on a personal level, but also on a corporate level. Sodom and Gomorrah are Biblical examples of wicked cities that condemned themselves through generational iniquitous living. Similarly, present day San Francisco and New Orleans brought destruction upon themselves, primarily through their widespread practice of homosexuality. Declared to the be the “gay capital” of the United States in 1964 by Life magazine, San Francisco has been steeped in homosexuality since the beginning of the 20th century. Consequently, on April 18th, 1906, San Francisco reaped death in the form of a devastating earthquake that claimed approximately 3000 lives. Infamous for their annual “Southern Decadence” homosexual celebrations, “Girls Gone Wild” pornographic video series, and for being one of the abortion capitals of the world, the inhabitants of New Orleans have been sowing unrighteousness for decades. On August 29th, 2005, their harvest of destruction came suddenly, as New Orleans was virtually destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Moreover, the law of sin and death also operates on a national level. The book of Psalms declares, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord”. If a nation can be blessed for serving the Lord, then certainly a nation can also be cursed for serving idols and false gods. For example, Haitians have sown seeds of divination for generations through their occult practice of voodoo and witchcraft. Unfortunately, their sorcery yielded a severe and swift judgment on January 12, 2010, when over 46,000 Haitians lost their lives in a devastating earthquake of magnitude 7.0 MW (Psalm 33:12).

Like natural laws, spiritual laws cannot be defied, but they can be superseded. For example, if the vertical force exerted upward on an airplane’s wings exceeds the downward force of gravity, the airplane will remain airborne. In essence, the law of lift overcomes the law of gravity. Similarly, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus trumps the law of sin and death, resulting in God’s mercy triumphing over sin’s judgment. Nevertheless, the habitual practice of gross sin not only yields the forfeiture of divine protection, but also draws judgment and death. Simply put, sowing in
righteousness yields mercy and life, whereas seeds of unrighteousness will only produce
judgment and death (James 2:13, Hosea 10:12).

The Pride of America

Of all of the “123” scriptures in the Bible, the one that the Lord emphasized to me more than any other was the prophet Obadiah’s prediction of judgment on the nation of Edom.

Obadiah 1:2-3 “Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be greatly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; You who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ (v. 4) Though you exalt yourself as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,’ says the Lord.”

This prophecy regarding the imminent judgment of Edom, made almost over 3690 years ago, has a parallel, prophetic application to the United States of America. In this passage, references made to the eagle, which is our national symbol, and stars, represented on our nation’s flag, are not a mere coincidence.

Sadly, many Americans have either forgotten or forsaken the godly principles and heritage by which our “one nation under God” was established. Indeed, our foundation of righteousness and justice has eroded to the point of collapse. Over the past five decades, we have removed prayer from our public schools, legalized abortion and same-sex marriage, and largely abandoned the living and true God to serve Mammon and Baal. Our spiritual complacency has shut out the Master from our busy lives, and opened a wide gate through which Muslims have invaded our land. Indeed, our commander in chief was not far from the truth when he declared that America is no longer a Christian nation (Psalm 89:14).

Pride has kept America in a place of denial regarding our depraved spiritual, social and economic condition. The handwriting is on the wall for all nations to see. Yet, our arrogance has kept us from acknowledging the pit we have dug for ourselves, and from humbly turning to God for forgiveness and answers. American pride has many deceived into believing that the real estate and stock market crises of 2008 and 2009 are a thing of the past, and that economically, we are making a comeback.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, two published economists, who in 2006 accurately predicted the 2008 stock market crisis, have made additional economic forecasts in another book released in 2010. They predict that between 2011 and 2013, Americans will begin to witness a vicious downward spiral of not only the real estate and stock markets, but also the American dollar. As of this writing, the stock market has already taken another major nosedive, and the dollar has been greatly devalued.

Pride is one of the most dangerous of sins; it not only blinds us from accepting the truth, but also precedes destruction. Many have scoffed at the numerous predictions regarding a massive earthquake that will forever change the landscape and lifestyle of Californians. Regardless, numerous seismologists and seers agree that it is not a matter of if, but when the West Coast is severely shaken. We must continue to pray that the severity of this judgment will be lessened, and that through it multitudes will learn righteousness (Proverbs 16:18, Isaiah 26:9).

Humility is the antidote for pride – a remedy that the Lord has been prescribing for our nation for over forty years. Indeed, His challenge to the Church of America to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways for the most part has fallen on deaf ears. As a result, our nation is approaching the dawn of our most formidable crises ever. Truthfully, nothing short of genuine nationwide repentance and a sweeping righteous revolution will rescue America from the graveyard spiral we will soon find ourselves in (II Chronicles 7:14).

Nevertheless, God has not given up on America. I believe that the prophetic sign and corresponding “123” message I have been entrusted with will help prepare Americans for the imminent economic and environmental judgments that lie ahead.

More importantly, I believe that through this message the Lord is sounding an alarm in Zion, to prepare the Church for the greatest ingathering of souls this nation has ever witnessed.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Curse Of Motivational Speaking by Conrad Mbewe

Last Sunday, a young man came to see me after our church service. He is the kind of guy who shows up at church once in a while and then disappears for a season. My guess is that he goes around churches sampling sermons and looking for answers. On this visit, he asked that I help him to overcome a failure in his life, and it was a failure to progress. He said that his greatest problem is that he does not believe in himself. Could I help him believe in himself so that he could become successful?

I asked him whether he was a Christian. His answer was, “Do I really need to be a Christian in order to be successful? Are you telling me that all those successful people out there are Christians? Aren’t there general principles that I can apply to my life—whether I am a Christian or not—that can catapult me to success?” I challenged him to answer that question himself. After all, I was sure he had done enough rounds among motivational speakers to have the answer.

“That is the problem,” he said, “I have been told that such principles exist and I have tried them. They seem to work for a while and then I am back to my old self again. I want you to help me find that formula that will help me go forward and never slide back to the place where I do not believe in myself.” To cut the long story short, I finally persuaded him of the need for reconciliation with God before anyone can break free from the frustrating rut that God locks unreconciled sinners in.

I gave him a booklet to read, entitled, What is a Biblical Christian? When we met the following day, he was honest enough to tell me that he was disappointed with what he read because it was not telling him what he wanted to hear. “What I want to know is how I can be successful. This booklet did not say anything about that.” I repeated what I told him earlier. What he needed was not belief in himself but belief in a Saviour sent from heaven. He needed forgiveness as a foundation for his life.

Yesterday, a church member told me that he met the young man in the local market. He had two booklets in his hands. The first was the one I had given him and the second one was by Joel Osteen. He told our member, “Pastor Mbewe gave me this book but I don’t like it because it makes me feel guilty. I prefer this one by Joel Osteen because it lifts me up. It motivates me.” I am very concerned about this and so I decided to put some thoughts together about the curse of motivational speaking.

Sadly, motivational speaking has become the staple diet of many evangelical pulpits. The message being heard is, “God has put the potential in you and all you need to do is believe in yourself to unlock that potential. Have a grand vision and live out that vision. You must be a man or woman of destiny and the sky will be the limit for you. Don’t let your past failures get in your way of success. Look beyond them, as Jesus looked beyond the cross and thus overcame it. You are the head and not the tail. ”

In the light of the plethora of motivational speaking, it begs the question, “Is this how Old Testament and New Testament preachers preached?” If I summarise the preaching of Noah, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jonah, Paul, Peter, etc., in the Bible, is this the kind of message that I will find there? I do not think so. Granted, motivational speakers borrow words from these men, but borrowing someone’s words is not the same thing as saying what he is saying. “A text without a context is a pretext.”

My chief quarrel with motivational speaking is that it reduces God to a means rather than an end. Men and women are not made to see that the nature of SIN lies in the letter “I” in the middle of the word. Instead, motivational speaking feeds that same ego and points to God as the one who can spoil it to the point of intoxication. That is a lie! It is God alone who must be at the centre of our lives. Christianity demands a dying to self, a taking up of one’s cross, and a following after a suffering Saviour.

Whenever I listen to motivational speaking, I seem to hear the message, “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace. It sounds to me like a doctor assuring a patient who has terminal cancer in its final stages that he should not worry because all will be okay if he only believes in himself. The guy is dying, man, for crying out loud! It is the height of insincerity if a preacher knows that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and instead makes those heading for the slaughterhouse feel nice.

Motivational speaking makes people feel good, whereas the gospel first makes people feel bad—until they find their all in Christ. True preaching must make people face the fact that they are living in rebellion against God and that they need to repent or they will perish. It is only as people recognise this and cry out, “What shall we do to be saved?” (Acts 2:37, 16:30) that true preaching gives them the good news, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Motivational speaking is an attempt at trying to kill a charging lion with a pea-gun, using freshly cooked peas, spiced with the most aromatic seasonings. The aroma may be tantalizing to the taste buds, but it is totally useless in bringing down that ferocious beast. Men and women outside Christ are DEAD in trespasses and sins. Exciting their senses with nice-sounding platitudes will not give them life. They need the law to kill their fallen egos and the gospel of Jesus Christ to give them life.

I know that motivational speaking is filling up our church buildings until they look like football stadiums. In this world of misery and gloom, we can all do with some encouragement. But is that all that we were called to do as preachers? What good is it if men feel inspired and motivated, and then go back home to live a life of sin and selfishness? Sadly this is the norm in so many evangelical churches. The churches are filled to capacity with people determined to drink sin like water the whole week.

Motivational speaking is not biblical preaching. It is a blight on the landscape of true evangelicalism. It is filling the churches with dead people who are being told to live as if they are alive. We need to return to the good old gospel that truly gives life to the dead and sets men and women free. Like Paul of old, every truly evangelical pulpit must sound out the clear message of “repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Let us get rid of this curse of motivational speaking!

Sin and the Work of Christ by John Macarthur

What did Jesus set out to accomplish? Did His death and resurrection have any practical effect for this life, or was it all focused on eternity? Consider this: the holy Son of God set aside His glory, humbled Himself by taking the form of a man, lived a righteous life, and willingly surrendered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of others. Was all intended merely to forgive sin without removing it?

The apostle John wrote his first epistle to help his readers test the authenticity of their faith. These tests come down to examining whether Christ’s work has had its necessary effect on their lives. And in 1 John 3:5-8, he makes it clear that Christ’s work on our behalf ought to have a significant sanctifying impact in the lives of His people.

You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

Christ’s Work on Our Behalf

Jesus came to earth “in order to take away sins” (1 John 3:5). He came not only to pay the penalty for sin and provide forgiveness, but also to take sins away altogether. As a result of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, believers have been set apart from sin unto holiness. The lawlessness that once characterized their lives has been removed.

Therefore, it is inconsistent with His redeeming work on the cross for anyone who shares in the very life of Christ to continue in sin. In other words, because Christ died to sanctify the believer (2 Corinthians 5:21), to live sinfully is contrary to His work of breaking the dominion of sin in the believer’s life (cf. Romans 6:1-15).

The truth that Christ came to destroy sin is not merely a future hope; it is a present reality. John is not saying—as some have tried to infer—that believers will eventually be delivered from sin when they die, and in the meantime can be as sinful as they were before their conversion. On the contrary, while sanctification may be slow and gradual, Christ’s transforming work in salvation is immediate (Philippians 1:6).

At salvation believers experience a real cleansing of and separation from their sins. On a practical level, that separation continues as they become more and more conformed to the image of Christ. Titus 2:11-14 summarizes well the present and future aspects of sanctification.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

So the one-time work of Christ on the cross initiates His ongoing work in our lives. But what fuels that ongoing work? What transformation takes place that enables us to overcome sin in this life?

Our New Nature in Christ

John concludes verse 5 with the phrase “in Him there is no sin.” Jesus Christ is the sinless One (2 Corinthians 5:21). This truth has immense practical ramifications. “If you know that He is righteous,” John wrote earlier in the epistle, “you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29). When God’s saving power is applied to a new believer, they are born again—they receive a new nature. And like a newborn baby, they embark on a life of learning to live in God’s kingdom.

Then in verse 6 the apostle describes the character of the person saved through the work of Jesus Christ. “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” Abiding in Christ can be likened to dwelling in His kingdom, following His laws, and celebrating His victories. In short, the new nature draws one toward Christ and away from sin.

Years earlier Paul taught the same truth to the Roman believers.

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:4-7)

That description outlines key provisions of the New Covenant (Ezekiel 36:25-31), which Paul further elaborates:

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)

The emphasis of the apostle’s statements is on sanctification. True Christians have the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-17), receive a new heart (Acts 16:14), complete forgiveness (Colossians 1:14), and a transformed life (Colossians 3:5-10)—all evidenced in their new ability to obey the law of God.

Sanctification and Assurance

John taught that “no one who sins” (1 John 3:6) can also abide in Christ. It is not that people who become Christians will never sin again (1 John 1:8), but that they will not live as they once did, because “no one who sins” consistently or habitually in the pattern of the unregenerate “has seen Him or knows Him” (3:6).

John further cautioned his readers to make sure no one deceived them concerning a correct understanding of sanctification. Despite any deceptive teaching to the contrary, only the one “who practices righteousness” can have any assurance that he “is righteous, just as [Jesus] is righteous” (1 John 3:7).

John makes the obvious conclusion that because “the Son of God appeared . . . to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), it is impossible and unthinkable that true believers would continue in devil-like behavior. Today Satan is still opposing the plans and people of God (1 Peter 5:8), but believers are no longer his children or under his rule. We who know and love Christ have been freed from the captivity of sin, and the apostle John—through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—says we must live accordingly.

So far we’ve seen that a lifestyle of sin is incompatible with saving faith because sin is lawlessness, and true believers have had that defiant, lawless heart replace with a heart of repentance. Today we’ve seen how Christ’s work not only forgives sin, but initiates the life-long process of sanctification. John has one final argument for why sin is incompatible with saving faith, and it focuses on the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit. We’ll wrap up this series with that last point next time.

 (Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1-3 John.)

Lawless Christians? by John Macarthur

Everyone sins, and everyone knows it. While it is true that fallen human nature minimizes or redefines sin, everyone knows they don’t meet the standard of perfection. Whether they call them “sins” or “mistakes,” everyone will admit to having lied, lusted, or lashed out in anger at some point in their lives—if not regularly.

That being the case, what is the difference between the sins of believers and unbelievers? When a believer sins, is it the same as when an unbeliever sins?

The Nature of Sin

The two primary biblical definitions of sin are “missing the mark” (hamartia) and “without righteousness” (adikia). At its core, sin is a transgression of God’s law; it is to think and behave as if there were no law. The apostle John emphasizes that lawless characteristic when he writes, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

John wrote his epistle to help believers test the authenticity of their faith (1 John 5:13). Unlike many today, John does not test saving faith on the basis of a signed card, a walk down the aisle, or even a prayer made in a moment of contrition. In the passage we’re considering in this series, he’s focused on the incompatibility of sin with saving faith, and he’s making three arguments for the holiness of believers.

John’s first argument is that sin is incompatible with the law of God. As we saw in 1 John 3:4, he explicitly equates sin with an attitude of lawlessness and rebellion against God (cf. Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21).

Diagnosing Unbelievers’ Sin

John’s description of sin allows for no exceptions or double standards. Everyone who habitually practices sin is living in an ongoing condition of lawlessness. That’s not to say that they’re sinning to the full extent of their depravity. The lawlessness John refers to is more of an attitude than an action. It’s not merely transgressing God’s law—it’s living with an indifference to the law, as if there was no law-Giver at all.

We must not underestimate the severity of the unrepentant sin that flows from unbelief. We can’t define sin in bits and pieces as individual acts alone. Of course each individual sin is a serious offense to God, but we also need to be able to recognize and biblically diagnose the profound lawlessness of the unredeemed heart.

Diagnosing Believers’ Sin

If you’re a Christian, you no longer have that dominant attitude of lawlessness. The truly penitent heart resolves to obey God’s law (Psalm 19:7-11), deny fleshly lusts (Romans 13:14), resist the world’s allurements (Titus 2:12), and willingly submits to the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ in all things. Those whom God has saved and transformed have traded slavery to sin for slavery to God, as Paul wrote:

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18)

That’s not to say believers never sin—no honest Christian would make that claim. But when we do give in to temptation, we experience godly sorrow, not an attitude that is cavalier and rebellious. The believer’s sin is not the product of a heart bent in defiant lawlessness.

Instead we’re heartbroken over transgressing God’s law. It’s the attitude David displays in Psalm 32 and 51, where he pleads for God’s mercy in the aftermath of grievous sin. We share the frustration with lingering sin that Paul expresses in Romans:

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practising what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (Romans 7:15, 18-20)

That penitent heartbreak comes from our love of God and His law. At salvation, each believer bows his knee to the lordship of Christ. It’s a commitment to obey Him, follow Him, and fulfil His law. The believer’s life is marked by wilful, loving submission to God’s law in the pursuit of holiness. We understand that the law isn't a system of works righteousness, or a legalistic set of outdated rules. It’s an expression of God’s holy character, and we join the refrain of Psalm 119, confessing “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).

Therefore, how could authentic believers live in open, unrepentant lawlessness? John says they can’t.

But the lawless nature of sin is only the first of three reasons John gives for his conclusion. Next time we’ll look at how sin is also incompatible with the work of Christ.

(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1-3 John.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Fortune 500 Company: Homeschoolers Need Not Apply by MICHAEL DONNELLY/HSLDA

Home-school graduates need not apply
NiSource, Inc. will not hire home-school graduates, according to a recent report. (Flickr/Will Folsom)

NiSource, Inc., an Indiana-based energy distribution group with operations in Ohio, told the Home School Legal Defense Association that the company will not hire home-school graduates. In response to numerous letters written in an attempt to resolve a dispute over a particular job applicant whose job offer had been rescinded because he was home-schooled, NiSource Senior Counsel Adele O'Connor told me that NiSource "disagrees with the conclusions in your letter as to the legal requirements regarding a diploma. These requirements are set forth in Chapter 3313 of the Ohio Revised Code."

However, this section of the code applies to public and chartered private schools, not home-schools. NiSource is wrongly using Ohio law as an excuse to defend its discriminatory hiring policy. There is simply no legal impediment to NiSource hiring a home-school graduate—especially the one in question here. Ohio law clearly recognizes home-schooling as a legal and valid educational option. To rescind an offer of employment to an otherwise qualified and experienced applicant who received a legally recognized education is unreasonable and discriminatory.


This applicant was offered a job initially, but NiSource withdrew the offer when it found out he had a home-school diploma. In addition to graduating from home-school in compliance with Ohio law, this applicant had years of relevant job experience and several key industry certifications. During his last two years of high school the applicant took seven courses at a recognized state college and made the dean's list.

Although we are usually able to resolve problems related to home-school diplomas with employers and higher education officials, many human resources or admissions officials misunderstand Ohio law which recognizes home-schooling as a legal and valid form of education.

HSLDA has been working with home-school advocates in Ohio to seek legislative action to prevent this kind of discrimination. The problem may indicate more than just discrimination against home-schoolers. This situation reflects the precise concern that motivates HSLDA's opposition to the Common Core and its "college- and career-ready" standards—that qualified home-school graduates who don't have a state-issued credential will be discriminated against in employment decisions.

A National Scheme

The Common Core has been adopted in Ohio and is moving forward in the face of fierce opposition from grassroots activists—parents and educators who reject a nationalized education system that includes national standards and associated nationalized assessments and a national student data collection scheme. HSLDA opposes Common Core because it creates a system based on nationalized standards, assessment and data collection that could negatively affect home-school graduates and job seekers. Research indicates that home-schooled students are well prepared academically and socially for careers and college. But even if this is true, hiring decisions should be made based on an individual's qualifications, not a policy that discriminates against an entire class of people based on how they were educated.

HSLDA affirms the right of private companies to create their own hiring policies, which may include evaluating the academic credentials of prospective applicants. However, NiSource's discriminatory practice reflects a narrow-minded and statist view of education that is inconsistent with the values of a free society. In a free economy, companies have the right to hire those of their choosing; just as individuals have the right to decide who they work for and purchase from.

NiSource has a "contact us" form online. Home-schoolers may wish to take the opportunity to explain to the company why refusing to hire home-schoolers is not just bad policy, it is bad business.

Time to Drop the Hyper-Grace Rhetoric by Dr Michael Brown

A hyper-grace pastor recently accused me of believing that “Jesus is not enough.”
How should we respond to accusations like this? And are these catchy little phrases, which attempt to make others look like subpar Christians, really helpful? Do they even tell us anything at all?

This particular pastor was critical of my book Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message (or, at least, he was critical of how another author presented my book, often in extremely misleading ways). He stated, “In Jesus you’re forgiven, sanctified, made holy and made eternally righteousness, yet, Dr. Brown says Jesus isn’t enough. Now he wouldn’t come right out and say such a thing but ... Dr. Brown still depends on human effort to complete the work Jesus began.”

Really? I say (or believe) that Jesus isn’t enough? I depend on human effort to complete the work Jesus began?

This is news to me, after leaning on Him as my only source of righteousness and life these last 42 years.

What point, then, is this pastor trying to make? Is he saying that I don’t mean it when I sing the words, “Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus”?

Is he claiming that when I joyfully shout out the lyrics to “In Christ Alone” that I’m just going through the motions? Does he honestly believe that I’m saying that "Jesus is not enough" when I sing with tears of joy those glorious words: “'Til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied, for every sin on Him was laid, here in the death of Christ I live”?

And isn’t it ironic that hyper-grace teachers who claim that I (and others like me) say “Jesus is not enough” believe that the words of Jesus, such as those found in the Sermon on the Mount, do not apply to them today? How, then, can they say that “Jesus is enough” and then ignore most of His words? (As documented in depth in my Hyper-Grace book, these teachers commonly claim that most, or even all, of what Jesus taught before the cross was not intended for believers today.)

So, what exactly does this pastor mean when he claims, “Dr. Brown says that Jesus isn’t enough”?

Is he implying that those of us who reject hyper-grace believe that we have any source of forgiveness outside of Jesus? That we plan to stand before God one day and claim justification by our works? That we have any boast outside of our Savior?

The fact is that Jesus did everything that needed to be done to secure our eternal salvation (as He said on the cross, “It is finished”), and now He calls on us, by His Spirit, to respond to His gracious offer, to follow Him, to grow in Him and to work with Him to fulfill the Great Commission. Through His blood, He makes us holy, and then He calls us to walk that holiness out in this world. The Word is quite clear about this.

But based on the hyper-grace rhetoric, are we saying that “Jesus is not enough” when we call on sinners to put their faith in Him? Isn’t this adding something on our part?

And why should we be baptized? Isn’t this “depend[ing] on human effort to complete the work Jesus began”? And why witness and pray if “Jesus is enough”? And why, for that matter, do we need pastors and teachers if “Jesus is enough”?

Do you see how meaningless these phrases can be when used as rhetorical weapons?

When Peter wrote, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet 1:14-15, ESV), was he saying that Jesus wasn’t enough?

Peter also wrote, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). Was he telling his readers to “depend on human effort to complete the work Jesus began”?

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1), was he saying that Jesus wasn’t enough?

Paul also exhorted the Colossians to “put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5). Was he telling them to “depend on human effort to complete the work Jesus began”?

One hyper-grace pastor wrote, “We are driven to ‘do, do, do’, forgetting that Christianity is actually ‘done, done, done’.”

Another pastor rightly responded, “The Bible tells us to ‘do, do, do’ because though Christ’s redemptive work on the cross IS ‘done, done, done’ Christians still have a lot left to do (see the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission, the Book of ACTS, the book of Titus (whose theme is GOOD WORKS) and the Book of James (whose theme is being DOERS of the Word)!”


Why can’t our friends who claim to have been wonderfully touched and enlightened and helped by the hyper-grace message simply revel in their newfound liberty without bashing and insulting those who differ with them? Why must they demonstrate how “free” they are by insulting the walks of others? How is that a fruit of grace? (For my part, I am not bashing anyone when I use the termhyper-grace, since many of those who embrace that message say, “Yes, grace is hyper!” I use the term to be descriptive of their message.)

One hyper-grace author criticized me for listing a number of Scriptures that required an active response on our part, claiming that I was calling for self-effort, as if responding in obedience to the Word is a bad thing. How does rhetoric like this advance the cause of the gospel?

And so, once again, I appeal to my hyper-grace friends: Let’s openly and prayerfully discuss our differences, seeking God earnestly and giving ourselves to the gospel of grace, without resorting to cheap and unhelpful rhetoric.

Wouldn’t this please the Lord?

Michael Brown is author of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.