Outspoken Boldness

“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness”. Acts 4:29

So I’m reading through Acts and I’m amazed at how the first church was missional all the way. The disciples prepped for this moment through their training with Jesus who sent them out. And then they waited on His promise of the Holy Spirit so that they would preach from Jerusalem, Samaria, and beyond (Acts 1:8). Once sent, they were unhindered by anyone’s threats, imprisonment, and inevitable execution. The spread of the Gospel wouldn’t have come through cowardliness but through boldness. “The righteous are as bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1),  is seen in full force in Acts.

I am currently reading through Acts and I’m amazed at the usage of the word “boldness” when it came to the church being on mission. Even in the face of opposition, the church prayed for even more boldness! (Acts 4:29-31). The apostle Paul was under house arrest yet continued “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31). Unlike most churches today, we’re not called to be entertained but to be sent out preaching the Gospel with boldness! We are not to live in cowardice but in boldness! O God grant us boldness!

Scripture references on boldness or boldly in Acts (4:13,29,31; 9:27,28; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 28:31)

 

On This Reformation Day…

Let us be grateful for such a moment in the history of the church in which we come to understand justification by faith. Although it was already established in the Bible, it was far from a reality during Martin Luther’s time. Many (even today) believe that by one’s works, justification is earned rather given graciously. But like Luther before realizing this truth, many are overburdened and weary of their works. They labor and toil without realizing that the perfect work of Christ completes it all, as He says “it is finished” as a sacrifice  “once and for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Jesus Christ not only gives justification, but He is our justification! Without a grasp of this truth, diminishes the gospel altogether for justification the doctrine by which ‘‘the church either stands or falls.” as stated by Luther

Secondly, let us be grateful for the spread of the Bible for the layperson. For too long, it was merely relegated to the clergy. But thanks to individuals such as John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and Martin Luther, various translations of the Bible were being put out and then some. We need the Bible now more than ever, especially in an age where biblical truth is either questioned or neglected altogether. Many cry for revival, but the truth is that you can’t have a revival without a reformation. We must get back to the Word of God as the source God has given us to proclaim! It is absolute truth. Without it, we wouldn’t come to an understanding of justification by faith and the Gospel. We would not see God’s redemptive plan throughout both Testaments. We wouldn’t know of our sin and radical depravity.  Moreover, we wouldn’t know God as He truly is in the Word. The Word of God therefore, is indispensable to reformation. No other source comes close. I don’t care how creatively, or well researched it is, or how prophetic it sounds. God’s Word is final and it is sufficient! (2 Timothy 3:16)

Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est secundum Verbum Dei”(The church Reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God)

 

Happy Reformation Day!

Through the Lens of Sola Scriptura

Scripture is no longer sufficient in the eyes of many professing Christians. It may be acknowledged and affirmed. It may be quoted and preached. But when it boils down to priority, Scripture is no longer at the top. It may be secondary or not even regarded at all. “We need more” the people cry out. But is that what it really boils down to nowadays, what the people want? Sadly, I’d have to say yes.

I believe that the greatest conflict from the church is from within not without. It’s blatantly obvious that we’ll be persecuted for our faith as the world hates Jesus first (John 15:18). But inward apostasy, that’s a whole another story. It may creep in subtlety and sincerely(Jude 4),  but it blows up overtime. It’s bad enough to see some believers who are deceived but when an entire congregation follows this along with the leaders who unapologetically preach nonsense each week?? That is when it becomes troubling.

Friends, since Scripture isn’t seen as sufficient, other influences are sought out. Imagine that! Churches being influenced by worldly means but also by heresies. Sounds preposterous I know, but we are guilty of incorporating it ourselves. For instance, the music is easily a first step. Most churches today sing songs from the most popular groups and artists of today (i.e Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation, etc). “Oh but the music is good”, they say. But just because it sounds good, doesn’t mean it is good, especially with the underlying false theology. It is a bait a switch to propagate heresy through playing the music. Moreover, it allows for the teaching to permeate the church. “If the music is good, so must the teaching” , is the justification for many people who rather go by the trend instead of the Word of God.Let us consider the following verse:

Matthew 6:22-23 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness—how deep is that darkness!

In other words, you’re influenced by what you intake spiritually. Basically, the intake changes from solid food (Scripture) to junk food (heresy). It may “feel good” in the moment, but there is no genuine growth nor discernment. That matters for us individually and corporately. And when a church is taking in darkness, then it will be consumed by it. But by God’s grace, He will separate the sheep from the goats, or the wheat from the tares. That also applies to teachers who will be judged more harshly (James 3:1). For judgment must begin in the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).

What we must get back to is the Word of God as our sufficient source (2 Timothy 3:16). Nothing else was ever needed nor will never be necessary. That is the lens that we need, one that takes in the light of God given Scripture. In doing so, we renew our minds (Rom 12:2), bear fruit (Psalm 1:3), having the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). Most importantly, it is necessary in Gospel proclamation, “for faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of Christ” (Romans. 10:17). Notice how this is all based from Scripture. It is never by some outside influence. And it is definitely nothing that portrays itself as another Gospel, lest one be accursed (Gal. 1:9). Let this be the lens in which the church sees. Let this be the perspective in which the church lives/dies by. Most importantly, let this be the resource in which the church proclaims the a dying world. Sola Scriptura! Scripture alone!

 

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Theology Matters 4: Holy Spirit

More than a force, but a Person

Ah the Holy Spirit, otherwise known as the third Person in the Trinity. He is first seen “hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2), as well as partaking in the creation of man (Gen 1:26-28). He likewise is seen all throughout the OT in prophets, priests and kings. Also seen in judges, and some of temple builders. He is likewise in the promise of the New Covenant, as He will pay an important role as the Comforter. He is likewise promised through Jesus Christ prior to His death and resurrection (Gen. 16:7). After Christ’s ascension, we see the Holy Spirit poured out to all who belong to God (see Acts 2). He continues His work this very day.

Functions in the life of a Believer

Oftentimes, we see many bizarre practices that are attributed to the Holy Spirit. But biblically speaking, it is completely different. This is not to deny the power, but to clarify the function. First and foremost, it gives evidence that one belongs to God. Otherwise you’re not a true believer. This indwelling of the Holy Spirit is part of regeneration. A vessel once used for unrighteousness, is now a temple for God’s Spirit to dwell, and to transform a soul from the inside out. From a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Friend, if there’s such practices without transformation, have nothing to do with it. It is nothing more than a spiritual high but no change. It wears off like a drug until the next fix. Likewise, emotionalism can be deceptive of transformation. Not to deny we have God-given emotions, but emotions alone do not entail transformation. Likewise, we can say that the outflow of transformation is emotion. In short, no Holy Spirit, no transformation. No other “experience” can do this.

Regeneration is a monergistic work of God, meaning it is a solo act. Only God can do it, not us! However, sanctification is synergistic where God and us take part in which both grow. This is a lifelong process until the next state which is glorification in which we will have new bodies which will be sinless.

As we walk in sanctification, the Holy Spirit teaches and brings to remembrance all the things Christ has shared (John 14:26) , and convicts the world in sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). And for those who are believers, it confirms that they’re a child of God (Rom. 8:14, 16), that they are sealed for eternity (Eph. 1:13), and spiritual fruit is expected throughout the course of one’s life. (Gal. 5:22-23).

 

Been away for a while, but hope to finish up this series. Check out here for all posts on the theology matters series

No Bible = No Discernment

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:6

In this day and age, messages across churches today are superficial at best. It is water-less clouds, fruitless and twice dead trees (Jude 12). It is all form; no substance. It is merely a shell without an interior. Yet such messages are preached to the masses weekly! The end result? No true spiritual growth as there is no right dividing the Scripture. For Scriptures is food for the soul, and such nutritious food it is! Take that away, and you’re left with junk that leaves souls spiritually malnourished and theologically deficient.

Spiritual discernment goes undeveloped as there’s no biblical buildup! Thus becoming prone to deception of “every wind of doctrine”. People run to and fro to big name preachers who love to promote their doctrine to the churches “in God’s name” in order to legitimate their message. They run around claiming that the Bible/ theology isn’t enough and that their teaching is exactly what the church needs! “You can’t grow without this message”, they say. Yet such claims bring to mind the words of the apostle Paul,

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you,  let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received,  let him be accursed.” -Galatians 1:8-9

Yet because of no rightly dividing the word of Truth, the sheep are falsely divided in heresy. No true Word , no spiritual growth, no discernment. Destruction awaits.

The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson(Book review)

 

Ah shame, what a tough subject to discuss as it is tough to deal with it! Ever since the Fall, humanity has been marred by shame. It is a shadow that never ceases to follow you around and consume you. Not only does it distort your well-being but how you live life as well. You always feel like you are damaged goods, never good enough, and just never measuring up. God is seen a mean entity who cannot ever bear to look at you because you find yourself so sinful. That is merely a snapshot of how shame affects us. That is what Curt Thompson attempts to get at in this book and he does it well.

Shame is described and defined as you would expect. But one thing that Thomspson takes into account is the neurological effect on shame as a he is a psychiatrist with a neurological background. Thus adding an further in depth analysis on shame impact. For instance, shame affects our brain. The more we act out in shame, the more it is reinforced in our brain leading to a stasis in us. Moreover, shame distorts our walk with God, looking all the way back to the Fall and plenty of stories shared from people with shameful experiences. The remedy? vulnerability. First, seeing it in God who made Himself vulnerable in creating us to share in this world and also through Christ coming to die for our sins so that we would be reconciled to God the Father. As we live between now and the final consummation, the church must likewise grow in vulnerability with one another as it practices the same love and grace God bestows on us. Although shame is a life-long struggle, thankfully it will be forever gone in heaven as we will live on shameless, living fully in the very glory of God. So do yourself a favor and please check out this book. It will minister to you. It is always refreshing to see books that observe what is usually seen as psychological issues yet comes from a Christian foundation. Honestly, it is something we need more of.

 

Highlights

“When shame appears, especially in malignant forms, we are often driven to a felt sense of stasis. Our mind feels incapable of thinking. We may feel literally physically frozen in place when experiencing extreme humiliation, and if we are able to move, we feel like going somewhere we can hide and remain hidden without returning to engage others. We don’t necessarily experience this with minor insults, but there is no question that our ability to move creatively in our mind is slowed. This general idea that shame leads the world ultimately to a point of paralysis, vis-à-vis the movement that is required for creative engagement, will become more important when we explore the nature of God’s movement and its necessity for shame’s healing.”

“Attention is the engine of the mind’s train that pulls along the rest of the functional cars. Ultimately we become what we pay attention to, and the options available to us at any time are myriad, the most important of which being located within us. Paul, in his letter to the Romans knows this, stating flatly, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). To have one’s mind set on something is essentially about paying attention. What do I pay attention to? Paul says that what we pay attention to doubles back and governs us. Hence our attention is deeply associated with either death or life.”

“Remember, attention is the key to the engine that pulls the train of our mind; shame’s first priority is distraction.”

“Judgment strengthens shame’s grinding attempt at isolation. In order for me to judge someone, I must create enough distance between us in order to analyze him or her. With that judgment the distance grows. And with enough distance comes isolation.”

Christ’s Call to Reform the Church by John MacArthur (Book Review)

Repentance is not often touched upon in churches today, yet we are called to do so.  Discussed in this book are the 7 churches of Revelation, Christ’s indictment of them, followed by the end result. What can be appreciated in this book is the relevancy of biblical principles that still apply today! Each church is a case all on it’s own and Jesus deals with them all. That should speak volumes to churches today. Wherever they are at, Christ holds them accountable. It is His church, after all. It is His bride in which He will come back for and judgment begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).

The historical detail in the book is well appreciated as brings these churches to life. It showed that these churches were indeed places in history and how each church operated in its surrounding society. That should also speak volumes as it should make us question: are we being salt & light in our location?  Scripture also plays a big part here as a crucial element to the church. A church that does not live by the word of God is susceptible to corruption.

In closing, I thoroughly enjoyed this book as a sober reminder to the church. It is in dire need of reformation. That of course is not easy as many have deviated away from God’s Word, settling for outside sources instead. This book is also to the complacent Christian whom like the church Ephesus, lost their first love. Yet God shows mercy and calls us to run back to Him. It is time for a renewed commitment to Christ. It is time to reform the church. Don’t delay!

Notable Quotes

“This climatic reality of the church: God redeems sinners to build His church and uses their transformed lives to reflect the majesty of His glory, whereby He draws more sinners to Himself. That awesome, blazing glory of the Lord shines through the church, illuminating a lost and dark world.”

“Fading love for Christ the forerunner of spiritual apathy.”

“Consider this: for Christians there is no such thing as meaningless suffering. The Lord is always refining us, always sharpening us for the building His church”

“If there is any hope for a new reformation and revival today, it is that the church will submit to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, that it will faithfully proclaim the message of justification by grace alone through faith alone, that God’s people will devote themselves to glorifying Him in all things, and that they hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ in loving devotion to their Savior”.