Category: Gospel

Today is the Day of Your Breakthrough!

Why Christ’s Breakthrough is More Important

In this Edition of Radical Grace Radio, we talk about the message that we’ve been trying to give people all these years, while contrasting the classic Christian Message of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins with that of the modern Christian message of “God wants to give you your breakthrough Today”.

 

Waiting for Persecution, or Something Like It

China Churches are getting torn down and Crosses removed, Richard Dawkins sneaking into church services? Pro-marriage group being forced to disclose their donor’s names, The Boy Scouts are down but not out, and Sudan is counting down to hanging a Christian woman for being Christian.   All this and Christian fruits and a forest that needs to be cut down, this week on RGR.

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Dawkins Going to Church?

Chinese Christians being persecuted

Boy Scouts of America enrollment down six percent

National Organization for Marriage violated campaign finance laws

Clock is Ticking on Sudanese Christian Woman set to die by hanging for apostacy

“Western Education is Sin”, Said the Guy Using Western Eduation to Attack Western Education.

Boka Haram, it turns out, mean “Western Education is Sin”.  So, why is Baka Haram using Western Education in their Terrorist Activities?  Also, Flip it Forward gets flipped out the door, Heaven is more real than Son of God, the Supreme Courts says it’s okay to pray, and a gay divorcee is glad gays are just like other divorcees.  Seriously, he is.  That and it’s Good Shepherd Sunday.

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“Flip It Forward” is gone after Home and Garden network get’s cold feet

“Heaven is for Real” has beaten “Son of God” in Box office returns

Supreme Court says prayer in town meetings is constitutional

Bishop Gene Robinson Divorces his husband

Boka Haram alleged to have abducted more girls in Nigeria

John MacArthur and his Own Brand of “Strange Fire”.

Everyone who has followed Radical Grace Radio for a long time knows what this Radio host thinks about John MacArthur and his “gospel”.  As many of you know I am a Lutheran, LCMS, converted from Evangelicalism by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Because I spent many, many years lost in that Evangelical Wasteland hearing many false Gospels, when I finally found the so called Wittenberg Trail it was a relief.  In fact, it was a bomb shell.  To find out that Jesus Christ is not either a new Moses bringing new laws, or a helper who will instruct me in living a holy life, was explosive.  To find out that Jesus, our Prophet, Priest and King, is truly a savior whose death, shed blood, rest in the tomb and resurrection saves me AND his church changed everything.  The Gospel of the incarnation, of propitiation of sin, of Justification by faith alone, of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to me as if I myself were every bit as righteous as he is, is absolutely glorious.

But then, when I started to look back at the myriad of teachers and preachers, and fully realized how utterly devoid of good news many of these teachers and churches are, I was dumbfounded.  How could any of these churches, preachers and teachers talk so much about us, about our works, our sanctification and leave out the radiant truth and beauty of the Gospel was beyond comprehension and still is. 

But this past week, John MacArthur (to be referred to as Johnny Mac hence forth) hosted the “Strange Fire” conference, both to launch his new book and supposedly to start a conversation about Pentecostal belief and practice working it’s way into mainstream Christianity.  There’s been a lot of give and take this week about this subject, and some people have asked me what my thoughts are on the subject one way or another.

People who know me know this:  When the Gospel is at stake, I become a Raging Heart.

First of all, the premise of “Strange fire” is one that starts out focusing in the wrong direction.  I want to shut this down, right now.  I don’t want to debate speaking in tongues, cessationism, spiritual gifts, or any of that sort of thing when the Gospel is at stake.  This is not aimed at Pentecostals, however.  No, it’s aimed at Johnny Mac and his cohorts.  Why?  Because all of the discussion they may have about Pentecostalism is meaningless.  I can give anyone a list of practices and command them to do them and they can do them easily enough.  They can learn to speak in tongues, learn to cast out demons and speak words of positive power and still believe absolutely nothing about Jesus and his saving work on the cross for all people.  Johnny Mac should know this.  So should his cohorts. 

So in this Radio Host’s opinion, this conversation is a non starter.

What disturbs me is that Johnny Mac and his cohorts are criticizing the faith and practice of one group while glossing over their own glaring, heretical shortcomings.  Johnny Mac himself is a “Lordship Salvationist”.  In his view Jesus paid it all and now it’s your turn to pay.  It’s not enough to have faith alone in his view, but you also have to make Jesus your Lord.  It’s not enough that he’s the savior of those who cannot save themselves.  Johnny Mac’s body of work testifies to this, over and over again.  His recorded sermons, audio books, articles, print books, all point to his belief.  What he preaches is what St. Paul calls “another gospel, which is no gospel at all”. 

The concept of strange fire, as Pastor Gary explained in our discussion on the topic on Radical Grace Radio yesterday, is talked about in Leviticus 10 when Nadab and Abihu offered “unauthorized fire” before the Lord.  The fire they should have used was the fire that was kept burning from when fire came down from God and consumed the first sacrifice at the Tabernacle.  That fire came from God himself.  Any other fire is “strange”, or “unauthorized”.  A man made fire is unacceptable.  Period.  No one is to offer that kind of fire before the LORD.  In light of that context, how does this apply today?  The simple answer is that to add anything to the already complete and authorized work of God is blasphemy. 

But Matthew, someone may ask, what about the Christian’s sanctification?  That’s a good question as long as you continue to understand that your sanctification and efforts to grow in Christ do not add to the finished work of Christ on the Cross.  That’s why your justification is predicated on Faith Alone.   What Christ has done, HE alone has done, and you cannot improve on it, at all.  Any “gospel” that adds to that work is no gospel.  A gospel of Jesus’ finished work plus your works to complete it IS strange fire.

I find it interesting that as this conference ended John Piper posted the following on his blog at Desiring God:

Either Jesus died to save his church or he didn’t. There isn’t a third option.

Either he gave himself up for his bride, as Ephesians 5:25 tells us, or he died to create the possibility of her salvation that depends upon the skills of human decision-making.

Are we dead in our sins, as Ephesians 2:1–3 says, or are we slightly impaired? Are we “far from the peaceful shore” or are we gone, sunken to the bottom of the ocean with no chance of resuscitation? Does God toss us a floatation device, or does he raise us from the dead?

He goes on to say:

The Bible is clear. The gospel is God’s work, God’s victory. “He does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: he plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies” (Packer, Quest for Godliness, 130). And here is where we see his love — the kind that breaks through the sternest soul in sovereign power to save. The love of Jesus is sin-crushing, serpent-stomping, death-defying, people-purchasing love.

With all this in mind I therefore say, the discussion about “Faith and Practice” is irrelevant until all in the discussion come to agree on this, that Christ is the central figure, that it’s his work, his death and his body and blood that Justifies his Church, nude, apart from works. 

Only then will we talk. 

Confusion about abuse.

Over Christmas I was listening to an edition of The White Horse Inn titled Sexual Abuse and the Gospel of Grace.  I have to say that I agree with Mike Horton and authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb the Gospel of the Grace and Mercy of God in Jesus has a lot to say to sexual assault victims.  I’m glad the tackled this subject, in fact, because this has been on my mind a lot lately. 

But I’ve noticed also that where Lutherans and the Reformed are often pretty good at announcing the grace of God to people, when it comes to application they usually fall down.  You see, we in this post modern age, have a habit to try and distill everything down to slogans and formulas while convincing ourselves that doing so is the right way to go about learning and application.  We tend to latch onto great statements like “grace through faith because of Christ” and learn those statements as if they are the application.  But of course, if you do that, you can very quickly turn a gospel statement into a law or principle statement meant to followed rather than believed.  This is a bad thing and the result of our having intensely short attention spans.

So getting back to this podcast.  Everything went well until the last question was asked by Mike Horton, where he said, “of course grace for the victim, but also grace for the victimizer”.  On it’s face, I can agree with this statement, after all, who among us is without sin and doesn’t want mercy for the sins we ourselves have committed?  All well and good so far.

It all began to go wrong when Mike Horton used a hypothetical example of a situation where a pastor or elders would say, “This situation is under the blood of Christ, so it never happened.  Therefore you need to go back to your husband who is abusing you.  The Lord has changed his heart.  He really understands the Gospel now.  And sometimes in cases of raping children, grace is enough.  You don’t need to turn that person in, you don’t need to call the police”.

Justin, in response, did a pretty good job of talking about how both the victim of abuse who is a believer and the victimizer who is a believer can easily forget the gospel and what a joy it brings to both parties.   But he went on to talk about a hypothetical situation (at least I hope it was hypothetical and not a breach of the confessional) about a husband and wife where the wife has been suffering abuse at the hands of her husband, comes to talk about it with someone in the church but doesn’t want to file a police report and turn the guy in.  He went on to say that after talking to the husband and saying “if you really get the gospel, you’ll turn yourself in.  Let’s call the police”.  They go to the police and tell what happened and when they ask the wife if she wants to file charges, the wife says “no”.

That sounds like a nice story, but it only sounds that way because people don’t understand the mindset of a person who has been traumatized in a relationship.  Often, the victim blames themselves and when pressed they wont report or file charges against the person who abused them.  In fact, if cornered, they’ll often deny anything is going on at all and recant the story. When Justin recounted that the wife first didn’t want to file a report, and then even afterwards still refused to press charges, shivers went down my spine.  The husband may have gotten the gospel, but the wife is still in trouble. 

What’s worse, Justin seems to think this was a good outcome when it is not.  What they did for the wife was likely provide a way in which she could sweep the whole thing out of her mind and forget what happened.  They now have them go to separate churches, which is nice, but what about the rest of the time?  Is she still living with this guy?  Is she now, having gone down this route of denying what happened, now also living in denial that anything is wrong at all? 

Don’t get me wrong, I like WHI a lot.  But this way of handling abuse situation is more of the same attitude that we’ve been seeing in churches for quite a while now.  Wives don’t want to turn their abusive husbands in for a variety of reasons.  They often blame themselves for the abuse, as do rape victims.  Children who are sexually and physically abused by a parent often blame themselves as well and try to curry favor with the abusive parent.  They don’t know any other way of getting themselves out of the situation.  And what’s more, the church often sends all of them back to the abuser instead of doing what’s right. 

Yes, a repentant victimizer needs to hear the gospel as much as the victim.  However, we need to be more careful not forget how tough it really is for a victim to come forward.  I applaud the WHI and Justin and Lindsey Holcomb for being brave enough to talk about this subject.  I really do.  But we all need to realize that the broken nature of someone who is a victim of any domestic abuse is a truly profound brokenness that needs deep care from us. 

“Where Did I Go Wrong With My Witness?”

On Christian Evangelism and Perserverance.

So the person you’re witnessing to doesn’t believe in God or Hell. What do you do? You could try to make him feel guilty under the law, but he doesn’t believe in any of that. Now what? On Radical Grace Radio we talk about what you could do besides just give up.


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God doesn’t love you in slices


In this edition of Radical Grace Radio Pastor Greg does a mean Sean Connery impersonation as he makes a great point about the love of God, and we answer an emailer who wanted to know…

There’s something which confuses me about Sola Fide. If we’re saved by
grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone on the authority of
scripture alone, why are sacraments necessary? I’m not necessarily
doubting the necessity of sacraments, I just don’t understand that if
access to salvation comes down to faith alone (sola), then how is it
alone if a sacrament must be coupled with it? Thank you in advance for
your answer.

-Chris

Danville, Indiana
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