Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
*To self-realize is to become who you want to become through mental envisionment.
I recently came across an ‘interesting’ presentation of the Gospel. (Sadly it is all too common as a bit of research revealed and common knowledge attests). It may be said to be a presentation of the ‘self-realized Gospel.’ It goes something like this:
[after a list of questions, including “Do you believe that Jesus is your lamb?”]
“Did you give the right answers to these questions? Do you believe your answers to be true? If so, then the Bible says Jesus has paid the punishment for your sin. He is your Saviour. You will never have to be afraid of the Second Death or the Lake of Fire…”
[then it adds there is “one more important thing to say” and provides what it calls a thank you prayer or a type of sinner’s pray]
Simpler versions of this would include ‘Jesus died for you, you just need to believe that to be saved’ or ‘God is love, you just need to accept His love to be saved,’ etc.
I have no doubt many who put forward this sort of message are well-intentioned. There is certainly much orthodox truth in what they say. There is belief that we must confess to be true in order to be saved (our sinfulness, Jesus as Saviour, His death and resurrection, being the most basic). The shortcoming is ‘what must I do to be saved?’ It is not to passively give mental assent to something. It is not to rely on your own work of mental understanding. It is not presumptuous.
This message is put forward and then we wonder why people don’t change or fall away—they’ve never believed! This message may have become popularized because of self-realization in broader culture (eastern religions), New Thought/Word of Faith, making the Gospel more palatable to a non-Christian public and doctrinal illiteracy. Whatever the reason, it sadly isn’t the Gospel.
We know this is not the Gospel by knowing the Gospel itself and also by knowing heresy.
The Gospel in the Opening of Acts
“Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19–20a)
The self-realized Gospel may be considered as a sub-form of Socinianism. Apart from holding some very unorthodox views, Socinius (1539–1604) taught that one is saved merely through mental assent to certain doctrines. While the self-actualized Gospel is often very orthodox it shares this ‘assenting’ in common. But even the demons believe, James tells us, but they are not saved!
Socinianism in this broad sense is alive and well, embraced by many (like one I spoke to yesterday, last week, people who sit in the pews, the wider nominal Christian public).
In conclusion, a self-realized Gospel relies on self and mental assent. The Gospel comes with empty hands and relies completely on Jesus. It is a declaration that calls sinners to actively repent and believe. We repent, feeling sorrow for our sins, turning from them to Jesus. We believe, meaning we trust in Jesus to save us and cry out to Him for mercy.
So let us help each other more clearly share the Gospel and may many be saved by it.
Many Christian perceive the Protestant difference between believer’s baptism by immersion (credo-baptism) and infant baptism (paedo-baptism) to be merely one of different forms—little difference. However, the heart of the divergence can be seen in comparing their traditional views on baptism, covenant and Scripture, as seen in the sister confessions of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Presbyterian) and in the 1689 Baptist Confession.
Consider the differences:
Contrast the two yourself:
In a recent blog I noted statistics regarding the visible decline of Christianity in Canada. This raises the question, ‘What Happened to Christian Canada?’
In a book by this title historian Mark Noll reached the conclusion that we exchanged a Christian vision of Canada for a multi-cultural one. This is true. Canada was a bi-lingual, Anglo-European, Protestant-Catholic nation. Our identity, while different (and sometimes divided), was also one in heritage. While multi-culturalism (language, ethnicity, religion, etc) is not all of itself wrong, this new vision for Canada was an intentional subversion of the existing Christian vision by cultural Marxism (e.g. the thoughts of Antonio Gramsci [1891–1937]). Christian values were assaulted and a Christian vision was replaced by a vision that divided, and accelerated by individualism, made Canada far easier to control to ideological ends.
While Noll is correct, his social theory is not the whole story as he alludes in his conclusion.
One must recognize that even at its height all of Canada was never truly Christian, there was much nominalism, of people buying into the Christian vision or attending church culturally but not truly and spiritually. One must believe the Gospel to be a Christian.
Still, many denominations faithfully preached the Gospel and so it could be assumed that many Canadians truly were Christian. However, with the arrival of theological liberalism in Canada (which accelerated in the 1920s), countless Canadian denominations, pulpits and churches became arid wastelands that gave the appearance of Christianity yet without Christ. Long before an assault from without can an attack from within. William Booth of the Salvation Army foresaw this shift in the 1800s when he said of the 20th Century:
“The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.”
If truth is not presented it cannot be trusted and it therefore does not transform.
There is nothing less attractive than nominal Christianity, no meaning, no joy, no fruit of faith, no substance. As more and more Canadians became nominal Christians is it any wonder ‘Christianity’ was spit out? Like the story of the Return of the Unclean Spirit in Mt 12:43–45 Canadians spit out nominal Christianity only to embrace other isms far worse than the first.
People began to look to the old worldly isms of materialism, commercialism and individualism in increasing degrees. (A corporatism in Christian Canada gave way to the extreme individualism of today).
Christianity was also beset by other isms such as Darwinism, Communism, atheism, the Sexual Revolution and post-Modernism. (It is interesting to note how a decline in the number of children necessitated an immigration policy that supported multi-culturalism).
While the full answer is even more complex than this some major contributors to the decline of Christian Canada were recasting our identity (cultural-Marxism), liberalism, nominalism along with various other isms.
No doubt some genuine Christians of the past bear spiritual and social responsibility for allowing us to drift away from orthodoxy and slip into nominalism as a nation, thus allowing this shift to take place (a giant can only be toppled if it blindly believes itself unstoppable).
The faithful remnant in Canada (e.g. the Church), now often bolstered by new Canadians who are already Christian, must rise to be the vanguard of society’s wellbeing (salt and light, Mt 5), do honour to our Christian heritage and offer a bright hope and alternative vision for the future. However, this will not be done through worldly means (2 Cor 10:4) but by the faithful preaching of the Gospel and lives lived to the glory of Christ. This is how the early Church began and transformed the Roman and European landscape. This is how we must win Canada today; one soul at a time.
In a recent blog I used those who regularly attend, or are part of a church, to discern the true number of Christians in Canada. The number I came up with was far lower than the 63.2% who identify as Christian sitting in at 3%.
What of those other 60%? Well I’ll allow their perseverance and the Judge to verify the genuineness of their faith but many of them may be what are known as “the Dones” (or even Secular Christians). The Dones are those who are done with the Church (or “organized Christianity”) but positively affirm belief in God, Jesus as the Saviour, angels, prayer, the support they feel they receive from their faith, the importance of being spiritual and a morally good person, loving their neighbour, etc.
Speaking with Dones reveals a number of reasons why they’re done with church. We need to listen to see where they are at (Prov 20:5). Often we should sympathize with their reasons, though we will want to encourage them in another direction. Sometimes we may need to speak the truth in grace into their faulty notions, and to do so as winsomely as possible.
Why did these people become “done”? The reasons vary as to the individual stories but a number of general observations could be noted: 1) they had a bad experience with “the church,” 2) the hypocrisy in “the church,” 3) they were hurt or felt they were not supported in some way, 4) post-modernism- the rejection of institutions, 5) individualism- I can be “spiritual” by myself with no need of public worship or corporate Christianity, 6) acedia (that is spiritual laziness)- I don’t feel like going (or I have other things I could be doing), and that leads to 7) confused priorities. We could probably think of some others. Many of these are real reasons for being disgruntled with the church.
Let’s address some of these.
Finally after we’ve listened and trouble-shooted all of these potential hangups with the Done we need to discern with them whether they are a Christian or a “Christian.” If they are not a true Christian these potential reasons for being “done” are eclipsed by their need of the Gospel. When we know and seek Jesus everything else falls into place, as we become undone.
Recently I had a unique opportunity to speak with a local old order Mennonite (so not a Dave Martin Mennonite) about his beliefs (and many of our common beliefs). He shared how his church holds to the The Dordrecht Confession (1632), and was delighted to learn I had this in a book in my office. (You can read it here).
Having studied Mennonite history and beliefs at a general level I wrote to him some of my responses and questions in the hopes that he or his church leader might be able to further enlightenment me on Mennonite beliefs and practices.
Here are my comments:
Article 2- I was heartened to see you believe in Original Sin as I know some Mennonites do not. This is such a fundamental teaching of the Bible.
Article 4- There is so much here that is right and true. Twice, however, “salvation of all” and “purchased redemption for the whole human race” is mentioned and so I would gather you believe in a universal atonement. I would hold that Christ died for His own, the elect (Acts 13:48; Eph 1:1–6; 2 Ti 1:9; Rev 17:8); however, that the Gospel should be preach to the whole world. Election is a mystery the Bible speaks of for the believer’s comfort. The Gospel an encouragement to those who have not yet believed.
A line at about 60% says “we content ourselves with the declaration which the worthy evangelists have given…” According to Christology I find this somewhat vague as the visible Church (and I think with Biblical merit) has universally and historically believed the Chalcedon Creed that says “one person in two natures.” Creeds are not Scripture but church history does have a helping or ministerial role as Christians articulate their belief. Perhaps Mennonites are interested in the practical vs. the speculative (though probing who God is, I would argue, has great practical benefits).
I was heartened by the last line of this article.
Article 5- What is the Gospel? How do I become a Christian? This is not clear to me. Traditional Protestantism asks “What must I do to be saved.” It seems many Anabaptists ask, “How ought a Christian to live?”
Article 6- Truly, we must heed John the Baptist’s words quoted herein and also hear James that faith without works is dead. However, what is true saving faith and its connection to ongoing faith? (or saving faith and the fruit of faith). It speaks of “amendment of life” which is surely a proof of true faith (Parable of the Sower) but this does seem to have echoes of being justified (or made right with God) through our works. I would say that those who truly believe in the Gospel and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit will persevere in the faith and bear good fruit. You shall know them by their fruit Jesus said in Mt 7.
Article 7- Do you practice baptism by affusion (pouring) or immersion? I know different Mennonites have different practices. We practice believer’s baptism by immersion in the name of the Trinity.
Article 9- I was confused, do you have a tri-fold ordering of officers? We have Elders (oversight, teaching and discipleship) and Deacons (temporal needs and matters).
Article 10- I love the moral outworking of the theology of the cross (yet would still question “His precious blood—for the whole human race” see what I shared above. I would understand such verses in light of the others to mean, “so that…”).
Article 11- I applaud the spirit of humility in this article and the picture of true washing by Christ’s blood, however, is there really justifiable evidence that foot-washing is an ordinance? Does it merit a whole article? Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are quite emphatically put forward as signs of the New Covenant. Is not the main point of Jesus’ footwashing the principle of humility and service?
Article 14- This is certainly a noble belief and I have the utmost respect for those who carry it out. But is it not to confuse the future peace we will know with the present where sin reigns? Surely in Mt 6 Jesus is speaking of personal insult and not personal harm. I would allow suffering injury for the sake of the Gospel but, the justness or injustice of wars aside, what man would not protect his wife and children from a murderer or thief? Jesus even commanded his disciples to carry swords for legitimate cases of self-defence (Lk 22:36). The 10 Commandments speak of “thou shall not murder” not “kill.” In rare occasions I would see defence as a reasonable use of force.
Article 15- I agree with this interpretation of Mt 5, however, why make it a major statement of faith? May it not be a remnant of an important issue in the 1500s and not so much an issue today?
Article 16 and 17 (which are similar)- Likewise, I am a believer in what we would call church discipline (as a believers’ church), rightly dismissing members who persist in erring in doctrine or practice and do not show repentance after brothers seek to reach him (Matt 18:15–20). Likewise it is for their amendment and not their ruin. However, I wonder about the language of “sin unto death.” If they truly repent and show they were genuine believers do they really lose their salvation only to regain it or grieve the spirit whilst in rebellion and loose visible assurance? Also “have nothing to do with them” must be taken in its various contexts. Certainly we should avoid divisive people (Tit 3) and even apostates, yet wouldn’t to treat the average backslider like “tax collectors and sinners” mean we cannot have fellowship with them but that we treat them with mercy and try to convert them? What in practice would shunning look like?
Article 18- I agree wholeheartedly with what is stated here, the Resurrection, etc, yet even though Scripture speaks of being judged based upon our deeds, does it not go still further and speak of our faith, or what we have done with Jesus (Ro 14:23; Heb 11:6; Jn 12:48)?
Aside from many smaller questions the biggest question that I am not clear on, and what I would deem as the most important, is “What is the Gospel” and “what is true faith?” Likewise, what is the relationship of faith and works? If you could help me understand these I would be grateful.
We live in a changing culture. It isn’t changing from Christian to post-Christian (that change occurred in the 1960s–80s). We’re changing from a post-Christian culture into an eddy of the unknown.
Now as the under-dog (yet with an Almighty Captain, the Lord Jesus Christ), how do we as Christian churches engage with our culture?
At a recent conference a non-Christian and Christian help was offered to answer this question. I thought it was worth restating with some of my own commentary.
The Christian faith used to be the worldview and moral code of Canada. People would ask: does this honour and glorify God; what does God think about this; what does the Bible say; is this good or bad; does it love God and love others, etc…?
As people came to hold the Christian faith nominally these questions were asked, not through reason, but through intuition: that is, because of what we’ve received, I don’t feel comfortable with X, Y, or Z.
Today, most people still do not use reason to inform their worldview, rather they subjectively rely on intuition.
Because of this shift Christianity went from being celebrated, tolerated or viewed as quaint to now being seen as increasingly dangerous.
In “Righteous Mind: Moral Intuitions are Different,” social psychologist explains what our culture’s new moral intuitions are:
If we simply speak louder (like in so many language quandaries) we don’t actually facilitate understanding. If we simply give a straight up yes or no answer, our view will likely clash with theirs.
While sometimes we’re left with no other option than providing a straight up answer without an explanation (and know that God will use such faithfulness), we need to learn to be better listeners:
If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame. (Prov 18:13)
The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out. (Prov 20:5)
When pressed for a yes or no answer on any moral or theological question we might respond, “I think your question deserves more than a one syllable answer.” Ask questions. Attempt to figure out what ethic (see above) they’re operating from. Build trust through listening. Where have they come from that has led them to this place? Finally help them understand why something is right or wrong (harmful, oppressive and unjust) and tell the better story of how Jesus’ way is better, freeing and just.
In apologetics and evangelism we must learn to speak the truth in love or blend grace and truth as the Bible teaches.
Reposted from our FAQ evangelism page.
When many people think of God they wonder about His relevance, or desire more than a get out of hell free card (in that case, “I’ll just wait until closer to death before pursuing Him,” they think, which itself is dangerous, c.f. Isa 55:6, “seek the LORD while He may be found.”]).
I’m reminded of Jesus’ comment in Mk 12:27, that “He [God] is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” In the context of the Resurrection this means He’s the God of those who are spiritually alive, both those in Heaven along with followers of Jesus today. More broadly spun you could say God is not just a God for the afterlife but for life today.
Christianity is a religion for today and not simply the afterlife. Here are some examples as to why:
1. Peace with God
The heart of the Bible’s message is that humanity has fallen from its original state of friendship with God and now in sinful rebellion is under just condemnation. We are God’s enemy. Having an enemy such as this along with the eternal guilt that accompanies it bears heavily upon one’s body, soul and spirit. Suppressing the truth of our condemnation, we seek to evade the thought of this rebellion with still more rebellion. We try to substitute being made for God with other things (e.g. money, sex, power, etc). While some of these things may satisfy for a time they do not do so completely. As such we’re left with anxiety and depression. The only solution that can bring us peace is to become at peace with God through repentance and faith in Jesus. The moment we believe, we enjoy this peace; peace from the penalty of sin, friendship with God. Ro 5:1 says, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Life to the Full
Many people think they are living a full life; however, our fullness can only extend as far as our sin inhibits—not far at all. We’re not living life fully because we’re not living as we were design to live. We’re not living for God and His glory; we’re living for self and today. As a result of not being at peace with God we’re actually spiritually dead. We may think we’re alive but it isn’t even a shadow of what we were created for. Jesus came not only to give us eternal life (Jn 3:16) but abundant life today. “I came that you may have life,” He said, “and life to the full.” (Jn 10:10). This life comes through His Spirit that He gives every believer; the purpose He enables them to fulfil.
Not only does the believer gain peace and life but also wisdom. The Holy Spirit is called the “teacher.” He, through Scripture, teaches us in the way of God. When we do what pleases God, we not only honour Him, but life generally goes better for us. Proverbs 3:8 says, “[Wisdom] will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Walking in the Lord’s wisdom brings the steadfastness of truth to our lives that we don’t naturally have in this world tossed to and fro by changing ideas and thought patterns.
4. Strength For Today
Life can be difficult, even for Christians. God never promised that it wouldn’t. Believers have been freed from the penalty of sin (through the Cross), are being set free from the power of sin (by the Spirit) and will be freed from the presence of sin when Jesus returns. Yet in the meantime Jesus promised to comfort us through His Spirit’s presence. Christ “dwelling in our hearts by faith” (Eph 3:17) and such promises as “I am with you always, to the end of the age” Mt 28) mean that even in the valley of deep darkness the believer can be assured of the Lord’s presence, comfort, help and strength. All of this increases our relational knowledge of God and produces character. This is an assurance and experience a believer does not enjoy.
5. Bright Hope for Tomorrow
Yet not only “Strength for today” but “bright hope for tomorrow” as the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness reminds us. Yes, but I thought we were talking about the here and now, not the future. Indeed, but the future impacts how we live today. The assurance of eternal life means that the believer has hope amidst of the hopelessness of today. One’s belief about tomorrow does shape how we live today after all.
So don’t just think of God when you think about tomorrow, know He is immensely relevant for today too. Would you “call upon Him while He while He is near” today through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ?
A question that is often asked of Christianity is this:
“What about all those who never hear about Jesus; is God just to sentence them to hell?”
The question is usually asked because someone wonders as to the ethic of such an exclusive claim of salvation.
So let’s begin with an example of an exclusive claim to salvation, Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The objection then often arises, but what about someone in a secular community or a remote island nation who has never heard of Jesus, doesn’t have missionaries or a church or a Bible to instruct them in the way of salvation, is that person eternally damned to hell?
Yes, they are “without excuse.” Why?
To understand this one must realize what the Bible says about humans, we’re fallen, sinful beings, cut off from God and incapable of any spiritual good that might please Him and therefore earn our salvation (read more here). This is why God graciously sent Jesus, to be the rescuer of all those who’d hear the Gospel message and put their trust in Him. This is the basis for an exclusive salvation. We’re sinners, God appointed a means for salvation, we must believe in Jesus in order to be saved.
But is that fair? (Another option would have been for God not to have saved anyone, we see His grace in that He choose to save some; something to think about). Yes, because people are “without excuse.” Why are people without excuse?
If I were born on a stranded desert island with no knowledge of Jesus I would be without excuse for not believing in Him for three simple reasons from Romans 1:
For these sorts of reasons Paul says that unbelievers, everywhere, are “without excuse” (Ro 1:20b); even if they’ve never heard of Jesus. Knowing of Jesus and rejecting Him only increases our culpability; not knowing of Jesus doesn’t diminish it.
One of the largest stumbling blocks to the Christian faith, or rather seeing ones need of Christ, is the belief that one is too good for the Gospel. Why would I need Christianity when I live a decent life already? Maybe Christianity is okay for really bad people but it has nothing to offer me. I’m a firefighter, not an arsonist. I’m a nurse, not a chemical weapons specialist. I’m a farmer, not a cattle rustler. With the exception of maybe a few rough edges I’m basically a good person, too good to need Christ, too good for the Gospel to be good news to me.
How do we answer those who raise this point when we seek to share the Gospel with them? How can we help them see their need of Christ (I say help because conviction of sin is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit, Jn 16:8).
We might start by freely acknowledging our own sinfulness before them, that the Gospel is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. But still, they might protest that neither of us are beggars, we’re both basically good people, and I have enough bread thank you.
Okay, Mr. Good, let’s turn to Ro 3:23, a very famous and helpful verse on this subject:
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
But I’m not a sinner they may still exclaim. I’m not an Adolph Hitler or a Genghis Khan, nor a mafia boss nor an online fraudster. HERE is the problem. Here is the key to unlocking this stumbling block and excuse. Their standard for measuring goodness is either themselves or someone else. When we, rather subjectively, set the bar it is no wonder we measure up, we set it far too low!
But that is the complete opposite of what Ro 3:23 is saying. Why have we all, without exception, sinned? Because we fall short of the glory of God. God’s glory is His character, His reality, His person. He is holy, radiant, pure and good and He calls us to be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48). He is and sets the standard and not us or others. He makes this standard known through His Divine Laws, all that He has said in His Word as to that which is right and wrong. Take the 10 Commandments (Ex 20:1–17) or even the Great Commandment (Mk 12:28–31) as but an example. Find me someone who has kept those simple lists perfectly and I’ll make pigs fly!
WOW! That changes the weights and measurements doesn’t it? That revolutionizes our perspective on goodness. No longer is my goodness adequate, no longer do I measure up, now there is a great gulf between what goodness I may have and the goodness that God requires of me—perfection. Truly, now all of my “righteous deeds are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). Even any good we may have do is unacceptable because it wasn’t done in faith to love, honour and glorify God (Heb 11:6).
Once Mr. Good has grasped this by the Spirit, Mr. Bad is ready for Good News, the Gospel, for he sees his need of it. Ro 3 continues in vv. 24–25:
And are justified [declared right] by His grace [unmerited favour] as a gift [we cannot earn it for our deeds are imperfect], through the redemption [rescue] that is in Christ Jesus [what? Read on…], whom God put forward as a propitiation [a sacrifice that turns God’s wrath toward sin into favour] by his blood [dying on the cross], to be received by faith. [that believing this and asking, in trust, for God to forgive your sins according to the merits of Christ’s blood. That is how we can be saved from our sins and gain eternal life; that is how a relationship with our Maker can be restored].
God willing, your stumbling block removed, would you see your need for Christ and call on Him, asking Him to be Saviour and Lord of your life?
Cheque made payable to:
Markdale Baptist Church
E-transfer sent to: