Why Arminianism Won’t Preach (and Calvinism Won’t Sell)

https://danielbwallace.com/2016/09/11/why-arminianism-wont-preach-and-calvinism-wont-sell/

7 Ways to Deal with Doubt

~ Michael Patton

Do you ever struggle with doubt? You do if you’re honest.

Doubt affects the lives of many believers. The reality is that no one’s faith is ever perfect in this life. That includes you. And if your faith is not perfect, then it can grow and become stronger today than it was yesterday.

I like to think of doubt as the gap between our current faith and perfect faith. If this is the case, we all doubt.

Not only this, but there is nothing Christians cannot doubt. Sometimes we doubt our salvation; other times we doubt God’s love. Many times we will even doubt the reliability of Scripture, the existence of God, or the identity of Christ. Even John the Baptist, whom Christ called the greatest man ever born (Matt. 11:11), once expressed doubt about the very identity of Christ (Matt. 11:3).

Here are seven principles to consider when dealing with doubt.

The rest is at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/7-ways-to-deal-with-doubt

“Where Two or Three Are Gathered” . . . and Other Bad Interpretations

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2012/08/where-two-or-three-are-gathered-and-other-bad-interpretations/

Questions I Hope No One Will Ask: Why Aren’t Christians Better People?

by Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen blog

“The Christian life is a life of starting over every day.” -Unknown

I remember hearing the story about the Christian farmer who acquired two new cows. He took his wife out to show her the new acquisitions. He told her, “Yep, fine looking cows aren’t they? But don’t get too attached toboth of them. One is for us and one is for the Lord.” The farmer’s wife replied, “Which one is the Lord’s?” “Don’t know yet,” he said. “No need to decide now.” After a few months, the farmer came into the kitchen where his wife was. He was downcast. “What’s the matter,” she asked. “It’s the cows. One of them took ill last night. I am sad to say, but she died. There was nothing I could do.” “Oh dear,” the wife replied. “Which one was it? The Lord’s or ours?” “It was the Lord’s,” the farmer quickly came back. “But I thought you had not decided which was the Lord’s.” “Nope,” he responded. “It was the Lord’s. The Lord’s cow died.”

While this is a great illustration when it comes to Christian stewardship, especially of our finances, it broadly applies to how so many of us Christians treat the things of the Lord.

I will get back to the Lord’s cow in a moment.

I am so often convicted by my inability to live up to my calling and representation of Jesus Christ. I am quite hyper-critical, especially of myself. Idle time for me breeds much self-condemnation, remorse, and feelings of insufficiency. I have to discipline myself quite a bit here. I cry out to the Lord “Why aren’t I a better person?” The issues are plenty. While I don’t have any acute self-destructive addictions that would make most people’s top ten list, I am addicted to sin nonetheless. I am often mean, irritable, and selfish. Ask my wife. She will be happy to fill in the details. In short, I don’t have a stable personality in many ways. I never know who is going to wake up. I can manipulate truth with the best of them. Sometimes I justify my selfishness do to the bitterness that life often rewards. The easiest thing to ease my conscience is to compare myself to other Christians around me. I pick out the worst of them and say to myself, “At least I am not that bad.”

However, the guilt is intensified when I begin to look to the outside world and see many people who don’t even love the Lord who act better than I do. They seem to be more giving, have better marriages, and less self-conscious. It is true that I cannot see deep into their lives, but, nevertheless, from my perspective, many of them seem to be doing better on the Christian score card than me. In short, it seems that people, non-Christians andChristians, are letting the Lord’s cow die.

Not only this, but we see moral failure all over the place by Christian leaders. Those who are supposed to be leading the way fall in the ditches of depravity themselves. From child molestation to secret homosexual encounters, Christianity is at no loss for scandal. Then there are the great historical black-eyes from forced conversion (inquisition) to wars being lead by the church (the crusades). I don’t want to blow this out of proportion or be unfair here, knowing that fallen leaders will always get more press, but the fact is that Christians often don’t fair much better than non-Christians.

Sure, there are many like me who think in cosmic scales. I have imagined being martyred for my faith. No matter how I imagine it, I always see myself making that ultimate sacrifice. As well, I think to myself that if I had a million dollars, I would give most of it away. And you know what? I think I would. However, these cosmic cows so often give way to the day to day cows. All of them are dying. All of them are the Lord’s. It is not the cosmic sacrifices that are hard, it is the widows mites. It’s not the big things that we resign that are hard, it is the little things. Its not the theoretical cows that are sick, it is the actual ones.

The more I talk to other Christians, the more I find this real struggle present. The things we want to do—the things we know we ought to do—don’t get done much. And the thing that frustrates them is the same thing that frustrates me: we all want to be better people. We all want to sacrifice our cows. But for most of us, we have to pick ourselves up off the ground anew every day. The Christian life, for so many of us, is a life of perpetual new beginnings. It is starting over again every day due to the failures of the previous day.

Why doesn’t the Lord just change us? Why does he allow so much character failure from his children? Our prayers are sincere. But, when we back up and get a good look at things, it does not seem like Christians are much better people.

Why aren’t Christians better people?

Wrong answers:

Wrong answer #1: Christians are always better people. In fact, once you become a true Christian you should expect to reach complete and total perfection. If you are struggling too much, then you are probably not saved.

This is an answer that has been given by many Christians throughout the years. The formal name for this is “Christian perfectionism” or “complete sanctification.” The idea is that Christians should expect to acquire a perfected life. Sin can be completely eradicated on earth. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Christian should expect to conquer their sin nature.

However, this is not the message we get from Scripture by any means. Let me explain.

Samson

I love the story of Samson in the book of Judges 13-16. Thank God it was not passed over. If ever there was a guy who did not fit the qualifications on anyone’s top ten list of what it means to have faith in God, it was Samson. This guy was about as selfish and self-centered as they come. From the moment he comes on the scene, we see him seeking an unlawful marriage and, like a child, throwing a tantrum to his parents (Judges 14:1-4). Next we see him arrogantly telling riddles and making hasty deals. When those challenged with the riddle solved it, he lost his temper and went and killed thirty men and took their clothes to fulfill his obligation. All of this time, we are told that the Lord was using him in spite of his arrogance (Judges 14:19). His whole ministry was one of personal selfish revenge. Yet through all of this, he was a chosen vessel of God; he was one who was called a man of faith in Hebrews 11:32. Why wasn’t he a better person?

Lot

Poor Lot. He is forever labeled as one of the wayward Christians. Lot was the nephew of Abraham who had an eye for the pleasures of the world. He lived among the depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah as if he were one of them. He hung out at the bars and stood by in passive approval of the homosexual culture in which he chose to live. Yet, Peter calls  him a man of faith designating him with the title “righteous” (2 Pet. 2:7). It is only through Peter that we see that he was “distressed” living among the debauchery. Yet, he curiously did not leave. Why wasn’t he a better person?

Paul

Romans 7 is an epic passage of Scripture for those of us who are distressed about our own sinfulness. Let’s let Paul speak for himself:

Romans 7:14-20
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

This is an epic passage of Scripture because it presents us with the epic battle that defines so many of our lives. Those things we want to do, we don’t do. Those things we don’t want to do, we do. Why doesn’t God instantaneously make us better Christians? Why is it that the Lord’s cow is consistently the one who is sick and in need of attention?

Time will fail me if I speak of the failures of Moses, Jephthah, Abraham, Jacob, David, and the Apostle Peter. It’s hard to get more clear than 1 John 1:8: “If we claim to have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” The Bible seems clear. Christians, while here on the earth, will struggle with sin.

Wrong answer #2: Christians should not expect any victories or change. We will be controlled by our old nature until the resurrection.

An equally wrong position to take is to believe that we should not expect any victories over sin. Christians don’t wave the white flag and give in to our sin nature. While we may lose battles and limp with the wounds of our battle scars, we are in the fight. The Bible tells us that we have died to sin. It no longer is our master. Though we may give into our depravity more than we desire, we are being changed. How do we know?

First, we must must not lose perspective of the most significant change that has already occurred in our lives: we have turned to God for forgiveness. That is the greatest victory that we can experience. We have waved a white flag indeed. This flag surrendered our own self-righteousness to God. We yielded in subjection to God’s words: “All your righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). We have been introduced to the creator of all things and we have bowed our knee to Jesus Christ. From God’s perspective, we are clean. From God’s perspective the change from who we were to who we are could not be greater.

Second, Paul says that we are not under obligation to obey our sinful lusts (Rom. 8:12). Before, we were slaves to sin. Now, we are slaves to God. While it may not feel like it sometimes, the reality is that sin is not our master. Before, we had no choice but to let the Lord’s cow die. Now, we have the option that was not present before. We can let it live and recognize that it is more expedient to do so.

Third, though the change is often very slow, God is at work in us. “I am confident of this very thing: he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:6). The very fact that Christians cannot live comfortably in sin for too long is evidence of the work of God in us. The very fact that we daily come before the Lord with defeated faces is evidence of the power of the Spirit. The very fact that we are more and more inclined to open our hand to grace is due to our trust in Christ.

Forth, broadly speaking, I do think we find that Christians fair better than we are often led to believe. Christians are not perfect, but studies have shown that Christians are more benevolent than other people groups. They are more likely to give to the poor, remain faithful to their spouse, and obey the law (see Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…And Other Lies You Have Been Told, Bradley Wright). In fact, when studies are shown with regard not merely to Christians but Christians who are committed to their faith (i.e. regularly attend church, pray daily, have more understanding of what it means to be a Christian), you will find that Christians fair much better. But this is a given seeing as how it is commitment to the faith that we are wrestling with!

My answer

First and foremost, I don’t give in to the assumption of the question. I think that Christians are better people (or, at least, better than they were). By the grace of God, Christians have relinquished their cosmic rebellion toward their creator. They have turned to him in repentance for salvation. This is indeed an incredible thing that is only possible by the grace of God. To be in rebellion toward God is the worst possible act that we can do.

As well, while Christians do live dichotomized lives to some degree, this is something that the Bible says will happen. It is exemplified by the heroes of the faith. It is only remedied by the resurrection of the Body.

I love what Ray Stedman says in his book Authentic Christianity in a section entitled “The Battle Already Won”:

“Since we can live only in one area of relationships of our life at any given moment, it is evident that we can be in a Spirit-controlled area one moment and in a flesh-dominated area the next. This is why we can be a great person to live with one minute (delightful, because we are in the Spirit) and then a moment later some old habit of the flesh reasserts itself and we are right back in our old covenant behavior—harsh, nasty, or cruel. When we become aware of those feelings within, we know we will lose our Christian reputation if we are allowed to show, so we snatch an evangelical veil and hide the fading glory.

But how encouraging to know that the Spirit will never give up the battle! He seeks in a thousand ways to invade each separate relationship of the soul, and gradually He is doing so—sometimes faster, as we yield to him; sometimes very slowly, as we resist and cling to our veils. The more we work and live with the face of Jesus clearly in view, the more quickly we find each area of our life being changed into His likeness.” (102-103)

Why aren’t Christians better people? I think the better question is: Why doesn’t the Lord just instantly change and perfect us when we turn to him? Why is it such a battle? That is a question that I don’t have the answer to. But I do know that the Bible tells us up, down, and sideways that this is the way it will be until the final enemy is defeated, death (1 Cor. 15:26). We are to neither have defeatist attitudes, nor attitudes of judgmental triumphalism. One day the Lord’s cow will never get sick or die.

 

Ten Reasons Good Christians Go Bad

Valuable blog from Credo House by – 53 Comments

One of the most discouraging (and blindsiding) things in life is to follow the Lord for some time, feel like you’re on the right track, be involved in the His work, and feel the definite guidance of the Holy Spirit…only to find yourself, as time passes, becoming a worse Christian. Sometimes we feel like we are going through sanctification in reverse. Our latter self seems more depraved and dispassionate than when we first picked up the Cross. Do you feel that way? Do you feel like you are a worse Christian now than you used to be?Why do good Christians often go bad?

I write this post out of experience. So often I feel as if I am going backwards. So many times I have awoken, realizing I have less hope, faith, and love than I did the day before. It scares me. I know that “he who began a good work in me will perfect it” (Phil. 1:6), but why aren’t I being perfected? When I look back on my last twenty years as a believer, I don’t always see a progressive growth from worse to better, but a decline in the virtues that God is supposed to be developing within me. I remember John Piper once said, “When do I doubt God?  Not in tragedy, but when I see the slowness of my sanctification.” Not only is our sanctification often slow, but it sometimes goes the opposite direction.

Here is a list of ten issues that cause good Christians to go bad that are less obvious than the blatant sins we often blame for such a state.

1. Dried-up Passion

When we first begin to follow the Lord, life is new and exciting. We are going to do great things for the Lord. We can’t wait to see what is around the corner. Our passions are high and our commitment is unwavering. However, at some point down the road we find ourselves tiring and slowly replacing this passion for what we believe to be the new “reality.” The answers that we had at the beginning are not so simple. God’s hand is heavy and his movements at a crawl. We started the race sprinting, but now we are taking break after break – and we are not that far down the track! Our passion dries up and we begin to consider whether we need to run this race at all. We shuffle along, hands in our pockets, kicking up dust as we go.

Christ tells us that we can lose our first love: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place– unless you repent.” (Rev 2:4-5)

The rest is at: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/06/ten-reasons-why-good-christians-go-bad/

The Five Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith

from reclaiming the mind – Many Comments

As I do the math, there are five great mysteries in theology:

1. Creation out of nothing (ex nihilo): How did God create being out of non-being? Being transcendent in relation to the universe (above all time, space, and matter), the reason for God’s being is necessary (hence why we often call him the “necessary being”), so his existence does not require a cause-and-effect answer. Yet where did he get the “stuff” to create all that there is? It could not have come from himself, as that would place him in our universe of time, space, and matter. Then we would just be looking for the really real God. The same is true if the “stuff” was outside himself. All that there is must have come from nothing as a rational and philosophical necessity. All other options are formally absurd. While creation out of nothing is not formally absurd, it is a great mystery or paradox.

Read the rest at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2012/08/the-five-great-mysteries-in-the-christian-faith/

5 Ways to be a better atheist

 Comments – Surprise, surprise.

Modern atheism is suffering a great deal. This is due to the growth of a new, evangelical type of atheism. Many have labeled its adherents the “New Atheists”. They’re new only in the sense of mission, drive, purpose, and appeal. There’s nothing new in their arguments. Nothing has been discovered that should increase their enthusiasm.

Read more at: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2014/08/5-ways-be-a-better-atheist/

Heretics — Why I love (some) of them

Very interesting blog Comments  Comments

I Love (Some) HereticsI like rebels. Let me rephrase… I like some rebels. They go against the grain, refusing to be bound by tradition. In movies, they’re the heroes. They’re the ones who don’t “fit the mold”. They’re the ones musicians write songs about.
But they gain our respect and confidence anyway. They are the heretics.

What Is Heresy?

Being labeled a heretic, in any context, isn’t considered a good thing. A heresy is a departure from an essential bedrock doctrine; for example, denying the deity of Christ or His bodily resurrection. And while heretics claim to be part of the Christian tradition they’re not true converts. Converts believe the essentials. Heretics don’t.

What Is Heterodoxy?

Heterodoxy is the milder cousin of heresy. It’s a departure from, or denial of, a non-essentialdoctrine; for example, denial of the canonical status of Second Peter. While this departs from traditional Christian belief, it is not something that would cause Christianity to fall apart. When most people use the word heresy or heretic, they actually mean heterodoxy. That’s how I’m using it in this article.

Essentialism is the difference between heresy and heterodoxy.

I Want To Be A Little Heretical

Part of me wants to be just a little heretical. But I’m not. I’m not even close to being a heretic. I’m a traditional evangelical. I toe the line on every issue. If a heretic is double-chocolate rocky road cookie dough ice cream, I’m a vanilla shake. I believe the basic evangelical confessions of faith:

  • The Trinity
  • The inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible
  • The sixty-six book canon
  • A future second coming
  • That Moses wrote the Pentateuch

I don’t depart much from my tradition. Yet, I almost wish I could. I wish there was some minor doctrine that caused me to be a bit rebellious. Why? Because rebels often get more credthan traditionalists.

Rebels often get more “cred” than traditionalists.

People seem to find it easier to believe someone’s being intellectually honest when they subscribe to some minor heresy (or heterodoxy). Sometimes I even feel this way. After all, it’s not hard to go along with the crowd, but it takes “guts” to be a heretic.

Exhibit #1 – Greg Boyd

I absolutely love Greg Boyd. His writings really encourage me. His talk about doubt that I listened to the other day made him seem real. However, Boyd is an open theist. An open theist doesn’t believe that God knows the future or is timeless. Boyd is wrong.

His belief isn’t something that destroys the essence of Christianity. It does, however, depart from important Christian doctrine. Because he’s had to fight for it, Boyd’s heterodoxy makes his defense of the faith stronger.

Boyd’s heresy is barely a stanza. The gospel is his chorus.

Please don’t think I want anyone to be an open theist. I don’t. But there’s part of me that’s glad that Boyd is.

Boyd rarely talks about open theism. The central elements of the gospel form the core of his teaching. To borrow a musical metaphor, Christ crucified is Boyd’s chorus. Open theism is merely a stanza.

Exhibit #2 – C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis, one of our top ten theologians, had some pretty controversial beliefs:

I love and trust C.S. Lewis. I’m sad that he departed from traditional Christianity. At the same time, I’m glad for his “heretical rebellion”. It makes his testimony more trustworthy.

If Lewis can believe the gospel despite his heterodoxy, how much more should we, who are orthodox, be settled in our faith?

Continue at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2014/07/heretics-why-i-love-some-of-them/

When We Misinterpret God

Powerful blog  Comment on his page

Sad Girl - When We Misinterpret GodThere have been times, too numerous to count, when I went one way, suspecting the Lord was heading in the same direction, only to find out the heart-breaking reality that God was going a different direction.

People seek to confirm their worldview (belief system) in their experiences. Christians are no different. I am no different. I’m constantly looking for events, I call them “God-sightings”, that evidence what I already believe. We can become so reliant on such events that the events themselves become the anchor for our faith. This is understandable, but very dangerous.

C.S. Lewis Misinterpreted God

I am haunted by the words of C.S. Lewis in his A Grief Observed, (loosely quoted):

It is not as though I have quit believing in God, it is that I have come to the point where I say, “So God, this is who You really are.”

In 1956, at the age of 58, Lewis married Joy Gresham. At first, it was a benevolent legal marriage due to Gresham’s need for British citizenship. However, they eventually fell in love.

After finding out that Gresham had contracted terminal bone cancer, they sought a Christian marriage. In prayerful hope they lived together as husband and wife. The cancer went into remission and they praised God for the unexpected. God had done something wonderful, an anchor in their experience. It was a reason to shout praises to God for His lovingkindness.

Sadly, the remission was short lived. The cancer took her life just three years after the wedding ceremony conducted at Joy’s hospital bedside. One year later Lewis writes, A Grief Observed. The praise he gave God turned into confused bitterness for a time. Even C.S. Lewis, one of the top ten theologians of all time, misinterpreted God.

I Misinterpreted God

I often reflect on the journey of my sister’s death. Like C.S. and Joy Lewis, we thought we’d received a “message” from God, but we were wrong.

To make a long story short, my sister was suicidal for about two years.

Continue reading: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2014/07/when-we-misinterpret-god/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ParchmentAndPen+%28Parchment+and+Pen%29

“you can’t use the Bible to prove the Bible” . . . and other stupid statments

from Credo House  Comments

I have heard this statement many times. It can come from Christians or non-Christians, but mainly I hear it from unbelievers this idea that the Bible is inadmissible as evidence for itself. If I were trying to use the Bible to prove the validity of the Bible (from the perspective of many outsiders), this is circular reasoning. This statement is not only wrong, but completely misunderstands its own argument; ironically, it makes the exact circular assumptions that it accuses believers of.

More at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/09/you-cant-use-the-bible-to-prove-the-bible-and-other-stupid-statements/