Preachers or Witch Doctors?

I have heard multiple people describe the landscape of Christianity in Africa. Each time I hear it described, I think of Southeast Asia.

 

The following message comes from Pastor Conrad Mbewe. He lives in Lusaka, Zambia. His blog can be found here. Notable posts found here and here.

While Charismatic teaching may in many cases open the door (or function as a gateway drug) to the Word of Faith heresy (consisting of positive confession, a different definition of the atonement, little gods doctrine, and more) we must be careful to distinguish between the two. Wayne Grudem and Robert Tilton are worlds apart.

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Kong Hee

There has been big news coming out of Singapore.

Fox News – “Kong Hee, the founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church, was found guilty Wednesday with five other church leaders of stealing 24 million Singapore dollars ($17 million) designated for building and investment-related purposes through sham bond investments. The State Court also found that they used another 25 million dollars ($18 million) to hide the first embezzlement from auditors.” Full article HERE.

More information here & here.

Kong Hee, who preaches that Jesus was rich and we should be also, has funneled $35 million of designated funds into his wife’s music career and has been found guilty of seeking to cover up his actions.

I’m so thankful he was found guilty. The more these kind of things happen, the harder it is to share the gospel with people because they’ll use them as excuses for their unbelief.

Christians in Singapore are reacting. Some are saddened. But others are thankful because now the gospel can shine brighter than before. I just heard this sermon from a pastor in Singapore pointing the people of God to the gospel after the Kong Hee trial. Have a listen. It is so pastoral and edifying.

From Gospel Light Christian Church, Dr. Paul Choo: The Prosperity Gospel

“He is a God who cares for me from head to toe….I can lose my wallet. I cannot lose Him.”

-Dr. Paul Choo

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Certainty and Donuts

There is much I do not know. There are, however, some things that I am certain of. My knowledge claim is that the God who is all-powerful has revealed some things to us in such a way that we CAN know them to be true – not exhaustively, but truly. And our post-modern culture hates that.

Many, thinking that what they say is humble, will say, “You can’t be certain!” Notice the knowledge claim in that statement. It is not humility being expressed but the opposite. The knowledge claim they are making and the foundation upon which they make their claim (their unproven assumption) is that God’s word is NOT clear. That is a huge claim! These individuals cannot produce enough evidence to know that we are being too dogmatic because in their worldview, there may still be evidence that they have not yet come across leaving them with the position of certainty (we’re too dogmatic) and uncertainty (maybe we’re not too dogmatic) at the same time.

“You can’t be certain!” Are you certain of that?

So in this kind of scenario I would respond with something like, “Show me where God’s word is not clear.” At this point, when a passage of scripture is presented, there are 2 options. This individual can 1) accept my interpretation or 2) show me another interpretation and provide reasons why it is the better interpretation. What they can no longer say is that Scripture isn’t clear and that I cannot be certain.

God does not have a communication problem. When I fail to see an issue clearly, the fault lies with me and my sin, and not with God. I’m concerned that many have given up on certainty and have turned the Bible into a wax nose that can be molded any which way as if it has no real meaning.

I wish this view of knowledge would only show up in unbelieving worldviews but through the modern ecumenical movement it has definitely influenced places where God’s people gather.

Modern evangelicalism (more like evanjellyfish, but does the word “evangelical” really have any meaning in these recent years anyway?) often quotes “knowledge puffs up” in order to stifle someone’s love of learning. For understanding the meaning of 1 Corinthians 8:1 I highly recommend reading this short article.

No, seriously, read it!

Also, for In-Church discussions, most of the talk will be over the the very deep subject of contextualization and not the meaning of a passage to the specific audience which received it. The complicated part is that bridge between the meaning of Scripture to its original audience and the meaning of it that carries over into our lives through various applications.

In summary, every one believes that what they believe is true or they wouldn’t believe it. Absolute truth cannot be denied because it would be self-refuting.

Ex. “I don’t believe in absolute truth.” Is that absolutely true?

God’s word is clear. If I’m missing something then it’s not God’s fault, it’s mine. I will be the first to admit that there are some things that I know and other things which I donut.

 

* This post is very influenced by the late Greg Bahnsen as well as Richard Pratt’s book, “Every Thought Captive.”

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A Bible Study

I was at a Bible study and a topic being discussed was how we approach the Bible and what to be cautious about. Some people read the Bible and check it off like any other thing on their to-do list. Other folks will pick a verse or passage at random and read it as if it DIRECTLY applies to them without any thought as to application. This is where we should be especially careful. We should watch out for narcigeses (to borrow a term from Chris Rosebrough). It’s so easy to be narcissistic and read ourselves into the text and take a text like the beginning of Deut. 28 (which is immediately followed by curses for disobedience) for example and apply it to our lives in the wrong way. We’re in the New Covenant and not the Old. That text applies to us in so far as it found its fulfillment in Jesus, the One who was perfectly obedient and grants us His righteousness.

The authorial intent and the application are so important. A test in school concerning the subject of English Literature would have right and wrong answers. It is not for us to choose what is the right answer; the right answer exists outside of us. The same is for the meaning of Scripture. Preaching from the O.T. is not easy, we must continue to be wise and to put much thought into how such texts apply to us today.

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The Sound of Silence

“You cannot articulate a positive vision of the Christian faith without also making it very clear what the Christian faith is not.” -Carl Trueman

I think the Mortification of Spin podcast has dropped the ball a few times but overall it is a good podcast. Their recent episode “The Sound of Silence” was very thought-provoking. Do we have clearly defined boundaries as Christian ministers? Are we giving clear answers? Have we practically become modern liberals due to our silence and the things we are NOT saying?

If you hear very little about substitutionary atonement, justification, and judgment then you should be alarmed. Your spidey senses should be going off. If those things are not spoken of then everything else being said, though it may be correct, will not be understood in the proper light.

Ambiguity in the church is not a good thing. Purposeful ambiguity is not cool, it’s sinful. The church is a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Tim. 3:15

 

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Church of Tares

I’ve heard about the Church of Tares documentary for a long time and I finally watched it. If you’ve read or taught from the Purpose Driven Life, you may find it interesting. If you want to understand why Rick Warren, Steven Furtick, Mark Driscoll, Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels and others do “church” the way they do, then you would really benefit from watching this. It is not a perfect film, but it’s very informative.

We need pastors and not vision-casting leaders. Ministries fueled by the self-esteem/felt-needs/personal-fullfillment movement do a great job at feeding goats and starving sheep. The film not only touches on the seeker movement but also Chris-lam (future post) and the modern ecumenical movement (another future post topic).

Apart from coming to a monergistic view of salvation 8 years ago, the teaching that brought the greatest change in the spiritual lives of my wife and I has been our understanding of the church. How an individual views the church will be seen in many areas of their life. I hope to blog on this topic at some point later this year. Here is a short clip of Paul Washer preaching. My style is very different from his but the message is the same. The contrast between Paul Washer and the seeker guys couldn’t be any larger. It is a foundational issue. Monergism or synergism. Where you stand on this will determine so much of your life and your ministry.

Monergism = God’s grace (a gift given to His people) is sufficient to save.

Synergism = Grace is dependent upon man’s choice in order for it to be effective.

“Synergism is the hallmark of man’s religions: monergism the mark of the biblical gospel.”

-James White, The Potter’s Freedom

 

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Miss Behaving

The enemy’s attack upon the people of God is seen in many areas. One particular battle in our current time is over the issue of gender roles. Men who are called to function as a priest, prophet, provider, and protector in their family are tempted to be passive. This is seen worldwide as women and children fill the majority of Christian churches giving the impression to unbelievers that Christianity is a religion for women alone. Women who are called to be submissive to their husbands are tempted to wear the pants in the family and usurp their husband’s authority. This is a result of the Fall that happened in the garden. See Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18,19; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Titus 2:5; 1 Corinthians 11:3

The rejection of God’s order is seen in women preaching in God’s churches on the Lord’s Day.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” 1 Corinthians 14:33-35

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” 1 Timothy 2:11-14

If a woman is preaching when God’s people are gathered together on the Lord’s Day then she is misbehaving. 1 Timothy 3:15 (coming right after 1 Tim. 2, see how it all fits together?)

Special note: There may be a time when the only one present in a church who knows God’s word or who knows how to read is a woman. There are churches in the hills around me that have no pastor. In the church here half the people cannot read. If qualified male leadership is lacking, like in these very particular cases, I feel God’s Word should go forth! But even in this scenario a woman is not an elder. She would be functioning as a teacher until God provided qualified leadership for that church, and it may take a long time! This is the desired end (plural-elder-congregationalism) and I wouldn’t see it as incompatible with Scripture for this to take place if there was no other way for God’s word to go forth. In such an instance, a godly woman would never take on the title of “elder”.

If a woman wants to be called a pastor then she is asking others to lie. It is like Bruce Jenner wanting to be called Caitlyn. I can’t call him that. It would be a violation of the 9th commandment.

A synonym for pastor in the NT is overseer, shepherd and elder. All of these words refer to the same office. Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Timothy 3:2; Ephesians 4:11

There is no distinction between pastors and elders. Elders are to shepherd/pastor the church. Elders must be able to teach. Pastor-teachers in Ephesians 4:11 are simply elders. *

We must be aware that in many churches the terms “pastor” and “elder” are not synonymous. We should be gentle with individuals that believe they are different positions and point them to the overwhelming support in Scripture to show that it is the same office. Someone may think that the term “pastor” just means a leader in some way and that would not be the same violation of Scripture as holding to female eldership. That individual would just be in need of a more Biblical term. It is better to stick with Biblical terminology.

One of the qualifications for being an elder/pastor is that one be a man.

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you-if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife…” Titus 1:5-7

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife…” 1 Timothy 3:2

If a woman is the husband of one wife…then that is a whole other blog post. Men and women are made differently. It is not the make-up on the outside that causes one to be a woman, but who she is inside. It would be insulting to women if I claimed I can do everything they can. I can’t. And neither can women do everything I can. A woman speaking at a conference is great. A woman teaching a Bible study or a Sunday school class may be just fine. But a woman preaching on the Lord’s Day in a church service is clearly forbidden all throughout Scripture.

Feel welcome to send an email if you’d like any clarification on anything I’ve said. matt@beardedberean.com

 

*Much of this is drawn from Sam Waldron’s exposition of the 1689 LBC

 

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The Cross is Central pt 3

If you want someone to know the love of God then you need to point them to the cross because that is where God’s love is received. God’s special love for His people is known no where else. Look at how the New Testament speaks of the love of God.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

The NT writers when speaking of the love of God, pointed people to the cross of our Lord. You can’t separate God’s love from the cross.

One thing that all false religions have in common is that they take away from the cross of Christ. In their systems, the cross is not enough to save. In their systems, Christ continued His sacrifice after the cross (like in Hell), or Christ continues to be sacrificed to this very day through the “Sacrifice of the Mass”, or the work of Christ isn’t enough to save and we must add our own human works to the equation.

What does Scripture say of the cross?

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” Ephesians 2:14-16

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:19,20

The cross is where the sacrifice was made and from which peace comes. Christ continues His work as our High Priest through His intercession but the act of offering sacrifice is complete.

Sin has been dealt with.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Colossians 2:13-15

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

The first (and so far the only time) I’ve been called a Pharisee was when someone asked me what I thought about the ministry of Joyce Meyer. I answered, “I am no expert on her ministry but she has taught two things in the past that are not Scriptural and I’m unsure as to whether or not she still believes and teaches those things today.” Sadly, that response led to a discussion that resulted in many accusations. One of those two teachings that I referenced are mentioned in the video below concerning the cross. Please watch it.

“It is finished” – Jesus    (spoken from the cross, John 19:30)

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The Cross is Central pt 2

I’ve noticed a few disturbing trends among many Christian youth in recent years. One of these is the way in which they think we receive the Holy Spirit. Phrases include “fire tunnels”, “catching the fire”, and “the anointing”. According to God’s Word, all Christians have the anointing. 1 John 2:20, 21 & 1 John 2:26-27. The anointing is already the Christian’s possession. If a popular pastor is speaking somewhere near you, then you don’t have to go there to “catch” anything. If you’re a Christian, you already have it.

Another trend I see is a fascination with healings and miracles. First, we should be aware of false signs and wonders (Matthew 7:22-23; Revelation 13:14, 16:14). Just because something that seems like a miracle takes place, it doesn’t follow that God is the one behind it. Secondly, the book of Acts, though in some ways prescriptive, is primarily descriptive of what was taking place at that time. Is Jesus a model for ministry or a matchless Messiah? If He is a model for ministry, then we are all failing miserably. If God does something extraordinary and mercifully heals somebody today, it is not because someone has a “healing gift” (as seen in Acts and 1 Corinthians in the decade of AD 54-64ish) but rather that God in His mercy is answering the prayers of His people. When God gives you a spiritual gift, you are a steward of that gift. You can turn it on and off like a light switch. If someone has a healing gift and it is in their power to heal, then shame on them for not clearing out all the children’s hospitals. The power is in God, not in us. Faith has an object! Don’t put faith in your faith. Put your faith in God. Focus on Him. Otherwise, you’ll be looking to yourself and that never ends well.

Another thing among the youth (the one I notice the most) is the lingo being used. Phrases include “lives of passion”, “encountering the love of God”, “in the presence”, and “being set ablaze and burning for Him”. Where is the Christian message in this? Even in hearing several “testimonies” of Christian youth, the gospel is woefully absent. Where is the message of Jesus, and Him crucified? Where is the new heart with new desires – the new birth? What about being set free from slavery to sin and now being free to live for God? It could be that my wife and I are with a new set of people than we were years ago (because we moved across the world), but these observations could also be coming from a change in the youth culture at large.

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The Cross is Central pt 1

Jesus came to die. It was His mission. The crucifixion of Jesus is the focus of the 4 Gospels.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

The main goal of the Lord Jesus was the laying down of His life. So why is there so little proclamation of the cross?

A while back, my wife and I went through the unnerving experience of evaluating some ministries that we had followed (some closer than others) and found to our astonishment little or even NO preaching of the cross. This evaluation experiment of ours led to even further discoveries later on. All we really had to do was open our Bibles all along.

The Apostle Paul’s ambition was to preach the gospel. His goal was particularly to preach the gospel where Christ had not been proclaimed before. His message was simple.

“but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:23,24

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you….that Christ died for our sins” 1 Corinthians 15:1-3

If this is the message you hear, thank your pastor for preaching God’s Word and for his faithfulness. If you don’t hear the message of Christ crucified then you should look for a Bible teaching church. I have listed many church directories here.

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Walking on Water

Are you crossing your Red Sea? Are you in your lion’s den? Are you facing your Goliath or have you found yourself in a fiery furnace? Are you like Peter, walking on water as you look to Jesus? Are you finding yourself in a wilderness moment or sweating drops of blood?

The only answer to these questions is “No.” You’re not and you haven’t.

I ask my daughter every day, “Is the Bible about you?” and she responds, “No, it’s about Jesus.” It is so easy to be narcissistic and read ourselves into the Bible. The sobering reality is that doing so is engaging in eisegesis. It is ignoring the authorial intent. It is breaking the three rules of hermeneutics – context, context, and context.

If we read ourselves into Scripture, then we’ll understand the text to say something it was never meant to convey. You are not David and your problems are not Goliath. The reason Jesus calmed the storm was to prove He was God. What does it look like when the eternal, only unique, Son of God takes on human flesh? = The revelation of Jesus as seen in the four Gospels. The authorial intent of that passage had nothing to do with Jesus calming the storms in our lives.

Our goal in reading and preaching the Bible is to exegete the text. We are to draw out its intended meaning. Only then can we rightly apply it both to ourselves and to our hearers.

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