At What Cost?

AT WHAT COST_

I’ve been doing my best today to stay quiet and just can’t. We have a saying in our writer’s group: Bleed On the Blog. What we mean is that the best writing sometimes comes when we expose our soul for all to see. We pull back the curtain and just say what we’ve been thinking, throwing the consequences to the wind.

I rise today to take up the article D.C. McAllister wrote, Eric Metaxsas defended, and Roy Moore and President Trump inspired. The premise is simple: We’re all fallen and sinners. But just because someone is a sinner doesn’t mean that God doesn’t use us for His means and therefore, we are justified to vote for a man accused of sexual assault of then young girls. In fact McAllister seems to uses a perverted system of Two Kingdoms to justify such a view. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the theonomic nerds come out of their IPA induced hibernation to hold her up as an example of why Two Kingdoms is a dangerous teaching.

But I digress.

Let’s start with this “sacred” and “secular” confusion. McAllister writes “Unfortunately, many social conservatives, and Christians in particular, treat secular leaders as if they’re spiritual leaders, as if any stain on their character, fault from their distant past, or even theological apostasy disqualifies them from political leadership. They seem to fear that the personal sinfulness of a man will bring about the ruin of an entire party or nation…By erecting this standard, these critics come dangerously close to confusing the secular and the sacred, the city of man and the city of God.”

Let’s start by pointing out the obvious: No. As a Christian, I’m by no means asking for perfection. I know I’ll never get it. There will always be something about a candidate that I don’t like, be that moral, ideological, or theological. The only candidate I know I will 100% agree with is me. However, and I can’t stress this enough, sexual assault (especially with a minor) is the deal breaker. I’m not asking for perfect, I’m asking for the candidate to not be a sexual deviant. I’m not asking for theological purity. I’ll vote with those who hold to different interpretations. I’m asking for them to not think it’s acceptable to assault someone. That a pretty low bar.

But on the nature of Two Kingdoms, let’s address this as well. Yes I hold that there is both the City of God and City of Man, both in which Christ is King, and rules and overrules in those Cities differently. But they are not so divorced that we give a pass to one of the most heinous of sins. They are not so separated that the City of God cannot speak to the City of Man and say, “No this is the standard”. This is not utopia seeking. This is maintaining our witness.

“Political leaders, however, are not spiritual leaders with the same responsibilities, burdens, and covenantal obligations of leaders within Scripture. This doesn’t mean we can willy-nilly vote for immoral men” I agree. The Church is not the State, and the standards are different. However, what McAllister is justifying in this article isn’t to just vote willy-nilly. It’s to excuse sexual assault. She is asking us to vote for immoral men. This does not mean that we only have Christian doctors, and only do business with Christians. What it does mean, is that when choosing our leaders, morality matters.

Ultimately, what McAllister is asking for us to do, and Metaxas is defending is we sellout our witness for power. It’s the exchange of Gospel for the red stew of politics. It is the Temptation all over again, “If we surrender our vote, we will have all the kingdoms of the world.” But this City of Man is passing away. We are not Esau. If we give up our victorious message for “one more Senate seat” we will lose what is most dear.

I refuse to sit quietly by as the Moral (can we still call them this?) Majority Evangelical baptizes wicked individuals for more power. At what cost? Where do we then draw the line? Growing up, I was told to never give up the Gospel. I was taught to stand firm. That we are more faithful to God than we are to man. That’s counter to what McAllister is saying. She may say, “Am I concerned when I hear people saying morality doesn’t matter at all, as if we could put a complete miscreant in office and not care?.. Character matters!” but that is exactly what she is saying. “Character matters” when “they” on the other side of the aisle refuse to show it. But when a Senate seat or Oval Office is up for grabs, it’s time to not let moral failure be our guide.

So yes D.C. a sinner can still serve faithfully. However, the Church is called to reject these people, call them to repentance. Not baptize them and excuse their sins. It’s not worth it.

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I Still Need the Sacraments

Sacraments

Growing up, I dreaded the first Sunday of each quarter. Every time during the evening service we would have Lord’s Supper after the sermon. It was clockwork, without fail. I dreaded these services because they seemed to always have the same emphasis: if there is any sin in your life, you need to repent or not take the cracker and juice this time. Like a self barring of the table. Every instance I took communion, but if I’m honest; every time I just seemed to be reminded that I’m a sinner. It was a parade of guilt and pleading.

Flash forward to today. I am not looking forward to work this week  I like my job, but the weekend has rushed by far too fast. It’s been like that for years. Everything moves faster as I’m starting to get older. There are demands for me to always have my best foot forward. Everything must be regulated and perfect. You must always think that I’m strong and never know I’m a sinner. But every Sunday, for just a brief few minutes I can stop and openly, publicly confess that I’m not strong. That at the end of the day I am weak. When it comes down to it I am sloppy and sinful. Through the Sacraments, you and I are invited to publicly proclaim that we do not have it all together. These visible signs and seals of the Gospel aren’t dead rituals that we perform. They are not there for those who think they are worthy. Christ does not call His people to clean themselves up before they come to the font or the table. But rather, He invites us, saying “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink”. We still need the sacraments.

Because We Are Sinners…and Saints

Week after week I find myself still sinning. I still speak too harshly to my wife. I still hate that guy who cut me off in traffic. I still lie about if I’m angry. I still get angry about things that don’t matter. I still fight my wandering eye, and I still do the right thing with a bad attitude. Sanctification is progressive and slow. Laying at bed from time to time, I am faced again with the fact that I just can’t get right. I am reminded of past failures of arrogance and pride. But it is vitally important to remember the sacraments. We have every grace to look back to our baptism in faith and see once more that God has promised us: I will be your God. I will wash you. I will make you clean. “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.” (1 Cor 6:11). God promises us through baptism that we are, by faith, truly forgiven.

That promise is extended again to us in the Lord’s Supper. In this sacrament he nourishes with His body and His blood. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life…Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6) If we are Christ’s, He calls us to come to the table and feast. Not because we are perfect or have it all together, but because we don’t. Not because we are worthy, but because He is gracious. Not because we are in some way righteous, but because He has given us His righteousness.

By coming to Communion we are reminded that by faith in Christ we are already clean, already promised to make it all the way. When Christ says that through his flesh and blood we “abide” he seems to indicate that this sacrament is beneficial for our sanctification. By that, I mean that Communion is a God ordained means whereby He shows us repeatedly His Gospel promises. Through Baptism and Communion, we are pointed to Christ through them, and thus, looking to Him by faith, are brought into a more perfect relationship with Him. We still need the sacraments because God has given them for us to abide in Him.

 

So fear not, dear Christian, that you do not belong at the font or table. Run to them. Bring your children to them, let them see what’s going on. Do not let your failures in the Christian walk cause you to hesitate or doubt your ability to come. This water is for you and your children. This table is for you to sustain you by faith. Come to the Sacraments, not as a dead ritual that just signals that the service is coming to a close. But come to it as a God given necessity for the Christian life.

Christocrat

Christocrat

“How can you vote for a Democrat?”

I’ve heard it for years now.  It’s this mixture of shock and disgust. As if personhood rises and falls on who I put down on my ballot. As if one party has a direct line to God’s throne room and is covered in the Shakinah Glory. But God doesn’t save people and then call them to a particular political party. Unless “final salivation is faith, works, and being Republican” By no means are my issues with ALL the people of the GOP. Some are Common sense and we just have different ideas of how to help people. I want to be clear I’m not blasting one side. I’m explaining where I’m at and how I got there. So today, let me tell you the scariest story of them all: Why a Conservative Christian is a Political Democrat (most of the time).

Over the last 9 years, I have seen a well sized chunk of Conservatives use fear, lies, photoshop, selective use of data to ensure the charecter assasination of President Obama. My Great Aunt Betty shared a notorious photoshopped picture of President Obama’s kissing a “LGBT leader” (who wound up being UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who is happily married to a beautiful woman). But she and all of those in her age bracket were convinced it was real.

Durng the 08 election, I heard horror story after horror story about how Obama was going to close our churches (he didn’t) and take away our guns (he didn’t). And I heard it for the next 8 years. Once the 2016 elections were up and rolling, it was the same song and dance. Fear. Not leadership, hope, the call to work hard and work together. Straight fear. I can’t do that anymore. I’m not a kid anymore, I’m not going to be afraid of the Democrat boogeyman that gets dreamed up all the time.

Also, the Evangelical Right probably drove me away faster than anything. Especially, during last years elections, the use of the Church for political ends was enough to make me sick. The Church accepting a man who’s made his money through deception, prostitution, and greed  God’s “Cyrus” candidate. I don’t by the idea that Christians has no other option or that Trump was the lesser of two evils. I’m not buying that. Let’s be honest: it was the red stew for the birthright. Power for the proclamation. Justices for Jesus. They traded the White House for witness. I can’t jump on board there. I’m not scared anymore. I grew up.

By now you’re wondering how I can vote like I do when the clear teachings of Scripture call abortion and homosexuality a sin. I agree. Both are sinful and the Church should call people to repentance. But I don’t see anything coming out of the GOP either.

Heres what I mean. From 2000-2006 Republicans had all three branches of government. There were 0 attempts to rid the country of abortion. 0. None. Here we are again in the same situation. One year later, still abortions. So when are they going to do something about it? When will it become more than a talking point?

But I believe it’s equally sinful to not care for one’s neighbor. In fact half of the Law is summed up for loving one’s neighbor. These include refugees, kneeling athletes, immigrants, and unarmed black men. But my friends on the other side seem to put all of these on blast. I want us to responsibly fund education, infrastructure, healthcare, and faithfully steward God’s creation. I think government is a better tool than a taskmaster. I don’t believe we make things better by financial bloodletting. That’s just common sense.

So why do I vote for Democrats? Because right now, the alternative leads from fear. Because helping one’s neighbor is just as important and fighting for the unborn. Because Christ saves those from both sides of the aisle. Because the cross is big enough for the both of us.

Dressed in His Righteousness Alone: The Sanctification Debate, Round 3

Dressed in His Righteousness Alone

We cannot just speak of the sanctification in the theological realm and ignore the pastoral implications of our conclusions. To do so is to divorce orthodoxy and orthpraxy and dismiss the impact that this teaching has on our people. It’s not just the textbooks that will be impacted when we get this wrong. It’s the covenant child, the clinging doubter, the weary wife, or the aging senior who will bear the true weight if we err.

So if we think pastorally about what’s being said in the New Law/Sola Fide Debate we realize that where this debate leads us is in two distinct directions.

Let’s suppose that a pastor notices that there is a lack of fruit among his parishioners. Worship may be attended, but the worshippers seem disinterested. They may be apathetic to chatechisis or have begrudgingly serve their fellow members. There could be internal strife or division among brothers with no desire to reconcile. And yes, there could be greivous sin; even sin that must be disciplined.

What is a pastor to do?

He could whip them with the Law. He could demand their obedience to God’s righteous standards. He could plead and fight and remind them of their Christian duty. He may stand up every Lord’s Day and preach hellfire and damnation. He could repeat until he’s red faced that “Whoever loves me will obey my commandments” from that sacred platform.

But I’ve been there  I’ve been in that pew and felt the weight of it all. It just made me feel guilty. I didn’t obey because I loved God, I obeyed because I was guilty. I obeyed because, at the end of the day, I wasn’t sure of my salvation.

However, he won’t see true fruit because he’s not working on the root. The root of sanctification is built on the foundation of our Union with Christ. If we want to see fruit of true faith, we must preach the Gospel and pray for the Spirit to work in them.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1

The mistake our New Law brothers are making is they’re making Works the basis of our “final salvation” (again this is a term that has only recently come up). Let’s take Mark Jones’ article where he talks about “ways and means”. Here’s what he says:

“Good works are not, therefore, “merely evidence of sanctity and nothing more.” They are the “way and means” that God has ordained for his children to walk to glory. If we do not walk on this path we will not be saved.”

If it sounds like that famous Norman Shepherd line “brought in by faith, kept in by faithfulness” that’s because it is. If it sounds like we’re repeating the Marrow debate it’s because we are.

Good works are not the means of sanctification, they are the evidence of it. If what Jones is putting forward is the preponderance of what the Reformed Church has held to someone didn’t tell the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism for it says

Q. 60
How are you righteous before God?

A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, have never kept any of them,
and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.

Q. 61
Why do you say that you are righteous only by faith?

A. Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God. I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.

Q. 62
But why can our good works not be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of it?

A. Because the righteousness which can stand before God’s judgment must be absolutely perfect and in complete agreement with the law of God, whereas even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

Q. 63
But do our good works earn nothing, even though God promises to reward them in this life and the next?

A. This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.

But yes, our New Law brothers will try to argue that it is of Grace and Spirit. But this is the third time now and it sounds like they’re trying to make their Nomian doctrine fit a Reformed position.

So what will we tell our people? “Perform good works and live” or “Look to Christ”? Does Christ truly give us His righteousness imputed to us or do we only return to neutral and walk back to Sinai? Is the Law a guide for Christian living or the means by which we obtain or posses our full salvation?

In other words: is it truly “finished”? Can I tell my fellow Christians they are truly “dressed in a His righteousness alone?” Or must they return to the Law to live?

Keep Looking: A Response to Greg Morse and Desiring God

KEEP LOOKING

My parents will be the first to tell you, I can really put my foot in my mouth. I often don’t say the right thing. Often times, I can frustrate Allyson because I try to hunt for just the right words for the situation. Different people interpret words differently. My family knew that frustrated, mad, and pissed we’re all different levels. Her family will use them all interchangeably. It causes confusion.

When I read the now infamous Piper article about sanctification I was hopeful that perhaps this was just a misstatement. I’m often not clear and so want to be gracious in this area. However, yesterday evening, Greg Morse (a Desiring God affiliate) wrote again in this issue and said exactly the same thing. Taking up the topic of killing sin, Morse seems to redirect and go on a tangent:

“But what about being saved by faith alone? You’re not. You’re justified through faith alone. Final salvation comes through justification and sanctification — both initiated and sustained by God’s grace.”

The likelihood that this is two verbal slips within a week of each other isn’t coincidental. There’s not room for me to be gracious the second time around here. What’s being said is very plain. The New Law camp has invented this brand new theological term “final salvation”. One that I’ve not found anywhere in our confession or Scripture. Yes I will agree justification is not sanctification and both of those are parts of the ordo salutis. However, there is not a single category for one to be justified without also being glorified. Paul writes in Romans 8 as if justification is the declarative decision in our glorification. There is not one example of someone truly justified but does not make it to Glory. The New Law Camp would be good to not invent categories for things that have no basis in Scripture.

But while they may pay lip service to Grace and monergism, the New Law idea is simple: Justificiation is our entrance into the kingdom, but sanctification (that is our good Works) are what keep us in the kingdom. This is contrary to the teachings of Scripture.This sounds like the Galatian issue all over again. What we’ve now begun in the Spirit will we continue in the flesh? By no means! But this is the position that is being placed before us.

He then quotes Heb 12:14 and 2 Thess 2:13, the two verses the New Law Camp seem to have rallied behind. Because they need a Biblical argument, they’ve found these two niche verses to prove this idea that justification can be possible without the promise of salvation. But this cannot be. Because if God is truly the Author and Finisher of my faith than one thing is certain. It’s not me. Sanctification is wrought in us when we look to our union with Christ and our justification.

Works are not the instrument by which we are sanctified. If that’s the position the New Law Camp want to run to, the arms of Douglas Willson’s Federal Vision are wide open. They are more than welcome to excuse themselves and head to Moscow. I reject any form of Christianity that says that the more you perform Good Works, the less you need of Grace. So if Mr. Morse, Mr. Dukeman, or any other want a fool proof way to fight sin, it’s very simple.

Keep looking to Jesus. Keep coming back to the sacaraments with the mind of “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling.” You want to kill your pet sin? Keep reminding your flesh “I am not my own, but belomg to my faithful savior.” Keep coming back to the Wellspring that declares “if your thirsty, come to Me”

The Marrow of the Matter: The Sanctification Debate Returns

Marrow Matter

It has taken me almost 27 years, and sanctification is still a tough subject to get around. It is, in my opinion, the doctrine where the rubber meets the road. The nature of good works and their relationship to sanctification is not a new debate. The Reformed tradition has come to this dispatch box for centuries, the Marrow Controversy has not died yet. Last week, John Piper lit the powder keg again saying,  These works of faith, and this obedience of faith, these fruits of the Spirit that come by faith, are necessary for our final salvation. No holiness, no heaven”. Of course, the Reformed community came back with either push back for affirmation.

But my effort in this is not to respond to either Dr. Piper or the responses to him. This of course may seem like I am dodging the war; but I want to respond to two things I myself have seen. I want to clarify the position of the “Free Grace” boys and give some push back to my New Law brothers. I think we have a serious discussion creeping up on us, and it has the potential to teach something that is contrary to the Scriptures.

What is sanctification? According to our Confession,

Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace,[97] whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God,[98] and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.[99] (WSC #35)

Right from the onset we must dispel some things about Sanctification. First, sanctification is a work of God’s grace. Man cannot please God apart from the Spirit’s work within him. He cannot merit for Himself any righteousness before God. The Confession leaves us no room to say that sanctification is our work. It is something that is wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. The prophet Ezekiel tells us this when he says:

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (ESV)

Second, sanctification is not passive. We are truly active in sanctification. We are equipped, by God’s free grace, to truly resist sin and to live according to God’s commands. Sin has no power over the Christian insofar that he cannot resist it. The believer is certainly given a new spirit that wills and wants that which is pleasing to God. We cannot deny this from the Confession either. By God’s grace we actively obey Him, and we break off the chains of sin.

I want to be very clear in these statements. Doubtless some will throw around the dread term antinomian for what I will say. However, I am not saying that the Christian should live in a state of unrepentance and passivity. Yes of course we should put to death the deeds of the flesh and chase after righteousness. We would not disagree on this.

However, my concern arises when we begin to treat good works as either the basis for our sanctification or the instrument by which the Spirit sanctifies us. Or that the Christian has a somewhat two fold justification: one that is given to us sola gratia, sola fide and one that is taken hold of per opera bona. This is utterly foreign to the Reformed tradition. Paul is clear that those who are justified and surely glorified.  (Romans 8:31) If these good works are Spirit wrought, how then can one obtain the promise of eternal life but never take it in actuality? However our Confession teaches that through good works believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God. But none of this speaks of good works being the instrument nor is it the means by which we take possession of eternal life.

Berkhof writes that good works, “do not have the inherit value which naturally carries with it a just claim to a reward.” This is because they are Spirit-wrought, not Christian-wrought. Whatever claim we have to them, we must be very quick to remind ourselves that they God working through us.

Good works then cannot be the instrument of sanctification. It is not that we are equipped to work and are thus sanctified. To argue this is to put the cart before the horse. It makes our sanctification (and thus our final salvation) dependent on our good works meriting God’s sanctifying work.

My fear is that there is a conflation in these discussions between justification and sanctification. Our New Law brothers at best are trying to ward off against anti-nomianism. I can appreciate that. However, they do a great disservice when they argue that our salvation is through good works and not unto good works. It is a dangerous place that this leads us to.

It leads us to a place that I saw one Southern Baptist seminarian go this weekend. Let’s call him Tim. Tim, in one of his many attempts to ignite the passions of his social media echo chamber, began to put a former Presbyterian minister on blast for an antinomian view. This pastor has not been on the stage for some time. But Tim likes to be heard and so attacked a formally ordained minister. However in doing so he makes the statement that it is “not enough” that we rest in our justification. My question is then: In whom then should I rest for my salvation? Jay? Jay is a terrible person to rest in. Jay is a sinner who daily has to repent. Do I have all that I need in Christ to be fully redeemed? Is it really finished? Or must I add to Christ’s work with my own sanctifying efforts as Rome tells me?

This is how serious the discussion is, it is the crux of the Reformation. Scripture clearly teaches that we are saved not by our works but by Christ. Our works are evidences of the faith and grace that has been freely given to us. But they are not the instrument of some final salvation. So to Tim, or anyone else who asks, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” I look to Christ who says, “Believe” and “come to me and take my yoke, for it is easy and my burden is light.”

What Would You Prefer?

So folks are still blasting Colin Kapernick’s form of protest even after a year. We’re still debating this whole issue. People have just taken to not watch football then let Kaepernick’s protest spark any kind of dialogue. Which hey, that your decision. You’re grown.

But let’s start at the top. Because we’re not talking about the real issue. Everyone’s made Kaepernick’s protest into something it’s not. Here’s what I mean:

Kaepernick isn’t protesting against Trump. He’s not blasting soldiers. He’s not said that he has been oppressed. Statistically, he’s better than several starting QB’s (though not Brady stats). He’s not protesting for antifa or anything like that.

He kneels because

Oscar Grant
Tamir Rice
Eric Garner
Philando Castile
Sandra Bland
Terrance Crutcher

Alton Sterling
Jordan Edwards
Sam Dubose

Michael Brown
John Crawford III
Akai Gurley
Rumain Brisbon
Eric Harris
Walter Scott

Have been killed by law enforcement.

These are all the ones that I could think of off the top of my head. If I looked them up, I’d probable have a longer post. But these were real people who were killed without a trial. And their killers have all walked. Free. Absolutely free. You want to talk about being prolife? Here you go. It’s all right here.

So let us then ask this question: What would YOU prefer? Because when black folks march, y’all get upset. When black folks riot you get upset, when black folks kneel you get upset. So is it the form of the protest, or the subject?

what would you prefer they do? Sweep it under the rug? Ignore the videos? Carry on? Shameful is what it is.

Kapernick is quietly, peacefully protesting which is his right. In fact, either nothing Tebow and Kapernick have the right to kneel, or nether of them do.