29 May

Calvinist Coexistence, Bob Hadley Says “No!”

Bob HadleyMost folks outside of Westside Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, FL, where Bob Hadley pastors, probably don’t know who Bob Hadley is. That’s not a put down because most folks outside of West Main Baptist Church in Alexandria, TN, where I pastor, don’t know who Ben Simpson is. Bob Hadley and I are like the great majority of pastors in the world: we pour our lives out before the Lord to our congregations, serving faithfully in relative obscurity.

Nevertheless, the internet in general and the blog world in particular have given avenues for men like Hadley and myself to voice our opinions to wider audiences. Bob is a frequent commenter on several of the prominent Southern Baptist blogs and even writes for three of his own—SBC and Calvinism, Transformed Theology, and SBC Issues. It is Bob’s recent article at SBC Issues that warrants response.

On May 22, 2013, Bob posted an article entitled, “Calvinism in the SBC: A Point of No Return.” In it, Bob laments “the divide that calvinism [sic] is causing in the SBC.” Certainly, division is always lamentable because it undoubtedly grieves the heart of God! However, I’m not sure that Calvinism is causing the division, but let’s just give Bob the benefit of the doubt here, and go with his theory.

He boils the division down to one simple dichotomy: “Either God is the One who solely determines who is or is not saved or His decision on my eternity is based on my decision with respect to Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection. Either God decides who spends eternity in heaven or His decision is based on my decision.” That certainly is one area of contention in the soteriological debate within the SBC. Although he could have been more precise in his either/or proposition, Bob has indeed hit the nail on the head, at least with a glancing blow. To be more exact concerning the doctrine of election, we should say that the first cause of a sinner receiving grace unto salvation is either the person’s choice of God or God’s choice of the person. Those indeed are the positions being debated, and nobody who has followed Bob in the blogosphere in the least bit is ignorant of the fact that Bob emphatically believes the first cause of a sinner receiving grace unto salvation is the person’s choice of God.

Bob then continues on in his article and correctly asserts about the diametric nature of the positions, “At best, one of these two positions is true and the other false. It is entirely possible that BOTH could be wrong but one thing is absolutely true: both of these positions cannot be correct.” I agree with that statement 100%.

Unfortunately, Bob’s article then takes a turn for the worse. He states, “I believe the SBC is going to have to determine which side it wants to stand on, where the issue of calvinism [sic] in the SBC is concerned.” Excuse me? The SBC has been home to Calvinists and nonCalvinists alike since 1845 when it was established. They’ve coexisted for nearly 170 years in the SBC precisely because the SBC has determined its stand: the doctrine of election is not a dividing issue. Why must the SBC now change its position by choosing a side in the debate?

Bob continues, “The issue has escalated, like it or not, to a winner take all position and it is time for that decision to be made.” First of all, has the issue really become that escalated? Hardly, Hadley! Second, Bob seems to think that Calvinists and nonCalvinists are in a competition with each other. “Winner take all”? That statement in itself shows the worldly and mistaken mindset of Bob concerning this denomination. The SBC churches and leaders are not in a competition, but rather a cooperation. We are to work together, Calvinist and nonCalvinist with linked arms, to expand the kingdom of God on the face of the earth through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Both groups within the SBC agree that God has called us to work to see sinners saved through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Both groups agree that nobody is saved unless they hear the gospel and believe on Jesus. Both groups agree that we must take the gospel to every corner of the planet with haste. Both groups agree that every person who wants to be saved will be saved. Both groups agree that the proof of a person’s election is their faith in Jesus Christ. My goodness, there’s a lot we agree upon concerning the task of evangelism! In this task, we’re not in competition. We are in cooperation!

Bob had already run off the road with those last statements but sadly didn’t have the sagacity to hit the brakes before running right off the metaphorical cliff. In fact, he put the pedal to the metal by going on to say, “We cannot co-exist [sic] as a denomination at this point.” What an absurd statement! Despite the fact that we have coexisted as a denomination up to this point, Bob is convinced that we cannot any longer. By making that statement, Bob has just placed himself in the extreme minority of the SBC. While the majority of Southern Baptists are nonCalvinists, the vast majority of that majority is also willing to cooperate with Southern Baptist Calvinists, like has always been the case, for the sake of the SBC mission, which I believe is the mission of Christ.

Unfortunately, with that last statement, Bob has put himself outside of the SBC circle because the very essence of the Southern Baptist Convention is to cooperate with every person who affirms the Baptist Faith and Message and is willing to engage in the Cooperative Program. No, there is not complete agreement on every nuance of doctrine, but that was never the point. The point was to make a tent just big enough to where all sorts of Bible-believing, evangelical Baptists could join together to do great things for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Bob’s spirit of uncooperation flies right in the face of everything SBC!

When Bob says, “We cannot co-exist [sic] as a denomination at this point,” he has a decision to make. The Calvinists aren’t leaving the SBC. The nonCalvinists who are willing to cooperate with the Calvinists aren’t leaving the SBC either. If Bob and his minority cohort cannot coexist in this denomination with Calvinists, then perhaps the SBC is not for them anymore. I’d rather see him change his mind and coexist in cooperation with Calvinists, but if his conscience will not let him, then he should leave the SBC, along with his cohort, and either lead his church to become independent or work to construct a smaller denominational tent where there is more doctrinal unity. If he’s convinced that coexistence isn’t possible in the SBC and if he’s a man of integrity who’s not just running off his mouth with sensationalized rhetoric, then that’s just what he’ll do.

29 May

Wednesday Is for Worship: “My Jesus, I Love Thee”

Wednesday Is for Worship

Good Wednesday to you!  I pray that the coming of summer just around the corner has you amazed by the common grace of God.  I know it has done so for me!

Today I want to share one of the tenderest songs sung from the heart of a worshiper to Jesus. It’s an old one, but my goodness, it captures the heart with which we should worship!  I’m talking about “My Jesus, I Love Thee.”

William Featherston, who penned these lyrics in 1864, was only 16-years-old when these words flowed from his heart in response to the Lord saving him.  What a perfect declaration in response to the stunning grace of Jesus!  Adoniram Gordon wrote the melody in 1876.

The first verse captures beautifully the heart of repentance, willing to give up everything for Jesus.  The second verse recognizes that the worshiper’s love for Jesus is simply a response to unfathomable love Jesus showed us by purchasing our salvation with His blood on the cross.  Verse 3 is the right declaration that the worshiper will love Jesus until the day he or she dies, but then verse 4 reminds us that our early life is just the beginning of our worship because we’ll have the blessing of doing so forevermore in Heaven.

The aspect of this song that brings a tight cohesion to it is the line that ends every verse:  If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.  What a perfectly succinct way of capturing the ongoing and growing love for Jesus over the course of life that every worshiper should experience!

Below is a beautiful, classic rendition of the song sung by Selah.  May you worship your Savior Jesus Christ today, and with a full heart declare, “If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now!”

VERSE 1
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

VERSE 2
I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

VERSE 3
I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

VERSE 4
In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

____________________

If you’re interested in modern versions of the song that keep the original melody but add a chorus, you should check out Building 429’s version and Darlene Zschech’s version.

Building 429’s chorus says:
Worthy, worthy
Worthy is the Lamb The Lamb that was slain
Holy, holy Jesus,
I will sing Sing of Your holy name

Darlene Zschech’s chorus says:
I love You Jesus
I’ll always love You
Now and forever
I belong to You

Lift Jesus higher (repeated)

22 May

Wednesday Is for Worship: “Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed”

Wednesday Is for Worship

Although we just closed up the season of Eastertide with last Sunday being Pentecost Sunday, I want to do one more resurrection song.  Of course, since every Sunday is a reminder of Jesus’ resurrection, these songs never go out of “season”!

Today’s worship song is a dandy!  The arrangement, the accompaniment, the words themselves, and the content of the lyrics are joy-filled and joy-inducing.  Perhaps you’ve never heard it.  I’m talking about “Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed.”

Written in 2012 by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Ed Cash and published through Gettymusic, this song is found on the Gettys’ 2012 album Hymns for the Christian Life.  Clearly born from hearts of ones raised on the Emerald Isle, this Irish hymn makes you want to dance a jig as you praise God!

The first verse glories with amazement in the substitutionary death of Christ.  The second verse relates the joy of the disciples seeing the risen Savior.  The third verse captures how the disciples’ doubts were erased when their eyes beheld the risen Jesus but also points out that it is more blessed for us who have never beheld Him with our own eyes to still believe.  The fourth verse tells of the boldness of the disciples after the resurrection to proclaim the risen Savior even though it cost them their lives.  And, the final verse reminds us that the power that raised Jesus from the tomb is still working in us today.

The chorus is a simple one but works well to encourage the saints to join in the joy of singing of the risen Savior while the outro tips its hat to Don Francisco and his famous “He’s Alive” ballad as it ends with Jesus in heaven glorified, inviting all who will enter to come through the open gates to join Him.

May you be blessed this Wednesday as you sing about and remember that Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed!

VERSE 1
How can it be, the One who died,
Has borne our sin through sacrifice
To conquer every sting of death?
Sing, sing hallelujah.

VERSE 2
For joy awakes as dawning light
When Christ’s disciples lift their eyes.
Alive He stands, their Friend and King;
Christ, Christ He is risen.

CHORUS
Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!
Oh, sing hallelujah.
Join the chorus, sing with the redeemed;
Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.

VERSE 3
Where doubt and darkness once had been,
They saw Him and their hearts believed.
But blessed are those who have not seen,
Yet, sing hallelujah.

VERSE 4
Once bound by fear now bold in faith,
They preached the truth and power of grace.
And pouring out their lives they gained
Life, life everlasting.

VERSE 5
The power that raised Him from the grave
Now works in us to powerfully save.
He frees our hearts to live His grace;
Go tell of His goodness.

OUTRO
He’s alive, He’s alive!
Heaven’s gates are opened wide.
He’s alive, He’s alive!
Now in heaven glorified.

21 May

Don’t Make Me Angry: The Bible’s Truth about Anger

HulkIt was the fictional David Banner who matter-of-factly stated, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”  Anger was what triggered Banner’s transformation into the Incredible Hulk.  Indeed, Dr. Banner, you are a bit hard to like when you’re angry!

Anger is a human emotion that every single person experiences.  Some are more prone to externalize it by blowing up while others are more prone to internalize it by clamming up, but before I address how to handle anger biblically (I’ll do that in a subsequent post), it’s important to first understand what the Bible has to say about anger itself.

1) Anger is a powerful emotion that can lead to great evil.

One need not turn far into Scripture to see this truth demonstrated.  We find it right there in Genesis 4 in the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.  After God had no regard for his offer but did for Abel’s, Cain became very angry (Gen 4:5).  God then warned Cain about the potential danger of anger, but the fuse, so to speak, had already been lit.  Cain was set to explode, and his target was his brother, whom he soon murdered.

Just a few chapter later, we see anger again leading to the desire to murder.  In Genesis 27 after Jacob had stolen the blessing from Esau, we read this, “So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob,'” (Genesis 27:41).  Esau didn’t get the chance at that moment because Jacob quickly got out of Dodge, but if Esau could have, his anger would have likely led to Jacob’s murder.

Even unintentional murder can happen when anger is let loose.  Just a few Saturday’s ago, a 17yo boy in Utah punched his soccer referee in the face after the referee gave him a yellow card (read the story here).  One week later, the referee was dead from the punch, which caused swelling and bleeding of the brain.  I’m sure that boy regrets handling his anger in that way and would give almost anything in the world to have that moment back.

All three examples simply go to show that anger is a powerful emotion that can lead to great evil.  Therefore, we must be careful with our anger.

2) Anger is not inherently sinful.

At first glance, we may form the idea that all anger is bad and sinful.  However, when we come to the pages of Scripture we see that that’s just not the case.  God has clearly revealed to us that He cannot sin.  He is perfect in holiness (Isa 6:1-3) and has no darkness in Him (1 Jn 1:5).  Couple that with the fact that the Bible, as translated in the KJV, tells us that God is angry with the wicked every day (Ps 7:11).  We even see Jesus, who was God in the flesh, overturning money changer’s tables and dove seller’s seats in the temple and driving them out because they were making God’s house a den for robbers (Mk 11:15-18).  You cannot carry out such actions dispassionately.  It was surely the emotion of anger that fueled Him to act thus.  So, God shows anger, but since God is sinless, it must not be inherently sinful to be angry.

Yes, that’s reasoning from Scripture, but the Scripture is more explicit.  We are clearly told that we can get angry but cannot sin in our anger (Eph 4:26 quoting Ps 4:4).  So, there we see the distinction.  One can certainly be sinful with their anger, but one can also be righteous with their anger.  Therefore, it’s not that we must avoid anger altogether.  We must avoid unrighteous anger.

You and I must distinguish and discern the difference between righteous anger and unrighteous anger.  Below is a chart from Grace Tabernacle Bible Church that will help you do just that.

Righteous Anger

Unrighteous Anger

Deep-seated, determined and settled conviction. Outward boiling-over rage or inward seething resentment.
Demonstrated when God does not get what He wants (Psm. 7:11). Demonstrated when I do not get what my flesh wants (Gal. 5:20).
Motivated by a love for God (Job. 32:2). Motivated by a love for self (1 Ki. 21:4; 2 Ki. 5:12).
Commended by God (Eph. 4:26; Jon. 4:4). Condemned by God (Eph. 4:31).
Sin (of omission) when it is not exercised. Sin (of commission) when it is exercised.
Demonstrates righteousness (Zeph. 2:3), specifically holiness (Ez 43:8). Demonstrates unrighteousness (Jas. 1:19-20), specifically murder (Mt. 5:21-22).
Shows my Lord to be Christ. Shows my lord to be self.
Occurs when God’s will is violated (Dt. 9:16-17) Occurs when my will is violated (Nu. 24:10; Dan. 3:13).
Rooted in a zeal for God’s glory (Dt. 7:4; 32:16, 21; 2 Ki. 21:6, 15; 22:17). Rooted in a zeal for personal glory (Est. 5:9).
Imitates godly examples (Jesus-Mk. 3:5; Paul-Ac. 17:16; Moses-Ex. 11:8; 32:19). Imitates ungodly examples (Cain-Gen. 4:5-12; Saul-1 Sa. 20:30-33; Herod-Mt. 2:16).
Produced by the Holy Spirit (Jud. 14:19). Produced by the flesh (Gal. 5:19-20).
Demonstrates self-control, patience, goodness (Gal. 5:22-23) and wisdom. Demonstrates the absence of self-control, patience, goodness (Gal. 5:19-21) and wisdom (Pr. 29:11; Ecc. 7:9; Jas. 3:13-18).
Leads to favor from God, increased Christian maturity, deeper assurance, joy, eternal rewards and other righteous actions (i.e. prayer, evangelism, financial support, bold articulate stance for the truth, service). Leads to other sins (Pr. 29:22; Psm. 37:8) such as bitterness, stubbornness, hate, refusing to communicate, rebellion, self-pity, withdrawal, sulking, critical spirit, vengeance, unwholesome words and rejoicing in another’s misfortune.
Improves our relationship with God. Destroys our relationship with God (Gen 49:7) and others (Pr. 30:33).
Imitates God (Eph. 5:1), shows evidence of salvation (Eph. 5:9; Phil. 1:11) and increases unity in the church (Phil. 2:2). Grieves the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:20), gives Satan an opportunity (Eph. 4:27), promotes sin (Gen. 4:5-7), destroys one’s testimony (Phil. 2:14-15) and disrupts unity in the church (Eph. 4:3).
Seeks to please God (Psm. 119:53). Seeks to please self.
Must be “put on” (Eph. 4:24). Must be “put off” (Eph. 4:31).
Brings God’s pleasure (Isa. 13:3). Brings God’s wrath (Col. 3:6).
Practice reveals my future is heaven. Practice reveals my future is hell (Gal. 5:20-21; Mt. 5:22).

What a helpful chart because it helps us clearly see the difference!  So, anger is not inherently sinful.  Only unrighteous anger is.

3.  Unrighteous anger leads to trouble for the one angry.

We must avoid unrighteous anger because of the great consequences that come with it.  Scripture tells us that unrighteous anger:

  • brings a penalty (Pro 19:19),
  • causes people to avoid you (Pro 22:24-25),
  • stirs up strife (Pro 30:33),
  • doesn’t achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20),
  • is fruit of the sinful flesh, disqualifying a person from inheriting the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21), and
  • is deserving of Hell (Mt 5:21-22).

Unrighteous anger carries a great punishment for the one angry both in this age and the age to come.

Conclusion

As a human made in the image of God, anger is simply part of who we are, and as a fallen human gnarled by sin, our anger is broken.  We very easily cross that line from righteous anger into unrighteous anger, and great sin is possible.  Keep all that in mind the next time you feel that green, hulkular monster begin to grow inside of you!

08 May

Wednesday Is for Worship: “Before the Throne of God Above”

Wednesday Is for Worship

Today is the 6th Wednesday of Eastertide, the 50-day Christian season between Easter and Pentecost Sunday, which is May 19 this year.  We’ll continue to focus on Resurrection songs until then.

I want to take us back to 1863 today.  It was in that year that Charitie Bancroft penned the lyrics to this powerful song.  This Irish writer was not prolific in the number hymns she wrote.  In fact, I know of only three attributed to her, but what she wrote was excellent!

The lyric is so beautifully Christ-centered.  The first verse highlights Jesus’ role as our High Priest and alludes to Isaiah 49:16 where the LORD says, Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.  The second verse reminds us of the wonderful truth that Jesus paid for the sins of every person who will believe on Him.  They are no more!  As Paul trumpted, Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us, (Romans 8:33-34).  The final verse glories in the Risen Lamb who was slain, bringing victory over the grave and life everlasting for those whom He purchased.  Hallelujah, indeed!

Over the years, people have put different tunes to it that we today associate with other songs, such as the tune to “Sweet Hour of Prayer” and the tune to “And Can It Be,” but in 1997, Vikki Cook of Sovereign Grace Music wrote a fresh, beautiful melody for the song all its own, bringing this song back to the forefront of worship music 150 years after Bancroft wrote the lyrics.  What an awesome lyric and melody!

Sing along with my favorite rendition of the song done by the Promise Keepers praise band as you worship the Lord this Wednesday!

VERSE 1
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

VERSE 2
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

VERSE 3
Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

06 May

Is the Bible Clay in Our Hands?: The Importance of Authorial Intent

Two Sundays ago, I began preaching through the book of Philippians.  What an awesome word from God to us!  For my first sermon, I focused in on v1:6, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  That verse is one of the most encouraging verses in all of Scripture!

As I was preparing, I wanted to illustrate how God molds us and makes us into a work of beauty in the image of Jesus Christ.  So, my mind immediately went to the potter with clay illustration that we often hear about.  I searched YouTube for a video of a potter working with clay and came up with this clip:

I was immediately struck by the video!  I loved the imagery, especially that the imagery was employed in the book of Jeremiah.  I loved the message of redemption and hope, that God could take our mess and make something perfect out of us.  My heart said YES when the woman said, “‘If you just turn yourself over to Me, I’ll remake you again like this potter’… All God wants us to do is turn the mess over to Him.  Just turn it over to Him so that He can put things back together because see, He is the potter.  He’s really good at that.”  That passage in Jeremiah, which I’ve ready a few times in the past but was a bit fuzzy to me, must be an awesome passage of blessing and is perfect for my sermon, I thought. I hit the download button right away on my RealPlayer, ready to show the clip on Sunday morning to illustrate my message and to use that passage to show that God is forming us into something awesome.

Potter and Clay

Then I actually turned to the passage in Jeremiah and was immediately disappointed—not by the Word of God, but by the message of the video, which spoke from that passage.  The video captured the imagery of Jeremiah but not the message.  Check it out, and see if you agree:

Jeremiah 18:1-11,  1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, 2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. 4 But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

5 Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 6 “Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. 7 “At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; 8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. 9 “Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; 10 if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. 11 “So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.”‘

 

A passage of blessing?  Hardly.  The feeling of the passage is one of woe and cursing instead of blessing.  The point was, “You think you are sovereign, Israel.  I’ll show you who’s sovereign.  I’ll mess you up like that clay vessel and remake you into whatever pleases Me.”

Now to be fair, what the woman said in the video is true.  God does want to remake us.  God does want us to give Him our messes so that He can put it back together.  However, we can’t get that from Jeremiah 18.

Needless to say, I didn’t use that video or passage to illustrate the point I was making  from Philippians 1:6, but it was a good reminder for me that I want to pass on to you.  I’m not just picking on the woman in the video.  Her example points to a larger temptation for we who teach the Word are often faced with.  If we are not careful, we’ll take the text and make it to mean whatever we want it to mean.  Preachers and teachers must always remember that the meaning of the text is tied to authorial intent.  We are not free to pour our own meaning and conclusions into the text.  We must pull them out of it.

Let me put it this way:  the Bible is not clay in our hands to shape  it to say whatever we want it to say.  It’s already been formed by God and kiln-dried to finish so that it no longer conforms to our hands.  Our hands must conform to it.

So, the next time you approach any text,  the first question we must ask ourselves is:  what did the author intend by this?  Then and only then can we begin to rightly teach a text of the Bible.