Monday, June 30, 2008

True Liberty

The month of July stands out as the month that we as Americans celebrate our Independence. July 4th commemorates the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Declaration of Independence contains the words:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

This statement is a statement of theology. It is making a statement about God; that God has granted certain unalienable rights to all men -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When you make theological statements, however, they must be absolutely true. Of these rights we would certainly agree that life is granted by God. The Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" demonstrates that God has a high view of life. We should do all that we can do to protect life. There are elements of this statement in the Declaration, however, that are not completely true. First, the Bible does not declare absolute liberty to be an unalienable right. No man lives under absolute freedom. All men are under authority and are commanded to submit to that authority. There are familial authorities, civil authorities, ecclesiastical authorities, etc. there are many libertarians today who push for zero restraint. Such a condition of absolute autonomy does not exist upon the earth. Second, the Bible does not declare happiness as an absolute, unalienable right. The Bible confined happiness to a very narrow definition. The Bible does not guarantee the right to satisfy every carnal lust. We have the right to pursue God and true happiness is to be found in that pursuit. For many, the concept of independence is actually lawlessness. They feel they have an unalienable right to live without restraints or accountability.

The truth is, freedom can only be found in Christ. The lost man is rebellious and self-willed, continually seeking autonomy from God and His Law. In reality he is bound up in slavery. He is held captive by sin and Satan and has not way of escaping from this servitude. The Christian has surrendered his will to Christ. The Christian has thrown down every bastion of independence and has signed a declaration of dependence. But in surrendering all of his liberties to Christ he has actually found true freedom. In Christ we have been set free from sin and Satan and granted great liberty as we gladly serve Christ. We have found true happiness as we find our full enjoyment in Christ.

This Independence Day may we take time to celebrate the true liberty we have been granted in Christ.

Monday, June 23, 2008

VBS Blessings

On Saturday we completed our 2008 Vacation Bible School. God has blessed our small congregation with a large number of children. VBS is grand fun for them but there is a much higher purpose. During this annual event we have an opportunity to present the Gospel clearly and directly. This is the focus of our labor. I pray that God will take the Gospel that they heard and press it upon their young hearts. I'm grateful to pastor a congregation of people who have a burden for the souls of men.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Women in the Military

One of the saddest consequences of our nation's continuing slide into secularism is our confusion over the roles of men and women. After years of fighting for equality most women today have no idea of how to be a Godly woman. Many women today are entering into areas which are totally contrary to God's design for their lives. One of these areas is the military. Even nations completely void of Christianity know there is something inherently wrong with sending women into combat. Why would a nation send its women into combat so they can pretend to be men? We've lost over 100 women in Iraq and Afghanistan to our shame. In a recent World Magazine article on the latest C.S. Lewis movie we read: "war is an ugly thing when women are involved. In Lewis' world, queens were not meant for combat." This is infinitely true.

Space isn't sufficient here to expound on the created differences between men and women. For more information on this you can examine a recent study we had at Trinity titled, "The Biblical Role of Women." It might be a shock to some, but men and women are not the same. Although all are equal as we stand before God, men and women were not created the same. Peter described the woman as the "weaker vessel." Real men behaving as God created them should naturally seek to protect and provide for women. What kind of country sends its mothers to fight its wars. It really isn't the issue of ability. A woman may be able to fly a plane, maneuver a tank, and fire a gun but she has no place on the battlefield.

Let me give seven reasons why I don't think women should serve in the military:
(1) God designed men in such as way as to fulfill their role upon the earth. They are to be providers and protectors of their family. As I stated above, they should seek to protect and treasure their wives, mothers, and daughters. God gave men this instinct. This was the natural response of men as the Titanic was going down - put the women and children in the lifeboats. Women are pushing harder and harder for more active roles in combat. It is predicted that over the next two years all restraints will be lifted (LA Times.) On the battlefield a man will naturally seek to protect a woman. This can obviously be a distraction in a combat situation and actually put a mission in jeopardy.
(2) God designed women as nurturers. As women fall farther and farther from their God given design their behavior becomes more and more depraved. What kind of mother would murder her own baby growing in her womb? She becomes worse than an animal. In like manner, what kind of mother would abandon her children to go to war? God designed her to nurture her babies. They feed from her breasts. Children need their mothers. Yes, they need their fathers as well, but young children need their mothers in particular ways. To voluntarily join the military and risk being deployed and separated from her children should be unthinkable. I only shudder at the thought of our nation reinstituting the draft.
(3) Women captured in combat should be a fearful thought. The danger of women being raped or used as a tool for propaganda is great. Why would a nation place their women in such danger. The media coverage of POW Jessica Lynch tells us that deep down we know women shouldn't be in combat. She later admitted she was brutally beaten and raped. With women pushing harder and harder for greater involvement in combat we risk many future Jessica Lynches.
(4) The military is a machine designed and dedicated to fighting and, if necessary, killing our enemies. The military should not be the place for social experimentation.
(5) Women simply are not as physically strong as men. This means they will not have "equal opportunity" for survival on the battle field.
(6) It is inappropriate for men and women to share close quarters with someone with whom they are not married. Battle conditions create intense emotional and psychological stress. Putting men and women in close contact during such times risks unnecessary temptation. As I stated above, men and women are created different. This includes sexual differences. A wise man will not allow himself to be placed in a compromising position. Unfortunately, in a military that places men and women in close contact he is placed in a difficult position. In addition, where men of low moral character are placed in close contact with women there are particular risks involved. Since 2002 there are been 976 cases of sexual assault reported in the military (All Things Considered, October 4, 2007).
(7) This one will probably be most unpopular. Men were created to exercise leadership upon the earth. Women should not have authority over men. I know this is unpopular in today's secular culture. Even some professing Christians voice strong opposition to this viewpoint. But Scripture is clear on this matter. It is the husband that has the authority in his home. It is the men who are to have the leadership in the church (the office of pastor is limited to men alone). In the military women will rise to positions of authority, even giving orders during combat. This is contrary to God's design for men and women.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Purpose Driven Disaster

The name Rick Warren has become well known among evangelicals. Thousands of churches have joined the “Forty Days of Purpose” parade. While he may have the best of intentions, his driving force seems to be more directed by pragmatism than truth. Most disturbing is his ecumenical approach to the Gospel. Now he has launched what is called the P.E.A.C.E. plan which is an acronym for, Promote reconciliation; Equip servant leaders; Assist the poor; Care for the sick; and Educate the next generation. According to a recent article in Christianity Today it is “a massive, long range effort to mobilise (sic) one billion Christians in local churches around the world to copy Jesus' model of ministry.” He plans a giant computer network of churches working together in the Great Commission. Warren says, "For followers of Jesus, one of the most important words in our vocabulary is the word 'Go!' Jesus repeatedly commanded every believer to go; you can't spell gospel or good news without 'go' -- ours is an active, not passive, faith."

What is Rick Warren's understanding of the Great Commission? Is not the focus of the Great Commission making disciples? While teaming up with various groups with a common goal of feeding the hungry is a worthy task, teaming up with thousands of churches regardless of creed to spread the Gospel spells disaster. Ecumenism almost always means forsaking truth for the sake of unity. Warren’s premise is every church is a legitimate church. His position of “deeds, not creeds” reveals his willingness to abandon doctrine for pragmatism. According to our Lord, more is required of a person than simply identifying with Christianity – “Not every one who saith unto me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. . .” (Matthew 7:21). According to the Assist News Network the P.E.A.C.E. Plan has long term plans to “mobilize one billion Christians in local churches around the world.” I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but to pretend that one out of six people upon the earth is a Christian is blind naivety, and to pretend to mobilize them together in the Gospel endeavor is lunacy. Christianity is a narrow way with few followers. The Gospel isn’t some loose collection of various beliefs but a narrow message of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ with His absolute demands for discipleship.

Ecumenism fits well with our modern love for tolerance, but the Bible is not a tolerant book. Christ is presented as the only way of reconciliation with God. His words are presented as absolute truth. As Christians we must unite together for the common cause of the Gospel but we must never forget that we are a separate people. A network of one billion Christians may sound wonderful but it doesn't describe reality. The truth is, most of these billion people in Warren's network would despise genuine Christianity. “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Any Old Baptism Will Do

A couple years ago John Piper and the elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church made a statement that their church would begin accepting the baptism of any believer, even those who had undergone paedobaptism. The justification for this decision was the desire to extend fellowship to every believer in Christ. This position, however, was in conflict with both the historic position of Baptists as well as teaching of Scripture regarding baptism. I understand they have since made adjustments to their position.

It would appear that many Southern Baptists share similar confusion about Baptism. On May 6, Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., was nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In a questionnaire sent by Baptist Press he was asked the following question: The IMB trustee guidelines governing baptism and private prayer language in appointing missionaries: Do you think their action was needed and appropriate? Johnny Hunt responded: “I am not sure that I fully understand all that the IMB trustee guidelines have said, however, if a person has received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, and has been baptized by a minister who embraces the Gospel and the Scriptures as we do, their baptism should count in our churches. If James Dobson desired to become part of First Baptist Church Woodstock, I would not require him to be re-baptized.”

The IMB guidelines are not the only thing Johnny Hunt fails to “fully understand.” First, the Bible doesn’t give guidelines for the person performing the baptism. Obviously, as an ordinance of the local church, baptisms should be performed by one of the elders since God has placed them as shepherds of the flock with oversight over the church. However, if a pastor apostatizes from the faith and forsakes his office this would not automatically render all of his baptisms null and void. The Bible does, however, give strict guidelines concerning the one who is baptized as well as the mode of baptism. The Bible knows nothing of the baptism of anyone other than one who has professed faith in Jesus Christ.

Johnny Hunt mentions that he would not require James Dobson to be “re-baptized”. Dobson belongs to the Church of the Nazarene. According to their Articles of Faith on Baptism they state: “Baptism being a symbol of the new covenant, young children may be baptized, upon request of parents or guardians who shall give assurance for them of necessary Christian training. Baptism may be administered by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, according to the choice of the applicant.”

Baptist baptism (Biblical baptism) does not include infant baptism or baptism by “sprinkling or pouring.” If James Dobson was baptized by sprinkling as an infant he has not been Biblically baptized. We would not require him to be “re-baptized;” we would require him to be baptized. As much as I appreciate the theological work of men such as R.C. Sproul, Charles Hodge, and even John Calvin, each of them would need to be baptized before we would receive them as members into our church.

Our generation has seen a terrible slide in the understanding of theological truth. When a prospective president of our Convention is confused on the subject of baptism it demonstrates just how serious the situation is.