"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Monday, October 18, 2010

Christianity: It is not about do and don't!

When you think about the Christian life, do you focus on what you should or should not do? I would assume that most people think Christianity is about missing out on a lot of fun stuff in life. Most people would not associate self-pleasure with God's purpose for life. I admit. The thought of joy and happiness and self'-pleasure were not in the top five thoughts about Christianity for me until 1998. That is when I stumbled upon the life changing book Desiring God. Outside of the Bible, there are two books that have changed my life, Desiring God and Pilgrim's Progress. (consequently the two most influential distant mentors in my life have been John Piper and John Bunyan) I want to blog several post dealing with the idea of Christian Hedonism. Do not let the title offend you. Read the blog post with an open mind.

Let me first give one text that makes Christian Hedonism both Scriptural and undeniable.

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)"

Did you catch that? David tells us that when we are in God's presence we are filled to overflowing with joy. He further instructs us in the reality that Jesus Christ is a guarantee of pleasure forevermore!

In summary of this first post let me say two things and leave with a quote for you to contemplate.

  1. The problem we face in Christianity is not that we desire personal pleasure. The problem is we find personal fulfillment and pleasure in the wrong place! Our pleasure should come from a full on pursuit of the glory of God, a passionate relationship with our Savior, and an unyielding heart of praise for our Creator!
  2. It is God's design for us to be pleasure seekers. If you try to deny this fact, you will become more and more sinful and miserable. God has designed us to seek after joy and fulfillment and pleasure because he wants us to find those things in him alone. Piper says it simply when he writes, "God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in Him!" We need more self-pleasure seekers in Christianity not less. I pray we will all become Christian Hedonist for the glory of God!
Piper was influenced in his thinking and theology, outside the Bible, most by Johnathan Edwards. You can almost see, hear, smell Edwards when you are with Piper in a book. But the second most influential dead personality, outside the Bible, on Piper's thinking is C.S. Lewis. It was Lewis' book entitled Weight of Glory that helped solidify John Piper's thoughts on Christian Hedonism. here is a short quote from that book that I think we should all spend time thinking about.

"If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but to weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far to easily pleased."

Think over this teaching and I will talk to you soon...CW

Friday, September 24, 2010

What I want from my local public school?

As many of you know, Aimee and I have sent Noah to Kitty Stone Elementary School. This is the local public school where we live. Some of you have asked what our philosophy is when we are sending one child to school and home schooling another. I will tell you what our philosophy is with our family. We follow three principles that we believe are ultimately biblical.

1. We are responsible to teach, train, and pass on a love of Jesus Christ to our children. This is basically discipleship. It is our responsibility to disciple our children. We do not depend on teachers, pastors, community leaders, coaches, or others to train our children in the life of loving Christ. Here are the two passages we draw this principle from.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Matthew 22:37-40: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

It is our responsibility as parents to train our children in love of God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. We do this day in and day out as we go through life together. Parenthood is the ultimate life on life discipleship relationship.

2. We are to teach, train, and pass on a love of other people. This is the second of the great commandments (royal law). It is not enough to train our children to love God in a vacuum! We must train our children to love God in the real life situations in the community, and this will lead them to love their neighbor, enemy, and all men as they love themselves. Aimee and I value having our children around people of all ethnic groups, socio-economic groups, religions/non religions, and other categories. Hannah Grace, Noah, Lily, and Hope will by God's grace grow up to love God passionately and love all men with the love of Christ.

3. We are to press our children to attain the highest level of God given ability so that they can be used in His kingdom. This final point is drawn from texts all over the Bible and from God given common sense. We are pushing all of our children to be leaders, intelligent workers, and godly people.

What do I want from my public school? I want my children to be challenged in academics, disciplined to maximize their God given ability, and an opportunity to live a diverse life among all the people in our community.

So, that is why one child stays home and another goes to school. That's why the child at school can come home and the one at school can come home. The point is that we are flexible when it comes to the education of our little ones. We work to disciple them every day. We pray that God grants us wisdom in these days as we try to raise missionaries for his glory!!! Talk to you soon...CW

Monday, September 20, 2010

"This was a God thing!"

I want to admit up front that I am and always will be a die-hard Alabama fan, but I also really enjoy watching college football no matter who is playing. Saturday night I got to watch the fourth quarter and the overtime period between Auburn and Clemson. This was a fantastic game between two teams with a little history between them. Auburn made the plays necessary to come back from a 17-0 deficit at halftime and they won the game 27-24 in extra time. It was a well played, hard hitting, southern style football game. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat played out in a truly classic fashion. At the end of the game the head coach at Auburn University was interviewed. Coach Gene Chizik seems to be an admirable man. He has every right to express his joy over a thrilling victory, and as a fellow Christian it is exciting to see a believer have success. But I was sad to hear the response of this man in front of a national audience.

When asked about the game he responded, "This was a God thing. I told our guys that they had to keep the faith and they kept the faith the whole game." This was what he said on the field to the reporter immediately after the game. So he got emotional and said something he probably would have rephrased given another opportunity, right? Wrong! After speaking with his team, he conducted his post game press conference. These were his opening words, "I told our kids this was a God thing. They kept the faith the whole game..." Wow. I am hurt to see and hear this type of confused statement.

It would be much better to have a coach who never mentioned God, than to have a coach who abuses the name of the Lord in this fashion. There are 105 Auburn football players who have been told by their head coach that God beat Clemson for them. They are now left to believe that God is for them because of their "faith." So what about all the Christians on Clemson's sidelines. Are they to believe that their faith is not good enough? Is Dabo Swinney not as holy and faithful as Gene Chizik? Did Clemson lose "the faith?" This is the type of abuse that cause non believers to scoff at Christianity. No, it would have been better if coach had simply said, "I am so proud of the way our guys kept fighting tonight. They played with great character, and they displayed mental toughness when the going got tough. Clemson is a great team and we are glad to get out of here with the 'W'." That is a great after the game response from a classy coach. Now he can preach the gospel and live the gospel for his players Sunday - Saturday and they are not confused about what "the faith" is and who God is!

Yes, I would rather have an atheist coaching my children than a man who seems to confuse the gospel with winning a football game in overtime. And it would be better for all of us trying to preach and live the gospel in Alabama if the coaches at our Universities stayed away from such grand standing in the future. Maybe he will get it right next time but for now we will have to deal with the fall out from a ridiculously sad comment.

P.S.- Before you say I am making a big deal out of nothing, it is already making the media rounds. Last night about 10 minutes of a 30 minute show on ABC 33/40 was dedicated to this comment. It was not positive in any shape or fashion. The media members of "The Zone" were mocking Chizik and Christianity. It was heart breaking. Talk to you later...CW

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Lost Letter to Wormwood (conclusion)

This is the follow up to the earlier link. If you have not read the first of Kevin's letters, then you need to move down to the second post on this page, click the link, and read. I will interact with these thoughts soon. Talk to you later... CW

A Lost Letter to Wormwood (conclusion)

A Lost Letter to Wormwood

The link I am posting here is to a blog written by one of my favorite "bloggers" Kevin DeYoung. Kevin is a pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He is deeply involved in college life because of his age and location. I will also be posting his second letter. My encouragement to young and old alike is to read these two pieces and contemplate the meaning. When we run to a model of church that serves one age group over all others, we are trading in God's design for worldliness. If you are in college, then you need to remain in a local church! Involvement in college ministry will never be equal to involvement in the local church. If you are leading a church, then you need to focus on God and his Glory not appealing tactics that draw a crowd. We can all benefit from thinking through this issue together! Read and think so we can talk latter... CW

A Lost Letter to Wormwood

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God and Guinness

It has been a couple weeks since I put anything on the blog. We had a great vacation this year at PCB with Aimee's family, and since we have been home the schedule has been hectic to say the least. Grace Fellowship had VBS at Christian Fellowship Bible Church in Anniston last week, and the week can be thought of as nothing but a great success. This week our children have been attending VBS at Parker Memorial Baptist Church each evening. Aimee and I have enjoyed spending the evening together. I think we have had more dates this week than in the past 6 months combined (there is no person I would rather be with than my best friend! Thanks for the time and the conversation. I love you!) So now I need to review the two books that were checked off of the must read list while we sat by the ocean soaking up the sun and salt. Today I will talk about Stephen Mansfield's book The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World.

Some of you might not agree with a Christian consuming alcohol on any level. This is a discussion for another post but let me simply say that I believe the Bible teaches a position of moderation and proper boundaries in all things not complete abstinence. If you are in the "dry" camp in regard to alcohol, particularly beer, I would encourage you to read this book. Mansfield does a good job of teaching the history of beer and the church. After reading this book each person will have the opportunity to rethink this issue on historical grounds and this will help to free us from the silly cultural mandates that have no biblical support. With that said let me give a quick review of this book, some great quotes from the book, and a concluding statement concerning the issue of beer and the church.

Mansfield takes the reader back to an age when beer was seen as the healthy drink; an alternative to the hard liquor that was making its presence felt across western Europe. This was an age when pastors and cobblers had home breweries for personal consumption. The culture surrounding consumption of alcohol was not thought of as deviant. One cannot easily right off the use of strong drink as the alternative to a lack of clean water. No. As Mansfield displays with historical accuracy our forefathers viewed beer as a gift from God so that man could enjoy fellowship with friends! It might shock some of my readers to realize that Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield all partook regularly. The church always viewed moderation as the biblical mandate. Drunkenness was never allowed.

The bulk of the book is spent detailing the life of one Irish family, the Guinness', and how their commitment to the glory of God revolutionized Ireland, Europe, and the world. Yes. This beer making family has used the wealth of their family to promote the preaching of the gospel from the shores of Ireland to the islands in the Bahamas, to the shores of Africa and Asia. God has used this family to revolutionize the industrial working world, create and sustain the history of Ireland, and promote mission work around the globe.

My thoughts are simple in regard to this book and this issue. We need to step out of our culture, take the time to research the subject biblically and historically, and give one another the opportunity to live within the grace of Jesus Christ. I am not advocating that everyone should drink, but I am asking all of us to take our stance on truth not tradition! Whether you like beer or not, you should read this book because it celebrates the life of a godly family and it challenges us to live our life in a radical way for the cause of Christ! Talk to you soon...CW

(This post was lingering for a while as you can tell. I will be posting a fresh thought later today!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eden Hope Weathers

Words cannot express how thankful I am for the Lord's mercy and goodness to our family! Yesterday Eden Hope Weathers was born at 1:24 in the afternoon. She came into this world very healthy, ready to eat, and sporting a head full of dark hair. Hope, that is what we will call her, is 7.15 lbs and 20 inches long! Thank you for praying for us and we love you all!!!!!

A Daddy does not always know what his baby will look like when they are born. Aimee has always had the best guess on the look and attitude of our babies, but this time was different. She was convinced that this little girl would look like Hannah Grace and Noah. I was certain that she would look like our Sophie Ann. It was just a hunch, but the feeling got stronger as the day grew closer. Yesterday God confirmed this "hunch" when our little gift arrived. Eden Hope is nothing like the other children living in our home, she looks just like her sister who is living with Christ! This does not have any mysterious meaning. Hope looks like her Mom. Sophie looks like her Mom. Hannah Grace and Noah favor me. That is why I say it is not a mystery, but it is kind Providence! Sophie Ann and Eden Hope are two totally different people, made by God in a unique and special way for his purposes. Hope will never replace or have to live up to her sister. As a matter of fact, Aimee and I will not spend the rest of our life telling Hope she reminds us of Sophie. We want her to be her own lady. We want her to live for the glory of the Lord! But just for these couple of days I cannot help but think about the similarities and bask in the joy of holding, looking, touching, kissing, smelling, listening, and singing to my precious Hope, who looks a lot like my sweet Sophie! God is so kind and good. Oh! How He loves us!!!!!! Talk to you soon...CW

Friday, July 23, 2010

Making A Come Back

Well it has been along time since I posted on the blog. There really is no excuse. It seems like every time the post began, something interrupted the flow. Now it is time to get back on track. Some of you have commented about the lack of post, which means there are people out there reading. This is just a short post to say, "I am back." The next post will probably be when our fifth child is born! July 27, 2010 seems like a perfect day to have a baby! After the birth, I will post my reflections on the day, and after that initial post you can expect a new post every Monday morning. Oh, I almost forgot, my post are going to be more conversational and less technical. Sorry if you have been trying to follow and needed a theological dictionary. My goal will be to be consistent and relevant and as always God glorifying. Talk to you soon...CW.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

God and Guinness

It has been a couple weeks since I put anything on the blog. We had a great vacation this year at PCB with Aimee's family, and since we have been home the schedule has been hectic to say the least. Grace Fellowship had VBS at Christian Fellowship Bible Church in Anniston last week, and the week can be thought of as nothing but a great success. This week our children have been attending VBS at Parker Memorial Baptist Church each evening. Aimee and I have enjoyed spending the evening together. I think we have had more dates this week than in the past 6 months combined (there is no person I would rather be with than my best friend! Thanks for the time and the conversation. I love you!) So now I need to review the two books that were checked off of the must read list while we sat by the ocean soaking up the sun and salt. Today I will talk about Stephen Mansfield's book The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World.

Some of you might not agree with a Christian consuming alcohol on any level. This is a discussion for another post but let me simply say that I believe the Bible teaches a position of moderation and proper boundaries in all things not complete abstinence. If you are in the "dry" camp in regard to alcohol, particularly beer, I would encourage you to read this book. Mansfield does a good job of teaching the history of beer and the church. After reading this book each person will have the opportunity to rethink this issue on historical grounds and this will help to free us from the silly cultural mandates that have no biblical support. With that said let me give a quick review of this book, some great quotes from the book, and a concluding statement concerning the issue of beer and the church.

Mansfield takes the reader back to an age when beer was seen as the healthy drink; an alternative to the hard liquor that was making its presence felt across western Europe. This was an age when pastors and cobblers had home breweries for personal consumption. The culture surrounding consumption of alcohol was not thought of as deviant. One cannot easily right off the use of strong drink as the alternative to a lack of clean water. No. As Mansfield displays with historical accuracy our forefathers viewed beer as a gift from God so that man could enjoy fellowship with friends! It might shock some of my readers to realize that Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield all partook regularly. The church always viewed moderation as the biblical mandate. Drunkenness was never allowed.

The bulk of the book is spent detailing the life of one Irish family, the Guinness', and how their commitment to the glory of God revolutionized Ireland, Europe, and the world. Yes. This beer making family has used the wealth of their family to promote the preaching of the gospel from the shores of Ireland to the islands in the Bahamas, to the shores of Africa and Asia. God has used this family to revolutionize the industrial working world, create and sustain the history of Ireland, and promote mission work around the globe.

My thoughts are simple in regard to this book and this issue. We need to step out of our culture, take the time to research the subject biblically and historically, and give one another the opportunity to live within the grace of Jesus Christ. I am not advocating that everyone should drink, but I am asking all of us to take our stance on truth not tradition! Whether you like beer or not, you should read this book because it celebrates the life of a godly family and it challenges us to live our life in a radical way for the cause of Christ! Talk to you soon...CW

(This post was lingering for a while as you can tell. I will be posting a fresh thought later today!)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Family Vacation

Just wanted to say that I will be on family vacation for the next week. We leave in the morning for Panama City Beach. Vacation is a fun week for our family. We usually spend the week bumming around the water, laying on the sand, eating good food, and I try to read a couple of good books. This year I will be tackling a couple of good reads. Thought I would leave the list and maybe a review for each when I get back. You all have a blessed week, and I will soak up a little of God's beautiful creation for you all!!! Talk to you Soon...CW!

Radical: Taking Your Faith Back From the American Dream by David Platt

The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Bear that Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield

Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures by Dennis E. Johnson

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bonhoeffer on Death

As most of you know, I have been immersed in studying the resurrection. I have also been reading the newest biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. Now that I am finished with the book I will encourage you to read it. (Warning: It can be addicting, and it will take time because it is 542 pages) Bonhoeffer is a man that is surrounded by controversy. He was a man of deep conviction, and his convictions always led to action. I will not debate the choice of this man to join the assassination plot against Hitler. I struggle with those who would judge Bonhoeffer while sitting in absolute freedom and safety. That is not the point of this post so I will leave it at that. I find his writing and thinking to be a great encouragement to greater love and service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the end of the biography Metaxas writes about Bonhoeffer's view of death. This is where the study of resurrection and Bonhoeffer cross paths. Here is the quote that struck me. It is from a sermon preached by Bonhoeffer while he was pastoring a church in London. He says,

No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward to being released from bodily existence.
Whether we are young or old makes no difference. what are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God? And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal? That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up - that is for young and old alike to think about. Why are we so afraid when we think about death? ... Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God's Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.
How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?
Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.

Those are powerful words spoken by a person who is safe from all harm. But when you consider the fact that Bonhoeffer was facing an evil regime that he opposed with public words and actions, you begin to see the power of God in the life of his servant. So I began to wonder, how do we view death? Would you say that it is the gateway to the eternal home that you are homesick for? Or would you have to admit that you are so in love with the things of this life that death seems cold and night and hell to you? Just something to think about. Talk to you soon... CW

P.S. Bonhoeffer was executed on April 8, 1945 at Flossenburg prison. He died a noble death and joined the martyrs around the throne of Christ. He told a friend when he knew he was going to be executed, "This is the end...for me the beginning of life!" One of the men, Dr. H. Fischer-Hullstrung, who attended his execution is quoted as saying of Bonhoeffer, "At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God." May we all die with such a godly testimony and a godly courage! To God Be the Glory for the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Expository Faithfulness

The last post in this series on T4G is a wrap of C.J. Mahaney's sermon on 2 Timothy 4:1-5. Mahaney is different from the other men who spoke at the conference. He is an unashamed Reformed-Charismatic. He is the leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries which has nurtured the growth of hundreds if not thousands of churches across the United States. He is simple in his presentation, passionate beyond comparison, and obviously Spirit-filled. This sermon was the best I have ever heard from him.

By the way, I am also probably best labeled Reformed-Charismatic. I would like to be able to explain the biblical meaning to both words, but I find it to be best if the label stands on its on so that conversation is sparked!

I also freely admit and gladly labor as nothing but an ordinary pastor. There is nothing extraordinary about me as either an intellect or orator or shepherd. I am serving the King with all I have that he might have all the glory, now and forevermore!

Expository Faithfulness
2 Timothy 4:1-5

Faithful to the Message (1-2).
  • Paul is telling Timothy that all the Word should be preached under the rubric of the gospel. The Old and the New Testaments hold the treasure of the account of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • We as pastors need to make the commitment to be unoriginal. It is not our calling to be unique and creative. It is our calling to deliver the gospel that was once for all delivered to the saints! Preach the Word without addition or subtraction, and God will work to do all thing according to his good pleasure.
  • In order to be faithful to the message, we must know our people (2). We cannot get the sermon from the people but we have to get the sermon with the people!
  • Godly character (2). Paul charges us to work with the people in complete patience. I must think of God's patience toward me. "How long has it taken me to appropriate the truth I am teaching in my own life?" If I lack patience, then I am self-righteous. Remember that sanctification is a process.
Faithful to your ministry (5)
  • As a pastor I must learn to be relentlessly faithful to the ministry God has entrusted to me. Every day, day after day, I must serve the Lord with gladness in the place he has planted me.
Faithful to the Savior (1)

C.J. concluded by encouraging us with the words of Paul in verses 6-8. "Ordinary, faithful pastors will receive the commendation of Christ at the judgment"

I was also challenged to pick up a copy of D.A. Carson's biography of his father Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor:The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Did Jesus Preach the Gospel of Evangelicalism?

John Piper is the embodiment of what it means to be a pastor-theologian. I am in debt to both his books and his ministry from the Word of God. He has faithfully proclaimed God's Word at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 30 years. He is a man of deep conviction, mental acumen, and theological precision. There are times when he thinks so deeply and expresses God's message so clearly that we the listeners struggle to grasp everything he is saying. Our minds are just overwhelmed. At T4G 2010 Piper poured out from his years of study the clearest defense of the doctrine of justification by faith alone I have ever heard. After his session was over the room was filled with worship, excitement, and deep appreciation for his hour of labor. Even the other speakers were overwhelmed. When talking over the sermon at the question and answer time Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, and Mark Dever were moved with gratitude for what they received from the sermon. It was a highpoint for me. There is part of me that longs to think as deeply and as clearly as Piper, but the other part of me knows that he is a rare gift to the church. I thank God for him because he is to me a living mentor.

I will cover the highlights of the sermon, but the entire sermon can be listened to or read at www.desiringgod.org. Please take the time to digest this sermon. It is critical that we as evangelicals defend the gospel of Christ/Paul/Justification by Faith Alone! Here is my synopsis.

All I will focus on in this post is the "implications" section of the sermon. At the end I will give you several quotes from the body of the sermon.
  1. Jesus' gospel is also Paul's gospel.
  2. Nothing we do is basis for justification. It is so freeing to hear the truth of the gospel. I am not being made righteous by my actions, my words, my beliefs. I am righteous through Christ alone! I am justified by the external work of God through his Son.
  3. Our standing with God is based on Jesus, not us. "Take heart in your struggle with indwelling sin, and remember that your standing as a cherished child of God is based not in yourself but in Christ alone. When you feel like a failure as a father or a husband or a pastor or a friend, where will you look if not to Christ for your righteousness? When Satan accuses us that we have never done a perfectly motivated deed in our life—not one—and then reminds us of God’s standards of perfection, how will we thrust Satan down but by this truth, this reality?" This point is profound. When you struggle for assurance of salvation the temptation is to look for fruit of salvation in your life. That will always lead to more doubt because the fruit is always mixed with failure. Whenever doubt arises in the struggle with sin, we look to Christ alone for salvation and assurance!
  4. Transformation is the fruit, not the root of justification. Looking to the fruit present in our life for assurance of salvation will only rob us of the joy found in faith alone in Christ alone.
  5. All our goodness is evidence and confirmation not ground. "Settle it once and for all that the dozens of places in the Bible that make your good behavior the condition of your final salvation are a condition only as the fruit and confirmation of justification, not the ground of it. If you do not settle this, you will live in continual turmoil wondering what all those texts mean that say to Christians: “Those who do such things will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (1 Corinthians 6:9). Don’t submit to that torment. Settle it. All the good that God requires of the justified is the fruit of justification by faith alone, never the ground of justification. Let the battle of your life be there. The battle to believe. Not the battle to perform." Nothing need be added here. We are not working and performing for our salvation. We have salvation because of Christ's work and performance!
  6. The gospel is for every person and every people.
  7. Jesus gets the full glory. "Don’t rob the Lord of half his glory in bringing you to God. Christ is our pardon. Christ is our perfection. "
Couple of profound quotes:

1. If you interpret faithfully the deeds and the words of Jesus as he is portrayed in the four Gospels, your portrait of Jesus will be historically and theologically more in accord with who he really was and what he really did than all the varied portraits of all the critical scholars who attempt to reconstruct a Jesus of history behind the Gospels.

Or to state it even more positively: If, by means of historical and grammatical effort, accompanied with the Spirit’s illumination of what is really there, you understand the accounts of the four Gospels as they stand, you will know the Jesus who really was and what he taught.

2. One thing is the issue: This man was morally upright. He was religiously devout. He believed God had made him so. He gave thanks for it. And that is what he looked to and trusted in for his justifying righteousness before God—for his justification. And he was dead wrong to do so.

3. And what about the tax collector? What did he do? He looked away from himself to God. He trusted in nothing in himself. He trusted in God’s mercy. And Jesus said, “God declared him righteous and acceptable.” That’s what “justified” means (see Luke 7:29).

Talk to you soon... CW

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Theology of Sleep

Few men are known for the preaching of God's Word. Pastors are often characterized as good men, faithful at visits, great administrator's, or visionary in leadership. But few men reach the heights as great preachers. John MacArthur is one of the few who can be labeled as a great preacher! Although we do not agree at every point in our theology, MacArthur is a role model to me in faithful exposition over the course of an entire ministry. God has blessed us with the opportunity to watch as He builds His Church through the faithful preaching of the Word at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California (Los Angeles). At T4G 2010, MacArthur preached a convicting and encouraging sermon based on Mark 4. I will give the outline with my comments in italics. The sermon can be downloaded at www.t4g.org. It goes without saying that you would benefit from listening to the sermon in its entirety. Here is a synopsis:

The Theology of Sleep
Mark 4

John MacArthur says, "My belief in the sovereignty of God is what makes me able to sleep. I travel all over the world, sleep in hotels, and I always sleep well. I do not sleep much but I do sleep well." This quote brought his introduction to a close. He spent most of the intro arguing that if the men who held to this neo-finneyist pelagianism (he made that up on the spot to describe the hyper free will people of our day) truly believed their theology, they would never be able to sleep. If you believe that your work is decisive in the process of salvation, and that every person is ultimately free to choose or not choose God's salvation, then why would you ever do anything besides preach and evangelize the lost? We must work to get the gospel to all men, but our confidence in the sovereignty of God allows us to trust him with the evangelistic ministry!

Mark 4 is the Magna Carta of Evangelism! You sow the gospel, go to sleep, and the gospel grows. We do not understand it. We simply have faith in God! (verses 26-29) One of the best insights in this section was in verse 28. MacArthur pointed out that the words "by itself" in the text mean that the seeds of the gospel grow "automatically." It is the Divine Automatic that causes the gospel to grow!!!

  1. We need to live in humility (1-20)
  2. We are obedient because we know we poses the light (21-25).
  3. We go diligently to spread the Word (24-25).
  4. We are confident because of our faith in God's faithfulness (30-32)
The overall encouragement of this sermon was to trust the sovereignty of God in evangelism. MacArthur says, "We are not the cause of conversion but we are the means. Success is measured not by the number of converts won but by the number of sees sown! Their is a biblical principle at work in evangelism. 'He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.' Our eternal reward is measured not by the number of people who are saved through our evangelism but rather on how faithful we were to evangelize!" Thank you God that we can sow the seed and sleep because you are sovereign over all things! Talk to you soon... CW

Monday, May 10, 2010

Culture: What is it?

There are people who rise to the top of the conference circuit with meteoric success, and Thabiti Anyabwile is one of those people! He is a young, energetic, passionate, pastor/theologian who engages the audience with his obvious sense of the weightiness of Scripture. I was impressed with his confidence in light of the men he would share the stage with at this conference. Anyone would be easily intimidated with a panel of the greatest preachers of our generation, but Thabiti spoke with clear and unshakable confidence because of his obvious confidence in the Word of God. The subject of his talk was intriguing to me. "Culture" is one of those buzz words in evangelical circles today. Everyone knows that culture exists, but none of us seems to understand how it changes or even if changing the culture is preferable. Thabiti used this opportunity to challenge pastors and Christian men to engage the church not the culture! Culture is slippery and ever changing. Although it is tempting to turn our focus to the culture, the Bible is clear that our influence in the culture should be faithful presence as true believers. We are not to crusade against or for the culture. We are to crusade for the gospel of Jesus Christ! The following is the outline to the sermon. Again, I would challenge each of you to take the time to listen to Thabiti's sermon at www.t4g.org.

Paul's Pastoral Purpose: Colossians 1:24-2:5
  • Paul's over arching design and purpose was to preach, teach, and disciple every member of the church so that they might be presented mature and spotless to Christ
  • Before we engage the culture we need to see the beauty of the purpose of pastoring.
  • There is great danger in making "plausible" arguments. We must always be aware of the danger of drifting away from the mission of the church. There may be many "good" things but there is only one "great" purpose for the church. We must live to present the truth of the gospel!!
  • We must be ruthless in our commitment to the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the foundation and power of ministry.
  • Thabiti reminded us that Paul had the culturally relevant topic of slavery during his work as a pastor. Paul did not ignore the issue. He engaged the church with the issue. Paul proclaimed that slavery is contrary to the gospel, and because slavery is contrary to the gospel, Paul pushed to the logical and radical conclusion that slavery should not be named among the people of the church! He did not engage the culture, but he did engage the church with the radical implications of the gospel. This is our place in the shaping of culture. Live the gospel while we preach the gospel so that the world may see the power of the gospel.
Paul's Pastoral Philosophy: Colossians 2:6-14
  • We must teach the church to walk in Christ (6)
  • We must be captive to Christ (8)
  • We must teach the people of the church to live and act in the gospel (9-14). This means we must emphasize a high Christology (9) and we must teach them the promise and benefits of the gospel (10-14).
  • Paul sees the danger in verse 8 that the people will be caught in worldly philosophy. We must remember that Christ cannot be blended with the culture. Christ is the antithesis of the worldly culture and its worldly philosophy.
Paul's Pastoral Practice: Colossians 2:16-23
  • Warning #1 - Do not let others judge you based on the standards of "religion" (16).
  • Warning #2 - Do not let anyone disqualify you based on asceticism (18).
  • This was the highlight of the talk!!! We must push people to shed ethnic cultural skin. We must push people to put on the skin of the gospel culture. Even the culture of the Jews in Israel was a shadow but Christ is the substance.
  • When we say church, we must think multi-ethnic but mono culture, Gospel Culture!!!
Paul's Pastoral Perspective: Colossians 3:1-4
  • The only way to be any earthly good is to be heavenly minded.
  • Other worldly perspective makes us strive toward Christ likeness!
  • Christ must be our focus that will make us truly effective.
The highlight of this sermon was Thabiti's challenge to make sure the church remains multi-ethnic but not multi-cultural. We are all under the culture of the gospel. That is why Paul writes in Galatians 3:27-29, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." We are the culture of Christ which gives us the position to bring true and eternal change to the culture of this world by the power of the unadjusted gospel! Talk to you soon... CW

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospel

"Adjusted gospels are disasters. There have been many so called gospels from the beginning." Dr. Albert Mohler was clear in his description of the danger that we all face when we "adjust" the gospel for the ears of our audience. Galatians 1:6-9 says, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." Timothy was charged by Paul in 2 Timothy 1:8-14 to guard the gospel, and we will also do well to heed the words of Jude in verse 3 when he writes, "Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." From the beginning of the apostolic era the gospel has been under steady and viscous attack. And the attack has been most successful when it is from within. Dr. Mohler took the time to give us "Eight Trajectories toward an Adjusted Gospel." I want to simply run through these with very few comments. It is easy to see that we are all faced with the challenge of avoiding these pitfalls. We can fall into these traps without even realizing our dilemma. May we all avoid any false gospel for the sake of the church and our own souls!
  1. Modern Trajectory: Rudolph Bultmann said that we cannot live in the world of modern electricity and hold onto the belief in the supernatural. Modernist have tried to demythologize the Bible.
  2. Post-Modern Trajectory: Modernity is like a universal acid. Once you have removed the supernatural from your conscience there is no stopping place. Modernity lead us into the loss of the objective truth standard. We now struggle to have a gospel of relativism.
  3. Moral Trajectory: In this error people are led to believe that the world must be fair. Christianity is not acceptable because it is not fair. Dr. Mohler concluded this point by saying, "Perfect is infinitely superior to fair!"
  4. Aesthetic Trajectory: This belief leads to the rejection of the true gospel because the Bible is not beautiful when judged by human standards. We should never forget that beauty must be determined not by my standard or your standard but by the biblical standard. Beauty does prove the existence of God, but only when we look to the Bible as the author of beauty.
  5. Therapeutic Trajectory: This false gospel teaches us that sin is a syndrome. We all need therapy so that we can cope with our disease and live at peace. The problem hear is that sin is treated as sickness not death. The true gospel teaches us that we are dead in our sins. We do not need therapy. We need to be regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit.
  6. Pragmatic Trajectory: This direction leads to management philosophy, marketing, and the belief that if what we are doing draws a big enough crowd then it must be right. Dr. Mohler summed up his critique of this false gospel by saying, "Pragmatic Gospel Philosophy produces crowds that are not churches and results that are not regeneration!"
  7. Emotional Trajectory: The emotionally driven gospel will avoid all truth that feels bad and run to the half truths that feel good. The only way to avoid this trap is to let the truth of God's Word drive emotions. We cannot drive emotions to find truth.
  8. Materialist Trajectory: As we have all seen in the last few months, the Prosperity Gospel not only destroys the spiritual life of the church, but it leaves the church physically bankrupt. The emphasis of the physical nature over the spiritual nature causes people to lose sight of Christ as their one treasure. This gospel is rampant and is sending millions to hell because of false faith.
Although we grow weary in the fight against these doctrinal impurities, we must continue the fight! The Holy Spirit alone can make the gospel credible. Let us commit ourselves to the true gospel and trust Him for the outcome! Thank you Dr. Mohler for your clear vision of the dangers that surround us as we preach the gospel once for all delivered to the saints. May we continue to live and preach the only true gospel, The Gospel of Jesus Christ! Talk to you soon... CW

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Messing with Mr. In-Between!

To call Dr. R. C. Sproul a theological giant is an understatement. God has been kind in the history of the church to dot the landscape with men of serious mental acumen. R. C. Sproul is one of those dots. We might say he is a peak in the mountain range of church history. He soars above his colleagues, pointing us to the person and work of Jesus Christ. I dare say, as others have said, he is the "Martin Luther of the Modern Age!"

Having said all of this, I must admit that at times he soars above us common pilgrims. As the aged theologian spoke with passion and tremendous energy, he left many of the attendees of Together for the Gospel 2010 sitting in a mental stupor. We could not grasp every thing that he said because our small brains were overwhelmed. But do not misunderstand. This is not his fault. This is a challenge for all of us to think deeper, meditate longer, and study to show ourselves approved.

Dr. Sproul spoke on "The Defense and Confirmation of the Gospel - What I have Learned in 50 Years." Sproul listed the greatest danger for the evangelical church as a desire to synchrotize the gospel with other forms of religion. He warned against the loss of thesis/antithesis in modern theological discussion. Sproul is well aware of the dangers of Neo-Orthodoxy, Liberation Theology, Death of God Theology, Process Theology, and the latest attempt at synthesis, Open Theism. The danger for most is the failure to understand the dangers that are lying at the door. We drink from the wells of bad theology because we do not sit and ponder the source and the outcome of the belief we are espousing. Sproul leveled the argument of those who worked just a few years ago under the title Evangelicals and Catholics Together. He posed the question, "Has Rome accepted the Solas of the Reformation? Is there now a readiness on all parts to except the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone? If they have not, then how can Evangelicals and Catholics ever truly come together. We must not mess with Mr. In-Between!"

Dr. Sproul concluded his talk by saying that the second great danger for evangelicals is the desire to improve the gospel. His grasp of the issues that face the church was clear, and his challenge to pastors and churchmen alike was pointed. He urged, "The greatest challenge to every minister is fidelity to the Gospel!" Sproul pleaded with us all to hold on to the gospel that was delivered to us by the apostles in the pages of Holy Writ! "Because it is not your gospel, it is God's gospel. You cannot improve His gospel!"

Thank you God for the dot on the landscape, the mountain peak in the mountain range, R. C. Sproul. We may not be able to soar as high as him or ascend to greatness as effortlessly as he does, but when we sit at his feet and learn, we are pulled upward into the vision of Christ that he presents! May we all live, think, and preach the unadjusted, unimproved gospel of God! Talk to you soon... CW.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Church is the Gospel Made Visible

Mark Dever had the pleasure of getting the T4G 2010 conference off to a start. My first observation is that Dr. Dever has lost serious weight since I last saw him (30 to 40 pounds). He looks great, and he is his normal straight forward, convicting self! After seeing the title of his talk, I knew that as a young pastor it was going to be a challenging 90 minutes.

His first two questions set the table: How does Grace Fellowship make the gospel visible? Would it be better for the evangelization of our community if Grace Fellowship did not exist?

Those are not the questions you here at your typical conference. Most people are trying to promote their big idea on church growth at a conference. Mark is challenging 7,000 people to seriously consider if their local congregation displays the gospel, and he goes on to have us question if our church should exist as a part of the transformation movement in the community. Typical of Dever, things got better from that point. By better I mean more convicting!!

"A healthy congregation displays the proclamation of the gospel in living color - the church is created by the gospel, and then the church exists to reflect the gospel" He explained with precise detail the process of reflecting the gospel by doing the following things well:
  1. We reflect the gospel by displaying and proclaiming the character of God. Specifically we are to make known the holiness, love, and authority of God.
  2. We reflect the gospel by truthful analysis and insightful teaching on the nature of human beings. All humans are created in the image of God, but all humans are totally depraved. Mark did a great job of emphasizing the necessity of humility, confession and the need to keep the church gathering from becoming a gathering of self-righteous people rather than gospel transformed followers of Christ.
  3. We reflect the gospel by holding out the beautiful Savior! Under this point Dever stressed that the unity of a church congregation should be Christ and Christ Alone. If our churches are nothing but homogeneous gatherings, then the world we see little difference between us and a social club! Christ unites us by his grace, and this should challenge us to reach beyond all man made boundaries of race, social, economic, etc. Though Dever is strongly Southern Baptist by denomination, he challenged everyone to move beyond denominational boundaries to come together for the gospel!
  4. We reflect the gospel by responding rightly to the gospel. Repentance and Faith! We should be a group of people who live in daily repentance, God's grace, and full faith in Jesus Christ. Dever said, "The local church is a group of people acting on what they cannot see with their physical eyes. The church is people acting on what they see with eyes of faith!"
To answer the questions from earlier. I believe that Grace Fellowship by the grace of God does display the gospel. We are not perfect but we are on a gospel trajectory. I do believe that we can and are able to be part of God's awesome work in transforming the community by His Gospel!!
Talk to you soon....CW

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

T4G Conference Review!

I was unable to review the conference while in Louisville because of technical difficulty. The entire conference is available on the T4G website for those who are able to listen or watch, but over the next few posts I would like to review each session with you. First, the conference was amazing! I have been to many conferences all over the nation, and this was by far the best conference I have ever attended. I do not know where you will be during April of 2012 but I will spend one week at T4G without a doubt. Second, the conference was challenging! Each day I left the sessions with a new thought, application, or point of repentance. God worked in my life through the preachers who poured out their heart to teach us the Word. There will be eternal fruit from this past week. Third, the conference was encouraging! When you spend day after day in a little out post of the Kingdom in Anniston, Alabama, you tend to think that you are all alone. This conference reconfirmed the movement that God has started in the hearts and minds of people all over this nation and around the world. T4G sold out over one month in advance, and there were 7,000 people at the conference with many more wanting to attend. The Spirit of God is blowing across our land. Finally, the conference was edifying! At each session we began by singing to our Lord. I have never heard the sound of 7,000 men singing from the depth of their heart. If you have not had this experience, then you need to sign up for 2012 ASAP. Often people think of the Reformed tradition as dead and stodgy. I was blown away by the passion in the room. The words of the songs were incredible, the voices were staggering, and the freedom was unparalleled. Over the next eight post I will be reviewing each session. I will only hit the high points from each talk. You can get the entire talk at www.t4g.org. You will not regret the time spent listening and learning and worshiping. Talk to you soon...CW

P.S. - I must mention that the conference was a book lovers dream. They gave us 20 free books, and had a tremendous collection of books in the bookstore. I will have plenty to chew on over the next two years while we await another great week in Louisville, KY!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


This week is a week I have waited for almost 1 year! I will be blogging for the next week (beginning Tuesday)from the conference. I will be giving a round up of the days events each night. The main event is beginning!!!!! Talk to you soon....CW

Monday, March 29, 2010

What is your belief about the millennial reign of Christ?

I know that some of you are ready to hear the answer to this question! There is no question that many will leave this post happy, some will leave disappointed, and others will be calling me so that we can discuss this topic into the wee hours of the morning. I welcome any and all of the above. Before getting to the answer of this most controversial question, I want to say that there are good men and women on all sides of this issue. There are in my opinion several issues concerning the end of time that we can all accept and teach. There are also several subjects that are contained within this topic that are difficult to understand. On the latter issues we should expect some good debate. In all of these matters we should remain Christ-centered, God honoring, and charitable to others in the discussion. I do not and the church which I serve does not divide over the issues of eschatology (end times). We embrace personal views on this teaching, when we teach the subjects surrounding the end times we teach from our prospective, but we do not require a particular stance on these issues in order for a person to be a member of our fellowship. Now I will try to give an answer to the question.

I am a-millennial in regard to the millennial reign of Christ. Although this is the minority report among evangelicals in our day, this is the view of the majority of the church beginning in the first century and continuing until our time.

I believe that Christ is reigning now with the saints in heaven, and his reign is being extended to the ends of the earth through the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of his church in every ethnic group of the world.

I believe that he will return when the last of God's elect are saved!

I believe that when he comes he will judge the living and the dead.

I believe that after the judgment we will be ushered into the eternal reign of Christ in the new heaven and the new earth!

That is the simplest answer that I can give. I have not attempted to defend the answer, but as we continue our discussion on this blog, I will give defense. Remember, no matter your personal view of the millennial reign of Christ, He is coming and you must be ready to meet him. Talk to you soon...CW

Monday, March 22, 2010

Should Christians be involved in social and political action?

When someone asks this question, it truly breaks my heart. We have done a poor job of preaching and teaching when believers hold the view that they can be changed by the gospel and not involved in the society around them. Christians must live gospel lives that truly change the community in which they live!

The problems we are facing in our world culture today are in large part because we as evangelical Christians have not been vitally involved in shaping our culture for more than a generation. Society and culture are not changed by individual heart change. We cannot hope to have large scale shifts in our society unless we reassert our influence in the center of society. My prayer is that young evangelicals will be inspired to work at the highest circles of influence in our culture. We have to rethink the way direction in culture is set, we have to reinsert ourselves in the life of the community by humble participation. We have to stop writing off leadership in the political, social, economic, and religious institutions, and we have to live by the values of the gospel. We have to lead by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am putting a link to a excellent resource on the subject of cultural transformation on this post. This resource will help you rethink the idea of changing culture. It will challenge the popularly excepted theories and philosophies of our day, and I believe it will reshape Christian thought on this crucial topic for years to come. Let's agree to pray for real change that centers around true gospel transformation!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Latest Update on Matt Chandler

Latest Update on Matt Chandler

This is the update from Matt Chandler on his progress in fighting brain cancer. Matt is a blessing to us because he is living in God's amazing grace! We should covenant to pray for this man as he continues to shepherd the flock at Village Church during his fight against this disease. May God strengthen him and use him for God's Glory!

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Are you a Baptist or a Presbyterian?

This is a question that I get a kick out of every time. You will have to forgive me, but I cannot pass on the opportunity for controversy on this one! We first have to think about what the question is asking. Then we have to address the specifics involved with each point at question.

Am I a baptist? Yes. I am a biblical baptist which is different from being a member of a denominational church. By biblical baptist I mean that I follow what seems to be the biblical command to baptize (immerse in water) those who are converted to the Christian faith. To keep from dragging this post on at least beyond your willingness to read, it is best to say that I am Ancient Baptist.

I believe that a new believers should submit to the local church elders and be baptized by immersion into water. This simply indicates outwardly what has taken place inwardly with the washing of regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Water baptism does not save, but it does outwardly mark one as part of the local fellowship!

I do not believe that baptism is required for salvation, it is not required for admittance to the Communion table, and here at Grace Fellowship we do not require baptism by immersion for someone to join our church. We try to exhibit charity on this point of doctrine because we respect many who come from different tradition. We teach baptism when it is part of our teaching text, but we do not divide over what we consider a secondary doctrine.

Am I a Presbyterian? Yes, in the broadest since of the term, I am a presbyterian. Again, I am not saying that I am a member of a Presbyterian denomination ( though I hold the PCA as one of the finest denominations in the world). I do believe in the practice of the Old and New Testament when it comes to church leadership. Nowhere in the biblical text are we shown a "single pastor" model. As we read the pages of the Bible it becomes clear that God has established the pattern on plural leadership among his people for several reasons. First, Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. He will not share that leadership with any one man. Second, a plurality is shown to be a better representation of the Lord. There is not a man on the face of the earth that has all the necessary gifts to lead a fellowship of believers. When we have a plurality of pastors, then we have a diversity of gifts, leadership styles, talents, and wisdom. I believe in a presbyterian form of government within the local church (a plurality of pastors serving as equals under the leadership of Christ).

Are you a baptist or a Presbyterian? Technically I would say I am a Reformed Baptist. Our church is not a member of any denomination. I guess as one of my friends says, "I am a Deep Water Presbyterian!" The great thing is there are more of my kind every day!!! To God be the Glory! Talk to you soon...CW

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Controversial Points of Theology

I have been bombarded over the past weeks with questions concerning some hotly debated points of theology. It is exciting for me to see people trying to answer difficult questions concerning the Word of God. There are times where I struggle to answer these questions when approached because of time limitations, environmental concerns (mixed company of believers and non-believers), and a simple fear of offending those I love. Maybe a series of blog post concerning these topics is a bit daunting, but I would like to take the next few post to answer some of the more common concerns presented to me. Please understand that though I am confident in my belief concerning these topics (if I was not certain of my beliefs, I would not put my beliefs in the blogosphere!), I also respect many men who have differing opinions on these topics. My desire is to teach, encourage, and challenge without being offensive. If you disagree with the theology contained in this or any other post, feel free to comment, contact, or heckle me. But lets remember that we are brothers not adversaries. Let's be charitable towards all! So what is the first of these hotly debated topics: Are you a Calvinist?

This is a common question directed toward me. The short answer is Yes. Now for the more detailed response.

First, I am a Christ-follower. My allegiance is undivided and it is an allegiance to Christ and Christ alone.

Second, I am a Protestant. I identify with the five major tenants of the Protestant Reformation. I believe in Christ Alone, Scripture Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and God's Glory Alone. Another post will be dedicated to these foundational beliefs. It is not possible to be a true Christ-follower without holding to these five truths.

Third, I am an Evangelical Protestant Christian. I believe in the biblical gospel. Simply stated, we lost it all, Christ did it all, and we get it all! We lost our hope, goodness, standing, relationship, and spiritual life when Adam sinned in the Garden. Christ, God in the Flesh, lived a perfect and sinless life, died on the cross to appease the wrath of God and absorb the penalty of sin for his Bride the Church. After his death, he was raised from the dead by the power of God which vindicated him for all eternity! Now Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven where he rules and reigns forever. When we come to Christ in faith by God's grace, we receive Christ's righteousness, his position as an heir to the Kingdom, and eternal life with God. We get it all when we get Jesus Christ!

Finally, I am an Evangelical Calvinist Protestant Christian. When you get to the final label, Calvinist, the controversy is heightened. Some of you would say, "Carlton, just drop the label of Calvinist so that people will not be offended." It just is not that simple. I believe in being open and honest. It does not take a person long to figure out that my position is squarely in the Reformed/Calvinistic stream of the Church. And if I spend my time trying to hide from that fact, then it is dishonest and disrespectful. It would be more productive to explain what this term means. The following is a short statement of what it means to be a Calvinist. I also refer to these beliefs as the doctrines of grace, the "minor five," or TULIP. Let me stress the fact that many believers do not hold to these five teachings. It is possible to be a true Christ-follower while not accepting these beliefs, but I also believe that once a Christian is given the biblical rationale for these teachings, they will accept and celebrate these great truths!

Total Depravity: This is the belief that at the fall, man lost not only his innocence but he lost any ability to please God. I do not believe that there is any aspect of our nature that escaped the radical effect of the fall into sin. We are corrupt in all of our ways (mind, body, and soul). We are incapable of pleasing God or earning his love toward us. This is the condition of every human at conception, and if we are left to our own desires we will be separated from God for all eternity. The belief in Total Depravity does not mean that I believe we are as bad as we could be. There is no doubt that without God's common grace mankind would be immeasurably more wicked than he is currently. But rather, I am saying that outside of Christ, everything that mankind does is sin. (Psalm 51:1-5; Ephesians 2:1-4; Romans 1:18-32; Romans 3:9-18; Romans 14:23)

Unconditional Election: This is the belief that we cannot do anything to deserve the love and mercy and grace of God. The Bible very clearly teaches that we are chosen in Christ before the foundations of the world. It is not based on God's prior knowledge of our choosing him. Election is based on the character and desire of God. He is the basis and the source of our election! This election is irrevocable, and Jesus Christ will not lose any of the Bride that his Father has given to him. I am not saying that final salvation has no condition. This would be untrue. Salvation only comes to those who have faith in Christ alone, but the only people who have faith alone in Christ alone are those that God has elected by his sovereign goodness. (Ephesians 1:3-6; John 10:22-30; John 6:35-40; Acts 13:48; Romans 9:15-18; Romans 8:28-30)

Limited Atonement: Everyone believes that the atonement was limited. Either you must profess a belief in the limit of the power of the atonement or you must profess a limit in the extent of the atonement. I believe that the atonement was limited in its extent not its power. Christ's death on the cross secured both the forgiveness of sin and the position in the family for all God's elect. It was not applied in the same way to those who are not God's elect. The cross was not a hopeful attempt to save someone that might believe. The cross was God's active love being poured out on all mankind. The cross secured salvation for those who would believe in Christ, and the cross extended God's common grace to those who would never believe. The cross is the source of every good gift from God. We might say, "The cross was sufficient for all, but it was effectual for those who believe." (Romans 3:25-26; 1 Timothy 4:10; John 10:15; John 17:6, 9, 19; Revelation 5:9; Mark 10:45; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:28; Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 2:14; Romans 8:32)

Irresistible Grace: It is a common mistake to think that this teaching means a man can never resist any influence from the Spirit. That is not what is being stated here. Irresistible Grace simply put is the teaching that God can by his sovereign goodness overcome all resistance to his will. When God undertakes to fulfill his sovereign purpose, no one can stop him. This includes his work of inwardly calling a man to salvation by the work of the Holy Spirit. (Ps. 115:1-3; Romans 9:14-20; John 6:44, 64-65; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; Acts 16:14)

Perseverance of the Saints: I actually prefer to call this point "preservation of the saints." God will not lose any of his children who have placed faith in the Son Jesus Christ. This is not the dreaded "Once Saved Always Saved" teaching of some theologians. This is the teaching that says once a person has been drawn to Christ, placed full faith in him for salvation, that person will then be brought to full glory! A person in the state of salvation will also be in the state of sanctification because no true believer can continue in life style sin. (Romans 8:28-30; John 10:26-30; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24-25)

I know that this is a long post, but I do feel it will help clear up the confusion of what it means to be Calvinist. There are many wrong teachings presented by opponents of Calvinism which lead to confusion. When someone asks if I am a Calvinist, my answer is Yes! But I also would like the time to give the above explanation so that there is no confusion. I hope this helps. Next time I will try to be more brief with my answer. Talk to you soon...CW

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why did Jesus come in the Flesh?

Think about that question for a moment... ok, now try to give me a short answer. I know I am not with you as you give your answer (if you said the answer out loud, in public, people now think you are a weirdo!) but the most common answers probably centered on the fact that Jesus came to die for your sins. Don't feel bad. That is the most common way for most people to think of the purpose for Jesus coming to the earth. We have taught several generations in the Evangelical Church to express the meaning of Christ coming to the earth in this simplistic, formulaic way. But is that the answer that Jesus gave for why he came to the earth? Listen to the way he described his coming.

"'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' (Luke 4:18-22)"

It was with these words that Jesus began his public ministry at Nazareth. Jesus was announcing that he, the King of kings, was ushering in the Kingdom of God! Far from the small vision of personal piety that we spend the majority of our days talking about, Jesus was proclaiming the radical beginning of the transformation that could only happen under the reign of the King!! Do not miss my point. Jesus did die for your soul, but his death accomplished much more than the salvation of the elect. The fact is that Jesus' death and resurrection will cause the ultimate reconciliation of all things. The curse of sin is universal. Sin caused death and destruction in every corner of the universe, and Jesus Christ is bringing all things back into right relationship with his Father. So Paul gives his answer to why Jesus came in the flesh when he says,

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)"

What is my point in this post? Jesus Christ came to change the spiritual destiny of the elect by saving them from the wrath of God, but he also came to reconcile all of creation to the Father by defeating sin and death through his death, burial, and resurrection. This changes the outlook for his followers. We must think in terms of transformation of society not just transformation of individuals. No longer can we sit in the ivory tower of our church buildings while the society around us goes to hell! The Church should be pressing for city, state, nation, and world transformation by the power of the gospel. Our ministries should include both physical and spiritual components. As Christians we need to beg God for a heart that is passionate for total Kingdom transformation in our community, and then we should join with our fellow Christ-followers to bring about genuine change in the lives of the people both physically and spiritually. Let's take some time to think about how we can "preach" (preaching the gospel when done in a biblical way is done by Word and Deed!) the good news to the poor, handicapped, imprisoned, orphaned, and socially disadvantaged in our neighborhoods. Then let's get busy with the Kingdom work that God would have us do. Talk to you soon....CW

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Theology by the Man in Black

Johnny Cash is one of those iconic figures who changed his profession. He was the outlaw, the Man in Black. He was also saved by grace! If you know Johnny's music, then you know he loved to sing about biblical topics. I listened to his album American VI: Ain't No Grave today (the second posthumous album due in stores Feb. 26). Many of the songs are repeats from earlier albums. I recommend the album to anyone who loves classic country. But the purpose hear is to compare the words of his song "A Satisfied Mind", written by Red Hayes, to the Word. Notice these words:

How many times have
You heard someone say
If I had his money
I could do things my way

But little they know
That it's so hard to find
One rich man in ten
With a satisfied mind

A proverbial truth. Money cannot ultimately satisfy. The more wealth earned simply drives a man to earn more wealth. Hebrews 13:5 says, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We should be content with whatever we have as Christians because we have Christ. He will never leave us or forsake us. Fortune and fame come and go. But our life in Christ is eternal. It leads to a satisfied mind!

As a fan of a legend, I like to think that on September 12, 2003 Johnny Cash entered the eternal rest of the Lord singing...

When my life has ended
And my time has run out
My friends and my loved ones
I'll leave there's no doubt

But one thing's for certain
When it comes my time
I'll leave this old world
With a satisfied mind

He was satisfied to know the Lord. When you face death's door will you have a satisfied mind? I pray you do. Christ will never leave you or forsake you!

Talk to you soon...CW

Hello Blogging World!

As many of you know, I am not the most technology savvy guy in the world. Because of this I have run from the idea of blogging for a couple years. My wife recently sent me a post from Desiring God's blog that convinced me to begin blogging for several reasons. I want to give you my reasons for blogging, and then lay out the direction that this blog will take as we move forward.

Why Did I decide to Begin a Blog?
  1. I need to sharpen my thinking skills. It has always helped me to think myself clear on any issue if I take the time to write about my subject. In the throws of local ministry it is difficult for me to justify time spent writing, but I believe a blog will help me write because of the accountability of readers. If there are a group of people looking for me to write on a regular basis, then I am more likely to be disciplined in writing which will lead to better thinking!
  2. I want to communicate with the people in my church, family, and community. Part of being a pastor (a rather large part of the calling) is communicating clear biblical thinking on any number of real life issues. A blog is one of the best ways to have a conversation with a large group of people twenty-four hours a day.
  3. I want to create a hunger for studying the Bible and theology. We live in a world of soundbites and spoon fed theology or Bible teaching. My desire is that this blog will be a place of constant interaction with deep, practical theology. If the readers are challenged to think on the issues of the day from a biblical standpoint, then our community will be transformed into Christ-likeness.
  4. I want people to know who I really am. More than anything this blog will hopefully be a productive way for people to know who I am. It is impossible to know me from an hour on Sunday. My desire is that by reading this blog you will be more connected with who Carlton Weathers is in day-to-day life.
There are several other reasons for launching this blog, but I want to you to know that if you choose to read here, we will have a true to life discussion of the events in our world. My prayer is that God will be glorified and the church will be strengthened and the lost will be challenged to faith in Christ through this continual conversation that I call "Beyond the Walls." Its time to close this post because I hate reading long post!!!

Talk to you soon... CW