"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, 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!

Posted using ShareThis

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