Saturday, December 31, 2005

Article: Keep Christianity counterfeit-free

(I thought this is quite an insightful article, which exhorts us to uphold fundamental Christian doctrines.

"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." - John 15:19)

By the Rev. Wally Morris
Charity Baptist Church
Posted on Sat, Dec. 31, 2005

I love the end of the year. It’s hard sometimes to point out any particular reason why. It’s more than food. It’s more than gifts. The last few weeks of the year seem special. The music, the decorations and family visits all play a part.

However, I suspect that many people have lost their understanding of this time of year. They still have the good feeling, but many don’t know why they have the good feeling.

Perhaps it’s because we’re living off the interest of the Christian foundations made generations ago. Not that long ago, people in churches knew their Bible, they knew their Christianity and they understood what Christianity meant. That developed a certain way of thinking in America.

For example, Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday. Very few countries have Thanksgiving. It is an American holiday because of the American emphasis on religion. Many secularists will immediately object to that conclusion, yet the historically strong emphasis on the Bible in American culture and its effect on every aspect of American life is irrefutable.

After decades of a de-emphasis of the Bible in America, however, we still have the good feeling, but we’re not quite sure why we have it. And so a lot of people like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but they’re not sure why. Part of the problem can be traced to a counterfeit Christianity.

Any form of “Christianity” which denies Christianity’s fundamental doctrines is not Christianity. Doctrines such as the Trinity (three “persons” but one God), the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ (fully God and fully man), the full and complete inspiration of the 66 books of the Bible (and only those books), the Virgin Birth, the literal physical resurrection of Jesus Christ and salvation by Jesus Christ alone are a few of those fundamental doctrines.

Liberal theology, represented by the pseudo-scholarly Jesus Seminar (which was brought to Fort Wayne this year), is not Christian. J. Gresham Machen eloquently and thoroughly made this point in his book “Christianity and Liberalism” many years ago. Liberal theology is a theology of unbelief. Even a casual look at what the Jesus Seminar denies illustrates its unbelief. Liberal and Neo-orthodox theological systems are notorious for using Christian terminology with different meanings.

If a person wishes to deny fundamental Christian doctrine, that is his choice, but honesty requires that he use a word other than “Christian” to describe himself. He may have an attraction to Jesus Christ and may even believe some of what the Gospels tell us about Christ, but the Christ he follows is a Christ made in his own image rather than as the Bible portrays the Lord.

True Christianity is both doctrinally sound and practically relevant. James 1:21-27 refer to God’s Word as the “law of liberty” that frees from bondage to self only as a person is willing to see himself as the Bible pictures him. Yet true Christianity also has an “other person” focus as changed lives reach out in compassion to other people.

Liberal theology enthusiastically embraces social work and the words of Christ concerning the poor and disadvantaged, yet ignores the theological basis for any meaningful social change: the liberating gospel of the cross.

Some accuse conservative theology (fundamentalism) of neglecting society’s needs and only being concerned with the spiritual. However, many rescue missions, hospitals and charities were started by Bible-believing Christians who applied the Gospel to pressing social needs. Many evangelists were also involved in eliminating the scourge of alcohol and gambling from society. For example, in the early 1900s, when an evangelist came to town, the bars were forced to close for lack of business.

Today’s “Christianity” is an eclectic mix of Bible, psychology, motivational principles, American individualism and even some elements of Oriental mysticism.

Churches that change their format in order to be sensitive to “seekers” often have record numbers of people attend their churches, yet many churches that preach the “old rugged cross” struggle to pay their bills.

Churches that openly deny the Bible and dialogue with other beliefs are praised as “insightful” and “cutting-edge” while churches that warn about ecumenical compromise are considered “unloving” and “backward.” Pastors who smile a lot and claim they don’t know (such as Joel Osteen did this summer with Larry King) make millions of dollars on their books while other pastors who work faithfully every week to help people are considered bigoted for claiming to know the truth.

Such strange times we live in when people consider a counterfeit and superficial “Christianity” authentic, yet consider a Christianity which focuses on the cross, sin and doctrine to be a threat to society. May those churches which still preach the cross be encouraged to continue to fight the good fight of faith.

The Rev. Wally Morris is pastor of Charity Baptist Church in Huntington.

Source: Keep Christianity counterfeit-free, The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Refutation of City Harvest's "Divine Healing" Article (Part 2)

This is a continuation of an article that I wrote some time ago with regard to Harvest Times' Why Do We Believe In Divine Healing?

Kong Hee:
Four hundred years later, in His first advent, Jesus Himself took away any shadow of doubt concerning healing in the atonement. At Capernaum, after healing Peter's mother-in-law of fever, Jesus delivered those who were demon-possessed by His command. He then "healed all who were sick" (Matt. 8:16). The Scripture immediately reminds us that this is exactly what Isaiah the prophet says Jesus would come to do:

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses." (Matt. 8:17)

What exactly is the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ? It is simply this: the sacrificial offering Jesus Christ made on the cross of Calvary. In Romans 3:25, it is written:
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.
Therefore, citing examples of miraculous healings BEFORE the occurence of the substitutionary atonement on the cross does not prove that physical healings are covered in the atonement.

Take for instance, it is as illogical as saying because Jesus performed the miracle of calming the storm in Luke 8:22-25, good and fair weathers are covered in the atonement. Or the miraculous feeding of the five thousand in Luke 9: 10-17 means that Christians will never go hungry.

With specific regard to Matthew 8:17, there is no mention of the cross where the substitutionary atonement took place. Instead, this verse is simply meant to show the readers that Jesus’ ministry of healing fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 53:4. Performing miraculous healings was never the main mission of Jesus Christ. His purpose on earth was to be the “atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Kong Hee:
Christians everywhere would agree that Jesus didn't go to the cross for some, but that He went for all of us.

The above statement shows a pretty poor understanding of the history of Christianity and of Christianity in general. The biblical doctrine of limited atonement is still being preached in many Calvinistic and Reformed churches.

The historical Canons of Dordt, which was written in 1618-19 in the Netherlands, rejects the doctrinal error of unlimited atonement by the followers of Jacobus Arminius,
For this assertion is an insult to the wisdom of God the Father and to the merit of Jesus Christ, and it is contrary to Scripture. For the Savior speaks as follows: I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them (John 10:15, 27). And Isaiah the prophet says concerning the Savior: When he shall make himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days, and the will of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand (Isa. 53:10). Finally, this undermines the article of the creed in which we confess what we believe concerning the Church.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), and the Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742) all state,
The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.
Kong Hee:
If "our" in verse 17 means all of us can have salvation in a Savior, then "our" must also mean all of us can have healing in a divine Healer. But why aren't all healed? The same reason why not all are saved. Just as salvation is not automatic but a gift you receive by faith, similarly healing is not automatic. You also have to receive it by faith! If you can't believe God for it, you won't get it. It is as simple as that.

This is a faulty comparison. The reference to healing at Matthew 8:17 does not have anything to do with the substitutionary atonement, and thus it has nothing to do with “salvation in a Savior” since it is the blood of Christ at the cross that saves us (Colossians 1:20).

Earlier on, Kong Hee declares physical healings to be in the atonement. In other words, physical healings are defined as one of the covenantal blessings of the New Covenant, along with blessings such as the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.

And there lies the thorny question to be answered. If forgiveness of sins and eternal life are granted automatically upon salvation, why isn't physical healings accorded the same treatment as the rest of the covenantal blessings?

If healing is received by faith as Kong Hee claimed, shouldn't the Apostle Paul be telling Timothy about his “lack” of faith in 1 Timothy 5:23? The Apostle Paul wrote, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

He also wrote in Galatians 4:12-14,
I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.
The Apostle Paul was obviously afflicted with a physical illness. If faith is a requisite for healing, then perhaps Kong Hee is suggesting the apostle did not have enough faith to be healed.

Kong Hee:
Acts 10:38 says, "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." One fact stands out very clearly in this Scripture: sickness is an oppression of Satan the devil. You have to be very careful not to attribute a disease to God.

I have heard so many ignorant Christians making statements like "God has sent this sickness to teach me a lesson," or "This cancer is a gift from the Lord to bring you closer to Him." God doesn't do that. You must be clear that God heals while the devil afflicts. Healing is from the Lord while sicknesses are from Satan. Only then will you have the confidence and conviction to seek God's divine healing.

Does Kong Hee mean that God is not in sovereign control over sicknesses or Satan? Job 2:4-7,10 clearly shows that sickness is the result of God’s divine purpose. Job even associated his sickness with "trouble" from God.
"Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face." The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
God said to Moses in Exodus 4:11,
The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
In 2 Corinthians 12:7, God has given the Apostle Paul “a thorn” in the flesh, “a messenger of Satan,” to keep him from becoming “conceited.”

And in Numbers 16:46-47, God started a plague among the Israelites.
Then Moses said to Aaron, "Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD ; the plague has started." So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them.
If sufferings or sicknesses are not governed by God, the following passage from Hebrews 12:5-11 would be meaningless.
And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Kong Hee:
The leper knew God has the power to heal, but he wasn't sure if God was willing to heal. Without hesitation, Jesus reveals the will of God in regards to sicknesses and diseases. He said, "Of course I am willing, be cleansed from your leprosy." The man was healed.

It is clearly shown in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 that it is not always the will of God to heal.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
Kong Hee:
Faith is the atmosphere for miracles and healing. Doubt and unbelief are definite miracle killers. When Jesus came to His hometown of Nazareth, He was greatly despised by His own people. They scoffed at Him for being just the son of a simple carpenter (Mark 6:2-3). Jesus marveled at their unbelief and could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them (6:5-6).

When a Christian adopts an attitude that says, "Well, let God first heal me; then I'll believe in divine healing!" That is the surest way of hindering God's healing power. God's way is the way of faith—you believe first with conviction, then you will see the miracles of God taking place in your life.

There is no mention of faith in Matthew 8:14-15,
When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
Neither is there any mention of faith in Acts 3:1-7,
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer--at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong.