21 July 2018

What Are You Wearing? Part 2: On the Modern Day Assault Against the Dress Code of Heaven

by Dr. Colin Eakin



n our previous post, we asked the question that supersedes all others: What does it take to be right with God? The answer, as established in God's Word, is straightforward and consistent throughout: to be of the same glory as God Himself—holy, pure, perfect.

This is ominous for all of us, because in our flesh we are inherently incapable of such perfection. But the most glorious of all biblical truths is that such a requirement need not spell our certain doom, because God has made possible the provision of Christ's righteousness to the penitent and believing sinner. Through the process known as imputation, the Bible tells how the repentant believer's sins can be exchanged for Christ's righteousness as a pauper might be redressed from his soiled garment into a pure and spotless robe.

That is the only manner by which the sinner might stand acceptable before God. And although the rebellious heart of sinners yearns for any mode of spiritual dress other than the one stipulated by God, the Bible makes clear that all such endeavors are vain, despicable and worthless substitutes.

God's Dress Code Under Attack

Now, we might expect those who reject outright the God of the Bible to formulate their own manner of acceptable dress before God—as it were, to clothe themselves in their own "righteous" works. But are you aware that God's singular manner of reconciling believing sinners by applying to them Christ's righteous robe is under attack from within the church as well? N.T. Wright—a darling among the revisionist evangelical set—has lead this attack in recent years. His so-called "New Perspective" on the gospel seeks to undermine the traditional, orthodox understanding of God's plan of salvation in several ways, including his claim that God never meant that Christ's righteousness could somehow be imputed to sinners. Wright is derisive of such an idea, claiming this doctrine is a misunderstanding of the gospel. He writes, "In certain circles within the church . . . 'the gospel' is supposed to be a description of how people get saved; of the theological mechanism whereby, in some people's language, Christ takes our sin and we his righteousness." [N.T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), p. 39.]



Wright is insistent that this traditional Reformed understanding of the gospel involving penal substitutionary atonement has it all wrong. "This is not the gospel," he writes in his latest book, The Day the Revolution Began. "This is paganism. To worship God as one who justifies by imputation is nonsense." So as to leave no question on his denial of penal substitutionary atonement, he adds: "That Christ died in the place of sinners is closer to the pagan idea of an angry deity being pacified by a human death than it is to anything in either Israel's Scriptures or the New Testament." [N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus' Crucifixion (New York: Harper One, 2017), p. 147.]

Elsewhere he writes: "If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys, or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance, or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom. This gives the impression of a legal transaction, a cold piece of business, almost a trick of thought performed by a God who is logical and correct, but hardly one we want to worship." [Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 113.]

And what is his alternative? Wright contends that no one is justified—in other words, declared righteous by God—until one's final, future assessment. At that time—according to Wright—what the Apostle Paul meant as present justification by faith will be affirmed or denied on the basis of one's entire life. [Ibid, p. 129.] Wright speaks of a person's "covenant faithfulness," wherein one maintains membership in God's covenant with His followers through vocational means (i.e. through obedience to His teaching), and anticipates a final justification at the end of time based at least partly in these obedient works. As Phil Johnson has remarked, this makes a person's faithful discipleship a factor in final justification. In other words, Wright's theology would ground ultimate salvation at least partly in the believer's activity while on Earth (Wright describes this as the "covenant of vocation"), and not completely in the finished work of Christ on the sinner's behalf. [Phil Johnson, "What's Wrong with Wright?" Ligonier Ministries.]

Wright's purpose is to re-envision the traditional gospel away from its insistence on repentance and faith in God's substitutionary atoning sacrifice in exchange for God's imprimatur of righteousness. Instead, Wright would have us believe that all who dedicate themselves to Christ and follow-through with behaviors consistent with His ethics are in God's family and belong at His table. The late philosopher and author Dallas Willard (another favorite among revisionist evangelicals) would seem to concur when he remarks, "It isn't that we become righteous by having the correct beliefs. We become righteous by trusting God and living from Him." [Dallas Willard, interview with John Ortberg, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Menlo Park, CA, Dec. 13, 2009.] In the same interview, Willard declares it is a mistake to think that "God has a list of things you must believe, and then He'll have to let you into heaven." [Ibid.]

Jesus: Heaven's Dress Code Enforcer

So which are we to believe? Is the gospel the imputation of Christ's righteousness in the form of a holy robe to all who repent and (in Willard's sardonic lexicon) "believe the right things," or is it Wright's version of covenant membership that comes to all would-be disciples of Christ as they live out their faith in obedience to His teaching?" Does the Bible provide any insight on this critical divide?

Indeed it does, and from no less an expert than Jesus Christ Himself. In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus tells a parable to His disciples, the ending of which addresses this exact issue. At a banquet meant to represent the eternal celebration between God and His true companions, Jesus tells of someone God deems unacceptable at the feast—an unwelcome intruder. In an astonishing turn of events, this impostor is confronted by the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, and summarily tossed from the banquet into outer darkness, a figurative description for hell.

For what crime? The King Himself had declared that invitations were to be sent far and wide, to whomever could be found (v. 9). Not only that, invitations were sent out without regard to one's moral standing (v. 10); in fact, the event was to include (v. 10) "both bad and good." The man is at the banquet when confronted by the Lord, implying his intention to participate in the communal gathering. Ostensibly he is there on the basis of fulfilling his part in a "covenant of vocation" while on Earth. There is no mention of any obvious treachery, and his presence at the banquet would presume at least an outward demonstration of allegiance to the King. None of his fellow celebrants seem to have any inclination that the man's admission to the event was illegitimate.

So why did Christ throw him out of the celebration and into hell? For one reason alone. In the midst of the celebration, Christ discovers the man and asks him a single question (v. 12-13): "'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

This is most extraordinary. Jesus confronts a would-be disciple and fellow celebrant at His kingdom celebration and forth-with tosses him into hell for violating the dress code! Jesus is saying that whether or not you are wearing the proper wedding garb in His presence will determine whether you celebrate with Him forever, or whether He orders you cast into hell. Jesus' words leave no doubt as to His implication: no matter what, it is vital to be found wearing the proper wedding garment in the presence of God!

So let's take Christ's teaching and apply it to what we have already learned. From the Scriptures referenced in the previous post, we can deduce: (1) the wedding dress Christ requires comes entirely through the initiative and activity of God (Isa. 61:10); (2) the process includes the removal of the soiled garment of the sinner in exchange for the righteous robe (Zech. 3:4); and (3) the event must occur prior to one's meeting with the Lord Himself (Matt. 22:11-13).

Compare this with Wright. On all three measures, Wright's theology misses the mark. How so? (1) His ideas would introduce a disciple's faithful obedience as a factor in determining his acceptance before God, in violation of Isaiah 61:10. (2) Wright's theology minimizes or negates altogether the gospel's insistence on a specific garment exchange which serves to cleanse the sinner's stained nature, in violation of Zechariah 3:4. Finally, (3) Wright insists that no one will be justified, or declared righteous—including, by analogy, wearing any robe of righteousness—until he reaches Heaven. This perspective dismisses outright any prerequisite dress code that must be applied prior to the afterlife and one's ultimate encounter with Lord Jesus Christ, in clear violation of the Lord's own teaching in Matt. 22:11-13. On all three accounts, Wright's ideas oppose the distinct and indisputable instruction of the Word of God.

Conclusion: What Are You Wearing?

Make no mistake. Whether they recognize it or not, those who tamper with the Bible's wondrous and clear presentation of God's provision of a holy garment to penitent believers, through Christ's penal substitutionary atonement, do so from the corruption and pride of their carnal selves. It arises from the age-old, grotesque desire to offer up some form of human activity designed to merit God's acceptance. These would-be spiritual leaders and religious teachers resent God's impossible righteous standard, so they devise one of their own. Here, Proverbs 14:9 applies: "Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance." Those who dislike God's bar of approval will mock at what He has done to reconcile repentant and believing sinners to Himself. But rather than enjoying God's acceptance, they are counted as fools.

Why do such fools mock in this way? Ultimately, it is because they do not want to share in the persecution Christ says will come to His true followers (Gal. 6:12; see also John 15:18-25; 16:1-4; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 John 3:13). Those who deny the doctrine of substitutionary atonement do so to avoid telling sinners they have neither the autonomous will nor ability to merit any favor of God (Phil. 2:12), that they live under God's contemporary judgment even now (John 3:18, 36; Gal. 3:10), and that apart from faith in Christ's Person and saving work, they are headed for eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46; John 8:24). That is exclusive, divisive, even inflammatory language, and those who deny the true gospel message want no part in such polemical discourse that might invite rejection and open hostility.



But such a polemic is precisely the intent of the true gospel, which is why Christ is depicted in both the Old and New Testaments as a "rock of offense" (Isa. 8:14; Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8). The gospel is a polemical message designed to convict the sinner of damning sin and the utter ineptitude of any self-rescue. If humans, through their estimable efforts, can affect their standing before God, then these modern-day evangelical revisionists can appeal to the pride of humans in presenting their good deeds before God, and maintain their popular standing among like-minded objectors. But none of this is new. These latest attempts to undermine God's righteous standard are but recycled heresies which, regardless of the age or form, are subject to the same chilling and dire sentence Christ gave to the improperly-clothed wedding celebrant.

N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard and all who follow in their wake are wrong. Heaven has a dress code, and it is strictly enforced. The robe of righteousness that must be worn in the presence of Christ has no input from human hands, comes through the imputation of Christ's righteousness in exchange for the penitent believer's sins, and must be applied by Christ alone prior to the one's progression to the afterlife. This is the clear statement of Scripture. May God continue to call forth an army of righteously robed converts to proclaim His true gospel, and to rebuke all assaults against it.

Dr. Colin L. Eakin
Guest Contributor

Dr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopædic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.

20 July 2018

What Are You Wearing? Part 1: On the Modern Day Assault Against the Dress Code of Heaven

by Dr. Colin L. Eakin



What does it take to be right with God? That is the central question of human existence. What are God's criteria for eternal life with Him? What does He require?

Job had this question on his mind. The Book of Job is likely the oldest book in the Bible, so it is fitting that in it Job asks the question the Bible is written to answer: "How then can man be in the right before God?" (Job 25:4; also 4:17; 9:2). The correct answer determines the fate of everyone for all time. And because this is so, the correct answer is not only the most pondered and debated topic by humans, it is also the most undermined and attacked by God's number one enemy, Satan.

God's Perfect Standard

So what is the Bible's answer to this most fundamental question? What is God's demand upon those who would be received by Him? Answer: perfection. God's bar for His approval is perfection. Anything less brings eternal condemnation as the price of disobedience. Ezekiel writes what God has determined: "The soul that sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:4, 20).

This is God's consistent standard throughout Scripture. When God created the first humans, Adam and Eve, His instruction to them was straightforward: if you disobey Me, you will die (Gen. 2:17). When God delivered His Law to the people of Israel, His oft-repeated injunction—"Be holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7)—remained the same. And what was God's threat for all who fail in this? "Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them" (Deut. 27:26). Be perfect, or be cursed. Those have always been God's two options.



This righteous standard was on David's heart when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write, "O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks with truth in his heart" (Ps. 15:1-2). In another Psalm, David continues on this theme: "Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, and does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully" (Ps. 24:3-4).

When God came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, His condition for acceptance was unchanged and explicit: "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Earlier in the same sermon, Jesus warns those who would listen, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:20). In the Book of Hebrews, the Holy Spirit reiterates through the writer, "Strive for peace with everyone, and for holiness, without which no one will see the LORD" (Heb. 12:14).

So the standard of God for those who would commune with Him is consistent throughout Scripture and unequivocally clear: holiness. Moral perfection. A life lived flawlessly before God, free of even the slightest taint of sin. That is the Bible's daunting yet unambiguous requirement for fellowship and eternal life with God. Then the Bible dooms its reader even further, declaring that on one's own, such perfection is impossible. According to the Bible, no one can live in such a manner, in perfect obedience before a righteous and holy God. David moans, "No one living is righteous before you" (Ps. 143:2). And in the New Testament, Paul concurs when he writes, " . . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23a). Therein lies the fundamental predicament of mankind: God demands holiness to match His glory, and everyone throughout all time falls short of this standard.

Imputation: God's "Robe of Perfection" Applied to Penitent Sinners

Most fortuitously, God has provided a manner by which sinners can acquire the holiness necessary to commune with Him: through the imputation of Christ's righteousness to those who repent and believe in His saving work. Imputation means the transfer of condition from one account to another—in this case, the transfer of Christ's perfection to the unworthy. This imputation comes from God's provision of penal substitutionary atonement, wherein through faith God attributes the righteous life of Christ to the penitent sinner, and places that sinner's sins upon Christ, for which He was punished once and for all time upon the cross (Isa. 53:10; 2 Cor. 5:21). This is exactly what Isaiah was expressing when he says of Christ (Isa. 53:11), " . . . by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities."

The Bible uses a number of images to depict all that occurs in redeeming the sinner via imputation through substitutionary atonement, including speaking of being clothed with the righteousness of God (Job 29:14; italics added). The prophet Isaiah was beside himself at this possibility, exclaiming, "I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10; italics added). Zechariah elaborates on this sartorial makeover: "He [God] spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, 'Remove the filthy garments from him.' Again He said to him, 'See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes' " (Zech. 3:4; italics added).

This transfer of Christ's righteousness to sinners—pictured as a holy robe, given in exchange for their sinful soiled garment—is the most extraordinary transaction imaginable. It is almost beyond our ability to conceive that God would punish His own Son for the sins of others in order to provide this holy vestment, by which the sinner can stand perfectly righteous—and thus accepted—in the presence of God. Substitutionary atonement and its provision of a righteous robe to unworthy sinners is thus the pinnacle demonstration of God's grace and mercy and love. As such, it is the supreme feature for which He deserves their highest and ceaseless praise.

But the prideful human heart is wired to reject God's offer of Christ's righteous robe, and to come up with one of its own. Ever since Adam and Eve made garments of leaves in the vain attempt to cover the shame brought on by their sin, it has been mankind's nature to reject the covering God would apply, and endeavor instead to apply an alternative. This, in fact, is the impetus behind every false religion. Every false form of belief in the world is predicated, at its core, upon developing some alternative garment that might cover the sin and shame of its converts and somehow still allow them to stand acceptable before God.

Here is how Pastor John MacArthur describes this tendency:
What did Adam and Eve do? "They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings" (Gen. 3:7). That is the launch of false religion . . . that is the symbol of false religion. That is the first act of man to create a way in which he himself could deal with his own shame, in which he could cover his own iniquity. And then he hides, because he hasn't yet found a way to face God.
     This is the birth of false religion: men make ways to cover their own sin. But it does not salve their guilty conscience, and so they hide from God. False religion is a form of hiding from God, hiding from His true presence. That is the symbol of all false religion, that a guilty, dying sinner can make a covering for his own shame, and that somehow he can cover his shame and hide himself from God. He hides himself in his own self-made coverings. [John MacArthur, from the sermon, "The Danger of Adding to the Gospel: Gal. 2:11-12," delivered at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA, June 4, 2017.]
Isaiah confirms the futility of these efforts: "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away" (Isa. 64:6). According to the prophet, these "righteous deeds" not only fail to cover one's sins and deliver the righteousness God requires, but are actually fetid waste which bespeak of the sinner's unrighteous core and augur his demise.

With such straightforward and consistent biblical instruction on God's righteous standard for acceptance, the gracious and singular manner He has arranged for this to occur, and the failure of all substituted human effort, one might think God's prescription for His approval would be immune to dispute. But if that is your conclusion, guess again. We'll cover the modern day assault against God's standard of righteousness in our next post, "What Are You Wearing? Part 2."

Dr. Colin L. Eakin
Guest Contributor

Dr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopædic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.

18 July 2018

Don Green on Biblical Justice vs. "Social Justice"

posted by Phil Johnson



My friend and one-time joint pastor of GraceLife wrote this brief post on FaceBook yesterday, and it was so good I wanted to save it here for easy access. FaceBook posts always disappear into the timeline, and it's really hard to search for them, so let's preserve this here:

When like-minded brothers and I voice warning about the so-called Christian justice movement, it would do you good to recognize something important.

(I speak primarily to those who are confused and trying to sort it out; I realize the main speakers, writers, and promoters have chosen their way and resent the fact that we won’t hop on their train.)

We are trying to safeguard you and your faith. We think there is a genuine danger to this movement that will lead you far away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

The burden of proof is not on us to defend a continuance of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, but entirely upon those men who point to an immoral heretic as grounds for re-defining the very nature of what historic Christianity should be and do. We don’t believe these men have come close to making their case.

We see them driving people from their churches with harsh words and judgment. We see them calling their opponents racist Confederates. We see their defensiveness when sincere concern is expressed against their agenda.

We assess all that and say, “That is not the Spirit of the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep.”

We fear lest the precious good news be obscured and hidden by men with a grievance trying to accomplish political and economic goals rather than pursuing the interests of Christ Jesus, who plainly said His kingdom is not of this world.

To be sure, we are men of clay feet. We never said anything different. We are near Paul at the front of that long line of men who are foremost among sinners.

But over time we’ve seen these kinds of movements come and go. They’re fundamentally all the same. Biblical preaching and the transforming power of God’s Word isn’t enough to them.

We disagree. And we’re not moving. The angrier they get, the more resolved we are—whether we are in the majority or minority is of no consequence to our position.

We do it preeminently for love for Christ, who loved us and gave Himself up for us in His atoning death on Calvary. Loyalty to Him allows us no other option and we wouldn’t take a different path if we could.

But know this. We do it in love for you, too. We seek to feed His lambs and tend His sheep.

We believe that’s the ultimate justice we can render in respond to Christ, who not only saved us, but who also in one way or another has put us in a position of ministry.

          Don Green
          Pastor
          Truth Community Church, Cincinnati
And follow Don on FaceBook. He's not the most prolific FaceBook celeb, but when he posts anything substantive, he always has great stuff to say.

Phil's signature

17 July 2018

Christian Dating: Christlike Character

by Hohn Cho



The introduction to this series is here. As we look at a number of key biblical principles in the area of Christian dating, I'm going to start with the importance of Christian character. In many ways, this is kind of a "no duh" principle, and it's not uncommon for pastors preaching a dating series to lead with multiple sermons on this concept. So my goal in addressing it in this one blog post certainly isn't meant to be comprehensive.

But just as there are matters of first importance in the Bible, there are matters of first importance with respect to specific issues as well, and when it comes to dating, nothing is more important than Christlike character. All through Scripture, we are called to imitate Christ, such as 1 John 2:6 and Ephesians 5:1-2. We also see calls to imitate faithful Christians among us, even as they strive to imitate Christ, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 11:1. So this concept of imitation, of Christlikeness, is very clear in Scripture.

I'm initially going to aim this first principle inwardly: Are you displaying Christlike character, before you even start thinking about anything else? As a Christian, you really ought to be doing that to at least some degree, or else you probably shouldn't be dating at all. Without some minimum baseline of tested and proven Christian character, and the ability to demonstrate to others that your profession of faith is genuine, perhaps you should spend some more time working on yourself first.

At the risk of being cliché, however, it's about direction, not perfection. Remember that historically, people got married both in general society and in the church quite a bit younger than the 2017 US median age of 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men, and today's modern trend of waiting longer and longer for marriage is actually both historically unusual and on some levels concerning, according to Dr. Al Mohler (a consistent warning he's sounded over the years) and numerous other Christian leaders.

Although the idea of getting married before the age of, say, 25 might be an astonishing one to some Christians today, there's nothing inherently or biologically different between young people today and young people in the 1700's, or even young people in the Ancient Near East. Now, cultural expectations of maturity and overall life expectancy have certainly changed significantly, but even so, there's no reason to think that a spiritually mature 18- to 22-year-old Christian man or woman today couldn't get married. With that said, on a practical level, what are some ways that a young single Christian, and the key people speaking into that person's life, might be able to gauge his or her readiness for marriage?

When I refer to gauging readiness for marriage, to be clear, my spiritual assessment of a 22-year-old single man isn't going to be the same type of assessment as a 45-year-old husband and father who's been a Christian for most of his life. Too often, I think, single Christians develop an unrealistically high expectation that their potential romantic interests need to match up to the godliness of their Christian parents, pastors, elders, and role models. And if anything, Christian parents, who are obviously going to want the best for their kids, and to protect them, can be even more stringent in this examination. And yet if we believe, as many of us do, that marriage and parenthood will be the most blessedly sanctifying experiences and relationships in our lives, then if anything, it's even more unfair to think that single people who haven't yet embarked upon those adventures ought to be held to the same standard of sanctification as older saints who are well under way on their journeys.

Now, with that said, of course there are some assessments to be made in these areas, and some basic minimums ought to be satisfied. And it can get especially tricky when those minimums are considered on a case-by-case basis, by each individual romantic interest (and in some cases, by the parents of that romantic interest, as well). One young woman might look at a guy and say, sure, he's faithful and godly, I'd consider him . . . whereas another young woman and her parents might look at the same guy and immediately shake their heads. This helps explain both the intense desire within conservative evangelicalism for a standard "formula" and the (at times) messy and confusing results when the answer instead is that we need to figure this out for ourselves in our own Christian liberty, stewardship, and wisdom, as we mine the Scriptures for appropriate biblical principles to apply.

For single Christian men, I suggest considering three key areas that are especially important for husbands: readiness as a leader, a protector, and a provider, as Tim Challies lays out in an excellent series. For over a decade, Chris Hamilton, the chairman of my church's elder board, has also identified the same three traits of leading, protecting, and providing as fundamental in Scripture for raising boys into young men. And all of this matches my own examination of Scripture on this topic.

So as a future leader in the home, does the single man have some kind of goal or vision in terms of what he's thinking and planning with respect to a future wife and family? Proverbs 29:18 is clear on the wisdom of having such a vision, so what is that vision for the single man's future family, and is that vision biblical, in accordance with the Word of God? Having that vision and being able to articulate it to others would be incredibly helpful in terms of discerning how the single man would lead.

As a protector, I'm not talking about just physical protection. Buying a gun doesn't check off this box! But will the single man be able to protect his future wife and family from error, from the dangers and deceptions of this world? 2 Timothy 3:1-7 warns about lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful arrogant revilers, haters of good, lovers of pleasure, who are nevertheless holding to a form of godliness. And we're told to avoid them, lest they enter your household and captivate the people under your care. Can the single man identify dangers such as these and guard against them?

As a provider, Scripturally this isn't necessarily the highest bar to clear, because as 1 Timothy 6:8 says, we ought to be content with food and covering. Remember, most Christians throughout the history of the church have been relatively poor and would probably view today's modern abundance with a mixture of awe and even apprehension per Proverbs 30:8-9! But food and clothing and a place to lay your head all still cost money. Is the single man able to lay down a security deposit and first and sometimes even last month's rent, and pass a credit check? Even more importantly, is the single man a hard worker, and will he be able to earn some kind of living moving forward?

For single Christian women, Scripture directly informs us in Genesis 2:18 that wives are to be helpers to their husbands. Titus 2:4-5 also speaks more expansively about the importance of young women being, among other things, lovers of their husbands, lovers of their children, and excellent workers in the home . . . not necessarily a worker at home only, this verse does not forbid jobs outside the home, and we see a clear example of a godly wife in Scripture working outside of the home in Proverbs 31:16-18. But the example does assume, and display, that the wife is being an excellent worker within the home, as well. And I can again recommend Hamilton's message about how fundamental the traits of being lovers of their husbands, lovers of their children, and excellent workers in the home are for raising girls into young women.

So as a future lover of her husband and helpmate to him, does a single woman know what that entails? Does she have any role models in her life in this regard, has she seen how a godly married couple behaves toward each other? Has she ever worked alongside others closely in a team environment, in a support role? Proverbs 31:11-12 is a helpful passage here, is she trustworthy and benevolent, seeking the good of others even more so than herself (which is a general call to all Christians, per Philippians 2:3)?

As a lover of her children, has a single woman spent any time with children, either with younger siblings or babysitting or observing a godly family with each other? Proverbs 31:25-28 paints a picture of a strong, dignified, wise, kind, conscientious, and diligent mother whose children "rise up and call her blessed," a classically maternal image. And again, we're not looking for perfection here, especially in a single woman who has yet to bear any children, but are those traits at least in progress, or anywhere in view? For that matter, in our modern day and age, does the single woman view the development of these characteristics, and even the very notion of motherhood itself, as desirable (or as a blessing, as we see in Psalm 127:3) to begin with?

As a worker in the home, does a single woman know how to be an excellent at that, how to manage a household? Is she industrious? How is she with money? Given a certain level of provision, can she supply her household with its basic needs? Once again, we see a helpful passage in Proverbs 31:13-15 on this topic, even as I also feel the need to reiterate that the portrait in Proverbs 31 is of an ideal, of a woman who has been at this whole "wife and mother" thing for quite some time. (And for another thought-provoking take on Proverbs 31, here's an interesting piece by Jasmine Holmes.)

Of course, there are many other character traits in Scripture which are critically important for single Christian men and women, such as purity, humility, love, teachability, contentment, willingness to serve and put others first, and most of all, a love for Christ and His church. Again, this article is not intended as a comprehensive word on the importance of Christian character in (or prior to) dating. But prayerfully it will serve as a helpful and practical encouragement. And now that you've considered this question with respect to yourself, next in the series we'll consider this question in connection with the person you're interested in, with our second principle being to cast off consumerism.

Hohn's signature

15 July 2018

“I believe in creeds"


Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon

Image result for charles spurgeon








The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 11, sermon number 659, "Simeon."


"I like a doctrinal religion." 

I do not believe in the statement of some people, that they have no creedA man says, for instance, “I am not a Calvinist, and I am not an Arminian, I am not a Baptist, I am not a Presbyterian, I am not an Independent.” He says he is liberalBut this is only the license he claims for his own habit of disagreeing with everyone

He is one of that kind of people whom we generally find to be the most bigoted themselves, and least tolerant of othersHe follows himself; and so belongs to the smallest denomination in the worldI do not believe that charity consists in giving up our denominational distinctionsI think there is a “more excellent way.” 

Even those who do not despise faith, although they almost sacrifice it to their benevolence, will sometimes say, “Well, I do not belong to any of your sects and parties.” There was a group of men once, who came out from all branches of the Christian Church, with the hope that everyone else of true heart would follow themThe result, however, has been, that they have only made another denomination, distinct alike in doctrine and discipline

I believe in creeds, if they are based on ScriptureThey may not secure unity of sentiment, but on the whole they promote it, for they serve as landmarks, and show us the points at which many turn asideEvery man must have a creed if he believes anythingThe greater certainty he feels that it is true, the greater his own satisfaction

In doubts, darkness, and distrust, there can be no consolationThe vague fancies of the sceptic, as he muses over images and apprehensions too shapeless and airy to be incorporated into any creed, may please for awhile, but it is the pleasure of a dream

I believe that there is consolation for Israel in the substance of faith, and the evidence of things not seen Ideas are too ethereal to lay hold ofThe anchor we have is sure and steadfastI thank God that the faith I have received can be moulded into a creed, and can be explained with words so simple, that the common people can understand it, and be comforted by it.


09 July 2018

The Rise of Woker-Than-Thou Evangelicalism

by Phil Johnson



nless you have been living in seclusion somewhere, you will have noticed that a radical putsch is currently underway to get evangelicals on board with doctrines borrowed from Black Liberation Theology, Critical Race Theory, Intersectional Feminism, and other ideologies that are currently stylish in the left-leaning secular academy. All of these things are being aggressively promoted in the name of "racial reconciliation." I'm WokeThis has suddenly given rise to a popular movement that looks to be far more influential—and a more ominous threat to evangelical unity and gospel clarity—than the Emergent campaign was 15 years ago. The movement doesn't have an official name yet, but the zealots therein like to refer to themselves as "woke." Evangelical thought leaders boast of their wokeness and vie with one another to be woker-than-thou.

In many ways, today's Woke Evangelicals are merely an echo of their Emergent forebears. The central threads of their rhetoric are identical, and many of their goals are similar—starting with their campaign to convince other evangelicals that gospel clarity alone will never reach a hostile culture. To do that, they say, Jesus was intersectional?we must strive for postmodern political correctness. We need to try to "make Christianity cool." Nowadays, that means race must be an issue in practically every subject we deal with. Meanwhile, diversity, tolerance, inclusivity, and a host of other postmodern "virtues" have begun to edge out the actual fruit of the Spirit in the language and conversation of some of our wokest brethren.

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and Together for the Gospel (T4G) were founded little more than a decade ago to bring Christians together around a shared commitment to the foundational doctrines of gospel truth. Earlier this year both organizations sponsored conferences promoting Woke dogmas. Both of them, for example, paid homage to Dr. Martin Luther King not only as a great champion of civil rights (which he certainly was), but also as an exemplar of gospel truth and authentic Christian conviction (which he emphatically was not). Those of us who don't believe that kind of "wokeness" reflects biblical integrity have been scolded, shamed, and called racists by key leaders from both organizations.

In other words, these two organizations that were originally founded to unite believers in the proclamation and defense of the gospel are now dividing evangelicals over something other than the gospel. Under the guise of being Woke they are championing ideological dogmas and political policies that no biblically-minded Christian in any generation of church history ever considered germane to the gospel. They are actually shifting the evangelical focus away from true gospel issues.

In short, I fear both TGC and T4G are dangerously close to becoming exactly what they were founded to oppose.

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08 July 2018

Expected expectoration

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
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The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 49, sermon number 2,824, "Mocked of the soldiers."

"Far be it from us to seek a crown of honour where our Lord found a coronet of thorn."


I do believe—I cannot help believing—that our blessed Master, when he was in the hands of those cruel soldiers, and they crowned him with thorns, bowed before him in mock reverence, and insulted him in every possible way, all the while looked behind the curtain of the visible circumstances, and saw that the heartless pantomime,—nay, tragedy,—only partially hid the divine reality, for he was a King, even then, and he had a throne, and that thorn-crown was the emblem of the diadem of universal sovereignty that shall, in due season, adorn his blessed brow; that reed was to him a type of the sceptre which he shall yet wield as King of kings, and Lord of lords; and when they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” he heard, behind that mocking cry, the triumphant note of his future glory, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The Lord God omnipotent reigneth; and he shall reign for ever and ever!” for when they mockingly bowed the knee to him, he saw all nations really bowing before him, and his enemies licking the dust at his feet. 

Our Saviour knew that these ribald soldiers, unconsciously to themselves, were setting before him pictures of the great reward of his soul-travail. 

Let us not be discouraged if we have to endure anything of the same sort as our Lord suffered. He was not discouraged, but remained steadfast through it all. Mockery is the unintentional homage which falsehood pays to truth. Scorn is the unconscious praise which sin gives to holiness. 

What higher tribute could these soldiers give to Christ than to spit upon him? If Christ had received honour from such men, there would have been no honour in it to him. You know how even a heathen moralist, when they said to him, “So-and-So spoke well of you yesterday in the market,” asked, “What have I done amiss that such a wretch as that should speak well of me?” 

He rightly counted it a disgrace to be praised by a bad man; and because our Lord had done nothing amiss, all that these men could do was to speak ill of him, and treat him with contumely, for their nature and character were the very opposite of his. 

Representing, as these soldiers did, the unregenerate, God-hating world, I say that their scorn was the truest reverence that they could offer to Christ while they continued as they were; and so, at the back of persecution, at the back of heresy, at the back of the hatred of ungodly men to the cross of Christ, I see his everlasting kingdom advancing, and I believe that “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be exalted above the hills,” and that “all nations shall flow unto it,” even as Isaiah foretold; that Jesus shall sit upon the throne of David, and that of the increase of his kingdom there shall be no end, for the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honour unto him, “and he shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah!” 

Glory be to his holy name!