As we gather with our families to eat turkey, watch football and… oh yes, celebrate Thanksgiving, I wonder how many of us know how this holiday got started. I remember in school teachers telling us that is started with pilgrims and indians. While there was a 3 day feast at Plymouth Rock (this was to give thanks to God for a safe journey to this new land), Thanksgiving was officially set as a National yearly holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
Lincoln set this day aside for all Americans to devote time to gather together & give thanks to Almighty God for His abundant blessings. This is the true roots of our annual Thanksgiving holiday tradition. So as you gather together, remember this day was set aside by a godly President long ago in order for Americans to give thanksgiving to our Lord for all of His blessings upon us. Give thanks!
Here is President Lincoln’s proclamation from 1863:
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.
Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
Happy Thanksgiving from Pastor Bob!
Here is the newest song by Shai Linne: Fal$e Teacher$, set to expose greedy gospel & prosperity pimps false-doctrine. Enjoy:
Special dedication to my brothers and sisters on the great continent of Africa:
To saints to Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe.
Don’t be deceived by what America’s sending y’all, man.
Let me begin
While there’s still ink left in my pen.
I’m set to contend
For truth you can bet will offend.
Deception within the church man,
Who’s lettin’ ‘em in?
We talked about this years ago;
Let’s address it again.
And I ain’t really trying to start beef,
But some who claim to be part of the sheep got some sharp teeth (they’re wolves!)
And cast at me when you criticize ‘em,
But Jesus told us: Matthew 7:16, we can recognize ‘em!
And God forbid that for the love of some fans
I keep quiet and watch them die with their blood on my hands!
So . . .
There’s nothing left for me to do
Except to speak to you
In the spirit of Jude 3 and 2 Peter 2.
And I know that some will label me a Pharisee,
Because today the only heresy is saying that there’s heresy:
I’ll dare to be specific and drop some clarity
On the popularity of the gospel of prosperity.
Turn off TBN; that channel is overrated.
Their pastors speak bogus statements, financially motivated.
It’s kind of like a pyramid scheme.
Visualize heretics christianizing the American dream.
It’s foul and deceitful.
They’re lying to people,
Teaching that camels squeeze through the eye of a needle!
Ungodly and wicked—
Ask yourself how can they not be convicted?
Treating Jesus like a lottery ticket.
And you’re thinking they’re not the dangerous type
‘Cause some of their statements are right?
That only proves that Satan comes as an angel of light.
This teaching can’t be believed without a cost.
The lie is you can achieve a crown without a cross.
And I hear it all the time when they speak on the block.
Even unbelievers are shocked
How they’re fleecing the flock.
It should be obvious then,
Yet I’ll explain why it’s sin.
Peep, the Bible—it’s in 1 Timothy 6:9-10.
It talks about how the desire for riches
Has left many souls on fire, and stitches
Mired in ditches.
Tell me: Who would teach you to pursue as a goal
The very thing that the Bible says will ruin your soul?
Yet they’re encouraging the love of money!
To make it worse, they’ve exported this garbage into other countries!
My heart breaks even now as I’m rhyming.
You wanna know what all fal$e teacher$ have in common?
It’s called selfism, the fastest growing religion.
They just dress it up and call it “Christian.”
Don’t be deceived by this funny biz;
If you come to Jesus for money, then He’s not your God; money is!
Jesus is not a means to an end.
The gospel is He came to redeem us from sin.
And that is the message forever I’ll yell!
If you’re living your best life now you’re headed for hell!
Joel Osteen—fal$e teacher!
Creflo Dollar is a fal$e teacher!
Benny Hinn is a fal$e teacher!
I know they’re popular but don’t let them deceive ya!
TD Jakes is a fal$e teacher!
Joyce Meyer is a fal$e teacher!
Paula White is a fal$e teacher!
Use your discernment, let the Bible lead ya!
Fred Price is a fal$e teacher!
Kenneth Copland is a fal$e teacher!
Robert Tilton is a fal$e teacher!
I know they’re popular but don’t let them deceive ya!
Eddie Long is a fal$e teacher!
Juanita Bynum is a fal$e teacher!
Paul Crouch is a fal$e teacher!
Use your discernment, let the Bible lead ya!
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep”
(2 Peter 2:1-3).
Here is an article I wrote for GotQuestions.org recently:
Was Jesus’ beard plucked out during the crucifixion?
We know that Jesus most likely had a beard because of many reasons. The Scriptures tell us that He didn’t look different from an ordinary Jewish man of His time (Luke 2.52, Isaiah 53.2, Mt. 26.48-50). We also know that Jesus carefully followed and fulfilled Mosaic Law (Gal. 4.4, Mt. 5.17), which prohibited the cutting of sideburns and the edges of the beard (Lev. 19.27, 21.5). We also know that there was extensive mocking, beating, & blaspheming done to Jesus, so much that the New Testament Scriptures do not list them all specifically but generally categorize them (Lk 22.63-65).
The one text that does seem to tell us that Jesus’ beard was, indeed pulled out (at least part) is one in the Old Testament that prophesied about Jesus as God’s suffering Servant:
I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.
We know that Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies from the Old Testament regarding the Messiah (1 Cor. 15.3-4), Isaiah specifically mentions that this would be one of the ways that Jesus would suffer. We also know that much mocking & torture had taken place that was not described in great detail by the gospel writers. In fact, Isaiah even tells us that they beat our Lord so badly that He was so bloodied & battered that He barely even looked human (Is. 52.14).
Truly the Lord received a terrible beating at the hands of sinful men (Lk 24.7) and saved us through the torment of crucifixion. See the love of God that would endure our sinful death sentence upon Him to pay our debt for us. We did our absolute worst to God, and He used it to save us. What wondrous love is this! Christ gave His life willingly so we could be saved.
Here is the latest article I wrote for GotQuestions:
Question: Does Galatians 6:8 teach works salvation?
Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Galatia. The Galatians had a group of false-teachers knows as “The Judaizers” who were troubling them. They were destructive as they tried to discredit Paul as an apostle and proclaim a false gospel of salvation based on works. In essence, they were legalists who were trying to put Christians under a yoke of slavery to the Law rather than freedom & grace in Christ. So Paul writes this letter to the Galatians with a 3 fold purpose: 1.) To prove his Apostleship in Christ, 2.) To teach against their false gospel which taught a works-based salvation in addition to Christ, 3.) To preach the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone.
Many times throughout his letters, Paul drives the point home that salvation is not works-based but rather is faith-based in Christ alone:
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
In the immediate context of Galatians 6.8 (Gal. 6.6-10), Paul was primarily dealing with the question of financial support of Christian workers in the Galatian churches. v.8 then seems to indicate that we should not support false-teachers who propagate a worldly or flesh-based works salvation, but rather should share good gifts of support to those who teach the true gospel of grace. When it says that “the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life”, eternal life describes not only a life that endures forever but, primarily, the fullness of life in Christ that one can experience today (Ps. 51:12; John 10:10; Eph. 1:3, 18).
Therefore, given the full context, theme & flow of the letter, Paul is not teaching a works-based salvation, but rather a faith-based salvation that results in works. In other words, works are never the road to salvation but works are always the result of salvation. Paul proclaims the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.
Here is the latest article I wrote for GotQuestions.org:
Why does God allow ungodly people to be rich while godly ones starve to death?
We should be careful making assumptions that rich people don’t love God & poor people do. The truth is, Scripture does teach that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mt. 19.23-24). The disciples couldn’t believe this statement from Jesus, because back in those days (and still today) they usually believed that the rich were the ones who were blessed by God, and the poor and disabled were not. This could not be further than the truth, but that was the common belief of the time. Jesus confronts this idea by saying that a rich man, the one who everyone assumed was the most blessed by God, would have great difficulty entering Heaven. He basically taught that it was impossible. With the disciples troubled at this statement, Jesus goes on to say that “what is impossible with man, is possible with God” (Mt. 19.26). This means that everyone needs God’s help through Christ to be saved, and apart from Christ, it is impossible to be saved. Therefore, do not assume someone is godly or ungodly solely based on their financial status.
The Bible tells us that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt. 5.45). This means that we simply cannot tell the blessing of God in person’s life based on personal prosperity or money. God, in His great mercy, gives good things to all types of people, even those who defame His name. Jesus uses this to teach us how we are to love those who seem unlovable. He says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5.44).
God is the great Provider to His people. He gives us all that we need. Many times in Scripture God promises to take care of His people (Philip. 4.10-13, 19, 2 Cor. 9.10, Mark 11.24, Isaiah 64.4, Mt. 6.25-34). But the greatest promise we have is that all those who are in Christ will receive an eternal inheritance! So all who are in Christ are rich, we are just waiting until Heaven for our great inheritance! Ephesians tells us that God isn’t withholding anything back and will give us every spiritual blessing in Heaven (Ephesians 1.3-14)! “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2.9).
One clarification that must be made is that God’s promise to provide for us does not contradict His teaching that we are to work hard for our income (Col. 3.23-25, 2 Thess. 3.10-12, Gen. 2.15, Prov. 6.6-11, 13.4, 14.23, 21.25, Eccl. 9.10, Deut. 8.18). So we are to work hard and be content in all that God provides for us through our labor. Know that he follower of Christ has true riches coming His way, because our inheritance is in Christ! These are the true riches that do not fade, no one can steal, and will be kept forever in the Kingdom with Christ! Therefore, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6.33).
Here is an article I wrote for GotQuestions.org recently:
Is Everyone on Earth a Child of God?
Everyone on earth is certainly God’s creation, but not necessarily His child. God’s children are a specific people who have been redeemed & adopted into His family by the sacrifice of Christ & the salvation brought to them by this great act. These are the ones that the Bible says have been “born again” (John 3.3-7; 1 Peter 1.3, 1.23). What this means is that all people are born as God’s creation but because we are all sinners, we are not His children. We have a sin nature, and so based on our natural tendencies, we rebel against God. However God loves His people so much that He sent Christ to die for their sins. In John 1.12-13, God makes this amazing promise: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Jesus teaches this concept in many different forms & varieties throughout the New Testament to help us understand our need to be converted into God’s child through faith & repentance. This involves trusting in Christ’s work on the cross & a turning away from our sinful desires so that we may experience true joy in Christ. Jesus makes it very plain that not all people on the earth are children of God in many other passages as well. In John 8.42-44 Jesus teaches us that people in the world basically fit into 2 categories, children of the Devil & children of God. In John 10.1-18 Jesus teaches that there are a specific people that are being saved & who follow Him that He calls His “sheep”.
The Apostle Paul affirms this teaching many times as well. In Romans 9.8 God tells us through Paul that not all who are physically born under a certain lineage (the Jews) are the actual children of God, but those who receive the promise of His offspring (Christ). In Ephesians 2.1-10, we are taught that everyone is born spiritually dead, meaning that our sin separates us from the Living God. But God, in His mercy, makes us come alive (be born again) with Christ and that our position (as a child of God) seats us with Him in Heaven. God saves us through grace, which is kindness given that is undeserved & could never be earned. Through this great saving grace, God adopts us into His family and calls us His children!
So therefore, all of mankind are naturally born sinners and the call is for people to repent of their sin & trust in Christ for their salvation. When Christ saves someone, God the Father adopts him as His child forever, and the Holy Spirit seals him in this great salvation. This is the love of God for us, that He loves & saves sinners, and that He even adopts them to be His own children. To those who have trusted in Christ, John writes: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3.1).
In light of this, how can parents raise children in a pornified culture? Here are eight suggestions for this ever-increasing problem.
1. Aim to give our kids a huge view of God who is gloriously delightful.
We can’t simply tell our kids to stop doing certain behaviors; we must also teach them to delight in what God has made. I’ve been trying to make a discipline of pointing out all the good in God’s creation. A few weeks ago it was a blessing to watch my two older kids spend hours picking the wild raspberries that grow in their grandma and grandpa’s huge backyard. They need to be reminded of God’s goodness in giving us such amazing created blessings, like raspberries. If we’re not careful, we can become functional gnostics (flesh and matter are bad; only what’s “spiritual” has value) in our communication about sexual ethics with our kids. A helpful verse for them to memorize is 1 Timothy 4:4.
In short, I want my kids to know that sexual perversion is the height of idolatry (Rom. 1), but also that sexual integrity is the height of beauty. This demands we talk about it, probably more than we’re comfortable with or experienced when we were kids. But it’s a new world, and a new world demands new communication to train our children.
2. Teach them the gospel. Our kids are spring-loaded legalists.
They have to see us model gospel truth through active repentance and forgiveness. They have to know their acceptance before God isn’t based on their performance, but on Christ’s. They have to know their standing as a family member doesn’t depend on their obedience, though their standing does imply a certain type of living.
For example, when we’re disciplining our kids we often say, “Since you’re a member of this family and since I love you so much, you will not do this.” Consider the difference from saying, “If you want me to love you and if you want to keep living in this house, you better stop doing this.” The indicatives of our faith must precede and inform the imperatives. Don’t reverse the order.
3. Teach them that boundaries bring freedom and obedience is a blessing.
When I was a kid I thought if I screwed up, God was going to whack me with a big stick. No one ever taught me this, but it’s what I felt. Obedience wasn’t motivated by love, but fear of punishment. This didn’t get me very far.
When my kids are age appropriate I plan to communicate that sexual sin will never provide the freedom we crave. They can choose to reap the harmful consequences of disobedience, but I’ll warn them from Scripture and experience that they don’t want to start down that path. Obedience leads to blessing.
4. Talk to them sooner than later about sex and internet porn.
When I was 8, I remember going next door to our neighbor’s garage. Like any curious kid, I enjoyed snooping around a bit. I soon discovered he had boxes full of pornographic magazines. Sometimes a friend and I would sneak over there, grab a few, and go sit in the bushes to look at the naked women. Back then, this risky endeavor filled my stomach with butterflies for fear of getting caught by my parents or the neighbor. But all you need today is a closed door and an internet connection. The vilest perversion imaginable is only two clicks away.
We must communicate in general terms what’s available and why it’s so destructive. Some would contend this discussion will just stir up their curiosity, but what’s the alternative? I’d rather have them be warned by me so I can offer reasons and means to fight than to have them innocently stumble on pornography someday on the internet.
5. Begin to train your kids how to interact with the opposite sex.
We’ve already started to “date” our kids. We feel it’s crucial for them, at an early age, to begin experiencing what it’s like to be treated well by a member of the opposite sex. Especially for girls, a lack of healthy male attention from dad will often prompt them to seek it in unhealthy ways from younger men more than happy to provide it. My boys need to learn women aren’t objects to be consumed but image-bearers of God to be loved.
6. Guard who your kids spend time with.
Since sexual exposure is much more accessible today than 25 years ago, we’re much more aware of whom our children spend time with. There will come an age (sooner than I’d like to think about) when we won’t be able to guard them as tightly, but hopefully the foregoing points will have taken root in their lives such that they’ll be equipped to make wise decisions.
Be careful, though, you don’t take this too far and communicate an unhealthy fear of unbelievers. The older our kids get, the more we have to let them go and pray our training has taken root. There’s really no other choice. We must train our kids so they’re sheltered enough to be age-appropriately safe but informed enough to make wise decisions on their own. Just don’t hide your kids behind the fortress of your supervision until they’re 18.
This demands great wisdom. There’s no manual. We must be parents of prayer.
7. Guard the computer and turn off the television.
We have Covenant Eyes on all our computers and, via the AppleOS, our children can only access the websites we’ve approved. Certainly this will change as they get older, but hopefully they will have internalized the gospel and tasted the blessings of obedience.
Victory over porn is finally a heart issue, but that doesn’t mean we should forsake preventative structures. You’d never say, “I want to know my obedience is motivated by more than just following the right rules, so I’m going to dive into unwise situations to see if I’m strong enough to withstand sin!” That’s absurd (1 Cor. 10:12-13). We need right hearts so as not to be legalists, but right boundaries can help us taste the blessing of obedience.
The TV will show your kids functional soft porn all the time. There are countless better things to do with your kids than watch TV. Read with them, play sports with them, enjoy creation with them, tell them a story, or just serve them in an activity of their choice. The key phrase here is with them. If they spend more time with the TV than with you, you’re all in trouble.
8. Seek to cultivate a relationship with your kids such that they feel they can be open with you about anything.
As a young dad, I’m not totally sure how to make this happen, but I know it’ll come through modeling openness. I try to draw out their hearts and show them that if they’re honest with me, I’ll be fair, loving, and compassionate. If they see me as guarded and reserved, why would I expect them to be any different?
Last, do you ever repent in front of your kids? If they never see you repent, what makes you think they’ll come to you for help after seeing internet porn for the first time? Modeling repentance for our kids is probably the quickest way to show we believe the gospel and are a safe refuge in the midst of their sin.
Posted from: http://thegospelcoalition.org/
Here is an article I wrote for GotQuestions.org recently:
Question: What does it mean that Abraham rejoiced at Jesus’ day?
Answer: Before we can accurately understand this statement, we must look at the context of which we find it. It is found in John 8.56. John’s gospel had a theme to boldly proclaim to the world that Jesus is indeed God in the flesh. In John 8, Jesus is having a conversation with Jews of His time. They were having difficulty understanding exactly who Jesus was. John records this for us, the reader, in order to clearly prove Christ’s identity. In this conversation, the Jews bring up Abraham repeatedly (John 8.33, 39, 53).
Jesus is concluding this discussion with them when He makes a bold statement in John 8.51: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” This statement seems to anger the Jews and make them assume that Jesus is demon possessed. They come to this conclusion because their greatest hero in the faith from which they descended from has died, along with all the other heroes of the faith (v.52). Their reaction can be paraphrased as: “Abraham died. The prophets died. Are you greater than they are? Just who do you think you are?” (John 8.53). They wonder in disdain & contempt of Jesus’ bold proclamation.
Jesus then explains to them that He has come to glorify God the Father, of whom these people claimed to be. Jesus tells them that they do not know God at all, but that He does. He then tells them that Abraham, whom they claim to be following, rejoiced about Jesus’ coming, how Abraham was glad to see it. This statement was to stand in direct contrast to the Jews’ supposed standing in Abraham. They claim to be under Abraham and know God, but Jesus has come to glorify God and Abraham was happy about Jesus’ coming to do so. The Jews respond with a worldly question, still not understanding, pointing out that Abraham died long before Jesus‘ birth (John 8.57). Jesus concludes the conversation by making one of the boldest announcements in all of the Bible. John 8.58 records Jesus saying: “Before Abraham was, I am.” This was an absolute claim of deity. Jesus was telling them that He is eternal, preceding Abraham, being his creator and his God. The words “I am” was a name of God (Exodus 3.14). This infuriated the Jews, because it was either truth to be revered, or blasphemy to be punished. They chose the latter but Christ, being God in the flesh, supernaturally did not allow it (John 8.59).
So now that we understand the context, let’s look at how Abraham saw Jesus’ day to rejoice at it. There are 3 possible conclusions:
1.) Abraham “saw” & rejoiced at Christ’s day when the Lord told Him of it.
The Lord appeared to Abraham several times, making a promise through a covenant with him that God would cause all the nations to be blessed through Abraham’s offspring (Genesis 12.1-3, 15.1-6, 17.1-8). Most scholars believe that this was Jesus Himself appearing precarnate (prior to Him coming in earthly form). This is an amazing thing to ponder as we consider the Jews’ reaction saying that Abraham lived far too long ago for him to have met Jesus. Either way, Abraham surely rejoiced knowing that through his offspring, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3.16), God would redeem His people.
2.) Abraham “saw” & rejoiced at Christ’s day in Isaac’s birth & life.
Knowing God would save many people through his lineage, but he got to see a glimpse of this promise coming to fruition through the miracle of the birth of his son, Isaac (Genesis 21.1-7). This would also help us explain Abraham’s great faith in knowing that God would indeed provide for Himself the lamb to sacrifice for the offering in Genesis 22.8-18.
3.) Abraham “saw” & rejoiced at Christ’s day in Heaven, as Jesus left to come to earth.
This is, of course, pure speculation, but we do know that Abraham was in Heaven with Christ prior to Jesus’ coming in the form of a baby. So there is a great possibility that Jesus could also be referring to prior to His leaving His throne in Heaven. It is very possible that Abraham rejoiced at his seeing of the promise of God coming full circle in and through the incarnation of the Son of God.
To conclude, Abraham saw and rejoiced in Christ’s day because God told him it was coming and Abraham firmly believed it and was glad. Hebrews 11.8-19 makes it clear that Abraham looked forward to Christ’s day. From the day God told him it was coming, Abraham believed God and rejoiced in this promise. Yes, Abraham died, yes, the prophets died, but Jesus says they are not dead but alive because they saw (trusted fully) that God was going to send Christ. Hebrews 11.13 seems to answer the question fully for us: “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
Here is one of the writing assignments I received from GotQuestions recently:
Should I use musical talents to please people or to glorify God?
From the onset, one might assume this to be an easy answer, saying: use your God-given gifts to glorify God and not for man. However, this question is more complex because the Scriptures teach us that one of the ways we are to glorify God is by using the gifts that He gave us to minister to other people. Worship is to be reserved for God and God alone. However, one of the ways we are told to worship God is by serving His people & sharing His message with the world.
Musical talent seems to be a gift with multiple facets of ministry:
– It is to be used to worship God directly with songs of praise
– It is to be used to minister to God’s people with songs to exhort & teach
– It is to be used to serve God’s people in leading their musical songs of praise
Ephesians 5.19 tells us that we are to be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart”. 1 Corinthians 12.4-7 tells us that God gifts individual believers for the common good of the rest of the body of Christ. The Psalms are filled with prayers of worship set to melody & music to glorify God, which were shared with congregations of people to lead them to worship God together. Today many of us still use these Psalms for prayer, praise & worship. Thus it seems that one way to please & glorify God is by using the gifts & talents that He has given for ministering to His people.
Understanding that our gifts are given to edify & bless God’s people, we must also point out a potential danger as well. There is a difference between serving people to lead them in worship and/or meditation, and trying to be a people pleaser. Possibly one of the ways to try to define where that line is would be to:
a.) Make sure the music you are making is aimed to make much of God and not much of yourself, the audience or the musicians.
b.) Make sure the music you are making is wrought from God’s holy word, so as to purposefully point people to grow in understanding and/or wonder of the Lord, as He reveals Himself in His word.
Romans 1.25 warns us not to exchange the truth about God for a lie, and not to serve the creature rather than the Creator. This text wasn’t dealing with musical gifts, but we could relate it and say that we would find that Christian music should be grounded richly in the truth of God’s word & have an ultimate purpose to lead people to praise & worship the God of the Bible. God can even use our gifts & talents to minister & proclaim His goodness to those who do not yet know Him. We are instructed in Scripture to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Colossians 4.5). So God can use the talents & gifts that He gives us to minister both to those inside & outside the church.
Romans 12.1-8 teaches us much about worship. It starts by telling us that our spiritual act of worship is making sure that we present ourselves (spiritually & physically) as a living sacrifice, pure to God. It warns us not to be conformed to this world, but that we would be transformed by the renewal of our mind, that by testing (according to God’s word & Spirit), you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. It goes on to tell us to use the gifts that God has given to us in His grace for the good of others in the church.
So you can glorify God using musical gifts by making melody to worship Him directly, but also by using them to lead others to glorify Him collectively as well. The main thing would be to check motives, and make sure that you are deriving the thoughts & opinions about God (theology) from God’s word. He has revealed Himself to us, and we are to worship Him from that understanding, using the gifts and talents that He has given to us for His glory in the church & to the ends of the earth.
What is a Biblical Theology of Worship? http://www.gotquestions.org/theology-of-worship.html
What is True Worship? http://www.gotquestions.org/true-worship.html
Contemporary Christian Music – Is it honoring to God? Should it be used in church services? http://www.gotquestions.org/contemporary-Christian-music.html
What is the Meaning of Christian Worship? http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-worship.html
How Can I Know How to Properly Worship God? http://www.gotquestions.org/worship-God.html
What About Prophecy & Tongues Today?
The Westminster Confession of Faith, insisting that Scripture is sufficient in our day, holds that “those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people” have “now ceased” (1.1). We who adhere to that doctrine are thus often called “cessationists.” That label carries a lot of baggage. By itself, it’s negative. In current debates about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it suggests what one is against. At the outset, then, we need to correct certain misconceptions about “cessationism.”
We do not assert that God’s Spirit is no longer actively working in dynamic and dramatic ways. We earnestly believe that he is. What, for instance, can be more powerful and impressive—even miraculous!—than the 180-degree reversal that occurs when the Spirit transforms those dead in their sins into those alive for good works? This involves nothing less than a work of resurrection, of (re-)creation (Eph. 2:1-10). This is awesome indeed!
Nor do we believe that all spiritual gifts have ceased and are no longer present in the church. At issue is the cessation of a limited number of such gifts. The continuation of the large remainder is not in dispute.
People sometimes tell me, “You’re putting the Holy Spirit in a box.” At least two responses come to mind. First, I do take this charge to heart. It is by no means an imaginary danger that we might unduly limit our expectations of the Spirit’s work by our theologizing. We must always remember the incalculability factor that Jesus notes in John 3:8 (the Spirit is like an unpredictable wind). Any sound doctrine of the Spirit’s work will be content with an unaccounted-for remainder, an area of mystery.
Secondly, however, as I will try to show, the Holy Spirit himself, “speaking in the Scripture” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.10), puts his activity “in a box,” if you will—a box of his own sovereign making. The Bible knows nothing of a pure whimsy of the Spirit. The Spirit is indeed the Spirit of ardor, but he is also, and no less, the Spirit of order (1 Cor. 14:33, 40). It’s striking that Scripture particularly stresses order in a discussion of spiritual gifts! A perennial challenge to the church is to seek this ordered ardor—or, if you prefer, this ardor-infused order of the Spirit.
First the Foundation, Then the Superstructure
According to the Nicene Creed, the “one holy catholic” church is also “apostolic.” What does that mean? What constitutes the apostolicity of the church? Getting a biblical answer to that question is the important first step toward seeing that God’s Word teaches that certain gifts of the Spirit have in fact fulfilled their purpose and ceased.
Ephesians 2:11-22 provides as comprehensive an outlook on the New Testament church as any passage in Paul’s writings or, for that matter, in the rest of Scripture. Using a favorite biblical metaphor (cf. 1 Pet. 2:4-8), Paul says that the church—composed now of Gentiles as well as Jews—is the great house-building project that God, the master architect-builder, is constructing in the period between Christ’s exaltation and his return. The church is “God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (vss. 19-20).
Two closely related considerations are noteworthy in this description. First, notice that the foundation in view is finished. It is a historically completed entity. When a builder knows what he’s doing (as we may assume God does!), he lays the foundation once at the beginning of the project. The foundation doesn’t need to be repeatedly relaid. After he lays the foundation, he builds the superstructure on that foundation. From our vantage point today, we are in the period of superstructure-building. Christ has laid the foundation of his church. Now he is building on it.
Secondly, this conclusion is reinforced when we consider exactly how the apostles and prophets, along with Christ, are the church’s foundation. For Christ, that plainly consists in his saving work, in his crucifixion and resurrection—”no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11; cf. 15:3-4). But the apostles also belong to the foundation. That is not because the saving work of Christ is somehow incomplete. It is rather because of their witness, a witness—authorized by the exalted Christ himself—which is fully revelatory (e.g., Acts 1:22; Gal. 1:1; 1 Thess. 2:13).
This unique role of the apostles in God’s historical unfolding of his saving plan comes to light in Ephesians 2:20. We find a correlation all through the history of salvation to its consummation in Christ (Heb. 1:1-2)—God’s word focuses on God’s deeds. And so the situation is this: to the foundational once-for-all, finished work of Christ, God joined the foundational once-for-all, finished apostolic witness to that work. God’s word focuses on God’s deeds. This was the matrix for the eventual emergence of the books of the New Testament.
Ephesians 2:20, then, indicates that the apostles had a temporary, noncontinuing role in the life of the church. Their place was in the important foundation-laying phase of the church’s history. Their function was to provide revelatory, infallibly authoritative, canonical witness to the consummation of salvation history in Christ’s finished work. That function was fulfilled. It does not belong to the superstructure-building period to follow. It instead provides the completed foundation on which Christ continues to build the superstructure of the church.
Several other lines of New Testament teaching confirm that the office of apostle was temporary. In order for someone to be an apostle, one job prerequisite was to have been an eye and ear witness of Christ before his ascension (Acts 1:21-26). Paul—in 1 Corinthians 15:7-9 (cf. 9:1)—saw himself as meeting this requirement by way of an exception. Along with that, he seems clearly to say here that he is the last of the apostles.
The Pastoral Epistles were largely concerned with making apostolic preparation for the future of the church after the time of the apostles. Two of these letters are addressed to Timothy, whom Paul viewed, more than anyone else in the New Testament, as his personal successor. Yet Paul never called him an apostle. In light of the redemptive-historical rationale already noted, “apostolic succession” in a personal sense is a contradiction in terms. The apostolicity of the church is not secured by an unbroken, outward succession of officeholders that can be traced back to the apostles. It rather consists in steadfast fidelity to the apostles’ teaching or tradition (2 Thess. 2:15) as it is inscripturated in the New Testament.
Many in the charismatic movement agree that apostles—in the sense of those who are “first” among the gifts given to the church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11), like the Twelve and Paul—are not present in the church today. In that respect at least—whether or not they realize it—the large majority of today’s charismatics are in fact “cessationists.” Anyone who recognizes the temporary nature of the apostolate, then, needs to think through—in the light of other New Testament teaching—what further implications this basic cessationist position may carry.
What about Prophecy?
Ephesians 2:20 itself states one such implication—an important one. It affirms that the prophets, along with the apostles, have a foundational role. Who are these prophets? Clearly, they are not the Old Testament prophets. First of all, notice the word order: “apostles and prophets,” not “prophets and apostles.” More importantly, just a few verses later and in almost identical words, the prophets in view are said to belong to the “now” of the new covenant, in contrast to the “other generations” of past covenant history (Eph. 3:5). Some have recently argued that these prophets are identical to the apostles (“the apostles who are also prophets”). This view is hardly plausible in view of Paul’s next reference to apostles and prophets beyond this context (Eph. 4:11: “some to be apostles, some to be prophets”). Ephesians 2:20 clearly implies that prophecy was a temporary gift, given for the foundation-laying period of the church. Therefore, along with the apostles, the New Testament prophets are no longer a present part of the church’s life.
What about Tongues?
1 Corinthians 14 deals with prophecy and tongues in far more detail than any other New Testament passage. A quick perusal will show that, like a backbone, a contrast between prophecy and tongues structures the entire chapter (beginning in verses 2-3, continuing throughout, and culminating in verse 39). The broad concern of the apostle’s argument is to show the relative superiority or preferability of prophecy to tongues. Prophecy is “greater” because (as speech intelligible to others) it edifies the church, while tongues (unintelligible to others) do not. The immediate proviso, however, is that when tongues are interpreted, they are on a par with prophecy for edifying others (vss. 4-5). Tongues, when uninterpreted, are eclipsed by prophecy. But interpreted tongues are functionally equivalent to prophecy. And so God’s Word draws a close tie between prophecy and tongues. We may even say fairly that tongues, as interpretable and to be interpreted (vss. 13, 27), are a mode of prophecy.
What these two gifts have in common, and the reason they can be contrasted in this way, is that both are word gifts. Specifically, both are revelation. Both bring God’s word to the church in the primary, original, nonderivative sense.
Verse 30 states explicitly that prophecy is revelation. It is also clear, among other considerations, from the only instances of prophecy in the New Testament, those of Agabus (see Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-11) and the book of Revelation (see Rev. 1:1-3).
That tongues are revelation is plain from verses 14-19. They are inspired speech of the most immediate—indeed, virtually unmediated—kind. In its exercise, the gift of tongues completely bypasses the “mind,” in the sense that the intellect of the speaker does not produce what is said. The Holy Spirit so takes over speech capacity and organs that the words spoken are not the speaker’s own words in any sense. Also, by speaking of their content as “mysteries” (vs. 2), Paul confirms the fully revelatory character of tongues (as well as their link with prophecy, see 13:2). Elsewhere in the New Testament, at least without any clear exceptions, this word always refers to revelation—more specifically, to the redemptive-historical content of revelation (e.g., Matt. 13:11; Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Tim. 3:16).
From those passages that are most pertinent and decisive, then, a basic explanation for the cessation of prophecy and tongues emerges. By God’s wise and gracious design, apostles and prophets played a temporary role in the church’s history. They did not continue after its foundation was laid. The redemptive-historical “specs” of God’s church-house are such that apostles and prophets are not permanent fixtures (Eph. 2:20). Neither are tongues, since they are tied, as we have seen, to prophecy (1 Cor. 14). They, too, passed out of the life of the church, along with the passing of the apostles and prophets (and other means of bringing God’s word).
What about 1 Corinthians 13:8-13?
Many, however, judge that 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 clearly teaches that prophecy and tongues will not cease until the second coming of Christ. To them, this is a “gotcha” text that by itself settles the issue. But does this passage really imply their conclusion?
Look carefully at 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. Notice that its primary thrust is to compare the believer’s present and future knowledge. Present knowledge is partial and obscure (vss. 8-9), in contrast to the full, “face-to-face” knowledge that will be ours (vs. 12) with the arrival of “perfection” or perfect knowledge (vs. 10). This “perfection” almost certainly will arrive when Christ returns in power and glory. Does that mean that these gifts will not cease until the Second Coming?
That conclusion goes beyond the aim of this text. The accent of this text is on the character of our present knowledge—in particular, on its partial quality. The particular media of that knowledge are not the point. Paul clearly had a pastoral concern with the proper exercise of prophecy and tongues in the church at Corinth (chapters 12-14). Therefore, it’s understandable that he mentioned them in this context. He was not, however, addressing the issue of when they would cease. Rather, he was stressing the partial, opaque character of all our knowledge until Christ returns. This is true no matter by which revelatory means that knowledge comes (including, by implication, even inscripturation). This is also true no matter when those means may cease.
Ephesians 4:11-13 reinforces this interpretation. The exalted Christ “gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, … until we all reach unity in the faith … and become mature [or, perfect], attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Almost certainly the “unity” and “fullness” of verse 13 is the same state of affairs as the “perfection” in 1 Corinthians 13:10. Ephesians 4:13 perhaps echoes 1 Corinthians 13:10 as well by its use of the word “perfect” or “mature.” This is the situation Christ brings by his return. Since that is so, if we read Ephesians 4 as noncessationists insist we should read 1 Corinthians 13, we are left with the unavoidable conclusion that there will be apostles, as well as prophecy and tongues, until the second coming of Christ. Even many noncessationists, however, rightly reject this conclusion.
But how can they consistently do so? In terms of gifts, in relation to the ultimate goal in view, how is this passage any different than 1 Corinthians 13:8-13? Noncessationists who correctly recognize that there are no apostles in the sense of Ephesians 2:20 and 4:11 today can’t have it both ways. If these passages teach that prophecy/prophets and tongues continue until the Second Coming, then they also teach that the apostles do as well. But a more sound understanding is simply to recognize that these passages do not even address the question of whether or not prophecy or tongues (or any other gift) will cease before the Second Coming. They leave it an open question, to be settled by other passages.
A dilemma confronts noncessationists. If prophecy and tongues (as they function in the New Testament) continue today, then the noncessationist is faced with the quite practical and troublesome implication that Scripture alone is not a sufficient verbal revelation from God. At best, the canon is relatively closed. Alternatively, if—as most noncessationists insist—”prophecy” and “tongues” today are not revelatory or are less than fully revelatory, then these contemporary phenomena are misnamed. They are something other than the gifts of prophecy and tongues that we find in the New Testament. Noncessationists are caught in a redemptive-historical anachronism. They are seeking within the superstructure-building phase of the church’s history that which belonged to its foundation-laying phase. They are involved in the contradictory effort of trying to maintain that the New Testament canon is complete and closed and yet at the same time that the revelatory gifts for the open canon period—gifts for when the New Testament documents were still being written—continue.
But God’s Word lifts us out of this dilemma. It shows us that by God’s wise and gracious design, prophecy and tongues have completed their task and have ceased. What remains, supremely and solely sufficient and authoritative until Jesus comes, is “the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:10).
Adapted from an article by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.
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