Love by Life

In 1 Kings 3:3 we read,

Solomon loved the Lord by walking in the statutes of his father David (HCSB).

What a clear and explicit statement of how one goes about loving God! These days, there is much confusion about this very point. There are those who would tell us, in near monkish terms, that one loves God by all sorts of personal disciplines and denials. Yet, we find no such things in the life of David—a life, in general, that is mentioned here as exemplary enough to hold up as an example. Of course, David had his faults—which are set forth in the Bible, but for the most part, he was willing to follow God’s commands, and repent when he failed to do so (there are no greater repentance psalms in the Bible than those written by him).

Don’t let anyone tell you that by following man-made restrictions and regulations one best loves God. Col. 2: 23 says it all:

Of course, they have a reputation for wisdom because of their self-imposed worship and supposed humility, and ascetic treatment of the body, but those things are of no value in keeping the flesh from satisfying itself.

God Himself has set forth the terms by which He is served in love. These, here, are termed “the statutes of David.” That does not mean that he set up his own statutes, but that he faithfully followed God’s (for the most part, that is—note the qualification about the high places in this verse).

If you want to love God, you will do as the Lord Jesus (Who never failed to do so) did—you will keep His commandments. Fundamentally, love is not a feeling. Love is giving: “God so loved the world that He gave”; “He loved us and gave Himself for us,” etc. The great commission is explicit: “teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.” These statements all reflect the same activity, namely, giving.

In the passage from 1 Kings, the word “walking” is the usual Hebrew expression for speaking of one’s lifestyle (or, as we also put it, how one conducts himself). So, John says in his two short epistles that he is delighted to hear how the reader’s children “walk in the truth.” That is, they live lives characterized by God’s truth. And, tying all of this together, he speaks in those letters of “love in the truth.”

 

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and the Institute for Nouthetic Studies Announce New Biblical Counseling Program

Biblical CounselingTwo institutions with a strong history of teaching the sufficiency of Scripture are combining forces to create one of the nation’s most comprehensive educational programs for biblical counseling.

Dr. Michael R. Spradlin, President of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, along with Dr. Jay E. Adams, Founder of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, and Donn Arms, Executive Director of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, have announced that the Institute for Nouthetic Studies will become a ministry of Mid-America Seminary. The agreement becomes effective on July 1, 2015.

The agreement combines the strengths of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary (MABTS) and the Institute for Nouthetic Studies (INS) in training men and women to serve Christ through the sufficiency of the Word of God.

MABTS, a SACSCOC-accredited institution, is currently a leading force in providing undergraduate and graduate training for effective service in church-related and missions vocations through its main campus in Memphis, Tennessee, and branch campus in Schenectady, New York. The Seminary guides students into a thorough understanding of the Bible and its relevance for today, preparing those, called of God, to preach and teach the Word of God.

MABTS President, Dr. Spradlin comments, “I am blessed and thrilled that MABTS and INS can minister together to strengthen the Lord’s call to train ministers of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God is sufficient; our ministries will continue to stand on the Word and Its power.”

Likewise, Dr. Jay E. Adams, Donn Arms, and the ministry of INS is at the forefront of a movement calling pastors and other Christian workers back to the Scriptures in their counseling ministry. Beginning with the publication of his book Competent to Counsel in 1970, Dr. Adams has been demonstrating the importance of understanding the sufficiency of the Word to bring about the kind of change that pleases God and genuinely helps the counselee. Both institutions, therefore, are enthusiastic about the agreement for continuing the stand upon the sufficiency of God’s Word in ministry and in giving Christ the preeminence in all things.

INS Founder, Dr. Adams explains, “I am delighted that MABTS has asked us to contribute to their furtherance of biblical counseling in the preparation of ministers. I can think of nothing better than such an alliance to bring the joint resources of our two institutions together to effect such an unexpected but joyous opportunity. I have found the administration and faculty of MABTS not only friendly but also deeply committed to biblical ministry to people in need. I look forward with large anticipation to the days ahead in the spreading of biblical ministries throughout the land.”

Combining the strengths of each institution in training men and women to counsel from God’s Word, the agreement now allows students the opportunity to earn an accredited MDIV degree in biblical (nouthetic) counseling residentially through MABTS or via their Connected Campus, the MABTS online degree program. If students do not desire to seek an accredited degree, however, they can take the present INS courses that are available online at www.nouthetic.org and earn a certificate of nouthetic counseling from MABTS. In addition, plans are in the works for students who have already taken courses through INS to receive credit for those courses toward a degree in nouthetic counseling from MABTS beginning in 2016.

Fighting Error in the Church

Sometimes it may seem that we spend too much time refuting falsehood.  All of us are chagrined at the preponderance of error both within and without the Church.  We may write off those who attempt to combat it and set forth the truth in clarity over against it as “heresy hunters.”  The term is used pejoratively; but should it be?  Take a quick look at the Books of the New Testament, merely scratching the surface, and see what you think.

  • In the Gospels Jesus warns against false teachers, speaks of wolves in sheep’s clothing and the “leaven of the Pharisees.” The record of His ministry is one of conflict with those who refused to accept the teaching He set forth.
  • Acts contains the record of the church’s first major controversy over whether or not a person must become a Jew before he could qualify as a Christian. A church council was called to settle the matter. Paul goes to lengths to warn the Ephesian elders about wolves who would devour the flock and schismatically draw away disciples to themselves.
  • Romans is an entire doctrinal treatise about justification by faith alone in contrast to salvation by works, and how sanctification follows thereafter. In it, Paul also takes up the rejection of the Jewish church.
  • I Corinthians is loaded with problems; schism, misuse of gifts, church discipline, marriage and divorce, and on, and on, on.
  • II Corinthians takes on false apostles who had invaded the church and charged him with pretending to be an apostle. The place of apostolic authority is set forth, along with the qualifications of an apostle.
  • Galatians is a sterling defense of Justification by faith alone over against those who taught otherwise, and were upsetting the church by Judaistic legalism.
  • Ephesians is less controversial, being a universal epistle rather than directed to the adverse circumstances of an individual or a congregation
  • Philippians deals with a split in an otherwise good church. But it has to do with self-centeredness and sets forth a key Christological passage.
  • Colossians is consumed with fighting Judaistic Gnosticism.
  • I & II Thessalonians take up false teaching about the Lord’s coming and eschatology.
  • I & II Timothy & Titus teach “healthy” doctrine over against many false ideas. And, in them, Paul doesn’t hesitate to name specific heretical individuals.
  • Philemon is a welcome exception
  • Hebrews, in its entirety, combats all influences that would cause Jewish Christians to revert to Judaism.
  • James utterly destroys the idea that one can have genuine faith that does not result in good works.
  • I Peter explains how the New Testament church is no longer a physical political entity, but that the church is now the spiritual people of God, the new Israel.
  • II Peter warns against scoffers and libertines unsettling the church and reveals the true picture of final things.
  • I John argues quite effectively throughout the book against Gnosticism of a Cerenthian sort.
  • II John warns against hospitality for heretics
  • III John deals with church discipline gone so far astray as to virtually destroy a church.
  • Jude throughout its entirety is and exhortation to contend against the libertines who invaded the church that failed to listen to the warnings in II Peter.
  • Revelation speaks of the warfare of God against apostate Judaism, the first persecutor of the church, and Rome, the second persecutor, and predicts the fall. It also mentions cults like the Nicolatians.

Now, in light of the above, if you can, tell me why we should not be prepared to detect and refute falsehood in the Church?

On Being Nice

Question:  If you throw a rock at a pack of dogs, which animal yelps the loudest?

Answer:  The one that was hit.

I was recently reminded of this old riddle when I was asked during a Q & A session why Dr. Adams engenders so much anger among psychologists, integrationists, and even some who claim to be biblical counselors. In reality, the questioner was not seeking an answer so much as he was using the venue to take Jay to task for not being nicer and more accommodating. Still, I was glad for the “question” as it gave me an opportunity to make several points that I would like to repeat here.

First, for some, just to be told they are wrong is considered mean. Put yourself in the place of the “psychologist who is a Christian” (a better term than “Christian psychologist”). You have invested many thousands of dollars, years of time, and great effort in obtaining your academic credentials; you gain your livelihood from your psychological practice or teaching career; your standing in society rises from your expertise as a psychologist. Then along comes a guy who, no matter how softly and gently he may say so, tells you (and others about you) that what you are doing is illegitimate, harmful, and destructive. You have to either agree and admit the poverty of your profession or you have to defend yourself. Because your position is untenable, you are left only with attacking the messenger and complaining about his “tone.”

Second, the premise of the question is false. I know of a no more gracious and kind man than Jay Adams. I have been in the counseling room with him, seen him minister to grieving families at graveside, witnessed countless Q & A sessions he has held, interacted alongside with pastors who came to him for help with problems, and seen him minister to others during times of his own physical weakness and distress. I recently read through the transcripts of a symposium Adams had with a number of well-known integrationists. While one recent book takes Jay to task for not being more accommodating to these men, I came away from the read impressed by how patient he was with them.

Third, often his readers fail to understand his goals when he writes. Consider Competent to Counsel. Adams’ goal was to rouse his reader to action. The church had forfeited its responsibilities to minister to hurting people and had embraced a worldly approach to counseling. He wanted to stand in the way and holler, “STOP!” He could not do that without condemning the practice and urging a new course of action upon his reader. Had CTC had the tone employed by some writers today in the biblical counseling movement in which authors merely make suggestions, allow for nuances, see “both sides”, and offend no one it would have had no impact. The few copies that would have been printed would today be languishing in dusty obscurity on some library shelf and there would be no ACBC, CCEF, INS, or Biblical counseling programs in our seminaries.

Fourth, Adams’ readers often fail to also understand his intended audiences. Most of Adams’ books were written to help pastors and counselors. They are largely didactic and Adams labored over them to be clear and helpful. Other books, and especially his booklets designed to be used to give to counselees, are intended to minister. These are warm, pastoral, and kind. Examples are his How to Handle . . . series of pamphlets, Christ and Your Problems, How to Overcome Evil, and his wonderful but not well known series of three booklets written for those who have lost loved ones. A third category, however, are those things he has written to those who should know better! They are intended to make people think through what they believe, or are doing, and urge them to change. These, of course, have a different “tone.” In these he uses our Lord’s approach with Nicodemus:

“How is it that you are a teacher in Israel and you do not understand these things?”

Jay Adams has indeed thrown a few rocks in his day. It is instructive to note who yelps the loudest.

Who Was It Who Went Ahead?

Jesus and the disciples finally headed toward Jerusalem. His time had come. In anticipation, Gethsemane showed how excruciating an experience the cross would be. Jesus knew what He was about to endure. Yet, we read,

He took the lead as He went up to Jerusalem. (Lk. 19:28 CCNT/P)

It was not one of the disciples—not even hasty, impulsive Peter; it was the Lord Himself for took the lead as they headed for the cross! He did not hesitate to do what He had come to do: die for guilty sinners who could be forgiven only by faith in His substitutionary, sacrificial act. He come to lead many sons to glory!

How like the Lord! We do not (indeed, could not) take the initiative: He must do so—even today when the application of His work on Calvary is applied to us by faith! We do not choose Him; He chose us! Even the faith by which we receive His gift of eternal life is a “gift” (Eph. 2:8,9).

We were dead in trespasses and sins; He gave us life to believe.

Because eternal life is a free gift, and not a payment for effort on our part, you can become one of those who receives it. Repent of your sin and trust in Christ as the One Who died for you, paying the penalty for your sin, and you will receive the gift! Reach out your hand of faith and He will immediately place the gift in it!

Windbags

A windbag comes and invents lies:
’I will preach to you about wine and beer,’
He would be just the preacher for this people.  (Micah 2:11)

Well, well, well—–there’s nothing new under the sun: for sure!

People like to hear preachers talk about the things in which they are interested rather than what God wants them to hear. Especially, when a preacher makes it easy to sin by the garbage that he spews forth!

The preachers that Micah referred to didn’t actually preach about these subjects; what Micah was saying is that they might as well have done so, because they were not interested in the Word of God—but only in carousing.

Today, many congregations are interested in almost everything else but what God has to say. So, instead of preaching what they ought, contemporary windbags get up and air their trite little essays on all sorts of subjects that they think will interest them.

Paul also knew about this tendency in his day and warned Timothy

For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new.   (2 Tim 4:3)

Do you have a preacher like this? Then if he can’t be helped, if the denomination won’t censure him, you probably ought to look elsewhere for a solid church that teaches “sound doctrine.” There are too many of the sort Micah describes around!

Blessed in the Doing

Some Christians have missed James’ point—they think that it is contemplating the cross, preaching the gospel to one’s self, and all sorts of other exercises invented by themselves (and others who think like them) that produce fruit in the Christian life. But like Luther, they seem to by-pass, debunk or otherwise disparage the place of good works.

Yet, Paul in his letter to Titus, ends each of the three chapters with comments about the necessity of true works by the faithful. And the statement of James 1:25 says it all: Christians are “blessed in the doing” (CCNT/P).

Some think that Christians, even though they are “new creations,” are incapable of doing what pleases God. But Paul says that were “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). They always mess up every attempt to act righteously. If the former were true, and all the exhortations to do good, to live by the fruit of the Spirit and so forth, would be fruitless if not worthless. Indeed, if it were impossible to please God by following His commands (in the power provided by the Spirit, of course) Christians might think it impossible to attempt honoring God in their daily living.

But the fact is, as James assures us, it is in the doing of God’s directive will (found in the Scriptures alone) that we shall be blessed. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Guidance

I once visited the Sunday School class of a Bible believing church. The study that morning was on Joshua 9, the story of the Hivities who came from Gibeon. Because they were afraid of the Israelites, they sent delegates requesting Israel to make a treaty with them. These delegates disguised themselves as travelers from a distant land outside the area Israel had been commanded to occupy. They wore old sandals and threadbare garments, carried old sacks and wineskins, and brought food that was dry and crumbly. They spoke only of victories that had taken place far in the past, not recent ones.

The teacher did a good job of reiterating the facts of the incident. Then he went on to apply it to us. Rightly, he showed that God had forbidden His people to make treaties with the people of the land of Palestine (Deut. 7:1-5; 20:16-18). Rightly, he pointed out that the people were deceived by failing to inquire of the Lord (Josh. 9:14), and rightly, he warned us of the deceptions of Satan in leading God’s people to violate God’s plain commandments. Then he asked, “How can a Christian know he is making a decision in accord with the will of God?” It was the question of guidance. The question was appropriate, and Joshua 9 has something important to say on this vital subject. His answer was something like this: “I asked my Christian friends and consulted some Christian books, and what I have come up with is that there are six ways in which you can know God’s will in reaching a decision.” Then he wrote the following six guidelines on the chalkboard:

  1. Scripture
  2. Prayer
  3. Advice of Others
  4. Circumstances
  5. Reason
  6. Peace

It is time Christians stopped following such advice!

Items 1 and 2, rightly understood, must stand. In his explanation of item 2, however, he did not properly tell us the place of prayer in the process of receiving guidance from God. His idea (a very common one, unfortunately) was that when you pray, you must be still and listen for some sort of answer from God. If that is true, why were the Israelites to consult the Urim and Thummim (Numbers 27:21)? Moreover, if God whispers answers in stillness, why bother with the other five items? Such replies would be better even than Scripture since they would be in English (we wouldn’t have the translation problem from Greek or Hebrew), and they would be directly applied to our individual situations. No, any such idea, even ideas of deep impressions or feelings received in prayerful waiting, must be eliminated, since they would render the Bible’s teaching either unnecessary or negligible. You would also face the problem of distinguishing impressions from God from those that arise out of your own prejudice.

Prayer to discover the Lord’s will should be that you may understand and use the Bible in a proper way. It should be prayer for ability and strength to do whatever you discover God wants of you as you study the Scriptures. We are not given the Urim and Thummim for our day, but we have been given an inerrant and infallible Book, which contains all we need by way of precept and example for living a life pleasing to God. All that is necessary to love God and our neighbor is found, in one form or another, in the Bible. Today we consult God by turning to His written Word.

What of the other four items the teacher listed? Is seeking the advice of others or looking at circumstances helpful when making a decision? Look at what happened to the people of God when they did just that. Joshua listened to advisers who investigated the claims of the Gibeonites, and sinned (Josh. 9:14). Looking at the circumstances—old wineskins, crumbly bread, etc.—was precisely what deceived them. Surely, their reasoning in the situation failed them. And their peace, or assurance that they were doing the right thing, was utterly false. Indeed, if the teacher had stayed with the Biblical passage itself rather than consulting his friends, he would have seen that the text is totally opposed to the notion that divine guidance is found by these procedures.

Consider the idea of “open doors” (another way to speak of circumstances). Suppose I apply for a visa to India and am turned down. That is a “closed door.” But what does that tell me? I can interpret it any number of ways. I can say, “OK, that means God does not want me to go to India; I’ll try somewhere else.” Or, I can say, “God is testing me to see if I mean business; I’ll go back to India if I have to swim!” Just what guidance does an open or closed door give? Absolutely none. The position of the “door” must be interpreted, and in the circumstances itself there is nothing to tell you just how to interpret it. So circumstances do not guide; they require careful understanding and are factors in decision making because the Bible applies to circumstances, but they are not sources of guidance. Some open doors lead to elevator shafts!

In the matter of advice from others there can be help, just as commentaries and other biblical expositions can assist in making a Scriptural decision; but that advice must be evaluated. Other’s opinions are no more valuable than, and can be just as misleading as, those of Joshua’s advisers who were deceived by the Hivites. It is not their opinions on what you should do that you want; what they can give you that is of value is help in discovering and in using Biblical principles that apply to your situation. Also, others may be of help in assisting you to understand the parameters of the situation about which you must make a decision. But when you discuss this matter with them and think about it yourself, be sure the problem and the situation are described and understood in Biblical terms.

Reason must be used in moving from the Scriptures to the problem as you apply Biblical teaching to your decision. But the effects of sin on the human mind have been considerable, and you must pray that God will enable you to interpret, to apply, and to implement His Biblical principles that converge on the issue at hand. Help from the consensus of commentators at this point, when it can be found, ought to be of some value too.

As for peace, let me clarify a passage that has been so frequently misunderstood and misused. That passage, to which the Sunday School teacher referred, is Colossians 3:15: “Let Christ’s peace have the final say in your hearts, to which you were called as parts of one body.” Because peace is to have final say or act as an umpire in our hearts, many have concluded that Paul is teaching that once we have peace about a decision we can know we have made the right one. Nothing could be more wrong. The passage has nothing to do with guidance or decision making. It has to do with love and getting along with other Christians as members of the body of Christ (cf. vs. 12-14 for context). When all is said and done, Paul writes, in the final analysis you must let the principle of peace among the members of the body control your words and actions. There is nothing whatsoever in the passage about individual peace. Your heart (the place where you think about such matters, and the source of your words and actions) is to be influenced by considerations of what will bring about and maintain peace among the members of the body. That is Paul’s concern.

Guidance comes from the Bible, prayerfully used. Circumstances affecting a decision must be evaluated with the Biblical parameters, and the conclusions of such evaluations must be stated in Biblical terms. The advice of others is to be sought, not for their opinions but for their assistance in using the Bible to help you make a decision that honors God. Your reason is not to be trusted and must always be subjected to the Bible at every point. Peace has no relevance whatsoever to the matter. Questions about other aspects of guidance, especially concerning the application of general principles to particular cases, cannot be discussed here. The Bible is the source of revelation from God and the only sure guide to pleasing God. Nowhere else can we find His inerrant Word: why then should we turn to other sources?

People

Two kinds of people live in this world. Most don’t even know it. The other (smaller) group knows, but often forgets. Yet, the fact is of the greatest importance—for many reasons. Indeed, everything that the one group thinks or does differs from the other group. Beyond the fact that they are both physically alive, they are even different creations!

“That’s nonsense,” you may be tempted to say.

Granted, it is unusual to think or talk in that manner. But it’s true, and I’d like to explain.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the apostle Paul wrote

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

The Christian is a new creation of God. Yes, like all others who are not believers, he too was physically created. But because of what God has done through the saving work of Jesus Christ he has become a new spiritual creation as well. He is a creature who belongs to another world as well as this one, who holds primary allegiance to a King Who rules him from the heavens, and who has new power through His Holy Spirit to live above the sin that once ruled his life.

Now, if you are one of these new creatures of God, you have a responsibility to live according to the new ways you are capable of living. The power and authority of the old ways over you has been broken; you now have new desires and abilities to please God that you did not possess before. Your purposes and your ideals are quite distinct. You have little in common.

The question is, does anyone you know—besides another new creation like yourself—have even the slightest idea that you are what you have become in Christ? People should. Your language, your actions and your decisions made on the basis of all that you have become, ought to be so different, in proper, biblical ways, that he cannot but notice the fact that something about you is radically different. And it is precisely when one notices the difference that you have an opportunity to talk seriously with your unbelieving acquaintance about the way of salvation.

Think about it—you are a different kind of creation; let the world know it by living the life you are capable of living for Jesus Christ.

Don’t Lose It!

Christian, did you know that you can lose your reward in heaven?

I didn’t say that you could lose your place in heaven: once a person is saved by Jesus Christ that is assured. But the reward, presumably the amount and/or the sort of reward it may be, can be decimated according to John the apostle:

Watch yourselves so that you don’t lose what we have worked for, but you may receive a full reward. (2 John 8, HCSB).

What was he talking about? False teachers were in the vicinity in which the recipient of the letter lived. They were seeking lodging while they propagated their false doctrines. John warns her not to receive them into her home lest she become guilty of assisting the propagation of error. To even give them an encouraging greeting was wrong (vv. 10,11). To do so is to “share in [their] evil works” (v.11).

Christians have not always adhered to these commands. They have bought and even distributed materials purporting to be Christian (without recognizing their falsity), they have literally opened their doors to Jehovah’s witnesses (while the latter held a convention in their city—I know personally of such a case), they have placed their books in waiting rooms, etc.

And, of course, there is always the possibility of one who thinks he is a believer because he attends a Christian church (but really isn’t) becoming influenced to “go beyond” what he has been taught by accepting false, damning beliefs, by such close associations (cf. v.9). To do so, is evidence that one never belonged to the truth after all.

So, keep away from false teachers because the effect upon yourself and upon others you may be trying to bring to Christ—recognize the danger of not heeding John’s words. Are you supporting the propagating of error in some way?

Institute for Nouthetic Studies

100 White Meadow Ct
Simpsonville, SC 29681

(864) 399-9583

 

         

Donate

Donate to the Institute for Nouthetic Studies.

Donate

Copyright

Copyright © 2012 Institute for Nouthetic Studies. All rights reserved.