Nuanced!

Beware of those who frequently use the word “nuance,” or some derivative thereof.

“Why?”

Because they may be attempting to “snow you” by using that term.

“What does the word mean?”

It comes from a French word that means “shades,” and refers, for instance, to various subtle shades of color.

“I still don’t get it.”

You see, such persons are claiming, “I don’t see things quite as black or white, they way you do. I see various delicate shades of meaning that you don’t,” while all the while the differences are wide enough to drive a Mack truck through.

“Oh!”

And, so what is supposed to be a subtle distinction, quite often, is nothing of the sort—instead, it is a vital difference.

“And this is a way of covering up true differences?”

Exactly. While there are distinctions in the Scriptures, they are rarely (if ever) so subtle as to be called “nuances.” Often, a denial of some biblical truth is behind the use of the term.

“It’s a way of disguising true differences, then?”

Often is. And if you buy into it you will have been NUANCED!

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?

What Does It Mean to be Saved?

In the deep South, in most churches, people talk about being “saved.” But, when you ask them what they mean by that, the answers vary—sometimes quite radically. Some groups say you must be baptized by them and join their church to be saved. Others claim that you must walk down an aisle. Still others say things like “take Jesus into your heart and He will save you.” What is it to be saved, and how does the Bible say that you can be?

The biblical usage of the word translated “saved” is precisely the same as ours. A newspaper headline that reads “Child Saved From Drowning,” means he was rescued. To be saved is to be rescued—rescued from sin and its consequences. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (that’s what Romans 3:23 has to say about everyone, including you). When God saves someone He rescues him from the penalty of sin, which is eternal punishment in hell. He also gradually rescues him from the power of sin in this life. And, ultimately, He rescues him from the very presence of sin by taking him to heaven. That is what it means to be saved.

But, it is of the greatest importance to know how to be saved. About this matter, as I have already indicated, there is no unanimity. What does the Bible say?

In Acts 16:31, in response to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved and your house.” Salvation is received by faith. When Scripture says that you must believe “on” (or “in,” or “upon”) Jesus Christ, it is talking about something more than mere assent. The Bible is clearly saying that you must depend upon Jesus Christ. But, what does that mean? It means that you must entrust your entire life, here and hereafter, to Him. It means that you must depend wholly upon what He has done, to be saved.

But what has He done in order to save? Jesus Christ died on the cross, bearing the punishment that was due to all who throughout the ages will believe on Him. He rose from the dead, giving evidence that God accepted His penal, vicarious sacrifice. The wrath of God fell on Him instead of them. All who trust Him as Savior have their sins forgiven. This is the “good news” that the apostles proclaimed around the Mediterranean world and that you are now learning in this blog. If you depend upon the saving work of Christ on the cross you will be saved.

Notice, the “gospel” is good news to be believed; not good deeds to be done. News has to do with something that has already happened; not with something yet to be done. You cannot be saved by depending upon your good works, on ceremonies like baptism, or church membership. Nothing you have done or ever could do will save you. You must look away from yourself and others and look in faith to Christ alone. It is depending on the Lord Jesus Christ alone that saves. You cannot be saved by some vague invitation to “come forward,” or to “let Jesus come into your heart.” There must be an understanding of the good news that Christ died on the cross for guilty, condemned sinners like you, and a willingness to depend on His death and resurrection to save you from your sin.

And, in trusting Christ as Savior, you must be willing to admit that you are a sinner. When the Bible says that you “have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” it means that, apart from God’s forgiveness, there is no way in which you can have eternal life. He will not allow unforgiven sinners to live in His perfect heaven. You must change your mind about yourself (apart from Christ you are unacceptable to God), about God (He is not a Santa Claus who accepts all into heaven) and about Christ (He isn’t just a great man; He is God come into the human race to save sinners).

Is God at work, convicting you of your sin and the need for a Savior? Then repent, change your mind; submit yourself to Jesus Christ and He will make you a new person and change the direction of your life. Trust Christ today.

A Body for Christ

Why do you do what you do? Have you ever asked yourself that question in frustration after you did something that you knew you shouldn’t—or that, down deep, you really didn’t want to do?

Well, of course, the first answer to that question is that you are a sinner. Even if you have come to faith in Christ and have been saved you will continue to sin—even against your better intentions. There still is corruption in you.

Paul faced this problem himself. In the seventh chapter of Romans he deals with it. He says that he does the things he doesn’t want to do, and fails to do those things that he wanted to do. Not all of the time, of course, but frequently enough to speak in exasperation about it.

Paul located the problem in his body (which, of course, includes the brain—everything that dies and goes into the ground is body). Not in any Gnostic sense. Rather than think that evil is an essential trait of all things material, which the Gnostics believed was the source of such problems, he held it was the habituation of the body toward sin prior to becoming a believer that he carried over from his former life.

Paul speaks of having once become an obedient slave who yielded the members of his body to sin as a master over him. Then, when he was saved, he was freed from slavery to sin. But he found himself going back to the old ways that had become habituated in him. Now, he says that as he once yielded his bodily members to sin, he was learning to yield them to God for righteous purposes. He wanted his body to become an efficient, well-trained instrument in the Lord’s service.

As he prayerfully yielded his members to righteousness, the Lord enabled him to put off the old ways in order to replace them with the new ones. When he cried out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” he was quick to answer his own question—the Lord Jesus Christ will! He was now yielding to his new Master and asking Him for grace and mercy to develop a well-trained body that would be available for service to his new Master.

When you struggle with this problem, turn again to Romans 7 and 8 and find the solace and assistance necessary to put on God’s new ways. For further help in this matter, see my book, Winning the War Within.

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Wonder What He’s Up To?

Have you ever thought much about the way in which God works to bring about His purposes? Take the story of Joseph—what a chain of events to finally land him in the position by which he could influence all of Egypt and save his people!

Because he was unable to fathom where each event was heading, he might have become discouraged, turned his back on God, or complained bitterly as seeming misfortune after misfortune occurred. But, no. He handled each one with faithful integrity—much like Job did.

There is a lot to be learned from his story. I wish, however, to observe but one thing: today’s seeming tragedy may be only one stop on the route that leads to tomorrow’s glorious outcome.

Since God sometimes brings us to long term outcomes by means of short term stepping stones that lead there, we ought not complain if we get our feet wet in the meantime as we cross the streams that lie between!

Certainly, Joseph’s prison experience wasn’t pleasant, but it was the way God planned for him to make the important contact that moved him forward toward His goal for his life.

How do you not know that an unlikely event like his, may not be the key to some remarkable future blessing?

All I wish to observe is that if you are His, God presents His own with difficulties which, ultimately, are for their good. And, often, for the good of His church as well. Who, but He, knows what he has in store for you? Stop that whining and start winning!

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One Way Cults Begin

It’s true that all popular figures are in danger of allowing themselves to gather groups around them who become near-worshippers of them. They can encourage this “groupee” dynamic and gain a following that believes almost anything that they affirm—remember Jim Jones and the Koolaid? This popularity phenomenon is obviously one ripe source for the fostering of cults. Unless this dominant figure discourages such adulation, he may unconsciously allow these followers to become cultic in their attitudes. If the leader sets forth a doctrine or two that deviates from traditional biblical teaching, you have all of the ingredients necessary for establishing a cult. But that’s not the emphasis of this blog.

Rather, as someone has said, “Cults are the unpaid bills of the Church.” What does that mean? Simply this—whenever the church of Jesus Christ fails to emphasize some truth, and becomes imbalanced in one direction or another, it leaves room for a cult to creep in and take over that area of theology which it has neglected. You didn’t pay your bill, so someone else moves in to take possession of what was your God-given responsibility to teach in the first place.

Take the days in which there was little emphasis upon eschatology. The Adventist cults gained favor. The period in which there was little concern for pastoral care led to the beginnings of the healing cults.

The question today is what is the church neglecting, and what will this lead to? Clearly work in systematic theology and the faithful exegesis of the Scriptures is at an all-time low during the current generation. Where are the giant exegetes today? The outstanding systematic theologians? Those whose interest is in biblical theology abound; but where are the commentaries that deal in depth with the text rather than skipping around from place to place attempting to find similarities in various passages?

Moreover, application, as a result, is disappearing from the pulpits of those who are enthralled with the “discoveries” of some biblical-theological devotees. People are beginning to get essays from the pulpit in place of clear, substantive doctrine, proclaimed from well-exegeted passages, and applied to the daily lives of those who listen. There are even those who are questioning the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone!

It’s time for preachers to wake up. We could easily have a new sort of cult emerging right before our eyes— one whose adherents look down their noses on “mere” exegetes and systematic theologians, and dismiss practical preachers of the truths of the Scriptures. Take heed!

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Controversy in the New Testament

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 an 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?

feedback@nouthetic.org

Evil

There is evil in this world—all sorts of evil, and in every sort of place, including the church. I don’t need to tell you; you know about it and could give illustrations innumerable of it. But if God is good—how come? How could this be true?

There are two common answers:

  1. Evil is coeval with God; He can do nothing about it. But if that were true, how could you worship Him, ask Him for things in prayer, etc.? He would be a feeble, god not worth calling upon, since He might be unable to respond. Such a helpless god could want to change things for the better, but is unable to do so.
  2. Evil exists, God knows it, but from time to time allows evil to occur.

Both views present a god unworthy of worship.

Well, then, what is the truth?

Simply this: God controls all things, even the existence and activity of evil.

We must remove the word “allows” when speaking  of God and evil.   He doesn’t merely allow evil to occur. If so, there would be another power, or force, in the universe as great as (or nearly so) as God. It is a force wanting to express itself in various evil ways, but must seek permission from God to do so.  So when evil occurs, God has given way to this force and allows it to have its way .

But God is in control of all things.  What does that really mean?  Think about it—who is the force that determines if and when evil occurs-for His own purposes? There is no second god-like force; He is the sole force in the universe.  All evil is according to His determinate purposes—always for some good purpose. God doesn’t allow evil; He has planned all good and evil.  Actually, all the “evil” we talk about today is actually a good that we shall someday see to be such. God  doesn’t allow it—He foreordains it.

Zeal

The fourteenth Chapter of 1 Corinthians deals with edification—how to help build up the spiritual lives of other believers. There was a party in Corinth that reveled in their spiritual gifts—especially in the gift of being able to speak in other languages without having to study them. It was a remarkable gift, well-suited to the early church before there was a complete canon of New Testament books spread throughout the church (for data on the relationship of spiritual gifts to the formation of the New Testament see my book, Signs and Wonders in the Last Days). Those who possessed the gift of tongues (the Greek word for “languages”) were zealous to use them. But, the trouble is, tongues were given for reaching unbelievers, and they were using them in the church instead (v.22). Others, who could not interpret were not being edified by what is said. And disorder prevailed (v, 40).

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Two Ways

There are two ways to serve the Lord, only one of which actually renders service that He approves. One way is to have an intellectually correct view of what God requires and then to make an attempt to fulfill the requirements. The other way is to gain an equally correct view of what God requires and then tell Him that you cannot fulfill the requirements. The latter view is the proper one.

But, of course, it is not enough to tell the Lord that you can’t do what He requires. That, admission must be followed immediately by your acknowledgement that He can, and is willing to, enable you to do so by His Spirit, which in turn must be followed by your request for such help.

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