Monday, March 15, 2010

Taking a Stand in the Political Debate

How should Christians respond to the current political climate in the United States? Glenn Beck has recently called on anyone who attends a church that supports a leftist socialist agenda, often termed "social justice" to leave such churches. His call is rooted in his deeply held political belief that such an agenda will undermine American liberties guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution and replace our representative republican form of government with a socialist/communist state. For an excellent discussion of Beck's call, see Dr. R. Albert Mohler's blog at

Recent moves in Congress do have some elements that I think should be disturbing to any Bible reading and history savvy Christian. On the front burner is the debate over national health care. On the back burner is an immigration bill that would require every U. S. citizen to have a federally issued identification card with his/her fingerprints on it and other possible biological markers as well as a condition of employment.
In the big picture this looks ominously like the federal government seeking more and more control over every aspect of our lives in complete disregard of the Tenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. But how should a Christian view such events?

At the risk of being labeled an apocalyptic, I'm going to venture into territory where I don't usually go. I want to be clearly understood at this point. I am not saying that this is the fulfillment of a specific biblical prophecy. I'm saying this looks similar to that. In Revelation 13: 11-18 John describes a "beast" from the earth. That "beast", I believe in context, represents the fascist state of the Roman Empire and stands as a type, or figure of a future government or dictator that will seek to impose his will on everyone.

Fascism is nothing new. It was not invented in the twentieth century. It was the heart of the Roman political system after the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Caesars. Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines fascism as " a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition" ( At its heart, fascism usually includes the worship or adoration of the state or the dictator. Such was the case with the ancient Roman emperors, who saw themselves as gods, and such was the case with Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist (NAZI) Party in Germany.

In the text in Revelation 14 the "beast" assumes the role of God vis-a-vis the people of the world. There is no way for anyone to provide for his/her own needs or those of his/her family apart from the permission of the "beast", which is the state or the dictator. To me the current trend in Washington toward government sponsored health-care, the welfare program, social security, medicare/medicaid, and the new immigration reform bill all look like attempts to make the federal government all-powerful and the place everyone must turn to for help instead of turning to God.

I believe it is the duty of every God-fearing Christian to resist these items of legislation whether they become law or not, as unjust laws that infringe on the rights of every free-born U. S. citizen under the Bill of Rights of the U. S. Constitution. I also believe that to submit to this movement is to allow the state to assume the role of a "god" in your life by making the state your source of hope for deliverance from life's trials rather than the God of the Bible. Resist the cult of big government. God alone is sovereign over your life.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Saved by Grace, through Faith

Grace is God's unearned favor. But how does it become effective in the life of a sinner? Here is a man who is lost in his sins. He's perfectly content to live his life as he pleases without God. How is it that he is going to come to benefit from God's grace? God has to do several things in order to save this man.

First, God must bring this man to an opportunity to hear the Gospel. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom 10: 17). No person of ordinary years and intelligence can be saved apart from hearing the Gospel. That is why the church has and must fulfill its mandate to preach the gospel to everyone. You and I are part of the means by which God fulfills his saving purpose in the world by sharing the Gospel with friends, relatives, neighbors, and strangers. The kind of faith necessary to appropriate God's grace is not natural to a fallen man or woman. It is something that must "come" to him or her as a gift of grace from God, and God bestows that gift, according to Paul, through the hearing of the Gospel: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom 1: 16). The Gospel message, not my testimony, is what God has promised to bless for saving sinners. I need to share my testimony, but I need to be sure that it contains the Gospel and not just my religious experiences.

Secondly, God must bring the sinner to an awareness of his sinfulness, lostness, and need of salvation. This is often referred to as "conviction of sin". This is an aspect of evangelism that I believe has been by-passed in our day. Look at most of the evangelistic methods that are trumpeted in churches and what is substituted for this step is a quick admission that "you are a sinner". There is no brokenness in that. It is merely an acknowledgment of a fact. Sinners must come to be "broken" for their sins. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt 5: 4 NASB). Our society has become jaded to sin. We watch it on T.V. and laugh about it when we should blush for shame. God give us sinners broken over their sins and desperate for some kind of deliverance!

Thirdly, God must work in the sinner the gift of the new birth. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3: 3 NASB). This "new birth" must come from God and not ourselves: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3: 6 NASB). Contrary to the teachings of the revivalist Charles Finney, the new birth is God's work, not ours.
"[W]hen we were dead dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ" (Eph 2: 5 NASB). "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth" (James 1: 18 NASB).

What results from this labor on God's part toward his enemy is that the sinner, as a result of God's merciful working, receives a new nature through the new birth that instinctively looks to Christ for salvation. Faith and repentance are born in the heart and the one who was a rebel now submits to the will of God freely and gladly. God drags no one kicking and screaming into his kingdom. Repentance from sin and faith in Christ come as the natural outflow of a life changed by the new birth. God then deals with the legal status before his bar of justice in relation to the changed sinner. He forgives all sin and declares the sinner to be as righteous as Christ himself. The sins of the sinner have been paid for by Christ on the cross, and the perfect obedience of Christ is "credited" or "imputed" to the sinner on the basis of his faith. Luther called this an "alien" righteousness, because it is not our righteousness that justifies but the righteousness of another given by grace through faith in Christ. "Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5: 1). And so the sinner is saved by grace through faith.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Saved by Grace, Part II

Yesterday I wrote about the problem of sin. Without understanding our predicament with sin it is simply impossible to understand grace. Today I want to talk about grace specifically. Paul wrote, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast" (Eph 2: 8--9). What Paul says here is that your salvation and mine is God's work from beginning to end. There is nothing we can boast before God or men about as having made us worthy of God's gift of salvation.

Some people have a hard time accepting this. It strikes at the heart of human pride. It is God's intent to humble us before his majestic presence. Grace is God's to give or withhold as he sees fit: "For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion'" (Rom 9: 15 NASB). You and I have no "claim" on God's mercy. We must come as beggars in need of mercy. There is no inherent "right" to God's forgiveness, even though he has promised it to whoever will call to him for salvation (Rom 10: 9--13). The promise is not an entitlement. To use Andrew Fuller's term, we must come as "supplicants" and not as "claimants".

God is not merely the Merciful One. He is also the Just Judge of all people. As Judge God has the right, because of our sins, to withhold his mercy or to give it. He is sovereign over who he will save. You and I stand in a position of complete dependence upon him. He can be glorified in our salvation or in our condemnation. One brings praise to his grace and the other brings praise to his justice. Yet the words of the Bible are encouraging--"Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom 10: 13 NASB).

So, rather than becoming discouraged because all depends on God's mercy, have hope because he is a merciful God. He has provided the only perfect sacrifice for the salvation of sinners in the person and work of Jesus Christ. But do not come to him thinking you are somehow worthy of his attention. Come to him realizing that you stand in abject need of mercy and have nothing to offer him. It is you who stand in need of him, not him in need of you. Embrace him with a loving heart of surrender and faith and you will find him merciful.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Saved by Grace Alone

This will be a short week of posts because I have a lot of student papers to grade. I want to address the issue of salvation by grace. What does it mean? How is it appropriated? What is God's role, and what does call tell us to do in order to be saved? These are some of the common questions people ask.

First of all, to be saved by grace means to be saved apart from any merit I possess. I have nothing to bring to God by which to earn his love and favor. He is free to give his love or to withhold it. He is free to show mercy or not show mercy. Someone might say, "Well, that doesn't seem quite right." Why would someone think that? Perhaps because he or she doesn't understand and appreciate the sinful condition of lost human beings.

Every person born except one has a problem. That problem is SIN. It's an ugly three letter word that people don't like to use anymore. We may be neurotic, socially maladjusted, dysfunctional, or any of a number of other conditions defined by psychologists today, but don't use the word SIN. Sin involves guilt, and guilt involves personal responsibility for my actions. Furthermore, sin means that I've offended a holy God and earned his wrath. It means I stand justly condemned to eternal torment unless God saves me out of sheer grace.

In its fullest sense to say that I am a sinner means that I am corrupted in my person and my actions. It means I've inherited a "sin nature" from my ancestors going all the way back to humanity's original parents, who violated God's law and brought condemnation on themselves and all their posterity. God finds me worthy of condemnation for two reasons: (1) I bear in my person a defaced and deformed image of God that has been corrupted by sin--I have a sin nature--a propensity to sin. God finds that nature worthy of his condemnation because it is contrary to his standard of perfect holiness. (2) Because my nature is corrupted, left to myself I freely and willingly choose sin over holiness, even when I do "good" things. That is, even my best actions are tainted with self-will, pride, or other impure motives. But given the chance and not guided by grace, I am capable of the most horrendous crimes. So, I stand condemned for my actions, thoughts, and words, as well as for my nature. No wonder the old hymn writer said "Be of sin the double cure."

In order for me to come to God for salvation I need to realize first just how lost I am and in what kind of state I live. I must first realize that God is perfectly just to do with me as he sees fit. I have nothing to offer him that would move or motivate him to show me mercy. I must face squarely the problem of my sin and see it as God sees it. Otherwise I will never appreciate what it means to be saved by grace.