Friday, August 31, 2012

Ronald Nash on Reformed Epistemology

I think Dr. Nash does a good job of explaining Reformed Epistemology, especially over against Evidentialism. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

James White on the Reality and Blessing of Apostasy

I'm sure none of this blog's readers would be surprised to see a message posted here entitled "The Reality of Apostasy," but you may be surprised to see a message entitled "The Blessing Apostasy." Well, I encourage you to listen to both of these messages from Dr. White, who offers both strong warning and great encouragement to God's people regarding the issue of apostasy. And, if you are not already familiar with Dr. White's ministry, I urge you to check out Alpha and Omega Ministries, where he writes an excellent blog, as well as his YouTube channel.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Intolerance of Those Who Preach Tolerance

Why is the gay and lesbian community so proactive in preaching tolerance for their homosexual lifestyle? Why do they seem so easily offended by those who do not agree with them? Why do they preach love and acceptance, but many of them seem to get so hateful and angry with those who are committed to traditional values? Why do they preach tolerance, but often seem so intolerant and hateful to those who disagree with them?
The gay community is seeking ‘equal rights.’ Homosexuals only want to live open and peaceful lives unashamedly in a community without fear of rejection or discrimination. This I am sure is true, but I do not believe that this is all they want. The reason that they are so easily offended is because deep down they know that their lifestyle is unnatural. They know better, and are constantly looking for justification and affirmation for their unnatural desires. They have inward guilt, yet they desire to free themselves from this guilt by having others tell them that they shouldn’t feel bad for feeding and indulging in their unnatural passions. Equal rights are not all they want. What they really desire is for others to reassure them that it is okay to be homosexual.

In an attempt to ease their inward guilt, they seek to obtain the outward confirmation and approval of their friends, peers and society. To obtain the approval of society the homosexual community is attempting to carry out these seven steps below:

1. Seeking to Convince Themselves that their Unnatural Desires are Natural

First, they desire to convince themselves that they were “born this way.”  By a simple observation of the design of the male and female body, it is easy and natural to see that men and women are designed for each other. This is easy to learn, and even children do not need any external instruction to come to this conclusion. Furthermore, the world would not continue past the next generation without men and women procreating. Men and women are made for each other and everybody knows it. God’s Word forbids homosexuality, but even if it didn’t, nature itself teaches us that homosexuality is unnatural (Rom. 1:26-27). In fact, even straight people who support homosexuality cannot deny that homosexual acts are something that they find inwardly disturbing. Homosexuals, I believe, know that their desires are unnatural, and therefore they feel the need to convince themselves otherwise. Otherwise, why would it even matter if they were “born that way” or if they simply chose to live that way? I do not feel the need to justify to myself or to others that I prefer Dr. Pepper over Pepsi. Why do they feel the need to justify their desires for the same sex (as if they can’t help how they feel), if their desires are natural? One of my gay friends admitted to me that he had to work past the shame that he felt the first few times he engaged in a sexual relationship. His partner told him that his feelings of shame were a natural experience, and the key to move past this feeling of shame was to dwell upon the fun and excitement rather than upon the shame. "To not think about it", was the counsel. The point is that homosexuals know that their lifestyle is shameful (at least for those who are not completely hardened), and it is because of their guilt that they feel the need to blame their passions upon something other than their choice.

2. Create Support Groups to Ease Their Conscience

Those who practice any sin seek to find others who do the same to provide some level of comfort (Rom. 1:32). These support groups are designed to suppress guilt by the group reassuring its members that they are not alone. There is comfort in numbers. The larger the support group the better. Thus, it is natural for homosexuals to group together to find comfort in a network of peers that does not pass out judgment, but rather helps smooth over their guilty conscience.

3. Blame their Inward Guilt upon External Norms

If homosexual desires are natural, and if homosexuals cannot help the way they feel, then where does the guilt come from? The third step for the gay community is to blame their guilt upon something outside of themselves—such as the traditional norms that have been shaped by Christian values. They claim that their inward guilt stems from the external social norms that have been imposed upon their conscience. ‘I wouldn’t feel guilty if my conscience wouldn’t have been shaped by society’s unwritten rules,’ so they think. ‘Christianity and traditional values are to blame for my inward shame.’ Thus, they seek to blame their guilt upon man-made external norms rather than upon their own innate knowledge of what is right and natural.

4. Attempt to Change Public Perception

Therefore, the goal is to change the values and norms of society. This is the fourth step. In an attempt to deliver themselves from their guilty conscience, rather than repenting before God, they seek to change social perception and create new and more tolerant social norms. It is not sufficient, for many of them, that they convince themselves that homosexuality is natural; they feel that they must convince the rest of society. If they can change public perception, then they can change the social norms of society. If they can change social norms, then they believe that then they can live out their desires without any sense of guilt or inward condemnation. This is why they are so proactive.

5. Condemn and Hatefully Judge the Opposition

To justify themselves and speed up the process of changing the norms of society, the gay community will condemn those who disagree with them as haters and bigots. They have effectively done this by labeling and grouping all opposition as ‘homophobes.’  Some would even consider this article as propagating ‘hate speech.’ But why? Why do they want to call this hate? I do not hate homosexuals, and I do not want anything bad to happen to my homosexual friends. In fact, whatever I could do to help them I would seek to do. Even with my love for them, I believe homosexuality is unnatural. Why would they condemn me as being full of hate because I disagree with their lifestyle? Why are they so ready to call those who disagree with their lifestyle haters? I believe it is because they desire to hush their own conscience. They feel that the only way to do this is by hushing and censoring those who disagree with them. Therefore, they are attempting to turn the table around and blame those who publicly condemn homosexuality as the guilty and hateful party. If they can make it politically correct to support homosexuality, then heterosexuals will not only feel pressure to support gay marriage, they will be scared not to because they do not want to be labeled as a homophobe. In essence, they want to throw their own guilt upon those who oppose them.

6. Seek to Place God on Their Side

For the homosexuals who remain religious, they realize that they will never have a clear conscience until they are convinced that God sanctions their lifestyle. It amazes me how many professing Christians are seeking to condone homosexuality by only focusing upon the doctrine of the love of God—as if the Bible had nothing to say about homosexuality. If I said, "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error", these professing Christians would call me hateful. But this is what God has said in Romans 1:26-27. In response, some say that the Bible has human error, but if that was the case why do these same professing Christians use the Bible to convince themselves that God accepts their lifestyle. How any homosexual can say that he or she believes in the God of the Bible and at the same time hold to a Christianity that sanctions unnatural sexual passions is beyond me, but this is exactly what many have sought to do. Even worse, some churches, who are willing to tickle people's ears to gain a larger following, openly tell homosexuals what they want to hear. Regardless, making homosexuality acceptable within Christianity is another means of artificially easing one’s guilty conscious.

7. Censor the Opposition

Last of all, because of the inward guilt that comes from their unnatural passions, it only takes one person to oppose their lifestyle for some of them to be offended. The problem, when they are honest with themselves, is that their conscience agrees with those who disagree with their lifestyle. Therefore, the gay community will not be content with merely obtaining equal rights, but will forcefully push their agenda until they obtain universal acceptance, and legally censor all opposing voices. It’s their guilty conscience that is the problem, and they will do anything to suppress the truth—even to the point of suppressing others who oppose their lifestyle. Let’s not fool ourselves, the censorship of free speech is where this battle ends. Canada is proof of this, and America seems to be following right behind.

To answer the question of why the gay community seems so intolerant towards those who disagree with them, it is because they so desperately desire to live their unnatural lifestyles without experiencing the inward guilt. And it seems that the gay community will go to any length to remove their guilt while hanging onto their sins.

Thankfully, God has provided all of us a real answer to our guilty conscious—repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Christ died for sins, even the sin of homosexuality. Homosexuals, along with liars and adulterers, can have a guilt free conscious because of Christ—but only if they are willing to acknowledge their sins and seek forgiveness and deliverance from their sins by trusting in the full atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Friday, August 03, 2012

Conviction & Peace

I was honored to be the camp pastor of the Sovereign Grace Youth Camp in Conway, Missouri this past week. What happened over those few days will be something I will never forget—God graciously brought conviction of sins, and then forgiveness and peace upon several young souls. These campers came as sinners and under the wrath of God, but happily went back home forgiven and justified in the sight of God.

It seems that many of them were under a measure of conviction at the beginning of the week, but came under heavy conviction at the Wednesday evening service. After the sermon, there was quietness and weeping throughout the assembly. For fifteen minutes, no one moved or said anything. The common cry of those who were broken, when asked what was wrong, was: “I am so guilty.” When the service was dismissed, some under conviction remained for counsel, while others left the building only to return for prayer and counsel. Some found secluded places to pray alone, while others remained weeping in their seats. Some cries turned to tears of rejoicing as professions of faith followed. Two young ladies, feeling physically sick, left to go to the dorms and refused to come out the next morning. After one broke down in repentance, the other young girl soon broke down as well—which after receiving a clear conscious before God they realized that they no longer felt sick. One young man, who traveled to the camp with my wife and I, came to faith, with his burden of sin removed, the following night. Still others were seeking God and praying for God to save their souls even as the camp ended. Many people made public professions of faith, while other campers would leave camp to go back to their homes under conviction. Only time will tell if these professions are a result of true conversions, but the counselors and I have good reason to believe that they were a byproduct of not mere human emotions or manipulation, but a result of God’s supernatural and sovereign grace.

As I reflect upon what took place, here are a few of my thoughts.
  1. It is important to have a burden for our lost children and to pray for them daily 
Their parents and church family had faithfully prayed for each of these young people prior to their conversions. Nine of the young ladies who were converted were mentioned by name that very morning in the counselors prayer meeting. The young man who traveled to the camp with my wife and I, was placed on our church’s prayer list because a month earlier I had asked him if he was a Christian—he responded by saying, “No sir, but I want to be.” Immediately I was burdened for his soul, and would have our church (Grace Bible Church in Conway, AR) pray specifically for this young man’s salvation at this youth camp. A prayer that was graciously answered. I also learned after returning that my father’s church (Grace Baptist Church in Batesville, AR) had prayed Wednesday night for God to move mightily upon the service. This prayer too was answered. The ladies prayer group from Bible Baptist Church (St. Louis, MO) prayed for the youth camp, the pastor’s wife of Bridgetown Baptist Church (Nesbit, MS) held an impromptu prayer meeting and sent out a list of all the campers and counselors to so that every person at the camp would be lifted up to God by name. Only the Lord knows how many prayers were ushered up to God on the behalf of these young people—and not a single prayer went unheard by our Lord. Thus, we should never grow weary of praying for lost souls and for God to move upon our services. God works through prayer—may we continue to pray without ceasing.
  1. The Messenger is only a Vessel—and the Work and Glory is to God Alone
Evangelists who use emotional pressure and tactics to talk people into making a public profession have room to boast in their accomplishment—they, and not God, produced an outward profession. Yet, those who simply preach the Word and see people converted afterwards know that they did absolutely nothing. Every sermon that I preached this last week was a repeat. No conversions followed the first go around. Yet, it pleased God to use these messages, at least in part, to convict lost souls. God alone is responsible for bringing true repentance and faith. I felt like an empty vessel. I felt like a spectator. I was given the privilege, along with the other counselors, to be an eyewitness of God’s power and grace that night. It was as if God showed up mightily and all that we did was watch the grace and power of God at work. To God alone be the glory is not just a nice thing to say, but for those who eyewitness the grace of God know that it is the only thing that can be said.

With this in mind, those, who like Spurgeon, are used by God to bring many souls out of darkness by their preaching, are not necessarily any more important or godly than those who faithfully preach week after week with no conversions. Although one sermon alone by Peter was used by God to convert five-thousand souls, Peter was no more able to impart saving faith than Jeremiah who saw no conversions under his whole ministry. Although we all desire to be used by God for the salvation of many, the important thing for all of us is to remain faithful.
  1. The Importance of the Objective Truth
After counseling with those under conviction, I have come to a higher appreciation of the objective truth and certainty of the gospel message. Salvation is not based upon feelings. Thank the Lord for that. Some under conviction seem to complicate faith. It seems that some think that they need to experience conversion before they can place their faith in Christ. They have a hard time believing God’s promise of salvation, and thus they think that they need to experience God’s forgiveness, as evidenced by some form of conversion experience, before they can trust God. This seems to be based upon a false notion that our emotional and spiritual experience is what brings us peace with God, rather than peace being obtained by faith in God’s Word. It is not a matter of how we feel, but a matter of if we believe and trust God. In essence, putting too much stock in our feelings is placing our faith in our faith, rather than placing our faith in Christ. Christ has said in His Word that all who believe shall be saved—it comes down to if we believe this or not. This promise is given to us, and faith in the promise should be enough to give us the assurance that our sins are forgiven. It is not faith in our faith that saves us, but it is faith in the promise of God. This is why the objective word is so important. Faith looks to Christ, and not to itself, and understanding this truth is vital when counseling lost and broken souls who are seeking God’s forgiveness.
  1. The Importance of the Subjective Emotions of Guilt and Peace
Without contradicting my last point, I have come to appreciate the subjective and emotional side of conversions better as well. Our emotions or experiences are not what save us, but it is impossible to be saved without a measure of guilt and then a measure of peace to follow. Experiencing the feeling of guilt is vital because there is no salvation without repentance of sins. And, is there such a thing as repentance without feeling guilty, sorry and remorseful for our sins? How can sinners desire a salvation from sin if they do not inwardly feel guilty and sorry for their transgressions against God? They can’t. Conviction and guilt is a part of the conversion experience. Not only guilt, but also assurance is important in our conversion experience. As we noted above, faith in God’s promise, at least in part, brings some measure of assurance and peace within the heart. How do we have faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins if we do not truly believe that Christ has forgiven us from our sins? Not all Christians are blessed with the same degree of assurance, but all Christians at least have enough assurance in God’s promise for them to cast themselves upon the mercies of Christ. Otherwise, if they had no assurance or confidence in the gospel promise they would not believe it. So, although guilt and assurance do not save us, they are common feelings for those who repent and believe the gospel.

With all this in mind, I believe that it is very dangerous to seek to give troubled souls an artificial assurance that does not come by their own inward faith in Christ. It is dangerous to tell those under heavy conviction and guilt to find relief in any other thing than looking to Christ in faith. Some churches tell those battling with guilt and doubt to look to their baptism, others churches tell them to look at their past or present experiences, and still others seek to bring assurance to troubled souls by pronouncing absolution upon them. Guilt and assurance are both subjective experiences and are a part of the common conversion experience. Only present faith in God’s word should bring those under conviction the assurance that they need. Man cannot do this—only God can impart saving faith and the assurance of salvation from their sins. So we must be careful not to rush those under conviction to the waters of baptism until they themselves have apprehended the peace which comes from believing in Christ for themselves.

In conclusion I am just thankful for the mercies of God who is able to draw sinners, even young sinners, to Himself by granting them repentance and faith towards God. My prayer now is for those who left the camp still under conviction that God may grant them faith in Christ Jesus and the peace that follows.