The Pope and Arminians Hold Hands on Free Will

I know I belabor the issue of free will quite often on my blog. I do so because I feel that the point of free will that is held by Arminians glorifies man, whereas the point that I and other Calvinist hold to glorifies God.  Let me explain: Arminians hold the view that when it comes to the gospel of Christ, that every man has the freedom of the will to decide for himself whether or not to believe in Christ or not. The typical line is that God provided salvation for us, all we have to do is reach out and accept this.

My problem with this is that the Bible doesn’t teach this. It doesn’t teach freedom of the will at all. When it does discuss the will, it is usually God’s will, and on rare occasions, the will of man and it NOT being about our decision to believe in Christ. John 1:12-13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave them the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Arminians love to focus on those who received Him without looking at the condition that must take place first for that reception to occur. The condition: they must be born of God, or born again. The new birth must occur before reception of Christ can occur.

The Bible really doesn’t speak of man’s will, but of our hearts. The will is truly guided by the heart. Now look at what the Bible says about the heart and you can see where I am going with this. It is the heart that guides us. Not some will that we have that is somehow untainted by sin. The Bible shows us to be totally depraved, which means that all aspects of our being are tainted by sin (not that we are as wicked as we can be). So if we were to have a will that was free from the governing of our hearts, it would still be tainted with sin and reject all that there is about God.

In view of this, I would like to quote A.W. Pink from his book The Sovereignty of God, the chapter concerning God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Will. He is making the point that we do not have a will that is free until after God has moved in us and created a new heart that desires the things of God. One of his points is that what the Roman Catholics believe about free will and Arminians, goes hand in hand. This is because the natural indication of man is to slide back into the free-will position. It’ appeals to the flesh, and not the things that are Spiritual.

Pink writes:

Among the ‘decrees’ of the Council of Trent (1563), which is the avowed standard of Popery, we find the following: … ‘If anyone shall affirm, that since the fall of Adam, man’s free-will is lost and extinguished; or that it is a thing titular, yea a name, without a thing, and a fiction introduced by Satan into the Church; let such an one be accursed!”

Thus, those who today insist on the free-will of the natural man believe precisely what Rome teaches on the subject! … In order for any sinner to be saved three things were indispensable: God the Father had to purpose his salvation, God the Son had to purchase it, God the Spirit has to apply it. God does more that ‘propose’ to us: were He only to ‘invite’ every last one of us would be lost. This is strikingly illustrated in the Old Testament. In Ezra 1:1-3 we read, Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put itin writing, saying,

 2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia:

   All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. 3 Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. Here was an ‘offer’ made, made to a people in captivity, affording them opportunity to leave and return to Jerusalem–God’s dwelling place. Did all Israel eagerly respond to this offer? No indeed. The vast majority were content to remain in the enemy’s land. Only an insignificant ‘remnant’ availed themselves of this overture of mercy! And why did they? Hear the answer of Scripture: “then rose up the chief the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all whose spirit God has stirred up, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” In like manner, God “stirs up” the spirits of His elect when the effectual call comes to them, and not till then do they have any willingness to respond to the Divine proclamation.

Pink then turns to the pulpits in the country and shows the blame that those who have stood in them bear because of their lack of teaching the truth of God.

The superficial  (Pink’s words…) work of many of the professional evangelists of the last fifty years is largely responsible for the erroneous views now current upon the bondage of the natural man, encouraged by the laziness of those in the pew in their failure to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21). The average evangelical pulpit conveys the impression that is lies wholly in the power of the sinner whether or not he shall be saved. It is said that “God has done His part, now man must do his.” Alas, what can a lifeless man do, and man by nature is ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1). If this were really believed, there would be more dependence upon the Holy Spirit to come in with His miracle-working power, and less confidence in our attempts to ‘win men to Christ.’

Pink goes on to point out the foolishness of presenting the gospel as if it were some mere medicine to cure those who are sick in which all the sick must do is reach out and take the gospel, instead of being the radical, life-giving, resurrecting power that it is, Pink continues:

Christ came here not to help those who were willing to help themselves, but to do for His people what they were incapable of doing for themselves: “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house” (Isa. 42:7).

Now in conclusion let us anticipate and dispose of the usual and inevitable objection–Why preach the Gospel if man is powerless to respond? Why bid the sinner come to Christ if sin has so enslaved him that he has no power in himself to come? Reply– We do not preach the Gospel because we believe that men are free moral agents, and therefore capable of receiving Christ, but we preach it because we are commanded to do so (Mark 16:15, 1 Cor. 1:18, 1:25)…

To fleshly wisdom it appears the height of folly to preach the Gospel to those that are dead, and therefore beyond the reach of doing anything themselves. Yes, but God’s ways are different from ours. It pleases God “by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (! Cor. 21). Man may deem it folly to prophesy to “dead bones” and to say unto them, “O ye dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:4). Ah! but then it is the Word of the Lord, and the words He speaks “they are spirit, and they are life”… We go forth to preach the Gospel, then, not because we believe that sinners have within themselves the power to receive the Savior it proclaims, but because the Gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, and because we know that “as many as were ordained to eternal life” (Acts 13:48), shall believe (John 6:37 & 10:16–note the “shall’s!) in God’s appointed time, for it is written, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power” (Psalm 110:3).

In all this, we do see the necessity of the Gospel being preached and the movement of the Holy Spirit for men to be saved. We cannot win them for God in our own strength. It takes a miracle for someone to be saved and that miracle is beyond anything found in us, especially since we are dead spiritually speaking until God moves and brings us to life.

Are you beginning to see why this issue is so important to our faith? To say that we can persuade men by our own strength, wit and power is to bring about a church that is filled with carnally dead church goers. If we are going to be nothing more than carnally dead church goers, then we would be better off becoming Islamic in the long run, for we would be far safer and more comfortable in the short run.

But alas, if we are truly called of God, then let us put aside this foolishness that we have free will. We are saved completely by God’s gracious hand in our lives, not because of our self-righteous free will.

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Do You Desire Him?

Paul Washer asking some tough questions: do we desire God? Do we desire Him, more than our sin? Do we desire Him above all that we have and own?

Or is God just some trinket that we add on to the sum and total of our lives?

Harold Camping Should Repent

The rapture hour has come and gone and we are all still here. We knew this would be the case since Harold Camping has done this before… and that pesky truth in the Bible about no one knowing the hour or day of Christ’s return. But it’s time to step up the pressure on Camping. I know that he will come out and say something along the lines of this being a spiritual rapture, or it’s not a true rapture per se, but one that means there will be no more new Christians. He’ll have an excuse ready to go.

I do like what Southern Baptist Ed Stetzer is calling for: repentance.

The California radio broadcaster’s wrong prediction about the rapture and the end of the world reflected poorly on Christians, said Ed Stetzer, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s missiologist in residence.

Stetzer issued a series of tweets about Camping’s eschatological prediction on Saturday, among which one noted that there was no earthquake in New Zealand after 6 p.m.

“Harold Camping, pls update http://www.family.radio.com w/your repentance statement & instructions to your now-broke followers,” Stetzer tweeted.

An hour later he tweeted again, “6pm here in Turkey. I’m standing at the Temple of Athena waiting for the Rapture. Nothing happened. ;-)”

Of course, Camping won’t do a thing like repent. False teachers never do. They just keep on spewing forth their heresy. I have stopped by the Family Radio page, or tried to, but I can never get it to load. Camping must be busy writing that apology.

Doomsday THIS Saturday!!! Well… Maybe Not!

We are quickly approaching Harold Camping’s doom date, which is tomorrow. This is really sad because Camping is scaring millions of people with his fallacious prediction that the end of the world will come at 6 p.m. EST May 21. Yet, Camping isn’t willing to put his money where his mouth is. WorldNetDaily is reporting that Sol David Cuddeback of Eugene, OR offered to take possession of all Campings worldly goods for $1 on May 22 since Camping won’t be needing it any longer. Camping has yet to reply.

Let me reassure you, Camping is a nut case. He goes so far to say that we must believe in his prediction of the rapture in order to be saved. No where in the Bible does it say “believe in the rapture as interpreted by Harold Camping to be saved.” What it says is that we are to believe and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, not a prediction by Harold Camping. This makes Harold Camping officially a heretic. He is teaching another gospel all together. All you have to do is alter the gospel just a bit, and you join hands with him. The gospel is that Jesus Christ saves us from sin and death, through HIS atoning work on the cross. We are to believe in His Second Coming, but there is nothing about believing in a particular date of His Second Coming. Jesus even tells us that we cannot know the day or the hour of that coming. So Camping is at odds with Christ’s words.

Here is a bit of the WND report:

Harold Camping, 89, of Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio is standing firm in his claim that mankind has run out of time and the Creator of the universe is arriving this Saturday, with earthquakes around the globe heralding the event.

In fact, when asked how he was feeling in this so-called final week, Camping admitted he’s already got a case of the shakes.

“I am trembling. I have never been at this place before,” Camping told CNN. “When we are only a few days away from the last thing that has to happen – the whole world destroyed by God – I have never been here before. Where can you get direction so you know how to feel?”

I hope he trembles on Sunday morning, when he realizes how he is duped so many people. The problem is, he will resort to his old tactics of spiritualizing what was to take place on Saturday. Once again, many will be duped.
Now, some might say: “But Timothy, look at all those who are coming to faith because of this prediction. Shouldn’t we rejoice?” (I know, straw man… but there are those who would naively say this very thing.)  Not at all because they are coming to faith in a lie, not in the person and work of Jesus Christ. What happens to all those who believe in Camping’s message, and then it doesn’t happen? They are worse off than if they hadn’t believe at all because now they return to unbelief with a vengeance. This entire news event should sadden us because it is the result of a madman, not the truth of the gospel.

The truth of the matter is that we need to ignore Camping and his ilk. Let the Scripture dictate to us what we believe about the second coming.

Here is Hank Hanegraaff’s refutation of Camping.

I don’t believe in the rapture as Hanegraaff does. But you see that I’m not the only one refuting this heretic.

Realize that the idea of the rapture comes from the Plymouth Brethren about 150 years ago. Before that day, the church never heard of the rapture. What the Plymouth Brethren then did, was read their prophecy back into Scripture. This is a big problem. We are never to read our prophecies or views of the world back into Scripture. Scripture is to dictate what we are to believe and our view of the world. The Plymouth Brethren were doing the same thing that liberals are doing, reading their worldview into Scripture. This leads to heresy every time.

Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason, gives a good biblical account of the rapture, or Second Coming as I would call it,  here. (Hattip: Neil.)

Also, there are some good links and an Mp3 download on the topic at Reformation 21, here.

The Aquila Report

Just wanted to let you know that I submitted one of my posts, Vindication, for publication at The Aquila Report. It’s an un-official blog of the Presbyterian Church in America and covers what the denominations are doing, theological issues, and ministry lessons. You can get there by clicking here.

I’m also adding it to my blog roll so you can get to it via my site in the future.

End of the World Round Up!

Now that is a headline if I’ve ever written one. End of the World Round Up! OK, let’s take it over to Bob who will tell us how the world is ending in his neck of the woods…

But seriously. There is more end of the world nuttiness than one can set a countdown clock to. As you know, Robert Fitzpatrick predicted the end of the world for this coming Saturday, May 22. But he is not the only one to do so. Remember nutcase Harold Camping has also done so, with the same date. Which means, if you get the numbers correct, more than one nutcase will step forward and claim it’s the end of the world.

Harold Camping has been a date-setting nutcase since the early 1990s. I remember when I was a newspaper reporter for the Times Record News in Wichita Falls, TX, his highly accurate book, 1994?, landed on my desk since I assumed the religious writer position. This was 1993. The book was long, and had all the prerequisite charts and graphs that would make John Walvoord blush. But more importantly, the book declared that sometime in the fall of 1994, Jesus would return in the Second Coming.

Of course… Jesus didn’t cooperate with Harold Camping. Harold was quick enough on the uptake to realize that he was wrong, but quickly shifted his story to say that it wasn’t the second coming that happened in the fall of 1994, but the end of the church age. He completely spiritualized his prediction and kept on writing and selling books to the religiously duped. What he says now is that for true believers to live, they must leave the organized church and follow his radio ministry, where there is true teaching. Right. After being a pastor for 15 years, I’m half inclined to agree that true believers should leave the organized church… but they certainly should not follow Camping.

My question for his followers: will you swear off buying his books come Sunday morning? You know if he is wrong again, he is simply going to spiritualize the date once again. That is his tactic as well as others. When you date is wrong, simply say that people misunderstood you and that you meant that that was the date in which all his followers should double their donations to the cause, so he can get it right next time. Sadly, many will believe him and trust him for his next go around.

For more on Harold Camping, go to Kim Riddlebarger’s site here. He has several good reviews of Harold Camping.

Doomsday THIS Saturday!

(Heavy sigh!)

The end of the world is being predicted by a man from New York. His prediction is that the world will end this coming Saturday just before 6 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

A New York man spent his entire $140,000 life savings advertising his prediction that the world will end May 21, the New York Post reported Friday.

Robert Fitzpatrick, a 60-year-old Staten Island resident, said he spent at least that sum on 1,000 subway-car placards and ads on bus kiosks and subway cars.

They say, “Global Earthquake: The Greatest Ever! Judgment Day May 21, 2011.”
In a self-published book, “The Doomsday Code,” Fitzpatrick said the Bible offers “proof that cannot be dismissed.”

Read more here. Just allow me to dismiss this guy. I know these people are everywhere. The only reason he is getting attention is that he spent so much money trying to make his case. I hope this lesson is worth the money for him. If Jesus says that no one knows the time or the date, why does this man think he does know? Again… heavy sigh.
BTW, it has occurred to me that he thinks he will make his $100,000 and more this week when his book flies off the bookshelves so that every one else will know what he says he knows. I’m sure there are enough New Yorkers to buy into his scheme.

Abba Father

Darryl William Crawford stopped by a few days ago and left this in my comments. I thought I would share it with you. It was a very good reminder of the peace we have in Christ, which I need on a regular basis given that this world is so full of joy-stealing noise.

Vindication

Vindication. It’s not something we get to experience very often. I know that in my 15 years as a pastor, I have only experienced vindication one time. That was back after I stepped down as pastor from Trinity Baptist Church in Dallas (now closed). I was shopping at an area grocery store and saw one of the former members, Mary Alexander. Mary was the 92-year-old matriarch of the church (this is another way of saying that she thought that gave her a right to control everything). There was a sweetness to her, despite that, but she was my harshest critique and biggest challenge.

I remember one time in the midst of a business meeting, she announced that I needed to realize I was the CEO of the church, and that I was responsible for everything. It took everything I had in me not to say, “Well if I’m the CEO of the church, you are all fired!

Another time she interrupted me in the midst of some presentation in a business meeting and wanted to know why we didn’t have a periodicals table. Apparently, at one point in the history of this comatose church, there had been a periodicals table in the lobby. It was full of things to read and that was the reason why the church was not growing and thriving… we didn’t have a periodicals table. Yes, let this be a lesson to all elders, deacons, control-freak matriarchs! Your church can only thrive as long as you have a periodicals table! After much debate, it was decided that I would put out a periodicals table in the lobby. We really didn’t have much for the table, so I would put out every piece of junk mail we got, including the catalog from the company that sells floor mats. That satisfied her… for a brief moment.

I did everything I could with that church to see if the Lord would turn it around. However, there wasn’t much I could do. No matter what I suggested, those left in the church were strongly opposed to it. The only suggestions I would get from them were things that were completely impossible in our state of expiring. For instance, Pete Smallwood, the lone mobile deacon, wanted me to start a youth club. That was the answer in his mind because the youth club brought them back to their glory days… aka the 1950s when every church thrived. There was just a small problem with that. We didn’t have any youth to start a youth club. We did have one family come once that had children the perfect age for a youth club. But the father never would return my phone calls. I imagine that he took one look at that congregation and realized what I didn’t want to admit to myself: the church was already dead.

The best thing for Trinity Baptist would have been for us to close the doors, give the remaining assets to area missions and all go join thriving churches. After all, this was in Dallas. There were no lack of thriving churches to join. I did suggest this at one business meeting, but quickly backed down once they started boiling the tar and plucking the chickens.

As time wore on, I slowly realized that there was nothing I could do with the congregation. I was doing my best to preach and pastor faithfully. I started by preaching through Ephesians, and after I finished that book, I went to the gospel of John. All the while, they were saying things like “great sermon” on the way out the door, but “you need to preach good Baptist doctrine” at other times. This really confused me. What was good Baptist doctrine? Given the fact that I was attending Dallas Theological Seminary, I thought I was preaching good Baptist doctrine.

I wasn’t. I was becoming a Calvinist in my convictions even though at that time, I was clueless about what a Calvinist was. Needless to say, but I’m still saying it, the Bible was shaping my convictions and beliefs. I guess TBC wasn’t used to that. They wanted me to preach on the evils of drinking, and have an altar call every Sunday. I hated that. I would give altar calls, and the same fellow student would walk the aisle every Sunday because of the convictions he was having about his sin. I’m glad he was convicted. But I didn’t really feel he needed to tell me about it every Sunday.

Finally, I did ask Mary about good Baptist doctrine. I was walking around the Sunday school classes before service one morning and over heard Mary trying to get the proxy vote from one of the other members (this is something that no church should ever allow. Proxy votes give one or two people too much power. Peter Smallwood used them regularly). I over heard her saying, “we’ve got to get rid of this pastor. He is teaching too much Dallas doctrine! I need your proxy vote.” The only reason I’m sure I heard her correctly is that the woman she was petitioning for the proxy vote was hard of hearing. Mary had to yell those words.

I couldn’t believe it. Mary was trying to muster the forces in order to force me out. What betrayal was this?

I confronted her immediately. She wouldn’t look at me or answer me. I pressed the issue. Finally she said, “we got to get rid of you. You keep preaching Dallas doctrine instead of good Baptist doctrine!”

“What is good Baptist doctrine?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but that’s not it.”

I was slowly coming to the realization that things were not going to work out like I hoped. Reality was slowly taking over foolish optimism. My days were numbered at TBC.

There are always signs to a church’s demise. The refusal to hear good, solid Biblical preaching is one of them. The other, is how they view the use of money.

The church had money, like a lot of old churches do. But they were unwilling to spend it on any real, significant ministry. I’ve come to the conclusion since that time that the worst thing that can happen to a church is to be given a large amount of money. The leadership tends to become tight-fisted misers and ministry goes out the window. In other words, holding on to the money is more important than reaching the lost. Pete Smallwood was the perfect example. He would do anything and everything to keep from spending money for ministry. I’m convinced that he was just waiting for the church to die off so he could pocket the change. After I stepped down from being the pastor, they did finally take some of my advice and sold the building. Pete was the one who worked the deal. He told the congregation he sold it for a mere $75,000. He told them it was an old building, so it wasn’t worth much. Never mind the fact that is was PRIME real estate in the middle of Dallas. I later met with the pastor who ended up with the building and found out that Pete got more like $600,000 for the property. The miser in him, kept the money hidden from the congregation. They later got it all, after Pete suddenly died at his desk from a heart attack. The hand of God?

It was after all that took place that I saw Mary Alexander in the area Kroger. She was sitting in a chair, clipping coupons. I really sensed the Spirit moving in me to go speak to her. For the first year after I stepped down, that would not have been a possibility because I was too hurt from the entire experience. I needed time to heal from it. As a typical man, a lot of my identity is wrapped up in what I do and my success in what I do. I have had to die to that idol over and over again. There is no room for it in the ministry. The point being that it really took some time to heal and seeing her on that day was part of the healing.

I smiled as I walked over to her. There was an empty chair next to her and a plopped down in it. She looked up from her coupons and smiled. We exchanged pleasantries. It was good to see here. Even after all that had happened at TBC, I was glad to see Mary. I asked her how things were going and she admitted not very well. That is when it finally came about. She simply said, “we should have listened to you when you were there. You were right.” I couldn’t believe that Mary admitted it. But she did and I simply said “thank you.”

That was the moment of my vindication. It was sweet. But more than that, despite all the conflict that Mary and I had, I saw the Spirit moving in her as well. For a good portion of time, I doubted her salvation. She was such a pain. I have realized just how much conflict true believers can have with one another. The question should never be, “is that person saved?” If they are in the church, professing faith in Christ, we must trust in that.

The question should be, “are they following the Spirit’s leading, or the leading of the flesh?” (Just look at the church at Corinth and all the sin that was taking place there.) For most of the the members of TBC, it was the more often than not, the flesh. Whenever the flesh rears it’s ugly head is the moment that a church becomes less and less healthy. If that continues, then God removes the lampstand, as He did with TBC. I’m sure that most of them have gone on to be with the Lord. That was back in 1995 when all that started. The fellow students that were helping me there, all graduated and went off to their own ministries and the rest of the congregation were in their 70s and above.

I’m glad I had the experience in hind site. But it wasn’t easy when I was there. When a church reaches a state that they are holding on to their past, or their money instead of Christ, they need to close their doors. TBC learned the hard way, despite my efforts. Yet God in His goodness, gave me that one moment of vindication. It would be nice to have more moments like that, but we have to trust the Lord. He is the One who is ultimately vindicated for His glory. That should be our focus, not our own vindication.

I’m Golfing for Charity Today

Yes, one of the perks… the only perk that I can think of, is that I get to golf on Team Grace in the Area Relief Ministries annual golf scramble. Today is the day! I haven’t golfed since last year’s golf scramble, so I am excited about the prospects of getting on the course. I know, my game hasn’t improved since last year, but it probably hasn’t gotten much worse either. The point is, I get to golf!

To me, golfing is like taking a mini-vacation. It’s a chance to get away from the worries of life and face the less serious worries of the game, which in my case, are no worries at all. I know I’m a bad golfer so my expectations are not high. My hope: one birdie at best, or a par or two. I plan on buying a few Mulligan tickets so I can take some extra shots out there. For those of you who don’t know,  a Mulligan is a “do over!” ARM sells them for $10 a piece. They make the game more fun, and raise more money for the poor! Remember, it’s all about raising money for the poor!

The Witnesses of Christ — Peter

I’m currently preaching through 1 Corinthians 15:1ff, where Paul recounts the number of witnesses who saw the risen Savior. They did not see visions of Christ, or manifestations of Him, but the physically raised Son of Man in bodily form. I stress this because there are those who like to say that the resurrection was spiritual in nature only. It was not. The resurrection of Christ, and our future resurrection is both spiritual and physical. Our bodies will be raised up and united to our souls (if we have already departed). This is why the writers stress that He was physical in nature, after all, He made them breakfast and ate it with them as well.

Sunday’s sermon was on Peter’s encounter with Christ by the Sea of Galilee. It was a real encounter, not something that was merely a vision. You can listen to the full sermon by going here. Other sermons are here. Just a side note, my voice was shot this weekend, so it does take just a tad getting use to listening to it. But I’m told it is worth it. May you be blessed by the preaching of God’s word.