Contending For The Faith

October 30, 2008

Believer-Centered Worship? Or God-Centered?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynda O @ 4:50 pm
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This week’s “Wednesday Word” from Miles McKee brings a good reminder about God-centered worship.  Too many churches today are all about “Believer-Centered Worship” and focused solely on an entertaining music program.  Yet as one worship song refrain goes, “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you, Jesus.”

McKee writes:

“Now here’s something we must grasp: since the gospel is about Jesus, the gospel is, therefore, not focused on the believer.  In the genuine gospel, the believer is not on center stage, rather, in the authentic gospel, the limelight falls on Christ alone.  There are pastors who dispute this, but let me point out that ever since the fall of man, when sin entered into the human race, the focus of man’s attention has been on himself.  Listen to the Father of our fallen race as he cowers in embarrassed fear before his Creator; he says, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10).  Notice how that four times in one verse he uses the personal pronoun “I”. Adam shows us by this one sentence that sin’s first warping of man’s character was to make him into a raging subjectivist.  He, not God, is now the center of his universe. No longer does his life revolve around God and His glory.  His life is now centered on himself and his condition.”

Man-centered worship is basic to human fallen nature and goes back to Satan’s lie in the garden.  Man has always wanted to worship some man-made idol, and unregenerated man, by nature, cannot please and worship God.  I think of Jeremiah 3:10, a situation concerning the Old Testament Jews:  “In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord.”

McKee makes an interesting comparison between pagan religious meetings and “Christian” so-called meetings which are only thinly-veiled paganism:

“we have this ‘Indian Guru’ group of people meeting to encourage one another in their so-called faith.  They encourage each other in their experience and growth.  The speaker speaks about them and how they can improve their quality of faith and life.  They are the center of their meeting. Now here’s the question, is this a Christian meeting?  Well of course not! Why? Because, as already stated, the Lamb is not the center!  Jesus is neither the goal nor the sum and substance of their meeting.  Now, in a different location, meeting on the same night, we have another assembly of people.  They are not followers of the Indian Guru; they call themselves Christians. Christians? Why then is their meeting to all intents and purposes the same as the Guru group?”

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October 23, 2008

The Curse of Jeconiah and Jesus’ Royal Lineage

Filed under: Bible Study — Lynda O @ 5:26 pm
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My daily Bible reading from FreeBibleEmail for today includes Jeremiah chapter 22, a passage I’ve read many times before, though I hadn’t thought of its connection to Jesus and the New Testament.  But a few days ago I heard the radio version of John MacArthur’s sermon “The Marvelous Birth of the King,” in which MacArthur points out some interesting things about Jesus’ royal lineage.  Jeremiah 22:30, referring to Jeconiah (Jehoiachin in my NIV Bible), prophecies: “This is what the LORD says: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.”

Yet Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, was a direct descendant of this man — and thus cursed, unable to sit on David’s throne.

An excerpt from MacArthur:
“Now God said no son of Jeconiah will ever reign in Palestine in Israel.  No son will ever bear the throne of David.  And yet, Jeconiah is in the Messianic line.  How then can Jesus be the King if He does not come through the royal line of Jeconiah?  And how can He be the King if the line of Jeconiah is cursed?  That seemingly hopeless dilemma is resolved in the virgin birth.  Through that line Jesus received the legal right to the throne, but He was no blood child of Jeconiah for that line was cursed and there could never be a child of Jeconiah on the throne of David.  Therefore Christ was born of a virgin, there was no taint of the blood of Jeconiah in Him because He had no blood from Joseph in Him either.  So in a marvelous working of God, the curse of Jeconiah is bypassed by bypassing Joseph and having Jesus born of a virgin.”

By googling a little I found this more detailed article “The Genealogy of the Messiah,” which agrees and adds further commentary regarding the Biblical genealogies, pointing out the amazing details God worked out in establishing Jesus as the Messiah from the Old Testament prophecies and royal lineage.  Just another “little thing,” some seemingly trivial detail, and yet God cares and arranges things according to such very specific things, to show such wondrous proofs that glorify and exalt His son.  Another layer of richness brought out from all the texts of the Bible, how all passages (including this text in Jeremiah about the last of Judah’s Kings, the time of the Babylonian exile) point to Christ — and proof that every day I can find something new in God’s word.  What a contrast to those who, especially after years of being a Christian, tire of “the same old thing” and think they’ve learned all they need to know about God and Christ, and get caught up in the cares of the world, having lost their first love.  (Revelation 2:4)

O Lord, renew us daily, giving grace for each day, that we would desire to know You and to study your Word more and more each day. (Philippians 3:10, Psalm 119:105)

October 21, 2008

More Evidence of God’s Wrath of Abandonment: Trans-gender Children

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynda O @ 5:42 pm
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John MacArthur makes a convincing case that God has abandoned America, in the Romans 1 type of wrath.  The passage in Romans 1 describes several times how God “gave them over.”  First, Romans 1:24, “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” Then Romans 1:26, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions” which then describes how the men and women exchanged the natural for unnatural — homosexuality.  Romans 1:28, “… God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”  The progression of sins in our society since the 1960s is described clearly through the rest of Romans 1.

A few quotes from MacArthur’s sermon, “A Nation Abandoned By God”:
“You’re going to have more people in leadership in the country outing themselves as homosexuals.  If you think you’ve seen a lot of that, you haven’t seen any of it yet as it becomes more and more accepted. …  Sexual revolution, down one more step; homosexual revolution, down one more step; you can’t ever get your way out of it because the mind, the cultural mind is gone…it’s gone…it’s gone.”

As a reminder, that I think I’ve seen a lot of it, but I really haven’t seen any of it yet as it becomes more accepted, the next day (after reading MacArthur’s sermon), I saw the feature story in “The Atlantic” magazine:  trans-gender children.  Children as young as age 6 or 8, with behavioral and emotional problems that cause them to prefer the opposite sex and act out, are encouraged by their parents to live and dress as the opposite sex, as in the featured story of Brandon/Bridget.  Their parents fail to address the underlying issues, give up too early, and instead link up with others with this “medical condition” to assure themselves that their kids are normal.  To be fair, the story does point out the controversy, and quotes the experts who disagree, while informing us of the rapid increase of trans-gender children just since 2000.  But what is “controversial” now will gradually become accepted and “normal” as America continues its rapid spiral down into greater and greater depravity, as more individuals are given over to the point where they lose their ability to reason and function.

October 16, 2008

Ezekiel’s Temple and OT Millenial Passages

Filed under: eschatology — Lynda O @ 5:59 pm
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Still doing a lot of reading and studying, not much time for writing. Here are some of my thoughts for today…

I listened to John MacArthur’s answer regarding Ezekiel’s temple in the light of the finished work of the cross (from the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference, General Conference 5) and transcribed it for my future reference:

“How does the Lord’s table relate to the fact that Christ’s sacrifice is a once for all sacrifice? The Old Testament sacrifices were not a substitute for Christ, they were a depiction, they were a picture, they were a picture, a type, prior to the cross, pointing to the cross. The Lord’s table is a picture of the cross, past the Cross, pointing back, and the best understanding that I have of the millennial temple in Ezekiel 40 to 48 and the millenial sacrifices is that in the kingdom, which is for Israel in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant and Davidic covenant and new covenant promise of Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36 and 37, Israel is featured. The apostles, Jesus said from His own lips, will sit on 12 thrones ruling the 12 tribes of Israel. And so it is uniquely Jewish and it is uniquely for them and I think the Lord will reinstitute the Old Testament symbols that pointed to the cross and they will carry out some of those symbols which will then be infused with a full understanding of what they meant in the light of the cross, and they will by then have come to look on Him whom they have pierced and mourn for Him as an only son, have had the fountain of cleansing opened to them, they will be in the kingdom, Christ will be present and it will all become clear to them. It will be a complete unveiling of all of those sacrifices which were so richly symbolic to Israel in the past.”

It sounds similar to a few things I’ve come across elsewhere, and the most complete answer so far. I know the standard amill answer, about how all of those chapters in Ezekiel are symbolic of what the ideal temple could have been, if the Jews had been faithful — sorry, I don’t buy that one anymore, as I become increasingly dissatisfied with the pastor that over-spiritualizes and over-allegorizes difficult texts without really looking at what they actually say. Allegory and spiritualization doesn’t account for the very specific measurements and details. Considering MacArthur’s answer (among many other things I’ve already studies), I conclude that, though the great promises of God are fulfilled in Christ’s atoning work on the cross and His promises for the Church, that does not mean God is limited to only redeeming Gentiles; He could very well have an even greater plan than anything we can imagine, including a special redemptive plan in the future for His elect of the Jewish nation. Nothing in the fulfillment of the New Testament promises means that God is completely through with Israel, and so what must we do with the words of Jesus and Paul, saying “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled?” So as I understand the pre-mill position, at the end times God will bring in more of His elect, only in this case the elect will be individuals of Jewish descent.

Now I’m beginning to see the greater picture, the full meaning of some Old Testament prophecies, such as Isaiah 66. Last night, my amill pastor mentioned this text in passing, one of many passages as he jumped around on a lot of different thoughts, but cited this passage (Isaiah 66:19-20) as referring to the church and the gospel going out to all the lands. Yet in the context, a few verses later it describes the New Heavens and the New Earth, and the people looking at all the dead bodies — a direct tie-in with the battle of Armageddon. Instead, Isaiah 66:18-20 seems a lot like what is prophecied in Zechariah 14.

Like the fuller understanding of the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14, of course this is talking about something far greater than anything done by the Church in this age. There are plenty of New Testament passages talking about that, but this passage has nothing to do with the Church.

October 14, 2008

Interpretation of Matthew 24:14

Filed under: eschatology — Lynda O @ 5:55 pm
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Here’s an interesting look at a scripture verse, an understanding I hadn’t realized before.
Matthew 24:14 — “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (NIV) So many Christians understand that verse in terms of modern-day evangelism, that as a pre-condition, before Christ can return, we must preach the gospel to all nations. Much mission work is tied up in that verse, and along with that for some the idea that the sooner we spread the gospel news around the world, the sooner Christ will return. I’ve even heard the ludicrous Preterist variation, that this was somehow fulfilled by 70 A.D. –because Paul wrote (in Colossians 1:6) about how the gospel was working “all over the world” (i.e., the known Roman world of his day).

Instead, the actual fulfillment of that verse is one of the signs of Christ’s return, and will be accomplished supernaturally by God, as described in Revelation 14:6:
“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

John MacArthur describes this in his sermon covering these verses in Matthew 24 (near the end of the text):
http://www.gty.org/Resources/transcripts/2368

Or listen to it at the beginning of this:
http://www.gcaarchive.com/Audio/Eschatology/095_Answering_Hoekema_Pt_3.mp3

This passage comes right before the final judgment, a final proclamation of the gospel to literally everyone alive on earth at that time. It’s so amazing to contemplate — God is the one who is going to accomplish everything, and He indeed has the full work in His hands, to do everything in His time, and He’s going to do it literally and completely by the supernatural work of an angel, not by man’s fallible efforts. This isn’t to belittle the work of missions and evangelism, as God gives us plenty of instruction to continue in our tasks of spreading the gospel … but this bring the full focus back to our Sovereign God.

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