Thursday Book Review – The Institutes of the Christian Religion Book Three

Beloved, I am finally able to review the third book of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. If you missed the other two reviews you can find them here, and here. This was a much greater undertaking than I expected. The truths found in The Institutes are not needlessly difficult to grasp, Calvin did an excellent job making this understandable for common folks like myself. That being said, however, it is the type of book with which you want to enjoy, take time to consider, take notes, make references, not one to skim through quickly. Very meaty. John Calvin, as many of you know, was a French pastor and theologian during the Reformation. He wrote the Institutes in 1536 using Gods Word and church fathers to clarify Biblical principles and refute the heresies of his day, most of which are still alive and well.

In this book Calvin addresses a wide range of issues central to justification by faith alone. He continued throughout this book to strongly emphasize the Holy Spirits role in salvation, as well as show Scripturally why works do not merit favor. In particular Calvin dealt with the false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, although he does address other heretical persons. Specifically, in regards to the Roman Catholic Church, he takes on the unbiblical nature of confessions, purgatory, indulgences, and merit. Here he even slips in some fascinating historical changed within the Roman Catholic doctrines, which is helpful for anyone lost in works righteousness that believe the church or the pope are somehow infallible. I imagine it didn’t make him very popular at the time, when most of the church was being taught they could pay to get their loved ones out of purgatory.

He goes on to further explain the effects of Gods grace on believers, and how to live the Christian life. He deals with self denial, and the way we ought to view worldly riches. He goes deep into justification, Christian liberty, prayer, and resurrection. In this book Calvin also defends the doctrine of election and predestination, which means I finally found the controversial stuff in the books! He does a wonderful job explaining this through expounding upon the Word of God. This is found in chapters 21 through 24 if anyone should be curious about just that topic alone.

I simply can not overemphasize how helpful The Institutes have been thus far. Wherever you find yourself on the five points, or the doctrines of grace, these books are still going to bless you. I read a fascinating comment under the Ben Shapiro and John MacArthur Sunday Special which you can see here. If you’ll allow me to get a little off subject I promise to bring it back around. The comment was from someone who might have been a continuist based on their reference to miracles. This person humbly confessed that due to their bias they had refused to listen to MacArthur and felt they were wrong in doing so. After seeing how lovingly he presented the Gospel, the person had changed their mind about the great preacher. What does that have to do with The Institutes? Glad you asked, dear ones!

Often times when we find ourselves at odds with one another in an area of doctrine we write one another off. I think if I had known about these books back in 2015, when I was first saved by Gods grace, I never would have read them. I’m thankful that God first used many reformed theologians to teach and edify me before I heard of these books. They have been tremendous blessings, filled with biblical rebukes of falsehoods still held today, overflowing with a love for brethren, a desire to see the lost saved, and doctrine explained in a way which someone like me can actually comprehend. All of that to say, I do hope, beloved, that we can set aside any disagreements to be richly fed by brothers and sisters that went before us. We will, none of us, ever agree fully on all things, but that certainly doesn’t mean we don’t allow iron to sharpen iron.

I recommend this book to any believer, or none believer, teens and up. Believers will be blessed by the attention to detail, the comprehensive structure of each chapter, and the care and love that went into writing this. None believers will hear the Law and the Gospel, while having misconceptions refuted, and questions answered. One more book left in the Institutes, I’m so excited to get to reading! If you’d like to read these books they are in the public domain. That means, of course, that you can find them in PDF here, audiobook here, kindle version here, or the good old fashioned paperback here. This will make its way into my library in paperback form as soon as we stop traveling. It’s the type of book that is important enough to warrant a purchase. I hope these reviews have blessed you, dear ones, and as always be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

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Twisted Tuesday – Addressing The Heretic

Hello again, dear ones, I hope this post has found you all doing well! Every Scripture we discuss is important, and I always feel an urgency when I right a Twisted Tuesday posts. I usually fight the urge to suggest this one is the most important, or most abused, especially after researching the issue, but anytime Gods Word is taken out of context we need to correct it. This one is one of those verses that is actually ignored, for the most part, until it’s yanked kicking and screaming out of context to prove a point. I’m referring to Matthew 18:15-17.

These verses are referring to Church discipline, which is essential to the health of any church. It has, unfortunately, not been put into place in most churches today. I say most churches, as it seems to be one thing that’s agreed upon throughout denominations and even by many cults. No one wants to be rebuked publicly, so no one wants to rebuke others. This is very sad, not only as it’s been given here by Christ as a command to His church, but also because it hurts believers not to be held accountable. Goats and wolves are much more comfortable in churches where they’ll see zero accountability for sin. As such, predators can make their ways into our pews, youth groups, and children’s church without fearing public rebuke. I may have mentioned before that when I was a youth in church, long before ever being saved, I witnessed multiple explicit relationships between adults and young teenagers. It was undeniably obvious, yet no one, not a single elder, leader, or pastor, did anything to stop it.

That’s not the only way a lack of Church discipline harms members. Besides allowing the wolves to devour the flock, it allows the ‘goats’ to continue pretending to be sheep. This is why I was able to stay in church for over a decade without ever having my salvation addressed, or questioned. How many millions are lost, and deceived, like I was, because they’ve never had their sinful behavior addressed? Obviously, as a redeemed saint I still sin, and when I do it is very grievous. How blessed it is to know that, if I am sinning, my brothers and sisters would come up beside me and help me. This makes Church discipline a win win, if your lost and rebuked you can work through your salvation with fear and trembling. If your saved, fall into sin, and are rebuked like King David was by Samual, you can repent and find accountability and safety within your Church family.

It’s a shame, then, that this verse is saved for something completely different. If you’ve ever discussed the heretics of TBN you’ve likely had this verse thrown at you. “Have you taken this brother or sister aside before you rebuked them openly?” Can you imagine Paul being asked this, after his letters were sent far and wide? He warned brethren of many, in several different situations. Christ Himself, as well as John the Baptist, also called out religious leaders publicly, referring to them as ‘serpents’ and ‘hypocrites’. We know, as we’ve discussed so many times before, that if we see an issue with Scripture the problem is with our understanding. Gods Word is inerrant. Is this a contradiction? No, not at all.

Christ is telling leaders how to lead brothers and sisters in Christ out of sin. He is not telling believers to wait to warn one another of false teachers, or heretics, wolves in sheep’s clothing, until that person has been taken aside. First, we’re addressing a teaching that is unBiblical, and warning the body of Christ to avoid those teaching it. This is different than addressing a brother or sister that has fallen into sin, such as gossip. Second, it’s not possible for us to take these teachers aside. You and I are (hopefully) not members of their churches, and most of them have body guards and security that would stop us from coming within a foot from them. Lastly, it is not needed to bring these people aside with two or three, or to even publicly rebuke them. Their false teaching is public, they’ve already shown the world their sinful, blasphemous, or heretical teaching.

What we can do is use discernment, when someone is a leader, or ‘pastor’, that is teaching falsehoods. We can rebuke their teaching so that we help others see true doctrine. It’s possible those teachers will hear such rebuke and respond, as Beth Moore has. When a sister in Christ warned others that what Moore was teaching was unBiblical, Moore emailed back and forth with her asking why what she was saying was wrong. Even Benny Hinn has apologized after being rebuked, although he has since continued his false teaching, as has Moore. Whether the teachers repent or not, we must correct falsehoods. Gods Word is clear, coherent, and accurate. Only when it is taken out of context does it become muddied.

Have you heard this verse taken out of context, beloved? I’d love to hear how you handled it. I pray this post has helped edify you all. As always, beloved brethren, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Twisted Tuesday – Christ the Messiah: God or Man?

Dear ones, a few days ago I heard a grievous statistic that 78% of ‘Christians’ believe Christ was created by God. 78? That means the mass majority of professing Christians have an errant view of Christ, the trinity, and the Gospel. The verse twisted to come up with this false doctrine is Revelation 3:14 which does seem to justify this belief. Here’s the problem, Scripture clearly states that Christ has always been, He is eternal, so either Scripture is contradicting itself or our understanding is flawed. Always, always, beloved, assume the issue is with our interpretation. Gods Word is inerrant, we are not.

What’s happened in Revelation 3:14 is simply a misunderstanding of the Greek term arche. Arche is translated in most versions as beginning, which in modern speech would suggest the first created. In Greek, however, this is referencing the source, or origin, of created things. All things were made by Him, Christ is the source. A little Greek can go a long way, thankfully we have access to a tremendous amount of information online. But why is this so dangerous? And how did it come about that so many believe it?

Friends, Gods Word is very clear, only a perfect sacrifice could remove the sins of believers. Only God is perfect. If Christ is created by God, He is not God, and can not save through His sacrifice. You can see then that multitudes of professing believers do not even understand this most basic doctrine of Christianity. If you put your faith in a false god, even if you name that false god Jesus, you are still lost. I liken it to this, suppose a new employee comes to you and processes to worship Christ. You’re overjoyed, another believer to fellowship! That employee invites you over to worship Jesus together, and you accept the invite. Unfortunately, when you arrive, you find that ‘Jesus’ is this new friends pet chicken to which he sacrifices to, adores, and worships. You see the different, beloved?

I was an idolater before God saved me in July of 2015. I had created an image of a god, he resembled Santa Clause. I called him Jesus, but he was a figment of my imagination. He was not the Biblical Messiah, who bore my sin and death on a Roman cross. I had no idea about the mystery of the Godhead, or the eternality of Christ. When I became a new creation understanding didn’t magically appear in my mind, I had to search the Scriptures. The very thing my new heart desired to do more than anything else. I wanted to know more about this Savior that had freed me from the chains of sin! In digging into God’s Word I could clearly see the difference between the true Christ, and the false god I had been worshipping.

How is it then, with this being such obvious error, that the majority polled answered incorrectly? I believe the answer is twofold. Firstly, the foxes are watching the hen house. Over the past hundred years the Gospel has been slowly watered down, and churches have become so ‘inclusive’ and inoffensive, that they don’t dare give the Law to the proud and grace to the humble. Without Biblical preaching churches are filled with unsaved members that then go on to become unsaved pastors, leaders, and elders. Secondly, and owing to the first point, doctrine is despised in today’s churches. The very idea of tediously working through the Scriptures is laughable to the modern ‘Christian’. As proverbs say, to the starving every bitter thing tastes sweet. Those who have so very little teaching in the Word are more apt to accept whatever sounds best to their itching ears.

I doubt that I have to mention just how deeply troubling this statistic is. We must continue, dear brethren, to study and share the truth as many of your wonderful blogs to daily. Teach your children, and grandchildren, and encourage your pastors, elders, and leaders to teach meaty matters. Speak the truth in love, always bringing to remembrance that, if not for Gods grace, we would also be mislead. As always, beloved ones, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Twisted Tuesday – Repentance: Gift or Work?

Hello again, dear ones! Today the twisted scripture we’re going to be working with is Ephesians 2:8-9. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. That’s a beautiful truth, is it not dear ones? This is one of those verses that we could read and reread for all eternity without ever tiring of it. Unfortunately some have used this verse to negate other verses. Namely, as we’ll be discussing today, all verses referencing repentance.

A while back Tom, our brother in the faith over at excatholicforChrist, shared a link with me about repentance here, it’s well worth the read! It was his observation that some who hold to King James Onlyism tend to have a negative view of repentance. Their claim is that repentance is a work and is therefor not needed for salvation. As you’ll see in my graphics, Scripture says otherwise. Here’s where almost every Twisted Tuesday leads, rather than allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, we tend to impose our views on it. This is called eisegesis and has caused more heresies than can be numbered. There’s going to be times when we don’t understand God’s Word, or when a verse stands out as one that needs clarity. When this happens we need to be very careful not to add our own opinions to the text. Good hermeneutics is key! If we seem to be contradicting Scripture with our interpretation than there is something seriously wrong with our interpretation.

This is what has happened with the view that repentance is a work. Scripture clearly states that salvation is of God, we have nothing to boast in. We can only sit at the feet of the cross amazed that we have been saved from the wrath to come. Scripture also tells us to repent, and put our faith in Christ alone. How does Gods Word reconcile this? Simply, by stating and repeating an important truth, repentance is a gift from God. It’s imperative at this point to discuss a distinction the Bible makes clear, there is a worldly sorrow not leading to repentance, and a Godly sorrow that does lead to repentance. The worldly sorrow is one where the sinner feels the sting of consequence, where as the Godly sorrow feels the sting of offending ones Creator.

To use myself as an example, without any understanding of God’s Law, and a wicked heart full of pride and lust, I took to the alter at every call, repeating the same prayer, hopeful that my sins would not be found out. Washing the outside of the cup. I did this for over a decade, dear ones. It’s been noted before that some have genuinely repented when repeating the Sinners Prayer. Those brothers and sisters felt the weight of their sin in Godly sorrow. Others, like myself, had no idea what the need for repentance even was. We used the Sinners Prayer as a get out of hell free card, a way to have our cake and eat it too, to sin freely without considering the one against whom we sinned. This is the true heart of man, when left unchanged by Gods grace, able to deceive itself right into Hell.

When I heard Gods Word rightly divided, His Law explained, His grace expounded upon, I felt Godly sorrow for my sins. How could I, wickedly full of hatred for the one true God, now humbled by His sovereignty, fall at His feet and ask for forgiveness? I could have more readily walked the surface of the sun that night than walk to the throne of God, if I had been left to my own works all would have been lost. However, in my lostness, in my brokenness, in my utter helplessness, God gave me the gift of repentance and faith. God gave me the confidence to approach His throne. It was all Him, and He alone is owed the glory!

The very air we breathe when speaking a prayer of repentance is a gift from God. A new heart is given at the point of salvation, the old man filled with worldly desires dies, and a new creation replaces it. That new creation desires to do the will of God, though imperfectly, with a new heart that loves Him, and this is a gift of God. In short, God gives repentance and faith, salvation, sanctification, adoption, and justification. To Him be the glory, and the honor, and the praise, forever and ever amen. We must share the Gospel, giving the law to the proud, showing grace to the humble, calling all men to repent. Poke holes in a life boat and it will sink before any can jump inside it and be saved. Give the entirety of the life boat, the Good News of the Gospel, to the lost. We can not save anyone, but we can plant seeds, or water where others have sown, while trusting in God to bring the increase. Gods Word is perfect, we need not discount one verse to bolster another.

As a reminder, brethren, let’s continue to uphold our brother Jim in prayer as he is overseas on missions. 2018 has seen many countries harden against the church planting, evangelizing, and related mission trips. Thank you Pastor Jim for your faithfulness! We look forward to your safe return, and the updates that come with it. As always, beloved brethren, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Twisted Tuesday – A Second Death

I hope this post finds you all doing well, brethren. Today I’d like to discuss the heretical teaching of Christ dying twice. I know I’ve addressed this briefly in the passed, dear ones, however I wanted to work through it more. Netflix recently purchased the rights to Narnia to make a series, which brought this back to my mind. We’ve all seen that scene, I’m sure, where the evil creatures are jumping on, and torturing, the lion. That depiction has somehow made it into the minds, and teaching, of many popular Charismatic speakers. It coincides with the belief that Christ died physically and spiritually. At that point men like Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar teach that Christ was not God made man, but that He became Gods Son through His sacrifice. Others, like Joyce Meyers, who also teaches this, don’t go as far as to say He wasn’t God, but that He did die spiritually which would equate to the same doctrine if fleshed out.

In the movie, and book, the lion is tortured by the witches minions. In the heresy we’re discussing today this happened when Christ died physically and went to hell, where He then died spiritually after being tortured. Meyers goes so far as to portray Christ with demons jumping up and down on Him. Then Christ Himself was born again of the Spirit, according to these false teachers. In a version very similar to heresies taught by the Mormons, these teachers go on to suggest we all become just like Christ when we’re born again, usually using the phrase “gods with a little g”. Specifically today I want to address the idea that Christ went to hell and was spiritually tortured and killed by Satan and his demons.

The first clear issue, which we’ve discussed before, is that Satan is not, nor has he ever been, in charge of Hell. Hell was created for him, and for the demons, as an eternal punishment for rebellion. Eventually it’ll be tossed into the lake of fire as a final judgement against Satan, the demons, and those who rebelled against God on earth. God is sovereign, over Heaven, Hell, and Earth. The second issue is that Scripture specifically tells us that Christ laid down His life, no one took it, especially not Satan. Lastly, no where in Gods Word is there even a hint that Christ died twice, or was spiritually born again. He rose from the dead because He had to power to lay down His life and to pick it back up.

I don’t know what the Netflix series will be like, however I do know that this view of God is not Biblical. The christ these teachers portray as suffering in Hell, being tortured and spiritually dying at the hands of Satan and his demons, is not the Christ of the Bible. Jesus Christ condescended to enter His creation, like the verse our sister in Christ Marie wrote in the comment section of Sunday’s post. He lived a sinless, perfect life, and died in our place. The cup of wrath poured out on Christ was not Satan’s wrath, but Gods. It was not poured out in Hell, but on that cross. It is finished. When we, wretched sinners though we are, put our faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, the wrath we’ve stored up is forgiven in Christ. Regardless if you believe Christ was proclaiming the Gospel in Abraham’s bosom, or proclaimed victory to those chained from Noah’s flood, it’s clear that during the three days after His death and before His ascension He was neither being tortured, nor spiritually killed, by Satan in Hell.

While it is certainly grievous to see errant teaching being broadcast worldwide, it should not surprise us dear ones. Those who teach such heresy ought to be opposed, and prayed for. Those who are listening to, and believing, such falsehoods also need our prayer. If not for the grace of God, brethren, we would be in their shoes. I was once, I believed everything Meyers and Dollar said without question. It took someone standing against those false doctrines, someone uncompromising, someone lovingly correcting, to show me the truth. I was a false convert listening to wolves in sheeps clothing. God graciously saved me, not by any effort on my own, I can not even boast of repentance friends, even that was a gift of God! Have you heard this heresy, dear ones? Did you maybe listen to the same before being saved? I’d love to hear your thoughts on future Twisted Tuesday’s! Feel free to let me know in the comments. As always, my beloved brothers and sisters, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Sunday Hymn From the Past – Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands

It’s Reformation month again, dear ones! Can you believe it’s been a year since the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation? Wow that year went by fast. This month, like last year, I’m going to be sharing hymns written by reformers. We’ll start this month out strong, with a Martin Luther hymn. I hope it blesses you, as much as it blessed me, as always beloved brethren be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
for our offenses given;
but now at God’s right hand He stands
and brings us light from heaven.
Therefore let us joyful be
and sing to God right thankfully
loud songs of hallelujah.
Hallelujah!
It was a strange and dreadful strife
when life and death contended;
the victory remained with life,
the reign of death was ended.
Holy Scripture plainly saith
that death is swallowed up by death;
his sting is lost forever.
Hallelujah!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see, 
whom God so freely gave us; 
He died on the accursed tree – 
so strong His love to save us. 
See, His blood doth mark our door; 
faith points to it, death passes o’er, 
and Satan cannot harm us. 
Hallelujah!
So let us keep the festival
whereto the Lord invites us;
Christ is Himself the Joy of all,
the Sun that warms and lights us.
By His grace He doth impart
eternal sunshine to the heart;
the night of sin is ended.
Hallelujah!

Thursday Switch-A-Roo – Snatch Them From the Flames

Usually on Thursdays I do a book review, today I want to switch things up beloved. There is a resource available at Wretched.Org right now that is totally free, and very instructive. It’s called Snatch Them From the Flames, it’s a conversation between Todd Freakishly Tall Friel and the Doctor of Discernment himself, Justin Peters. In this discussion they cover everything from the attraction of the NAR, false doctrines taught in it, to lovingly snatching friends and family out of the movement. The conversation itself was filmed during a break in the Shepherds Conference, so it’s very impromptu.

As I mentioned before, it’s free, however you do need to give an email address so the link can be sent to you. You’ll be given an option to be sent a free DVD if that’s preferred, to download it, or to watch it in sections online. Many of you know I came out of the Charismatic Movement, God graciously saved me and snatched me out of the flames. I still have many friends and family members involved, so this was very helpful. As we see the movements toxic doctrines seep into solid churches, we’re more likely than ever to need this instruction. I hope you’ll all be as blessed by this as I was! As always, dear ones, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

https://www.wretched.org/flames/