Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Deeper Life"

Having been raised in Fundamentalism I had some exposure to the Deeper Life Movement.  Slowly through the years I have seen some of the problems with this line of reasoning and how the Bible approaches godliness from a different way.  I am sure most who hold to Deeper Life views are sincerely trying to live godly lives but at the end of the day we want to do things the way God has taught in his Word and not try to improve on them.  For this reason I think one of the flaws of the Deeper Life is similar to Hyper Calvinism.

Both ideas want to cast everything into the Lord's hands instead of taking the responsibility God has given us in our service to him.  Some Hyper Calvinist don't even believe we are saved by faith in Christ but by the faith of Christ.  In some why we are given Christ's faith as our own.  Thus some teach that God can save people apart from hearing the gospel since they don't have to personally trust in Christ.  The idea behind it is that if we make anything dependent on man or give him a part in anything we take away from the Sovereignty of God.  I don't have time to go into all that but basically I believe they go to extremes of biblical teaching to try and resolve problems that aren't ours to resolve.

Similarly Deeper Life proponents teach that if we get out of the way, "let go and let God", then God can work through us.  When we try to serve in our own strength and wisdom we just mess things up.  This sounds pious but by not being biblically balanced I think it causes more problems than it solves.  The issue for me is how is God most glorified by our service.  Is his power, majesty and holiness glorified by us emptying our minds and just sitting there waiting for him to do something?  Do we point to his glorious person best by being puppets for him to move along solely by his power, putting thoughts into our minds and so forth?  Does the Lord want to "drag" us along so it looks like our hearts aren't really in it or we obey merely out of duty.  My position is absolutely not.

I believe the Lord is most shown to be worthy of praise and love by us pursuing him with all our heart because we love him supremely.  I am not saying that we don't need the energy he gives but it is only when we serve out of a burning desire to serve that we display the fact that he is worthy to be worshiped.  To come across as I don't need to do anything but wait on him and just let him do it all sounds a lot like "I don't care that much and am not particularly motivated".  At least it seems one could easily fall into a state of lethargy.  I am sure this isn't what motivates much of the Deeper Life Movement but they don't seem to be about passion but sitting and waiting.

We don't serve by emptying our minds but by filling it with his Word and then acting on what we know about God; not by waiting for him to "move" us.  Again, I am not saying that the Holy Spirit never prompts us but I have seen plenty of Christians "prompted" to do what the Bible never told them to do.  I don't think Paul sat around and waited for promptings but it was the God given burden to tell others of his glorious Savior that caused him to pursue God and his work.  He didn't wait for God to pick him up and take him where he wanted him to go.  God in his providence gets us where he wants us but he mysteriously does so by motivating us through his Word as the Holy Spirit impresses Truth on us.  God has "prompted" already in his Word; there is his will, now does your love for him "prompt" you to go out and live it?

The bottom line is that God is most honored when God's people are pursuing life passionately because they love the Lord supremely.  Their pursuit is to use life for his glory, not as a way to indulge the flesh.  It is our desire to glorify him because he is so wonderful to us.  Serving the Lord effectively then cannot be done by simply obeying him because he has told us to.  Even the lost can do that to some degree.  Even they can sit and wait for him to move them but they cannot be motivated to go out and work for him because they love him.

I think something I said to my people the other day illustrates all this.  If I was going to try and motivate them to pray I suppose I could tell them where the Bible commands us to pray and how we should pray and then tell them that you need to pray.  It might get them praying for a while but I don't think this is the motivation the Bible uses to New Covenant saints.  We might ask ourselves why do I not want to pray?  How is it that I don't feel the pressing need to carry all my needs to the Lord and seek his will in all that I do?  Why is it that I don't have enough burden for my brothers and sisters in Christ or a burning burden for those I know who are lost that I can't help but pray often for them?  What is there about my relationship with the Lord that I don't talk to him often?  Get these things right and you will not need the preaching constantly reminding you of your duties.

You see, motivation is everything.  The Lord has given us new hearts that we might live in such a way that demonstrates that he is the reason for everything we do.  This love works out its salvation with fear and trembling not as puppets but as sons and daughters who have been enabled to serve not just out of duty but because they just can't help themselves.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Gospel of Grace

This post is a follow up to the previous one on mortal and venial sins.  If you read that one you know that I was addressing statements made by a Roman Catholic when he called into a podcast hosted by James White.  In the previous post I questioned the Roman idea of degrees of sins but today I want to address the main reason he called into the program.

His main point was that if salvation is by faith alone with no requirement for good works then how do we keep people from sinning all they want to.  It seemed to him that to say all one has to do is trust in Christ through faith and that you cannot lose your salvation encourages them to care less whether they do good or not.  Now let me say from the outset that such a line of reasoning fails immediately because it isn't concerned with what the Bible actually teaches but supposed results or logical deductions.  This is always a dangerous way to approach Bible study.  Our first duty is to believe God's Word whether it immediately makes sense to us or not.  All doctrine makes sense and flows together if we will take the time to study it thoroughly but trusting our sinful reason as the litmus test for biblical teaching is arrogant humanism.

Secondly one cannot help but be somewhat amused that his argument is the very one Paul addresses at least twice when he speaks of the gospel.  In Romans 6 and Galatians 2 after stressing that salvation comes only through faith and no works of the flesh can be added to grace and grace remain grace, Paul anticipates the very objection the man above uses.  The objection simply put is that if salvation is simply a gift God gives and we don't have to be good to get it and that we can not lose it then what stops us from just being as bad as we want to be?  Paul's answer in Gal. 2 and most clearly in Rom. 6 is that salvation is accompanied by a new nature in the indwelling Holy Spirit.  This new nature loves God and is no longer dominated by our sinfulness so that we now strive to serve and honor the Lord instead of rebelling at every turn.  We might say the gospel has a built in godliness factor.

Now think about it.  When the Bible clearly states the gospel as a free gift apart from works, the immediate anticipated reaction is that it seems to encourage sin.  So I find it amusing that this man sees the same thing as Paul's objector did.  But this should make it clear to him that this is the true gospel and his objection proves it.  But instead he doesn't read Paul's answer and so seeks to corrupt the gospel with his own built in way to keep people in line.  His solution is that you can fall from grace by sinning and so must try not to sin in order to stay out of Hell.  It is little different than groups such as the Church of Christ who also believe one can lose their salvation by sinning and must constantly confess and "get saved" over and over or face Hell.

A gospel that comes with conditions is no gospel.  But as stated above this will not lead to a more sinful lifestyle but a godly lifestyle because of what we get with the indwelling Holy Spirit.  The answer to holiness is not putting people in fear if they don't behave.  One cannot please God by being good out of fear.  Love is the fulfillment of the Law.  God is honored by those who obey because they want to because they hold him dear not because if they don't behave God is "going to get them" like an unfortunate 70s sitcom used to say.

But now let me quickly come to my main point which is that the Roman Catholic system that supposedly subdues sin actually works against godliness.  This man thought that by constantly holding the possibility of Hell over someone that it will keep them doing good works.  The idea is that if you sin the "Church" has a number of prayers, payoffs, penances that you can do so that your sins are forgiven and you are back in a "safe" state; at least until you sin again.  While there are those who try to take this seriously and outwardly maintain some semblance of a moral life, it doesn't take too long before the majority see that just the opposite works.  I have worked with several "good" Catholics through the years that lived like the Devil during the week because they knew that at Saturday Mass the slate would be wiped cleaned by their local priest.  In short the Roman system doesn't produce godliness, it only gives people who are religious but still sinners by nature a way to keep on sinning.

Godliness is not outward reformation; it comes by inward renewal.  Law keeping and doing good in order to find favor with God is "moral godlessness".  That might sound like a paradox but I think if you will think it through you will see that it is possible to be moral and yet far from the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Mortal" Sins

I was listening to a Roman Catholic explain the difference between Mortal sins and Venial sins.  Mortal sins are grave or serious sins usually committed deliberately.  He said that such sins cause you to loose your justification and you must confess them to the priest and take mass and whatever else their church prescribes and they will be forgiven and you will be justified again.  So in essence there are hoops to jump through in order to get saved that must be jumped through continually or you could end up in Hell anyway.  There is no safety until one gets to Heaven.  He said to die before you confess mortal sins means there is no chance to make it to Heaven.

Now one could spend a lot of time showing why this is wrong biblically.  The man speaking with him tried to do this for a while until the Catholic stated that Christ gave the Roman Catholic Church the authority to interpret Scripture to him, he could on his own.  At that point there is no reason to reason from Scriptures because it is not the final authority.

But one thought that came to me that I would liked to have asked him goes back to mortal and venial sins.  The whole division of sins into "grave" sins and sins of "lesser" matters is without biblical warrant.  Certainly some sins affect other people and civilly stealing is worse than murder but the issue is whether God looks at some sins as worthy of his wrath in Hell while others he is mostly just annoyed at and will allow them to be paid for in purgatory or a few hail Marys, etc.  This is what I found so troubling with what this man (read the Catholic Church) teaches.

The more serious error of dividing sins this way is that it suggests that we don't need to be justified for some sins.  Only the worst of sins remove us from grace so necessarily the lesser ones don't offend the Holy God too much so a slap on the hand will do.  But in fact the least sin is an unforgivable trespass against God.  To spend a few minutes living without a perfect desire to honor the Lord is a sin worthy of Hell.  In other words, there are no "slight" (to quote one Catholic theological work) sins.  Such a definition of sin makes the holiness of God to be much less than it is as if there are some reasons to sin against God that aren't as bad as others.

I kept thinking where do you or your church get off thinking some sins damn you while other sins will just cause you some irritation?  Of course as one studies the history of the Catholic Church we soon realize that the elaborate scheme of sins and the always possible chance to fall from grace gives the Roman church countless ways to hold Hell over people even if they are supposedly saved.  This is why when a Catholic priest is ordained he becomes "another Christ".  Once sinful men have been given the authority to save or damn others it didn't take long for them to devise a system to extract money and service from them or send them to Hell.

How much better to see the full atonement made by Christ who died and covered all sins.  We cannot fall from grace because it simply means a gift, not a wage.  Something offered only on the contingency that one fulfills his end of the bargain is not a gift it is a merit or a wage.  If God keeps giving and taking justification from us it is not a gift.  And to redefine grace by saying that is gracious that God gives us the opportunity to work for justification doesn't help the matter either.

Rom 4:7  "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Rom 4:8  blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."  If we are constantly committing mortal sins and the Lord is constantly holding them against us who exactly is the blessed man.  Certainly no one on this earth.  Praise God I am safe in the Sinless One who always did what pleased the Father without fail and his righteousness has been given to all who trust in Him.