Posts Tagged ‘CrossPoint

02
Mar
09

let is snow, let it snow, let it snow

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Sunday was a beautiful day, wasn’t it?  This was the view from my backporch.  Later in the day my daughter and her friends made this snowman.

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I am so glad we went ahead with plans to meet for Bible Study and worship in the midst of a bad weather.  Although our crowds were down considerably, we still had wonderful worship.  Our policy at CrossPoint, very simply, is to meet for worship unless the roads freeze over and are impassable.

I realized we made the right decision when I met a guest who had driven more than an hour to worship with us.  Actually, he did not originally intend to worship with us.  The church he planned to visit was closed.  When passed by CrossPoint and saw the cars in our parking lot he headed our way.  After worship he informed me that he had been out of church for a long time.  He was convinced God brought him to CrossPoint.  Now that’s a good story.

Another good story comes from a CrossPointer who gave an extra tithe Sunday morning because he knew our offerings would be off from the inclement weather.  Next weekend we are preparing for a record offering to make up for the bad weather yesterday.  Some have already informed us that will be dropping their offering at the office this week or be including it in next weekend’s offering.

I thank the Lord for His faithfulness to us.  I thank Him also for the faithfulness of the people of CrossPoint.  Sunday was a beautiful day, indeed.

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21
Oct
08

Salvation explained

After spending two days discussing the differences between Catholics and Protestants, I am compelled to share more of my personal convictions about salvation.

What you are about to read is the result of a challenge I issued to myself a few months ago.  Early one Saturday morning I sat down with pen and paper to record a chronological explanation of salvation.  Not each point is original with me.  However, with the assistance of other pastors and theologians more gifted than me, this is my explanation.

When it comes to our salvation through Jesus Christ this is what matters:

  1. There is only one God, who is holy, perfect and righteous.
  2. The holy God created every human being for the sole purpose of reflecting His glory.
  3. God requires every human being to be holy, righteous and perfect before Him.
  4. When Adam, the first human sinned, he sinned against the Holy God and thus became a representative of the human race.
  5. As a result of Adam’s sin, every human being has inherited a sinful and corrupt nature.
  6. Our sinful nature offends God’s infinite holy character, and deserves therefore an infinite damnation.
  7. In order for God to receive and accept us God had to do for man what man could not do for Himself.
  8. God sent Jesus Christ, His eternal Son, to save sinners from His infinite punishment.
  9. As a sinless man, Jesus Christ represented sinners as the One who has perfectly obeyed God’s Law, and by His death died in the place of sinners to fully satisfy God’s wrath.
  10. Yet Jesus Christ did not remain dead in the grave.  He came back to life, and He is still alive today.
  11. When confronted with the reality that God is holy and man is sinful, the Bible teaches that one must plead for mercy and repent of their sin in order to avoid the wrath to come.
  12. This repentance leads to an abiding faith in Christ.
  13. All those who repent and believe in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ, shall be saved forever.
  14. The acceptance of God that comes by the faith given to us in repentance calls every born again believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ to live a life of faithfulness and holiness before God.
20
Oct
08

Continuing my comments from last Friday

As I return to last Friday’s blog, it is critical for me to reiterate my original disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER: MY RESPONSE IS GIVEN IN A SPIRIT OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.  MY DESIRE IS TO CONTINUE THE DIALOGUE WALT STARTED TWO WEEKS AGO.  I THANK WALT FOR HIS FRANK RESPONSE, AND AS A RESULT I WANT TO OFFER MY CANDID REJOINDER.

Next, as Walt suggested, I read Kenneth J. Powell’s article, “Is Salvation an Act or a Process“.  Powell’s article clarifies another great difference between Catholics and Protestants.

Powell writes:

CATHOLIC: We believe that salvation is a process by which we come closer to God throughout our whole life as we participate in the sacraments and the grace that comes through them. But it is not true that man plays as important a role as God. God the Father planned our salvation, not man. God the Son gained our salvation by his death and resurrection; no one else did these things. And God the Holy Spirit infused the very love of God into our hearts by his presence (cf. Rom. 5:5). This is beyond our human ability. Still, we must cooperate with God’s grace to find eternal happiness with God. If we don’t, we will be cut off from God forever. In contrast, Semi-Pelagianism is only a weakened form of Pelagianism, which taught that a person could save himself. To be a semi-Pelagian is to believe that we could save ourselves but God just helps us to make it easier.

That first sentence troubles me, especially with the phrase “as we participate in the sacraments and the grace that comes through them.”  Either salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ or it is not.

At CrossPoint we teach that salvation is through Jesus Christ, period.  I am not saved through Jesus plus my baptism.  I am not saved through Jesus plus church membership.  I am not saved through Jesus plus the sacraments.  I am not saved through Jesus Christ plus anything.  I am saved only and entirely through Jesus Christ.  Either I am saved completely and entirely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ or I am not saved.

Note, again, God’s Word:

1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4  Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Galatians 3:1-9

My point about Powell’s article is not to argue with the Catholic Church.  My point is to say Powell is correct in his assessment.  Protestants believe salvation is an act of faith, while Catholics believe it includes is a process of works.  If not, then why did he add this sentence?

Again, Powell states:

We believe that salvation is a process by which we come closer to God throughout our whole life as we participate in the sacraments and the grace that comes through them.

Where in the Bible does it state “that salvation is a process by which we come closer to God throughout our whole life as we participate in the sacraments and the grace that comes through them”?  I cannot think of a single time in Scripture where we are told we come closer to God as we participate in the sacraments.  I would be curious to see where this is taught.

For those who want to contend that the Bible speaks of works, I will agree.  Yes, the Bible speaks of works.  But when the Bible speaks of works, it does not speak of them as our process of being saved.  Works do not save us; works are the result of our salvation.

It was James who wrote,

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James 2:14-17

So, the Bible does address the need for works.  But one most note the context in which James wrote these words.  In the larger context, the book of James is about faith.  But it must be noted, it is not about saving faith.  The book of James is speaking of the part of our faith that produces a lifestyle.  James is not concerned with saving faith; he is concerned with the behavior our faith produces.

Here is a good way to distinguish between Paul and James and their teaching on faith.  They are both speaking of the same salvation.  Paul is speaking of the belief side of our salvation, while James is speaking of the behavior side of our salvation.

I like what The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Zondervan) says about the aforementioned passage:

It is not beyond our efforts to resolve the apparent conflict between Romans and James. Consider the following: James does not teach that Abraham was pronounced righteous on the basis of his actions. James teaches that Scripture’s announcement that Abraham was righteous is vindicated on the basis of Abraham’s subsequent obedience. He did right because God’s action actually worked within him to make him righteous! James is speaking of two kinds of faith, only one of which is saving faith. He teaches that saving faith will be vindicated by the actions that flow from it and in this sense complete it.

What is particularly significant is that James joins Paul in suggesting that justification is something more than a judicial declaration.  True, in response to faith, God does declare sinners acquitted and righteous before Him; but He does more than that.  God acts within the believer to make righteousness a reality.  Thus the offer of salvation by faith includes more than a pardon: it also includes a transformation.  God will declare the sinner righteous, and then God will act to make the sinner what God has declared him to be.

The kind of faith which saves also transforms, and that transformation will show up in the lifestyle of the true believer.

Note what follows:

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

James 2:18-26

James in these verses is not contradicting Paul.  As I noted yesterday, Paul, in Romans 4:1-5 and Gal 3:1-7, is explaining how the sinner is justified, given a right standing before God.  James, on the other hand, is writing about how the saved person proves that salvation before others.  The proof is in the works God produces within them.  People have no right to believe that we are saved if they do not see a change in our lives; a change that God produces within us.  A sinner is saved by faith, without works (again, see Ephesians 2:8-9), but true saving faith leads to works.

Verse 26 is the key: for as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.  My works are the result of my faith.  It is by grace through faith I am saved, and it is by works as a result of my faith people see that I am saved.

The problem I have with Catholic doctrine is the addition of works for salvation.  Both writers made it clear that man must do something to be sanctified by God.  They may purport to believe in salvation by faith, but soon thereafter Catholic doctrine turns from that point to teach a salvation and sanctification of works.

Note Powell’s sentence:

Still, we must cooperate with God’s grace to find eternal happiness with God.

What does he mean by “cooperate with God’s grace to find eternal happiness”?  If he does not mean “work for” our salvation, then what does he mean?

There is so much more I could write.  I will stop here.  I trust my response is clear.  In summary, I firmly believe the Catholic writers have given a fair treatment in the differences between Catholics and Protestants.  In Olson and Powell’s own words, there is a stark difference between what Protestants and Catholics believe and confess.

Walt thank you for your response you provided two weeks ago.  As I wrote then, and I will write again today, we need you and your thoughts.  Look at what your response has produced this week.

Let the dialogue begin…or continue!

17
Oct
08

Commenting on comments

How many of you read the comment section of the daily JUSTONEMORE blog?  For those of you who do not, I invite you to read the hearty discussion pertaining to the October 8 entry, “Why I will vote” before you read the following blog.

In the course of a few days my new blog friend, Walt sent a few links comparing and contrasting Protestant and Catholic beliefs.  I read the links in their entirety.  In response to Walt’s effort, I would like to give my feedback.

DISCLAIMER: MY RESPONSE IS GIVEN IN A SPIRIT OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.  MY DESIRE IS TO CONTINUE THE DIALOGUE WALT STARTED TWO WEEKS AGO.  I THANK WALT FOR HIS FRANK RESPONSE, AND AS A RESULT I WANT TO OFFER MY CANDID REJOINDER.

With that said, let the dialogue begin.

First, I read Carl E. Olson’s explanation of Soteriology: Catholic V. Protestant.  After reading it several times, I believe Olson nails the major differences between Catholics and Protestants…minus a few minor changes.  I will note my changes after his quote.

Olson writes:

“Classical Protestant soteriology” refers generally to the teachings of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and their followers about the nature and means of salvation. Classical Protestantism emphasizes the salvation of man by a personal act of faith in response to God’s divine (and essentially external) favor, while Catholic soteriology emphasizes the divinization of man by the infusion of God’s grace, or supernatural life, especially through the sacraments. In Catholic doctrine, as articulated by the Council of Trent, justification and sanctification are distinct but intimately bound together in the process of salvation. In classical Protestantism they are separated, sometimes to the point where the two have little to do with each other: Justification is a matter of legal standing with God while sanctification is the subsequent inner work of the Holy Spirit. While Catholicism recognizes the primacy of faith, it also emphasizes the need for good works done by grace in the “working out” of salvation. Classical Protestantism stressed the doctrine of sola fide (“faith alone”), which denied that good works, no matter their source, had anything to do with justification.

I agree.  The Protestant view of soteriology (salvation) is that man is saved “by a personal act of faith in response to God’s divine favor.”  I would make two changes to his wording, however.

Foremost, in regard to the first sentence I would write, “Classical Protestant soteriology refers specifically to the teachings of the scripture.”

Protestants believe salvation is an act of faith because this is what the Bible teaches.  Yes, Luther and Calvin taught salvation as an act of faith, yet Protestants believe this about salvation because this is what is taught in the Word of God.

Second, I would remove the parenthetical quote “(and essentially external)”.  Salvation through Jesus Christ is both an internal and external job.  Yes there are some external factors involved in our salvation, but God must change an individual’s heart, work from the inside out, to save them.  Therefore, one must not neglect the inside job of salvation.

Note God’s Word teaches,

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

Additionally, at CrossPoint we teach and believe that salvation is all of God and not of man.  That is why Paul said,

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Also, I agree partially with Olson’s assessment about Protestant beliefs about sanctification:

In classical Protestantism they are separated, sometimes to the point where the two have little to do with each other: Justification is a matter of legal standing with God while sanctification is the subsequent inner work of the Holy Spirit.

I agree justification is a matter of my legal standing as a redeemed sinner before a Holy God.  And, sanctification is the Holy Spirit’s way of conforming us more into the image of Jesus Christ.  Yet the two are not separate.  One cannot be sanctified until he is justified, and one who is justified will be sanctified.  Or, to put it another way, sanctification is not the result of my good works.  Instead, good works are the result of my sanctification.

The Bible says,

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

Note that God prepared the good works beforehand.

Again, the Bible says,

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6

According to the Word of God, God began the good work, and God will complete the good work on the day of Jesus Christ.  Thus, the work of salvation and sanctification is the result of God working in us.  Our good works are the result of God’s work.  Protestants do not believe our good works result in our sanctification.

Both the salvation and sanctification of our souls is the work of God.  And, Protestants do not view these works as separate, having very little to do with each other.  Instead, these works are of God, necessary and correlated strongly with one another.

Based on Olson’s view then, this is what I see as the great juxtaposition of the Catholic beliefs: if a person must work to be saved, justified, or sanctified, then their salvation is a matter of works and not faith.  And that is contrary to Scripture.

At CrossPoint we believe and teach that regeneration, salvation, redemption, justification, sanctification, and our future glorification are all acts of God.  God does all this in us by grace through faith.

Note the authority of God’s Word:

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:1-4

Again, note who does the saving, the calling, the justifying and the glorifying:

29 For those whom he foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.

Romans 8:29-30 (emphasis added)

On Monday, I will pick up with another article Walt provided by Kenneth J. Powell entitled “Is Salvation an Act or a Process”.

Feel free to comment on today’s blog.  Or you may want to wait until I work through this treatise throughout next week.

Again, let me express many thanks to my friend Walt for bringing this discussion to fruition.

16
Oct
08

Be still

Check out these sentences from our recent New Testament reading, and see if you can identify a certain pattern:

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Mark 1:35

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.32  And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.

Mark 6:30-32

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.

Mark 6:45-46

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.       

Luke 5:16

Do you recognize the central theme?  Hopefully it is speaking to you in surround sound.

Just in case you do not see the example, let me lay it out for you, phrase by phrase:

And rising very early in the morning…
…while it was still dark
…he departed and went out to a desolate place
…and there he prayed

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”

And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.    
…he went up on the mountain to pray.           
But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

Now do you get it?

Jesus sets an incredible example for us to follow.  The Son of Man, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, the Son of God, seeks quiet moments with His Father.  We must follow His example.  We must follow His lead.

We need more… 
…silence
…stillness
…peace
…rest
…contentment
…solitude
…prayer
…contemplation
…meditation before God 

Most of us do not know what it is like to stop, much less slow down.  Very few people have a good concept of solitude.  Moreover, most Christ followers do not know how to have silent, solemn, quiet time before the Lord God Almighty.

Admit it, we are consumed with consumption, driven by deadlines, and motivated by more.  Peace, quiet, and stillness do not control us.  Instead clocks, dates, calendars and details drive us.

Could it be that the busyness is nothing more than a “flaming dart” the evil one throws at us?  I wonder what kind of lives we would live if we would but begin and end each day in the solemn presence of the Holy One.

What would happen to our busyness, our reckless routines, if we would only find “a desolate place” before God? Think of the extra time.  Consider the increased productivity.  Dwell on the additional peace.  Predict the spiritual growth.

It was Martin Luther who said, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day.  I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”
Most of us operate in the exact opposite manner.  Instead, we say, “I have so much business I cannot stop for more than three minutes in prayer.”

Luther also said, “He that has prayed well has studied well.”

The Bible is replete with the call to a solace place. 

Psalm 46:10 states

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

We are given two imperatives – be still and know.  It is in being still before God we learn who God is.

Be still.

02
Oct
08

What is your view of God?

As we often say at CrossPoint, your view of God is the most important thing about you.  Of the three illustrations proposed below, which view best describes how you relate to Him?

John the Baptist took approach #3, when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

25
Sep
08

The fellowship of the unashamed

CrossPoint is wrestling with the question: what does it mean to be a DEVOTED follower of Jesus Christ?

Perhaps the following confession of faith will help us understand the importance of being DEVOTED.  It is purported that this confession was found in the journal of a young pastor in Zimbabwe who had been martyred for his faith.  It is the most compelling commitment to Christ I know.

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.”
I have Holy Spirit power.
The die has been cast.
I’ve stepped over the line.
The decision has been made.
I am a disciple of His.
I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.
I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.
I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.
I now live by his presence, lean by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear.
I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up ’til I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus.
I must go ’til He comes, give ’til I drop, preach ’til all know, and work ’til He stops.
And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me-my colors will be clear.