The way I understand it, part of what the Fort McMurray Ministerial Association of Churches does is meet together on a regular basis and among other things, pray regularly for other churches in the area. Last week the prayers were for the parish of St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, and this week [the 28th] we are to be praying for St. Paul’s Catholic Church. I think this is a fantastic idea. My only question is; what exactly are they praying for? What do they want me praying for?
Should I be praying that the Catholic Churches increase in influence and numbers? Do they desire me to pray that their evangelistic efforts would be successful, and that they would have sweeping revivals? Should I pray that the lost sheep come home to Mother Mary and would become rededicated and fiercely committed to the tenants of the Roman Catholic faith? Should we pray that charismatic leaders rise up within the Church, such as had done during the Council of Trent and the counter-reformation of the late 16th and early 17th century, and whereby such figures as Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross gained prominence and success? Should we pray that they would have more success in upholding and preaching the decrees of the Council of Trent, specifically canons 9, 12, 14, 23, and 24? Should we pray that they would incur more devotion to the Pope? How about more Catholic Mystics? More faithful attendance at mass and of the partaking of the sacraments? More acquiescence to the Magesterium? More conversions out of protestantism and more conversions back to Rome? Should I pray that they become more deeply entrenched in a system of justification that denies we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, as revealed in scripture alone?
As a child of the reformation, what am I to pray for regarding the Roman Catholic Churches?
The truth of the gospel should encourage gentleness. As believers we are all to traffic in the spiritual and in the impartation of the word of God, which really is the delivery of the gospel. Because of this there will always be times when we will need to rebuke, correct and confront so that the truth of the gospel remains the truth of the gospel and we may have doctrinal purity. This goes doubly so when we confront wolves and false teachers, where the aggressive, bold, unyielding proclamation of the truth is what will set us apart from them. But bringing the truth of the gospel to bear in the lives of those who do not yet believe is more than a paradigm shift for them. Its more than giving these lost souls a new change in perspective or a new outlook on life. You’re not just offering them a new god to believe in, or a few suggestions so that they might have a more fulfilling life, or even granting them validation to live a life of contented moral deism.
Instead, real repentance and faith in Christ is a radical restructuring of their existence. It is the crumbling of their world and the rebuilding of a new and better one. It is the destruction of their previous wordview, the death of their spirit, and the regeneration of a new man. They are being ripped out of the life they thought they knew and are being born again. And that is why gentleness is necessary. When a man is born again, he is not merely observing the crucifixion and acknowledging that it happened and that God was up there, but rather he is himself becoming a partaker in that death, in that burial, and in that resurrection and rejoicing because of it.
For this reason, more often than not you don’t bring a person to that point by yelling at them and being rough with them. People are moved by penetrating words that are gentle, not penetrating words that are harsh and are tinged with unkindness or gracelessness. When you are gentle, you don’t unnecessarily put any stumbling blocks in front of them. We need the Good News to set their hearts ablaze, and how much more difficult is that if they throw up their defences before it can even reach them? We wish to impart and usher in the glory of God in the gospel, not knock it into them. How do you tell someone that everything they thought they knew was a lie? It’s not easy for them to hear, and while we know that Jesus himself must call them to faith, we do ourselves and Him a disservice by being unwieldy and difficult instruments for his purposes, when we could be light and compassionate; blithe and gentle.
The wisdom of God devised a way for the love of God to deliver sinners from the wrath of God while not compromising the righteousness of God.” — John Piper (Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist)
In response to my sermon review HERE, Daniel King was gracious enough to respond after I contacted him. These are his thoughts
Thank you for taking the time to listen to my sermon and for typing your detailed and thoughtful response. I have spent a little bit of time looking over your web site and I’m impressed with your grasp of theology and your love for God. I want to take some time to respond to the issues that you have raised. I’m a little busy now ’cause we just gave birth to our first son but I do want to take time to interact with you.
Many of your disagreements with me are minor. Was Obed-Edom one man or three? I have read all the Jewish and Christian commentaries about Obed-Edom and I simply disagree with some of them. I think that it is plausible that Obed-Edom could have been one man. I do speculate about his life in my sermon, but that is just part of telling his story in a way that people can relate to it. The fact that I pull principles from his life to apply to a modern day situation is no different then a preacher teaching principles from the lives of Moses, Joseph, or Paul.
The heart of our disagreement is your belief that the “health and wealth Gospel” is heresy. Let’s deal with that.
I believe that God is a good God. Everything that is good comes from Him. As a loving Father, He desires nothing but good for His children. Since God is a loving Father, He would never wish evil (ie. Cancer, poverty) upon His children. As Jesus said, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? (Luke 11:11-12 – KJV)
The word “gospel” means “good news.” Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…” (Luke 4:18 – KJV). What is good news to a sick man? God wants you to be well. What is good news to a man living in poverty? God will provide for your needs. What is good news to the sinner? God will save you from your sins. The good news is that Jesus died on the cross so we could be set free from sin and all the effects of sin. This is the Gospel I preach.
If you don’t believe in health, wealth, and blessing; what gospel do you believe in? One of sickness, poverty, and curses? Why would anyone want to serve a God who wants you to be sick, broke, suffering, and miserable?
Jesus said, “I have come to give life and life more abundantly” (John 10:10). This life of abundance that Jesus gives is one of blessing. When Jesus walked on earth, he never once gave anyone a sickness. Instead, he “healed every sickness and disease.” According to Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” He is no different today then when he walked on the earth. If he healed people then, he will heal people today.
John wrote, “Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers” (3 John 2). God wants us to prosper and God wants us to live in health. (Yes, I know this is a salutation that was also used in secular letters, but it is also part of God’s inspired Word, so I don’t think it can be dismissed easily.)
According to your blog, John Piper said that cancer is “designed for you by God” and that cancer is a “gift.” I completely reject the idea that God, Jehovah Rapha, the God that Heals, would ever give anyone cancer. It is completely against His nature and character. What loving father would cut off his son’s arm to teach him not to touch a hot stove? By saying that God would give you cancer or that God would want you to be poor, you’re saying that a father would give something atrocious and painful to his son, and as a brand new father with a brand new son, I am horrified, quite literally, that you would feel that God the Father would do that to one of His children.
I believe God is a healer by nature. I have seen blind eyes opened, deaf ears hearing, cripples walking. I have seen God bless His people on every continent on earth. The Gospel I preach works in every nation. I have seen the principles I teach radically change lives in both poverty stricken villages and in the richest homes. I know that God blesses people because I have seen it with my own eyes and I have proved it in my own life.
Yes, there is suffering and sacrifice when you choose to follow Christ. I have had guns pulled on me. I have been shot at, had rocks thrown at me, and narrowly escaped a mob with my life on several occasions (when was the last time you risked your life in order to preach the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ?). One of the pastors I support was martyred by radical Muslims recently. I have witnessed terrible poverty. I have made many personal sacrifices in order that the Gospel might be preached to those who have never heard the name of Jesus before. My pastor recently died of cancer. Suffering is part of living in a sinful world.
Yes, God works in the midst of suffering and brings glory to Himself in the midst of suffering. But, I utterly reject the idea that God causes the suffering. The God I serve is a good God, a loving Father, One who deeply cares for His children. God works things together for our good in spite of suffering, not by causing suffering.
I believe God does want us to be blessed, but it’s blessing with a purpose. We are blessed so we can be a blessing to others. As God told Abraham, “I will bless thee…and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3 – KJV). I am blessed, but it’s not for my physical comfort. It’s so that I can take the Gospel to the world. Last year, our ministry raised close to a quarter million dollars. My personal salary was less than $17,000.00. Before I got married, I had several years where my salary was less than $5,000.00. I’ve traveled from church to church across North America, often sleeping in my car, making great personal sacrifice so that the Gospel could be spread, pouring thousands of dollars into going overseas and preaching to people that have never heard the name of Jesus before. We have given away over fifty tons of food to the poorest of the poor in the last few years. The purpose of wealth is not so I can drive a nice car. The purpose of wealth is that the world might be saved.
I have written a couple of books about my understanding of the “Health and Wealth Gospel” that I think you should read. The first is “Healing Power.” In it I write about many of the questions people raise about healing. The second is called “The Power of the Seed.” In it I examine almost every verse in the Bible that talks about giving and receiving. Between these two books, I offer hundreds of scriptural proofs for my theology. If you would like, I can send you them to you as e-books.
In closing, I’d like to quote John, “Dear friends. Let us continually love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8 – NIV). I read through much of your blog and many of your posts are attacks against your brothers. In my experience, those who try to imitate the Bereans often attack their Christian brothers instead of showing love to them. I believe there will always be differences of theological opinions, but ultimately, the greatest reflection of God’s character is an attitude of love towards a fellow believer. According to these verses, the mark of a true Christian is charity, not orthodoxy.
I think I would enjoy talking to you face-to-face and talking about theology and hermeneutics. Hopefully, we will get a chance to do so one day.
The sermon begins with giving a brief overview of the previous sermon, which was about essentials and non-essentials of the faith. We are told that there are some beliefs that are critical to our faith while others are secondary or tertiary issues which are not vital. Pastor Edwin offers three category of beliefs, the first of which are the essential beliefs which are non negotiable. These are beliefs where if we did not have them, Christianity would have no power or significance or point. [Christ being God in human flesh and actually rising from the dead for our sins] The second are important beliefs which are beliefs that define our faith [ie. theological distinctive like water baptism by immersion or speaking in tongues] but in which the power of the Gospel is in no way hindered if these are not promoted or believed. The last category are peripheral beliefs. These are the tertiary issues like worship style, dress codes, etc, and are in no way critical or even important to the faith. In this, we need to start become knowledgeable and adept at being able to articulate the essentials when proselytizing and evangelizing while being able to lay down the ones that don’t matter for the sake of the Gospel.
One of the essential issues though is a right understanding of sin. He says that we are born in sin and we need a Saviour and that we need to understand the doctrine of sin so we can understand the gospel of Jesus. [Right!] And that’s one of the issues in the church today, that we talk a lot about love, grace, and worship but not a lot about sin. The main text he uses is Romans 6:15-18 “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” [Wonderful verses to exegete]
We are told that at the time, because Paul talked so much about grace, people thought that the more they sinned the more grace they would get, so they were sinning a whole lot. We may chuckle at the inane logic, but many of us live our lives the same way. Most of us have sin in our lives that we don’t deal with because we know that grace covers it, so we become indifferent and tolerant of it. But Paul doesn’t want us to be constantly engaging it in but rather free from it. If we let sin rule our lives, in a very real way we become slaves to sin, and this is a terrible thing to happen, especially because we have been delivered to a new doctrine of slavery to sin, which is a doctrine of liberty where we are no longer ruled or constrained by sin.
In an effort to define sin, he looks at several uses of it in the Old and New Testament. Genesis 38:7 Bad. Exodus 3:13 Wicked. Hosea 4:15 Guilt. 1 Samuel 3:13 Iniquity. Ezekiel 48:11 Wandered away. 1 Kings 8:15 Rebellious in nature. Romans 13:3 Sin is bad. Matthew 5:45 Evil. Romans 1:18 Godless. Matthew 5:24 Guilt and Shame. 1 Corinthians 6:18 Unrighteousness. 1 Timothy 2:9 Lawlessness. Romans 5:14 Transgression. Romans 1:13. Ignorance. Galatians 6:1 Falling away. 1 Timothy 4:2 Hypocrite. He tells us that these say something about sin, which is that sin is primarily to be understood as disobedience to God, both through sins of commission [things that we do] and sins of omission [things that we fail to do]. We are told that from this we learn there is a clear standard which sin violates.
Talking about that standard a bit, he quotes Romans 3:23, which says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The thing is, because we are sinful and selfish, we don’t want to hold to God’s standard but rather make our own to which we may be accountable to. We can try this all we want though, and it won’t make it so, as God’s standard exists nonetheless. At one point Jesus knocked the Pharisees for misunderstanding the law. There were 10 Commandments, and they turned this into 613. But the point that needs to be made is that they are not all separate laws but rather are of one complete spirit- are one cohesive unit. The whole thing is a reflection of God, and the law is not merely outward actions but consists of what is inside the heart.
Pastor Edwin offers a quote by Martin Lloyd Jones: “A gospel which merely offers Jesus as a friend and offers a new life without repentance is not New Testament evangelism.” Pastor Edwin says, “The essence of evangelism is to start by preaching the law, and it is because the law has not been preached that we have so much superficial evangelism, and so many saints comfortable with sin. True evangelism must begin by teaching the law. In the Gospel, mankind is confronted with the holiness of God, by his demands, and also by the consequence of sins. It is the son of God Himself who speaks about being cast into hell if one allows sin to reign.”
So what is the Christian to do? We have to be immersed in holiness. The actions associated with sinning are not the issue but rather they are symptoms of the issue which is sin in their heart and mind. Sin is vicious, destroys, and is powerful, and what happens is that if we are not careful, we will get comfortable with it without realizing that we are in bondage and have become a prisoner to it.
We need to stop negotiating sin and tolerating it. Instead, we must master it. How do we do it? How do we wrestle and deal with it? The answer is that we must be determined and focused and deliberate. We cannot be comfortable with it but rather must fight and strain against it, which is not a battle for the weak. He says, “We are called to to love God with our whole minds, hearts, souls, minds. The word of God calls us to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart with all thy soul with all thy mind with all thy body. Every part of our being. All aspects of our faculties must be involved in this exercise- loving God.” We must be theocentric, which is a worldview that has God at the center, and not anthropocentric, in which man is the center of our universe. To battle sin our entire being must be committed to reflecting the image of God.
This isn’t about legalism though. We are told that you don’t have to earn your salvation, and in fact that you can’t. You can’t do anything to make God love you more or less, as Christ has already procured our salvation. Through Adam sin entered the world, and through Christ life entered the world. He offers these verses: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” James 4:7-9. and shares some thoughts on them, how we are born in sin and need a Savior, how we must fight and battle sin, we need to mourn over it and not be content in our slavery to it, and lastly that we must pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to root out the sin in our lives.
This is a good sermon, though it has some problems. To start off, I liked the summary of the nature of essential and non-essential beliefs, and how we must really pick and choose which battles we’ll fight and which hill we’ll die on. As well the whole of the sermon, save for one part, is really doctrinally sound, and you get the distinct impression that he knows what he speaks of, and that confidence and that surety really shine. In a way the sermon in many respects is just so…”matter of fact.” That’s what struck me the whole time I was listening to it- that it was almost like listening to a Creed being recited. In any case, the doctrine of sin is such a huge and important part of our faith, and rightfully understanding it is crucial to rightfully understanding the Gospel. He spends some time waxing on the importance of the law, and I think he has it right. Salvation isn’t for good people who simply want to go to heaven but rather for people who know they have transgressed God’s law and need forgiveness. That’s so huge. How often do we hear altar calls and Gospel messages that don’t even contain one word about our sin?
I think the vast majority of people who believe in heaven believe they will go there if they are good people and haven’t murdered anyone. That’s pretty much the standard. Heaven is for people who believe in God and are “good people,” and everyone thinks that’s them and that they’re good people so of course they’re going to go there. But that idea is completely unBiblical, and billions of people are going to find themselves in hell when they die because they thought the standard was being a nicer person than their neighbour, when in reality the standard is the sinless life of Jesus. The standard is impossible to ever achieve, which is why we need the saving work of Christ, which is why I think Pastor Edwin has it right, and why preaching the law is a good starting point- because everyone buckles under it. Everyone. The law’s purpose is to condemn and to show us that we can’t keep it, and it does so perfectly. The law is a terror to the soul; it is both a blade and a light and it splays open the heart to expose every drop of wickedness. It shines upon every deep sin that we hold dear, to show that we can never claim, in any sense of the word, to be good but rather we’re still men and women in desperate and inestimable need of a Savior.
And so for the majority of the sermon I was on board for it. I was enjoying it immensely and enjoying have the Gospel expounded upon so confidently. I agree that we need to destroy sin. In fact, I think most people are way too lax with it, myself included. Pastor Edwin says, “We need to stop negotiating sin and tolerating it. Instead, we must master it. How do we do it? How do we wrestle and deal with it? The answer is that we must be determined and focused and deliberate. We cannot be comfortable with it but rather must fight and strain against it, which is not a battle for the weak.” and I completely agree. Very rarely are we encouraged to so ferociously seek to cut it out and excise it from our bodies and minds, and so this is great, timely advice. In John Owen’s “The Mortification of Sin in Believers” (1646) he writes:
“Do you mortify;
do you make it your daily work;
be always at it while you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
And so he correctly diagnosed the problem, which is sin, but the solution he offers is not good news at all but rather amounts to little more than more law. He says, “The word of God calls us to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, with all thy body. Every part of our being. All aspects of our faculties must be involved in this exercise.” That’s the solution- Just love God more. When you sin, just love God harder and faster and louder and with more sincerity and you’ll overcome sin. One question though- how is that good news?
As Christians we are simul iustes et peccator, that is, at the same time righteous and a sinner. Because of this, though we walk in progressive sanctification, and we slowly conform to the image of Jesus by putting to death sin, we will never be free of it. We are condemned by the law, and this pastor knows this, and that is why THE SOLUTION CANNOT BE MORE LAW! Because here is the dirty little secret that we rarely get told- the command to love God is the Law. The command to love God with your entire being and to love your neighbour as yourself is the quintessential summary of the entire Mosaic law. That is the law stripped down to it’s bare essence, and it is NOT achievable. Saying the solution to the sin problem is just to love God and love others is just like telling a man dying of thirst in the desert to just “Drink more water.” You can’t, and it’s just a recipe for despair and disillusionment.
That is why you need the Gospel to accompany the law. That is why grace is ever-present and ever-penetrating. When you tell people to love God with their WHOLE mind and WHOLE body and WHOLE soul and WHOLE heart, you might as well quote them Matthew 5:48. You must, therefore, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” and expect them to be able to follow that. No! Love is the law, and instead of the law the Gospel must be the lifeblood and warm blanket that covers and soaks heat into that cold body of death that cannot stop sinning. People don’t need to hear and accept the Gospel once and then they are set and good for the rest of the life. Instead because we sin daily, we need the good news of the Gospel daily, and the good news is that our sins have been forgiven past, present, and future, and that though we sin God is exceedingly pleased with us.
So I suppose that begs the question: How then do I practically battle with sin? I’ll be answering that very thing in a post in a day or two. But for now, 90% of the sermon was really good, and for that kudos are in order.
This is expanded from something I wrote half a year ago.
Before we were saved we were miserable, wretched sinners. We had it all wrong, and our entire worldview was geared towards the pleasures of sin and death. We were blasphemers, God-deniers, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, and and our actions were those of children of wrath. We were shamelessly frolicking in wickedness and completely ignorant to the great offenses and sins that we were immersed in. And yet that whole time, God was seeking us. In our sins He was pursuing us, and wooing us, and desiring relationship with us. Because He is so gracious and kind He gave us faith and saved us through His wonderful gospel. He saved us, and He justified us and brought us into the life of the slow burn of sanctification and of conformity to His Son.
And then what happens is in our imperfect pursuit of Godliness we find ourselves sinning, and we want to run as far away as possible from God. We sin, and then in our guilt and we want to hide, and go quiet, and withdraw from our Savior when that’s the last thing we should be doing. God’s not going to look at us and say “How utterly depraved and disgusting! How could you do that?! I’m so disappointed in you, I don’t even want to look at you.” Not at all. God saw us at our unrepentant and unrestrained worst and out of His great love and patience He saved us, and you think now that if God sees you as a man possessing the righteousness of His Son still struggling with sin He’s going to lose it on you? That’s not how it works.
If you don’t understand the gospel, then when you struggle and sin you’re going to think that God is disappointed in you, and you’re going to run from Him rather than to Him. That’s because you won’t understand that God’s pleasure in you is not predicated upon your moral behaviour, but rather on the cross of Christ, which is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. God’s no longer angry at us. We are not recipients of his wrath. In our sin we run to Him and not from Him, because the same God that pursued us in our life of sin and death is pursuing and wooing us in our life of new birth and as new creations that were buried and raised with Christ in baptism and faith. The Gospel and the grace of God make this a reality, and I think it’s something that we must cling to and understand for our joy to be complete, and for us to grow in our sanctification and for God to be glorified.
I find myself a little bit anxious, as no one is updating their sermon pages. Right now I have only a very small pool of resources to choose from- four churches really, and no one is updating. One hasn’t undated since December, another since January 31st, Another since November, and the other is a bit more recent, but still February 7th. For the pastors who are reading this, I would be extremely grateful if you could see it that the audio files are updated on the website, so that I might continue to be able to minister in this way. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.