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Enjoying the Process

A Compliment with Charisma

The following paragraph is just the bees knees. The entire article is edifying, and it includes the newest phrase I’ve added to my commonplace book. But it’s like this particular quote smacked me in the head and left me rolling in the aisle laughing out loud.

The only exception that I have ever run into—from a high-profile evangelical Bible teacher, that is, the kind with something to lose—is John MacArthur. I just finished his recent book Slave, which was very good. And as I listened to it, it almost induced me to abandon my dearly-held cessationism. There he was, out in public, being honest with the slavery texts. It was a miracle.”

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A Shot of Encouragement

MacArthur Out of the Corner

I am very grateful for how John MacArthur has come out of the corner on behalf of his flock, for the sake of religious liberty, and in service to all the other churches that will benefit from his stand.

Dr. MacArthur is a truth-lover. He’s been preaching the truth longer than I’ve been alive. God has used his teaching and his example in my own life. My convictions about the Word would not be as dear to me or as deep without MacArthur’s persistence and faithfulness.

I’d also say that his defenses of the truth sometime comes across like a truth quarantine. There have been times when the attitude has been more, “Join us in our corner. Here is where the biblically faithful are.” There is a way that guarding the faith can become insular.

But as GCC has returned to normal church services, Dr. MacArthur is in his lane, but out of his corner.

I started by saying that I am thankful. This is a difficult position, not only as a target of L.A. County officials and the CA governor, but also as MacArthur is getting significant criticism from many he’s trying to help.

It reminds me of the scene in Moneyball when the owner of the Red Sox said to Billy Beane, “I know you’re taking it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall, he always gets bloody. Always.” (Watch the clip here, with the quote at the 2:35 mark.)

I am grateful for Phil Johnson and his (return to writing and) explanations of the changes at the PyroManiacs site. Phil is undoubtedly a major influence to the thinking behind, and change in, the GCC position.

So here we see MacArthur, Johnson, and GCC going first rather than circling the wagons. They are using their God-given platform to take a beating on behalf of others. Again, it’s not that this is the first time they’ve been criticized, even severely. But perhaps more than ever it is clear that this is an offensive rather than defensive move, and it is a move on behalf of their own church that, Lord willing, will benefit churches in CA legally as well as churches around the world by example. I am praying that they win.

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Every Thumb's Width

All Sanctimoniousness and Powerlessness

I’ve wanted to share this video and connect it with the quotes below it for some time. Since the interview came out at the beginning of December, it’s apparently been on my mind for half a year. Ha!

The interview is with John MacArthur on The Ben Shapiro Show. Some of you watched it already, and great. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, and I recommend it as a perfect example of the kind of Dispensationalist (like MacArthur) I want to be and the kind of Dispensationalist I also want to build on.

MacArthur’s answers about Jesus as the only hope are great at heart. His appeal to Shapiro to embrace Jesus as the longed for Messiah of the Jews is true, clear, and gracious. In this way MacArthur keeps the main thing the main thing.

It makes me think of the following comment by Abraham Kuyper, found in the chapter on “Common Grace” in A Centennial Reader (page 172), about the problem with some Christians who get a buzz out of discussing Christian impact without first establishing faith in Christ.

“The sects on the other hand have consistently attempted to change this healthy balance by diverting attention from the deeper questions of justification to drive us toward Chiliasm or the Millennial Kingdom by speaking much about the manner of our physical resurrection, about a prior second coming of our Lord, about whether, according to Paul, the Jews will return to Jerusalem, and the like. One can thus have a stimulating religious conversation without being troubled in conscience or convinced of one’s wretched state before God. Therefore we cannot warn often enough against the danger of shifting conversations in Christian circles away from the salvation of the soul to such eternal but sensational topics. In truly Reformed circles that danger is avoided when the substance of conversation is not Chiliasm or the Jewish question but the question of how God is honored and our soul justified.”

In other words, the “Chiliasts” (that is, the Dispensationalists, those believers who anticipate Israel’s national repentance and restoration as part of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom as promised in Romans 11 and Revelation 20), may focus too much on eschatology and applaud themselves for such spiritual interests and yet miss the gospel requirements of first importance. It is possible to distract others from dealing with Christ’s claims and every man’s need to believe in Him for justification. MacArthur does not get so caught up in the future that he lets Shapiro off the hook in the present. And amen.

However, the Christ that MacArthur proclaims to Shapiro is, ironically, not the complete Christ as revealed in the Bible. Jesus saves souls, yes, and He also has more to say after that. This is where we Dispensationalists often stop building too soon. Here is the very next paragraph from Kuyper:

“…[W]e have no right to conceptualize the image of the Mediator in ways other than Scripture presents it. People fall into one-sidedness in the opposite direction if, reflecting on the Christ, they think exclusively of the blood shed in atonement and refuse to take account of the significance of Christ for the body, for the visible world, and for the outcome of world history. Consider carefully: by taking this tack you run the danger of isolating Christ for your soul and you view life in and for the world as something that exists alongside your Christian religion, not controlled by it.”

We must point people to salvation in no other name but Jesus, but we’re only partially done if we point them to a Jesus who offers no wisdom for, or commandments regarding, cultural decisions other than separate and survive until He returns. The public square is not, as Kuyper described “territory which must somehow take care of itself.” Shapiro asked MacArthur repeatedly how believing in Christ affects society, and MacArthur said in effect, “That’s not what Christ cares about.” It is true that discipleship is personal, but not just for how to behave in private.

“From that opposition and false proportionality springs all narrow-mindedness, all inner unreality, if not all sanctimoniousness and powerlessness.”

This is a unique sort of Christian dualism that honors itself as the heights of spirituality and biblical fidelity, and no wonder many Christians don’t know that the Romans Road isn’t finished after evangelism.

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Every Thumb's Width

Deadness Also Smells Like Death

As is usually the case, there are ranges on a spectrum when it comes to the question of whether believers should speak and live in such a way that unbelievers would be attracted to the gospel of Christ.

There is one side—usually driven by the Bible and theology, even Reformed, Calvinistic doctrines such as the depravity of man and the need for irresistible grace—of those who argue that Christians and the gospel cannot be attractive to sinners and therefore any attempt to make ourselves winsome is naive at best and probably actually dangerous, you know, slippery slope and all.

On the other side—sometimes driven by the apparent callousness and unloving nature of the Bible-theology folks, and/or sometimes driven by the apparent gravity of Jesus demonstrated in the Gospels—are those who maintain that Christians and the gospel can be attractive to sinners and therefore any refusal to make ourselves winsome is at best immature and probably actually ungodly.

I am a truth guy. I think the Bible is the ultimate standard. My wife and I named our only son Calvin. I have served my time in very man-centered churches and can see with my eyes how compromised much of the Christian message is today because of those who try to win the world by being like it. One of my favorite books ever is Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur, and I read it at a time when I was first learning the doctrines of grace. His book gave me categories to resist pragmatism along with the heroic narrative and quotability of Charles Spurgeon.

However, Solomon said it was worth gaining wisdom in order to increase persuasiveness of speech (Proverbs 16:21; 16:23). Wisdom works to be winsome. Paul told the Cretan slaves that they should “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior“ in their behavior (Titus 2:10), not on their book selling tours. Adorning makes it look good, appealing, desirable. Paul also said that “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 5:15-16). Speaking about Christ and living lives for Christ is a smell, detestable to some and delightful to others. Don’t we want it to be delightful? And when does the delightful, life to life part start? Only after a man believes, or as God’s Spirit is sovereignly drawing him to believe?

Of course if no one can hate what we’re doing, we may be seeking the wrong kind of attractiveness. Do not be ashamed of the gospel, and don’t be conformed to this world. But if no one wants what we have, we may be an ungodly sort of unattractive. Life can smell like death to the dead, but deadness also smells like death to the dead.