Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wright's Most Dangerous Comment

From Denny Burk at Baptist Press

"On Monday, Pastor Jeremiah Wright had the following exchange with the moderator at the National Press Club:
MODERATOR: "Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the father but through me.' Do you believe this? And do you think Islam is a way to salvation?"
WRIGHT: "Jesus also said, 'Other sheep have I who are not of this fold.'"
Wright's response clearly implies that Muslims are among the "other sheep" to which Jesus refers in John 10:16. Thus Wright affirms that people who do not have conscious faith in Christ can nevertheless have the hope of salvation -- an inclusivist position that argues there are many paths to God.
There are two questions that need be addressed: (1) Did Jesus intend to include non-believers in the group called "other sheep"? (2) What difference does it make? Let's take a look.
In context, "other sheep" cannot be credibly understood as including anyone but genuine believers in Jesus Christ. The first half of John 10 is dominated by a metaphor that Jesus uses to describe His relationship to his people. Jesus is the "shepherd," and His people are called "sheep." Jesus describes His sheep as having a number of characteristics. Sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd, and they follow Him (10:3-4). Sheep do not listen to "strangers," but only to the voice of their own shepherd (10:5, 8). Sheep find salvation only by coming to their shepherd (10:9).
The metaphor cashes out as follows. Jesus is the shepherd, and His people are the sheep. Jesus lays down His life for his people, and the only way that they can be saved is through Jesus. The people whom Jesus saves listen only to Jesus. They do not listen to the "thieves and robbers" who have come to destroy them (10:10). Thus only people who come to Jesus by faith are able to be saved.
When Jesus says that he has "other sheep who are not of this fold," it's likely that he is referring to Gentiles who would later come to faith in Christ. The sheep that are following Him at that point in the narrative are Jews, but Jesus aims to have followers from among the Gentiles as well. Whoever the "other sheep" are understood to be, they nevertheless have the characteristics of "sheep." They listen to and follow Christ, and they are saved only by Him.
To say that "other sheep" refers to unbelievers (or followers of Islam in Reverend Wright's case) simply runs roughshod over the plain meaning of the passage.
What difference does all this make? The media has been discussing how Reverend Wright's remarks affect the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama. Frankly, I am not at all concerned with that question here. Eternity is at stake in Wright's remarks, and that transcends any political campaign.
Here's the real import of what Wright said. Many people who hear Jeremiah Wright are likely to get the impression that Jesus is one of many paths that people might take to get to God. Jesus never taught any such thing. In fact, he always challenged His hearers with a stark choice. "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other" (Matthew 6:24). Jesus would brook no rivals, and He only made salvation available to those who would "honor the son" (John 5:23).
The Jeremiah Wrights of the world mislead people into thinking that Jesus Christ is one path among many that people might take to get to God. Jesus taught just the opposite. There is only one path that leads people to salvation, and it's Jesus. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6). To miss that path means forfeiting eternal life. The stakes couldn't get any higher than that."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Economic Stimulus Payment and Christ

Most people are looking forward to spending their "economic stimulus" check from the government as soon as they receive it. Most have probably already dreamed about what they want to buy with it. As a Christian, should I be thinking in different terms. Below is an interesting thought from John Piper. This is a shortened version from his blog. [Read entire blog]

For a moment, forget the political puzzle of getting money back when the country is nine trillion dollars in debt. The more immediate question is: How will you make much of Christ with your "economic stimulus payment"?...

Clue: Nobody in the world will see you spend your money on yourself and conclude that Christ is your treasure. They will assume you are just like them, no matter how loudly you thank God for this boon. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend it on yourself... Not everything we do can look different from the world—eat, pay utilities, fill up the car, wear clothes...

But do we really need this money? Very few do. We would have gotten on fine without it. May I encourage you to be radically creative... Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). And those crazy Macedonians . . . even begged Paul “for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:2-4). They really believed what Jesus said.

Before the check comes dream of some person or ministry which might make much of Christ because you treasured him above your next home project. The reason God created money and enabled us to earn it is so that we could show by the way we use it that money is not our treasure, Christ is. That’s why the checks are coming. So we can make Christ look great.

“Be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Monday, April 28, 2008

God is moving in Austria

This past weekend at our Romanian-American Missions board meeting I had the priviledge of meeting a remarkable man of God. A man that God is using in a mighty way to reach Austria for Christ. Cornel Prejban grew up in Romania but moved with his family to Krems, Austria. There, he planted a Romanian Baptist church in 1998. God has been using him to reach many with the Gospel. Cornel's vision is "to share the Gospel with the Romanians, Austrians and with other nationalities in the area." Cornel has a passion for the glory of God. He describes Europe as a place of spiritual darkness. He desires greatly for the light of Jesus Christ to once again shine brightly in Europe. His church is currently in the process of building a church home or what he prefers to call a "house of prayer." If you would like to donate to this project you can do so by sending a check payable to RAM USA. Mail the check to RAM USA, 1700 W Government Street, Suite R. Brandson, MS 39042. Specify Krems Baptist Church. All donations made through RAM are tax deductible.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Persecuted Church

Because Christians in America are free to gather as God's people for worship and Bible study without fear of persecution, we tend to forget that in other parts of the world the church is severely persecuted. Every week I receive a news and prayer update from The Voice of the Martyrs. I subscribe to this because I don't want to ever forget our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering and dying for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Below is the update I received this week. If you would like to subscribe to the weekly news and prayer update click on the link above.

Prayers for April 22, 2008 From The Voice of the Martyrs

CHINA Forty-six Christians Arrested, Two Remain in Detention
China Aid Association (CAA) reports that the Chinese Communist government recently launched a strategic campaign against house churches in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. As a result of this campaign, on April 13, 46 Christians were arrested by Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials during a Bible class and worship service in Kashi City, Xinjiang Province. CAA reported, "Forty-six house church Christians were holding Bible class and worship in the home of Mr. Ding Zhichun when PSB officials intruded into Ding's home and arrested all of them. Forty-four Christians were released after the trial day, following a 50 Yuan deposit to the PSB, by the family members." CAA added, "The Christians were mandated to confess their illegal Sunday worship activities and study the government's handbook on Religious Policy. They were also required to return and recite the policy to officials within one week." The Voice of the Martyrs supports and stands with Christians in China and encourages you to pray for believers who are living under immense pressure. Ask God to encourage and minister to the two Christians still being held by the police. Pray their testimony will draw nonbelievers into fellowship with Christ.

SOMALIA Four Christian Teachers Murdered - VOM Sources
On April 13, four Christian teachers, two of them converts from Islam, were murdered by Islamic militants in Beledweyne in south-central Somalia. The four teachers, two British citizens of Somali origin-Mr. Daud Hassan Ali (64) and Ms. Rehana Ahmed (32)-and two unidentified Kenyans, were shot and killed by Islamist insurgents during a midnight raid on the Hakab Private English School. The Islamic extremist group responsible for the violence, alleged that they fired indiscriminately and that the teachers were killed in crossfire. Local people, however, believe the teachers were singled out for their suspected evangelistic work. The wife of Daud Hassan Ali alleged that her husband was targeted because he was a Muslim-born convert to Christianity. Pray the families of those killed will rest in the knowledge that those who die in the Lord will be raised with Him. Pray the perpetrators of this attack will come to repentance and salvation. Pray for wisdom and protection for those serving Christ in Somalia.

UZBEKISTAN Pastor Beaten and Jailed in Samarkand - Forum 18 News
On April 3, Pastor Bobur Aslamov was beaten and jailed in the city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, following a police raid on a house church meeting. According to Forum 18 News, "Other members of the house church were also beaten during the raid. The pastor remains in detention in an unknown location." At last report, no formal charges had been filed against him. Pray for the release of Pastor Aslamov from prison. Pray Uzbek Christians will continue to share Christ fearlessly despite the ongoing pressure.

Thousands of Muslims turning to Christianity in Iraq

This was aired on Easter Sunday morning but is worth watching.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Together for the Gospel

Thursday mornings sessions of T4G were among the best of the whole conference.

John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN started the conference with a great and soul searching message entitled, How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice. It was a great exposition of several passages out of Hebrews.

C. J. Mahaney ended the session with a challenge to pastors to preach and lead their churches with great joy that is informed by theology.

T4G 08 was indeed one of the most, if not the most, inspiring and spiritually refreshing conferences I have ever attended.

Thank you Al, Mark, C.J., and Ligon for hosting the conference.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Together for the Gospel

Today was another great day at the conference. I must say that the conference hosts are very generous with books. I am loaded down with about 20 books that they have given to us for free.
John MacArthur, pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA started the conference this morning. He challenged pastors to preach the truth. He stated "Soft preaching makes hard hearts and hard preaching makes soft hearts."
Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC brought a message entitled, Improving the Gospel: Exercises in Unbiblical Theology. He challenged pastors to make sure that when preaching the Gospel, keep it pure and make it clear.
R.C. Sproul, minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel in Orlando, FL, also founder of Ligonier Ministries, and author of more than 60 books, spoke on The Curse Motif of the Atonement. He reminded us that because of the fall, we are under the curse of God. We live in a fallen, thus cursed world. In Christ, the curse is lifted off all of those who are in Christ. He said, "The Gospel is our only hope. And it's hope enough."
Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY spoke on The Doctrine of Substitution. The awesome love of God is seen in the fact that although we are deserving of the outpouring of God's wrath because of sin, Jesus took our place, He was our substitute and paid the price we should have paid for our sin. - - How awesome is the love of God!
Being a part of a choir of 5000 mostly men, singing with passion for the glory of God, is such an awesome and moving experience. I felt I was being lifted into heaven itself as we sang.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Together for the Gospel Conference

Today began the "Together for the Gospel" (T4G) conference in Louisville, KY. What a joy it is to be here with my son, Justin. We are learning so much together. How refreshing it is to discuss these deep doctrinal truths of God's Holy Word with him.

The worship and singing has been awesome. How inspiring it is to hear 5000 pastors, church staff, church leaders, and seminarians lift up their voices in praise to our almighty God.

The conference began with Dr. Ligan Duncan, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS. He spoke on Sound Doctrine: Essential to Faithful Pastoral Ministry. Speaking second was Dr. Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands). He spoke on Bearing the Image: Identity, the Work of Christ, and the Church. It was a great message on the fact that categorizing people groups by race goes against biblical truth. We are all of the same genealogical race, the race of Adam.

After each message we are able to sit in on a panel discussion of the message. Those on the panel are Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., C.J. Mahaney, founder of Sovereign Grace Ministries, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, Ligon Duncan and Thabiti Anyabwile. Hearing these great men of God who have been blessed with great minds for God is a wonderful opportunity for growth and inspiration.

It's great to be here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The blind leading the blind.

All I can say is "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Quiet Strength

I recently finished reading Tony Dungy's book "Quiet Strength." In the book Coach Dungy tells his story of how he was able to live his life for God and family--in the midst of great challenges, dissapointments, and extreme heartache. Coach Dungy challenges all of us to redefine our philosophy of what success really is. Here are some great thoughts and quotes from the book.

"Success is uncommon and not to be enjoyed by the common man. I'm looking for uncommon people because we want to be successful, not average." - Coach Cal Stoll

"We expect to win a Super Bowl. But if that's all we do, it will be pretty shallow. We need to not only win but with players who positively impact the Tampa Bay area." - Coach Dungy at his first team meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I coach football. But the good I can do to glorify God along the way is my real purpose. I want to help people see the path to eternal life through Christ, to enjoy an abundant life now, and to fulfill their God-given purposes here." - Coach Dungy

"People sometimes ask if I went through a typical grief cycle and what I learned from having gone through it. I learned two primary things from our experience and from talking to countless other parents. First, there is no typical grief cycle, and second, it's not something I went through. I'm still grieving, as is Lauren." - Coach Dungy on the death of his teenage son, Jamie.

"I had always said that trusting in the Lord was the answer. Now, facing my own tragedy, I knew I needed to accept the truth that God's love and power were sufficient. If I really believed it, I needed to use this personal and painful time to validate that belief. God would work for the good of those who love Him, even if we didn't understand how He was gong to do it." - Coach Dungy after the death of his son, Jamie.