An Example of Grace Gone Bad

Last week I read a “theology” book that drove me crazy. I did this on purpose. It’s fun to voluntarily be driven crazy. It’s why people own cats. I knew by deciding to read this book, I would go nuts at some point.

Boy howdy, did I.

This book was talking about grace and salvation. As many do when talking about grace, they go overboard. They take a fine idea and drive it into the ground until they begin teaching heresy.

Here is the quote I read word for word. Enjoy.

“For grace requires nothing of man but an acknowledgment of his undone condition and complete dependence on God. If an intellectual understanding were necessary to receive the gift of God, then there would be that in man which is meritorious in the sight of God.”

Oh my. Catch this sentence: “If an intellectual understanding were necessary to receive the gift of God, then there would be that in man which is meritorious in the sight of God.”

Did you get that? What he is saying is, “If you are intellectually able to understand the Gospel and respond to it, you have done a meritorious work and thus are not saved by grace.”

I mean, I’ve read some dumb things in my day, but wow.

Therefore, the only way a person can be saved is if they have absolutely no clue, no intellectual understanding, no mental assent to the Gospel. Otherwise, when they get saved they would glory in their superior intellect.

This is Calvinism gone way bad. This is hyper-grace gone way bad.

This means, the only people who can be saved are those who don’t understand the Gospel and thus never come to it knowingly.

I mean, come on. I can see how a person’s theological bias might drive them into this corner to say such a thing, but there’s no way a person can read the Bible and come away with such nonsense.

I am not saying we are saved by our intellect, I’m not saying a person has to understand it all before they can be saved, but I am definitely saying you kind of have to know what’s going on.

Paul told Timothy, “that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Is Timothy not saved because he knew? Was his knowing the Scriptures a meritorious work forcing God to have to save him? Give me a break.

I paced up and down the hall for about half an hour preaching to no one, since I was home alone, til I got that one out of my system. Wow. Not only did the book this quote came from go in the garbage, every book by this author followed.

Although the author of this quote wants you to be stupid, I don’t. I want you to use your brain.


Trivia Crack and The Ten Commandments

Trivia Crack is an app basically depicting the old Trivial Pursuit game.

I’m not that good at trivia. I like to tell myself it’s because I don’t know a lot of stupid stuff. I only know smart stuff. The definition of trivia, after all, is “Insignificant or inessential matters; trifles.”

Regardless, the one main fault of Trivia Crack is that users write the questions. Be warned, my son has written several. You know if my son is a question writer, you’re going to run into some dumb questions.

“How many commandments does Christianity have?” was a recent question I was asked. The accepted answer was “ten.”

This irritated me.

You can respond to the questions and correct them, I should have but didn’t know how to do it then. If you play the game, and I’m certainly not telling you to, and you get this question, please inform them for me that this question is wrong.

Although you don’t have to explain all the following reasons why it’s wrong, here is my brief list.

1) The Ten Commandments were for the Old Covenant Jewish religion. If you don’t think so, you need to brush up on some theology. In Deuteronomy 5, where Moses rehearses the Ten Commandments, he makes it clear that these were part of the covenant God made with Israel. No mention of Christianity in that passage at all.

2) Even if you don’t want to grant me the first point, you should agree that Jesus gave us a new commandment summed up in LOVE. Followers of Christ have one main commandment.

3) Even if you don’t want to grant me point 1 or 2, you can read the New Testament and see many commandments given over those books. 1 Thessalonians 5 has a list of 22 commands alone. All these commands fit under the One Command of LOVE.

4) Too often Christians have ripped off Judaism. I find this to be another example of the Church replacing Israel, rather than seeing a distinction between the two groups, and frankly, the two religions. There is much that joins them, but there is much that separates them. There’s a reason why there is a New Covenant. It has been proven that the Old Covenant, based on the Ten Commandments, didn’t work.

To sum up, the Ten Commandments were for Israel. This is a point that many Christians do not grasp, clearly seen by how many get fired up over putting Ten Commandment plaques in courtrooms and so forth.

As Paul said, “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” The Ten Commandments are rules written on a rock with no power.

Christianity is about new life in Christ. Please, I beg you, understand this and, if you get the chance, inform Trivia Crack that their question is wrong.

Have A Bible Shaped Doctrine, Not A Doctrinally Shaped Bible

I think theology and doctrine are important. Knowing what you believe is critical to spiritual well-being.

However, I have seen many make camp in a particular theology or doctrine, to hold to a doctrine at all costs, only to then make shipwreck of the rest of the Bible.

For instance, I recently read a book about Eternal Security, Once Saved Always Saved. From the start, let me say–I believe that the believer is eternally secure.

I also know that the Bible includes many warning passages and conditional statements about salvation. I don’t think this means you can lose your salvation, I think it means there are few who are saved, while many believe they are.

The author tried to counter the warning passages of the Bible and eliminate them from contention. I felt he did so poorly.

While talking about warning passages in the OT and Gospels, he concluded that this was for people under the law. He said flat out that people under the law could lose their salvation.

Really? In a book about eternal security he concludes that there was a time when people could lose their salvation? I thought that was unreal. Yet, in order to buck up his theological point, he has to make that conclusion otherwise he doesn’t know what to do with warning passages in the OT or Gospels.

Ironically, he quotes David at one point, saying that God was the rock of his salvation, yet the author then said no one who denies eternal security could make that claim! Wait, what?

Several times throughout the book he said things like, “Since we know eternal security is true, we know that this verse can’t be warning believers.”

In other words–since I believe this, whatever this verse means, it can’t mean the opposite of what I believe.

That is, quite possibly, the worst way to interpret Scripture.

If you automatically eliminate a possible application because it disagrees with what you already believe, you might as well just quit reading the Bible.

It is my contention that most doctrines in the Bible have a verse or two (at least) that will seemingly contradict it. I think God does this on purpose to keep us humble, to keep us from having our knowledge puff us up.

This author’s knowledge puffed him up. I think that in an effort to buck up his doctrine he undermined three-fourths of the Bible to do it.

This is not good. Have the confidence in God that he meant what He said. Take all that God says about a subject and go with that. Don’t stake your claim and throw out everything “contradictory.” You look like a moron when you do that.

The Bible is a large book. Let it shape your doctrine; don’t let your doctrine shape it.

God Can Heel

I was reading lyrics of a Christian song on the internet and saw this in speaking of God:

“He can save and He can heel.”

That cracked me up.

I assume they meant “He can save and He can heAl.”

There are people who like to have God on a leash, keep Him obedient to them, walking by their side, following their orders like a good boy.

Saying that God can heel might be a bit of a Freudian slip (however, I didn’t do well in psychology class, so I might be off on that).

Do we desire God to be in control, or do we desire Him to do our bidding? Do we just look for Him for free health care, or do we submit to His grace being sufficient? Do we desire to obey God, or have God obey us?

What end of the leash are you on?


The Absolute Worst Application of “It Is Finished”

Last year I read 26,448 pages, which was 93 books, about a book and a half a week. I bought very few of those books. When you are a reader, somehow books gravitate toward you. Plus I’m in good relations with a librarian, which helps.

People know I read and it is not uncommon for people to give me books to read for them. Plus, those who read good books often loan me books cuz they know I’ll read them. Plus I am from a family of readers, so I frequently get books from them.

When books are free, it is a temptation to assume you are interested in more books than you actually are. I have shelves next to my “reading chair” that are organized by books to read. I have several piles on several shelves where I know what books are there waiting to be read.

As the years go by, some books will fall down the piles, being skipped over cuz I no longer find them of any interest like I did when I first saw them.

There has been one book in particular that has slipped down my piles, was on the bottom shelf covered with dust bunnies. I remember picking up the book 8 years ago. In the last eight years I have seen that book several times and never gone ahead and read it.

Well, the last couple days I did. I should never have picked this book up. It was dreadful. It was about Jesus, and was written by a popular author whom I personally cannot stand, making me wonder what possessed me to pick it up in the first place.

But, I soldiered on, cuz that’s the kind of guy I am. I know what it is to write and be criticized, and I also acknowledge that this author is very well known in Christian circles, so he obviously is doing something more right than me.

But oh wow. I’ll give you one example.

He wrote a chapter on Jesus saying “it is finished” from the cross. His application out of this, and trust me, I’ve heard many applications on “it is finished,” the vast majority of which I find irritating, was the absolute worst I have ever heard.

“It is finished,” to this very well known Christian author, means that when life gets tough, and you’re not sure if you can go all the way to the end and accomplish a goal, just think of Jesus on the cross, who endured and did the whole job of dying for your sins.

And, I kid you not, he said that the next time you feel like quitting your diet, just think of Jesus saying “It is finished.”

When I read that, I wanted to jump in the car and drive to this guy’s house and slap him in the face.

But, then I remembered my goal in life to never slap people in the face, and even though I was tempted to fail, I thought of Jesus saying “it is finished” and I persevered and still have not quit on my goal.

Abba Aint Your Daddy

Ever heard this one?

Abba is a child’s word, one of the first words a little Jewish boy would say. Kind of like our word pappa. It’s a term of endearment, not an official title. This shows that God is our Daddy! How comforting! How joyous! He’s not a big scary God! He’s Daddy!

As a pastor, it saddens me to be lumped in with pastors who take liberties with facts. So many cookie cutter sermon illustrations are flat-out wrong. The “abba means daddy” one is no different.

It’s complete hooey.

I am preaching out of Romans 8 this Sunday and the verse that says, “ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” In looking up some info on the internets I came across this article from The Gospel Coalition written recently about this very issue.

Abba doesn’t mean daddy. In fact, after doing some more researching, “Abba” is a Syrian word for father. When the Bible says “Abba Father” it is using the Syrian word and then the Hebrew word for “father.”

There are some who think Paul’s usage of it in Romans is showing there is a unified love God has for all His children–Gentile and Jew by using both a Gentile and a Hebrew word for “father.”

It’s not a child’s word, it’s a Syrian word, a different language. The term means “father,” maybe even “my father.”It was not a childish expression comparable with ‘Daddy’: it was a more solemn, responsible, adult address to a Father.”

Certainly there is a father’s love at work with God, but in order to accentuate the fatherliness of God, there is no need to lie and overdo things.

Fathers are an authority, ones who discipline their children. Yes, there is a unique display of love going on there, one very descriptive of God’s love, but lets not trivialize it.

Every Day a Friday

Joel Osteen’s latest book is about being happy. Osteen cites a recent study that found that “happiness increases 10 percent on Fridays . . . I challenge you to let every day be a Friday.”

The book takes you through seven ways to increase happiness in your life so you can “choose happiness.”

Since the weekend is coming, people decide to be happier on Friday, why not make that choice daily?

I am not opposed to a Christian telling people to make every day a Friday, but there is irony in telling people to make every day a Friday because Fridays are so happy.

There’s this pivotal event that happened on a Friday according to Christian tradition. On a certain Friday, commonly referred to as “Good Friday,” the Son of God, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief, suffered and died for the sin of the world.

If Osteen told people to make every day a Friday just like the Friday Jesus had on Good Friday, I’d be all for this book. We should die daily, take up our cross, put to death the deeds of the flesh and be crucified with Christ. I’m all for that message.

Instead, Osteen takes the humanisticly pleasing message “celebrate yourself!” and choose to be happy. Imagine if Christ had read this book on Maundy Thursday? I can think of more happy ways to spend my Friday than dying on a cross for others’ sins.