August “Tabletalk “: What Is Christian Persecution? Tom Ascol

What Is Christian Persecution? by Tom Ascol | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August-2015This past weekend I began digging into the new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries devotional magazine. While the daily devotions continue to take one through the wisdom literature of the Bible, focusing on the theme of worship, the featured articles are on the theme of persecution.

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this subject with his editorial “Blessed are the Persecuted.” After pointing out that here in America opposition to Christians and the Christian faith is on a rapid rise, he encourages us with these words:

As Christians of conviction, we will continue to fight for our constitutional freedoms. Yet, in the final analysis, we must always remember that ultimately we fight not against men but against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12). Ultimately, we fight on our knees, praying for all who are in authority over us (1 Tim. 2:2). We are citizens of our nations, and we are citizens of Christ’s kingdom. As such, we can pray for national leaders even when we must vote against them. We pray for the persecuted and for our persecutors. We love our enemies while praying for their defeat—their coming to the end of themselves in repentance and faith (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 4:12–13).

In the face of persecution, we must not lose hope. We must not fear our enemies but fear the Lord as we stand our ground in the battle ahead. Jesus told us we would be persecuted, but He also told us He has overcome the world (Matt. 5:10–12; John 16:33). Regardless of whether we ever die as martyrs for our faith, we are all witnesses of Christ. Though they may imprison us, shun us, despise us, or kill us, they can never really hurt us. For we conquer by dying—humbly dying to self that we may, under any persecution our Lord sovereignly allows, boldly proclaim Christ and Him crucified. And when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake, not for being obnoxious, we can count ourselves blessed. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Christians are not so much in danger when they are persecuted as when they are admired.”

The first main article on persecution is by Dr. Tom Ascol and has the titled found above – “What Is Christian Persecution?” Here are a few of his profitable thoughts on this topic:

So, Christian persecution can include a wide variety of responses to believers—from scorn, hatred, and ridicule to physical violence, imprisonment, and death. But for such opposition, no matter how mild or severe, to be regarded as persecution in the biblical sense, it must be provoked by the believer’s devotion to Jesus Christ and His righteousness.

This helps make sense of Paul’s statement that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12) and Jesus’ promise that His followers will face persecution “for my sake and for the gospel” (Mark 10:29–30). Every Christian should expect to experience persecution, not all in the same way, but all for the same reason—because of uncompromising devotion to Jesus.

Our Lord experienced opposition. Hatred against Him led to His crucifixion. Those who follow Him must realize that by identifying with Jesus, we are inviting into our lives the very opposition that came against Him. He said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).

Followers of a persecuted master will themselves be persecuted. When we intentionally live according to the way of Christ, we can count on meeting opposition from those who hate Christ. Whether that opposition comes in severe forms of physical violence, imprisonment, and loss of life or in comparatively benign forms of a low grade on a school paper, loss of position on a sports team, or being mocked by family and friends, if it is provoked by submission to Christ and obedience to His commands, it is Christian persecution.

For the full article, use the Ligonier link above.

“We may not tamper with truth.” – Abraham Kuyper

The articles of Christian faith are like links of a chain. If one link is removed, the chain is broken. For instance, one cannot deny God’s eternal election without taking away our assurance of salvation and undermining the steadfastness of our hope. For then man’s salvation is left in his own hands; he must exercise his free will and choose to be saved. That, in turn, denies at least in part man’s total depravity. And if man is not totally depraved, Christ’s atonement loses much of its value – in fact we would finally arrive at the conclusion that we do not need Christ for salvation!

Furthermore, if we would hush certain doctrines, we are suppressing the truth. If we hide differences under a broad creed that permits of two or more interpretations, as some suggest, we hide truth and leave men in uncertainty. We may not tamper with truth.

Satan knows that he can undermine the structure of the church by slyly removing just one fundamental doctrine at a time, and he frequently loosens a large foundation stone gradually, chiselling it away bit by bit.

That is why tolerance for the sake of peace may be dangerous.

…If the principles of our faith are man-made, they should be discarded. If they are from God, let no man tamper with them to tone them down. Even though some points may seem to be but small, God has bidden us be faithful in little things, and has forbidden that we should subtract even one iota from His Word.

One step toward giving in will lead to a next step. And will not God visit us with blindness if we deliberately darken the truth He has graciously entrusted to us? How shall we justify ourselves if we permit even a little of the truth to be laid aside. Is that ours to do?

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948Dr. Abraham Kuyper in the chapter titled “The Church of Jesus Christ”, found in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), pp.50-51.

The Elect Deceived? Yes! and How to Safeguard Against It – S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonFortunately,’ we may say to ourselves, ‘the elect are in no danger. For Jesus’ words [Matt.24:24] imply that we are incapable of falling prey to Satanic deception.’ But to read the text in this way is to miss the point, for two reasons:

It fails to take account of the evidence of history. Christians have been, and are, capable of being deceived. Have none of the elect been deceived in recent years into supporting ‘ministries’ that have proved so tragically different in reality from what they professed to be? Sadly, we are more easily addicted to the spectacular (‘signs and wonders’) than to the substantial, to novelty (‘false prophets’) than to wholesome orthodoxy. If we think Christians cannot be deceived, the deception has already begun.

It misunderstands the nature of the impossibility. Jesus did not say the elect were incapable of being deceived. We are all only too capable of it. Nevertheless, we are given this assurance: God will protect and preserve His people. Like Simon Peter, they will be shielded by the prayers of Christ and the power of God (Luke 22:31-32). This is accomplished through the activity of faith (1 Peter 1:5).

And so Ferguson continues by showing us how to avoid such deception:

But how can we guard ourselves against spiritual deception?

By developing sensitivity, we become aware of Satan’s strategies in our lives (2 Cor.2:11).

Have you learned what they are?

By developing self-knowledge, we recognize how weak we are. Since nothing good dwells in our flesh (Rom.7:18), we need constantly to depend on the Lord.

Do you?

By developing an appetite for God’s Word, we are ‘trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil’ (Heb.5:14 ESV), and we grow in discernment.

Is that true of you today?

Taken from Chapter 42 of Sinclair Ferguson’s In Christ Alone (Kindle ed.).

Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible (Part 1) | Canon Fodder

A Christmas Present from the Mainstream Media: Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible (Part 1) | Canon Fodder.

BiblestudypicHave you heard about the atrocious, antichristian attack on the Bible published in the latest Newsweek magazine (Dec.23, 2014)? If you haven’t yet, you ought to be aware of this article by Kurt Eichenwald – “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin” (see link to it below).

Michael Kruger, president and professor of NT and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC (and blogger at “Canon Fodder”) has started a thorough review of this article, taking Eichenwald to task for his poor journalism as well as his attack on the Bible.

Here is the opening part of Kruger’s first installment; visit the link above for the critique, and look for the second part in the near future.

It is not unusual for Newsweek, and other major media magazines, to publish critical opinions of Christianity and the Bible during major Christian holidays. I have lost count of how many March/April issues of such magazines have cast doubt on the resurrection, just in time for Easter.

However, the recent Newsweek cover article by Kurt Eichenwald, entitled “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” published intentionally (no doubt) on December 23rd, goes so far beyond the standard polemics, and is so egregiously mistaken about the Bible at so many places, that the magazine should seriously consider a public apology to Christians everywhere.

Of course, this is not the first media article critiquing the Bible that has been short on the facts. However, what is stunning about this particular article is that Kurt Eichenwald begins by scolding evangelical Christians for being unaware of the facts about the Bible, and the proceeds to demonstrate a jaw-dropping ignorance of the fact about the Bible.

Being ignorant of biblical facts is one thing. But being ignorant of biblical facts after chiding one’s opponent for that very thing is a serious breach of journalistic integrity. Saying Eichenwald’s article is an instance of “the pot calling the kettle black” just doesn’t seem to do it justice.

You’ll Be Shocked At How Much Time Young People Spend Reading Each Day

You’ll Be Shocked At How Much Time Young People Spend Reading Each Day – Mic.

SofareadingHere is another alarming report on the reading habits of young people in general (posted June 20, 2014). I try not to be an alarmist, but you also know that I share the concern that our young people are not reading as much as they ought. And the same applies to all of us, though, as you will see from the report, time spent reading does increase with age.

I would like to think that Christian young people do better, and that PRC young people do even better. But I also do not want to have my proverbial head in the sand.

What can we do to encourage greater and better reading among our teens and young adults? We have looked at and proposed lots of ideas here. What do you find profitable and effective?

Here is the dismal news in brief; for the rest, visit the link above – complete with graphs and charts.

Love Game of Thrones but worry about spoilers from those who have read the books? Your fears may be overblown — chances are your friends don’t read enough to ruin any plot twists for you.

A new study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average American reads only 19 minutes a day (a rate at which the George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series would take more than a year for most readers).

Young people spend even less time with the written word, according to the study. Americans ages 25 to 34 spend about eight minutes a day on weekends and holidays reading, while ages 20 to 24 spend about 10. Teenagers, meanwhile, spend just four minutes a day reading on their days off. (The overall average is bumped up by older folks — Americans over 75 spend more than an hour a day reading over weekends and holidays, the study found.)

Screens instead: When it comes to leisure times, the big winner is television. The average American watches for almost three hours a day, according to the study. That’s more than three times longer than the next highest activity, socializing (which makes us all sound a little pathetic).

Nine statements by Obama made a mockery of God’s Word

Nine statements by Obama yesterday made a mockery of God’ ….

On Wednesday of this week I received this notice from the American Family Association. It points out how our president in a speech the day before openly defied the teaching of God’s Word on marriage and godly sexuality by boasting about the homosexual agenda he has promoted since becoming our nation’s leader. And this from a professing Christian who claims to be following holy Scripture and representing our Lord! He may mock but God is not mocked!

As we continue to watch the rapid anti-Christian moral decline in this land, we need to be courageous in defending and teaching the truth of God’s Word and we need to be mighty in prayer for the church, as well as for our leaders.

Here is the first part of the AFA post; find the rest at the link above.

June 18, 2014

Yesterday, President Barack Obama spoke at an LGBT fundraiser in New York City. You can watch or read the entire speech here.

I thought you might like to know what he said, so here are a few excerpts from the transcript of his speech:

– The day that the Supreme Court issued its ruling, United States v. Windsor, was a great day for America.

– So Pride Month is a time for celebration, and this year we’ve got a lot to celebrate.  If you think about everything that’s happened in the last 12 months, it is remarkable.  In nine more states you’re now free to marry the person you love – that includes my two home states of Hawaii and Illinois. The NFL drafted its first openly gay player. The U.S. Postal Service made history by putting an openly gay person on a stamp – the late, great Harvey Milk smiling from ear to ear.

– When I took office, only two states had marriage equality.  Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia do.

– But because of your help, we’ve been able to do more to protect the rights of lesbian and gay, and bisexual and transgender Americans than any administration in history.

Biologos, Theistic evolution, and the Pelagian heresy – creation.com

Biologos pelagian heresy – creation.com.

“The Aquila Report” carried this powerful article as one of its “top 10″ this past week (April 1, 2014), but I also went to the original source, which is Creation.com (cf. the link above).

creationvsevolutionThere you will find the complete article, “BioLogos, Theistic Evolution, and the Pelagian Heresy”, written by Richard Fangrad, CEO of Creation Ministries International-Canada. Fangrad makes a significant connection between the old heresy of Pelagianism and the “new” one of theistic evolution, especially that part of “TE” that now wants to deny the historical reality of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

I give you a portion of his article here; read the rest at this link.

May Fangrad’s thoughts show us even more clearly why we must reject all forms of evolutionism, root and branch. Not to do so leads one to forfeit the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, it IS that serious.

Today we Christians find ourselves at an interesting place in Church history. Although Scripture has been with us for 2,000 years (and is sufficient for determining how and when God created), we now have decades of research that supports what the Bible has always said. Today we are blessed with mountains of scientific evidence supporting the biblical record of a recent creation followed by a global flood and all humans originating with Adam and Eve. Despite all of this, aspects of an old heresy relating to the creation account are increasingly infiltrating the Church. This is the falsehood known as Pelagianism.

No Adam: no original sin, no need for the cross

The heresy of Pelagianism (see the box below for details) asserted that Adam’s sin had no effect on the human race, that we have not inherited a sin nature from Adam, and that all humans are born with the ability to live a sin-free life. This renders the work of Christ on the cross superfluous. If we can achieve Heaven without any work of God whatsoever (that is, if we have no sin) then there is no need (it is even nonsensical) for God to bear the penalty for our sin. The reality is that at the cross Christ died for us as a substitute. He paid the penalty that we incurred, in our place and simultaneously transferred His righteousness to us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 describes this double transfer. The sinless Christ pays for our sins in our place (so that we don’t have to!), and His righteousness is transferred to us. That single verse is Paul’s simple one-sentence summary of the Gospel. The whole Gospel message is contained in outline in those words and is, of course, detailed throughout the rest of Scripture.

Bible scholars at the time of Pelagius recognized the contradiction between his teachings and Scripture. As a result, Pelagianism was condemned as heretical at many church councils including the Councils of Carthage (in 412, 416 and 418), the Council of Ephesus (431) and the Council of Orange (529). The intervening 1600 years have merely strengthened and further refined the biblical truth confirming that Pelagianism is heretical. This rich history of the battle for truth is a great advantage for us today. When Pelagianizing tendencies infiltrate the church today we should simply look back at that history, remember the error of the past, and avoid repeating the same error. Unfortunately, Pelagianism is alive and well today. One of its modern forms, mutated and renamed, is called ‘theistic evolution’.

C.Trueman on Political Correctness – in the Church!

trueman-fools.inddThe final chapter in Dr.Carl Trueman’s collection of essays titled Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone (P&R, 2012) is also about the use of language and words (see my post of last week). With the heading “Is the Thickness of Two Short Planks a Forgotten Divine Attribute?”, this essay exposes the deceitful and worldly way in which modern Evangelicalism uses language to cover up sin. The two examples he references are sins against the 9th and 7th commandments – lying and adultery – and his treatment of what the church has done with the Biblical language for and definition of these sins will hit you right between the eyes.

There are many good quotes I could pull from this chapter, for Trueman pulls no punches! But I leave you with the last two paragraphs, because they will also help you understand why he chose the title for this essay that he did. Ponder the weight of these words – but especially the weight of God’s Word when He speaks to us about our sin.

Worse still, of course, are the theological implications: to think that I am an idiot is one thing. Many have done that; it’s not unusual and, sadly, I am sure there is plenty of evidence to suggest that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But these people seem to think they can fool God with their slick talk and sound bites. Yes, believe it or not, they apparently regard themselves as cleverer than their maker. Like Adam and Eve sewing fig leaves together in the Garden, they believe that, if they use the right words, he just won’t notice the reality that lies behind their thin veil of semantic scamology.

In fact, they have squeezed God into a box that is so small he barely has the divine equivalent of two brain cells to rub together. Their a priori theological system has led them to assume God is as thick as two short planks, and that a bit of obfuscatory language and the odd specious euphemism will prevent him from holding them accountable for their lies and the filth of their personal lives.

To consider other human beings to be so stupid as not to see through the flannel about ‘theological leverage’ and ‘sins of relational mobility” (the two terms used in the recent past to refer to sins of lying and adultery respectively -cjt) is patronizing and offensive; but to assume God is a moron, as think as a brick, is frankly, dangerous. Make no mistake: unlike the evangelical and Emergent dupes out there, God is not mocked (pp.220-21).

Calvinistic Cartoons: Give Kids 26 letters, not 2!

Calvinistic Cartoons: 26.

This is a great “cartoon” to start our weekend! When this “fell” in my email box this morning, it simply had to be our “Friday Fun” post for today. But I hope you catch its serious message.

Have a great Friday – and let your children be entertained (and educated!) by good books this weekend!

Kids&reading-CalvCartoons

Defining Marriage – Joe Carter

Defining Marriage by Joe Carter | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

marriagepic-2Just last night I finally finished reading all the way through my March issue of Tabletalk. The last article in that issue is the above-linked one by Joe Carter, an editor for “The Gospel Coalition”. And it is an excellent article with a clear message on the matter of how we Christians ought to respond to those who are trying to redefine marriage in our current culture.

I believe this is a great followup to my previous post. I quote a part of what Carter wrote here, but encourage you to read the rest the Ligonier link above.

Some Christians may even concede that while the state doesn’t truly have the authority to redefine marriage, we should go along with the legal fiction for the sake of the gospel witness. Although such Christians may have the best of intentions, they are actually subverting the very gospel they want to protect.

In acceding to laws that redefine marriage, they are doing the very opposite of what Jesus calls us to do: they are hating their neighbors, including their gay and lesbian neighbors. You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God’s wrath (Ps. 5:4–5; Rom. 1:18). As Christians, we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse it, we too become suppressors of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5).

What is needed is for the church to have the courage to speak the truth of the gospel: we cannot love our neighbor and tolerate unrepentant rebellion against God. We cannot continue with the “go along to get along” mentality that is leading those we love to destruction. We must speak the Word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31) and accept the fact that those who have fallen away may not ever return. We must choose this day whom we will serve. Will we stand with the only wise God or with the foolish idol-makers of same-sex marriage?

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