Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Thomas Jefferson and the Gospel"

Dare I attempt to write about Jefferson when so much has already been written? Well, it appears so, but I promise I won't write much. He has come to mind again as I have communicated with a dear friend recently who identifies himself as an atheist.

A few days ago he sent me the quote, "Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."  ~ Thomas Jefferson

I would suggest to you that is very good advise, for it would be better to question the existence of God and search diligently for the truth, than to believe blindly and care not for the search of truth. It is a given, that a person of faith, has a passion to know the truth and search it out. His life will be spent in discovering all he can about God, about the work of Christ, and how it affects his personal life and family. 

My purpose in addressing Jefferson is not to write in such a way as to make him look Christian, doing so will not save him, nor will it benefit our nation to make him so. Only truth will benefit, so the closer we come to truth the better we are.

In studying Jefferson slightly over the years, I have found him a brilliant man, though a complicated one. His views of the Gospel seems to have changed throughout his life, therefore you find seemingly contradicting statements, some which can be taken slightly out of context and made to say something they don't exactly say. I will attempt not  to do so, but as best as I can, in a few words and short discourse, let him speak for himself. It does appear for most of this life he held to a fairly Orthodox view of Christianity. But in the latter part of his life drifted into a lessor orthodox view.

 So what about Jefferson and the Church, what was his views?

"My views . . . are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from the anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others . . . ." ~ Thomas Jefferson. April 21, 1803, in a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush.

Now I will strongly suggest that this quotation certainly does not make him a Christian, for being sincerely attached to Christ's doctrines in preference to all others only makes you religious. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." - Eph 2:8,9.

"No one sees with greater pleasure than myself the progress of reason in its advance toward rational Christianity, and my opinion is that if nothing had ever been added to what flowed from His lips, the whole world would at this day been Christian . . . . Had there never been a commentator there never would have been an infidel. I have little doubt that the whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator, and, I hope, to the pure doctrines of Jesus also." ~ Thomas Jefferson. Library of American literature, Vol III, pp 283,284.

These are strange views indeed, Jefferson appeals to reason as the source to faith. I agree, reason is a means to faith, but not the source of it. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." - Isa 1:18

Jefferson's reasoning appears illogical, for it seems he believed that if the words of Jesus had never been commented on, the words themselves would have been enough to convince the world of the hope of Christianity, yet they did not convince the multitude of the generation in which Christ personally spoke them himself. This reasoning and logic is flawed and has proved itself to be so. One thing is certain, Jefferson was a religious man, believed in God and that Christ was the Saviour of mankind. It is also certain, in the latter part of his life his views of God and of Christ as Saviour could not be seen as Orthodox. He drifted from many, if not most, general Christian views. So to say he was a genuine Christian would be difficult to say.

As now, so it was then; there were those who took views of scripture outside of Orthodoxy, and under the pretense or assumption, promoted the idea that they had recovered what had been lost in it's interpretation.  These things usually manifest themselves in some form of new movement with its promoters gathering to themselves followers.

It was the case here with Jefferson, who in his later years was influenced by such a movement called "Christian Primitivism" or "Restoration Movement". Leaders such as Barton Stone rejected denominational titles except that of Christian, rejected church hierarchal structure, and developed an Anti-Trinitarianism theology, placing emphasis on using only Bible language and terms.

Jefferson held such views as the book of Revelation being written by the ravings of a maniac. In his understanding, only the Gospels were pure and divine, he saw even the New Testament epistles as inferior writings and the Apostle Paul as introducing divisive doctrines into the church. So yes, he was anti-Christian in many respects all the while claiming to be a (real) Christian himself. "To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus Himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which He wished any one to be: sincerely attached to His doctrines in preference to all other." ~ Thomas Jefferson. April 21, 1803, in a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush.

While holding to the beliefs of "Christian Primitivism" Jefferson stated: "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." ~ Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson Randolph, vol. 4 (New York: G. & C. & H. Carvill, 1830), 366.

So what is to be learned from Jefferson and Christianity? It should make us ever so cautious in our study and interpretation of Scripture. We have thousands of years of Christian history which held to and taught orthodox doctrines, yet that history also demonstrates how easily one can drift off into error. Our study must be diligent, but it must hold to sound doctrine. No writings have been studied and poured over more than the Christian Scriptures have for thousands of years. Discovering something new, something that has been overlooked in all church history is unlikely. It is quiet arrogant of us to presume that we have discovered something that all the great church theologians and their brilliant minds have overlooked, then to go and teach some new doctrine or start some new movement under the pretense of recovering lost truth.

Truth can be lost, but for it to be lost, it first must be found somewhere in church history. Ah! But all the new  movements return to the Scriptures with their interpretations of this lost truth! It was lost they say in the 2nd or 3rd century, after the Apostles died out the doctrine got corrupted they say. It has remained lost for nearly two thousand years, but now (they) have discovered it. Now we have the new or second Pentecost.  Now God is moving in these last days and restoring His Church to the former days!  Now as they always have, draw unto themselves followers and history continues.

Beware of the new thing! The New Testament is the new thing, it has remained the truth throughout history, His church has remained faithful. All through history you can follow this Orthodox Christian doctrine that has been held by the faithful. Do not be moved by every wind of doctrine.

Eph 4:14  That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

As it is now, so it was then, Orthodox doctrine was held to by the faithful, others were drawn away by crafty men with new movements and interpretations.

Gal 1:6  I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Gal 1:7  Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
Gal 1:8  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Gal 1:9  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,


Saturday, January 14, 2017

"When we fall"

There was a meme, that crossed my path this week via Facebook again, that provoked me to do some thinking. If I may, I would like to do some thinking out loud and expose some of my thoughts on the matter.

In this meme posted to the left, I will assume this picture illustrates the event in 2 Samuel 12:7 where David is rebuked by the Prophet Nathan for his sin and deception over the murder of Uriah and affair with Bathsheba.

It is a stunning account, one which just the reading of causes the understanding to cry out for justice. One senses a relief that all the treachery and hypocrisy has been brought to light. Let's consider though the fact this was not a gotcha moment for Nathan, but a devastating moment both for the Prophet and the nation. Yet it is a necessary moment to preserve David and the nation from further destruction.

A few things should be noted. This thing did not happen in a day, nor in a moment of weakness in David's life. As you consider David's history, you notice a pattern in his life that left unchecked would eneviably lead him to this event. Perhaps there were those who loved him enough to rebuke him for much lesser and weaker sins preceding this event, and perhaps no one loved him enough to check him. If the former, then David's rejection of the rebukes brought his judgment, if the latter, the lack of love of those who knew him allow him to be brought to this moment. Surely we can see the great benefit of a rebuke in this, when either from a spouse, Pastor, friend, or brother. It could save us much damage. Oh Lord, how gracious to bring these rebukes in our lives.

I was watching "Enterprise" a spin off of the Star Trek series last night. There was a scene that was very sensual, Julie looked over at me and simply said something to the effect, "should we be watching this?" My conscience was quickened, I realized, no, we should not. So, that episode is censored in our domain.

You may say I'm being ridicules, it's an insignificant scene. I must remember, David's eye's began with a insignificant allurement toward other women, but being left unchecked grew. It grew into a much more significant sin. A desire for one drink is insignificant, but for that minister I'll mention in a moment, left unchecked grew. It grew into a much more significant sin.

When we leave these things unchecked, we become comfortable with them. It then takes a little more to awaken our conscience. We continue to leave that unchecked, it then takes and even greater allurement to awaken us to it's sin. Little by little we are drawn into the depths of our depravity.

    What do we do when we fall, or those we love and admire fall? I was reminded this week of two examples where men I looked up too fell greatly. One was back in 2013, a leading minister in the Home school circles and patriarch movement. I had come to appreciate his devotion to the family and the church. He spoke often of building generational faithfulness in our families.

He was such an eloquent speaker and a profound leader. Then it was discovered he had been abusing a minor sexually and being unfaithful to his wife for years.

The other was a leading and well know speaker among the reformed churches. Though he made a lesser impact in my life with his teaching than the other, never the less, I appreciated his dedication to the Lord and his commitment to faithfulness and holiness. Then it was discovered he had been censored for viewing inappropriate web sites. Then a year later being arrested for drunk driving with a minor in the car with him. One thing we can know for sure, these things didn't happen to them in a moment of weakness (as one said in his defense) but like David, allowed a pattern of lesser deficiencies to remain and grow in their lives. When public sins are discovered, they are most always preceded by years of private sins.

An early rebuke by those who loved them, if headed and received, could have saved them this destruction. But we are here now, so what do we do? In 2 Cor Chapter 2 we read 2Co 2:6  Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
2Co 2:7  So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

Many times Scriptures like this are used to bring restoration and the setting back in place those who have fallen from leadership. But we also have Scriptures like 1Timothy chapter 1.

1Ti 1:19  Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
1Ti 1:20  Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

We have to say yes to both types of Scriptures. Yes, we must forgive their trespasses, and yes, they must be censored with discipline. First, one must question the validity of their profession, if or not they are indeed a true Christian. Time must be given to bring reasonable assurance that true repentance has been brought forth. They should be received back into fellowship, encouraged and helped with patience and love, yet, their leadership role must not be restored until this reasonable assurance can be known, and depending on the nature of the sin, it may never be restored. Remember, David was repentant, he was forgiven, but he bore the consequences for the rest of his life. If we do not receive our rebukes, we may well do the same.

There is evidence that both the men mentioned above were lovingly rebuked, and gave a sign of repentance. But in the end demonstrated they never really repented at heart. Even now it is questionable whether they are really repentant or not. Sorry, yes, but repentant, maybe not. 2Co 7:10  For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

This should weigh upon us mightily, it should cause us to examine ourselves. 2Co 13:5  Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? If such men as mentioned above, who had such great knowledge of God and his word can fall, how easily could I, if I neglect the great gift I have been given, in receiving the loving rebukes of those who love me?

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,



Thursday, January 5, 2017

"When we weep"

I realize this is a bit unusual for me to be posting again so quickly, but being off this week has afforded me more time for study and as a result I have found more things of interest to write about and more time to write. If I could only get paid for reading and writing I would think I was living next door to Heaven!

When we weep. This photo has been making it's way around the net for some time now. I latched onto it a few years ago, it seemed to stir my emotions and impress upon me the sacrifice that is often times demanded as a result of living in such a fallen world.

I titled it in my photo file simply "Sacrifice" but I was able to see it slightly different this time. The idea of sacrifice was not diminished, but perhaps to see slightly beyond the tears.

I was reading in John 20:11 (But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher,) and I took special notice of the fact she was weeping. It is hard for us to imagine the sense of lose she must have been experiencing. Mary has been connected in Christendom over the years as a lady of ill repute. There is no real evidence of this, but whatever her life was like before she met the Lord, it appears to have been a life of tragedy. It is said of her, that 7 demons were cast out. We can only imagine the oppression that was upon this lady's mind, the torment and confusion. Perhaps she was at times affected with fits, maybe constant battles with depression or living on the verge of insanity. I entertained the idea of posting a picture of a demon possessed person for illustration, but the pictures the search brought up deferred me from that idea. It would be safe to say, her appearance under such stress must have been heart wrenching.

But she had found peace in the Saviour, so it is similarly difficult to imagine the affection she must have had for our Lord. Very possibly the only, and most assuredly the greatest love she had ever known. Now through this series of events, it had all been taken from her. Have you ever lost the one person you had come to love the most? Do we not wonder how we can go on without them? Would it have been possible for Mary to wonder such about her life? Could she have wondered if the torments would return now that her Lord was gone?  This event in her life took my mind back to 3 events in my own that hurt deeply. Many carry with them memories of many more that, the Providential workings vary greatly in our lives, but we all share them.

 We find her here at a most dreadful place, a tomb. It was the place that brought her closest to her loss. Though it seemed an impassable sea between her and her Lord, yet she must stand upon the nearest shore and gaze across.

Throughout life's journey we will all from time to time find ourselves here. What we must take note of is what Mary could not see at first. Beyond the loss, beyond the hurt, beyond the tears, was the greatest gain, the greatest joy, the greatest hope. The gain, the joy and hope, were only magnified by the loss and hurt. It is these times that move us from the temporal things around us. We may work hours upon hours to learn and achieve levels of success to obtain our homes, cars, affluence, and securities of life. One of these moments, such as Mary's, can render all those things worthless. Their true value will be exposed, the home of one's dreams can be but an empty shell without the one you love to fill it, it's value worthless.

So what are we to make of these things? There is an error being taught in Theology today that tells us God desires us to live in health and prosperity. It tells us if we find ourselves lacking in these things we have been robbed of God's blessings.

For a moment I'm going to imagine, say from my teenage years, I found the secret of health and success. From that time until now I had not experienced any physical pain, I had not known any financial need or disappointment. Beyond that, I had amassed a wealth of surplus and have lived life at its best.

In fact, lets say I had been able to possess in fullness what the preachers of this message say God's wants me have.

I will just simply ask you to give a good guess as best you can, what kind of person now in my late 50's do you think I would be? Would I have character? Would I have a real understanding of compassion? Would servitude be the utmost of my desire? Solomon came the closest of anyone I know of obtaining all the things these preachers say God wants us to have and it brought him to ruin.

No my friend, in this fallen state, these experiences like Mary's are our greatest friends. For they are the means by which God works all things together for the good of those that love him (Romans 8:28). They turn our eyes away from this world and the attachments of it, and cause us to gaze upward to another world.

Look at Mary's situation for a moment, in her despair Jesus is standing ever so near. He does not rush in to try and save her from her grief, but simply ask, "Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?" and then awaits her answer, allows her to explain her dilemma. He seems to be in no hurry to relieve her of her distress and conceals the fact of his identity as she works her way through it. After the expression of her concern, he simply reveals himself by speaking her name, "Mary".

As you follow the discourse, Jesus seems purposely avoiding the issues that were distressing her, but immediately points her to heavenly things. He tells her he's still leaving and going to heaven. It was afterward that she would realize the dividends that lay beyond her tears were unmeasurable. In the Providences of God these things must be, 2Co 4:15  For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
2Co 4:16  For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
2Co 4:17  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
2Co 4:18  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

My dear friend, if the things which are seen are troubling you, take heart, they are temporal. Turn your eyes heavenward, to all those things near you that are not seen, for they are eternal and weighty with glory.

Perhaps by providence you have found yourself reading this blog, but you are in a place obscure to the Gospel, you find these things strange to your ears. My wife reminded me of this the other day, that it is very possible in today's technology one could find this blog and wonder what these things mean. Let me explain,  Co 15:1  Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
1Co 15:2  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
1Co 15:3  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
1Co 15:4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
Rom 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Rom 10:10  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.   
Rom 10:13  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  

If you find yourself attracted to these words, something in you inquiring, yearning for more understanding; follow it. Turn upward to heaven and ask for help! A simple cry for help will catch the ear of God. There may be no light around you, cry for help, God will move nations to reach a soul that cries out to him for help.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,




Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Christian Unity"

As a Facebook user I have taken notice of what seems to be an unusual number of posts calling for Christian Unity in one manner of phrase or another. I have read so called prophetic messages giving warning of coming divisive factions.  As I have followed this for a while now and viewed the associated comments, it seems it might be of interest to write about these issues.

Facebook is a wonderful tool, but it can be a troublesome one. I would liken it to the use of a gun, guns are wonderful items, but you do need to know how to use one safely and effectively. Using a gun carelessly can hurt you and others, but used properly can be very enjoyable and life saving. Facebook as well can help or hurt, so caution is recommended with it's use. Because of the nature of Facebook I have chosen to use my blog as the venue to address this subject.

So what is Church unity? Perhaps it is better stated, what do we mean when we call for Church unity? It seems mostly what I hear is some variation of loving one another and agreeing to get along. Sometimes you hear something like, we just need to preach Jesus and lay aside all our disagreements. Then at other times it is said we need to agree on the all important things and the secondary things can be overlooked.

There is an element of truth in all of those statements. We do need to love one another and get along. We do need to preach Jesus and there are some things that are of the utmost importance. But those statements are surface statements and give very little substance to the issue.

Loving one another carries many aspects, sometimes loves requires confrontation. And if you are going to preach Jesus, I need to know what you believe about Jesus to be able to walk with you. So, this Church unity gets a bit more complicated than those surface statements that have a nice ring to them.

Paul does tell us in 1Co 1:10  Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
1Co 1:11  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 

This certainly should be true of a local Church. Contentions in a local body is a very unsettling thing and a great hindrance to the effectiveness of that body of believers. That is why teaching sound doctrine is so important so the body can all be on the same page. You will also need to study on your own and not just depend on the teachings you receive, in other words be good Bereans (Acts 17:11). Having done so, don't go and nit pick every little detail you might discover and disagree with. But with issues of real concern, go to those you trust and converse with them. Many times these things are just mis-understandings of terms and phrases that lead to disagreements that in reality don't exist. Then there are real differences that arise as we grow and study together, and it is incumbent upon us to be patient as we attempt to work these things out over time. Getting angry and pulling up roots to find a more pleasant atmosphere rarely ever solves the problems.

Then Jesus tells us himself, Joh 17:21  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

As good as it would be, I think you would agree that more is indicated here than us just being able to understand scripture the exact same way. The truth is, from what we see in Scripture, find in Church history, and from our own experience, this unity thing is difficult. The Church has struggled with it from the beginning and we should not expect it to go away for us.

When you consider the nature of our fallen state, and the perfections of God in contrast, it is a wonder we agree at all. As He does in all things, God uses these difficulties to work in us and through us His good pleasure. It is out of the great errors and bad theology in Church history that the great documents of faith and doctrines of understanding were developed and refined. The error compelled us to search more deeply for the truth. As Scripture instructs us to walk in unity, the same Scripture instructs us to defend the faith that was once delivered to the Saints (Jude 1:3).

“In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.” ~ John Machen (1881-1937)

"Indeed, truth cannot be stated clearly at all without being set over against error. Thus a large part of the New Testament is polemic; the enunciation of evangelical truth was occasioned by the errors which had arisen in the churches." ~ John Machen (1881-1937)

So, while we should be cordial to one another, and we must love one another, the focus is not unity at the expense of truth. Truth must be preserved or all is lost. I have heard it said that John MacArthur is divisive when he calls out the Charismatic groups, I say well done, seems like no one else will do it. We should all be challenged on our beliefs, and when we are, it should drive us to the Scriptures.

But it seems we are so fickle with our faith, if anyone challenges us on our modes of worship we just cry foul and publish how unloving and un-Christian one is for questioning our actions. The Gospel is stated so clear in the Scriptures you will need a lawyer to help you mis-understand it. The Gospel is also so deep and mysterious to the minds of men that the greatest theological minds of history have only touched the surface in all their struggles. We must remember it is not our understanding that saves us, it is but a means by which we are brought to faith, Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

So when you find someone you believe to be a true Christian, yet it seems you cannot agree; think that not a bad thing if it drives you both to converse with the Scriptures. Search out your differences, test them against the Scriptures, test them against sound church doctrines that have already been established, listen to the lessons of Church history, perhaps this battle has already been fought before. We can do all these things and still love one another. It will require grace, for we will have to exercise our patience with one another and bear with one another. The fruit of the spirit, Gal 5:22 . . . love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Gal 5:23  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. These all will have to be exercised. What a great benefit this is to each of us as we wrangle with each other and the Scriptures to un-mine the wonders of the truth.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,