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A FORGOTTEN DOCTRINE – Part 1

Yes, there is a doctrine, and therefore a family of truths, that is as Gospel based as can be but has fallen off the preaching and teaching landscape in our churches today. That truth is the filling of the Holy Spirit! Surely someone receiving this message will say, “Well, I just preached on it”, or “I teach that regularly”. Good, but you are the exception. I occasionally hear this truth expressed in prayer but rarely expounded in the pulpits.

Now, I don’t mean to convey we only need a sermon on this here and there. Much more than that, this whole group of  Gospel truths – dying to self and being risen with Christ – must be applied to our lives and woven into the very fabric of our messages. This is sanctification by the Spirit. More later on why this is vital.

In this writing I am not attempting to expound this great teaching. Yet for clarity’s sake, I am speaking of He, the Holy Spirit, being in control of the believer’s life. That same dominating, possessing, inherent control that Jesus walked in, we must have also. This is not emotion; it is empowerment.  It is not a feeling but a filling! In Eph. 5:18, “be filled” is in the imperative, meaning a command. More so, it is a present tense, indicating a consistent experience. Interestingly, it is in the passive voice, meaning we are acted upon – we cannot do this! Does this mean we are commanded to do something we cannot do? Precisely! This is the same pattern theologically as “you must be born again”, and we know we cannot save ourselves. God is the initiator, and we are the respondents. In Acts 4:8, Peter is “filled with the Holy Spirit”. Again, it is in the passive voice but here in an aorist tense, telling us that at this particular point in time this filling was done to him. Yes, God’s Spirit just landed on him, a special touch for a specific task. So whether it is us seeking this powerful filling or God sending it for special times, WE NEED HIS FILLING POWER and are meant to serve Him with it! While this is obviously mystical, it is also objective since the Word of God is our guide for life in the Spirit (Col 3:16).

WHERE ARE WE? In the 70′s and 80′s, every itinerant evangelist I knew and all solid Bible-centered pastors preached on the filling of the Spirit. Some of this came in seeking to clear up some neo-pentecostal confusion, but thankfully it went way beyond that. Conferences abounded, tapes were heard and shared, and churches were alive and hungry to hear more. There was a genuine move of God in Baptist and Evangelical churches by the dear Holy Spirit teaching us how He works in and through us to empower us, exalting Jesus as we show and share the Gospel.

This teaching went by many names such as “the abundant life”, “the exchanged life”, “the deeper life” (the name of my seminary course), “the saving life of Christ”, “life in Christ” and more. It was often said, “Whatever you call it, get it!”

Today there is hardly a peep. I recently met a godly man who has a sound background in this area who told me that in eleven years in area churches he has not heard one sermon on this area of sanctification. This may be isolated, but I believe it is representative. I will not take time to expound all the reasons for the dearth of these truths; but let it be noted: the teaching has faded, and so have we!

1 Kings 14:26-28 tells about how Rehoboam replaced the gold shields Solomon made (which were stolen by Egypt) with bronze shields. These shields were used to honor the king. What does it take to make bronze look like gold? A lot of elbow grease, i.e. a lot of effort of the flesh. It was still a substitute. I’m afraid we have substituted the fleshly effort of the bronze shields of Church Growth techniques and tools from the Leadership movement for Holy Spirit power. My late father was a highly-skilled professional craftsman, and I inherited nearly all his tools. I may sharpen them and polish them and attempt to use them, but I still do not possess the skill and power with which he worked. We keep polishing our tools rather than seeking from God “gold refined in the fire” (Rev 3:18).

As I conclude this portion, I will add one thing that relates to a wider subject: Nothing will affect our prayer life like the seeking of the fullness of the Holy Spirit through His Word!

Resurrection Reductions

Having set out earlier to write on this, I had hoped to encourage the Pastors and teachers as they prepared for the ministry of the Word during Easter Services.  Alas, Good Friday is here, I still hope it is timely to offer to strengthen us with these comments.

It is great to celebrate the Resurrection or our Lord Jesus, not only by our regular day of worship but on a special day we have come to call Easter. In that context I have an admonition and two points of clarity.

The admonition is to avoid the simplistic victory cliches unless you will expound them well. I have heard too many Easter morning messages that amounted to “yeah God, our side wins”. I do not usually conclude that this is the pastor’s full understanding of the subject but why make reductions about such a great, deep, far reaching, and glorious subject. While the “we win” idea is true in the greater context of the Gospel, be wise. There are many, many who attend Easter services (even some regular church attenders) who are just happy to hear a message of triumph and victory. Everybody likes a winner and an over-comer, right? Their need is the have the Gospel applied not reduced, with the ramifications of the resurrection past, present, and future expounded with great joy and soberness! While the Easter message is our most automatic and taylor made positive subject it still must be presented so that life change can occur, not merely a temporary upsurge in encouragement.

In addition to the Gospel accounts, 1 Corinthians 15 best lays out key reasons for the imporance of Christ’s resurrection (and ours as well). Granted some of the early sermons in Acts (on which I wrote volumes in seminary) do seem to emphasize the impact of the event of Jesus being alive again without much theological elaboration. For most of those brethren to have seen Jesus crucified with all hope lost and then to see or hear that He is alive is powerful enough to turn lost hope into forever faith. Yet looking at the Epistles that follow the event it becomes obvious that God wants us to gain and proclaim the full ramifications of the resurrection. This gives God glory and is what people today need. Again, “yeah God, our side wins” may be correct but is so thin, that without context and consequences and content, it may be heard only as a “feel good” message that could end badly for too many!

That said, I offer two points of clarity that are vital to any redemptive presentation of the resurrection. Since the Gospel is essentially who Jesus and what He did (and why and how to respond etc.) here are some essentials.

Romans 1:4 tells us that He is “…declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” It would take weeks at minimum to unpack that but it does give us a “short course’ on who He is as now confirmed by His bodily resurrection. When we say, “He is risen” it is great to be reminded who He is that is now alive forever more and that we will know Him as Savior or as Judge but we will know the risen Lord. Acts 17:22-34 gives further clarity and confirmation of how powerful the proclamation of the resurrection can be.

In Romans 4, after describing our sinful, condemned, and eternally hopeless condition God gives Paul the correlation of the man Abraham to illustrate a vital truth, and to begin to unfold our greatest need, i.e. to be made righteous in God’s sight. He concludes this section in speaking of our Lord Jesus with verse 25 saying, “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and raised because of our justification.” This points to what He did and why as well.

These two verses not only tell us a lot of truth about our risen Lord they also form the basis of the good news of the resurrection which, with clarity, must be proclaimed in order that people may experience salvation with understanding and to really believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead!

This is what we want for people and helps us to see what the Psalmist said, “His glory is great in thy salvation.” Let us not reduce the resurrection but rather reach deep into the Word and spread widely and wisely it’s truth.

Glenn Rogers, March 27, 2013

Islam and Truth “Cross” in Longwood – Glenn’s Eyewitness Account

While I hope soon to write on the reach of the Resurrection, first I must give my eyewitness account of a meeting today in Longwood, FL. It was sad beyond measure and a challenge to the truth of the cross of Christ.

Dr. Chris Whaley, the Sr. Pastor of FBC, Longwood, made me aware recently of a meeting to which he and other Longwood residents were invited. I told him if he went I would go and back him up! Dr. Whaley, myself, and several of his church members were there.  “OPEN HOUSE–JESUS IN ISLAM” was the topic presented at the new American Muslim Community Center in Longwood. The stated goal of the invitation was “to start a dialogue with our Christian neighbors and friends.”

Imagining two or three scenarios which might unfold, I went in “prayed up” and meditating on our Lord. The Longwood church members had already gone around the center and prayed. A passage from the Quran was read in Arabic and then interpreted in English. A guest speaker, who reguarly addresses such events began his lecture and told us that we may submit written questions to be dealt with after he spoke. I had plenty but only submitted four. As a partial disclaimer, I am not an expert in Islam; but I do know and am called to proclaim the truth about our Lord Jesus, my main motivation. Also, I am burdened by this expanding heresy; and, though grieved, I am also challenged that the foreign mission field is coming to us and thus is another Gospel opportunity. If you want me to tell more of this story at your church, I will. 

Though I took many notes on the presentation, I will summarize the content here. They want us to believe, that they love “Jesus”. I set the name off here because it is not the Jesus of the Bible. The speaker always said, “Peace be upon him” after mentioning the name of his “Jesus”. This other “Jesus” was presented as virgin born, a top prophet (Rasul), and as having received revelation from Gabriel. While I felt the speaker was condescending to Christians in the presentation, he was more-so in person as we spoke afterwards.  He did his best to be lighthearted and smile and make the Christian guests feel we are in affinity with Islam. Some TV preachers may have been pleased with his seeker-sensitive efforts. This was all part of the deception. More than once he asked for affirmation from the Christians,  hoping for more togetherness.  One of the statements was: “If ‘Jesus’ was here, wouldn’t he want us all to get along?” I believe our Lord’s word about bringing a sword fit here; so I said “no” audibly, hoping to engage him in the desired “dialogue”. Alas, he went on without me.

Many people submitted questions, and to my surprise he dealt with three of mine first. In my written submissions, I had Bible quotes about the nature of Christ to introduce my question. He deftly avoided reading the real Word of God by saying he is not a Bible scholar. On this alone I agree. I believe he is an erstwhile scholar being unwittingly used by the American version of Islam thereby being doubly deceived. He really did stay on point to show the “Jesus” of Islam, and I could sense the smile of Satan as he spoke. Also, I experienced the Holy Spirit’s presence in and upon me as I reviewed the truth in my mind preparing for the conversations to follow, often praying for the lost in the meeting.

Afterward in three different converstions, two with the speaker and one with another Muslim leader, I confronted them with the truth as clearly and lovingly as I could. My point was to speak of the Christ of the Bible not to find common ground around this other “Jesus” I learned of “Tiqiyya”, the teaching that it is acceptable to lie for Allah to advance the cause, from a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor sitting next to us. Before my eyes, I saw our God’s words to Pastor Timothy by Paul fulfilled– “deceiving and being deceived”, as this “Tiqiyya” was being practiced.

I burned within to tell them of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God; and I did so in all of my conversations. Their view of them having the original text of the Quran and us not having original or early manuscripts of the Bible is not only in error but feeds their deception about Islam and the Person of Christ. I presented to them, with Bible quotes, that Jesus is God’s Son and that He was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead bodily–all of which they summarily rejected. This same scenario played out on other closely related subjects. The “father of lies” had been at work, but we serve the Living God!

Somewhere deep inside, I chafe and grieve when my Savior is misrepresented knowing I am called to present His Gospel without doubt and with life-changing clarity. This event was designed to deceive many concerning the Jesus of Holy Scripture. This is a latter days fulfillment, and we must beware of more of the same even within our own ranks. Too many are so untaught today that they cannot discern the truth and will believe “the lie” foretold in II Thessalonians 2.

To this moment, I know not whether I was short on wisdom or long on courage but “Christ was preached!” Did I win converts or debates? Not yet. I do know I went to be an ambassador for Christ and to encourage the brethren as I greatly desired to proclaim the truth in Christ, to speak light into darkness, and to let our Lord be heard through His Word and messenger.

May God empower us.  And now, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” I Peter 3:15-17.

Glenn Rogers, March 23, 2013