Reminders of the Cross

 Sunday morning, the minister talked about Jesus sharing about His second coming to His disciples from John 14-16.  A thought surfaced – “I have heard this before many times.”  Pride.  No sooner does the proclamation of the gospel happen that a temptation arises to attempt to blunt the message.  Temptations do not come from God.  Rather they come from the source of darkness and try to block our listening so we do not hear and the Spirit does not have material to work in our hearts.  Such subtle deception – these temptations.

Yes, I have heard that message from that passage many times before, but the moment the cross gets stale and old is the moment it fades from memory.  This results in losing sight of the love of God.  The slippery slope begins from that point first toward questioning God.  This questioning, while entertaining what we consider as the staleness of the message of the gospel, leads to another rung downward.  Doubt creeps in.  This questioning and doubt do not arrive without a nudge.  Temptation gives them that nudge.  Unless we encounter that temptation, it could blossom into skepticism and subsequent unbelief.  Giving into temptation takes a person a step away from God.  That first step encounters more temptations.  If we succumb to them, the steps away from God become more rapid until we run full speed into unbelief.

I have read many stories lately about former pastors, elders, and leaders in the church “deconverting” and becoming atheists.  One atheist, John Loftus, was a pastor for 14 years, graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and studied under Christian apologist William Lane Craig.  He has now written six books against the Christian faith.  Among them are: “Why I became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity,” “The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails,” and “The End of Christianity.”  He even taught apologetics.  He gave three reasons for deconverting: adultery, the failure of other Christians when he asked for help, and atheists came up beside him and converted him.  Two of them had nothing to do with atheism and its merits.  Even the other one failed to give merits for atheism.  He boasts in his failures.  This is a sad and tragic commentary.  Temptations killed whatever faith he claimed and baptized him in pride and boasting.  He apostatized.  It is tragic that fellow believers shoot their own wounded, and we must take care to surround a wounded sheep.  But do we not have responsibility to come to Christ with our problems (Matthew 11:28)?  Loftus did not, and he rejected faith in Christ and took the ultimate step toward apostasy.  That occurred frequently in the early church from what we learn from John,

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (1 John 2:19).

I am constantly reminded of what Peter writes, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12).  Though you know.  Hmm.  Fading thoughts without reminders lead to forgetfulness and cold hearts.  I do not want temptations to get in the way of remembering the cross.  I need to check my temperature regularly to insure that I never get cool toward Christ and His cross.  Temptations are sneaky and devious.  They break the temperature gauge and whisper that it is warm outside.

NEW RELEASE: Nothing But the Gospel

Nothing But the GospelJust released!  Can we be saved through the knowledge arising from the light of creation, through other religions, or through human philosophy?  Purchase at this link.

This book addresses what is known as inclusivism, which adheres to the position that a person can indeed come to salvation through the knowledge of the light of creation.  Additionally many inclusivists say that other religions have merit as means of coming to God.

A tug of war continues to exist over two positions within Christian circles:

1. Exclusivism – One who does not know God must encounter the proclaimed gospel to come to a saving knowledge of him.
2. Inclusivism – Those who have never heard the gospel can come to a saving knowledge of God without hearing the gospel. Rather, they can go to heaven by responding to the light from creation, other religions, human reason, or philosophy.

One of the major consequences of these two positions concerns the person and nature of God. This book engages in a lengthy discussion about how each position treats God and the difference such treatments of Him make. It addresses such questions as “Is God fair? Can we trust Him? Is God in control of the future, specifically our destiny, or does He share control and power with His creation, specifically humanity?”

The environment of inclusivism has an increasingly negative influence on evangelical churches and whole denominations, leading many astray. It is of utmost importance for Christians to understand influences speculative philosophy and false teachings have on faith.

This book also affirms that only the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Salvation requires the right power. The Scriptures declare that the source of that power is in the gospel, and it begins with the righteousness of the triune God. Getting the God of our faith right insures that we come to an accurate understanding of salvation. This book discusses these two essential attributes of God, His power and righteousness, for salvation.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.

By Faith We Understand…

The first example the writer of the the letter to the Hebrews gives is creation.  The author declares,

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

Creation is an obvious starting point for faith because of the impossibility of creation’s observation.  Only God was present and created everything that came into being.  No one saw Him do it.  The author also wanted to insure that he included all existence within the realm of faith and that faith has its roots in history and God’s activity in the real world. Consequently, faith excludes myth, legend, some sort of leap, feeling, mysticism, and all that is seen

Is creation not in what we see?  Are we then to exclude creation as evidence for the unseen God? No. It is one thing to accept creation as evidence for the Creator.  It is an entirely another thing to place faith in this evidence.  Acknowledgement of the Creator does not save anyone. Along with such an acknowledgement must come faith in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s special revelation, Mediator, and the sole object of faith for salvation.  Creation is not the object of faith and means of our understanding of God or Redeemer in Christ.

When God created man and woman and placed them in Eden, He spoke directly to them and gave them direction for living and relating to Him in the form of specific commands.  His word guided them.  In their innocent state, they understood that God created all things, including them.  He told them so, and they believed Him.  He also gave Adam the task to give names to the different animals He created.  When God gave Adam a spouse, one like himself as to his humanity, but different from him as to his form, he also named her, “She shall be called woman” (Genesis 2:23).

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they lost their innocence and with it alienation from God that passed through them to their offspring and their children’s offspring through all subsequent generations.  Eventually, the understanding that God created the world’s and humanity became alien as distance from God grew.  Humanity’s eyes turned inward and toward creation as the distinction between the Creator and creation blurred.  Humanity lost sight of the unseen God, and individuals relied on what they could see.  Faith in God eluded them as they turned to the created order for deities.  Eventually, certain people rose up and declared that what exists simply popped out of nowhere, always existed, or other gods created them.  Their understanding of the material world was that the universe evolved and the visible arose from the visible rather than from the invisible and unseen God.

When some surfaced the possibility of a god, they exclaimed, “What god? Your god or mine?  That animal is divine as is that tree and rock.  Let us create our gods from them.”  Gods multiplied as humanity also created images like himself from wood and stone – the visible creating the visible.  Humanity moved such a distance from the unseen God that the destructive forces of his alienation compelled him to shape visible images for his god.  Rebellion from God destroyed faith in the Creator and obliterated humanity’s understanding of the source of creation, including all individuals dwelling on the earth.

Other forms of theism arose, such as polytheism, atheism, and all other forms of idolatry arising from the minds of men and women.  These forms of theism gave them a new understanding and paradigm of the source of all things.  They arose from the visible rather than from the invisible God.  The Big Bang eventually replaced God and spread a materialistic philosophy and religion throughout the earth.  That is, the visible created the visible.  Many individuals begin to understand God as an unseen entity as an unknown (agnosticism).  They then claimed, “We cannot trust that anything unseen acted as the source of the material world.”

Individuals begin relying on observation and the senses behind such observation according to this new theistic paradigm.  This new paradigm also made room for a negation called atheism, which leads to a complete denial of any deity.  Such form renders a new way of viewing the world about us.  Spirituality no longer arises from the unseen God but from whatever individuals make it to be.  Men and women are no longer considered living beings from the breath of God but an evolved existence from a primordial state of slime to a state of material consciousness.  Then we die and disintegrate back into material chemicals shrouded in dirt and mud.

Such is the hopeless state of humanity’s alienation.  It make understanding rudderless, aimlessly wandering across the seas of shifting philosophies transcending the centuries and morphing into greater senses of a lost sense of purpose.  It possess no faith except in the finite and corruptible imaginations of individuals.  Faith is whatever one wants it to be with no substance or evidence to which the author of the letter of the Hebrews points.

However, that is not the case with those who trust the God of the Bible.  We gain knowledge from understanding, and that understanding arises from faith in God.  God reveals Himself to us.  With that revelation He also imparts understanding.  Revelation precedes true knowledge.  Knowledge precedes trust (“Nothing But the Gospel: Can We be Saved Through Creation, Other Religions, or Human Philosophy? by Floyd Talbot, Action Faith Books Press, 2014, p. 163).  God imparts the understanding that He created all that exists.  Additionally, faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ leads us to our Creator and Redeemer as well as eternal life with Him.  By faith we understand that He sent His Son into the world to reconcile us back to our Creator and God so that we can have a living relationship with Him now and forever.  This is the gospel, the good news that confronts our alienation from others, the world, and God.

Nothing but the Gospel: What is it?

When you hear the word gospel, what comes to mind?  It is a word somewhat alien to our postmodern world as so many other biblical terms.  Why is this?  We are 2,000 years removed from the writers of the Gospels found in the Bible.  We are also centuries removed from the origination of the word itself.  Therefore, it would be helpful to trace the roots of the word, not only of its origination but also its original meaning found in the language of the original writers.

The word itself derives from early Anglo-Saxon “God-spell” or God’s story.  The early Englishman, William Tyndale noted the gospel as “joyfull tydinge” or the good news.  It is actually the English translation of euangelion from which we receive our English word “evangel” and its derivatives “evangelism” and “evangelist.”  Later it became associated with the Gospels or the first four books of the New Testament.

The Apostle Paul took it up as he received it as the commission from Jesus Himself to preach to the entire world.  Paul makes it clear that the gospel pointed to the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus.  He also emphasized that not believing in the historical significance of Christ resurrection amounts to vanity.  As historical reality, He was God incarnate piercing the created order, growing up from infancy, declaring Himself to the world, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead as promised (1 Timothy 3:16).  Then Paul declared the fundamental basis for this gospel of which Christ is the center: the righteousness of God (Romans 1:16-17).  In His letter to the Church in Rome, Paul employees this phrase as one of his favorites.  At the beginning of this letter, Paul declares,

For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

Paul sets out that Jesus is the expression of God’s righteousness. As stated in the upcoming book, Nothing but the Gospel,

…God is righteous in all His works and judgments, because it surfaces from His very nature.  Additionally, because He is righteous, His grace reaches into all humanity through the mediation of the Incarnation of Christ and provides redemption to those who by faith believe the proclaimed gospel” [Nothing but the Gospel by Floyd Talbot, Action Faith Books Press, 2014, 20 (to be released September 20140].

Elsewhere the book highlights the association of the righteousness of God with the specifics of the gospel,

The claim that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God carries the highest weight because it reveals the core character of God – His faithfulness to all generations. That righteousness, according to Paul finds its way to the cross as the righteous died for the unrighteous (1 Peter 3:18) that we might stand as righteous before God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). (p. 68).

Jesus is the center and complete revelation of God’s righteousness.  No other message from any other source than the gospel reveals God’s righteousness.  Pluralism (many ways to God) believes that a person can receive salvation through other means.  However, these means have their source in the created order (for example, idols crafted from creation, human philosophy and wisdom, humanity itself, or some sort of self-oriented mystical experience).  The gospel is the only revelation from God.  It finds its source from God alone through Christ alone, and by faith alone in His sacrifice on the cross.  Christ is the center of the gospel and the expression of God’s righteousness.  By faith in the historical reality of the incarnation, we find the only source of our hope in being with God.  Christ died for the sins that separate humanity from God and reconciles us to Him.  Have you believed in Him?

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.

Nothing but the Gospel: Our Only Hope

Nothing but the gospel gives us hope.  Upon reading Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, that hope stands strong, because it resides in Jesus.  Here is what Paul writes,

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence.  For it is all for your sake, so that as the grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.  2 Corinthians 4:13-15

Notice several truths Paul highlights in this very compact declaration of the gospel:

  1. His faith rests on the word of God.  He notes, “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what is written…”  Nothing but the gospel offers hope because that hope finds its source in the One who revealed Himself to us in Jesus.  Faith looks to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and nowhere else.  Many claim that faith can claim presence with God with other means (pluralism).  However, that claim surfaces from and rests with man and not with God.  As such, it offers not hope.
  2. Faith gives motivation to boldly declare the gospel of hope.  Paul says, “I believed and so I spoke…”  Spoke what?  The gospel of salvation!  Our faith rests in historical reality.  That is, God actually did come in the form of the man Jesus as God promised.  We trust in a righteous God who keeps His promises, and this gives us assurance and boldness to speak the gospel.
  3. Not only did Jesus come in the form of a baby and interacted with His fellow men and women, but He died, was buried, and rose from the death.  Overwhelming testimony shows this to be historical fact.  Some try to separate history from faith by claiming that truth does not need to rely on fact.  This is post-modern wishful thinking.  Truth not supported by fact is faith in a lie and fiction.  Since Jesus really did rise from the dead, our faith gives us the hope of being with God when we also die.

Such wonderful truths enable us to live confidently and hopefully in the return of Jesus.  Review 4:14 again.  Paul declares that God will keep His promise of a resurrection for us, also.  He says Jesus will “bring us with you in His presence.”  Our faith rests in real hope and not in one that aspirates, “I hope so.”  That is not hope but wishful thinking.  Stand firm.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.

Stray Cats, Wild Animals, and the Gospel

Some years ago, a cat started coming around in the back yard. He had no identification tags but appeared well groomed and domesticated, indicating that someone had him as a pet. I later learned that a neighbor abandoned him when moving. Yet, he seemed rather skittish and kept his distance. I began putting food down for him, and he eventually allowed me to pet him. In time, I took him in the house and began sitting him in my lap and petting him. At times, when he heard an unfamiliar noise, he would freeze up. One time when a friend came over and we were sitting around talking, he suddenly dug his sharp nails in my leg and hop off my lap. I finally caught him and placed him outside. He ran away and never returned.

Sometimes stray cats become involved in the Church. They hang out and get to know people in the congregation. Eventually they begin teaching classes and becoming deacons or elders. Many of these strays appear well read in the Scriptures and know their way around them. They can speak well of basic doctrines and talk of application. Their lives reflect devotion to God and the Scriptures. Sometimes they receive Bible college or seminary degrees and go on to become professors or pastors. Eventually, they introduce questionable teachings in the pulpit, groups, or in their discussions one-on-one. These teachings at first seem simply like a different interpretation or something taken out of context, a familiar approach not unlike what normally occurs in informal group settings.
Continue reading Stray Cats, Wild Animals, and the Gospel