Tag Archives: Faith

Sola Fide and Assault

In the past few weeks there have been two streams of stories that have dominated Christian circles. The first is the debate concerning Sola Fide and the second is the #metoo campaign in light of the fall of serial rapist, Harvey Weinstein. As women around the world told their stories of assault, we saw that sexual assault and rape are not just something happening “out there” but right in the middle of our churches. More often than not, church leadership purposefully and ignorantly looks the other way. You can read a small sampling here, remembering that these are only the tip of the iceberg.

As I read these stories from Christian women, I see a connection. The connection is subtle and hard to glimpse at first, but it is there.

If you are unfamiliar with the debate concerning Sola Fide, you might want to take a few minutes to get up to speed. The historic doctrine of the reformation is summarized simply and beautifully in the Heidelberg Catechism:

60. How art thou righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

61. Why sayest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only?

Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God, and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.

62. But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?

Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment-seat of God, must be perfect throughout and wholly conformable to the divine law;1) but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

63. Do our good works merit nothing, even though it is God’s will to reward them in this life and in that which is to come?

The reward comes not of merit, but of grace.

64. But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?

No, for it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.

I could not say it more succinctly or carefully or beautifully. Perhaps this is why it has been used for over 450 years to explain the Christian faith.

The attack on this doctrine is always subtle. The latest has been the distinction proposed between “justification” and “final salvation”. The idea is that we are declared righteous before God by faith, but our final salvation is dependent upon our holiness. The normal caveat is added, “by grace of course” or “by the power of the Spirit, of course”, but the idea is that somehow we must add our own works to the perfect holiness of Christ in order to finally stand before God.

This, as has been amply shown, is the very idea that began the protests of the reformation to begin with. It is contrary to scripture, to the creeds of the reformation, and to the sound doctrine that brings comfort to the heart of God’s people.

But the purpose of this post is to show that there is a connection between this doctrine and the rise of sexual assault in our churches. But first, a caveat. It is not at all my intention to accuse anyone who disagrees with me of sexual assault. It is merely my contention that the denial of the doctrine that salvation (and not merely justification) is by faith alone provides an ample breeding ground for predators and can never bring safety to the sheep.

It is no coincidence that the Roman church at the time of the reformation was also full of predators. The priests held the sheep in an iron grip of guilt and had their way with them. There were brothels ran by the papacy right in the Vatican and corruption filled every corner. This was not a disconnected anomaly, but directly connected to the doctrine that we must somehow add our works to our faith in order to please God.

If our righteousness and holiness are not complete in Christ, then it follows that we must add something of our own. It might be that we must desire God more, or that we must submit more, or that we must wear different clothing, or watch different movies. The Federal Vision guys prattle about “Covenant faithfulness” and the Vatican says, “Penance and masses and confession.” But it will all come down to the same thing. Christ isn’t enough. You have to add to it. “Yes”, they all say, “We are justified by faith alone. But to really progress in our sanctification we must add to that our good works.”

Since every Christian has a tender conscience, and every Christian wants to please God, they become vulnerable to this kind of thinking. They also make themselves a prey, which is what Paul warns the church of in the book of Galatians.

If Christ is not enough, then where will I go? I know that all of my own works, even now that I am a Christian, are defiled by sin. I know that I can never achieve the purity and holiness that God requires. And if Christ is not enough on the final day, then where will I go?

And when you ask that question, there will always be a Tetzel to offer you a solution – for a price.

Buy my book. Register for my conference. Submit silently to rape and assault. Don’t rock the ministry. Don’t speak up. Don’t rebel against God’s anointed. Go home to your violent and abusive husband. God sanctifies us through torture and evil.

Here’s how to please God more: please God’s servant, and God will be finally happy with you. Here’s who to make the check out to…

And the first step of this bondage is always the same one. “Christ is not enough. We don’t want “easy believism” now, do we?”

But if Christ is not enough, then who is? and what more do I have to do?

And then we start viewing God like an abusive husband: He tolerates you if you get the food on time, don’t give him any grief, do as you are told, and shut up about it.

Perhaps now we can see the connection. If our theology teaches that God is like an abusive husband, then we tolerate all sorts of behavior as “Christlike”.  Abuse, reviling, hatred, envy, strife…

This is why Paul wrote this:

19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Gal 5:19-21 NAS)

In the context of the book of Galatians, the “flesh” is the belief that the works of the law – any law – must be added to the perfect work of Christ in order to be finally saved. In the churches of Galatia, the point at issue was whether Christians should be circumcised. Whether that is your issue, or whether it is covenant faithfulness, desiring God enough, loving God enough, wearing appropriate clothing, submitting to authority, it is all “the flesh” according to Paul, and the flesh always conceives the same babies: immorality, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, etc. It is the spirit of Cain, Esau, Ishmael.

Abraham didn’t receive the promise because he could have a baby. He didn’t receive it because he reached high enough and worked hard enough. It was by faith, and faith alone. Even his faith wasn’t a work that was deemed good enough. No, faith was the hand that grasped Christ from afar. And in Christ, he rested. And he became the heir to the world.

And by that same faith – holding to Christ alone by faith alone – we find that same rest, and become heirs according to the promise. Never by the flesh. Always by faith. In finding rest, we also find freedom from every Tetzel of every stripe in every age.

In the heart-breaking accounts I referenced earlier, notice how many times you see these ideas:

“I knew that I had to please God.”

“I knew that God wanted me to be submissive”

“I knew that this man was helping me learn to please God”

What if those in the pews had been taught that their whole salvation, from beginning to end, has already been accomplished in Christ? What if they hadn’t been told week after week after week that everything they were doing was wrong. What if they hadn’t been told how to work harder, try more, be more motivated, and instead had been taught what it means to rest in Christ’s finished and completed work? From rest in Christ comes joy in the Lord. Joy in the Lord results in love for God and love for neighbor. A Christian does not work because she has to, for how can love come from being ordered to love? But a Christian works because it is not possible for him not to. He brings forth the fruit of the Spirit because he is born again of the Spirit and united to Christ by the Spirit.

Perhaps if we actually drove the wolves from the pulpits and again accepted only the gospel, we would see the church again become light and strength and courage and salt in a world full of Harvey Weinsteins. But as long as those in the pulpits are in basic agreement with Hollywood producers (“You need something that only I can give you”) the churches will continue to be morally and spiritually bankrupt.

It is time to stop putting up with it. It is time that we all refuse to submit and support every Tetzel of every stripe. If you are being taught that Christ’s righteousness is not enough, or that we must somehow offer our own works to God as part of our holiness, then you need to either leave or file charges. If you are not in a denomination that hears charges, then it is time to leave. You are being fleeced.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Abuse, Faith, sola fide

Thoughts concerning Slaves and Children

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal 4:4-7 KJV)

A servant, whether a slave or an employee, works for two reasons. Either to earn a wage or to avoid punishment.

But God doesn’t want good employees, or good slaves. He wants sons and daughters. This is why the greatest commandment is:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Mat 22:37 KJV)

This is why righteousness can never come by the law. The law makes fearful slaves, but God desires our hearts.

It is true that a heart that loves God is a heart that keeps the commandments of God, but it is deadly to our comfort to think that we are working to earn a reward – whether it is final righteousness or final justification or any other “wage”. It is also deadly to our comfort to think that we are working to avoid punishment, for Jesus has already taken the cup of God’s wrath and drank the last drop. There is no more condemnation.

Work that flows from hope of reward or fear of punishment is the work of a servant. And God responds to servants this way:

9 “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?
10 “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” (Luk 17:9-10 NAS)

Salvation is not learning to become a good slave, for God would have sons and daughters. Sons and daughters certainly obey and honor their father, but the motive is from a heart of love and gratitude, which is pleasing to the Lord.

Jesus did not come to make us slaves. He came to make us heirs.

And love is only learned from the gospel, received by faith. Love can never be learned from the law.

The apostle James warns of dead faith, which is faith without works. His point is NOT to add works to dead faith, but to repent of dead faith and gain a living faith in the living savior. Living faith always brings forth good works, as a loving son always obeys the father. But we are saved because we are united to Christ by faith, not because we worked hard enough to earn a reward.

The difference between a son and a slave is everything.

3 Comments

Filed under Gospel, sanctification

Faith Doesn’t Save Anyone

That got your attention, didn’t it?

But it is necessary to clear up some false teaching. If we don’t get this right, we will be tossed around continually by doubt and fear, and we will be enslaved to bondage again.

The word “faith” is popular in wall art, memes, and paintings. You may have tried to encourage someone who was suffering by saying something like, “Have faith!”

But by itself, faith is a meaningless word. Faith means to believe in…something.

So when you say, “Have faith”, I will say, “in what?” It is simply a question of grammar.

Faith that everything will work out just fine? Well, it probably won’t. Lots of people die unexpectedly and alone and in pain. The cemeteries are full of people who may or may not have believed that everything would work out OK. They all still died. If you believe that everything will work out OK, and your only frame of reference is the things of this world, the odds are overwhelmingly against you. History shows again and again that things usually don’t work out alright.

Are we saying, “Have faith in the goodness of people”? Really? Have you met people? They all let you down. Promises are easy to make, and seldom kept.

Perhaps we are saying, “Have faith in yourself.” You know, like the song, “I believe I can fly”. But it never occurred to anyone that believing he could fly did not actually enable R. Kelly to fly. He probably would have been better off if he had sung, “I believe I can be a decent human”, but it probably wouldn’t have fixed that, either. But I digress.

Perhaps this is why people simply say, “Have faith”, as if that meant something. They don’t have anything to believe in that actually gives purpose and meaning to their lives.

What becomes a problem is when we believe that faith is what saves us. If we take just a second to examine ourselves, some questions come up. How much faith do I need? What do I believe in, then? Am I having faith in faith? But that seems a bit odd. How do I believe in believing?

Now I am in a weird circle of believing in believing in believing, but have nothing to actually believe IN. If I believe in faith, and faith is simply a meaningless word without an object of faith, then I guess I am putting my hope of eternal life in a word that makes me feel like I am accomplishing something when I am really just staring at my navel wondering where all the lint came from…

How’s that for a sentence?

The gospel is never “believe”!” It is always, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!”

That makes all the difference. Faith doesn’t save anyone. There is only one savior: Jesus Christ. Faith is the arms that hold him, the eyes that see him, the ears that hear him. To put it into theological terms, faith is the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ!

And that is everything. It takes our gaze away from our own hearts and directs it to where Christ is, at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). We are weak. We are foolish. We still struggle with sin. We are outcasts. We are despised. We are poor and oppressed on every side.

And yes, there are times when we are discouraged. Times when depression crushes us. Times when we certainly do not feel the presence of God, when we are downcast and almost in despair. There are times when we don’t understand anything, when we don’t know what to do. When we are lost and feel like we are drowning.

And there are many gurus who will tell you how to have more faith, how to be more cheerful, how to live a life of power. You can find all sorts of people who give you instruction on how to lift yourself up, climb out of that hole.

But that isn’t the answer of the Bible. The answer of Scripture is this: Lay hold on Jesus Christ. He is everything you are not, and everything that he has is yours. His righteousness is yours. His death was yours, so you are no longer under condemnation. His righteousness is yours, so you can stand before God’s throne with confidence. His resurrection is yours already, so even when worms devour this flesh, I KNOW that in my flesh I shall see God. Because Jesus is already there, and he is mine and I am his.

Eternal God, strong to save, who does all of his own pleasure, became flesh and fulfilled the law of God perfectly in my place. He took the curses of the law so that the blessings of the law might be mine forever.

If only I accept that benefit with a believing heart.

(Psa 40:2 KJV) He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

So when you are downcast and fearful, when the storms of life have almost overtaken you, when the devil and his condemnation continually attack – quit looking at yourself, and lay hold on Christ. He lifts you out of the pit. He delivers you from your sins. He cleans you up and presents you to the Father. Everything that is his he gives to you – life, peace, joy, glory, salvation.

He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the rock that can never be moved, and faith holds on to him.

Faith doesn’t save anyone. Jesus saves. Faith that believes in faith is the sound of one hand clapping. It’s as meaningless as the grasshopper quotes from “Kung Fu”.

Faith in Jesus Christ is something far different. He who believes on him will never be ashamed, can never be lost, and is already in possession of eternal life.

3 Comments

Filed under Faith

King David and Bill Gothard

Lately there has been a lot of chatter on the blogosphere.  Through the efforts of some in the church, abusers, child molesters, predators and other wolves have finally begun to be exposed for what they are.  I thank God daily that my prayers are being answered and the wolves among us are finally being exposed for who they are.

However, there is also a dark note to all of this.  With all of the exposure, the old way of viewing things still rears its head.  I have lost track of how many times we have been chided and admonished to “remember mercy”, as if it operates differently than justice.  An abuser cries the right tears, says the right things, and blame is then placed on the victim and the church for not forgiving.  “David sinned”, is the repeating cry.

Bare sentiment gives no comfort. Lack of sentiment is even worse.  How hard must a heart be to hear the stories of victimization, terror and abuse of God’s little ones without weeping with those that weep?

But true comfort must come from the Holy Scriptures alone.  Is it true that we are to forgive everyone for every sin because God forgave David?  Is it true that David’s sin and David’s repentance are guides to follow to allow an abusive man access to our children?  Or could it be that David’s sin is still being used as an excuse for the enemies of God to blaspheme?

I would encourage everyone who is reading this to open their Bibles to 2 Samuel 11 and 12.  Please read these accounts before continuing.  I will wait…

Finished?  OK.  Notice several things.  I will in no way say or imply that David’s sin was minor.  Both the adultery and the murder of Uriah showed the ugliness and entitlement of David’s heart.  “I am king.  I deserve what I want to have.  I could just take it.  Being king is stressful.  Besides, Bathsheba shouldn’t have been bathing on the roof in the first place.  Really, it is her fault.”

It was ugly to the very core.  Premeditated adultery, planned and executed outright murder, cover-up, deceit and entitlement.  Please keep this in mind.

If your response is that since David sinned and was forgiven, then we need to go easier on adulterers. abusers, murderers and molesters, then you have missed the whole point, and do not at all understand the grace of God.

If you read Chapter 12, you will begin to understand justice and mercy meeting together without doing violence to either one.

Nathan confronted David with a parable (12:1-4).  The actions of the rich man of the parable were reprehensible.  And David sentenced the man to death and ordered restitution.  Then Nathan exposed David as the one that was under the death penalty, which he commanded by his own lips.

Then, verses 8-12, Nathan continues stripping away every excuse from David, exposing the wickedness of his heart, and pronouncing the dreadful justice of God.

He did not say, “You made some bad choices, but God still loves you”.

He did not say, “I think that God still desires to use you for His work in His kingdom”

He did not say, “You have acted in an inappropriate manner, and we are suspending you until you get therapy”.

He said, “You are the man.”  After listing all of God’s goodness to David, he said, “Why have you despised the commandment of God, to do evil in His sight?”

All of those who compare wicked church leaders to David seem to miss this point.

We have the hindsight of history.  We know that David repented and that God was merciful to him, and that he was the elect of God.  But this is important: at the point that Nathan confronted David, neither Nathan NOR David knew any such thing.  What David knew was God’s impending judgment, that he was rightly under the death penalty – both civilly and eternally.  David only knew that his own wicked heart – without excuse, without double talk, without blameshifting – put him directly under the judgment of God, and that he was hanging over the chasm of hell by his fingertips, without hope, without excuse, without appeal.  It was finished, and David was finished as king and as a man.

And then, apart from any entitlement, apart from any demands, God’s incredible grace, wonderful mercy, comes through.  “The Lord has put away your sins.  Thou shalt not die.”

Wow.  There were millions of others who committed murder and adultery and justly died.  Paul refers to them in Ephesians 5:5-6.  David knew that as well.  At the point of Nathan’s confrontation, David had NO REASON whatsoever to believe that he was even a Christian.  He was a filthy sinner, defiled and alienated from God.

This is what made the grace of God even more astounding.  David wasn’t entitled to it and he knew it.

He didn’t simply quote verses on forgiveness, nor did he cite his fathers as examples of God’s grace and demand the same as his due.

He fell before the awful judgment throne of God, recognized that he was justly a dead man.  And then he received mercy.

He also understood that his whole life from that moment on was not his, and God could do with him whatever God pleased.

So David never railed against God when God removed his kingdom.

David accepted Shimei’s cursing, as perhaps coming from God.

David understood that he was crucified with Christ, so that he might live in him.

Compare that with the current statement from the Board of Directors of the Institute of Basic Life Principles.

“Mr. Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner.”

The board realizes the “seriousness of his lack of discretion.”

“He failed to follow Christ’s example to be blameless and above reproach.”  This one really gets me.  Look behind the fancy words.  The really problem, according to IBLP, is that people were talking and blaming Mr. Gothard.  He didn’t do anything.  but his inappropriateness caused others to talk.  Blame the victim.  If they just kept quiet, none of this would have happened.

They also badly interpreted and spun 1 Thessalonians 5:22.  They wrote, “As a Christian leader, he is to avoid the appearance of evil.”  In other words, Mr. Gothard didn’t do anything evil, but he is liable for appearing to do something evil.  This, however, is not at all the meaning of 1 Thessalonians.  (I might remind them that as church leaders, they are also responsible to rightly divide the word of God, but they haven’t done that for years).  Paul is using the analogy of a stage play.  The “appearance” that he is referring to is like the mask that evil puts on when he makes an appearance on the stage of our life.  Paul is saying, “No matter what mask evil wears, shun it completely.”

He does not at all mean that anything that anyone could possibly interpret as wrong should be avoided.  Christians are always falsely accused, and always will be.

However, to apply this correctly, we would have to say this.  Mr. Gothard has repeatedly and continuously preyed upon women and children.  He has set himself up as a leader apart from the church, with no accountability (as is evident from this horrible publicity spin from the board of directors), and has used that position to gratify his own lusts for preeminence, control and power.  These are not shortcomings, they are marks of a wolf.  There is no biblical reason whatsoever to conclude that he has repented of any of these actions – it is simply more of the same, and he still does not acknowledge that he is what God says he is.  That. as it did with David, always comes first.  There can be no offer of grace without first a stripping away of every pretense and excuse, which also is the work of God.  As long as Mr. Gothard is still spinning, he is not repentant, but what the Bible calls, “Stiff-necked and hard of heart, always resisting the Spirit.”

It is true, as I continually say, that God can call anyone to repentance and faith.  Every believer is a testimony of life from the dead.  I also am not saying these things out of hatred of Mr. Gothard. I don’t know the man, although I have first-hand experience of the damage that his false teaching has caused over the years.

I am saying this actually out of a sincere desire to see Mr. Gothard and his board truly get right with God.  There is not one instance of true faith in the bible that came without first a full understanding and horrible dread of the awful judgment of God.

Only when you realize that you are a sinner in the hands of an angry God can you truly understand the beauty and comfort of the Gospel.  But when you understand that, as David did, there is no more room left for presumption and demands.

As it has been said, “If you wish to follow David in his sins, follow him also in his repentance.”

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized