Monday, December 19, 2011

The Purpose of the Christ

This past Sunday FGA Executive Council Member John Correia preached at the church he pastors from John 3:1-21 about the message of eternal life.  The title of this message is “The Purpose of the Christ.”

 

The link may be found on the WestGreenway.com site, or via their iTunes feed.

 

Let’s all remember the reason for the season is more than just the birth of Jesus, but the purpose of God sending His Son into the world, that He might die for us, that by faith alone in Christ alone we might have eternal life.

 

If you’re interested in John’s translation of the passage and exegetical notes, email him at pastorjohn at westgreenway dot com and he is happy to email them to you.

 

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Antinomianism and Free Grace Theology

By Dr. Roger Fankhauser, FGA Executive Council member and the pastor of Burleson Bible Church in Burleson, Texas.  Dr. Fankhauser can be reached at rsfankhauser at bellsouth dot net.
 
Antinomianism.
 
A fancy word meaning “lawless”.
 
Many who don’t get the free grace message accuse us of practicing and teaching antinomianism. They think – wrongly – that the free grace message is light on sin and light on obedience. The author of a recent best-selling book describes the message that he alleges some present this way: “We have been told all that is required is a one-time decision, maybe even mere intellectual assent to Jesus, but after that we need not worry about his commands, his standards, or his glory. We have a ticket to heaven, and we can live however we want on earth. Our sin will be tolerated along the way….” Another well-known author put it this way: “What is no-Lordship theology (the author’s name for free grace theology) but the teaching that those who died to sin can indeed live in it?”
 
So, let me interview myself (yeah, I know that’s weird) and clarify what I really believe and teach:
 
Q: Does free grace teach that sin will be tolerated along the way?
 
A: Absolutely not. Sin is serious; it is an affront to God (Ps. 51:4). It has serious consequences.
 
Q: What kind of consequences?
 
A: For the believer who sins, consequences can include physical issues (e.g., sexually transmitted disease), relational issues (e.g., loss of trust from someone we hurt), loss of reward (2 Cor. 5:10), guilt and shame, loss of the experience of “abundant life” (John 10:10), discipline from God (Heb. 12:5-7), and perhaps even physical death (e.g., 1 Cor. 11:28-30).
 
Q: But doesn’t habitual sin in someone’s life mean they aren’t really saved?
 
A: That’s a loaded question. How do we define “habitual” biblically? We can’t. So, if that’s the scale to evaluate one’s salvation, we’re left in an arbitrary mess. It leaves us in the position of evaluating our standing before God based on the subjective evaluation of my life rather than the objective person and work of Jesus.
 
Q: So what would you tell the person in “habitual” sin?
 
A: I don’t want to assume someone is a Christian just because they say they are. I want to find out why they think they are a Christian. The issue isn’t what we say, what we think, even what we pray. The issue is in whom do we believe? It might well be they didn’t understand the gospel and are not, in fact, Christians. But let’s assume they are. In that case, I’d try to find out why they choose to live in sin. They could give a thousand different reasons, ranging from “I just want to” to “I’m stuck and don’t know how to get out”. Then, depending on the answer, I might talk about the consequences of their choices, and I would definitely try to help them see the way out (Gal. 6:1-2).
 
Q: What about discipleship? Is it optional? I know one writer who thinks the grace position promotes discipleship only for “the higher level Christian”?
 
A: No, discipleship is not optional. Obedience is not optional. We are urged to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Eph. 4:1, Col. 1:10, 1 Thess. 2:12). God expects all of us to live a life following Jesus. Having said that, failure to follow Jesus as His disciple does not prove we were never a believer. It simply proves we are disobedient believers. Discipleship is not optional if we want to live life the way God desires, if we want to grow, if we want to glorify Him, if we want to hear “well done”.
 
Q: Maybe some people think the cost of following Jesus is too high. How do you respond to that?
 
A: Following Jesus may very well cost us a great deal in this life. Jesus said the world hated Him; we shouldn’t be surprised if it hates us. Or, maybe, like Moses, who must choose “to endure ill-treatment with the people of God” rather than “enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25). However, when we look at the big picture, the long term benefit of following Him far outweighs the temporal costs. Even Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:2).
 
Q: Has anyone accused you of watering down God’s Word because of the free grace message?

A: Yep! Someone said I wasn’t serious enough about the warnings in Scripture. He said some of the warnings sound like a Christian could “go to hell” for a reason. But Paul faced the same accusation (Rom. 6:1).

Q: So what would you tell other free-grace proponents to say in their ministry?
 
A: First, keep the gospel message simple, clear, and correct (faith alone in Christ alone). Don’t muddle the basic message. Second, clearly teach the seriousness of sin, the warnings directed to disobedient Christians, and the consequences of sin. Third, teach that our security in Christ rests on the objective work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not on the subjective evaluation of our faithfulness. And fourth, continually call people to “walk in a manner worthy”. Help them to see that God desires – and expects – this of His people.
 
Q: Thanks, me, for the interview!
 
A: You’re welcome, me!
 
Antinomian? Not at all. Sin is serious and the call to follow Jesus is real.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 2011 President's Letter

Greetings,                                                                                                                                            
As John Walvoord, former Dallas Seminary president, used to say, “When you celebrate Thanksgiving you know that Christmas is not far off.” Well, Christmas is right around the corner. It is more than the holiday season or a winter break. It is Christmas, and aren’t we glad it is so! Many churches and most Christians will read, hear or see the Christmas story spoken or acted out this season reminding them of the incarnation. God has always sought to communicate to the world. The book of Hebrews tells us that God has spoken to the fathers through the prophets in many ways but in these last days He has spoken to us “in Son”. (Hebrews 1) 
God is the communicating creator to His people. He has used the informational approach through the prophets as well as the impositional approach through the Law. He has also used the inspirational approach via the many miracles in both the Old Testament and New Testament. But in these last days He has spoken to us with the incarnational approach, through His Son. But that little baby was no ordinary little baby.
The author of Hebrews explains through three clauses the greatness of the Christ of Christmas.
The son is the one “who is the inheritor (the heir) of all things”.  (Hebrews 1:2a)  Look as far as you can out into the sky, add a telescope and all that you see - over 100 million galaxies bigger than ours - all of it is His.
He is the creator of all things since, “whom also made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:2b). This is similar to John 1:1-3; 14 and Colossians 1:15-20.
Perhaps most significant of all is that He occupies the supreme position of all authority, being very God of very God. (Hebrews 1:3-4).
The author of Hebrews declares to us that:
The Son is the Revealer of God, “who is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.
▪ He is also the Sustainer of the world as He “upholds all things by the word of His power.”  
But most importantly for us is that He is also the Mediator for Man. “Having made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high.”  
As Saint Anselm said, “Jesus did not come out of curiosity or out of some personal need. The father sent him on an errand of mercy solely to accomplish our redemption.”  And that is the Christmas message which we freely proclaim. That little baby was no ordinary little baby. He is the one, as Isaiah declared over 700 years before the birth of the baby Jesus, whose name will be called Immanuel - God with us.
And so we proclaim that purification and propitiation has been prepared, and as such eternal life is free for all those who believe in Jesus, the name above every name, and the only name by which a man or a woman, boy or girl can be saved.  Let us make sure that in our preaching and proclaiming that we preach not what this age wants, but what it needs; not what it will reward, but what without which it cannot be saved.

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

Fred Chay
President, FGA