Monthly Archives: April 2009

Religion vs. Grace


I Can Obey Because I Am Accepted

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Rom 5:1-2 (ESV)

The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.

Timothy Keller

HT: Tim Keller Wiki

Why I’m Not (Eastern) Orthodox


“Because I Am Committed to Key Distinctives of the Protestant Evangelical Tradition.”

Daniel Clendenin puts into words from his experience my own commitment to Evangelical truth: original sin, penal substitution, imputed righteousness, justification by faith, and sola scriptura, etc.

While Protestant evangelicals have never agreed on the precise meaning or mode of the sacraments, they have historically emphasized two related truths that diverge from the Orthodox understanding of the sacraments. Evangelicals urge the necessity of personal conversion through the faith and repentance of the individual believer, as opposed to the Orthodox idea of regeneration by the sacraments.

Also, while evangelicals wholeheartedly embrace the full-orbed New Testament descriptions of the work of Christ (reconciliation, ransom, redemption, forgiveness, adoption, etc.), since the Reformation, justification by faith and substitutionary atonement have enjoyed pride of place in our understanding of the doctrines of sin and salvation. Luther urged that Christianity would stand or fall with this doctrine; Calvin called it “the hinge upon which all true religion turns.”

In the history and theology of Orthodoxy it is startling to observe the nearly complete absence of any mention of the doctrine of justification by faith. Rather, “theosis” (literally, “deification”), or the progressive transformation of people into full likeness to God, in soul and body, takes center stage. (2 Pet. 1:4). Further, the Orthodox reject the idea of inherited guilt; we are guilty only for our own sins rather than for the inborn consequences of Adam’s fall. Conversely, evangelicals argue that this forensic framework for sin and salvation is not merely a historical and unduly negative carryover from Augustine and Anselm, but rather is the clear teaching of Paul in his Letters to the Romans and Galatians.

Read Daniel Clendenin’s entire essay entitled, “Why I’m Not Orthodox: An Evangelical Explores the Ancient and Alien World of the Eastern Church” originally published in Christianity Today (January 6, 1997): 33.

HT: Journey with Jesus

CEC Theological Summit


A Summit of a Different Sort

Just in case you have been wondering what I have been doing all week, I attended the first annual CEC Theological Summit in Orlando, Florida.  The theme of our conference was *Toward a Theology of Convergence.* Our summit focused on the three streams of the historic faith: evangelical, charismatic, and sacramental. I wrote an essay on the evangelical stream and I shared those Reformed theological truths on Wednesday morning. My talk/address/sermon focused on the Cross, the exchanged life, evangelism and mission, priesthood of all believers, penal substitution, total depravity, heart conversion, imputed and imparted righteousness, and sola scriptura. You can see that I covered many doctrines in my hour and fifteen minutes, the time flew by quickly. I greatly enjoyed the experience: special thanks to Bishops Bates and Simpson for the opportunity.

The Charismatic Episcopal Church is part of a growing movement, which recognizes that for the church to be truly catholic in its faith and practice, it needs to integrate the three major streams of the Christian tradition: the evangelical, the charismatic, and the sacramental. I enjoyed hearing the four addresses which focused on the theological truth of each stream and a wrap-up talk on convergence. The talks revealed among our clergy a passionate love for Jesus combined with deep commitment to the historic truths of our faith: a rare combination indeed. The depth of theological thinking was quite amazing for a small communion. In addition, the spirit of unity and camaraderie among our clergy who hail from diverse theological backgrounds was personally encouraging.

Below, Bishop Epps conveys better than I ever could the spirit, tone, and tenor of our conference.

Christus Victor,

Cn. Glenn


Bishop David Epps

One would think that a week-long meeting on theology would not be a riveting affair. At least, that was my assumption before I traveled to Orlando, FL a few days ago to be an observer at our denomination’s International Theological Conference.

The participants were tasked with presenting to the Bishops of our Church and to the larger communion a coherent and understandable “convergence theology,” which has to do with the synthesis of the evangelical, sacramental/liturgical, and Pentecostal/charismatic expressions of the Christian faith. Not very interesting, perhaps, for the average person, but the transmission of theology is vital for the future orthodoxy, survival, and prosperity of any denomination or movement. I came away with several impressions:

My first impression was how brilliant the “presbyter/theologians” of our denomination are. For us, a “presbyter” is a priest and these men are not ivory tower people who study for a living. They are pastors who, every week, visit the sick, preach, celebrate the Sacraments, deal with commissions and committees, counsel, hear confessions, and consistently do the “grunt work” of ministry in their home parishes. But “theologians” they truly are. The theological position papers they presented were as thorough and profound as any I have ever seen.

These men are Doctors of Philosophy, Doctors of Ministry, Doctors of Theology, Canons, Theologians, seminary professors-all of whom have extensive background in both academics and pastoral ministry. Though reasonably well-educated, I was not the smartest guy in the room-not by a long shot!

My second impression was how passionate these men were in their presentations. Like many people, I have been in academic or ecclesial settings in which papers, presentations, or sermons were presented in a way that sucked the very moisture out of the air-they were, in other words, dry as dust and dead as nails. Not so in Orlando. The presbyter/theologians almost “preached” their papers with as much passion as a Baptist evangelist. One could sense that the papers had been bathed in prayer and that the presenters had been empowered by a divine encounter.

My third impression concerned the respect and civility demonstrated toward conflicting points of view. I have been in many arenas where egotism was the order of the day and opposing views were not tolerated. The presenters listened to each other with a serious intensity and, even when disagreements were expressed during the open discussion time, there was a fraternal respect and a brotherly love and concern demonstrated. True humility was in abundance.

The fourth impression was how long it takes to “do theology.” The Church stills struggles with concerns that have been on the table for two thousand years. We are in a “quick-fix” society but serious theological grappling may take years, decades, or even centuries. The Church must be committed to the long view and eschew shortcuts.

The fifth impression was that the denomination in which I serve is in good theological hands. We will make mistakes, as we have in the past, but I am confident in the future. I believe that our children and grandchildren will be left a very good legacy, which, in turn, they will pass on.

I can imagine that the Church Fathers, the theologians of days past, and the faithful scholars and bishops of the early Church had little concept of the impact they would have on the future generations. Putting quill to parchment, writing by lamps filled with oil, suffering heat and cold, privation and persecution, those early leaders struggled to communicate the faith to their present generation and their works and influence remain with us today. I could imagine that, prior to coming to Orlando, these presbyter/theologians, though blessed with modern technology and comforts, were in a long line of people who were, quietly and without reward or fanfare, seeking to communicate timeless truth. God bless the scholars and theologians among us!

Bishop David Epps is the founding pastor of Christ the King Church, 4881 Hwy 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. He also serves as a Bishop to the Mid-South Diocese (

Spiritual Manipulation


Only God Opens Hearts

About the intimate workings of the Holy Spirit in the human heart there is a highly personal relationship in which no third person can share. The sacred work of redemption was wrought in darkness. No strange eye could see what was taking place when the sins of the world entered the holy soul of Christ that He might die under their weight and thus make his life a guilt offering (Isaiah 53:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 27:46).

That there is a deep mystery about the new birth is plainly stated by our Lord.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:8-12).

It is bordering on the irreverent to suggest that this sovereign work of the Spirit can be induced at the will of a personal worker by means of a textual recipe. The moment this is attempted, the Spirit withholds His illumination and leaves the worker and the seeker to their own designs. And the tragic consequences are all about us.

All any Christian worker can do is to point the inquirer to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). That was all John the Baptist did. He did not attempt to create faith in any of his hearers. The Spirit alone can open the heart, as John well knew. It is our task to arrest the sinner’s attention, give him the message of the cross, urge him to receive it and meet its conditions. After that the seeker is on his own. The individual is out of the hands of the instructors and helpers and in the hands of the God with whom he has to do.

A. W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1992), 152.

488 Years Ago

Luther Stood This Day


On April 17-18, Martin Luther stood trial at the Diet [formal assembly] of Worms [a small town on the river Rhine in present-day Germany).

On the 17th, Luther was asked whether certain writings were his and if he would revoke them as heretical. He asked for time to compose his answer–he prayed for long hours and consulted with friends, and returned the next day to give his famous answer:

“You must give a simple, clear, and proper answer. … Will you recant or not?”

Luther replied, “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning … then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience.”

Then he probably added, “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen.”

Christian History Magazine: Martin Luther, Early Years, electronic ed. (Carol Stream IL: Christianity Today, 1992; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996).

HT: Between Two Worlds

The Gospel


What’s the Gospel?

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

1 Cor 15:3-8 (ESV)

What’s the gospel? I’ll put it in a sentence.

The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.

That’s the gospel.

John Piper, “The Gospel in 6 Minutes

HT: Desiring God Blog

Read the Word! Live the Word!


I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

Ps 119:16 (NIV)

Luther’s Advice to Preachers: Watch, Study, Attend to Reading

In truth you cannot read too much in Scriptures;
and what you read you cannot read too carefully,
and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well,
and what you understand well you cannot teach too well,
and what you teach well you cannot live too well.

Martin Luther, WA 53, 218

HT: Between Two Worlds

Fear of Counsequences


The Temptation to Fear People Rather Than Trust God

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.

Prov. 29:25

To live our lives reverently in the fear of God and in view of eternal consequences is right and good, but to live our moral lives in fear of temporal consequences is an evil, a great and injurious evil for which not one shred of justification can be found. Yet the shadow of the fear of consequences lies dark across the church today and its blight is seen almost everywhere. . . .

The temptation to gear our lives to social consequences is frightfully strong in a world like ours, but it must be overcome all the way down the line. The Christian businessman when faced with a moral choice must never ask, How much will this cost me? The moment he regards consequences, he dethrones Christ as Lord of his life. His only concern should be with the will of God and the moral quality of the proposed act. To consult anything else is to sin against his own soul.

Again, the pastor when facing his congregation on Sunday morning, dare not think of the effect his sermon may have on his job, his salary or his future relation to the church. Let him but worry about tomorrow and he becomes a hireling and no true shepherd of the sheep. No man is a good preacher who is not willing to lay his future on the line every time he expounds the Word. He must let his job and his reputation ride on each and every sermon or he has no right to think that he stands in the prophetic tradition.

A. W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1992), 146.

Resurrection: An Event of Love


An Event of Love

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

1 Peter 1:3 (NLT)

The astonishing event of the resurrection of Jesus is essentially an event of love: the Father’s love in handing over his Son for the salvation of the world; the Son’s love in abandoning himself to the Father’s will for us all; the Spirit’s love in raising Jesus from the dead in his transfigured body. And there is more: the Father’s love which ‘newly embraces’ the Son, enfolding him in glory; the Son’s love returning to the Father in the power of the Spirit, robed in our transfigured humanity.

Pope Benedict XVI, “Christ Cures Humanity’s Festering Wounds,” Easter Address, March 23, 2008, Zenit: The World as Seen Through Rome website, available from;