September 2012

Monthly Archive

Faith Alone in Christ Alone

Posted by on 27 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: Faith, John Piper, Justification, Martin Luther

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.

1 John 5:1 NLT

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for me in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning.

In my heart, I am assured that God’s faithfulness will bring God’s Word to pass in my circumstances, intervening in my life, and meeting my needs. Faith says that Christ’s shed blood is more than sufficient to forgive my sins, Christ’s death on the Cross defeats Satan’s hold on my life, and Christ’s glorious resurrection conquers the world’s influence, the flesh’s control, sin’s grip, and death’s defeat over me.

Faith, if it is to be sure and steadfast, must lay hold upon nothing else but Christ alone, and in the conflict and terrors of conscience it has nothing else to lean on but this precious pearl Christ Jesus. So, he who apprehends Christ by faith, although he be terrified with the law and oppressed with the weight of his sins, yet he may be bold to glory that he is righteous. How? Even by that precious jewel Christ Jesus, whom he possesses by faith.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books,1998),99.

Faith is looking away from ourselves to another. Faith is total dependence on another. When faith stands in front of a mirror, the mirror becomes a window with the glory of Christ on the other side. Faith looks to Christ and enjoys him as the sum and judge of all that is true and good and right and beautiful and valuable and satisfying.

John Piper, “Assessing Ourselves With Our God-Assigned Measure of Faith, Part 1.”

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

The Error of Eucharistic Adoration (Updated)

Posted by on 25 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: Holy Eucharist, Roman Catholic Church

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.

Exodus 20:4–5 ESV

Definition

Eucharistic adoration is a sign of devotion to and worship of Jesus Christ, who is believed to be present in the consecrated host. The consecrated host is the physical presence of Christ in the sanctified bread and wine which Roman Catholics, and Anglo-Catholics, believe to be the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Transubstantiation

The consecrated host is placed in a monstrance and stationed on the altar for viewing at regular times during the week. The devotional and worship practice of adoring and praying to the consecrated host is practiced in local parishes, shrines, and monasteries. The belief that Christ is physically the wafer as displayed in the monstrance and is present in the midst of the congregation is a theological extension of the doctrine of transubstantiation. With some exceptions, those Roman Catholic, and Anglo-Catholic, churches who endorse Eucharistic adoration accept as true the doctrine of transubstantiation.

The doctrine of transubstantiation is the belief of the Roman Catholic Church that the outward (accidents) appearance of the bread stays the same after consecration, but the host’s inner nature (substance) is changed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. These categories of accidents and substance are the thought of Aristotle not the theological workings of the ancient fathers of the Church or the biblical teaching of Jesus Christ and Paul the Apostle.

Medieval Development

Eucharistic adoration is not an ancient practice; it began in Avignon, France on September 11, 1226. Public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament began as a thanksgiving celebration for the victory of France and the Roman Catholic Church over the Albigensians in the later battles of the Albigensian Crusade. King Louis VII desired that the sacrament be placed on display at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The multitude of adorers brought the local diocesan bishop, Pierre de Corbie, to suggest that the display continue indefinitely. With the permission of Pope Honorius III, the idea was approved and adoration continued mostly uninterrupted until the French Revolution.

Genuine Catholicity?

Eucharistic adoration is not encouraged in the Orthodox churches of the East neither has this form of worship been practiced everywhere for all the time by all churches. For a practice or doctrine to be considered orthodox: it must have been received by the undivided Church (East and West), stood the test of time, and agreed upon by the consensus of the early fathers. This triple test of ecumenicity, antiquity, and consent is called the Vincentian canon and it is the overarching test for genuine Catholicity. In my view, the practice of Eucharistic devotion, that is displaying a monstrance containing a consecrated host for worship and prayer, does not pass the test of the Vincentian canon. Therefore, Eucharistic devotion does not meet the criterion as an acceptable practice within the Great Tradition and is not to be considered a theological conviction of the ancient faith.

Russian Orthodox theologian, Alexander Schmemann, states that Eastern Orthodoxy does not practice the elevation of the bread and wine for special adoration.

The Purpose of the Eucharist lies not in the change of the bread and wine, but in the partaking of Christ, who has become our food, our life, the manifestation of the Church as the body of Christ. This is why the gifts themselves never became in the Orthodox East an object of special reverence, contemplation, and adoration, and likewise an object of special theological “problematics”: how, when, in what manner their change is accomplished.

[Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1998), 226.]

Eastern Orthodoxy’s Eucharistic focus is not on the change in the elements, but on the presence of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the mystery of faith encountered in the ancient liturgy. Eastern Christians do not adore the consecrated bread outside the sacred liturgy.

The Reformation

As would be expected, the Evangelical Reformers of the sixteenth century had grave doubts about the practice of Eucharistic adoration. They decried its use, discouraged participation, and condemned its practice within Roman Catholic Church. John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli and their colleagues in Geneva and Zurich, respectively, issued a statement as to their common agreement concerning the nature of the Lord’s Supper. The document, Heads of Agreement on the Lord’s Supper, was written after the failure of the Marburg Colloquy.

The Marburg Colloquy was an attempt to achieve a concord between Martin Luther and Zwingli over the nature of the Eucharist. Luther believed in real presence of Christ and Zwingli declared the elements of bread and wine to be merely symbolic. Luther and Zwingli’s disagreement was volatile and very public. Their discord was rending  the Protestant movement at its very heart.

John Calvin felt that Protestantism needed at the very least to declare its unity on some matters regarding the Lord’s Supper. Article Twenty-Six states Geneva and Zurich’s condemnation of Eucharistic adoration:

If it is not lawful to affix Christ in our imagination to the bread and the wine, much less is it lawful to worship him in the bread. For although the bread is held forth to us as a symbol and pledge of the communion which we have with Christ, yet as it is a sign and not the thing itself, and has not the thing either included in it or fixed to it, those who turn their minds towards it, with the view of worshipping Christ, make an idol of it.

The English Reformers agreed with Calvin and Zwingli writing in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith, “The sacraments were not instituted by Christ to be gazed at or carried about, but to be used properly” (Article XXV, updated language). With a few exceptions, Evangelicals continue to reject the use of a monstrance, they feel that confining God to an object is a form of idolatry.

Idolatry

Many Roman Catholic, and Anglo-Catholics, are sincere in their desire to dwell in Christ’s presence, but it takes very little effort on the part of the Enemy to turn a sincere devotional activity into idolatry. Roman Catholics describe the consecrated host as “the physical body of Jesus,” thus the presence of the host in the monstrance is said to increase the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the sanctuary. It is said, if the monstrance is removed, God’s presence is removed. If “the host and precious blood” are returned to the sanctuary, Christ’s presence has returned.

To state that God’s presence is contained or limited within a physical object is a form of idolatry (Exodus 20:4-6). Idolatry reduces God the Creator to a material object of creation thereby limiting his attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. The Lord is no longer Spirit, but an object which can be controlled by human beings (Isa. 40:18-23). It grieves me as a believer, pastor, and theologian, that God’s precious gift to us of Holy Communion has been twisted and made into an object. I have no doubt that that the adorers are sincere in their desire to be in the presence of Christ. However, it will not take long for the flesh, or the Enemy, to bring misunderstanding about the nature of salvation causing much personal sorrow and emotional pain to all involved. Arguments that Eucharistic adoration is a blessing to parishioners by increasing the presence of God in the church building is experiential and subjective without basis in scripture or tradition.

The Ancient Liturgy

Instead of the Table of the Lord being a place of participation in Christ, it becomes a night stand for observing God from a distance. Adoration confuses the physical object with its Author, and the location of God with a material entity, and limits God’s attributes to a place and time. Alexander Schmemann’s main criticism of Eucharistic adoration is that the practice isolates the Eucharist from its purpose: communion with God (pg. 227). The Eucharist is removed from its context in the liturgy as the communion of the Church with Christ and places Christ at a distance, objectifying the Eucharist in a manner not consistent with the whole meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

Holy Eucharist is intended to be place of an encounter with the living resurrected Christ. In Scripture, seven theological images or truths of the Eucharist are revealed: remembrance, communion, forgiveness, covenant, nourishment, anticipation, and thanksgiving. These truths cannot be experienced if we are watching instead of participating.

Summary

Eucharistic adoration as a belief and practice is erroneous: it does not reflect the teaching of the Bible or life of worship found in the Ancient Church. The practice is not promoted in the Orthodox East and is not consistent with full and complete participation in the Holy Eucharist.

Caveat: The views expressed in this blog post are entirely my own and are not necessarily the views of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, Southeast Archdiocese, or the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.).

Torn Between God and the World

Posted by on 20 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: Francois Fenelon, John Stott

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:4 NLT

Worldliness is being in love with the things of this life instead of maintaining a child-like trust and tender affection for our blessed Savior. The spirit of the world is embodied in the love of money, a hunger for unbridled sex, and a thirst for power. A worldly attitude is an arrogance that takes pride in our accomplishments, status, or rank over and above the majesty and glory of God (1 John 2:15-17).

Worldliness is any passion, craving, or hunger for the pleasures of sin while simultaneously desiring to receive the approval of others for our poor choices. Worldliness uses and misuses people for personal satisfaction, political influence, and fleshly pleasure. Worldliness is an organized scheme of humankind that uses our flesh (i.e., sin nature) to draw us away from an intimate relationship with God. Worldliness is a heart attitude intrinsic to being born in Adam and living in a fallen world.

The solution to breaking the world’s all-pervasive grip on our lives is the Cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14). Satisfaction in Christ’s love and mercy fulfills our hearts keeping us from being attracted to the world. We realize the utter emptiness of the world’s promises as we experience the depths of God’s grace. The Cross breaks the world’s hold on us: we live for Christ committed to the kingdom of God hungering to be like him.

We and the world have parted company. Each has been ‘crucified’ to the other. ‘The world’ is the society of unbelievers. Previously we were desperately anxious to be in favour with the world. But now that we have seen ourselves as sinners and Christ crucified as our sin-bearer, we do not care what the world thinks or says of us or does to us. ‘The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”

John Stott, The Message of Galatians

Woe to those weak and timid souls who are divided between God and their world! They want and they do not want. They are torn by desire and remorse at the same time . . . They have a horror of evil and a shame of good. They have the pains of virtue without tasting its sweet consolations. O’ how wretched they are.

François Fénelon

Christian Freedom

Posted by on 18 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: Christian Freedom, John Stott, N. T. Wright

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Gal. 5:1 NLT

Christian freedom is the ability to do what we want to do. What a Christ-follower wants to do is please their Lord and Savior. Christian freedom is not the freedom to do whatever I want, but the freedom to do what is right by God. Freedom for the Christian is the heart-felt, passionate desire to please their Lord.

By contrast, legalism, that is the Law, can only motivate through fear of rejection, punishment, and slavish duty. Legalists are fear-based, proud, and guilt-ridden which leads to touchiness, insecurity, pride, discouragement, and weariness. The legalist believes that they are not valuable to the kingdom of God unless they perform well. They cannot receive Christ’s righteousness for they feel that they are unworthy creatures who have not done enough. Rule keeping is a perversion of freedom: we think by doing we can achieve acceptance by God. Legalism stifles joy and freedom in the Christian life.

On the contrary, the saint is free for he or she is liberated by their righteous standing in Christ: nothing they do or fail to do will change their status as saints in Christ. God’s grace magnifies God’s unconditional love and motivates us by filling our hearts with overwhelming gratitude and appreciative love.

True freedom is not freedom from all responsibility to God and man in order to live for myself, but the exact opposite.  True freedom is freedom from myself and from the cramping tyranny of my own self-centeredness, in order to live in love for God and others.  Only in such self-giving love is an authentically free and human existence to be found.

John Stott, ‘Obeying Christ in a Changing World’, in Obeying Christ in a Changing World, Vol. 1: “The Lord Christ” (London: Collins, 1977), 28.

Christian freedom is not freedom to do what you like, but freedom from all the things that stop you being the person God wants you to be.

N.T. Wright

I Speak in Tongues

Posted by on 15 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: Spiritual Gifts, Tongues

 

 I [Paul] thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you.

1 Cor 14:18 NLT

I first spoke in tongues on a street corner in Dallas, Texas in 1979. It was not a highly emotional experience, but it was a surprisingly sweet and tender moment of encountering Christ in the Holy Spirit. Since then, the gift of tongues has lifted me out of times of discouragement, helped me to pray when I don’t know how, and drawn me into greater awareness of God’s presence. The greatest benefit to this most controversial of the spiritual gifts: deeper intimacy with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tongues, or glossolalia, is a special ability from the Holy Spirit to speak in a language never learned: earthly or angelic (1 Cor. 13:1). Unintelligible speech directed in praise and prayer toward God for the edification of the speaker and for the building up of the people of God.

Speaking in tongues is normal, but not normative. That is to say, do not be surprised to experience the gift of tongues upon being renewed in the Holy Spirit. However, the experience of this blessed gift is not a requirement, but a grace-gift from God to assist us in praying when we do not know how to pray (Acts 2:1-11).

Tongues is “a way of responding to the inexpressibility of God, a way of crying to God from the depths and expressing the too-deep-for-words sighings of the heart.

The gift of tongues cuts at our pride. Receiving this gift surrenders our speech to the Lord and makes us like little children: humble, dependent and trusting.

The gift places us in unfamiliar territory and requires us to be childlike in prayer. But this may be why tongues are important. It is a means God uses to challenge strategies of control. It is a humble but also a humbling gift to which we should be open.

Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 172-173.

A benefit of speaking in tongues is the ability to pray when you don’t know how to pray, this gift enables us to speaks directly to God (1 Cor. 14:2), providing personal edification (1 Cor. 14:4) enabling praise and worship (Acts 2:11) increasing our personal intimacy with Jesus (Mark 16:17; 1 Cor. 12:10, 28; 13:1; 14:2, 4, 13-16 ,27). Best book on the practicality and joy of experiencing the gift of tongues is Jack Hayford’s The Beauty of Spiritual Language.

 

For Christ To Be in You

Posted by on 03 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: Abiding in Christ, Christ in You, Keswick Convention, Major Ian Thomas

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

2 Peter 1:3-4

The truth of “Christ in you” is the theological fact God has most used to bring freedom, peace, joy, rest, grace, strength, etc., in my walk with him. Without the knowledge and experience of Christ’s personal presence, I would have quit the ministry, given up on the church, and forsaken all hope for victory over sin. The Spirit of Christ makes Christ’s hope available when I feel downcast, he assists my feeble attempts at ministry, and he is my constant knowledge of God’s love. Faith is the channel by which his his presence is made known and the avenue by which his life is manifest. Christ in you and me is our righteousness (acceptance before God), sanctification (Christian growth), and redemption (blood-bought freedom from slavery) (1 Cor. 1:30).

To be in Christ–that is redemption; but for Christ to be in you–that is sanctification! To be in Christ–that makes you fit for heaven; but for Christ to be in you –that makes you fit for earth! To be in Christ –that changes yours destination; but for Christ to be in you–that changes your destiny! The one makes heaven your home–the other makes this world His workshop.

Major Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ/The Mystery of Godliness(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988), 22.

Salvation: Past, Present, and Future

Posted by on 01 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: Salvation, W. H. Griffith-Thomas

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.

Titus 2:11 NLT

In the South, we often think of salvation as an altar call or a sinner’s prayer, some event we responded to when we were young. It could have been a church service, camp meeting, weekend retreat, or revival week. Say the prayer, walk the aisle, make a commitment and we are right with God and all is well. Salvation is done and we are secure for eternity. But, Biblical salvation is more than a one -time prayer.

Gratefully, salvation is not only about “getting into heaven,” it is about being transformed and conformed by the Holy Spirit into the likeness and image of Jesus Christ. Salvation is my past sins being forgiven, but also, salvation is the power of sin’s hold being broken now, and thankfully, salvation is about being delivered completely from sin’s very presence at the second coming of our Lord.

Concerning the past, a Christian can say, “I was saved”—from the penalty of sin. Concerning the present, a Christian can say, “I am being saved”—from the power of sin. Concerning the future, the Christian can say, “I shall be saved”—from the presence of sin.

W. H. Griffith Thomas quoted in Nick Harrison, (2010-12-07). His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life (Kindle Locations 5568-5571). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.