De Facto Calvinism

One of the main doctrines of Calvinism is that God alone determines who will be saved, and by exclusion, who will be damned to hell. That view is contrary to everything that scripture reveals about God and His desire that all should come to repentance.

But that is not the topic I want to discuss here.

What I’ve observed, and even realised about myself, is that many people who would reject those Calvinist ideas of “Limited Atonement” are no different to the Calvinists when it comes to other beliefs about God’s interaction with humanity.

What do I mean?

A personal example. How often I have taken for granted that my decisions will result in God’s will being done in my life? That I assume He will either endorse my decisions, or will somehow intervene and put a stop to what I’m doing before I become committed? That HE will “sovereignly” direct the outcome, even when I’ve failed to consult Him or seek His will on the matter.

A decade and a half ago I moved to a new town and bought a house – crediting God with the move, even though I’d made no effort at all to see whether that was what HE wanted.
In practice I was convincing myself  that the assumed permission and lack of interference, was an endorsement, otherwise He would “sovereignly” stop what I was doing.

Gloria, my wife, pointed out another example of De Facto Calvinism that has far more dangerous connotations than my own personal example. In my case the only ones affected were Gloria and myself.
In the following situation the effects are widespread and far more serious.

Not surprisingly, considering the content of so much of my recent writing, I’m referring to attitudes to healing. Gloria recognised that they are no different to the Calvinist belief in a Limited Atonement, that restricts forgiveness of sins and salvation to an “elect” sovereignly chosen by God.

Those attitudes insist that God sovereignly chooses who will be healed and who won’t be. That healing comes down solely to the personal decision of God. In other words it is determined much the same way that Calvinists insist that salvation is decided: by Divine whim.

While common, that view is completely at odds with scripture in so many ways.

Firstly, scripture is clear on the fact that physical healing is a benefit given by God alongside forgiveness of sins, and is included in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. (Isaiah 53:3-5, Matt 8:16-17)

Secondly, God commands His people to “choose life” after giving them the choice between life and death. That should leave no doubt about God’s will in the matter.

Thirdly, Jesus Himself, doing NOTHING that wasn’t the will of the Father, healed ALL who were brought to Him or came to Him. He  later commissioned His followers to continue that ministry in His name, after He had returned to the Father.
(Mark 16: 15-18, John 20:21-22, )

Fourthly, God made available several different ways of healing, all of which require some kind of participation from the sick person, and the exercising of faith, either by the sick one or those ministering to them. Those ways include:

  1. Laying on of hands. (Mark 5:23, Mark 6:5, Mark 16:18, Luke 4:40, Acts 28:8,)
  2. Gifts of healing. (1 Corinthians 12 and possibly demonstrated in several cases of early church healings in Acts )
  3. Prayer of faith (James 5)
  4. Receiving and attending to Word of God. (Prov 4 Matt 8:8 )
  5. Faith of the seeker (Luke 17, and a most clear example Matt 9: 20-22 , Acts 14:8-10)
  6. Intercession and faith of someone else on behalf of a seeker. (Matt 15: 21-28, Acts 3, Matt 8:5-13 )
  7.  By Jesus’ name and through faith. (Acts 3:16)
  8. General prayer for “whatever” (including healing), as long as we believe, and/or diligently seek God.  (Mark 11:24, Matt 21:22, Heb 11:6, 1 John 5: 14-15,)
  9. Deliverance from demons, (Mark 9:25, Luke 7:21, Acts 5:16, Acts 8: 7,Acts 19:12,
  10. Special miracles of healing through “handkerchiefs and aprons”, or touching garments. (Acts 19:12,)
  11. Praying for each other. (James 5:16)

So instead of considering healing as something solely determined by God’s “sovereign choice”, or the domain of select people with certain spiritual gifts, we need to start believing and obeying God and His word, and take responsibility for  those things He has commissioned us to do in the name of Jesus.

In the same way that forgiveness of sins, and our acceptance into the family of God are through faith,  so are healing and any other benefit God has provided. They are through faith in Him and His word. Believing in Him, His generous promises and His desire for us to receive them. They are not awarded according to Divine lottery.
Instead of using “the sovereignty of God” as an excuse for our failure to receive from God, the following from Hebrews gives valuable instruction.

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

AMEN!!!
 

 

Break up your unploughed ground and do not sow among thorns.

Jesus told the following story to the crowd of people who were following Him.

Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Later He explained what the parable meant,

The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.

I find the story offers clear cautionary advice about the way we treat and receive God’s word, and the things that can prevent it from being fruitful in our lives.

1) We can allow birds/ Satan to snatch it away before it has any effect. It isn’t allowed to penetrate into our lives so becomes an easy target for removal. Something prevents the importance and relevance from being grasped and nurtured, it is ignored ,and therefore quickly lost.

When I’ve thought of “the path” where seed falls, I have pictured one of those tracks worn through a field by frequent foot traffic. People taking the easy route, creating a path trodden down and established by regular traffic. It gives me a metaphor for the traditional ways of those who have gone before, leaving us with a well-trodden rut to blindly follow and creates the kind of surface impervious to seed falling upon it. The perfect, seed resistant feeding ground for hungry birds (Satan).

2) Similarly, seed/ the word can be lost if its not given enough room in our lives. The initial acceptance of it isn’t nurtured and fed, so the roots don’t become established and its effectiveness is allowed to wither and die, especially when difficulties arise. How easy it is for discouragement to set in, How easy to give up when things start to get difficult.

It’s no coincidence that  faith and patience are linked together as needed when we are believing one of  God’s promises. Without patience faith will give up when results aren’t seen as soon as we would like. We have to retain confidence in the integrity of God and His word and not allow sensory experience  to make us doubt them.

3) Thirdly, the seed/word might be received and nurtured, even producing some growth, but it gets mixed with other interests and cares, and while there may be an appearance of health, that can be deceiving, and what may seem to be a thriving plant remains fruitless, thereby failing its reason for existing.

I recently came across the following quote in Andrew Murray’s Holiest of All. Regrettably it perfectly describes influences in my life until recent months, and sadly, I suspect, the experience isn’t mine alone, illustrating the effects of trying to grow a crop mingled with weeds.

The power of the world, the spirit of its literature, the temptation of business and pleasure – all of these unite to make up a religion in which it is sought to combine a comfortable hope for the future with the least possible amount of sacrifice in the present.

The conditions in our lives that make us open (or closed) to God’s word depend on us.

We can resist, neglect or compromise His word and get a fruitless outcome. Or we can make sure we are receptive to it.

The following instruction from God through the prophet Jeremiah seems appropriate – a command that if heeded would prevent the problems mentioned in Jesus’ parable of the sower, and would ensure a healthy harvest with no loss of seed.

“Break up your unploughed ground and do not sow among thorns”

In other words, preparation for, and commitment to, receiving God’s word is helpful.
Don’t sow the Word into a field of rigidity or distraction.

Be assured, that if the necessary attention is not paid – the birds will swoop in, the viability of the sprouting word will be compromised, or the eventual growth will seem impressive, but fruitless.

An Uncomfortable Truth? – Believers or Quenchers II

Jesus, who was, is, and ever will be  God, did not use His own divine power and authority during His life and ministry on earth.

He ministered and lived as a flesh and blood man, anointed by the Holy Spirit and in complete obedience to the will of the Father.

After He ascended back to heaven, He sent the same Holy Spirit that had empowered His own ministry to enable believers to do the same works (and greater) as those He had done.

Many try hard to undermine this “uncomfortable truth” because it contradicts their powerless theologies and they do their best to discredit those who have accepted it. Often they will make questionable charges against those they oppose, accusing them of heresies, such as the denial of Jesus’ divinity.

However, if there is any “denial of divinity at work”, it was in Jesus denying Himself the option of exercising His own divine rights and abilities, electing to submit to His Father and the Holy Spirit so He could perfectly identify with us in all ways and in all temptations, with the exception of committing sin.

When people deny the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit and His gifts in the church today, they then have the need to “explain” away all claims of that ministry being done by professing believers. They are therefore quick to attribute it all to Satan, and level accusations of heresy, potentially stepping into the dangerous territory of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

Scripture makes it very clear, to those willing to believe the Bible instead of traditions they’ve been taught, that the Holy Spirit did not withdraw His gifts and ministry with the death of the apostles. Those gifts have never been withdrawn from the church and are no less needed today than they were in the early church era.

There seem to be two opposing, extreme camps. The deniers who do whatever they can to denigrate and accuse, versus those who get up to a lot of extra-biblical activities, supposedly “in the name of Jesus”.
I suspect that both categories could very well fall under the following warning given by Jesus, if an activity is not in scripture, or at least consistent with scripture, it is almost certainly NOT the Father’s will:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! (Matt 7) NIV

Are those who are so openly antagonistic to Spiritual gifts in general so confident of their own stance that they KNOW they are doing the will of the Father?

Are they so sure that THEY will not be counted among those Jesus didn’t know, because they are NOT actually doing his will with their heresy-hunting? Are their pronouncements not a form of “prophecy”? Claiming to be words representing God’s judgements?
Did Jesus commission His church to go into the all the world and expose heretics?

I’d also like to point out that those that Jesus did not know, were not necessarily doing deeds through demonic empowerment. They only CLAIM to have prophesied, driven out demons, and performed miracles. The likelihood of demonic spiritual empowerment seems unlikely when the name of Jesus was being used, although demonic deception in the mind of those doing the deeds is most likely, making them believe their own claims, rather than them actually performing the miraculous.

The above warning from Jesus ought to be balanced by another.
Where the one already cited relates to people DOING things that were NOT sanctioned by God, there is another related to doing nothing, where a servant chose to bury what his master had given him rather than use it as intended.

The church has been given a gift: the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit who empowered Jesus and His ministry. If we choose to ignore the gift, or bury it through denial,  how can we expect to avoid the fate of the servant who out of fear buried his Masters bag of gold instead of putting it to use as he was required, especially when Jesus instructed His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until the gift was given to equip them to be His witnesses throughout the world. Are later generations superior to the apostles and early church and able to be His witnesses without the empowerment and gifts of His Spirit?

…throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (matt 25) NIV

Believers or Quenchers?

Sadly the church in the affluent comfortable west is full of unbelief and unbelievers. It is the home of religious game-players instead of disciples.

Christianity has become a religion of convenience, where God is merely another commodity to add to life: a “fire insurance” to save us from a fiery eternity.

It has become a dead religion with no promise of life here and now.
A religion of excuses intended to rationalise our failure to experience what God has promised.
The result has no resemblance to the full life promised by Jesus.

All of the above smothers the gospel. Quenching it of any effect upon the lives of those who identify themselves as “believers” – and as a consequence rob the world of any hope of seeing Jesus as HE really is through their witness.

When Jesus said anyone wanting to be His disciple needs to “deny themselves” – He did NOT mean that we deny ourselves of the benefits God has provided to make us effective and fruitful ambassadors for His Kingdom.
In denying ourselves through excuses and unbelief, we are also denying the world of the gospel it needs to hear and see (in word and deed).

Many who identify as believers have no idea what “believe” means or what they are supposed to be believing. They claim relationship with God and yet have little idea of what God requires of them or what God desires for their lives. God becomes a lifestyle accessory instead of the LORD of their life.

Many have no desire to know or understand God’s will and put more effort into trying to avoid it (or explain it away) than accepting and submitting to it and desiring to grow in spiritual maturity.

For me the days of complacency and avoidance are over.

To live is Christ.

He is my life. I will love Him, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.

I will proclaim what He has done.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt 5) NIV

 

A Story of Redemption

I’ve usually been hesitant to post ministry videos, mainly because I’ve found it hard to find anything I was comfortable promoting.

In the past I’ve included some David Pawson sermons, and more recently some series by David Servant. Both are teachers I’ve trusted, having found that for the most part their teaching is soundly Bible based.

I post the following after seeing several Todd White videos.
I have seen he’s a man who attracts some opposition and criticism. He looks different and his style is different, but for the most part I’ve personally found no problem with him.

A few days ago I read an article* opposing both him and what he does. It was written by a woman who encountered him at her local gym and took the opportunity to confront him and accuse him of being a false teacher.

I found her public attack was graceless and full of false accusation, including claims that he doesn’t preach from scripture and that he preaches a repentance-less gospel.
After seeing many of his preaching and ministry videos I categorically state that his talks are often full of scripture, and his public street ministry is probably closer to the biblical example in Acts than most street ministry I’ve witnessed before. He also doesn’t dilute the need for repentance, as can be seen in this video with regard to couples living together before marriage.

The accuser asked him if he has ever had anyone take him verse by verse through the scriptures. His reply to her was to point out that he has the scriptures and can read them himself. She also claimed she had never seen him carrying a Bible. If she meant a big black leather bound book her observation was probably valid –  he tends to refer to scripture via a tablet instead of a physical book, and he frequently quotes scripture from memory rather than reading it from a page.

It didn’t surprise me to see that the woman confronting him was a disciple of John MacArthur, a Calvinist hero and spiritual gifts denying celebrity preacher.

My own background has been in Pentecostal churches, but I have a lot of reservations regarding a lot of ministry claimed to be in the name of Jesus, particularly anything that includes “signs and wonders” of a type NOT seen in scripture. (Gold dust, gem stone appearances, angel feathers…)

Todd White doesn’t seem to be a promoter of that kind of false miracle, although he has an occasional  connection to some who do ; instead he takes the gospel and healing to the streets, restaurants, shopping malls, gymnasiums – everywhere that he goes, and he gets results with healings that lead to multiple people turning to Jesus. That approach is far more in line with scripture than the modern attempts to entertain people into the Kingdom.

The following video gives a short example of what he does.

For anyone who might still have objections for whatever reason, I refer them to Jesus and Paul:

“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9) NIV

And

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Personally I believe he’s preaching from true motives, not false. As for whether the gospel he preaches is adequate: does anyone doing and preaching less than him have any right to criticise someone who is at least doing as much as he is?

Maybe, before offering judgement, people need to ask themselves whether “my” no gospel is preferable to “his” partial gospel.

Todd White is accountable for what he does and we are no less accountable to God for what WE do. If we all play our own part we’ll be working together in fruitful service to God, complementing each other’s contribution to the work of His Kingdom.

the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are co-workers in God’s service. ! Cor 3) NIV

 

POST SCRIPT added 12 Feb 2020 :

The comments below show a lot of concern about Todd White’s ministry.

I can only advise the same as I did at the end of my article “Is David Pawson a False Teacher?“:

Is David Pawson (Todd White, or anyone else) a false teacher?

Search the scriptures for yourself and find out.

Don’t be swayed by view points or claims that others make – whether a good report or a condemnation – but check everything out for yourself.

If you are not willing to do that – no matter who the teacher in question may be, then you make yourself very susceptible to being deceived.

 

_______________________________________

*  I originally thought of linking to the article but chose not to – deciding I didn’t want to give its spurious claims any hint of value.

Giving Careful Thought to the Paths… Faith

I’m sure all Christians would passionately insist they want to please God, but how many of us REALLY consider what the following means?

…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Heb 11) NIV

Most Christians would have no problem with the first part of that statement. The belief that God exists would be such a basic, undeniable thing that we might risk skimming over the next condition given in the quote. “That He rewards those who earnestly (or diligently) seek Him”.

Do we REALLY believe in God’s rewards as much as we believe in His existence? That He  really rewards those who seek Him? OR do we spend more time trying to excuse our lack of reward – because we don’t want to admit that our seeking hasn’t exactly been earnest?

Please let me point something out – there are no escape clauses in that particular promise, and it does NOT suggest that God might be a denier of reward to those who earnestly seek Him.

This is an issue we NEED to take seriously. God promises to reward for a reason, and it is foolish, if not dangerous to push aside His promise.

His rewards relate to equipping and empowering His children for service. To deny ourselves His reward is to more or less to say we aren’t interested in serving Him, or that we are satisfied in serving Him in our own strength and abilities rather than His.

But beyond that, faith is NOT something we can take lightly. It’s something that we NEED to understand and exercise. It is at the heart of the message of the gospel, and the way that salvation became accessible to the Gentiles.

Paul wrote to the Romans saying that Israel failed to obtain righteousness because they pursued it through the Law, but a righteousness through faith has been obtained by the Gentiles. However, how can we assume that we HAVE obtained that righteousness by faith IF we fail (even refuse) to believe God and His word, which is the very foundation of faith in Him?

Believing in God’s existence, or even believing that Jesus died for our sins, is not enough IF we are rejecting everything else that God has made evident in His word. Faith in God needs to be far reaching, trusting Him in (and for) everything, not just to provide a get out of hell free card.

In Psalm 103 the Psalmist commands his innermost being to not forget any of God’s benefits. Those benefits are not due to some divine whim of God, that we can accept or not. He provides them for a reason, which is why none of them should be forgotten.

Paul said that Israel failed because they pursued righteousness through the Law. And yet it was God Himself who gave them that Law. Isn’t that unfair ?

I admit I was puzzled by that until I saw something in Jeremiah that shed a little light.

…when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices,
but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. (Jer 7) NIV

Israel were picking and choosing parts of the Law instead of heeding ALL of it. In particular they were happy to obey and practice the sacrifices, the burnt offerings given for atonement for their sin – but not the other aspects of obedience that would have prevented sin and made the offerings unnecessary.
In effect they were acting as if sin did not matter to God because they expected the relevant burnt offering would erase it’s consequences.
They didn’t take the WHOLE law seriously to the extent that they thought it wasn’t necessary to even try – as long as they could cover up their sin with the designated offering.

In the same way that Israel failed to obtain righteousness through a selective obedience, could professing believers today, who assume they obtain righteousness thorough faith also be in danger of missing out because their “faith” is no less selective?
They are happy to “believe in Him” (Jesus) so they “shall not perish but have eternal life”, and to be saved by grace through faith, but maybe aren’t so interested in being “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2).

Without faith it is impossible to please God.
So how selectively pleasing to Him are we willing to be?

Selective enough to avoid God’s rewards through which He shapes us as His handiwork, making us able to do those good works in His strength rather than attempting to do them in our own?

Giving Careful Thought to the Paths… Fellowship

It’s been several years now since I’ve been involved with a church.

After moving to my current town, I attended a sizeable (by the town’s standards) charismatic fellowship, but found it was too enthralled with a variety of fads, and had an unfortunate, close relationship with teachings and practices originating in the Toronto “Blessing”.

Following that I went to the other extreme and was involved in a traditional denominational church, that was sadly steeped in Calvinism. After a year or so I chose to leave them to prevent the increasing conflict that would have continued had I stayed.

In a small country town, there aren’t many options.

While I, and my faith, survived despite the limited fellowship opportunities – clearly my current situation shows that neither thrived.

Now, with my determination to seek God to turn things around, the church/fellowship issue has become the next thing I need to address. But how?

At the moment I’m following up two options. One local and one in Canberra.

The local fellowship is very small, but conveniently close to home. The Canberra group is quite large but too far away for frequent personal involvement – but even infrequent would be an improvement on nothing.

If both groups show potential, there should be no reason to choose one above the other. Both are affiliated with the same Pentecostal denomination, and I could combine ongoing involvement with the local people, and occasional visits to those in Canberra. If possible that could become a best of two worlds scenario. From experience and observation, having no or little contact beyond an individual group of Christians can lead to an unfruitful insularity.

But all of that depends on a few factors.

Are they in thrall to fads and non-scriptural practices and ideas? Do they look more to “anointed” men instead of to God? Following the latest celebrity preacher, prophet, or claimed miracle worker, without judging the fruit of their ministries?

Are their beliefs and teachings mostly in line with scripture? If not are they so rigidly fixed upon their doctrines that they refuse the possibility of learning something different should the Lord try to correct them?

And how committed will they be to the members of their congregation. Will they be quick to abandon and shun them should  a member leave their group, instead of maintaining ongoing contact?
Sadly EVERY past experience I’ve had has leaned more to the shunning than any ongoing contact, even when I’ve personally tried to keep in contact, it has always been one way and unreciprocated.

There are a several things I consider to be essentials.

  1. Word based – having God’s word, scripture at the heart of their beliefs
  2.  Spirit filled -recognising the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s work in the individual and the congregation through His sanctifying work, and the operation of His gifts.
  3. Faith based – not doubters, waverers or excuse makers.
  4.  Love based – genuinely caring for people, not just seeing them as seat fillers, increasing the size of their congregation. That also includes maintaining an interest and demonstrating genuine concern for the well-being of anyone who might choose to leave them.
  5.  Have a foundation of prayer, including frequent corporate prayer meetings that are more than a token event.
  6.  With committed members interested in more than only attending Sunday services.
  7.  Genuine recognition of each members role in ministry – in other words, not restricted to a one-man-band, or an elevation of “clergy” above “laity”.

Do I expect too much?
From past experience … probably yes.

But I also want to challenge myself to be more accepting and patient, willing to listen. To trust my discernment. To not dismiss everything just because some things may be wrong. To allow others the room to grow and learn, as I know I need to grow and learn.

And I need to maintain a strength of conviction, to take a stand when necessary, but to do so with love and not impatience and without giving any impression of hostility, recognising that I also need to fulfil those expectations I’ve listed above.