A Tale of Two Mindsets – Romans 8:5-8

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Romans 8:5-8 (ESV)

 

In this short passage, the Apostle Paul sets before us a simple but very clear contrast. He explains to us that there are two kinds of people; those who live according to the flesh (their natural state from birth), and those who live according to the Spirit (their state since the ‘new birth’). Paul further stipulates that there is a mental state (mindset) that controls how they live; a mind set on the flesh which is ‘death’, and a mind set on the Spirit, which is ‘life and peace’.

In other words, Paul is saying that the unbeliever is controlled by his nature at birth (mind set on the flesh), while a believer in Christ is controlled by his new nature (mind set on the Spirit). This does not mean that the Christian doesn’t sin, but it does mean that the controlling influence in the life of a believer is the Spirit of God living within him/her.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Paul goes on to describe the natural mindset of each and every one of us from birth:

1. It is hostile to God.

2. It does not submit to God.

3. It CANNOT (is unable) to submit to God.

That describes the natural state of each and every unbeliever in relation to the God of the Bible.

So, here’s THE big question: “What has to happen to change someone who CANNOT please God into someone who CAN please God?

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (regenerated) he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

Might it be necessary that spiritual regeneration to precede an act of faith that would please God?

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I’ll just leave that tight there so you can think about it.

“Blind” Minds?

2 Corinthians 4:4

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4, ESV)

In a previous post here at The Battle Cry, The Apostle Paul, a Veiled Gospel, and Blind Minds we talked about three things Paul addressed in his second letter to the church at Corinth, a predominately Gentile church. In this post we’ll revisit one of those topics – the “blind minds” of unbelievers.

Our referenced passage speaks specifically of the minds of unbelievers being blind and unable to see and understand the light of the gospel. While I was working on the previous blog, I couldn’t help but wonder if the mental blindness of unbelievers extended beyond seeing the light of the gospel into other areas. Just how much of an impact does “the god of this world”, Satan, have on the mental capabilities (or lack thereof) of fallen man?

With those questions buzzing around in my head, and in light of all the craziness going on these days (political and COVID related), I decided to consult some good Bible commentaries. Of the commentaries I read, Albert Barnes seemed to address the issue in the most comprehensive manner. Here is his commentary on 2 Cor 4:4, speaking of the work of the “god of this world”, Satan:

(The god of this world) Hath blinded the minds of them which believe not – Of all who discern no beauty in the gospel, and who reject it. It is implied here:

1.  That the minds of unbelievers are blinded; that they perceive no beauty in the gospel. This is often affirmed of those who reject the gospel, and who live in sin; see the 2Co 2:13 note; Mat 23:16-17, Mat 23:26 notes; Luk 4:18 note; Joh 9:39; Joh 12:40 notes; Rom 11:7 note. The sense is, that they did not see the spiritual beauty and glory of the plan of redemption. They act in reference to that as they would in reference to this world, if a bandage were over their eyes, and they saw not the light of the sun, the beauty of the landscape, the path in which they should go, or the countenance of a friend. All is dark, and obscure, and destitute of beauty to them, however much beauty may be seen in all these objects by others.

2.  That this is done by the agency of Satan; and that his dominion is secured by keeping the world in darkness. The affirmation is direct and positive, that it is by his agency that it is done. Some of the “modes” in which it is done are the following:

a.  By a direct influence on the minds of people. I do not know why it is absurd to suppose that one intellect may, in some way unknown to us, have access to another, and have power to influence it; nor can it be proved that Satan may not have power to pervert the understanding; to derange its powers; to distract its attention; and to give in view of the mind a wholly delusive relative importance to objects. In the time of the Saviour it cannot be doubted that in the numerous cases of demoniacal possessions, Satan directly affected the minds of people; nor is there any reason to think that he has ceased to delude and destroy them.

b.  By the false philosophy which has prevailed – a large part of which seems to have been contrived as if on purpose to deceive the world, and destroy the peace and happiness of people.

c.  By the systems of superstition and idolatry. All these seem to be under the control of one Master Mind. They are so well conceived and adapted to prostrate the moral powers; to fetter the intellect; to pervert the will; to make people debased, sunken, polluted, and degraded; and they so uniformly accomplish this effect, that they have all the marks of being under the control of one mighty Mind, and of having been devised to accomplish His purposes over people.

d.  By producing in the minds of people a wholly disproportionate view of the value of objects. “A very small object held before the eye will shut out the light of the sun.” A piece of money of the smallest value laid on the eye will make everything appear dark, and prevent all the glory of mid-day from reaching the seat of vision. And so it is with the things of this world. They are placed directly before us, and are placed directly between us and the glory of the gospel. And the trifles of wealth and of fashion; the objects of pleasure and ambition, are made to assume an importance in view of the mind which wholly excludes the glory of the gospel, and shuts out all the realities of the eternal world. And he does it:

e.  By the blinding influence of passion and vice. Before a vicious mind all is dark and obscure. There is no beauty in truth, in chastity, or honesty, or in the fear and love of God. Vice always renders the mind blind. and the heart hard, and shrouds everything in the moral world in midnight. And in order to blind the minds of people to the glory of the gospel, Satan has only to place splendid schemes of speculation before people; to tempt them to climb the steeps of ambition; to entice them to scenes of gaiety; to secure the erection of theaters, and gambling houses, and houses of infamy and pollution; to fill the cities and towns of a land with taverns and dram-shops; and to give opportunity everywhere for the full play and unrestrained indulgence of passion; and the glory of the gospel will be as effectually unseen as the glory of the sun is in the darkest night.

___________

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) was an American theologian, born at Rome, New York, on December 1, 1798. He graduated from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, in 1820, and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1823. Barnes was ordained as a Presbyterian minister by the presbytery of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in 1825, and was the pastor successively of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey (1825-1830), and of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia (1830-1867).

Some who read this might agree with Albert Barnes, some might not.  And although our passage does state ratherly clearly that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers”, i know of at least one reader of this little blog that will probably breathe his last breath claiming that Jews have blind minds, but Gentiles do not. He has reminded me of his opinion several times through the last few years.

Hillsong and Man

This is the third in a series of articles from Grace to You ministries and again, well worth the read. It’s not a ‘hit’ piece, but is borne of a concern for the integrity of God’s Word and the true gospel.

Hillsong and Man

by Cameron Buettel & Jeremiah Johnson

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The heart of the human problem is the human heart. Therapy can’t change it. Self-help gurus can’t fix it. Positive confession can’t conceal it. And self-esteem can’t convert it.

Sinners cannot be persuaded into the kingdom of God. Salvation is not achieved through mental assent or emotional responses. Unless God regenerates the heart (Ezekiel 36:25–27; John 3:3) it remains dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1), deceitfully wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), hostile to Him (Romans 8:7), and worthy of condemnation (Ephesians 2:3). That’s not a matter of opinion—it’s God’s own diagnosis of the unregenerate heart. And the only cure is His redeeming and transforming work. Everything else is woefully insufficient.

If you get the doctrine of man wrong, you can’t help but get the gospel wrong, too. That’s why John MacArthur describes total depravity (or “total inability”) as the most distinctly Christian doctrine:

No doctrine is more hated by unbelievers than this one, and even some Christians find it so offensive that they zealously attack it. Though the doctrine of total depravity is often the most attacked and minimized of the doctrines of grace, it is the most distinctly Christian doctrine because it is foundational to a right understanding of the gospel. . . . The neglect of this doctrine within American evangelicalism has resulted in all kinds of errors, including both the watered-down gospel and the seeker-driven pragmatism of the church growth movement. [1] John MacArthur, Slave (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 121–22

That was exactly what we experienced during our visits to Hillsong Los Angeles, where the biblical view of man has been discarded and replaced with something far more palatable to a therapeutic, self-centered culture.

Man Is Central

In Hillsong’s spiritual economy, man has tremendous inherent worth. The individual replaces Christ as the central figure in God’s redemptive plan. Their own doctrinal statement says that the purpose of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was to “prove His victory and empower us for life.” The redemption of wretched sinners is not in view.

That man-centered approach is a recurring theme throughout Hillsong’s global ministry empire. Their songs are often more about the ones singing than the One they’re singing to. Every passage they preach is a promise of God’s blessing and favor for you. And their altar calls emphasize an endless stream of temporal, personal benefits—breakthrough, healing, success, and prosperity.

Effectively, Hillsong’s leaders seek to enable and empower a latent human condition. Their focus is primarily on the enormous potential we have to do great things and be great people. Hillsong’s official website contains a gospel presentation in which we are told that the main point of Christ’s incarnation was to “show us our full potential . . . the wonderful potential of perfected humanity.”

The preaching is where Hillsong’s man-centeredness is most blatant, as all the sermons we heard adhered to a simple but consistent template. First, a narrative portion of Scripture would be isolated and severed from its larger biblical context. Next, the preacher would insert him or herself and the congregation into the story. Third, the text was routinely used as a bridge to introduce personal illustrations from the preacher’s own experiences. And finally, after those personal experiences had been fully exegeted, the passage is recast as a promise from God for the congregation. Sitting under that kind of teaching long enough would convince you that all of Scripture is merely an allegory for you and your life.

God’s purpose in writing the biblical story, or its place in His wider redemptive plan, was never mentioned in any of the messages we heard. Man was always central. However, his culpability for sin was avoided at every turn.

Man Is Never Prosecuted

Human guilt barely registers on the Hillsong radar. While the word “sin” does get an occasional mention in Hillsong worship songs, it is never defined or described. The same goes for all the Hillsong preachers we heard—and even then, they prefer to describe sin as “dumb stuff” or “mistakes.”

Their statement of faith attempts greater clarity on the subject, but still falls far short of the biblical definition: “We believe that sin has separated each of us from God and His purpose for our lives.” That’s not a false statement, but it drastically understates the reality of man’s fallen condition.

The reticence regarding sin extends throughout the ministry. We spoke with some of the Hillsong volunteers responsible for integrating new attenders. They made it clear that they had been instructed to avoid challenging or confronting people about their sins—even open, unrepentant sin. Considering the way Hillsong operates, you can’t help but wonder where and when such a confrontation might happen? It’s certainly not coming from the pulpit.

That reluctance to deal directly with sin is institutional at Hillsong. When Brian Houston—Hillsong’s founder and global pastor—was interviewed on Australian television, he was incapable of expressing any clear-cut biblical convictions on prominent moral issues:

I think that the homosexual question and sexuality generally is one of the most challenging questions there is for the church in the 21st century. And it’s one where I feel conflict myself, as a believer in the Bible and specifically the New Testament, I think that marriage is God’s idea, and I think it’s for a man and a woman. But I also represent a God that’s merciful and gracious and kind, and having to connect those two things I think is one of the great challenges for me as a church leader.

In the church we can point the finger so easily. On the subject of abortion, I’m pro-life. But in a way I’m pro-choice as well, because I believe in the sanctity of life and I believe that life begins at conception. But I also believe that ultimately human beings have to make their own choices, and I ultimately can’t tell you what you should do. I can only give you the parameters that I believe.

Those quotes don’t represent Christian conviction. They are the chameleonic ramblings of a political pragmatist.

Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong New York, goes even further than Houston. Instead of equivocating on morality, he simply chooses to avoid the subject altogether. During a television interview with Katie Couric, Lentz was asked for his views on gay marriage: “Do you feel you have a moral imperative to speak publically about some of these more controversial issues?” He responded: “No, because we try to be like Jesus. Very rarely did Jesus ever talk about morality or social issues.”

That’s either a lack of integrity or biblical literacy. Either way, it’s indicative of just how far Hillsong is willing to go to avoid dealing with sin directly.

Man Is a Victim

Since Hillsong refuses to offer any exploration or explanation concerning our personal guilt, our condition is always couched in therapeutic language. Man is regularly designated as the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Both Hillsong’s music and message label the primary problems of unbelievers with words like trapped, bound, enslaved, captive, hurting, wounded, disappointed, let down, and brokenhearted. Certainly some of those words reflect the biblical truth about the unregenerate heart. But the gospel of Hillsong is presented as the remedy to those problems—not reconciliation with God (2 Corinthians 5:19) and rescue from His wrath (John 3:36).

During our visits, we regularly heard different Hillsong teachers point out that God loves us just as we are; that He understands how hard our lives are; that He has great desires and dreams for us; that He wants to fix all our financial, health, and relationship problems; and that He’s waiting on us to let Him unleash blessing and breakthrough in our lives. But none of that can happen until we have repented of our sin and surrendered our lives in faith to God.

We’re not denying the existence of genuine victims. But in terms of eternity, even the greatest victim still needs to appreciate the depth of his own guilt in order to grasp his need for the Savior. The speakers we heard at Hillsong LA were only interested in salving our own grief—there was no thought whatsoever for how our sin grieves God.

Man Doesn’t Need to Change

The natural consequence of concealing human guilt is that it removes all need for repentance—another word we rarely heard in our time at Hillsong LA. It did fit the rhyme scheme of one or two songs, and it occasionally slipped out during the routine alter calls, but it was never explained or stressed as a necessary element of faith in Christ.

Oddly enough, Hillsong’s statement of faith does talk about repentance: “We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the ‘new birth’ we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives.” However, that quote only highlights the danger of taking doctrinal statements at face value. Concerning Hillsong and the doctrine of repentance, there is zero correlation between what they claim in print and what they actually preach.  

For the sake of honesty, Hillsong should either conform their preaching to their doctrinal statement or conform their doctrinal statement to their preaching. As it stands now, it’s hard to see it as anything less than a devious misrepresentation. Worse still, they have congregations full of people—many of them previously unchurched—who are being kept in the dark about the seriousness of their sin and their urgent need to turn from it.

Man Is Validated

That leaves Hillsong with an emaciated, man-centered gospel. A gospel where God is the supporting cast to man’s starring role. It is a gospel that fails to prosecute men for their sins against God, and instead portrays the criminal as a victim—a gospel that places no requirements on the sinner to turn from his wicked ways. Salvation is thus reduced to God’s revitalization of the victim rather than His justification of the sinner.

Even during a discussion on the prayer acronym ACTS—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication—we were specifically cautioned against confessing sins. The confession part of prayer was instead explained as reminding ourselves and God of His promises of blessing for us—a practice commonly referred to in charismatic circles as “positive confession.” With the doctrine of depravity already in ruins, it makes sense that Hillsong turns confession into another opportunity for self-aggrandizement.

That example pretty much encapsulates the delusional anthropology Hillsong teaches to its attenders. They focus on building self-esteem rather than our need to esteem Christ. They spotlight our disappointments at the expense of our guilt. They emphasize our potential while ignoring our depravity. And all the while the Hillsong flock is left in the dark about their true need for Christ.

A Final Word

Please don’t misunderstand our purpose in this series—as though we take some perverse delight in chronicling such a theological disaster. Instead, we feel a responsibility to warn the church about what we’ve seen and heard during our time at Hillsong, and encourage God’s people to be discerning about the ministries they allow to influence their faith and spiritual growth.

We also hope these posts will be lifelines to men and women who are unwittingly drowning in theological error. The people we encountered at Hillsong LA were some of the friendliest, kindest, and most welcoming people you could hope to meet. We are genuinely grieved for them and deeply troubled by their spiritual malnutrition. It’s our sincere hope that our words will help awaken them to the truth—that they are being denied the life-giving truth of God’s Word.

Perhaps you know people likewise caught under the sway of Hillsong or another similarly weak ministry—sadly, there are many others. Pray for them, and do what you can to funnel quality, biblical teaching their way. They are not the enemy; they are a spiritually starving mission field that needs to hear about the greatness of their sin and an even greater Savior.

This World Is Crazy and It’s Not Getting Better

I don’t know if we are getting ‘dumber and dumber’ or just know more of the ‘dumbness’ that’s always been there, thanks to social media.

Anybody with a big mouth can rant all over Facebook, with or without any brain activity having taken place, about ANYTHING. Pick a topic and you’ll find the lack of intelligent and logical thought of full display. It usually manifests as information taken out of context, or before all the facts are in before ranting about one’s pet peeve or worshipping/championing one’s favorite idol.

We who profess Christ aren’t quite as bad, but we have our moments. Internet trolls camp out on our blogs talking endlessly about how they deny God and how believers can’t really think for themselves, but have to rely on a God who doesn’t exist. And they go on and on and on if we let them.

I think we become their enablers when we keep trying to ‘prove’ God exists. Atheists hate God by their very nature, while they DO know he exists, and when we use a bit of logic they say we aren’t capable of truly rational thought. When we keep using reason and logic it just fuels the fire, so to speak.  Is something a bit fuzzy here?

When we tell the atheist what God says about him we’re accused of personally insulting him. So we apologize for making him feel bad and go back to trying to ‘attract’ him to the God he hates. The atheist is more certain than ever that we are believing nonsense and, like the energizer bunny, goes on and on and on.

What’s wrong with us? My current reasoning is this:

There are basically two approaches to sharing God, Jesus, and the gospel:

1. We can try and attract people to Jesus by getting them to like us and our church to prep them to fall in love with the eminently likable Jesus, who is all about love, all the time, and nothing else.

2. We can, with a burden in our hearts for the souls of lost men, share the problem we all have(sin), God’s judgment against it, and God’s remedy (the death of His Son as our substitute).

When we mix the two it reinforces the atheist’s conviction that we aren’t rational thinkers. We can appear to be unsettled in our convictions or confused about our beliefs.

Something that puzzles me is how believers will ‘Amen’ the latter approach privately, and almost always use the former when they interact with atheist trolls. Why is that? I can only speculate.

Personally speaking, I confess to having used both approaches. When I was a young believer, fresh with the realization of God’s manifest love in saving this sinner, I wanted to share that love with everyone I met. Now that I am older and know what the Bible really says about fallen men, my approach has changed. Some call it the presuppositional approach to evangelism.

The danger of presuppositionalism is omitting the ‘love’ of God from the discussion and/or just telling the atheist what the Bible says about him too early in the conversation. Perhaps the approaches can be described as either 1) ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you. . .’ or 2) ‘God loves you, BUT. . .’

I’ve learned (at least I think I have) that knowing and believing what the Bible says about the ‘natural’ man doesn’t mean I should tell every atheist how the Bible describes him. Rather, that knowledge should be humming in my brain and should drive HOW I share Christ with him.

Can I tell the atheist what the Bible says a out him? Certainly, but at the right time and in the right way.

So how do we know when the time is right? Maybe we can’t, but God can. So we pray before, during, and after our evangelistic encounters.We proclaim the simple truth about God, man, sin, and the remedy for sin, trusting God to do the saving. He doesn’t need our ‘help’, just our faithfulness to the gospel.

FALLEN MAN’S PREDICAMENT

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17 ESV)

The Way We Were

The above passage merely states that the consequence of disobeying God would be death. The generally accepted assumption is that both physical and spiritual death is in view. In speaking to believers in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described spiritual death in rather stark terms:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

If Paul’s words cause you to think of “The Night of the Living Dead”, or some other popular zombie movie or television series, don’t be alarmed. Paul described dead folks walking around as if they were really alive, going about their ‘stinking’ business, driven along by a rebellious spirit, controlled by their own sinful passions and desires, and the very objects of God’s holy wrath against sin. What a far cry from how much of today’s church and modern day preachers describe fallen men!

"And that is the subject of this post – the true condition of fallen men. We will make no dogmatic assertions or advocate for any particular doctrine formulated by men. We will simply ask a few questions and allow scripture to speak to them.

What is the natural disposition of man toward God?

  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Romans 8:7-8 – For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God
  • Colossians 1:21 – And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds

Are natural men at least seeking God?

  • Psalm 10:4 – In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
  • Isaiah 65:1 – “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
  • Isaiah 64:7There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Romans 3:10-12 – “no one seeks for God.”

Can the natural man comprehend the gospel or come to saving knowledge of God on his own?

  • 1 Corinthians 2:14 – The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-4our gospel is veiled… to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18,21-24 – For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles
  • Deuteronomy 29:2-4 – And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”
  • Matthew 11:27 – “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Are people good deep down? What about the mind and heart?

  • Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
  • Titus 1:15-16 – to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
  • Ecclesiastes 9:3 – Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
  • Romans 1:28-31 – And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were… foolish
  • Ephesians 4:17-18 – you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
  • Jeremiah 10:7-8,14 – among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. They are both stupid and foolish… Every man is stupid and without knowledge
  • Matthew 15:19 – “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (c.f. Mark 7:21-23)
  • Genesis 6:5 & 8:21 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… from his youth.
  • Proverbs 10:20 – the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
  • Proverbs 28:26 – Whoever trusts in his own [heart] is a fool
  • Mark 7:21-23 – “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (c.f. Matthew 15:19)
  • Psalm 5:9 – For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.

Just how morally ‘free’ is the natural man?

  • John 8:34 – Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
  • 2 Peter 2:19 – They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
  • Titus 3:3 – For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
    • Galatians 4:8-9 – Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
    • Romans 6:6,16,17,19,20 – We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey…? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
    • Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

I pray that the above has been profitable to you. If current assumptions concerning the state of fallen men have been crushed, bury them and leave them be.  I firmly believe that if we understand what scripture has to say about the true state of fallen men, some of the things we believers tend to debate about with each other would simply vanish

Is Arminianism a Different Gospel? – by Rev. Eric Kampen

The seriousness and extent of Arminian thinking can be a point of contention at times. It is not unheard of that in Reformed circles critical comments about Arminianism are met with blank stares, a degree of indifference, or even a degree of hostility. The hostility may arise as it is felt that the criticism is unjust, extreme, inaccurate, or, even if it is correct, unnecessary as despite the differences those holding to Arminian theology are still Christians.

In recent reading I came across some remarks concerning Arminianism which showed both the seriousness and extent of Arminian thinking and how it is incompatible with the Reformed faith which, after all, is the Scriptural faith. In essence, in Arminianism we have a different gospel (see 2 Corinthians. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-8), a gospel which denies salvation is the complete gift of the sovereign God who graciously justifies sinners through faith alone.

Just to refresh your memory, Arminian thinking, so soundly renounced in the Canons of Dort, denies God’s sovereign eternal election unto salvation. While affirming God’s grace, Arminianism claims that God merely offers salvation and it is up to man who decides to accept or reject the gospel. One author summed up Arminian thinking as follows,”….God was made dependent on free-will-equipped-men for whom He politely had to wait, looking to see whether the man would be so kind as to believe”[1].

Though the Reformers of the early 16th Century did not have to contend with Arminianism as such, since Arminianism arose late in the 16th century and early in the 17th century, they did have to contend with its theological cousin, Semi-Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism teaches that man is spiritually sick. As such he does need the help of God’s grace in order to get better. However, it is up to man to take the spiritual medicine which God offers. God must have man’s cooperation. In theological terms this was called “synergism”. You can see the similarity to the Arminian position. The Reformers responded to this by stressing the sovereign grace of God, as heard in the cry “Sola gratia”. God calls those dead in sin to new life (see Ephesians. 2:1-10). The Reformers stressed the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace. This was a point of unity between the Reformers despite differences about other issues. [2] In the Book “The Bondage of the Will” this was the point that Luther argued with Erasmus.

We should note then that Arminianism is a reincarnation of Semi-Pelagianism with its emphasis on man’s freedom. This explains why the churches acted so resolutely with respect to Arminianism. They saw it as a serious threat to the gospel and condemned it “as being in principle” a return to Rome (because in effect it turned faith into a meritorious work) and a betrayal of the Reformation (because it denied the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, which was the deepest religious and theological principle of the Reformer’s thought). Arminianism was,indeed, in Reformed eyes a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favour of New Testament Judaism; for to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle from relying on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other.”[3]

The Reformed faith thus teaches the helplessness of man in salvation. Arminianism, in typical Semi-Pelagian style, teaches self-help religion. It is sovereign God versus sovereign man. It is indeed the different gospel which Paul warned about. It is appealing because it extols the dignity of man. It is a lie because man is dead in sin, totally helpless.

While the aforementioned points show the seriousness of the Arminian teaching and how it stands in contrast to true Reformation theology, to what extent is it found today? One author stated that “Arminianism … has had American evangelicalism in a strangle hold since the days of Charles Finney.”[4] Charles Finney (1792-1875) was a >revivalist preacher who was very influential with his revival techniques. Another author states that 86 percent of American evangelicals hold to the Arminian position as comes out in their agreement with the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” [5]This comes out very clearly in the writings of the well known Billy Graham who has even written a religious self-help manual titled “How To Be Born Again” in which the various steps to salvation are clearly spelled out.[6]

The apostle Paul fought with great vigour against the “different gospel”. In that gospel they will speak of Christ and use words like grace, election, faith, regeneration, etc. Yet, it is not the gospel of sovereign grace received through faith but of grace received on the ground of one’s faith. The earlier mentioned reference linking Rome and Arminianism is worth drawing to your attention again. Actually,there is a common denominator in all false religion in that it ascribes ability and free will to man by which he can effect his own salvation if he so wishes. It displays the arrogance of sinful man,even more so when he dresses lies with words of the gospel. That makes the enemy all the more difficult to detect as he works in his subtle way. We can all the more understand Paul’s warning about Satan disguising himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians. 11:14).

Personally I don’t enjoy having to harp on the point of the Arminian danger. I fear, however, that it is necessary because it is not realized how serious and extensive a threat it is. The true church glories in the gospel of sovereign grace where God rescues dead sinners and grants them the righteousness of Christ through faith. Let me conclude quoting in full Paul’s words in Gal. 1:6-9,

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel –not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again,If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.

Footnotes

1. K. Schilder, Extra-Scriptural Binding – A New Danger (In American Secession Theologians on Covenant and Baptism & Extra-Scriptural Binding). (Neerlandia: Inheritance Publications, 1996. p. 131.)
2. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston, “Historical and Theological Introduction,” in Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston (Cambridge: James Clarke/Westwood, N.J.: Revell,1957, pp. 57-58)
3. Ibid. p. 59
4 R.C. Sproul, Grace Unknown. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997) p.180
5. M. Horton, In the Face of God. (Word Publishing, 1996) Appendix CURE (Christians United for Reformation).
6. To give just two examples, Graham writes “The context of John 3 teaches that the new birth is something that God does for man when man is willing to yield to God”, and “He gives the Holy Spirit to draw you to the cross, but even after all this, it is your decision whether to accept God’s free pardon or to continue in your lost condition.” (B. Graham, How To Be Born Again. Originally published 1977. Quoted from the 1989 edition by Word Publishers, pages 150, 162)

Why Do The Heathen Rage?

That’s the question asked by the first verse of Psalm 2. The entire verse reads:

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (KJV)

Other Bible translations read something more akin to:

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?”

Either way, it’s the same question; a question that can be asked about nations as well as individuals.

The short answer is not a complex one. The ‘heathen’ rage because they are heathens. Those who profess no belief in the God who created them ‘rage’ because it is the natural thing to do. Furthermore, all of us who profess belief in God and His Son as having died for our sins were once heathens, and by nature the objects of God’s just wrath (Eph 2:1-3).

So what is it about man’s ‘heathenness’ that makes him rage? I’m glad you asked! Hold on to your seat belt. You see, the Bible tells us certain things about everyone that has ever been born since Adam fell. I will share just a short passage from the book of Romans:

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:6-8, ESV)

All of us were born with the same kind of mind – a carnal mind set on the flesh. None of us has a mind set on the Spirit until such time as we are ‘born again’, as Jesus so eloquently told Nicodemus in John 3. And as our Romans passage tells us, the ‘carnal’ mind is hostile to God. That hostility is expressed in our raging against God. Some of us rage privately in the recesses of our hearts and minds while some of us rage a lot – in public. Nevertheless, until God sovereignly saves us and delivers us from the bondage of our carnal minds, at some level we rage because it is our nature to do so.

Sadly, some us who proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior seem to have forgotten why it is that the heathen rage and that their rage is really against God. How do I know that? Thanks for asking. . .again.

Well, I’ll give you a two word answer and then then explain it, since you might think that I must be a little bit nuts. So here’s my two word answer: Duck Dynasty! That’s right, I said Duck Dynasty! Hear me out, please.

More to the point, it’s the Christian right’s response to the whole Phil Robertson saga that troubles me and leads me to believe that we’ve forgotten why and against whom, the heathen rage. This morning I heard yet another Christian radio broadcast discussing the whole ‘freedom of speech’ war that seems to be raging around the Duck Dynasty saga, and how we believers should be coming to the defense of Phil and the gang because of all of the hatred and bigotry spewing forth from the likes of GLAAD and a number of other organizations and media personalities. While I agree it’s really disgusting, I also realize that the real ‘haters’, while hammering Phil, are really raging against God!

I say that because I believe that the Bible is true – specifically a few passages from Romans 1:

Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Rom 1:18-32, ESV)

This passage from Romans tells us that we all know that God IS, and that those who would deny Him, are really only denying what they know to be true, resulting in the debasement of God’s natural order among other things. Those who are raging against Phil, as well as those who have been crusading for the removal of all reminders of God in the public square, are really raging against the God they know exists.

And what do we (evangelical Christians) do? We fight for ‘rights’ to free speech as if winning a few court battles is going to really solve something. Well guess what? Even if we do win a few court skirmishes, the heathen will continue to rage, in the futile attempt to justify that which they know to be wrong in the eyes of the God they know exists.

If we really love them like we say we do, we would remember that they are raging not against us, but against God, that we too were once the objects of God’s wrath, and we would endeavor to lead them to the Cross of Christ. And that my friends is not something we can do while we battle with them for ‘rights’. I also believe that the battle for ‘rights’ can, and does, distract us from the mission of sharing the gospel and that the enemy love it when we get distracted!

Think about it.