Monday, April 19, 2010


One of the things that sticks out in my childhood is the day of March 9th, 1998, the day of my adoption. On that day, because of an unexpected blizzard, my mom, my dad and I wound up taking the train into the Cook County courthouse in downtown Chicago. On a normal day, the ride on Metra into downtown Chicago from my hometown of Wheaton would have taken about 45 minutes. However, because of the blizzard, which resulted in the switches along the tracks freezing up, the train trip took nearly 2 and ½ hours. Anyway, to make a long story short, after an interview with a judge, permission was granted for my parents to finally adopt me after many years of waiting.

Although I had been raised in the Phillips family since I was taken in as a foster child when I was 7 months old, and was considered their child, I wasn’t officially made their child until that day. With that, came a change in name, from Donielle (“Donnie”) Dean Ecford, to Caleb Donnell Phillips, my parents officially became my parents and my brother, Aaron, officially became my brother.

And, this is just a picture of what God does to the unregenerate person whom He saves through Christ. In fact, just on Friday, Al Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote on his blog: “The adoption of any child is a portrait of God’s grace. Just as every earthly marriage points in some way to the marriage supper of the Lamb, every adopted child is a pointer to the Gospel.”

It’s first worth noting that in response to the claims of the Pharisees that God was their Father: “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me…You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.’” (John 8:42 & 44)

That being said, Paul writes to the Christians in Galatia: “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

Similarly, Paul wrote in Romans: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17)

And, in Epehsians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-7)

Now, this adoption has implications for the believer.

As Paul noted in Galatians 4:7 and Romans 8:17, we enjoy an inheritance. According to Titus 3:7, we are “heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Plus, according to James 2:5, we are heirs to the Kingdom of God. Peter describes our inheritance as “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…” (1st Peter 1:4)

Furthermore, we also read the words of Jesus: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” (Matthew 25:31-34)

Now, with all this being said, there is a another aspect to our adoption as sons (and daughters) of God: discipline. Yet, interestingly enough, God’s discipline is actually seen as a sign of love.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read of God’s judgments on Israel, including the invasions of the Babylonians and Assyrians. We see a picture of this in Ezekiel 20:33-49

“Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked.” (Psalm 94:12)

In John 15:1-2, we read Christ’s words: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Furthermore, we read: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:4-11)

And, in His rebuke to the Church at Laodicea, which Jesus Himself describes as “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:16) as well as “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17) says: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:19)

The last thing I wish to touch on is, as we’re adopted by God, those who are Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ, whom we love.

To quote John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” regarding the love that transcends even family and denominational lines: “The children of God, who therefore stand in the relation of brethren to each other, though they have too many unhappy differences in points of smaller importance, agree in supreme love they bear to their heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ their Saviour; of course they agree in disliking and avoiding sin, which is contrary to the will and command of the God whom they love and worship. Upon these accounts they love one another, they are like-minded; and they live in a world where the bulk of mankind are against them, have no regard to their Beloved, and live in the sinful practices which his grace taught them to hate. Their situation, therefore, increases their affection to each other. They are washed by the same blood, supplied by the same grace, opposed by the same enemies, and have the same heaven in view: therefore they love one another with a pure heart fervently….It extends to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, cannot be confined within the pale of a denomination, nor restrained to those with whom it is more immediately connected.”

Therefore:“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1st John 2:9-11)

“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother….We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1st John 3:10-11 & 14-16)

With this, I’d like to close with a quote from Al Mohler: “The wonder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this — not one of us is worthy of adoption. In our sinfulness, not one of us has any claim on the Father’s love, much less a right to adoption. But, the infinitely rich mercy of God is shown us in Christ, in whom believers are adopted by the Father. And this adoption, thanks be to God, is eternal and irreversible.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Quotes (#12)

"Any of the teaching that is good is in the Word of God, and any that is not in the Word of God is not good. I am a Bible Christian and if an archangel with a wingspread as broad as a constellation shining like the sun were to come and offer me some new truth, I’d ask him for a reference. If he could not show me where it is found in the Bible, I would bow him out and say, 'I’m awfully sorry, you don’t bring any references with you.'”-A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)
HT: DefendingContending

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Sermon on Hope & Hoplessness

In this sermon, Tim Conway preaches on both the hope of the Christian, as well as the hoplessness that non-Christians have until they repent and trust in Christ.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Scandal and Tragedy of the Roman Catholic Church

The Scandal and Tragedy of the Roman Catholic Church
If you’ve been keeping up with the news, chances are you’ve been hearing about the new sex abuse scandal rocking the Vatican. On April 4th, “the Times” reported that the late Pope John Paul II ignored the abuse of 2,000 boys by a friend of his, the Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, without any sanction from the Vatican.(1) It has come out that the former Cardinal William Levada of Portland, Oregon, reassigned a pedophile priest, albeit after the priest underwent therapy, without informing parishioners, and in Italy, the Catholic Church is also undergoing a mounting scandal.(2)

Plus, in light of the sex scandals in Ireland and in the U.S., there are the allegations against the current pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. Accusations have arisen that the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict), as head of the “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” before becoming pope in 2005, swept many cases of sex abuse in Germany and in other countries, under the rug.

But, what’s the most troubling is the Vatican’s response to the issue. On Palm Sunday, amdist calls of some for the pope to resign, it seems that he made, apparently, at the very least, reference to accusations, saying that God helps lead people: "towards the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion.” (3)

The following week, on Easter Sunday, we read this: "’Holy Father, on your side are the people of God,’ Cardinal Angelo Sodano told the pontiff, whom victims of clergy sexual abuse accuse of helping to shape and perpetuate a climate of cover-up. Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, dismissed those claims as ‘petty gossip.’…Dressed in gold robes and shielded from a cool drizzle by a canopy, Benedict looked weary during much of the Mass, the highlight of a heavy Holy Week schedule. But as he listened intently to Sodano's paean, a smile broke across the pope's face, and when the cardinal finished speaking, Benedict rose from his chair in front of the altar to embrace him….Sodano's praise for Benedict as well as the church's 400,000 priests worldwide cranked up a vigorous campaign by the Holy See to counter what it calls a ‘vile’ smear operation orchestrated by anti-Vatican media aimed at weakening the papacy.”(4) There was also a case in which Vatican priest Raniero Cantalamessa likened the backlash against the Vatican and the pope in particular, to anti-Semitism, angering many Jewish groups.(5)

Now, some of you may be wondering why I’m doing a post on this issue. But, I see this actually as the indication of a spiritual problem in the Roman Catholic Church, and I also see this physical corruption as the sign of long-existing spiritual corruption.

As a result of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church convened the Council of Trent (1545-1563), and by its pronouncement, it disconnected itself from Biblical Christianity, and made it clear that it is no longer a Christian organization, but a false religion. (Although, I do believe that there are professing Catholics, who by the grace of God have come to trust in Christ alone for their Salvations, and therefore are born-again Christians)

Let’s take a look at a few examples: “CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema. CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema. CANON XIII.-If any one saith, that it is necessary for every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any wavering arising from his own infirmity and disposition, that his sins are forgiven him; let him be anathema. CANON XV.-If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema. CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him);let him be anathema.” (6)

In short, the Roman Catholic Church, at the Council of Trent, pronounced anathemas on the Gospel itself!!! For, in Scripture, we read, it is: “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Now, are works necessary, ABSOLUTELY!!! But, they are a sign of regeneration. As James says: "But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."(James 2:18)

Furthermore, at the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), the Catholic Church confession read in part: “I embrace and accept the whole and every part of what was defined and declared by the holy Council of Trent concerning original sin and justification…. I firmly hold that purgatory exists, and that the souls detained there are helped by the suffrages of the faithful. Likewise, that the saints reigning with Christ are to be honored and prayed to, and that they offer prayers to God on our behalf, and that their relics should be venerated…I resolutely assert that images of 1. Christ and 2. the ever Virgin Mother of God, and likewise those of 3. the other saints, are to be kept and retained, and that due honor and reverence is to be shown them….. Then there is the definition of the Council of Florence: ‘The Roman Pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole Church.’”(7)

Because of the fact that the Catholic Church teaches a false gospel, it’s no surprise that these sexual abuse scandals are going on, as well as the Catholic Church responding this way. Why? Because, in teaching a false system, they’ve cut themselves off from the regenerating work of Christ. I’m going to concede that there are no perfect churches, and the church is a congregation of sinners saved by grace. But, when people are saved, despite the fact that they don’t become sinless, they are made new creatures (2nd Corinthians 5:17).

Furthermore, according to Scripture, we are to expel those who are in immorality until they repent!!! Paul writes: “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1st Corinthians 5:9-11)

But, the most damning indictment of the Vatican is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatian Church: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)

So, this begs the question of how we should respond. First off, we should reach out with the Truth of the Gospel, as well as compassion towards Catholics, or at the very least, pray that God uses these series of scandals, as well as inevitable disillusionment from some to bring many people out of the Roman Catholic Church and into true Christianity.

In fact, according to one news story: “As the faithful filled churches this Holy Week, many Roman Catholics around the world are finding their relationship to the church tested by new revelations of clerical abuse and suggestions Benedict himself may have helped cover up cases in Germany and the U.S. There are fears that for those whose commitment is already wavering, the scandal could be the final blow, and a growing chorus is clamoring for the church to embrace full transparency, take a hard line against pedophiles, and reconsider the rule of priestly celibacy….’People are outraged really, they're furious with the complete failure of the church's leadership and their view would be that we are led by incompetent people,’ [Paul] Collins said.” (8)

This may just be me, but part of me can't help shaking the notion that possibly, God's allowing this to happen to the Catholic Church as a means to draw people to Himself.









Friday, April 2, 2010

The Importance of the Ressurection of Christ

With Easter, or "Ressurection Sunday" coming up, one of the things that has obviously been on my mind is the death & ressurection of Christ, as told in the Scriptures, as well as the implications of it.

I think Isaiah 53 is the passage that most thoroughly describes the death and ressurection of Christ in Old Testament prophecy.

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all...Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities."
(Isaiah 53:4-6, 10-11)

Plus, Jesus Himself predicted His death & ressurection.

In His rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees, who demanded a sign of His being Messiah, Jesus stated: "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:39-40)

Also, we read: "See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day." (Matthew 20:18-19)

Now, we must get to the implications of Christ's ressurection.

First off, we see it as having spiritual ramifications.
"He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification." (Romans 4:25)

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:3-5)

"But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:10-12)

But, I think that 1st Corinthians 15 gives us the clearest picture of the spiritual ramifications: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1st Corinthians 15:1-19)

But, there are also physical implications to Christ's ressurection.

In 1st Corinthians 15, we read: "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ." (1st Corinthians 15:20-23)

In Daniel 12 in talking of the end times, we read: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."(Daniel 12:2)

We get a picture of this in Matthew 27, upon Jesus' death: "The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many." (Matthew 27:52-53)

We see this mentioned in 1st Corinthians 15:51-54, in which we read: "Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'"

We also read, in a passage that dispensationalists argue is referring to the pre-tribulation rapture and non-dispensationalists argue that which will happen at the time that Christ comes to destroy evil: "For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord." (1st Thessalonians 4:15-17)

Now, as Daniel 12:2 pointed out, there's also a ressurection of the non-believers as well, and there also seems to be a distinction between the ressurection of those who believed in Christ, as Revelation 20 points out: "Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection!" (Revelation 20:4-6)

Finally, we read of this second ressurection, the ressurection of damnation, later on in Revelation 20, after the final rebellion: "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:11-14)

In fact, as the late Leonard Ravenhill put it: "The unholy dead are going to stand, great and small, before God. Sometimes I look at my Encyclopedia Britannica and I think of all the history that is going to pass before me in the flesh. I'll be interested to see Julius Caesar and Tiberius Caesar. I'll be fascinated when Pontius Pilate stands before Jesus. I think he'll be more uncomfortable than Jesus felt standing before him! It will be awesome when we see the founders of these cults stand before God. When, in God's name, is the Church going to open their heart and mind and see that every man will stand accountable to God? I don't care if he flies his own private jet or how many cities or millions of people he rules. It doesn't matter. The great of the earth and the lowest of the earth are all going to spend their time in eternity. They are going to live there forever and ever, "where their worm does not die" (Mark 9:48). Hell won't be the same for everybody. Some will be beaten with a few stripes, some with many stripes (Luke 12:47-48). But I tell you what -- I'd rather be the least in the Kingdom of God than the greatest in the kingdom of the devil, both in time and in eternity…..Think of Pharaoh and Herod the Great standing before Jesus and having to account for their deeds."

To conclude, I'd like to finish off with 2 quotes that I think sum up the matter well, regarding the implication of the ressurection of Christ from the dead: "In the New Testament the standard miracle, the standard of God's power, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Then, because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, there is of course the resurrection of the individual from the dead."-Leonard Ravenhill

“Regeneration is the spiritual resurrection of the Christian…. This Divine quickening is spoken of as a passing “from death unto life” (John 5:24). It is a miracle: a miracle of Divine grace and power…. Only the living God can speak the word which will call forth a Lazarus from the tomb and He alone can regenerate… At his spiritual resurrection or regeneration the Christian is made partaker of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) so that new desires and affections are awakened within him.”-A.W. Pink