Archive for the ‘Bible’ category

Where Do Such Ideas Come From?

July 3, 2013

Recently there has been a lot of discussion among missions-minded people about something called the “Insider Movement.”  To quote from a great summary article available here,

Fundamentally, Insiders are those who profess faith in Christ but remain members of their original religious communities; Muslims remain Muslims, Hindus remain Hindus, and Buddhists remain Buddhists. In the Muslim world that means they must acknowledge one exclusive God, Allah, and that Mohammed is his final and greatest messenger. They remain members of the mosque, practice the five pillars of Islam, live openly in their cultures as Muslims, participate in Muslim sacrifices and feasts, and identify themselves as Muslims. In many cases, I’m familiar with baptized Christians who are persuaded to re-enter the mosque after renouncing their Christian identities. In the case of Muslim Insiders, most acknowledge four sacred books: the Law, Psalms, “Gospel” (as a book originally given to Jesus, but no longer in existence), and Koran. Of these texts, many assume that since the Koran is the latest, it is still the greatest, though others see both containing God’s Word. Insiders typically claim the Bible as inspiration for their view,  at least part of it.

As we discussed at our noon study today, this view hardly does justice to the Gospel.  The Gospel calls us to forsake our worldly ties and ways and follow Christ alone.  Certainly, we aren’t to leave our family or home, but we are to be identified with Christ and His people, the Church.  After all, the early church, at Pentecost, did this very thing and grew because of  obedience.  There were not to be secret Christians.

So, where do missionaries get this kind of thinking?  I think it begins at home–in the very churches were they grew up.  Yep, here in America we really do the same thing.  Want to become a Christian, but ignore what the Bible says about God specially creating man?  No problem.  The same goes for wanting to be active in homosexuality and still be called a Christian.  Have trouble with gender roles as God created them?  We just issue new translations that are gender neutral.  Want to be a part of God’s Covenant community without actually committing to join the community?  Okay, no membership, no responsibilities, no obligation.  Just come when you want.

The word we translate, “church,” in the Bible is, ecclesia.  While it means a congregation of believers, it literally means, called out.  ‘We have a real ecclesiology problem in the US.  We don’t look like the New Testament Church.  We don’t even look like a Country Club; even they have membership requirements and some rules and obligations.  We are afraid of running people off if we have standards.  Why does the Country Club flourish with standards?  Perhaps it has something worth belonging to.  When we water ourselves down so that everyone will be happy, we have nothing worth belonging to.

Part of our problem is that we see our salvation much more as a personal thing than a corporate one.  We forget that God sees us as a part of the body, not as a solo act.  (See Paul’s lecture to the Corinthians in his first letter, chapter 11.)

The other part of the problem is that we want to grow in numbers at whatever cost.  By the second  or third generation of doing things this way, it seems normal.  So, we presume, since everyone does it, it must be right.

So, when we throw stones at the missionaries who err so obviously, we need to remember the old truth, canonical or not, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!”


The Pernicious Doctrine of Rewards in Heaven

November 2, 2007

I don’t use the word pernicious when I am talking. It came to me as I got set to blog. I must have read it lately, or it wouldn’t have popped into my head. But, it is the word that describes the teaching that as justified believers, we can now get busy and work our way to a better deal in heaven. (Pernicious, by the way, means evil and destructive.)

I will be teaching on this Sunday morning before church, so I won’t make this an exhaustive post. I just want to mention a couple of reasons why the idea that we get to heaven by grace, but are treated differently depending on our good works is wrong pernicious. I am on a high horse because when I searched the web, I found this teaching everywhere.

Briefly, my pastoral concerns are centered in three areas, legalism, motivation, and most importantly, the denial of the imputation to us of Christ’s righteousness. As to legalism, guilt trips and pride immediately enter the picture.”God loves me more because I worked harder and I’m getting a better deal in heaven.” Or, “I feel awful that I didn’t volunteer to teach Sunday School. Now God will probably take away one of the jewels in my crown.” The reward system is taught by many as kind of a celestial Federal Reserve System. Each night rewards or losses are tallied up and moved to or from your account. Can you see what this does to your relationship with God? It becomes a relationship much like those we have here on earth—conditioned by how we behave. Lost is the unconditional love of God that comes strictly because we are in Jesus.

Related to legalism is motivation. Remember the parable of the vineyard workers? Everyone worked a different amount of time, but all got the same “reward.” Contrast that with this example of rewards teaching from the web:

God motivates us to continue on the right path with the promises of rewards in heaven, the one thief on the cross who believed in Jesus in his final moments was promised that he would be with Jesus in paradise, he may have received eternal salvation, but he likely had few rewards awaiting him. To provide a crude example; Billy Graham may shine like a 100-watt light bulb for eternity in heaven but this thief while also in heaven after death may only look like 1 watt. We only have this lifetime to make our decisions. Use it wisely!

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Maybe we should all be given cards which say, “Rewards member since 19XX.” Then we will know who is and isn’t a high roller in heaven.

. Paul insists that our basis for good works should be appreciation. (You theologues should borrow my copy of Prof. John Murray’s Principles of Conduct for a better understanding of this idea.) How far from that is the idea of doing good works to get rewards? It makes a labor of love into something akin to earning rewards points on the heavenly credit card I suggested above. The Westminster Confession of faith, Chapter XVI has a great exposition of good works, and helps in understanding this, too.) Look at this ad for Sunday School materials to teach very young children. What do you see as a motivation for good works in this?

Sunday school Lesson 4 Serve Cheerfully! The concepts taught in this lesson include: God gives us special abilities so that we can be really good at doing some jobs. God gives us everything you need to do our jobs well. When we use our abilities to help others, and share with others, God will give us rewards in heaven. This lesson encourages children by emphasizing that God didn’t leave anybody out…he gave us each special abilities. And it gives them ways they can begin using their abilities even at their young age. It also helps children begin to focus on what’s to come – rewards in heaven! The Circle Talk Time uses an object lesson to show children what that means. There is a warm-up activity, two pretend play activities and a rhyme with actions to go with this lesson. There is a sticker craft using the Bible reference of Ephesians 6:8 that tells us that the Lord will reward us for the good things we do. Also, children make a booklet with stickers about their abilities God gave them. The other verse used in this lesson is Romans 12:6-8.

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The biggie for me is how this teaching destroys the value of our receiving Christ’s righteousness when we become Christians. The Bible teaches us that when we believe, our sins are forgiven on the basis of Jesus’s death. He died for our sins. It also teaches us that we receive in the place of our sins credit for his righteous life. (See, Paul’s explanation in Romans 3 and 4.) We are credited with his righteousness. So, his record of works is our record of works. How could we even think we could improve on that? (While I won’t get into it here, those who carry the rewards thinking out logically, decide that we really didn’t get Jesus’s righteousness.)


I will deal with crowns and rewards from the Scripture on Sunday. Simply put, when we look at those passages in context, they are generally speaking about the difference between saved and unsaved, not distinctions in levels of rewards for the saved. After all, our “rewards” are called an inheritance. You don’t get an inheritance from working—you get it from being a child!

See you Sunday!