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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
For Beginner Christians... A Primer - Part I
"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world." - Hebrews 1:1,2 [ESV]

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. - 1 Peter 1:10-12 [ESV]

If I told you that I used to speak French, long ago, but now I speak English through an interpreter, you wouldn't imagine that I was saying that I now speak English to the Interpreter who then speaks French for me in my name. If I wanted to continue speaking to you in French, I would do so directly, and not through an intermediary.

Hebrews 1:1,2 tells us is that God no longer speaks to mankind the way He used to at one time. Previously God would communicate in a variety of ways, His message to a chosen prophet, and that prophet would then communicate that message to God's chosen people. The message received by the prophet could come in the form of a dream, a vision, an audible voice, or many other various means, and the prophet would then communicate the message to God's people; proclaiming it in the streets, writing it down (if it was a message for the ages to come), or even acting out various object lessons.

The point is that in the past God gave his messages to human intermediaries in various ways, and that message was communicated to God's people in various ways, but that all ended when Christ came. From then on God spoke in one way, and through one intermediary: Christ.

I hope the scope and significance of that finds some purchase in your understanding. It means that God no longer gives messages to His people through any other medium, and certainly not through the means He used in the past. The role of today's prophet is not to communicate new messages from God (as it had been in times past), but to expound God's final and finished message to His people.

This message which began to be articulated in the old testament, and finally and completely articulated by Christ in the new. 1 Peter 1:10-12 reminds us that it was the Spirit of Christ speaking to and through the old testament prophets. The Apostles themselves were Christ's envoys - carrying to God's people, through the medium of the new testament scriptures, the message that Christ had ordained they should communicate.

In other words, the bible holds God final and full message, given through Christ in both testaments, in the old: through agency of inspiration, in the new: by the words and instructions of Christ given directly to the Apostles and thereafter articulated in the pages of the New Testament. There is now no new revelation, no new messages, no new intermediaries. Christ was and is the final Intermediary, the final revelation, the last and closing chapter in God's message to Adam's fallen race.

The man who comes to you saying that he has a personal message for you from God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, is a deceiver who is likely deceived himself. The only time it is right to say, "Thus sayeth the Lord!" is when you are about to read from the scriptures. The only message God has for any of us, has already been given, and it is bound up in a book we call the bible. It is God's whole message, anything less is an incomplete message, and anything more is not part of God's message.

God no longer speaks to us through human intermediaries, but only through Christ's finished message.

It is the work of the preacher, the prophet, the teacher, and the pastor to proclaim, expound, explain, and guard this message without adornment. To preach from and explain the scriptures is to preach from and explain Christ Himself - to proclaim and to make understood who Christ is, and what that means to all who are called to Him.

It behooves every believer then to be on guard against the sort of mystical nonsense that passes in some corners for genuine spirituality. If you are a believer, you have within you the Holy Spirit who will be convicting you of sin. The Holy Spirit will not be at peace with any sin in your life, and you will experience this unrest as your own. No matter how much pleasure a sin may bring you, you will never be at peace with it, because the Spirit in you cannot be at peace with it - and you will experience His unrest as you own. No voices, no premonitions, no mystical hoopla. What you will experience is a conviction that what you are doing is not pleasing to God, and this coupled to the Spirit's desire that you live a life on earth that is pleasing to God will create a tension in you because your flesh will still desire sin, and you will not understand how it is that you can possibly give into that sinful desire when it seems a part of you knows it is wrong, and doesn't want to give into it.

This is the natural experience of every genuine child of God. We experience this conviction because the Holy Spirit (who is in us) is at odds with our own (self-serving) desires. We do not, and cannot overcome these desires by any other means than surrendering to the will of the Spirit, over and against our own desires which are contrary, and we cannot genuinely surrender to the Spirit unless we trust that in doing so, we are genuinely pleasing God. We call this walking in the Spirit.

There is no other way to truly obey God. If our obedience does not flow from a settled surrender to God, but is instead the begrudging compromise of one who halts between surrender and rebellion, then all we are doing is wrapping our disobedience in the guise of obedience, and we aren't fooling God, and (deep down), we aren't fooling ourselves either. We know something is wrong, but we don't know what.

Here is where the enemy shipwrecks many a believer whose genuine faith lays uselessly hung up on the reefs of their own ignorance, and is hammered into numbness and uselessness by the unceasing guilt that comes from knowing something is not right, and again from the ignorance that is being reinforced by a works theology that promises that if you just do more, you will break free from the reefs, and sail on in sweet ease.

The message of scripture is not that you can unlock the power to overcoming sin by doing such and such. The message is that you have already over come sin in Christ who is now in you (if you are a believer) in the person of the Holy Spirit. The message is that you will never, and can never obey God, and that is why you need a Savior. The message is that this same, incorruptible Savior is in you through the Spirit, and has overcome your rebellion against God already. The message is that there is no "trick" no "secret" and no "riddle" to any of this. You simply have to believe that what God said is true, and act on that belief.

Does that sound like a riddle? It isn't. Christ who has overcome death, cannot sin. Christ is in you through the Holy Spirit, so that when you are convicted that you should do one thing or avoid doing another, all that is left to you is the doing of the one and the avoiding of the other. You won't feel any power flowing through you, you won't feel like some foreign intelligence is communicating to you what course you should set for yourself. You will simply know, by the grace of God and the presence of His indwelling Spirit, what is expected of you, and then you will be left to either obey your flesh and thus walk contrary to the desires of the Spirit, or obey what you know is right, and thereby walk in harmony with the desires of the Spirit. When you conduct yourself (externally) according to the desires of the Spirit, but apart from the certainty that you are surrendered to God, your efforts are vain (empty). Vain efforts are not, and cannot ever be, acts of worship. The problem is never in your hands, it is in your heart. When you respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, knowing in your heart that your obedience is expressing without contradiction the heart behind the obedience, then you are walking in the Spirit, and your obedience is pleasing to God, and pleasing to you.

The greatest hindrance to your walk with God, in this age, and in every age, is, and has always been, empty religion. Do you want to overcome sin? You overcome sin by faith, not by effort. It isn't that you believe hard enough, and obedience suddenly becomes easy, it is that you face the truth - that your disobedience flows from a rejection of God's rule over you, and that the only avenue open to you is that of the willing slave, who surrenders from the heart to God's rule. When you surrender to God, it starts in the heart and not in the hands. The reason people act the part is because they hope to fix whatever is wrong with them, without anyone being the wiser. I would hazard a guess that in any congregation many if not most members are in this boat. They are consumed with religious activity, coming to all the meetings, robust in their various 'ministries' - playing the role, as best they can, but secretly concerned that they alone, are fakers, and hoping that they will solve the riddle of their failure before anyone can find out.

So I write today, about one of the things that contributes to this problem: the mystical notion that someone else has been given a message from God for you. That's just rubbish - even worse than rubbish, it is a corrupt notion that corrupts the church. It can be as obvious as some person coming to you privately and suggesting that God has "impressed it upon their heart" that they should say such and such to you, and it can be as subtle as the pastor suggesting that the message he is preaching today was impressed upon Him by God's Spirit. The same God who, through the story of the rich man and Lazarus (c.f. Luke 16) refused to give a private message to the rich man's relatives, since they had already, the words of Moses, having reasoned that if they would not obey the words of Moses, they would by no means obey the special message, even of one who returned from the grave. Am I to believe that the same God who would regarded scripture as sufficient in the past, now feels it is more effective to prompt pastors with subjective feelings which they then (infallibly) interpret into messages?

So you believe that? If you do it is only because [1] those around you believe it, and you don't want to rock the boat, and [2] you don't know the scriptures well enough. Listen: the bible is God's personal message to YOU. The role of the preacher is not use the bible as the vehicle by which a topical point is made, and a religious expectation is articulated. The role of the preacher is to expound the word of God - to make known to you, as clearly as possible, what God has already said to you personally in the scriptures. That is it. When a preacher preaches the word of God, for the sake of making the word of God known - then, and only then, is he preaching Christ. So when a pastor tries to sell you on the notion that he has received a message from God for this congregation, remember that God doesn't speak like that any more. That's not the same as a preacher saying that in recent days he has a personal concern either on account of genuine discernment or again on account of some impressions that are presently influencing him; that it seemed good to him to study up on these things in the past week, and to share therefore, with the congregation what the word of God has to say about the matter. Nothing quacky there. This man is not setting himself up, contrary to the clear word of God, as God's (other) new covenant intermediary who has infallibly received a holy prompting that he has infallibly and correctly divined to mean that he should preach on such and such, so that the congregation must, if the prompting is indeed from God, regard the entire sermon as just as infallible as the prompting...

My job today is simply to take the words of Christ inscribed by inspiration in the opening words of the letter to the Hebrews, and show from these simple, clear words, that although in times past God used to speak to others and have them speak to us in His name, that He no longer does that, but now speaks to us through the words of Christ which are collected and finalized in the Old and New Testaments. That God used to speak through dreams and visions to prophets, but now does not. That God used to have prophets give object lessons and proclaim to others what God communicated to them (personally), but that there is no longer any secret revelation - that this has all ended in Christ, and that now everyone can know the message of God - not through mystical sensations, through religious impressions, through subjective experiences that must be correctly interpreted through the holy discernment of divine riddles - but through the word of God: the scriptures. Teachers should expound it. Preachers should proclaim it. Prophets should guard it, and all God's children should consume it, unadulterated by the cleverness of man, and the mystical nonsense that passes for religion in far too many circles these days.
posted by Daniel @ 12:39 PM  
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