Book Review – Defining Deception

This is a bold book.  It is a personally revealing and transparent book. It is a humble and sensitive book [see the Preface – “The Heart of the Authors”]  It is a book that will make lots of people uncomfortable.  I’m sure many people are angry about this book.   It’s a book that will make many people stop and think about the music they listen to and the teachers they repost on Facebook and Twitter, and what they are actually teaching and promoting about the charismatic work of the Holy Spirit in healings, tongues, spiritual experiences, and prosperity.  [Think “Word of Faith” and “Name it Claim It…” God wants me to have a car, I just have to speak it into existence and receive it with thanksgiving. A la Osteen and Copeland…]

Therefore, this is also a colossally important book at a very important time.

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I have been looking forward to reading Defining Deception, since I stumbled upon the news of it’s upcoming release on the Twitter.

As a Pastor, one of the hardest parts of my “job” is to gently, yet clearly, identify false teaching and as a result have hard conversations with people about it.  One of the worst parts of my “job” is the painful untangling of years of false teaching and helping sort through the spiritual corrosion that bad theology leaves behind in it’s wake.  It shipwrecks faith, undermines marriages and relationships, and spreads like the flu on social media.

For this reasons and more, I’m very thankful for this book.

I was also surprised by the focus of this book.  I was thinking with someone like Costi Hinn, nephew of infamously famous false teacher, Benny Hinn, that it would focus primarily on him.  Indeed some time is spent on Uncle Benny – but Costi and Wood also present a balanced, comprehensive, and historical survey of the Pentecostal and New Apostolic Reformation landscape.  To say the conclusions are terrifying would be an understatement.

Nearly 1/3 of the book is devoted to a history of Pentecostalism and it was well worth the history lesson to see the twisted theology of the forefathers of these modern movements.

However, one of the most noteworthy modern movements is Bethel Church, Bill Johnson, and their band Jesus Culture.  Now, I get it. JC is a ridiculously talented group of musicians.  Years ago, when I first heard “Your Love Never Fails,” I didn’t stop playing it for about a month.  I even did it in church at a worship night. [I simply couldn’t wait to capo my Telecaster and chug it up.] The lyrics [at that time] didn’t have any red flags.  But then I discovered the theology of the ministry at large and needless to say, I stopped listening and never lead that song again.  Yet, so many simply don’t know. Yet, I didn’t know the scope and depth of the heresy. This book will help.

The authors spend a chapter identifying legit doctrinal errors in Johnson’s teaching with [jaw-dropping] quotes from his book that fly in the face of orthodox Christianity and are in direct contradiction to the Word of God. There are too many errors to list here, but this isn’t little stuff, this is HUGE stuff.  Not squabbling over eschatology, but like the deity of Christ and the authority of Scripture over and above our experience.  As the authors so clearly put – “A regenerated life surrendered to the Holy Spirit will always point back to Scripture for faith, theology, and practice. Christianity has held this truth for 2,000 years, and no self-professed modern-day apostle or prophet should lead us away from this foundational truth.” [105]

The book closes with a very helpful appendix section with an honest and personal testimony from Costi, amongst scores of others who have had their eyes opened to the purity and power of the true Word of God centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Another appendixes include a helpful FAQ section, clear teaching on what Scripture actually says about speaking tongues, being slain in the spirit and healings.

In this current spiritual milieu with so many voices, I’m very thankful for this helpful, clear, and strong voice crying out for a return to God’s truth in His Word.  Our experiences and feelings cannot drive the bus, our hearts will lead us astray. This book defines that deception and it needs to be read. That is clearly what is happening with false teachers preoccupied with the supernatural and the experience.  May we have the courage to call it what it is in our lives, pulpits, and relationships to the glory of God.

 

 

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Book Review – Sons in the Son

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Sons in the Son (P&R Publishing, 2016) by David B. Garner goes deep into the doctrine of our adoption in Christ.

Adoption is one of those doctrines that warms and encourages the soul and needs to be dwelt upon.  It is also deeply foundational to who we are as united to Christ.  J.I. Packer famously wrote (and Garner is quick to quote) that if he could summarize the New Testament in three words it would be “adoption through propitiation.”

This book is a challenging and academic read, one that is good for enhancing,  deepening and poking at our gospel perspectives, while keeping Christ central.

In Garner’s first section of the book, he lays the adoption foundation -“Securing a family of adopted children occupied the mind of God since before the world’s origins…God purposed adoption, God accomplished adoption, and God applies adoption.” [19] After a brief survey of the concept of adoption in early church history and culture, Garner focuses on the Pauline references to huiothesia – the Greek term  (literally “son-placing”) for adoption which the Apostle uniquely uses for spiritual (not social) adoption.

In the second section, the author dives into the specific texts exegetically and theologically.  Ephesians 1:3-6 [“…God the Father…predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons thru Jesus Christ…”]  As Garner wisely puts it “the opening words of Ephesians affirm, without the all-wise counsel and eternal purpose in the mind of God, redemption would have never happened.”  Amen!  Praise be to God for his sovereign mercy and grace.  Garners stresses, as Paul does in his letters that adoption is in Christ (en Christo) and that union with Christ is paramount to keep in central focus.   Many things stem from this, but one I appreciated particularly was the connection between adoption and Christlikeness.  Eph 1:4 says that he “chose us…to be holy and blameless.”  We have a calling and a purpose therefore as his adopted sons and daughters – bring him glory by looking more like Jesus, through his abundant transforming grace.

The author brings in a redemptive-historical view of adoption when looking more closely at Galatians 4:4-7. [“…so you are no longer a slave, but a son…”]  We see that adoption was not only sovereignly planned, but accomplished in Christ.  As he powerfully writes “the stranglehold of the law and the power of it’s curse meet their defeat under the power of Christ and the cross…” [93] As a result, thru faith, we are no longer slaves to the law/sin – but we are adopted as sons in freedom! Romans 8:15-17 furthers the emphasis of accomplishment. [“…you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons…”]  This is indeed a powerful and central point, once again tied to Christlikeness in practicality – “The Spirit of adoption empowers the believer for spiritual renovation by mortification of sin, and he accomplishes  this empowerment in the mystical union with the Son by the Spirit, or as Paul puts it succinctly, by adoption.” [115]  Through this mortification of sin we grow into the reality of our adopted sonship.  [129]

Garner makes some big statements in this book, one of which he brings out in the context of Ephesians 1:4 to 1:11.  [“…works all things according to the counsel of his will…”]  “Or put in Pauline shorthand, adoption is the singular goal of redemptive history, an adoption that changes the state of the sons, the hearts of the sons, and even the bodies of the sons.” [143]  I can’t say that I disagree with this statement, but the author is laying the groundwork for some bigger statements to follow.

Section 3 contains the significant disconnect I have with the book.  While remaining faithful to the orthodox doctrine of the eternality of Jesus as the Son of God, Garner maintains that Jesus himself was adopted as the Son of God at His resurrection.   This point he carries then for the rest of the book, but devotes a whole chapter to it in chapter 7.  Again, Garners sets the theological foundation with boundaries – “That Christ is eternal Son does not mean, however, that there is therefore no progressive, functional dimension to his sonship.” [179]  Quoting Dunn, he claims this was the adoptionist perspective of primitive Christian teaching “…to have regarded Jesus’ resurrection as the day of his appointment to divine sonship, as the event by which he became God’s son.” [179]  This can be a dangerous perspective and I couldn’t help but take it as a thesis driven push point.  It colored the rest of my interpretation of the book.

The author mainly relies on Romans 1:3-4 for textual support  – ““concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 1:3–4 ESV). The centrality of the argument is the ESV (and KJV, NKJV, and NASB) translation of horisthentos as “declared” which Garner (along with NIV and the new CSV BTW) claims is actually better ” appointed” – thus surmising that Christ was appointed the (adopted) Son at his resurrection.  To be blunt, I can’t buy this, I don’t think it’s helpful, and again it can be dangerous.  Citing support from Gaffin [“…the resurrection of Jesus is his adoption.”] he claims this nuanced interpretation warrants serious attention. [187]

Where it troubles me further is the connection made to biblical Christology and biblical soteriology.  “To put it simply, without the human biography of Christ Jesus, capped by his own adoption as the Son of God, there is no salvation.” [195] – I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement, were it not for the singling out of Christ’s “adoption.”Hence, I cannot.  We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, I know the author agrees with that of course, but the addition of the adoption of Christ himself seems to obfuscate the overwhelming orthodox centrality of it.   Highlighting my concern are statements such as “…there is no adoption of believers in Christ Jesus without the adoption of Christ Jesus.”  As he continues to make the point, I find myself less and less convinced and more and more concerned.  Don’t get too excited – I realize that Garner isn’t denying the eternal divine sonship of Christ, he is stating that “…at his resurrection, Jesus enters a new phase and new dynamic of sonship.” [214], but I’m at a loss as to why this nuance is emphasized for half of the book.

I appreciated Garner’s discussion of the ordo salutis and rescuing it from a forensic, stale, sequential view. He returns to highlight the importance of sanctification resulting from our adoption, and brings a balanced perspective to a sometimes over-emphasized justification.  “Actual holiness is as important as declared holiness.”  [292] AMEN!  He expands the readers view of ordo salutis and it is appreciated and helpful.  “The golden chain of salvation then comes to the redeemed not as consecutive links, but at once as a gloriously completed crown of divine filial grace.”  Once again, AMEN!  Having sat thru many extended dialogs on “which came first” this is very refreshing and helpful.

All in all, I found this book equally helpful and challenging, but one that should be read with a Berean mindset as the priority given to Christ’s own adoption should not be read without significant personal prayer, study, and thought.

 

 

 

Adoption and the Gospel

My family has been a licensed NJ Foster Home for a while now, in that time we have seen many kids come through our door.  Some only needing to stay a short time, others several months, and maybe one day (perhaps in the near future) we will be faced with the very real question of adoption. Will we consider making this child a permanent part of our family, we officially become “Mom” and “Dad,” our kids become “Brother” and “Sister,” and we get to call them our “Son” or “Daughter” – with all the rights and privileges therein.  Let’s be straight up – that is a big deal.  Huge.  Perhaps in this life there is no bigger commitment or responsibility than becoming a parent.

The concept of adoption is that a child who has been rejected or orphaned from their birth family can be fully accepted as a member of another family.  In that is actually a beautiful picture of the gospel. Let me explain.

Spiritually, we are all orphans – alienated from our Heavenly Father by sin.  Sin that is in us from the Fall and sin that we have willingly committed in rebellion against God’s authority in our lives.   Just like there is nothing a child can do to make themselves be adopted by another family, there is nothing that we can do spiritually to make us adopted by God.  It is an act of his jaw-dropping grace that he adopts us.  He pursues rebellious sinners and chooses to lavish his love on us in Jesus thru the cross.  Let’s look at a few elements of our spiritual adoption:

  1. God pays the full adoption price in Jesus.  Adoption is costly financially.  Those of you who have adopted internationally are well aware of this.  Then there is the normal expenses of providing for a child.  Adoption is also costly in other ways as well – we give a part everything we have with another child – our time, our emotional energy, our comfort…our sleep! Likewise, the price of our spiritual adoption is extremely high – it is the life of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins.  This is an infinitely high price, one that no one can pay except God alone.  He pays it, and we receive adoption. Galatians 4 helps us understand this more deeply – “But 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.” (Galatians 4:4–5 ESV)  Theologian and author J.I. Packer wrote if he had to summarize the message of the New Testament in three words it would be “adoption through propitiation.”  God adopting us by providing a wrath-bearing sacrifice (“propitiation”) in Jesus.
  2. We are adopted with all the rights and privileges of God’s child.  When a child is adopted into a family, they assume the family name and everything that goes along with it. This is an astounding fact.  We become children of God.  I heard a Pastor say the other day “We are all God’s creation, but not all His children.” We become His children by faith in Jesus Christ.  John 1:12 tells us clearly – “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12 ESV)  Becoming a part of our family is cool and all, but has limited rights and privileges (we aren’t all that famous or wealthy…)  BUT, when we place our faith in Jesus, God adopts us into His family!  Check out Ephesians 1:1-14 for a more detailed list of our blessings of being adopted.
  3. Through adoption, we have direct and intimate access to God as our Father.  Children have (or should have) unrestricted and continuous access to their parents. Kids should have that feeling that they are special and dearly loved by their moms and dads.  They do not need to go thru anyone else to be with mom or dad.  We do not need to go thru a priest, a prophet, or any kind of middle man.  We do not need to be at a certain spiritual level in order to be accepted by God. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”” (Galatians 4:6 ESV)  The great Dr. Ryan Boys said that there is no evidence of any ancient Jewish prayers where they called God “Father”  – now thru adoption by faith in Jesus we can!
  4. By adopting us, God makes us heirs to Himself and His kingdom.  Let’s pretend for a moment that my family had amassed a fortune worth billions of dollars, and I had no children.  By adopting a child, they would become heirs to everything I had as my “official” child.  Here’s the crazy thing – is there anything of more supreme worth than God himself?  This is mind blowing even more.  We will inherit God himself.  The joy of being with God is God himself.  Again, Paul’s letter to the Galatians is helpful in understanding this concept more:  “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:7 ESV)  Pastor and Author CJ Mahaney spent over an hour plunging the depths of this mystery at the 2015 Sovereign Grace WorshipGod conference, I would say that will be an hour worth your time.  (To see that message click here).

All of this is grace and all of it should amaze and astound us with the blessings that God provides in us.  When others notice that we are caring for the widows and orphans and praise us, it is an immediate opening to briefly share that this is the picture of our spiritual adoption in Jesus.  As we show grace to others, let us remember the grace of God in adopting us in Christ Jesus.  Dustin Kensrue sums things up well in his song “Grace Alone”  –

I was an orphan lost at the fall
Running away when I’d hear your call
But Father, you worked your will

I had no righteousness of my own
I had no right to draw near your throne
But Father, you loved me still

And in love before you laid the world’s foundation
You predestined to adopt me as your own
You have raised me up so high above my station
I’m a child of God by grace and grace alone

You left your home to seek out the lost
You knew the great and terrible cost
But Jesus, your face was set

I worked my fingers down to the bone
Nothing I did could ever atone
But Jesus, you paid my debt

By your blood I have redemption and salvation
Lord, you died that I might reap what you have sown
And you rose that I might be a new creation
I am born again by grace and grace alone

The Massive Importance of His Sacrifice

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The bottom line is that what today traditionally represents, the sacrifice of Jesus, is massively important.

Everything hinges on who Jesus is and what he came to do.  There is much confusion – some say Jesus was a good teacher, a kind man, even a “perfect man” – and the usual answer to the question of what he came to do was “die on the cross for our sins.”  Why did he have to do that?

I’m thinking of (at least) our reasons why this day is massively important:

 

  1. Jesus’ sacrifice saved me from God.  Ephesians 2 tells us that we were all at one time, objects of God’s wrath because of sin.  God is justifiably angry with us because of our willful rejection of Him.  The amazing thing is that God makes the first move to reconcile us to Him by Jesus. We were saved from God by God.  As Propaganda says, “let that one bake your noodle.”
  2. Jesus’ sacrifice satisfies all of God’s wrath for my sin.  Jesus’ sinless life and sacrifice in my place, satisfies ALL of the wrath of God against me – IF I have understood this by faith and live a life of worship and submission to God.  That’s a big IF…because until you turn from your sin and to Jesus, your sins are not forgiven.  As John 3:36 says, “His wrath is still on you…”
  3. Jesus sacrifice took my sin AND my shame.  With sin comes shame, sometimes huge shame, guilt, grief, pain. Isaiah 53 says that the Messiah will bear it all.  Jesus is both fully man and fully God, therefore he understands all of the hurt and he bore it on the cross, and has the power to atone for it.
  4. Jesus sacrifice paves the way for life.  Without His sacrifice, there is no payment for sin, if there is no payment for sin, then there is no way to be forgiven.  But God just doesn’t merely forgive our sin – he takes our sin and in exchange gives us new life.  As Christ rose from the dead, we too – by faith – obtain a new life.  This is tremendous HOPE that goes beyond any seemingly hopeless situation – nothing can take that new life away.

Maybe this is the season when you make the most important decision you can ever make, one with eternal significance.  Turn from your sin and embrace what God has already done in Jesus by His sacrifice.  If you have already done so then dwell.  Consider.  Soak in the depth of this amazing, loving plan of God.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 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 6:1–4 ESV)

What Did Jesus Come To Do?

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If someone asked you to tell them in one word “What did Jesus come to do?” what would you say?

 Maybe “die on the cross” or “help people”?
 I want to read 1 verse from Luke 4:18 which may help answer this question.  To set the scene a little, this is Jesus himself speaking publicly probably for one of the first times in the synagogue on the Sabbath…
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,”
(Luke 4:18 ESV)
Do you see any common ideas in this passage?  Liberty – literally a ‘release from captivity’ or a ‘release from a punishment or guilt’
I would suggest that this passage is telling us that the one word we could use to answer the question of what did Jesus come to do is “freedom.”   Jesus came for freedom.
The undeniable fact is that since the Fall, since sin entered the world, everything here is under the curse of sin. We are totally unable to fix the situation by our own power, and are only trapped in it. Trapped.  Prisoners.  Captives.  In need of being released – whether we realize it or not it’s true. Christmas is a great time, usually a happy time with family and presents – but for some it highlights the brokenness of this world – family drama happens a lot around Christmas, conflicts, hatred, bitterness, sins against family. Maybe you have been sinned against by your family and friends and being forced to be with them on Christmas just makes you more aware of that.
Will it ever be fixed? Can we just encourage you — all along, it has been God’s plan to provide freedom in the Messiah – the one who came on a mission to be the payment that is required to purchase our freedom.   You see, this verse, even though it’s in the gospel of Luke, it is really Jesus himself quoting the Old Testament prophet Isaiah – who hundreds of years earlier wrote about the Annointed One, the Messiah, the Christ will come for freedom. Jesus himself makes a bold claim and says “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled…”  meaning – “Hello…I am Him — – The Messiah.”  Talk about your controversial statements – the crowd was so angry after hearing him say this, that the Bible tells us they literally wanted to throw him off of the nearest cliff. (Luke 4:28-29)
The message that we celebrate at Christmas is the message that the long foretold Messiah has come to bring us freedom from sin, guilt and shame and live the abundant life he created us to by finding our true joy and purpose in our Creator – God.   You can be free this Christmas, and wouldn’t that be the greatest gift ever?

Going Beyond

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In Matthew 5:43-48 is another well known passage where Jesus is teaching on loving your enemies.  Matt 5:44 says “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Bonhoffer in “Cost of Discipleship” clarifies enemies are those who have hostility against us, not necessarily those against who we have hostility against.   How we treat people in those situations says a lot about where our hope is based and how much we understand we have been loved by God in Jesus.

v47  is pretty key in understanding this concept – “and if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?”

Christians are called to go beyond what others do and say.  We are called to be different.  Called to stand out.  In all situations, we are called to glorify God.  This is different, “extraordinary.”  The temptation is to blend in, to not stand out from others.  Yet we see from the Word of God that we are called to “do more.”  This isn’t an effort based system of earning God’s favor, but if you are disciple of Jesus you are already accepted by God.  Now, we work to go beyond the norm, we avoid sin, we love our enemies — because of who we are in Christ.

If we are truly living our lives according to God’s word – we will stand out.  Sometimes this will be hard, as anyone who desires to live a Godly life will be persecuted.  (2 Tim 3:12).  We are not promised an easy, financially prosperous, and healthy life – no matter what the false teachers on the “Preachers of LA” say.

But, what we do know, is that a life lived for God’s glory is the most fulfilled life that one can have, because we are walking in obedience to our Creator, and living a life of love, and in that is the blessing of growing in Christ and being more and more filled with the knowledge of Him as we go thru life.  Only in that is true peace and joy.

Remembering 9/11

9-11-Tribute-In-Light-MemorialGod does not cause evil, sinful men do evil as an act of rebellion against their Creator.  Yet, God is not helpless and unaware of the evil men do, he is sovereign over it…using it for the billions of reasons that we will never understand because we are not Him – yet we may catch a glimpse of a reason every now and then.

Twelve years ago, God used an astounding act of evil to spin my head around, get my eyes off of myself, and return to my Creator.  He used 9/11 in my life as a giant wake up call, that my life without Him at the center is ultimately empty.

God is also the God of all comfort.  And so, while today I’m very thankful for God using 9/11, I’m very aware that there will always be people who still mourn the loss of loved ones.  We remember them, hug them, pray for them.  We encourage them that the only true comfort is not found in this world, where I was searching for it in my pre-9/11 self-centered fog – it is in a person – Jesus Christ, who came on the ultimate rescue mission to provide a way for a rebellious people to be reconciled to their Creator, by his selfless act of taking our punishment on the cross.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””

(Mark 10:45 ESV)