The Problem of Good Deeds

This is a good video from Pastor Michael Durham of Real Truth Matters. It should be watched and considered by anybody who thinks that good deeds will grant you any grace before God. Modern American Christianity has been redesigned in a way that seeks to make you feel good about yourself, but it does not match up with true Biblical Christianity.

Stay the Course and Never Compromise!

In light of some of the recent posts and comments, I would like to share a few thoughts from my heart, but I want to do so by beginning with a story.

Over five years ago, an unknown blogger started an unknown blog that would eventually become very well known with thousands of readers. The unknown blogger was The Pilgrim and he began a blog that was then called Reformation Nation. Five years later, the site has been visited almost 3 million times, has over 25,000 published comments, spams innumerable, and people who are either still with us or have left angry, mad, or upset.

In late 2007, I was pastoring a small mission work and the Pilgrim, along with his family, wandered in on a Wednesday evening and listened to an exposition from Psalm 1. That night began what has become a very close friendship that climaxed, in my estimation, with one of the best memories of my life. He decided to join my wife and I on a mission trip to Liberia, West Africa. This was not easy for him as he had never been outside the USA, much less having been on an airplane.

The blog quickly became Defending Contending and I was invited to be the first of several contributors that would join in the fight. The Pilgrim and his family became a very important part of our ministry and in various ways they became a huge encouragement to us and still are to this day. Those times as a mission pastor were not easy, and there were times that I wanted to quit. I wondered whether it was worth the fight. Yet through it all, the Pilgrim was one of the few who always sought to give encouragement no matter how he was feeling, and no matter what he and his family were going through.

One of his catchphrases was and still is, “Stay the course, Never Compromise!”

NoCompromiseThis little phrase encouraged me, as it has others, not to give up when the going was tough. It encouraged me when my health had declined to the point that I wondered whether I would make it back to the US. It encouraged me when we wrote blogs that seemed like they only garnered bad comments, or when we were concerned that the fight should be left to others, or when the thought that giving up was more than passing jumble of words. Yes, there were times when we both wondered if we were going overboard. In our minds, we thought at times that maybe it would be easier to follow the sage advice, “If you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em!”

But then, I would remember the phrase again, “Stay the course, Never Compromise!” Either the Pilgrim would have to remind me, or I would seek to remind him.

Was it necessary? Was it worth the fight? Have we stayed the course? Have we sought to compromise?

I believe the answer is and remains that it was necessary, it has been worth the fight, we have sought to stay the course, and to the best of our knowledge we have tried not to compromise.

The purpose of this post and the lengthy introduction and story is to talk about the Pilgrim’s little phrase that has meant so much to me and to others.

First, what does it mean to stay the course and what course are we meant to be taking? After all, there are many blogs out there. There are many paths that can be taken. Some would make us popular and the blog could probably have become very famous had we made some different decisions. So, what course are we to stay?

The apostle Paul never set out to be popular, and it was clear from his writings that he never had a mega-church. He never saw his letters become best-sellers. He never owned his own personal Learjet and was never chauffeured around in bullet-proof vehicles. His final days did not live up to the vague, empty promises made by the health, wealth, and prosperity proponents of the 21st century. In fact, his final days were not spent in luxury but in the damp, dank interior of the Mamertine Prison in Rome. Then for the sake of the Master for whom he was nothing but a slave, he became a martyr and was beheaded at the command of Nero.

Yet, he stayed the course. Listen to what he had to say in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Notice that his course was not to enjoy life. It was not to have his best life now. It was not to be fulfilled or to build his self-esteem so he could feel better about himself.

Paul was a servant. Actually, he was more than a servant; he was a bondslave. He was a doulos of Jesus Christ and of such had no control over what he could say or do or even how he could live. He recognized his position and rejoiced that he was even called upon to suffer just as the disciples of Christ had done when they were beaten for giving forth the precious words of life.

He actually notes about himself in 2 Cor. 10:10, “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” It would appear that Paul never read the great Roman philosopher Dalius Carnegius scroll entitled, “How to Win Friends and Influence Senators!” If he did, it certainly did not make an impression on him.

History also reveals that he somehow overlooked another popular speaker’s scroll entitled, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Listen to another passage from Paul’s writing from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching [was] not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

Paul made it clear what the course was. It was to know NOTHING BUT Jesus Christ and him CRUCIFIED! That was definitely not a popular subject matter. Nobody liked crucifixion. I am sure that everybody did not want to be reminded that the Christian walk was not a bed of roses. There may have been some that thought that following Christ was easy as long as they could first go and bury their dead. Or, maybe it was necessary to first throw a party or to sell off the family business?

After the events of Acts 5 and the account of Ananias and Sapphira, there was no doubt that staying the course meant that people FEARED to join themselves unto the number of those who claimed to be followers of The Way. They were afraid to claim something that they were not just as Ananias and Sapphira had done. It cost that couple their lives when they lied to the Holy Spirit. God knew they were phonies and their lives did not match up what they claimed. There was no desire for forgiveness ever recorded, but the church remained pure and continued to grow.

Those who joined themselves to the church were not looking for fame or fortune. They didn’t come for the lattes, mochas, or cool, hip, relevant messages preached by a guy wearing a “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt. To join the early New Testament church meant you knew you might leave home for a church service and that you could be lion food that same night. They also knew what it meant to “stay the course.”

not-persecuted Staying the course meant being willing to take a stand when it is not popular. Staying the course means that you will gain the strength necessary to stare evil in the face, even if it means you must give your life for the testimony of Jesus Christ. When you stay the course, it means that you DO NOT QUIT doing what is right. A saying I heard all growing up is worth repeating, “Two wrongs NEVER make a right.”

Paul had only one desire and that was to finish the course. He did not start out well being a religious leader and putting believers to death. Although he did not start well, he wanted to finish well and with that in mind, he concludes his ministry with 2 Tim. 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Notice that he tells young Timothy that he “kept the faith.” This is where the rest of the Pilgrim’s favorite phrase comes in – “NEVER COMPROMISE!”

Today, as a blogger, it would be easy for us to stop telling the truth. It would be easy for us to join with others and seek to hold hands with all denominations and religions all for the sake of unity, but done at the expense of doctrinal purity.

But, it would be compromise!

At DefCon, we could openly embrace all those who claim to know Jesus simply because they know what His name is, yet have no evidence of fruit.

But, it would be compromise!

We could change from being a blog that takes a stand for truth and only give nice fluffy messages about how our readers could live their best lives now.

But, it would be compromise!

We could tell our readers how much God loves you that He has a wonderful plan for their lives that includes no hardships. That would be to join the mainstream of what passes for evangelical Christianity.

And, it would be compromise!

We could refrain from Paul’s admonition to warn others of the wolves that are desirous of eating the flock.

But, it would be compromise!

Yes, there are many things we could do differently that would please many of our former readers. There are areas of doctrine that could be ignored and whole passages of Scripture completely obliterated from our Bibles all for the sake of unity. We could refrain from warning others of the coming wrath of God. We could refrain from shedding tears at the apostasy that is so prevalent in modern churches. We could keep from warning others that it is only going to get worse.

But, it would be compromise!

To compromise is to give up on God! It is to give up on the Scriptures! It is to say to the world that the world is more important than the truth of God’s Holy infallible and inerrant words. To compromise means that we would have to stop telling people of the dangers of the cults and religions that are taking their people down to hell. To compromise does not necessarily mean huge changes overnight. Compromise takes shape just one small step at a time, but the end result is still the same! DESTRUCTION!

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is quick (alive) and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces down to the very core of our being. To compromise means that we would no longer believe in the regenerating power of God to break the dead heart of stone and make a new creation in Christ. You see to compromise means that we would be admitting that God is NOT the same yesterday, today or forever. It would mean that we believe that the message has to be different because of the changing times.

To compromise means that we will not have stayed the course. We must learn and pray that God will give us the grace, the strength, the humility AND the boldness to stand alongside the Martin Luther’s of the world who have come and gone. We must learn to re-echo those famous words with the same fervor and passion of those who were willing to DIE for their faith.

NoCompromise To compromise means that we do not count as dear that great cloud of witnesses who laid down their lives for the sake of the gospel. It means that we do not stand with our fellow brothers and sisters around the world who suffer today for their faith. It also means that we show to the world that our faith is only for when it is an easy walk, not a path wrought with difficulties, trials, and tribulations.

Listen again to the words of a man, who like Paul, refused to compromise.

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand for I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.”

To my fellow contributors, nobody said it would ever be easy. There are far too many who have given up already, and I for one do not want to be just another web statistic. I do not want people to say, “DefCon used to stand for the truth, but they gave up. They quit! They compromised for the sake of getting more readers!”

With God as our helper, we will stay the course and we will never compromise. I would hope that if we ever veer from our path that somebody else would be granted the strength to call us on the carpet. If we ever cease to use the Word of God as our mainstay, then I hope that somebody will seek to remind us of our duty and our call to be obedient servants. Our goal should be not to gain or hear the praise of man but to hear those wonderful words one day in eternity, “Well done, you were a good and faithful servant!”

Soldiers have no recourse to change their orders like so many are doing today. 2 Timothy 2 tells us that we are called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. No soldier that goes to war entangles himself with the affairs of this world. Our Commander in Chief has not authorized easy deployments, nor has He changed the battle plan!

To conclude, we at Defending Contending make no apologies for our stand for truth. Our conscience is captive to the Word of God. Our prayer is that we will continue to walk the paths that have been walked before us. Our prayer is that our words will give strength and courage to those who follow us, and that they too will heed the words of our dear friend and brother, The Pilgrim,

“STAY THE COURSE, AND NEVER COMPROMISE!”

Gospel, Discernment, and Passion 2013!

It is my prayer that this post will prove to be a connection between the matters of presenting the gospel and that of the area of discernment among the body of Christ.

First, I note that each contributor has a different set of giftings for which I am very thankful. When The Pilgrim was the primary owner of the blog, we were blessed in the addition of good men who I believe continue to take Defending Contending in a solidly, biblical direction. Chris, who took over from The Pilgrim, has a huge heart for evangelism and outreach as does Bill Phillips. Manfred, Fourpointer, and Abiding Through Grace have helped to bring a solid reformed perspective to this part of the blogosphere. The Pilgrim and I set a tone for world missions and also the need of discernment in the Body of Christ.

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Yet, each contributor is only human. We make mistakes, and further, we all have areas of sin that the Holy Spirit has to work to correct in our lives. None of us have arrived, nor would we ever want to portray such a picture. As our long-time readers will remember, there are times that we have each had to ask forgiveness for something we wrote, maybe that was in haste or in anger. Through all of this we continue to move forward and desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

For the record, we are not always in agreement with our thought processes, nor with a particular point of doctrine that we seek to understand. However, there is no question that we all love the Savior and desire truth in the inward parts of our heart and soul. My fellow contributors may not even be in full agreement with this post, but I believe I can safely assert that we all have the same desires – purity in the church and a church that is fervent about spreading the gospel message!

Recently, both Chris and I have posted a few articles that have dealt with two areas that are not diametrically opposed to each other. Conversely, they are actually a very necessary part of how we are to operate within the confines of a local church setting. His approach and strong desire for the presentation of the gospel has been matched by my own desire to have a spirit of discernment as we present our case before the thousands of readers we see come to DefCon every week.

In the midst of this, some have questioned our decisions either to bring a spotlight on a pastor, or in not going far enough in our condemnation. This is my main reason for writing this, especially in light of what we are seeing take place at Passion 2013 right now in Atlanta, Georgia.

From a gospel perspective, I believe that if more people were being presented with a Christ-centered message versus a man-centered message that there would be far fewer who were in attendance. The problem with Passion 2013 is that those in attendance are being driven by emotion. Further, they are seeing this event being openly endorsed by men such as David Platt and Justin Taylor. This event is not only being endorsed by well-known ministers, but men who should know better are also involved in preaching there such as John Piper.

The question we are faced with is, “Does such an endorsement automatically place men like Piper, Platt, or Taylor under such a cloud that we have the right to call their salvation into question and classify them as unbelievers?”

This is where the discernment perspective must come in. There are wolves who have always sought to infiltrate the church of the spotless Lamb of God. There will always be wolves. There can be no doubt that the salvation of a person is a matter that ultimately can only be known between that individual and the Sovereign God of the Universe. However, the Scriptures make it abundantly clear that we can be fruit inspectors and that by the works of others we can have a clearer picture as to their spiritual condition or lack thereof.

Taking this to another level, we must also consider discipline as found in Matthew 18. First, we must recognize that discipline is to be practiced between fellow believers, but that some aspects can only be effected in a local church setting. As an example, if I have offended another brother contributor, I have the responsibility before God to make that right. However, should things heat up and we have a falling out, neither my church, nor the church where the fellow contributor is in fellowship, have the right to bring another under discipline if they are not a member or in fellowship with that particular assembly.

Therefore, for those who lack in discernment in evangelical circles, we at DefCon can only bring warnings to others. We cannot bring ultimate judgment against another. Further, many seek to use Matthew 18 to make the point that if we have not taken our grievances to that person in question that we have no right to make public our concerns. This also comes from a poor understanding of this passage. The level of discipline is first to be enacted and finalized at the level to which it is either private or public knowledge. For example, if a brother contributor and I have a disagreement and we resolve the matter without it going public in any form or fashion, it goes no further. Restoration has taken place.

However, a person who has a public ministry and has openly stated where he stands or is showing a lack of discernment has taken the matter to a public level. There is no more private conversations necessary for the testimony at stake is no longer just a personal one, but is a dispersion against the Bride of Christ before a lost world.

Either way, at no point, does Matthew 18 give us the freedom to state to the world that the person who is offending others is an unbeliever. We are told and given the right by Christ that if such a person goes all the way to the final step of discipline that they are to be placed outside of the protection of the local church. They are then to be TREATED as one who is an unbeliever. The entire process is to continue giving forth the message to them and seek to provide restoration. This was a primary purpose for the writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians. Matthew 18 was fully enacted, but 2 Corinthians was necessary for the church to see their error in not admitting the brother back into fellowship. In this case, the man in question was in grievous sin that was not even found among the amoral society of Romans. Yet, at no point in either book does Paul question this man’s salvation!

jesusband
So, let us look further at the events currently unfolding at Passion 2013. There are some there who are teaching another gospel and are openly teaching or practicing or promoting heresy. This, in my estimation, includes Louie Giglio. It also includes groups or individuals that are practicing doctrines of demons. This group would include David Crowder, Christy Nockels and the band Jesus Culture.

A thorough expose on these groups can be found at Apprising.Org, and I highly recommend any person with questions to go and read my Christian brother’s blog posts before making any negative comments about my inclusion of these groups or individuals. Suffice it to say for now that these music artists are highly charismatic and further give evidence that Jesus is merely a byword, not a Person Who has changed their way of life. For further information, I would highly recommend reading the following post as well on the connections of those leading Passion 2013.

In addition, you have a woman, Beth Moore, who is clearly in contradiction to the teaching of God’s Word. She is considered an elder, teaches and preaches to men, but further is openly involved in the Roman Catholic teaching of contemplative mysticism. This type of meditation and mindless repetitious prayers were openly condemned by our Savior during His earthly ministry. Beth continues to refuse to be corrected and has continued a slide further into the acceptance of Roman Catholics as being on the same road to heaven as Christianity.

The Bible makes it clear that there is only one way to heaven, and what the Roman Catholic system teaches is not salvation by faith through grace alone. Beth is no longer just endorsing religions such as Roman Catholicism. Her teaching shows that she is promoting a completely different gospel. While we would pray and hope that she will see the error of her ways, we can only conclude at this point with the words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 1 – if anybody, even an angel, preach ANY OTHER gospel than what we have preached to you, then let them be accursed. This is not my words, nor is it my decision. Her actions and words bring condemnation upon her and her ministry.

So what about John Piper? Personally, I have learned much from several of his earlier books with the exception of his teaching of “Christian” hedonism. A very poor choice of terminology and shaky theology at best is at play here. However, in more recent times, there have been growing questions about his connections, his endorsements, and I am convinced that this has produced questions about where his theology is changing to from books such as “Future Grace.”

His endorsements are wrong, and I have not seen one thing that convinces me that he is preaching at Passion 2013 with the intention of bringing biblical clarity to the thousands who are gathered. Actually, he now openly endorses the ungodliness that is in place, holds hands with Beth Moore, and has even been captured on video practicing contemplative mysticism! This certainly does bring him into question and at this time, I believe we are only left with two conclusions. First, his lack of discernment continues to drive him down the road towards full-blown apostasy at the expense of biblical truth. Second, while I am not prepared to question whether he has ever come to a point of saving faith, I am prepared to learn from the words of John MacArthur, who has in the past noted that a person who evidences no change, has no fruit, and continues in full-blown apostasy must be concerned as to whether they were ever saved to begin with.

Sadly, the problem is compounded by the inclusion of heretics like Judah Smith, who co-pastors a church with his wife in Washington. His connection includes preaching at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and Mark Driscoll fully endorsed this event. Yes, this is the same Driscoll and Warren that are so openly welcomed and share pulpits with John Piper. These men all have the same thing in common – they are students of humanist authors like Peter Drucker, who died as a heathen pagan – without Christ.

My prayer is that those who like Chan, Piper, Platt, and Taylor, who have preached and taught the truth will wake up and see the truth. The truth is that they are being sucked into the whirlpool of expediency, the whirlpool that says numbers are more important than truth, the whirlpool that produces ever-increasing numbers of false conversions, and the whirlpool of apostasy that threatens to swallow all the other whirlpools like the black holes of space. Soon no spiritual light will shine forth from their ministries for error, heresy, and the doctrines of demons will swallow any glimmer from view, or it will ultimately prove that there was no light to begin with.

nouturn For now, I would share the words from the apostle Paul as seen in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”

Today, we MUST have the true gospel of Jesus Christ being preached to the world. The church has an awesome responsibility to reach out to the world and share in love the truth of God’s Word. The world must hear that there is ONLY one way to heaven and that is through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

However, preachers, pastors and ministers of the gospel must not only practice spiritual discernment, but they must also teach their people how to discern between what is right and what is wrong. Conferences like Passion 2013 are filled with thousands who are either not saved, or they fall under the category of being let down by the men who were entrusted with their spiritual well-being.

Pastors who have not stood up to this nonsense should repent for putting their people in harm’s way. Parents who have allowed their children to attend such a conference should also repent for putting their children, whom they were given to protect, in the way of the forces of hell that seek to blind the minds of their precious gifts. Men like Francis Chan, David Platt, Justin Taylor, and John Piper have a responsibility to take a stand no matter what it costs in the way of book sales, or affiliations, or even the numbers of followers they have garnered. If there is a time for men like these to take a stand and apologize for their lack of discernment and for misleading the body of Christ around the world by their open endorsements of heresy, charismania, and yes, even the doctrines of demons being openly endorsed by people like Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Louie Giglio and others.

But then again, Paul warned us in 2 Thessalonians that there would come a time before the return of the Lord that apostasy would take place within the church. Maybe this is what we are seeing. I fear for those who have failed in their calling and with their testimony. I fear for what they will face when they stand before the Lord in judgment.

May we not pride ourselves on who we are, nor that we have not fallen ourselves! Brothers and sisters, may our thoughts remain on the Author and Finisher of our faith. May we remember that but for the grace of God, we could be the ones that are where these others now find themselves.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Mark – TJM

Can We Call Them Brothers in Christ?

John-Piper-Rick-Warren3Recently, we received an email here at DefCon that I believe addressed a very valid and important question.  The reader asked our opinion on a discussion he was having with someone regarding Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll and John Piper. The question asked during his discussion was how can a Christian call any of these men a “true brother in Christ,” especially given the various concerns raised about them, even here on this blog. As the head administrator of this site, the task was mine to attempt to answer this particular question. After thinking the matter through, I responded to our reader with what I believe is a balanced and biblical stance on the matter. My desire is to share that response here on DefCon so that others who have a similar question may benefit from it. My response was a follows:

“Hello there. This is the Chris Hohnholz, the head administrator of DefCon. Thanks much for writing to us. I have given your email a lot of thought and will do my best to give you a decent answer. Before I do though, I want to make it clear that I am speaking only for myself. Even though I run this blog, I do not claim to speak for all the writers, not even the author of the article you linked. I say that as a means of ensuring that anything that I might blow it on is not conveyed to my writers.

mark-driscollMy thought on this is that there is a difference between not supporting or endorsing a pastor and declaring that said pastor is not a brother in Christ. To give a separate example, I’m sure you are aware of the chaos James MacDonald has caused with his Elephant Room nonsense. In years past, he has been considered a respected pastor. Even folks of a reformed theology have at least considered him within orthodoxy. Yet with his endorsing pastors who are questionable, and now declaring T.D. Jakes (who is a heretic) to be within the camp, he is NOT someone we would support or endorse. However, does his current sinful behavior mean he is not saved. I do not believe we can declare that at this time. If he truly is saved, I believe the Holy Spirit will bring him into repentance. If he is not, I think we will see him walk further and further from the truth. But until one or the other happens, I will not declare he is not a brother, but I will warn folks against what he is doing.

I think much can be said of the three pastors you have written Todd about. With Warren, I really worry about him because everything he is about is antithetical to the Bible. I think his smiling and charismatic personality carries with it a dangerous man-centered message that will definitely lead people and ministries astray. That alone makes me wonder about his salvation, but I would stop short of that because I simply haven’t seen him teach anything that is directly heretical. Much the same with Driscoll. He teaches orthodox messages, but his willingness to taint that message with foul language, to give graphic sexual messages and his unbiblical “visions” from God make him someone I wouldn’t endorse at all. But I really don’t know about him not being a brother. Is he simply just ignorant on these things or is he deliberately teaching things that will one day bear out as heretical. I can only say that we should be warning folks against him. Piper is the one who really perplexes me. He has preached so many great and godly messages that still continue to edify the saints. Yet, he is willing to lock arms with folks like Warren, he is willing to appear in conferences where contemplative prayer is going on without so much as a peep in refutation. He is giving those folks a platform that they never should have. I do believe Piper is a brother, but he is flat out wrong in what he is doing. As such, I don’t support what he is doing.

I do not know if this answer helps you in any way, but I believe that until these men either establish themselves as heretical or they repent and prove themselves as faithful brethren, our best bet is to warn against what they have said or done, but to reserve judgment of their state of salvation.

Again, I am thankful for your writing to us and am equally grateful for your support of our blog. May God bless you.

Chris Hohnholz
DefCon Administrator”