Be Faithful

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!   ~Proverbs 20:6-7.

When I was a child, I was amazed at how many adults did not keep their word. They would promise, “One day, I’ll _________” but, alas, that day never came, and I would be disappointed.

When I was a teenager, my mom hired a man to tune our piano. I enjoyed watching him, and he talked to me as he worked. In the course of conversation, I mentioned that I like southern gospel music. He told me he would take me to a concert sometime. At that time, I’d lived long enough to know people often said things they didn’t mean so I didn’t figure I would ever see him again. A short time later, however, he called and asked if he could take my brother and me to a concert. This was over 25 years ago, and I still remember his kindness. He could have gone to the concert by himself, and I would never know, and I probably wouldn’t remember him but he took time to honor his word, which still blesses me today.

promise

It is sad to me how many young people walk away from the Lord or never embrace Christianity, even when they have grown up in church and in Godly homes. I’ve fought to understand why, in order to be able to stop this trend. I believe a big reason for this is due to the hypocrisy they see in their parents and others in the Church. I know this is not the only reason an adult child will rebel but I expect it is the case in many situations. Young people pick up on whether people are real or phony, honest or crafty.

Even as an adult, I want to surround myself with people I can trust. I get so tired of dishonesty, backbiting, double lives, etc. I pray often that God will help me to be faithful. I want to be dependable, loyal, and trustworthy. I want to be faithful to point others to the Lord, not only in word but also by example. I believe if the world saw more faithfulness in God’s people, they would desire to know this God as well.

Moving Forward

Hello Brothers and Sisters,

Of recent times, I have been doing much soul-searching in particular as it applies to Defending Contending. I have seriously considering everything from closing it down to transferring ownership to another person. However, the more I have considered this, the more tense I became. This was not because it has been mine for so long, but because this has been an opportunity that the Lord has used to help me to grow and to be able to share with others. I have been writing at Defending Contending for 9 years come the end of January 2017.

During that time, there have been things I have both read and written that I have cringed. There are posts written that have caused my heart to break before the Lord and I have had to seek repentance for my own stubbornness and lack of Christ-likeness. We have gained many viewers and lost more than we have gained. I believe that we are in a state of flux within evangelical Christianity and my heart has long been to reach out to our readers in a way that still point out the truth without being hateful, spiteful, or vitriolic in any manner even when we disagree with others.

With that in mind, I believe for the time being that a change in direction will be a profitable move. I want to lay these out just briefly.

climateoftruth

1. A new name – Truth In Grace — Reason is simply because we are truly called to preach and teach truth, but I believe we are called to do so with grace. The new picture on the website says, “Truth without grace is a prison; Grace without truth is chaos.”
2. A new tagline – “Sharing truth and faith in a spirit of love and grace.”
3. A new direction with posts
4. Additional contributors — I have just this evening reached out to two people that I believe could be a blessing to our readers.

I believe that this new direction, name change, and tagline are still very much in line with where The Pilgrim was going with the blog when he started it. Yes, we have all had to learn and I pray this will continue to reach others with a gracious spirit years in to the future.

However, I know that with the additions and changes, there will be other differences to deal with which is another reason for writing. Not all of us, even now, are in full agreement on every aspect of doctrine. I have no doubt that our differences are not salvific in nature, but I also understand that can be debated by some if they choose a hard line on some points.

For example, through the ages, men like Spurgeon, Sproul, MacArthur, Wilkerson, Conway, Baucham, Lloyd-Jones, etc. would have all agreed on many points of foundational truths that are unassailable, but they would have disagreed on some doctrines that, in my humble opinion, do not make a difference in whether a person is a true believer or not. Another example would be where Lloyd-Jones stood on the work and role of the Holy Spirit as compared to say Sproul or MacArthur. Yet, I have no doubt that they would have been gracious to each other and would have learned from each other.

Many of you know that I hold to the doctrines of grace, but it is not a drum that I have ever made a point of beating others up on. I can respectfully agree to disagree with another and still call them my brother or sister in Christ. I can disagree on things like family integrated or Sunday school, or in the style and meaning of missions, or in the version or music styles I choose to use and still call the other side of the coin a brother or sister in Christ.

Not everybody who has or who will write at DefCon are staunch Calvinists. Each of us are at different points in our Christian walk, and even one who is mature in the faith in many areas can still have much to learn as though they were a new believer. Brothers and sisters, as I get older, my heart’s desire is that my mind would be brought into closer communion with the Lord of glory. We will not be found in glory based on or divided into groups according to what we believed on certain issues. We will be in glory because of what Christ alone has done for us.

I know that each of you will have to make decisions as to what direction you will go into the future. As for me, this is where I believe the Lord would have me to walk. My issue will be that every post provides encouragement, edification, or exhortation according to the principles of God’s Word. Simply put, my intention is not to linger on one issue, one doctrine, or even appear as though we are nothing but a discernment blog. The new blog will be so much more, as the Lord blesses and is glorified.

If you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns, please feel free to reach back out to me.

I am so thankful for all we have been through down through each season that you have been part of our readership. My prayer is that this will continue for a long time, but it needs to move in a new direction effective immediately. You are my brothers and sisters in Christ even if we do not ultimately agree in the end. Thank you for your understanding.

In Christian love and grace,

Mark Anthony

My post-election thoughts.

Trigger warning: some brutal honesty ahead.

 

img_1214TO THE OVERPAID CELEBRITY HACKS
Oh, the horror! The end of the world is coming. Hurry, pack up and leave the country (like you promised you would).

 

TO THE SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS
See above.

 

TO THE TRUMP SUPPORTERS
img_1028He better be as good as he claims to be (and you say he is).

If he really wants to break from the establishment, a nice place for him to start would be 1). Restoring the lost concept of liberty in a nation that boasts it as its foundation. 2). Preserving the sanctity of life in the womb AND in unnecessary foreign wars by bringing an end to both of these profit-making vehicles of death.

(I won’t be holding my breath.)

 

TO THE RANK AND FILE HILLARY SUPPORTERS
img_1218Now that the election is over, please, stop the fear mongering. It got old with all the frightful “What evils Trump might do if elected” rhetoric all the while conveniently ignoring “What evil Hillary did do during her entire criminal career.”

And relax. Trump will not be nearly as bad as you painted him over your past year-long effort to make Hillary look better. My advice for next time, nominate a candidate whose platform has some legitimate accomplishments instead of propping up your entire campaign on, “My opponent said a mean thing.”

 

img_1200TO THE CHRISTIAN VOTERS
It was nice for some of you to finally wake up and declare that politics is utterly corrupt, and for even considering voting for a third party candidate instead of whatever RINO was paraded out for you to vote for.

Unfortunately, many of you only came to this conclusion after your “saviors” Carson and Cruz fell from contention. Only time will tell if you crawl back to your political idols like a dog returns to its vomit. For those who will never go back, welcome! It’s nice to have you.

 

CONCLUSION
For the second presidential election in a row I have chosen to vote for a candidate based on his stance on the issues, instead of voting for the lesser of two evils. And although my guy didn’t win (or even come close), I feel good about my vote (not dirty like so many other voters said they felt yesterday).

img_1212So, how do I feel today? I’m glad to finally see an end to the Clinton crime family, it’s unabated corruption, and its shameful scandals.

Jezebel and Ahab have fallen. Good riddance.

The Sufficiency of Christ

Brian Hedges’ book, Christ All Sufficient, an Exposition of Colossians, is a welcomed book in 9781633421219any Christian’s library. It is widely recognized that Colossians is perhaps the most Christocentric book in the Bible; every preacher loves to preach from this text. Hedges’ book adds a rich tapestry of theology and doctrine to our understanding of this epistle that will cause the reader to rejoice and be in awe of his Savior.

Ten concise chapters bring out various themes from this letter in a consistent focus on our main goal in life – to glorify our God and King. Our author covers the gospel from three perspectives – the power of the gospel, the ministry of the gospel, and the mission of the gospel; all it very well presented and founded on the epistle being examined.

What thrills my soul the most and what ought to stir any saint to desire a deeper walk with Christ is the study of the nature and work of the Lord Jesus. In his chapter titled The Supremacy of Christ, Hedges reminds us that Jesus is “not only reveals to us God’s character and nature, he also perfectly bears the imago Dei as the Adam. He shows us what it means to be truly human.” (page 52) Since the first Adam, each of us has born the image of God in a twisted, marred manner as we were marked by sin from conception and every thought that followed. Jesus is the perfect image and He will be among us on the new earth. Hedges also reminds us of Jesus’ role in creation and in holding things together, as all things were created by Him and for Him. “The implications of this for believers is astounding … believers should never live in fear …” (page 54)

As Col 1:20 tells us Christ brings peace with the Father, our author rightly tells us “Peace is more than just a cease-fire in the conflict between God and humanity: it is the restoration of cosmic and relational harmony under the supreme lordship of Jesus Christ across all domains of existence.” (pages 57 & 58) There is nothing to fear in this life where all they can do is kill the body. Our refuge, our security is eternal and is more secure than anything all the armies of this age could provide.

In chapter V on the Sufficiency of Christ, we are encouraged to walk in obedience to our Lord with thanksgiving. We are complete in Christ, united with Him who is the fullness of God. Paul wrote that the ordinances against us were nailed to the His cross, a vivid word picture that communicates the imputation of sin onto Jesus. Horatio Spafford put this in lyrics that Hedges quotes and every Christian ought to love:

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Addressing Col 2:15, Hedges tells us, “Paul here alludes to the victory parade following a Roman victory, an image also appearing in 2 Corinthians 2:14.” (page 86) and follows up with “The powers of darkness thus have no claim and can pose no threat to those who are in Christ.” (page 87” I think our author was channeling Martin Luther:

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us.

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him.

His rage we can endure,

For lo, his doom is sure.

One little word shall fell him.

That one word, of course, is the person of Christ – none other. Confidence in Him, the one in whom there is salvation; that is what this book builds up. Colossians is God’s Word about the person and work of God’s Son. Brian Hedges’ book gives the reader an excellent look into some of the deeper, richer meanings of what the Spirit spoke through the apostle.

Two Kingdoms

It saddens me to see so many Christians get wrapped up in politics. We have virtually no sense of history (the early days of what used to 26822be a representative republic were far wilder than the current election cycle) and seem to have lost sight of the two kingdoms in play. Augustine likened them to Two Cities.

The Bible is clear – God created three units of government for this age: the family, the state, and the church. We do not read of any of the apostles nor the Lord trying to overthrow the Roman government, although that is the charge brought against Jesus by the Jewish leaders.

We are not selecting a theologian-in-chief this year. We have not had a solid Christian man in the White House in the past 100 years; all of them have put politics above Truth for the most part. We play into the hands of the world when we try make this country into the mold we imagine for it. But no matter how much we desire a secure temporal future under a God-fearing government, that is not where our security lies.

The best thing for this country would be political leaders who cling to the Constitution, just as the best thing for our local churches are men who cling to the Scripture.

The political machinery in D.C. all works together to consolidate power at the national level (the Whig Party lives in the policies of both current parties). No matter if your favorite President was Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, GW Bush, or Bill Clinton (all professing Christians) – none of those men were able to put this country on the foundation of Scripture. That is not the job of the President.

If your view is that you must vote for a truly godly person as President, how is your position different from the Jews who clamored for a king like the pagan nations had, discontent with having YHWH as their King?

A President who will work against the status-quo and try to push the national government back to it charter document will do this country good, no matter what you or I think of his theology.

Truth or Tradition?

Tevye, Jewish patriarch in Fiddler on the Roof… truth or tradition

It’s a very busy, tedious, hard-scratch life in Anatevka. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word!             Tradition!

Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything. How to sleep. How to eat. How to work. How to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl. This shows our constant devotion to God.

You may ask, how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you. I don’t know.

But it’s a tradition. And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as,   As…  As a fiddler on the roof!

As his family responds to the various circumstances of life, they each tear apart Tevye’s sacred traditions bit by bit. His traditions were not transcendent; their foundation was uncertain.

What can we learn from this movie?

Most Baptists recognize that a major part of the errors embraced by Roman Catholicism are enshrined in extra-biblical traditions that are held up as church dogma. While it’s easy to see this in the Roman religion, do we carefully examine our own walk – as individuals and churches – to see if we are guilty as well? I am quite sure we all know the teaching of Scripture on this topic, as Christ quoted Isaiah in saying to the Jews, in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’  You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Are we Baptist excluded from this rebuke? My personal experience indicates otherwise. I pray these things are not true of you!

When I was first called as a deacon, it took 6 months of discussion to agree that tithing was not a requirement of that office. I was thankful the other deacons were willing to study this topic rather than merely throw me out. When I was in a seeker sensitive church I was ridiculed because I questioned this teaching, not seeing evangelism as inviting lost people to church, as I studied the Bible.

Baptists have traditions and, like Tevye, we often do not know or care where they came from.

While in a 1689 LBC church, I saw how traditions were to be supported without question, and I was looked down upon for not taking these positions on blind faith. The Decalogue is God’s moral law – why would anyone ask where that is taught in Scripture? The “Christian Sabbath” is binding on all people – why would anyone ask where in the Bible this is found?

In the two years since moving to SE Oklahoma, I’ve been exposed to several local Baptist churches and been intrigued by the extra-biblical traditions they embrace. Just as the other groups of Baptists, they are tenacious in the blind faith they have in their sacred traditions. It’s as if, as one church-man said about his “altar call” – “It’s the most important part of the worship service!” And it’s nowhere found in God’s Holy Word. What’s more, there is no altar in the New Covenant church other than the Lord Jesus Himself. Similar attachments are tied to children’s church (unsaved people have their own worship service!) and children parading through the gathered saints, begging for money to put in an offering plate, being applauded by the adults. I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 6:1-4:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

In this passage we see that the praise of men is the only reward hypocrites have for their giving; it is not accepted by God as are the gifts from the saints on behalf of the saints (Philippians 4:14-18). The parading children played the part of the hypocrites in the passage cited above, with the adults playing the part of the “others” who praised the hypocrites. As with other acts of worship, giving as worship cannot be performed by those who are not clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Proverbs 21:27) and the money earned by sin should not be offered to God (Deuteronomy 23:18).

Celebration of birthdays and wedding anniversaries of all present in a worship service are the norm. Mothers and fathers are honored on those days so identified by the greeting card industry. Veterans and firemen, et al. are honored on Memorial Day as if these men are why we gather. I’ve seen the inside of a Baptist church building virtually clothed in American flags on July 4th weekend.

All of these practices displace the worship of God with lesser things, making man and his domain the focus of at least part of the time God’s people gather to supposedly worship Him.

The standard Baptist membership covenant from the 19th century requires members “abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage.” The Bible forbids getting drunk and warns about “strong wine” but does not prohibit the sale or use of alcohol for any but a few, such as Nazarites (Numbers 6:1-7). At the end of the time of his vow, the Nazarite was permitted to drink wine (Numbers 6:13-20).

Baptists call the church building “the house of God,” forgetting one lesson from John 4 – that in the New Covenant there are no sacred spaces and that the Bible clearly declares we are the house of God! The church building is not a sanctuary, it is, as an Anglican from New Zealand put it, a rain shelter. Our sanctuary is in heaven where our altar is – Christ Jesus is our all in all!

Baptist churches have sole “pastors,” “senior pastors,” “administrative pastors,” “executive pastors,” “worship pastors,” and the list goes on. All the while the Bible shows a plurality and equality of elders (“Pastor” not being a title found anywhere in Scripture).  Having two or more men who preach and teach provides several benefits, in addition to aligning with the examples and teachings from Scripture (Acts 11:27-30; 14:21-23; 20:7; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; et al.). Two or more men can sharpen one another and hold each other accountable, while the church sees the true Shepherd more clearly when they see Him work through more than one man. The church will see strengths and weaknesses in each man and those men will have the opportunity to be examples of how to serve in unity without letting egos derail the ministry. As they seek to identify others and train them for this service, more men will have opportunity to serve the saints in myriad ways. This is part of life in the body of Christ that is vital and often ignored or undervalued.

Each of these groups, and I pray, none of us, are what I call “white space theologians,” people who build their doctrine and practice on the white spaces in the Bible rather than the words God put there.

Many of these local churches have no statement of faith declaring to their members and interested saints what they believe; they accumulate their traditions along the way and new members find out by experience what’s important. This can be like walking through an unmarked minefield, and just as deadly.

We who are not of Rome tend to cling to our traditions as tightly as do the Roman Catholics. How can we defend this while rightly decrying their practice? Oh how I wish that Baptists would see the danger of our own traditions that are not based on Scripture and cry out for repentance! We were, once upon a time, called “people of the Book” for our tenacious grip on the Word of God. That name cannot, in good conscience, be applied to Baptists at large.

We protest, “Our traditions are not as bad as following Baal!” Yet search the Scriptures and see if you find any commendation for drifting away from God’s instruction in favor of any teaching of man.

My prayer is that each of us here would recognize the need we have to examine ourselves and our traditions – to see if there be any wicked ways therein. If we worship God according to our personal preferences rather than asking how does Scripture advise us to do so, we are in danger of drifting towards the black hole of Charles Finney.

D’Aubigne, in his History of the Reformation, observed, “Nothing terrifies the defenders of human traditions so much as the word of God.” He further recorded a scene in which a Cambridge professor named Bilney in the 16th century was tormented about his salvation and took the advice of Roman Catholic priests – abasing himself in myriad ways to make himself pleasing to God. He grew weak and wondered if the priests were more interested in themselves than in his salvation. He found a copy of the newly available Greek New Testament; he took it up and read 1 Tim 1:15 – The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. He realized that Christ saves sinners and he was a great sinner who needed salvation. With joy in his soul he rose up from the Book and declared that Christ had cleansed and redeemed him, eliminating all doubt and despair. “I see it all,” said Bilney; “my vigils, my fasts, my pilgrimages, my purchase of masses and indulgences were destroying instead of saving me. All these efforts were, as St. Augustine says, a hasty running out of the right way.”

This is what traditions do, if they are not of God and are pressed down on people as if they are required in order to please Him or build up His people. It’s as Paul said, the letter kills but the Spirit gives life! Unhealthy traditions are a burden that many know not they carry; but they weigh down on them more and more until they lose sight of Christ all together, so consumed in seeing to it their sacred traditions are upheld.

God help us so this may NOT be said of us! Let us remember our Lord’s words: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer 9:24 & 25)