Two More Quotes from Ladd

February 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Devotional thoughts, Theology | Leave a comment

Here are two more wonderful quotes from George Eldon Ladd’s The Gospel of the Kingdom.  Great thoughts to ponder:

Apart from the Gospel of the Kingdom, death is the mighty conqueror before whom we are all helpless.  We can only beat our fists in utter futility against this unyielding and unresponding tomb.  But the Good News is this: death has been defeated; our conqueror has been conquered.  In the face of the power of the Kingdom of God in Christ, death was helpless.  It could not hold him, death has been defeated; life and immortality have been brought to life.  An empty tomb in Jerusalem is proof of it.  This is the Gospel of the Kingdom.   (p.128)

This is a staggering fact. God has entrusted to people like us, redeemed sinners, the responsibility of carrying out the divine purpose in history.  . . .  God has said this about no other group of people.  This Good News of the Kingdom of God must be preached, if you please, by the Church in all the world for a witness to all nations.  This is God’s programme.  This means that for the ultimate meaning of modern civilization and the destiny of human history, you and I are more important than the United Nations.  What the Church does with the Gospel has greater significance ultimately than the decisions of the Kremlin.  From the perspective of eternity, the mission of the Church is more important than the march of armies or the actions of the world’s capitals, because it is in the accomplishment of this mission that the divine purpose for human history is accomplished.  No less than this is our mission.  (pp. 134-135)

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George Ladd: The Gospel of the Kingdom

February 23, 2011 at 10:04 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Eschatology, Theology | 2 Comments

I’ve been reading George Ladd’s The Gospel of the Kingdom. I was greatly influenced by Ladd’s writing in the past, even though I’d never read one of his books; I’d only read what many others influenced by him had written.  When I saw a blog, on the Desiring God website I believe, listing the most influential books each person on their staff had read, I noticed this one listed by a few different people.  Soon after that, I came across a copy and decided it must be time to read it for myself.  This short book is a great summary of Ladd’s Kingdom theology.

Reading The Gospel of the Kingdom reminded me of my seminary days when I first thought through these matters for myself.  I had been raised in a Dispensational school of thought, but Ladd’s theology told an entirely different story about scripture that just seemed to make so much more sense than what I’d seen before.  His description of God’s Kingdom and its relationship to the Church and the nation of Israel drew my attention and my vote when it came time for a position paper on these matters.  That position has grown into my own conviction with over 20 years of biblical study and expository preaching since.

Ladd’s view is so simple and so elegant.  He defines the Kingdom of God and covers many scriptures dealing with the Kingdom, and then comes to these conclusions.  In scripture, kingdom primarily means authority and rule, so God’s Kingdom is his rule in the lives of men.  Those in God’s Kingdom are those in whose lives he reigns supreme – they are his people.  Ladd shows how the Kingdom is not, and was not, Israel, though those in the Kingdom in ages past usually were in Israel.  Then he shows how the Church is not the Kingdom, but those in the Kingdom in this age are in the church.  There is however, only one Kingdom, only one people of God; it works in different ages through different institutions.

This theory has many advantages of Dispensational theology without the weakness and many strengths of Covenant theology without those weaknesses.  If these matters are an interest to you, then you will like this book.  Simple but full of solid truth.

Here are two great quotes from the book:

The Kingdom of God is a miracle.  It is the act of God.  It is supernatural.  Men cannot build the Kingdom; they cannot erect it.  The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of God; it is God’s reign, God’s rule.  God has entrusted the Gospel of the Kingdom to men.  It is our responsibility to proclaim the good news about the Kingdom.  But the actual working of the Kingdom is God’s working. (p.64)

If the righteousness of the Kingdom is a standard which I must attain in my own ability, I stand forever condemned and shut out of the Kingdom of God.  No one, by human merit, can attain the standard of the Sermon on the Mount.  The righteousness which God’s Kingdom demands, God’s Kingdom must give.  It must be of grace or I am lost. (p.93)

Heaven by Randy Alcorn

December 28, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Eschatology, Theology | 1 Comment

Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  I have been reading this book all year long and wanted to get a review in by the end of the year.  I don’t know exactly how to rate this book without dividing the theological content from the way it is presented.  For content, I would give this book an A+, but for style, I wasn’t impressed with the excessive wordiness and length, a C at best.  The former made this book impossible to quit reading, the latter made it hard to finish, and that’s why it has taken me most all year to work through it.

Let’s begin with an example of the negative.  Alcorn takes 9 chapters and 90 pages to explain that our eternal home is this earth restored what God intended it to be.  He makes his case well with scripture and historical perspective but seems to go on and on beyond both necessity and interest.  I believe he could have said the same thing in two or three chapters.

However, on the theological content side, you don’t want to miss what’s in this book; it is instructive, interesting and even exciting.  After setting it aside, sometimes for weeks, I always had to pick it up and continue, because, in spite of the unnecessary length, what I’d read always came back to excite me.  The ideas presented made it the most thought provoking, inspiring book of the year.

Alcorn’s study of heaven separates the temporal dwelling of those who have died in Christ from the eternal home we will inherit.  This is a division some studies of heaven ignore, and though we use the word “heaven” for both, they are dramatically different.  After a brief discussion of the intermediate heaven, Alcorn describes the eternal home of believers.  They will be resurrected and then will inherit the earth, remade to be what God originally intended it to be.

Christians in North America often have a mistaken idea that heaven is some ethereal place that is not physical, only spiritual, but this idea is totally foreign to the scriptures.  We think heaven is our existing as disembodied spirits floating on clouds and playing harps for all eternity, and, as Alcorn points out, it’s no wonder we don’t’ get very excited about it.  Instead, heaven is the fulfillment of all our righteous longings, right here on this earth, recreated  in God’s perfection, and Jesus will be right here with us, graciously granting us those desires.

Alcorn’s heaven is one of physical beauty, complete with plants, rivers, animals, pets, arts, culture, and a variety of joyful activities, all without sin and all perfectly given to the glory of God.  That’s a heaven I can get excited about!

If this concept of heaven doesn’t sit well with you, then you may be more influenced by North American media than by scripture and the historical understanding of it.  This book would be good for you to read.  If you’re one who can’t get too excited about living in light of eternity, then this book can give you some of that missing excitement.  Take the time to read it; it will dramatically change your perspective.

On a side note, those who hold a dispensational theology will not like Randy Alcorn’s interpretations of some biblical passages, because what he applies to the eternal kingdom, they have often applied to the millennial kingdom.  But, ironically, Alcorn’s interpretation is the more literal of such passages.

“The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.”  Psalm 37:29

“This is my Father’s world; the battle is not done; Jesus who died will be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one.”

Starving for God’s Word

September 8, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Theology | 1 Comment

I have been spending some time in Jeremiah lately.  Here are five observations from the first ten chapters of that book.  Only a few quotes on each point can be used here without making this post way too long, but these thoughts run through the entire section.

First, the people of Jeremiah’s day didn’t know God. “For My people are foolish, they know Me not; they are stupid children and have no understanding.” (4:22)  “”Even the stork in the sky knows her seasons; and the turtledove and the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration; but My people do not know the ordinance of the LORD.” (8:7)

Second, they believed lies instead of the truth about God.  “’Lies and not truth prevail in the land.  For they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me, . . .  Everyone deceives his neighbor and does not speak the truth, they have taught their tongue to speak lies. . . .  Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know Me,’ declares the LORD.” (9:2-6)

 Third, the priests, prophets, scribes and Levites are at fault in this matter.  “The prophets are as wind, and the word is not in them.” (5:13)  “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so!” (5:31)

 Fourth, the people must know God.  “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.” (9:23f)

Finally, they must have God’s Word so they can know God.  This final thought is what prompted this post.  I am astonished at how often God mentions his own word in Jeremiah.  I have highlighted every reference to God’s word, including every time Jeremiah says, “the word of the LORD came to me” and other such phrases, and the times God reminds Jeremiah, “declares the LORD,”  That last phrase is in the first 10 chapters 40 times and in the book over 160 times!  There is not a column in the book so far (I’m now up to chapter 18) without some highlighting in it.  The climax of this thought in the early parts of the book comes in the first few verses of chapter 11, “The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, ‘Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and say to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Cursed is the man who does not heed the words of this covenant which I commanded your forefathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, “Listen to My voice, and do according to all which I command you; so you shall be My people, and I will be your God,”’”’”  That’s a lot of quotation marks!  But the point is clear, God want us to know it is his word that is proclaimed and his word that we need.

The same is true today.  People in our culture are starving for God’s Word.  Jeremiah was set aside before birth to be a spokesman of God’s words.  I believe that’s true of me also.  My commitment as a preaching pastor must be to always teach the Word of God and never resort to political rhetoric or current events, except that they illustrate, or are a direct application of, study in the Word.  Your commitment as a lay person must be to sit under a pastor who teaches only God’s Word.  Let’s get away from a political and social agenda and back to the Word of God.

Every Man Has His Own God

August 20, 2010 at 8:43 am | Posted in False teaching, Theology | Leave a comment

Here is a profound thought I read this morning:

Every individual mind being a kind of labyrinth, it is no wonder, not only that each nation has adopted a variety of fictions, but that almost every man has had his own god.  To the darkness of ignorance have been added presumption and wantonness, and hence there is scarcely an individual to be found without some idol or phantom as a substitute for Deity.  Like water gushing forth from a large and copious spring, immense crowds of gods have issued from the human mind, every man giving himself full license, and devising some peculiar form of divinity, to meet his own views.

                        –John Calvin, Institutes (1, 5, 12)

It was written almost 500 years ago and describes the world of that day, but it is so relevant today.   The false teachers of our day fall into what this describes as “devising a deity to meet their own views,” and all of us, as he says, have our own gods.  Let’s return to the God revealed in the Bible rather than one of our own making.

A Partial Gospel Is No Gospel at All!

July 30, 2010 at 10:36 am | Posted in False teaching, Grace and Faith, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance, Theology | 3 Comments

Dear Pastor Glenn

My friends are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I have had several theological discussions with them and knew they believed some weird things.   But recently he made a comment that really took me by surprise.  Apparently they believe that when you die, you will be born again (literally) and live another life and will keep doing that until you get it right.   Not quite like the re-incarnation of the eastern religions where you can come back as a cow or something – you always come back as another person, but re-incarnation nevertheless.  I didn’t realize Jehovah’s Witnesses believed that, did you?  Is that a main-line Jehovah’s witness belief, or a radical one that only some of them believe?

In one of my conversations, we got on the subject of true Christianity, and I made the statement that I thought the fundamental things you HAD to believe to be considered a Christian were 1) That Jesus Christ was not just a prophet or a man, but the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, 2) that He died on the cross for our sins, 3) that He rose from the dead, and 4) that belief in Him and acceptance of Him as Lord and Savior is the only way to salvation.   Both heartily agreed with that statement, so what’s your take on this?

Dear ________,

I found your inquiry interesting, as I too have never heard of JWs who believe in reincarnation.  After a short check, I could find no official belief in reincarnation among JWs, but my best resources for that have long since been given away.  However, that doesn’t exclude the possibility that some who call themselves JWs believe that way.  Like many who call themselves Christian, yet their theology comes from multiple sources – many of which are not Christian in any sense, so also there are certainly JWs who have a strange blend of JW and other philosophies all mixed together.

However, I would like to address the other question more directly as it has significance on how we understand the true Gospel.  I thought your four statements were great, but you didn’t define terms, and that makes all the difference.  JWs as I know them, would say they totally agree with statements 2, 3, and 4.  However, they would not understand those statements as you intended them to be understood.  For instance, “Did Jesus die on the cross for your sins?”  A JW would respond, “Yes, he did,” but when pushed would have to say, “He died so that my sins would be forgiven, which brings me back to even ground with God; now it’s up to me to get the rest of the way on my own.”  In other words, in their view, Jesus’ death didn’t purchase my salvation, thus guaranteeing my forgiveness; rather his death made my salvation a possibility which I must complete by my good works.  They say yes to the question, but there is a huge difference in meaning.

To your third statement, they would again say, “I believe Jesus died and rose again from the dead.”  Here they would be in agreement as to what that means, but they miss the implication of it.  Jesus’ resurrection gives them the possibility of resurrection; it doesn’t guarantee a resurrection for those who believe.

As to your statement 4, “Is belief in Jesus and acceptance of him as Lord and Savior the only way to salvation?”  Yes, they would say, Jesus is the only way to salvation; however, a complete honest answer would add that he is not the entire way to salvation.  Only through Jesus can we get to the place where we have the opportunity for salvation; taking that opportunity is up to us.

The first statement is a little trickier, and your friends affirmative answer may be some of that blended theology and may be based on what she understands “trinity” to mean.  I was tickled that you didn’t capitalize the word, since they don’t believe in the Trinity as we understand the Bible to teach it.  JWs believe that Jesus is the first created being, who was given power and authority by the Father and who in turn created everything else, but a created being nonetheless.  This is a matter beyond what I have time for now.

Of, course all this misses the point of the Gospel, and is not “gospel” at all.  When I ask my well-studied JW friend at the Rec Center questions about Jesus’ character and divinity, he has, at least in his mind, an answer for the biblical passages that seem so clear to us; but when I ask him about his assurance of forgiveness, he has no answer at all.  There is no assurance in their beliefs because their salvation is not based solely on Jesus’ character and work, but on their own works, which they know to be sinful.  The true Gospel says that Jesus did it all for us.

They could never sing as we do  .  .  .   “In Christ alone who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless Babe.  This gift of love and righteousness scorned by the ones He came to save.  ‘Til on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.  For every sin on Him was laid.  Here in the death of Christ I live.”

The Glory Jesus Has with the Father

July 26, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Theology | Leave a comment

            In the talk Jesus had with the disciples the night before he was crucified, recorded for us in John chapters 13 through 17, Jesus often mentioned his own glory.  Listen to the words he says: “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.” (13:32)  “He (the Spirit of Truth) will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” (16:14)   “Father, the time has come.  Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” (17:1)  “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine.  And glory has come to me through them. (17:10)  “Father, I want those you have given me .  .  .  to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (17:24)  Those are some powerful  statements, but the strongest of all is in 17:5, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”  Jesus had glory with God the Father before the world began!

            Yet Yahweh, Jehovah God, the One we call the Father, says of himself, “I am the LORD, that is my name, I will not give my glory to another,” and “I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11)

            It seems to me we have only three choices to understand this:  (1) Either Yahweh God changed his mind and decided to share his glory with another.  This makes God a liar, because it is something he said he would never do; and it is a contradiction, because Jesus said he shared God’s glory before the world began, while Yahweh said he wouldn’t share his glory with another to Isaiah obviously after the world began.  Or (2) Jesus was a deceived egotistical maniac, who thought he deserved to share God’s glory.  In this case one wonders why an egotistical maniac has had such a positive influence on the world.  Or (3) Jesus really was God in the flesh.  The choice seems pretty clear to me.

The Intensity of Jesus’ Temptations

July 20, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Theology | Leave a comment

          Luke 3:1-13.  I believe we don’t fully comprehend the extent of Jesus’ temptations.  Yet they were real and they were intense — more intense than anyting we may face.  First: Jesus hadn’t eaten for 40 days.  He was taken to the breaking point as far as physical urges are concerned.  Most of us have never gone even 40 hours without food, yet alone 40 days.  Only once have I gone more than about 30 hours without, so I have no concept of what he was facing, but he was at the end of his physiological rope.  Though I face temptations of the flesh, I have never experienced the depth of temptation that Jesus faced here.  It may be gluttony, drunkenness, sexual drives and addictions, drug addictions, or laziness.  These are all fleshly temptations we face, but none is as demanding as this one Jesus faced.  Second: He was taken to a high place and offered all the kingdoms of the world.  When we are tempted with the lust of the eyes, we see things that fall way short of this opportunity.  It may be money or material goods, even billions of dollars worth in some cases, but it is not everything in the world.  Even the wealthiest people, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, don’t have it all and haven’t been tempted by everything.  Third:  He was taken to the highest point on the temple and given a great opportunity to prove who he was.  This was a place with a lot of people, and all those people were looking for God’s Messiah to reveal himself.  There could have been no better opportunity anywhere in the world to prove who he was.  Not only that, but he knew that the cross lay before him, and this was an opportunity to shortcut the cross, to make himself known as the Messiah without the sacrifice.  When we face pride of life temptations, they are nothing like this – not even close.  When Hebrews says Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, that is somewhat of an understatement.  He was tempted in all ways we are, but to a far greater degree than we are.

Did Jesus Want to Remain Unknown?

June 8, 2010 at 10:12 am | Posted in Questions for Pastor Glenn, Theology | Leave a comment

Hey Pastor Glenn,

            I am reading through Luke these days and have a question I was wondering if you could answer.  In Luke 4, Luke talks about Jesus in Galilee, how he was healing everyone around and freeing many from demonic possession.  When the demons would claim he was God, why did Jesus not want them telling others who he was?  Why did he want to remain unknown?

Thanks, _________

Dear________

            I appreciate your questions and your sharp observation.  I am encouraged when young people are spending time in God’s Word.  The short answer is that Jesus didn’t want to be known as “Messiah” or “Son of God” by the Jews, because they would misunderstand him.

            Interestingly, this question used to come up often in my university New Testament Survey classes.  We would look at all the times Jesus told people not to say anything about who he was or what he’d done for them.  The prime example would be the healed leper in Mark 1:40-45; in this incident, Jesus gave him “a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone.’”  Unfortunately, he didn’t listen very well, and the result was that “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly.”  In contrast, there were a few times that Jesus asked people to go and tell what had happened.  The best example is the man with a “legion” of demons in Mark 5:1-20.  This man was healed and he begged Jesus to let him come along with him and his disciples.  Jesus did not let him; instead he said, “Go home and tell how much the Lord has done for you.”

            There is not a contradiction or inconsistency in Jesus.  The difference between these two stories is in location.  Every time Jesus asked someone not to tell who he was, he was in Jewish territory.  The Jews had a misunderstanding of what the Messiah would come to do.  They were looking for a political leader,  and Jesus didn’t want them to have that misunderstanding about him.  He came to die for sins, not to lead a political freedom campaign against Rome.  When the people began to believe he was the Messiah, strange things happened.  In John 6, after he fed 5,000 of them, the people planned to “make him king by force!”  That was not the divine plan!  Every time Jesus permitted someone to tell about him, he was in a non-Jewish area.  The demoniac in Mark lived in Decapolis – a Greek name meaning “ten cities.”   Since they had no conceptions about what the Messiah would come to do, Jesus didn’t have the same concern.

            Specifically, looking at the words of demons, the same reason would apply.  In fact, you’ll notice that Jesus didn’t quiet the legion of demons in Decapolis, rather he had a conversation with them!  But there is another issue at work as well.  The Jewish people understood demon possession in an experiential way: they saw it and believed it to be real.  They knew the source of demonic activity.  Satan is a liar and the father of lies, and even when he tells the truth, he does it to ultimately deceive.  So Jesus wouldn’t want the people to hear what demons had to say about him.  The same thing happened with Paul and Silas in Acts 16.

            I hope this helps.  Stay in the Word!

Perfected for All Time

June 2, 2010 at 10:46 am | Posted in False teaching, Security and Assurance, Theology | Leave a comment

          Once again it is imperative to check the tenses in the New Testament when God tells us what is true about us and what has been or will be accomplished for us.  Ignoring those tenses leads to a false theology and a lack of genuine security.  Last week I was reading Hebrews and was struck by these phrases:  “Through his own blood he entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (9:12)  And “by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (10:14)  Notice that Jesus has already obtained eternal redemption, and if it is eternal, nothing can change or destroy it.  Notice that Jesus as already perfected those who are sanctified, and if perfected by him, nothing can pollute them.  These verses are similar to others that tell us we have eternal life now; that we are justified now; that we have been redeemed already.

          The last time I talked to my Jehovah Witness friend, he told me that sin includes even bad attitudes we have, and that we all sin almost every day.  He told me that Jesus death and resurrection is their biggest celebration because it gives them the opportunity to be forgiven.  Jesus died so we can live up his expectations and receive forgiveness.  So I asked him if Jesus has forgiven the sin he will commit tomorrow.  He said he hoped he wouldn’t sin tomorrow, so I pressed the question with, “You will sin, by your own definition, if not tomorrow, then certainly the next day.  Has Jesus forgiven that sin?”  He had no answer.  If he’d said yes, then I would have asked why he has to live up to Jesus’ expectations to be forgiven, and if he’d said no, I would have asked how Jesus could forgive any of his sins, since they were all future when Jesus died.  The biblical truth is that Jesus obtained eternal salvation when he died.  My friend has no security; but the biblical truth tells me that those who trust Jesus are eternally secure.

          I haven’t seen my friend since that day, but I’ve often prayed that my question will make him uneasy with his understanding, so he will see the biblical truth.  Jesus paid it all!

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