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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Does God Still Reveal Himself Through the Avenue of Dreams and Visions?

Here is a copy of my paper I wrote for my Systematic 1 class at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the question of, "Does God still reveal Himself through the avenue of dreams and visions?"  Hope it edifies the saints and exalts our Savior!  (In case you are curious, I got a 97! :D)


This paper will discuss the question, “Does God still reveal Himself through the avenues of dreams and visions?”  Definitions are key to this discussion.  Merriam-Webster defines dreams as, “a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind…”[1]  While Webster speaks of “dreams” as being experienced in sleep, in the Bible dreams and visions can happen while a person is fully awake.[2]  Dreams and visions are synonymous in that they are both audiovisual apparitions.[3]  Both dreams and visions are an experience or state in which thoughts, images, and sensations occupy someone’s experience.  In this paper we will not be debating whether God used dreams in the visions to reveal Himself in the past; we will be considering the role of dreams and visions for the believer today.  We will conclude that God may use dreams and visions as a form of general revelation, but since the canon of Scripture is closed, dreams and visions are not to be considered authoritative as special revelation.  I will argue this thesis by examining alternative views, presenting my view, and answering potential objections.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Facinating Quote from James White

Though it may seem surprising to some, in many aspects the Christian scholar of today is “closer” to the original writings of the apostles than people who lived as little as two centuries later. Why? For one thing, we not only have ready access to the entire Bible but also many of the secular writings of the day that give us important historical, cultural, and/ or linguistic information. We have the Bible available to us in the original tongues as well as in many excellent translations. We also have access to a vast amount of writing from generations between then and now; we can read the works of men like Spurgeon, Warfield, Hodge, and Machen, and can glean insights unavailable to many over the centuries. While a person living in the sixth century might have been chronologically nearer to the time of Paul, he would not have had nearly as much opportunity to study the Pauline writings as we have today. We can include in our studies the historical backgrounds of the cities to which Paul was writing; we can read his letters in their original language. These days we can sit at a computer and ask it to provide us with all the aorist passive participles in his letter to the Romans. These considerations allow us to be far more biblical in our teaching and doctrine than the person who had to live his life in hiding due to persecution, resulting in limited access to the Scriptures and also to those able to teach him.

 – James White, Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible's Accuracy, Authority and Authenticity Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What an encouragement to pick up our Bibles!

Reflection on Marriage

God created marriage with the purpose of displaying His glory and His gospel.  God is displayed as a single-minded pursuer, a single-minded covenant maker, and a single-minded vow keeper.  Even from the beginning, God has always been the pursuer.  Adam in the garden, Noah and his family before the flood and afterward in a drunken stupor, Abraham in his sojourning, the people of God in the desert.  In fact, of the people of God, God speaks through Amos that He “knew” them more than all the nations of the earth.  Even in the New Testament we see the Father lovingly pursuing a particular people for His glory.  Even before creation, Ephesians 1 tells us, God has had His eye on His bride.

Even when Jesus comes on the scene, we see God as a single-minded covenant maker.  Jesus himself spoke of the “ones the Father gave Him” saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  The Father had given Jesus a particular job- redeem the Bride.  He did not waver from this mission, in John 17 we see Jesus praying, on the night before His death “not for the world, but for those given to Him out of the world.”  He said that He had sanctified Himself for that particular people, and His mission would be accomplished. At the last supper He said His blood would make a covenant with His disciples.  As Landon’s wedding ring will adorn the finger of Megan- and Megan alone- so Christ, the wedding ring of redemption, has been placed on the finger of God’s People.  For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.  He paid the debt due sinners, he rose again, all to win His bride to Himself.

God’s pursuit and His promise will not be in vein.  Just as Landon will stand up and seal his vows to Megan, so the Holy Spirit comes and does that in the life of believers, through the vows of His promises.  The Spirit seeks, the Spirit seals, the Spirit secures.  God keeps His vow to His particular people.  He woos and wins His Bride gladly to Himself.  We love because God first loved us.
Now, there are 5 possible applications I feel need to be emphasized from this. 

First, just as God loves His Bride and does not wavor or look to any other, so a man must do in marriage.  “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church…” we are told.  Just as God has seen all that we are, and all that we will be, but has sought us, bought us, and secured us in His unwavering love.  God’s eyes do not wander, so we must be reminded as ours are tempted to.  God humbled Himself to win His woman, may Landon (and all of us men) follow suit.
Second, God pursued imperfect people, with the purpose of perfecting them.  Ephesians 5 tells us that the purpose of marriage is sanctification.  You are a sinner marrying another sinner- just as your perfection is a process- show grace toward one another.

Third, God’s bride is called to submit to her Bridegroom.  We do this happily for such a bridegroom as ours!  The point of John 2, the Wedding at Cana, is not to tell us that Jesus liked to party (though He did), but to show that He supplies what the other bridegroom failed to.  Megan, Landon is an imperfect bridegroom, but hallelujah our eternal bridegroom is not!

Fourth, recognized the assurance of being both fully known and yet fully loved.  Tim Keller wonderfully said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”  Find comfort in the single-mindedness is our pursuer, covenant maker, and vow keeper.

Fifth, let this ignite us each to mission, both in our marriages and our singleness.  May our passion be single-minded, just as God’s!  May we recognize that our mission is won, our hope is secure, may we rise up on mission and proclaim the gospel of grace to our families, neighbors, classmates, and to the nations.  God has won a Bride for Himself out of all the nations- may we go with confidence knowing He has promised for us to be means of accomplishing this mission.  Paul knew this assurance.  In Acts 18 as He was discouraged from preaching to the Corinthians, we read, “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”  May give ourselves to this single-minded cause: for the glory of our God.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Truth in Love: A Study of 2 John (Part 4)

We must love in truth because deception abounds.  This is the message John was wanting to deposit to this local church, and one which through the ages remains essential to the people of God.  This balance is something that evangelicalism struggles to strike.  Some value truth, but do so with cold hearts (think of the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2).  Others love, with a loosey-goosey grip on the central truths of the gospel.  Once one is lost, so is the other.

John had just finished warning the church to watch out for false teaching, and continues in this vain. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  Obviously new teachings had entered into these churches.  Christianity has never been about adapting to the new or to fads.  He calls them back to Christ's teaching.  Teaching that has authority.  To reject these teachings was to reject God himself.

These teaches may have started out as orthodox, but one of things we see in the ministry of the apostles, if we look, is that many of their best and brightest wandered. Demas left Paul, in love with the world (2 Timothy 4:10).  These men left John for a fad- and by doing so had forsaken Christ himself.  So many in our culture have chosen popularity over the gospel- may we not do the same. John is clear with this heavy warning.

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

To our 21st century eyes, this makes us sit up straight in our seat.  "Wait, we're not supposed to welcome them in?"  A few things need to be said in way of background.  First, the church or churches John is writing to most likely met in houses.  So, to welcome someone into your house was not saying not to have them over for dinner, but to welcome to them into the body as a brother.  IT assumed them to be a true Christian. Second, the first century gathering was not a place to reach unbelievers but a place to equip believers.  In the first century, death would await the Christians who gathered, so these Christian worship gatherings were not a place to invite their Pagans neighbors who would have had them arrested and/or killed.

So, to invite someone into your house was to welcome them fully as a trusted member of the body.  But, those who do not abide the teaching of Christ should not be given that welcome.  They are not brothers, they are enemies of the teaching of Christ, and could possibly sell these First Century Christians into the hands of the Romans.  Also, to fully embrace them as a brother or sister would mean to fully embrace their false teachings about Jesus which is dangerous for them, but false teaching is also to the congregation.  As Paul writes, sound doctrine saves both the believer and their hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).  It was for the sake of love and the sake of the truth that they did not welcome false teachers into the body.

John loved these people, as is clear as he closes his letter to them.  He has so much he would like to say, but he can't.  His joy would not be complete until they see each other face to face.  As the last two verses read,
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister greet you.

Love and truth bind us together and create joy-filled community.  Of all John could have said in his epistle, their are certain things he just desired to say to their face!  Nothing can replace the local church in John's heart.  Even if he could have live-streamed the gathering, it would not be a proper replacement for being bodily present in the gathering!  His love for the truth was a desire for their joy.  Deception abounds which seeks to kill our joy, but the local church exists that we our hearts may be on fire with love for God, and our minds might be captivated with the wonderful truth of Himself.  The local church is not an option for the Christian, it was not seen as an option for John, but it existed that we may love and treasure God more- for our joy and His glory.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Anthony Hoekema on the Optimism of Amillenialism

"Yet, since we know that the victory of Christ over evil was decisive and that Christ is now on the throne, the dominant mood of amillennial eschatology is optimism — Christian optimism. This means that we view no world crisis as totally beyond help and no social trend as absolutely irreversible. It means that we live in hope — a hope that is built on faith and that expresses itself in love.

Amillennial eschatology, therefore, gives us a realistic, yet basically optimistic world-and-life view. It is an eschatology which is exciting, exhilarating and challenging. It is an eschatology which gives us an inspiring vision of the lordship of Christ over history and of the ultimate triumph of his kingdom."

You read the whole piece, much of which I would endorse fully, here and read his whole book entitled "Amillenialism" here

Monday, May 2, 2016

Truth in Love: A Study of 2 John (Part 3)

John is writing this letter to spur the church on toward loving others in truth.  He takes a sharp turn in verse 7 to tell us why this is such a necessity for believers.  “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…”  We are to love in truth because deception aboundsWe need to notice that John’s warning is not a new warning.  The Spirit has been issuing this warning from the very beginning.  In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth without sin.  He created man and woman in His image to live and propagate His glory in all the earth.  God gave one command- do not eat from the tree of the in the center of the garden.  Many find this to be a silly command, but if we think from Adam and Eve’s perspective, disobedience in actually the stupid action.  Adam and Eve could have everything in all of God’s creation except the fruit from one tree.  He even issued that there were consequences for their actions, if they eat of it, they will die.  If you had a nut allergy, why would you give up a steak for a cashew?  Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent and fell to choose cashews over stake.

Why is this significant?  Because just as the deceiver tempted the lady in the Garden, so the deceiver tempts the “elect lady” (the church) to choose cashews over stake.  The devil’s promises are always cashews compared to the four course meal of God’s promises.  The story remains the same for the church today.  What is one of the deceiver’s primary deceptions?  It isn’t found in eating a fruit, but in  forsaking the identity of Jesus Christ.

“…those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”  One of the primary deceptions of the devil is doctrinal, specifically Christological.  The person of God is always under the direct attack by the serpent.  His question to Eve, “Did God really say…?” echoes today, saying, “Did Jesus really say…?”  First, this shows the supremacy of Jesus.  Why would Satan go after something that wasn’t supreme?  Second, this shows us the necessity of doctrine.  We must feed our people on the meat of the Word- because that is the food Satan wants to swap out for salty snacks!  Notice what is being denied in this letter by John- the humanity of Jesus.  Not just His past humanity, but the Greek denotes the action continuing to take place.  Jesus Christ has come and lingers in the flesh.  Satan takes joy in taking split hairs if splitting hairs involved splitting salvation from man, and God’s glory from Himself.  Jesus Christ is human, and His humanity is central to the gospel, because if Christ is not fully human, He cannot be our perfect substitute.  Christ must also remain human to be able to sympathize with us as a high priest (Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:16-18).  By splitting this hair, our salvation is lost.

We need Bible teachers who will split the hairs and deeply love the tiniest truths about the person of Christ because the deepest truths of Christ are what Satan and his false teachers hate the most.  We are commanded then to “Watch ourselves” against such “deceivers and antichrists.”  The former describes the false teacher’s relationship to us, the second their relationship to God (opposed to Christ).  To be opposed to the teaching of Christ is to oppose himself, and this we must stand on truth.  Truth matters.  Love must also not be forgotten for love is what drives us to watch ourselves.

The central point of 2 John begins to form- we must love in truth because deception abounds.  There is much on the line in John’s command.  We must watch the doctrine of ourselves and those around us because our reward is on the line.  “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.”  The glories of our reward in Christ are on the line, and thus if we love people we will speak to them in their deception.  Eternity is on the line, and thus we must love those around us who are caught in deception and with the truth point them to eternal reward.  The reward which our Savior defines as the joy of the Master- the eternal joy God has had within Himself for all eternity.  How can we not open our mouths and in love speak the truth when deception is holding back these treasures and offering false promises?  False promises which, I remind you, lead to eternal destruction and not eternal life (Jude 5-8, 23).  Let us love people because deception abounds- and eternity is on the line.

We will conclude our study through 2 John in the next post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Truth and Love: A Study of 2 John (part 2)

As we continue in our study of 2 John we are reminded that John is writing to a local church, reminding them of the importance of love and truth. He gets more specific this week as he continues.

“I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth…” John has apparently seen the lifestyle of the people in this church. Their obedience brings him joy. Great joy. This lifestyle is habitual and faithful (noted by the use of the term “walking”). We also note that this joy was found in seeing “some” of then walking in the truth. All of the children had not been walking in this way. This should in some ways comfort us in knowing that when God calls us “children” it means he doesn’t expect us to stand on our own right away. It is also comforting to note that he does celebrate progress.

It cannot be escaped that the Holy Spirit through John is highlighting “the truth.” A fixed, body of eternal truth. Relativism is incompatible with a Christian worldview and incompatible with Christian living. We cannot live out truth if truth is not fixed and knowable- “just as you were commanded by the Father.” Truth is knowable because God has spoken.

With this foundation, John continues with his point in writing. “I ask you dear lady” He begins by pointing two things, first that his exhortation is not given without deep care for them. John models what this book proclaims, truth must be declared in love. He notes first his love for the church (the “lady”). Then he declares that what he is going to exhort them in is truth by saying, “not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning.” By this he is saying that he is not writing a new command (though he could, he had the authority to do so), but that this truth is truth which John himself, and this church, knew well. In fact, it reached all the way back to the days of Moses. His command was “that you love one another.” This command reached back into the book of Leviticus, but certainly its echo was fresh in the ears of the disciples from the Lord Jesus. In His last week of earthly ministry He commanded His disciples to “love one another” and that by doing so the world would be “know that they were his disciples.” Love proclaims truth. But, as John points us next, love does not exist apart from truth.

“And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” John goes so far as to explain how we love- through obedience to God. Love does not exist outside of obedience, and therefore; love can never be without truth. The most loving thing we owe Christians and non-Christians around us is to live an authentic life of obedience to God. 1 John is all about how this plays out in the Christian life. But, this should be the central point we walk away with from these verses in 2 John; “We must love one another in truth…” Loving one another in truth begins by living as an authentic witness in our life. Obedience is not just done to declare our love for God, but our love for others. We must reminder these essentials as we look next at why he so concerned with love: because deception abounds!  See you next week.