THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

28 12 2009
Truth Matters Newsletters – October  2007   Vol. 12 Issue 10 – THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE – Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

As we studied last month all of the aberrant practices and false doctrine stem from an incorrect interpretation of the Scriptures. In fact, all errors in “Bible” based cults can be traced back to using a faulty hermeneutical system. Every Christian should understand and apply some basic hermeneutical principles when they study their Bible. Unfortunately most pastors do not equip their people with the skills necessary to become good Bereans. Sadly, many pastors across America have little or no theological training and thus they lack any real understanding of how to correctly teach the Bible of to their congregations (Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar are just two examples) and we end up with a case of the blind leading the blind.

Apart from incorrect biblical interpretations with all its attending problems there is another difficulty plaguing God’s people and that is the widespread practice of accepting personal spiritual experiences as authoritative. Millions of professing Christians readily accept the subjective “revelations” of various leaders, or their own private experiences as being as valid as the written Word of God.

The Word of God is seen as not being the only guide for many Christians. It is not viewed as complete and totally sufficient when it comes to faith and practice. Many people are augmenting the Bible with extra-biblical data that is proclaimed as “new” revelations from the Holy Spirit through a host of roving self-proclaimed Apostles, Prophets and revivalists. Admittedly this is not a new problem; in fact the Apostle Paul spoke of people who were misplacing their faith in alleged mystical experience:

Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not see, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Col. 2:18,19

It seems that people have a propensity to be drawn away from the objective truth of God’s Word into their own fallen subjective experiences.

 Today we see this enthusiasm for experience over God’s Word vividly in the Charismatic movement. For example the recently departed Kenneth E. Hagin built a great portion of his SINistry on his alleged face-to-face encounters with our risen Lord. Many of these he wrote about in great detail in his book I believe In Visions.

 

Another widely followed heretic, Jesse Duplantis expanded his influence tremendously after publishing his farcical tale about going to heaven in his book Heaven Close Encounters of the God Kind. Jesse regales his readers with not only a very detailed account of “heaven” but also shares about his visible experiences with angels, he and his car being teleported across the state of Louisiana and other bizarre experiences.

Mary K. Baxter wrote a book which plunged her into charismatic fame & fortune about her being taken to hell on forty (40!) consecutive evenings allegedly by Jesus Christ. The Divine Revelation of Hell has been reprinted several times and in over ten languages. The book is filled with graphic details of what awaits the damned soul and Baxter claims thousands of people have come to faith in Christ due to her book! If that was not enough she went on to write another spurious tome entitled The Divine Revelation of Heaven and then another book called The Divine Revelation of Glory.

Discernment Ministries International was among the first Apologetic ministry to expose the nonsense in Cho Thomas’ book Heaven Is So Real about her rapturous transport to heaven. Thomas reveals to us that there is death in heaven when Jesus takes her fishing and kills the fish and cooks it for her.

Every one of these books (and there are many more I could mention) has sold well over 100,000 copies each, and all of them are printed in foreign languages for wider consumption by the sign-seeking crowd (don’t forget there are videos, DVD’s, and cassettes of these accounts by authors for sale too). The authors go all over the world sharing their experiences with untold numbers of people.

These examples demonstrate my concern that people are leaving the sufficiency of the Scriptures to listen to someone’s latest experience. I can tell you that DMI receives a great deal of vitriolic email from devotees of these deluded heretics. Some of the gentler complainers say things like “don’t you believe God can take someone to heaven? Look at the Apostle Paul for example!”  Yes, let’s consider Paul for a moment:

I knew a man in Christ about fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 2 Cor. 12:3-4

Virtually all commentators agree that Paul is writing about an experience he had being caught up to heaven. What is interesting about his account is that he does not share any of what he saw or heard.  Why not?  Today when someone says they were taken to heaven they create an entire “ministry” out of their experience. Paul did not relate any of his experience precisely because it was just that…his own “experience” and as such would not benefit others.

Here is what the NIV Commentary says about this part of Paul’s life:

What Paul head (and saw?), human words were inadequate to relate (v.4b). Furthermore, he was not permitted to try to share the content of the revelation, perhaps because it had been designed for him alone, to fortify him for future service and sufferings (Ac 9:16; Ro 8:18). Glimpses the NT does give of the coming glory are intended to strengthen faith and promote holiness (cf. 2 Pe 3:10-14;p 1Jn 3:2-3) not satisfy curiosity.

Nothing that Hagin, Duplantis, Cho or Baxter wrote about strengthens faith nor does it promote true holiness. What all those books do is to point to the human authors and imply that they are special vessels chosen for these last days to prepare the Church for the return of Christ. Nothing in their mythological writings do anything to encourage their readers to get into the Holy Bible and let God speak to them via its inerrant pages.

As I stated earlier this phenomenon of people promoting doctrines and practices that are based on their personal experiences is nothing new. During the Evangelical Reformation led by Martin Luther he constantly had arguments with various sects of what he termed “enthusiasts.”

Enthusiasm clings to Adam and his children from the beginning to the end of the world –fed and spread among them as poison by the old dragon. It is the source, power, and might of all the heresies, even that of the papacy and of Mohammed. Therefore, we should and must insist that God does not want to deal with us human beings, except by means of his external word and sacrament. Everything that boasts of being from the Spirit apart from such a word and sacrament is of the devil. (1)

The enthusiasts then as today looked within to feel something or to attempt to hear God speak to them directly and personally apart form the Holy Bible. This is exactly what is taking place on a massive scale within the charismatic movement. I’ve been involved in many meetings where the “Spirit” began to move in a mighty way so much so that the Word of God was never preached. These meetings were declared to be of the highest order! Various people “prophesied” the so-called word of the Lord, others were slain in the spirit, some danced in the aisles, others just sat and watched the show. 

One well accepted restored-prophet, Bill Hamon carries with him a 5 inch 3 ring binder filled with 100’s of “personal” prophecies that have been uttered over his life for the last 40 years. Obviously he takes these extemporaneous words to be true or why collect & carry them?

What does the Bible say?

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-3

Yes God did speak through the prophets in the past. Yes God spoke in various ways, by dreams, visions and at times angels or through Theophanous. However, in these last days God has spoken to us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter knew of his impending death (2 Peter 1:13-15) so what he said was vitally important to him as a pastor. He reminds his readers that he was with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration and he actually heard the voice of God speak. Yet what does he then tell the Church?

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:19-21

Even though Peter was there in person to hear God’s voice he goes on to tell the Church that they have a more sure word of prophecy (the written Word) and they would do well to take heed to It a a light that shines in a dark place. Peter does not preach his experience but points to the Word of God and warns them to take heed of the Word.

Why this emphasis Peter, what is the big deal?

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 2 Peter 2:1-3

The problem today is that the “more sure word” is now deemed passé and there is a desire to seek what is termed “present day truth” (see 2 Peter 1:12) by the charismatic extremists. This is alleged truth that is arrived at through mystical or metaphysical means, i.e. subjective belief as opposed to the objective inerrant truth set out in the Bible.

One very popular charismatic heretic, Tommy Tenney, wrote a hugely popular book entitled The God Chasers. Tenney denigrates the written Word of God and expounds that people need to seek a direct encounter with God. Here are some of his comments regarding the Bible:

We just keep going through the motions, lighting the lamps and shuffling from dusty room to dusty room as God was still speaking to us. (2)

There’s no need for me to preach [the Word] if God shows up in His glory. (3)

They [the early disciples] walked and talked with Him in such a rich level of intimacy that it wasn’t necessary for them to pour over dusty love letters that were written long ago. (4)

Folks Tenney’s comments are the voice of millions enmeshed in charismatic extremism. Note the very low view of holy scripture—the books of the Bible are “dusty rooms” that we shuffle through with the mistaken belief that God is still speaking to us through these biblical letters! Tenney echo’s the statements of many of today’s revivalists by saying there is not even a need to preach the Word of God if “God” shows up, i.e. some paranormal manifestations or unchecked emotionalism breaks forth. Lastly, Tenney says that the early church members communed with God on an intimate one-on-one basis APART from pouring over the “dusty old love letters” that were written long ago. What does my book of dusty old love letters say in response to Mr. Tenney and the other heretics?

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore, many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. Acts 17:11-12

The people in Berea heard Paul preach and then they went immediately to those dusty old love letters to validate by objective truth what Paul was proclaiming. What was the end result? MANY of them believed the gospel that Paul preached!  ♦

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

Endnotes:

1. Oswald Bayer, Theology The Lutheran Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007, p. 53

2. Tommy Tenney, The God Chasers, (Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 1998) p. 31.

3. Bid. p. 44 Underlining and bolding added for emphasis

4. Bid. p. 74 Underlining and bolding added for emphasis.





Spiritual Formation

9 10 2009
Truth Matters Newsletters – January 2007 – Vol. 12 Issue 1 – Spiritual Formation – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Spiritual Formation

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My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, (Gal 4:19)

Since it is a New Year, and may it be a blessed and happy one to us all in the Body of Christ! It seems only fitting to begin the year off right, spiritually speaking. That means shoring up the fundamental disciplines which will draw us truly closer to our Lord and Savior and thus be more useful to the Master in His purpose.

THE CALL

Becoming Christ-like is not simply an automatic process that occurs in the lives of believers. I have learned over my twenty years of ministry that generally people are either actively growing in Christ, or have stagnated and become complacent with where they think they are in relationship with the Lord. There are those who have backslidden and drifted away from Him altogether. Notice in Gal. 4:19 the strong language that the Apostle Paul uses as he writes to his converts in Galatia. First, we know they are Christians because he addresses them as “my little children” as opposed to a term for a mature child. Here we find Paul again in the spiritual pangs of childbirth for his disciples. Why? Obviously, they had not been developing spiritually as they should have been. (1) Thayer in his Lexicon says “i.e. whose souls I am striving with intense effort and anguish to conform to the minds of Christ.” Being formed into the image of Christ, like childbirth is an arduous, at times, painful lifelong process with the goal of becoming conformed to His very image. The Apostle reminded the believers in Rome when he penned these familiar words regarding God’s eternal purpose for His children:

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom. 8:29)

Every Christian is somewhere along the path of having Christ Jesus formed in them. Some are further along than others. When it comes to spiritual growth and maturity the bottom line is simply this —we can grow as deep into Christ and allow His Spirit to bear bushels of fruit unto the glory of God through our lives….as much as we want, or perhaps better put—will allow Him to produce. Salvation is totally the work of God apart from any and all effort of man. Dr. Martin Luther in his Small Catechism regarding sanctification gives the following answer to the third question in his section concerning the Apostles Creed:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, Sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true. (2)

Sanctification is also the work of God, but in this area He provides the means whereby we may grow, but it is up to us to partake of these means of grace in order to grow thereby.

As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (1 Peter 2:2).

Spiritual growth comes by the desire within each of our hearts to grow more and more into the image of Christ. You can be seventy years old, never missed a Sunday worship service and still be a spiritual infant. (3) On the other hand, you can be a fairly young Christian whose spiritual growth far outstrips those twice his or her age. Why? Because unlike their elders they were not merely hearers of the Word but actually did what was taught to them by faithful men of God.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he behold himself, and goeth his way, and straightway fretted what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:22-25).

So as we consider spiritual formation it is vital to keep in mind two realities. First is what is generally referred to as “positional truth.” This refers to our position in Christ due to His work and His work alone. We are already sanctified by His blood [Heb. 10:10]. God the Father sees us as pure, holy and spotless in Christ. That is our position. The other reality is what is commonly referred to as “experiential truth,” or our experience throughout our spiritual life. The goal of the Christian is to both know God and glorify Him in all we do; (4) this comes when our experience in this life begins to line up with our position in Christ.

This is where the issue of spiritual formation, Christian growth, discipleship, maturity comes into play. How do we go about making what the Bible says is our position a living reality or experience in our daily lives here in a fallen world amidst a fallen people (which includes ourselves)? How do we become, what we really are?

I suppose it really boils down to how bad do we want to grow spiritually? How heavy a price are we willing to pay to be like Christ in this life? Are we willing to mortify our fleshly desire as Paul challenges the Christians of old to do?

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: (Col. 3:5)

Paul uses two different words for mortify in these texts. In his letter to the Romans the Greek word for mortify is transliterated thanatoo and it means to render extinct or by death to be liberated from the bond of anything, literally to be made dead in relation to (something). (5) To do such a mighty work as to destroy once and for all certain deeds of the body it takes nothing less than the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, better translated the Spirit of Reality (John 16:13). (6)

To the Colossians Paul uses another term for mortify, here he uses the Greek term which is transliterated nekroo. Thayer in his lexicon says of this word that it means to deprive of power or destroy the strength thereof. (7) I heard one preacher say that it meant to “put to death by starvation” which is an accurate description of what Paul is getting at in his admonition to the Colossians.

Spiritual Formation demands much from those who truly seek to become vessels of honor and useful to the Master. I know it is unpopular in many pulpits today, yet the following text stands true:

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, [and] prepared unto every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21).

Not every Christian is equally useful to our Master (all are equally loved). Who is it that determines who is useful and who is not? The individual believer “if a man therefore purge (ekkatnalpo, cleanse thoroughly) himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master’s use”! The cleansing is from iniquitous actions mentioned in the previous verse. (see v. 19). From Paul’s two statements we learn a great deal. First and foremost, we note that it is the work of the Spirit that works in us by God’s means of grace to mortify the deeds of our flesh. Secondly, we see that we too have a role to play and are not just passive “pawns.” In fact Paul says that we are co-laborers with God (1Cor. 3:9), although in context he is referring to the Apostles work with God in building the Church I believe it can also be extended to all Christians who are seeking with pure hearts to do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

The genuine work of spiritual formation is a joint-effort between God and man (1 Cor. 3:9). The Spirit of Grace working molding (Jer. 18:9) and transforming the sinful, yet willing souls of people made righteous in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) who have decided to pick up their cross (Matt. 16:24) and follow their Master to Golgotha, the place of death and that from that death true life, bountiful eternal fruit is borne which brings glory to our Father.

Before we launch off into the deep let me emphatically state that in order to grow we must die.

He must increase, but I [must] decrease. (John 3:30)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will [my] Father honour. John 12:24,25,26)

In the first text cited John is referring to his own ministerial influence, yet I believe it can also be legitimately applied to our lives too. In order for Christ to “grow” in us, the little Pharisee who sees himself or herself as king or queen of his or her life must decrease. In fact, our Master makes it even more plain by taking something everything around Him understood, a seed. His listeners knew that as long as the seed was not buried in the ground and “died” it would never produce any level of harvest at all. Yet if it would die the result would be new life that brings forth much fruit, i.e. many more seeds which will reproduce and eventually fill the earth with good fruit.

The False Pathways Offered

Sadly, there is a great deal of pseudo-spirituality being offered to the Church that has no basis in Scripture. There is a very obvious reason why there are so many ‘false paths’ beings offered by so many Christian leaders. Many of the “seeker” Christians are beginning to feel the emptiness in their “worship” services. All the hoopla, banners, dancing and shouting are simply not bringing these seekers closer to Jesus. So they are hungry to really grow to know the Lord and unfortunately the enemy, Satan, is more than willing to fill the void he created through their false worship with now false pathways to alleged intimacy with God.

Some of these practices run the gamut of vision quests, sweat lodges, walking in labyrinths to attain inner understanding. Never heard of walking a labyrinth as part of spiritual formation? It is all the “rage” for many in the Church. Here are a few quotes for you to consider:

At its most basic level the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.

The most basic metaphor for walking a labyrinth is that of Life’s Journey. Walk the labyrinth while mindful of your life. Envision your life’s goal. Walk to your destiny and see what you learn. Pay attention to the sights and sounds. Do you feel lost at any time? If so, where in the labyrinth did it occur? What does that mean? Do you like one part of the labyrinth more than another? Why? What do the turns represent in your life? Do you resist some turns and like others. When you are outdoors notice subtle changes in the terrain—the ups and downs. Notice any synchronicities such as an overheard word or a bird’s song. Consider all of your experiences in the labyrinth in relation to your life’s journey. What does the labyrinth teach you about your life? (8)

The purpose behind the spiritual disciplines is to bring into harmony the outer expressions of our worship with the inner reality of what we are doing. It is a very dangerous to go through the motions without having a knowledge of the reality of what we are doing. (2 Timothy 3 “having a —form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”

We can outwardly kneel, cross ourselves, eat the Body and Blood of the Lamb at His table, sing the songs, lift up holy hands, dance and give and all of it be a mere “form” of godliness denying the true power and transforming presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in it all.

It is dangerous because we think we have done something spiritual, yet in actuality all we did was go through the motions and left the congregation feeling more than a little self-righteous. Another example of a commonly followed false path is one that comes to the Church from Rome Catholicism.

Centering or Contemplative Prayer

Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila…It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. (9)

This obvious quotation comes from the roman Catholic persuasion and there is a renewed interest in the early Roman Catholic mystics and their visions and how they obtained them. Go to any Borders bookstore or Barnes and Nobel and you will find shelves of books on and by various Roman Catholic mystics. Anyone with half sense can see where all the dreams, visions, revelations given to these “saints” and “Popes” have doctrinally brought the Roman Catholic Church today, almost totally bereft of any remnants of the Gospel at all. As we consider a few titles in print it is important to define what mysticism is:

The word “mysticism is derived from the Greek word mustikos, meaning one initiated into the mysteries. Eventually, it was used in Christian circles as the branch of Christian theology that believes in the direct communion of the soul with God. In *pantheistic context it usually refers to one who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain absorption into the Ultimate. (10)

Allow me to digress, Dr. Norman L. Geisler (who is one of the primary authors of the previous and following quotations) was one of my Professors at Michigan theological Seminary (MTS) and he has written extensively on mysticism {along with just about every other issue facing Christians today, I consider the man to be a genius an I counsel anyone to carefully weigh any of what he teaches}. The article goes on to say:

A Private Religious Experience. Religious experiences are of two basic kinds: general and specific. The first is available to all persons, and the latter are unique to only some…Mystical experiences are private by nature. This does not mean that others cannot have similar experiences. It simply means that the experience is unique to the one having it. Also, the general public does not have such experiences at any time. (11)

The underlined portion hit’s the problem head-on. People can claim to have seen anything, been anywhere yet in each case they are private in nature and thus are subjective and non-verifiable. (12) For example, there is not another living person who can verify Mr. Hagin’s, Jesse Duplanis, Mary K. Baxter’s, Choo Thomas, Roland Buck, Dr. Eby and the other “trips” to heaven or hell these internationally known speakers write and hold conferences on. These authors alone went on the trip and their reports are either accepted or rejected by the Church, sadly tens of thousands believe these unsupported accounts which often contradict the Bible.

Mystical Experience Is Not Objective. By their own admission, the experience mystics have- are not public but private. As such, then, they ate subjective and not objective. But subjective experiences have validity only for the subject experiencing them. Mystical Experiences Are Not Testable. Since mystical experiences are without an objective basis, they are also untestable… (13)

If one is honest the entire charismatic renewal is based in subjective experiences. Whether it is the individual (ecstatic speech) prayer language one receives or the visions given while doing carpet time. (14) are subjective and totally unverifiable.

As you read some of the following titles you will see the obvious emphasis on the mystical, the subjective regarding knowing and fellowshipping with our Lord. You will find most of these books in your local book stores. Each promises means and methods to experience the divine!

Boyd, Gregory A. Seeing is Believing: Experience Jesus Through Imaginative Prayer. Baker 2004

Chryssavgis, John Light Through Darkness: The Orthodox Tradition Orbis, 2004

Allen, Joseph J. Inner Way: Toward a Rebirth of Eastern Christian Spiritual Direction Eerdmans, 1994

Dr. Waal, Esther. Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness. Liturgical Press, 2003

Macquarrie, John Two Worlds Are Ours: An Introduction to Christian Mysticism. Fortress Press, 2004.

Penrose, Mary E. Refreshing Water From Ancient Wells: The Wisdom of Women Mystics. Paulist, 2004

Taylor, Brain. Becoming Christ: Transformation Through Contemplation. Cowley Publications 2002

Cutsinger, James S. Not of This World: A Treasury of Christian Mysticism. Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2003.

From these few titles (I could list over one hundred) we see a common thread, a renewed interest in mysticism. Boyd’s “imaginative prayer” is nothing more than what we called visualization within charismania. Pastor Paul Cho of the largest congregation in the world teaches extensively on visualization which he has termed the “fourth dimension”. (15) Cho would have people believe they can have whatever they want if they can conceptualize it deeply enough. Not to mention that nowhere does the Bible suggest we conjure up in our own minds what Jesus looks like, I.e. create a “Jesus,” then imagine ourselves sitting down with our imagined Jesus and holding a dialog with Him. This is akin to the New Age occult practice of seeking a “spirit guide” to talk with and gain wisdom from.

Currently there is also a renewed interest in the spirituality of the various branches of the Eastern Orthodox Churches by seeker “evangelicals.” Mysticism runs rampant throughout the eastern “Church,” and people hungry for new “deeper” spiritual experiences are flocking back to what they believe are churches which are more ancient and thus must be a truer reflection of the original Church.

There are some commonalities with most of the forms of today’s modern versions of spiritual formation. Primarily they all are not based upon the authority of the Holy Bible. For these folks the Bible is not enough. It is not, at least in their minds, going to get them that direct-connect they are seeking with the Lord. These spiritually hungry masses are seeking to experience union with Christ or the Holy Spirit and the pathways being offered promise to give people methods by which they can have such encounters.

Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that the Bible never encourages anyone to seek to have visions, trances or out-of-body experiences? When experiences of this type did occur it was always unexpected on the part of the recipient and it was granted by God for a specific purpose in His divine plan for either Israel or the Church. Let me cite just a couple examples:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings; With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another.” “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isa. 6:1-6

The Prophet Isaiah was not seeking an “audience” with the Ancient of Days. God chose to reveal Himself to Isaiah and when He did note that Isaiah immediately saw his own filthiness and sinful condition in the brightness of God’s glory. He did not have a halleluiah shouting dancing “Pentecost” in God’s presence. On the contrary he had a sense of his unworthiness. Here is an example from the New Testament:

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied, “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” this happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guest. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure

I challenge anyone to read through from Genesis to the Revelation of Jesus Christ and show me one example of a believer seeking to have some form of “spiritual” experience. In every case where an angel or angels appear or a theophany of our Lord appears it is always for extremely important reasons and they all came unexpectedly to the recipients.

There is an important difference between seeking the Lord and seeking to have some type of ecstatic experience which is what the false pathways offer people.

Next month we will begin a biblical look at the discipline of prayer, what it is, what can we expect from it, does it have limits. We’ll consider some of the common errors taught on this matter as well. So stay “tuned” campers, our journey has just begun.

scanprayer0001

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. I do not mean to be offensive to those with legitimately/organically slow or retarded children. God bless those families who struggle daily with lifelong mental retardation. However, spiritually thinking if you have someone who is 50,60 or 70 years old and they are still a ‘babe’ in Christ, then frankly they are spiritually retarded…or even more seriously, their pastor is spiritually retarded because he has not brought his portion of the Lord’s flock to maturity. Sadly, I’ve known many “seasoned saints” who were basic babes in Christ Jesus in their doctrinal foundation and fellowship with Christ and His people. Brothers and sisters this not ought to be. ALL of us should be on a track of what is called in the Detroit automotive industry as “C.I.” which stands for continual improvement.

2. http://www.bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.html

3. Please understand I am in no way implying our seasoned saints are not mature. In fact, in our own congregation it is the elderly Christians who are the most faithful and active in Bible study, giving and serving. My point is simply that church attendance does not automatically equate to spiritual growth.

4. The Shorter Westminster Catechism’s first question asks “What is the chief end of man? The answer is —”Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

5. Obtained from http://www.shortercatechism.com/resources/wsc/wsc_001.html

6. http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/words.pl?book=Rom&chapter=8&verse=13&strongs=2289&page=

7. Time well spent is time studying all the titles and names given to the Holy Spirit. As with each aspect of the Godhead, each name given reveals to us some aspect of the divine nature. One of the most potent titles given to the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Reality, which at least to this author means that it is He that brings life and illumination to the Holy Scriptures and makes “real” all that means of grace God has given unto His Church.

8. http://www.lessons4living.com/rituals.htm Bold type and underlining added for emphasis.

9. http://www.centeringprayer.com/cntrgpryr.htm

10. Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Book House, 1999.

11. Ibid p. 516. Underlining added for emphasis.

12. For example, every book apart from the Bible, that has been written about heavenly visits or trips to hell for that matter are all subjective. The individual having the alleged experience relates it in a book or tapes series and either people believe them or not. Sadly, multitudes believe these subjective experiences over the clear teaching of the Scriptures. Here are some specific examples: Jesse Duplantis, Heaven Close Encounters of the God Kind. Mary K. Baxter, A Divine Revelation of Hell, Dr. Eby, Didn’t You Read My Book!, Pastor Roland Buck’s Angels on Assignment, Choo Thomas, Heaven Is So Real.

13. Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Book House, 1999, p. 516. Underlining added for emphasis.

14. Carpet time refers to the time that a person spends in an altered state of consciousness during a service. This experience is usually brought on through the laying on of hands by the “anointed” speaker/pastor/prophet.

15. Tracy and I heard Paul Cho teach his occult doctrine “live” via Robert Tilton’s monthly satellite broadcast to the church where I was serving as Associate Pastor in Ann Arbor when it was a fresh revelation to Mr. Cho. Cho’s concept boiled down to its essence is that if you can imagine it, you can create it. Naturally, he wrote a book about it called “The Fourth Dimension” and now I have recently learned there is even a volume two — “The Fourth Dimension Vol. 2, David Yonggi Cho, Paul Yonggi R. Whitney Menzano” Published by Bridge-Logos out of Gainsville, FL. You can visit bridge logos.com to order a copy (why waste your money?)





TRUTH MATTERS and It Is Worth Fighting For

20 07 2009
Truth Matters Newsletter – October 2005 – Vol. 10 Issue 10 – Truth Matters and it is Worth Fighting For – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

TRUTH MATTERS

And

It Is Worth Fighting For

Maybe Paul should not have publicly rebuked Peter for playing the hypocrite before the Jewish believers (read Gal 2:11). Perhaps he should not have dared to “name names” in some of his epistles (read 2 Tim 4:14). Obviously Paul was emotionally overwrought and an alarmist when he told the Ephesian elders warning them night and day for three years with tears about the wolves from without and the danger of false brethren from within (see Acts 20:27:31).

Pelagius taught man’s will was totally free and that original sin was a myth, perhaps Augustine and Jerome should have agreed to disagree with him. What if Athanasius had said ‘well brother Arius has a different revelation of the Godhead, nothing to break fellowship over” instead of sounding the alarm and condemning the man as the heretic he was? Possibly Irenaeus was too harsh on the false prophets and teachers attacking the Church in his day, and he even had the gall to name the miscreants in his book “Against Heresies.”

What if Martin Luther seeing Tetzel selling salvation and said wow, what a shame, but what can one person do against an entire religious system? And walked away thinking “ the Lord will settle the matter”?  Where would we be today?

My dear brothers and sisters it is costly to take a stand for God’s Word in a world that grows spiritually darker by the minute. It is even more difficult to stand up for righteousness within the Church that drifts further from the secure anchor of their souls, the Word and sacraments.

We are fast coming to a time when the cry again is being sounded ‘who is on the Lord’s side?” (read Luke 11:23), which is it in your life and mine? To follow the Lamb is to be in the minority, it is to carry the cross outside the camp (read Hebrews 13:13); suffer humiliation and be considered a fool for forsaking all the “goodies” YOU COULD HAVE HAD, YET DID NOT FOR His names sake. To be a disciple means to take a stand for God’s truth regardless of what it may cost you in family, friends, or societal position. It means not being popular or in with the in crowd.

Like Abraham, we are pilgrims in this world, yes in it, but not of it…at least that is the way it is supposed to be. Is this true in your life and mine? Or have we become bewitched with the baubles and glitter of a system decaying before our very eyes? Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver, today too many sell Him far more cheaply I fear.

I wish I could write you and say “hey folks, its ok,” but I’d be lying. It is not “ok” not by a long shot. The Church is under attack just as Paul warned almost 2,000 years ago. False apostles, prophets and teachers make merchandise of the sheep and if anyone dares to raise their voice against them they are engulfed with cries of “you’re accusing the brethren; you’re causing division; who died and made you judge?”   Evil prevails when good men keep silent and I for one refuse to keep silent and allow evil to prevail in my generation.

Brothers and sisters, God has never used the “many” He has always used a select group. For example: He chose Israel not because of their great size and might, for exactly the opposite reasons “ The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye [were] the fewest of all people” (Deut. 7:7). When Gideon went out to fight, We know that God made a separation and sent all but 300 soldiers back home (read Judges 7:4) so that the victory would be clearly seen as coming from Him and not their own abilities and numbers. Our Lord Himself chose twelve men to turn the world upside down (read Acts 17:6). The early Church itself was small but it spread from Jerusalem to Judea, then Samaria to the uttermost parts of the earth (read Acts 1:8)

Often Apologists are called “accusers of the brethren” by our detractor’s. Yet it is Satan who falsely accuses the brethren before God. We in the Church are called to judge those within the Church (1 Cor. 6:3). We are called to exhort (Titus 1:9) and rebuke with all authority (2 Tim. 4:2) when we see people departing from the standards of God’s holy Word. In fact, for Christians not to serve as watchmen on the wall would be a dereliction of duty.

Discernment Ministries International is one voice that God has raised up to stand as a watchman on the wall and shout out a warning to the Body of Christ saying “test the spirits to see if they are of God.” We are in the minority within a sleeping Church, one that we are striving to rouse from its slumber. DMI and others are swimming hard upstream against every wind of doctrine which so many lovingly are bodysurfing downstream on.

However, DMI cannot do the work alone I am sending out this appeal with the hope that God still has a legitimate remnant of people who are spiritually dissatisfied with the current religious status quo. That there are a people whose righteous indignation has been stirred up by the Holy Spirit to the degree where they will faithfully support a ministry that dares to say  “the Emperor has no clothes on” regardless of the cost.

DMI needs more faithful partners to help us expand our mission of Teaching Truth & Exposing Error. Won’t you join our ranks and get involved in the battle for the integrity of the Gospel?  We thank God daily for those He has raised up thus far, but we need many more people to wake up to the reality of the battle we are all involved in and help support those of us who’ve dedicated their lives to sounding the alarm. Please pray about supporting us, we need your help more now than ever. ♦

His servant and yours,

Rev. Bob Liichow

 Copyright © 2005  Robert S. Liichow





Sola Gratia – Part One of Five

3 06 2009
Truth Matters Newsletter – Sept. 2004 – Vol. 8 No. 9 -Sola Gratia—Part One of Five

I had recently received a counseling phone call from a sister who had come out of an abusive charismatic congregation and was now ensconced in a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. Her issues concerned spiritual stability and in talking with her it occurred to me that if she was established doctrinally in five simple “Reformed” truths then most of her questions and issues would be solved (if she remains in her MSLC hopefully her pastor will instill these same truths into her life).

The bedrock of any spiritual life that is truly built on Jesus Christ can be summed up in these profoundly simple doctrines. In fact, I am so convinced that unless one has the truths we shall be considering in the next several issues, imbedded in their hearts they will be ineffective and unfruitful in God’s Kingdom. People who lack these essential truths will be stunted spiritually and remain infants who are prone to be tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of false doctrine that cunning and crafty men (and women) promote. The Apostle Paul warns of this danger in  Ephesians 4:14.

That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

It is my prayer that we will be no more children, but will grow up and achieve the full stature of Christ. Yet for us to do so we MUST make sure our house is built on the rock of the following five truths:

Sola Gratia,   Sola Fide,   Solo Christo,   Solo ScripturaSoli Deo Gloria

These 5 Evangelical truths  heralded after years of spiritual darkness in the Church initially by Martin Luther simply, yet profoundly mean that the Christian is SAVED by GRACE ALONE through FAITH ALONE, by CHRIST ALONE, according to the SCRIPTURES ALONE, and to GOD ALONE be ALL the GLORY.

Prior to the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church emphasized grace, but not grace alone. Roman Catholicism and other religious sects teach that grace requires human cooperation and effort if one is to be saved.

Luther, Melancthon and later Calvin, Knox and other reformers taught and rightly so that biblically, salvation is modernistic, which simply means that a thing has only one cause. In this case Jesus Christ alone is both the Author and Finisher of our Faith as Hebrews 12:2 teaches us.

We’ve already covered the reality of total depravity in a prior issue, so I will not deal with it now. As a reminder let me state that this does not mean that mankind is as bad as he can be, but it does mean that humanity is as bad off as it can be.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one; There is none that understand, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Romans 3:10-12   (KJV)

The Scriptures are clear that men and women are sinful by nature and cannot do anything to save themselves. Not only are we unable but we are unwilling to come to the light— as our Master says in John 3:19; “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19 (KJV)

The Word of God is equally clear that it is God who saves us by grace alone (Sola Gratia) through faith alone (Sola Fide) on account of the atoning death of Christ alone (Soli Christi).  Let’s consider 2 clear examples of Sola Gratia. Turn and read in your Bibles beginning at John 11

“Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15) And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. 40) Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? … 41) Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42) And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43) And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44) And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. John 11:14 (KJV)

The example of Lazarus clearly demonstrates the doctrine of sola gratia. There are a great many lessons in this miracle. What I want us to focus on is this simple fact: Lazarus was dead. He could do NOTHING to help in his resurrection—that was the work of God the Son, the Living Word—Spoke to the dead man and He commanded Lazarus to come forth and he who was dead became alive.

This is exactly what occurs in the life of an individual when the Gospel is proclaimed. Like Lazarus we too must be called to life by God through the GOSPEL. This is what is meant by being saved by grace alone. Turn in your Bible to the next example in Ephesians Chapter 2:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins (just like Jesus did with Lazarus); Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast.   For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them   Eph. 2:4-11 Note carefully Paul’s assessment:

1. We were dead, not wounded, not sick, dead (nekro,j, necros)

2. We willingly walked according to this fallen world’s dictates and it’s Dictator the devil.

3. We were all by nature children of wrath and thus rightfully subject to the judgment of a Holy and Righteous God.

If left to ourselves we were all headed for eternal damnation, and deservedly so.

Yet after painting so plainly a picture of depraved humanity when left to its own devices, Paul switches gears and by the INSPIRATION of the Holy Spirit pens 2 of the most BEAUTIFUL WORDS in the entire Bible — “But God”. Paul goes on to give the clearest picture of sola gratia in the New Testament.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by GRACE you have been saved. It is vitally important for you to note that it is when we are dead in sins and transgressions that God made us alive with Christ. (1)

Paul’s explanation of sola gratia— “it is by grace you have been saved.”

Those 8 words should bring every Christian to their knees in thankful humility to God because of His undeserved mercy towards us in Christ.

These 8 words should forever slay any remaining vestiges of human pride because Paul makes it repeat himself more emphatically in verses 8 and 9 when he says again “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Salvation is the work of God from start to finish. If you are saved at all it is because God saved you through faith in the work of His Son — even the faith to believe the Gospel does not come from yourselves—it is the gift of God.

Salvation is not of works, lest ANY man should boast. It cannot be made any clearer, yet multitudes of professing Christians wrongly believe that they made “a decision for Christ.”  Many Protestant’s teach that unless we “decide,” or unless we “choose,” or unless we “accept Jesus as our Personal Savior” then God’s grace is useless.

To teach such a thing is a damnable lie. To argue that grace is of no avail to us unless “we do” something first, is to deny SOLA GRATIA ALTOGETHER. To believe in such a manner is to rob God of His Glory.

In closing Paul had to rebuke Peter publicly when Peter played the hypocrite when some Jews came in and Peter separated himself from his gentile brothers—Paul reminded Peter and us all that WORKS have no place in God’s plan of salvation in Gal. 2:16:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified  Gal 2:16 (KJV)

2004 © Rev. Robert Liichow

Next Month Sola Fide