Saturday, March 29, 2008

The gospel is good news?

I just finished reading a couple of books by Pastor Joseph Prince, and now I can finally say that Yes, the gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed good news! (gospel means 'good news' -- and according to this article it means 'nearly-too-good-to-be-true news!' More from the article later.)

The 2 books I read are: Destined to Reign, and Spiritual Warfare. I'll have more in subsequent blog articles on info. from both of those, because they really helped clarify some things for me. Much of what I've heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been a mixture of 'law' and 'grace' and the 2 are just not compatible. No wonder it didn't always feel like 'good news'.

I'm still learning to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit (Emmanuel, if you will), but one day at church almost a year ago (May 27, 2007 - I wrote it down in a journal I write in sporadically) I was at church and we were standing up singing a song; which I now wish I'd also noted what song it was, but it probably doesn't matter -- and inside my head I heard a loud (almost booming) male voice say "Cia - hope!". (Cia being my first name and hope being a command of sorts.) It was just those 2 words. Wow. I looked around to see if anyone else heard anything, it was so loud. But they were all still singing.

You see, I'm studying this spiritual warfare issue because it's something I need for myself, too. That had never happened before, and so far it hasn't happened since. Maybe He wanted to make it dramatic enough that I couldn't miss it. I had meant to do a search for scriptures about 'hope', but it's one of those things that has been sitting on the back burner. All I wrote in my sermon notes for that day was that we studied Romans ch 6. Usually I write a little more than that, but that day I didn't.

I was reminded of that and looked back in my journal for the date, because Joseph Prince discusses hope in the Spiritual Warfare book, beginning on page 71:
[quoting from 1 Thessalonians 5:8] ... putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation." So what is "hope"? In the Bible, hope is a positive or confident expectation of good. Today, we use the word hope too glibly. ... So when God says "have hope", he wants you to have a confident expectation that good things will happen.
Is that great, or what? I also just looked it up in my Strong's Concordance, and in most of the New Testament uses of 'hope' it comes from the greek 1679 or 1680 - 1 Thes 5:8 is 1680. The definition for 1679 says it's from 1680, and means to expect or confide and is translated in the KJV as hope or trust. Strong's definition of 1680 is that it's from another word that means to anticipate, usually with pleasure; expectation or confidence and is translated in the KJV as faith, hope. I need to take that to heart.

And in closing, I'll quote a few paragraphs from the article linked below.
Grace: The Power Of The Gospel - Article - Andrew Wommack Ministries

Many people around the world who embrace “Christianity” have never heard the true Gospel.
They believe Christianity is nothing but a different set of rules, substituting Christian "dos and don’ts" for those of other religions. They continue to believe they must earn their way to God and then do their best to deserve the benefits of salvation. That’s not the true Gospel.
The Gospel is directly related to the grace of God. That's the only way this forgiveness of our sins can be obtained. It isn't through our holiness or good works. God doesn’t take the 'good' people and save them; He justifies (extends salvation toward) the ungodly (Rom. 4:5).

This causes many problems for religious people. They say, "Wait a minute! I believe you must do this and that to be holy." Religion—false religion, man's concepts—teaches that right standing with God and His blessings come as a result of our own goodness and works.

Salvation is a package deal and it's all accomplished by the grace of God, not our works. However, Satan is always trying to deceive us. He is the one who wants us to believe we must earn things from God. He is the one causing us to doubt the Lord’s willingness to use His ability on our behalf, and unfortunately, the church is often reinforcing that belief.
There's more, it's a good article.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Dark Side of Calvinism

I haven't made it a secret on here that I support the candidacy of Ron Paul for U.S. President, which isn't the reason I'm writing this article. However, through the local Ron Paul meetup group I met one of my neighbors, who introduced me to Reformed Theology (since he attends a reformed church) which lead me to do a little research and I discovered that Reformed and Calvinism are basically synonymous terms.

As I've probably also mentioned, I attend a local Calvary Chapel church. One day a book on a shelf in the 'resource center' caught my eye, titled: The Dark Side of Calvinism., by George Bryson. I got the book 2-3 weeks ago, and finished it last week. Early on in the book, while quoting from Reformed / Calvinist sources, some of it sounded similar to some of the eastern religion / 'new age' type teachings I'd seen before and I made a mental note to get something more specific. However, close to the end of the book (it's 398 pages) I discover he added more specifics, as follows, from pages 317-318:

In the Jim Henson animated Disney movie The Dark Crystal, the forces of light and darkness, good and evil, finally meet to see who or what will ultimately triumph. To the delight of New Agers everywhere, as it turned out, the ultimate victory, according to the creator of the Muppets, was not good over evil but the realization that these were mere illusions. That is, ultimately there was no good or evil, right or wrong. Unwittingly, the Calvinist view of the sovereign decrees of God accomplishes essentially the same thing.

If evil can be traced to God the way good can, if God is responsible for everything the way Calvinism says He is, if man is just an actor in a divine play (a tragedy at that), then the Hindu concept of Maya, which says (among other things) that human morality is just an illusion, is not that far off after all. A well thought-out understanding of Calvinist logic actually leads to views which are more in keeping with Hinduism than with biblical Christianity. I do not say these things to inflame the Calvinist. I do not believe Calvinists are Hindus. I do believe, however, that the Calvinist view of sovereignty and predestination logically lead to ideas which are as foreign to Scripture as is Hinduism. Some ideas in Calvinism lead logically to other ideas that should be anathema even to the most staunch and extreme Calvinist.

And here's a good blog article I found that's titled: Why you should not be a Calvinist.

The upshot of reading this book for me, was that I will now be much more discerning in which articles and commentaries I read and/or pass on, with a particular interest in whether the writer follows a Calvinist / Reformed doctrine or what? It's been an eye-opener. And of course there'll be more to learn, but at least I know that even among fellow 'Christians' I need to use a good deal of discernment.

IF you happen to be a Calvinist who is reading this, and if what I'm writing is eliciting one or more negative emotions, please note that I am not equipped and have no desire to engage in theological debates or discussions. Otherwise, general comments are welcome! In addition requests for information or EFT coaching services is also welcome.