The Loss of the True Church Service

One of the things that I find most disturbing regarding Evangelical churches today is that they are consumed with what the world thinks about the church service and how they are perceived by the world. There is one thing that is omitted and replaced by a thousand lesser concerns.

The typical church service is about relevance and how it is presenting itself before the world. What is important in so many churches is what comes across to the world.

The consequence of this is the loss of the true church service. We simply cannot have both the true church service and also be concerned for what the world thinks. What has happened is simply a repeat of Satan’s age old strategy of attacking what should be protected for the people of God.

Psalm 74:2-10 Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, which You have redeemed to be the tribe of Your inheritance; and this Mount Zion, where You have dwelt. Turn Your footsteps toward the perpetual ruins; the enemy has damaged everything within the sanctuary. Your adversaries have roared in the midst of Your meeting places; they have set up their own standards for signs. It seems as if one had lifted up his axe in a forest of trees. And now all its carved work they smash with hatchet and hammers. They have burned Your sanctuary to the ground; they have defiled the dwelling place of Your name. They said in their heart, “Let us completely subdue them.” They have burned all the meeting places of God in the land. We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, nor is there any among us who knows how long. How long, O God, will the adversary revile, and the enemy spurn Your name forever?

Our churches are being burned down! Spiritually and physically. Spiritually, by the wicked coming in with all of their own ways of doing worship, in which what should be there is now removed, even as flames remove what is good. Physically, in that as traditional churches are closing down they are being destroyed and the land used for other purposes.

What I mean by the true church service is a simple service that is not cumbered with things that take away from worship that is according to the Spirit [John 4:23,24]. The world would have us worship God according to the flesh. This is demonstrated in churches with everything from idols to entertaining music.

The one thing that must never be omitted and must be the only thing that we are about is the true worship of God! The true church service is not about looking toward the congregation, but toward God. Indeed, we are all to be focused on the Lord and not focused on how those among us may be feeling or perceiving what we are about. Mary was right to be focused on Jesus, though her sister Martha perceived that there were more important things she should have been focused on [Luke 10:38-42].

The common objection is that the church will not be relevant and people will not attend.

If we are wanting to compete with sporting events and theatrical attractions then we will be as relevant as they are.

If we do have great numbers, but do not have the Lord, is that not the worse possible thing? It is better to have a few worshippers and yet that blessing that only He can bring. Truly, the problem is that we don’t know what it is like to know the presence of God and we are enslaved to an outward sense of the meeting. We are governed by a secular way of thinking and do not know that peaceful spiritual way of thinking that is just about meeting with Jesus.

Leaders who are influencing the church with this sort of thinking are tools in the hands of Satan who would love to reduce Christian worship to Baal worship.

Jeremiah 5:31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?

What the world needs is the Lord, not more of the world. What will truly impact the lost is something they cannot find anywhere else. To be at the feet of Jesus with a solemnity, a seriousness, a power, in which the Holy Spirit speaks the living Word of God to us, is what we are losing.

True Christianity

It is imperative that we ask the question, “What is true Christianity?”

The reason it is so important is because a false view of Christianity will necessarily mean that we are not saved. This is my concern for you, for myself, and for everyone. Paul had the same concern and he did not address it casually [Galatians 1:6-9]. I think his comments to Timothy are very important.

1 Timothy 4:16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

It mattered to Paul what Timothy was believing and what he was teaching simply because it was necessary to ‘ensure salvation.’

Colossians 2:4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.

In Colossians Paul again expresses such a concern for what was being understood by the people of God. Notice that in Colossians chapter two he explains that the wealth of true Christianity ‘comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ [Col. 2:2-3].

True Christianity is only found in Jesus

But that is not all that Paul says in Colossians. His concern is for a full and right understanding about Jesus and how He saves us. There are many who profess to follow Jesus but Paul says that they are enemies of Christ [Paul’s Warnings].

Consider and take to heart what Paul furthermore says regarding true Christianity.

Colossians 2:6,7 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

True Christianity is only found in Jesus, but the following must also be understood: in the same way that we became a Christian, so we are to walk.

True Christianity is only found in Jesus, from beginning to end, meaning, that it is only found in our Conversion that we then walk in

There is no Christianity without Jesus, but what does that mean? That means that in order to be saved we have ‘received Christ Jesus as Lord,’ in which it can be said that we are ‘firmly rooted’ in Him. Many profess a faith in Jesus but then they hold to a form of “Christianity” that denies its power [2 Timothy 3:5] and they subscribe to a “Christianity” according to the flesh [Phil. 3:3,18].

Paul says that true Christianity is that we walk in the same manner as we received Christ Jesus as Lord. He explains that this is by the means of faith, which is everywhere emphasized in the Scriptures [some examples]. In Galatians, Paul shows that by means of ‘hearing with faith’ we became saved and that with the same ‘hearing with faith’ we are to walk. It is this emphasis on faith in Christ from beginning to end that makes for true Christianity.

Galatians 3:1-5 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

Notice that Paul says that we received the Spirit, which is salvation, by hearing with faith and that the Lord provides us with the Spirit and works miracles in us (e.g. ongoing sanctification) by the same hearing with faith.

Yes, Jesus is true Christianity and without Him there can be no true religion, but the concern that is so pervasive in Paul’s writings is in understanding that true Christianity is that we walk in the same manner as we became Christians, by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

There is a pervasive problem in Evangelical Churches that is nothing more than a repeat of the problem that Paul the apostle addressed in his epistles.

To understand what true Christianity is, read my book, Take Up Your Cross: Our Only Power to Live and Walk by the Spirit.

 

 

The Hypocrisy of Calvinism

The Reformed Faith is a proud faith. Those who hold to the position of Calvinism have a spirit of arrogance, cloaked in a pseudo-humility. Pride is commonly found among false doctrines, but it is especially particular to Calvinism. The error of Calvinism’s partiality based upon indifference (i.e., Unconditional Election) engenders pride.

They make no denial or excuse for it. They are unashamed in saying so and make it a matter of emphasis. They wholeheartedly assert that their doctrine is that which alone glorifies God. There is the clear demonstration of pride when there is disdain for those who are counted simple in their soteriology and especially when there is anger against those who would say that Jesus weeps over the lost [Matthew 23:37].

This is hypocrisy. Those who make much of saying that their view honors God need to reflect on Jesus’ words. Read this text from Mark 7:1-13.

The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.

‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’

Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

There is much in this passage that exposes the hypocrisy of Calvinism. Just as the Pharisees thought they were the ones who were honoring God, so the Calvinist thinks likewise.

It is important to understand the hypocrisy that our Lord is addressing. It is not what is most commonly thought of as hypocrisy. What is most commonly considered hypocrisy is when someone says that something should be done by all, but then they do not do so.

This is not the hypocrisy that Jesus has in mind.

The Pharisees were not telling people to wash their hands and then were secretly eating with unwashed hands! On the contrary, they were meticulous about the washing of hands before eating.

Their hypocrisy was this, they were misrepresenting themselves by misrepresenting God’s truth.

Jesus was exposing their lie, that they were clean before God because they washed their hands before they ate. This is a particularly vile hypocrisy because it is about twisting God’s holy truth and using it for the purpose of self-glorification. Notice that such an arrogance necessarily includes the wrong spirit that has disdain and anger for those not considered to be similarly honoring God.

It is shocking to see what Calvinists are doing with their own misrepresentation of God’s holy truth, namely His love for all of His image bearers. Ironically, while the Calvinist claims to be the one who is honoring God, he is really about honoring himself!

They say that they honor God but their heart is far away from God. They do not know what spirit they are of. Like the Pharisees in this passage they construct a doctrine in which they invalidate God’s Word, so that the heart of God is opposed by their wrong use of God’s Word. God’s heart is that children should care for their needy parents in their old age, but the Pharisees constructed a doctrine that undermines the burden of God’s heart.

The Calvinist has similarily constructed a doctrine that undermines the burden of God’s heart for the lost, by disguising it as that which alone honors God. This deluding influence is so pervasive and powerful that even the most well known Scripture verse is invalidated by Calvinists.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

They are masters of reconstruction in which they rip out of God’s Word His immeasurable love for all mankind and replace it with a view that then makes them indispensable to obtaining the “truth”. It is a fearful thing to do as the Pharisees have done in invalidating God’s Word, so that men will follow them and glorify them.

 

 

I have written a book entitled Recanting Calvinism, which provides numerous counter arguments to the Reformed position. My most recent book Take Up Your Cross: Our Only Power to Live and Walk by the Spirit is a fruition of coming out of Calvinism. I heartily commend both books to you!

Is Calvinism or Reformed Doctrine Taking Over Your Church?

Many pastors are closet Calvinists who know that their congregations are not yet ready to understand Reformed doctrine, that is, until they can instill certain half-truths that must be accepted before a church becomes Calvinistic.

It is certainly inevitable that any pastor who reads theology, who has connections, who has a theological degree, will have become aware of Calvinism at some point along the way. At the very least every pastor will be asked at some time, by someone, somewhere, “What is Calvinism?”or will be given a little booklet by an advocate for Calvinism. In fact, any pastor or elder who is unfamiliar with the threat of Calvinism is dangerously ignorant and is not adequate to defend the flock against error.

Calvinism or Reformed theology is very popular. All popular systematic theologies and commentaries on Romans are written by Calvinists.

Here are some signs that your pastor or church is adopting Reformed doctrines regarding salvation.

An emphasis is made in the preaching and teaching on:

  • sinners are not able to believe unless God first causes it
  • faith is a gift from God, in the sense that God causes people to have faith
  • the grace of God is the gospel
  • people are unable to hear God’s Word
  • God is not God unless His will is done/ God cannot fail to save all that He purposes to save
  • the church needs to avoid a man-centered gospel and “to return” to a God-centered gospel
  • the marvel is that God loved Jacob, not that He hated Esau
  • the ultimate purpose of God is to glorify Himself or the greatest attribute is His sovereignty
  • quotes from John Calvin, Martin Luther, and contemporaries like John Piper

There is the neglect of the following from the pulpit. The pastor avoids saying specifically to the congregation:

  • “God loves you”
  • “Jesus died for you”
  • “Believe in Jesus and you will become born again”
  • “Calvinism is wrong” – Beware that many Calvinists will preach against Hyper-Calvinism, but that is not enough. It is easy to burn a straw man!

Useless Shepherds who intentionally sit on the fence, so as to not offend the Reformed in their church, will say, “The emphasis the Calvinist makes on the Sovereignty of God is not a bad thing is it?” Quite the contrary! The Reformed understanding of the Sovereignty of God is that what is is the will of God. They worship a god who wills the existence of evil for his glory. The Lord’s prayer makes it clear that God’s will is not being done on earth and that we are to pray that it will be done [Matthew 6:10]. The Scripture says that the sins of men are not the will of God, nor did it enter into the mind of God that they should do such things [Jeremiah 32:35].

Ask these questions:

Why Are Good Pastors Getting Caught Up in Reformed Doctrine?

  • They are presented with arguments that seem to be Scriptural [Calvinism Says it is Scriptural]
  • The most popular Systematic Theologies and Commentaries are Reformed [See an example in: Calvinism Says Faith is a Work]
  • They go to seminaries, and to week-end seminars and retreats, where popular Reformed teachers introduce them to a teaching that results in the following:
  • There is a simple answer why people are not saved, which answers a deep-seated question about our generation
  • There is an organized effort by Reformed churches to plant like-minded churches and to spread this message that is counted more profound than the gospel promise itself!

This web site is by a former Calvinist, Steven L. Hitchcock, who is passionate about equipping Christians against the error of Calvinism. [About Steven]

I have written a book entitled Recanting Calvinism, which provides numerous counter arguments to the Reformed position. My most recent book Take Up Your Cross: Our Only Power to Live and Walk by the Spirit is a fruition of coming out of Calvinism.

Here are some helpful links on this web site:

John Piper’s Serious Error on Taking Up Your Cross

Here is a portion of John Piper’s article at Desiring God: Deny Yourself for More Delight.

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Piper’s understanding of Jesus’ great statement in Mark 8:34 demonstrates the pervasive misunderstanding among Evangelicals regarding what Jesus meant when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Like so many others Piper is applying Jesus’ great statement to our discipleship, when Jesus is speaking about what is necessary for our salvation. What it means to deny ourselves and to take up our cross, for our salvation, is what we must understand.

His error has caused him to paint himself into a corner. He knows that it cannot mean that in order to be saved we have to literally take up a cross. Namely, that only martyrs are saved. Instead he goes, like so many others, to a mere willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice. He reduces Jesus’ awesome requirement for salvation to: “Jesus has become more precious to us than approval, honor, comfort, and life.”

Ironically, out of a high regard for Jesus’ teaching Piper has undermined the true seriousness of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus says that we must deny ourselves and we must take up our cross in order to come after Him. How can Piper reduce it to a mere willingness to do so? Sadly, he has trumped up a position based upon a confession of ignorance, for in introducing his argument he says, ‘he meant at least this….’ For those who listen to him there is only a lesser understanding, which is to err seriously.

Piper says that taking up our cross is when we subject ourselves to opposition, shame, suffering, and death. Ok, go ahead and try to come after Jesus by any one of these things or all four upon a literal cross and it still will not determine your salvation. This is perfect teaching for those who are self-righteous, who think that they can merit coming after Jesus by the sad story of their life.

The problem with Piper’s understanding of equating things in our life that we could consider opposition, shame, suffering, and death, as taking up our cross, is that our bodies, our flesh, our very selves, are counted dead in sin. It is of as much value as beating a dead horse. Our flesh merits nothing, no matter what it suffers, and is useless as a medium in order to follow after Jesus. While we are to put to death sin, in doing so, our flesh has not suddenly become meritorious.

Piper’s view of taking up our cross is also incomplete because it is necessarily of an undefined measure, unless we are actually put to death! Can we say that we have taken up our cross when we have had only a little opposition, a little shame, and just a little bit of suffering? What if it is only for a short period of time? Do we still count ourselves having taken up our cross when we are enjoying life and there is no opposition, no shame, and no suffering? Furthermore, if a mere willingness fulfils our Lord’s requirement, in order to follow Him, what is the outcome of even the slightest vacillation?

Why do I feel like I am opposing a Roman Catholic? Evangelical Christians, like the Galatians, are time and again constructing idols. Idols are easily smashed by the truth of God’s Word, though they are skillfully crafted by persons who wield spiritual authority when they misrepresent the truth.

There is a reason why men teach such things. By putting people under burdening error the hearers become dependent upon false teachers and will seek them out for the false fulfillment of such errors. As Paul warned, ‘They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.’ [Galatians 4:17].

Taking up our cross cannot mean a mere willingness to suffer and to die. Jesus was speaking about what is necessary for our salvation and that means we need to be able to say concretely that we have denied ourselves and we have taken up our cross! Jesus was saying that in order to come after Him we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross in a far more profound way than what Piper would have us to do.

We need to take up a cross that causes us to die to sin and to the Law, not a cross of our own estimation that is of no fleshly value.

For more information about what taking up our cross really means, by which we can be enabled to come after Jesus, read my book, Take Up Your Cross: Our Only Power to Live and Walk by the Spirit.

 

John Piper’s Serious Error on Self-Denial

Here is a portion of John Piper’s article at Desiring God: Deny Yourself for Greater Delight.

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John Piper’s understanding of our Lord’s great statement in Mark 8:34 demonstrates the pervasive misunderstanding among Evangelicals regarding what Jesus meant when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Piper’s view necessarily undermines the most important of doctrines regarding salvation.

His brief treatment of the subject of self-denial at Desiring God is shocking.

His title Deny Yourself for Greater Delight is not based on Jesus’ teaching. Jesus did not say to deny ourselves for our greater delight. He said that we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross in order that we might be saved. Piper is merely operating within his self-made world of the Christian Hedonist and is using the Lord’s teaching in order to justify his weird teaching. Piper is seeking to explain how the Christian Hedonist relates to Jesus’ great statement. It is the solemn duty of any man who speaks God’s Word to make known what the Lord would have for us, not to do our own thing. Ironically, he says, “We’re dealing with Jesus here. You don’t pull Jesus’s words apart and take your little favorite phrase or my little favorite phrase.”

His view necessarily undermines salvation by faith. The article emphasises the point, “We are not all the way saved. We are being saved.” He says regarding himself, “John Piper is not all the way saved. He is being saved. Therefore, every day, there’s stuff in me that needs to be denied for the sake of joy, for the sake of maximizing my satisfaction. Not only eternally, but in a hundred practical ways….” This is shocking! If we are not completely saved we are completely lost. If we are only a little bit not saved we are completely lost. I am not disputing the responsibility of a Christian to abstain from sin, but what Piper is saying is that we are facing this struggle in a state of uncertainty. He undermines the only power we have to then walk by the Spirit. We can only walk by the Spirit with the knowledge that we live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).

In explaining the verse that says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it”, he says, “I’m telling you how to save your life. I’m telling you how to be a Christian Hedonist. Lose it. Lose it for the sake of the poor. Lose it in missions. Stand up for what is right at work. Lose it.”

We are to save our life, according to Piper, by acts of self-denial and this will give us ‘Greater Delight’. Go and lose your life for the poor, on the mission field, or by getting fired at work!

Do acts of self-denial result in salvation? Is this biblical?

If we give all of our wealth to feed the poor, if we travel over land and sea to make one proselyte, if we give our body to be burned, if we refuse to do any evil thing, will this give us a certain hope of eternal life? Piper says he is telling us how to save our life!

We are not “all the way saved” so long as there is a question regarding what we are to deny.

There will always be something else we could deny for the the sake of Christ. If our salvation depends on this then let us make an order that makes the Jesuits look like the cub scouts!

The problem with Piper’s understanding about denial is that it is merely something a Pharisee can do. In order to come after Jesus we need a denial that a Pharisee does not do!

Piper’s view creates confusion, by recklessly subjecting the hearer to the most vague understanding imaginable. Say hello to the bondage of Pharisiacal legalism, in which we never obtain peace and joy. There is nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to doctrinal error.

There is a reason why men teach such things. By putting people under burdening error the hearers become dependent upon false teachers and will seek them out for the false fulfillment of such errors. As Paul warned, ‘They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.’ [Galatians 4:17].

What is biblical is that the people of God are to know that they are certainly saved and because they are saved they have the power to then walk according to the Spirit.

For more information about a denial that can enable you to come after Jesus read my book, Take Up Your Cross: Our Only Power to Live and Walk by the Spirit.

 

John Stott’s book The Cross of Christ Has Serious Error

John Stott’s very popular book The Cross of Christ, Inter-Varsity Press (1986), has very serious error. He undermines the very gospel itself!

In part four: Living under the cross, under Self-understanding and self-giving, Stott has taken the glorious truth of the cross and made it into a works righteousness that can never be accomplished by any saint.

Under the heading Self-Denial [p. 278] Stott says, ‘First, the call to self-denial. The invitation of Jesus is plain: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (Mk. 8:34). Jesus has just for the first time clearly predicted his sufferings and death. It ‘must’ happen to his followers as well. He must go to the cross; they must take up their cross and follow him. Indeed, they must do it ‘daily’. And, as the negative counterpart, if anybody does not take his cross and follow him, he is not worthy of him and cannot be his disciple.’

Say hello to works righteousness! What a burden that was never intended by our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ. Stott wrote these words in a comfortable chair, perhaps in a lush office at Ridley College or the like, while the true gospel was proclaimed by Paul the apostle, while in less comfortable circumstances. It is ironic that those seated in lush offices, with all sorts of prestige and honor, burden the people of God, while our beloved apostle Paul, who was not so honored, gave us the right understanding of Jesus’ teaching!

Galatians 6:14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Stott’s error with Jesus’ teaching about denying ourselves and taking up our cross is that he applies it to our discipleship. Jesus was speaking about our conversion and that in order for us to come after Him we needed to know a profound denial of trust in ourselves and a death of our sinful selves that is to be counted as a completed event.

Stott opposed this. He says in The Cross of Christ [p. 280], ‘This death is not something which has happened to us, and which we are now told to ‘reckon’ or remember, but something which we must deliberately do ourselves, though by the power of the Spirit, putting our old nature to death.’

Go ahead and try to take anything in your life and say that this is taking up your cross. This is moralism. Putting to death sin in our lives is not a fulfillment of taking up our cross. Rather, taking up our cross, in being crucified with Christ, is the only power to then put to death the deeds of the flesh, by the Spirit.

There is a reason why men teach such things. By putting people under burdening error the hearers become dependent upon false teachers and will seek them out for the false fulfillment of such errors. As Paul warned, ‘They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.’ [Galatians 4:17].

Paul the apostle would have none of this sort of teaching by Stott and others, as he argued in Galatians. Paul only boasts in the cross of Christ. Paul does not have a cross of his own separate from Jesus’ cross. In fact, Paul understood that only by means of the cross of Christ was there a crucifixion between himself and the world.

For more information about a denial and a taking up of your cross, not as a Pharisee would have you do so, but as our Lord Jesus and Paul would have you to do, read my book, Take Up Your Cross: Our Only Power to Live and Walk by the Spirit.