COULD IT BE THAT KIM JONG UN of North Korea is playing the West? He has been all smiles and grins lately, promising the West that he will be a good boy and not test nukes. Meanwhile he meets with South Korean president, China’s leader, and other leaders. Could it be that he is building leverage with them against the West? Then when the moment is right, he’ll pull out of the talks, blame Trump, giving the Democrats leverage against the Republicans in the upcoming election, and then we’ll have a democratic Congress again? I for one do not believe that he has had a change of heart. How pelagian can we get to think that a leopard can change his spots (Jeremiah 13:23)?
The fact of the matter is that for 70+ years N. Korea has always played us for stupid. What has changed? Has Trump’s pressure and threats changed Un? Has he suddenly seen the light? We’re in a very dangerous position because the West WANTS to believe Kim Jong Un, which means we’re engaging in self-deception. We’re interpreting his actions the way we WANT to believe. Maybe the Lord of Glory is setting us up. I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. But one thing I’m certain of: Jesus said: “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). At bottom, repentance is bowing before His sovereign majesty, the King of kings, confessing Him as Lord, not only with our lips but also with our lives, which in turn means confessing our sins (such as the Ten Commandments), and seeking renewed obedience.
Could I be wrong about Un? I’m not wrong about pelagianism, which was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431 after St. Augustine had written many pages against those self-saviors (autosoterism) in the Church who would think that the will of man is sovereign over his nature. (Augustine died in A.D. 430.) Rather, our choices are a revelation of our natures, not that which determines them. Christianity in the 21st century is in love with pelagianism. I may be wrong about Un, for now, but unless he has been converted, all is NOT well with him—nor with us. All Christians in the West should look in the mirror of God’s word and say, “Stupid; you’re just plain stupid.” And then go to church every Sunday, learn His commandments, believe in the Triune God, bow to Him, and tell others of the good news of forgiveness of sins. AMEN.Ω (Pass this on to others.)
4 May 2018
(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw 2018
Some time ago I had a discussion with someone who was ready to give up on the Christian life, saying it was too difficult, that it seemed that the Triune God did not care. In our hustle and bustle of life, we sometimes forget that God is persevering with us more than we are with Him. God finishes what He begins, unlike us. If He did not, we would never make it to heaven. As humans, you and I are always beginning things that we never seem to find time to finish. But consider God’s matchless grace in Philippians 1:6, that what He begins He finishes: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it at the day of Jesus Christ.” “At the day of Jesus Christ” would seem to be the Last Day, the Day when all things are completed. We must recall that justification, as single work, was completed on the Cross, but sanctification, that which Paul speaks about here, is an ongoing process that begins at justification and is completed at the Last Day. Justification is an act; sanctification is a process.
Look at the butterfly wing—was it begun and not finished? Look at the woodpecker—was its specialized bill not finished? Look at the atom—was it a partial work? Look at the moon—is it a work abandoned? Look at yourself, the apex of God’s creation, the only creature made in God’s image—will you be thrown away after the work was begun? God works by a plan. He begins a work of grace in us, not as an experiment to see if we and He can make it together, but that He may complete His design in and for us. Can you imagine an architect who begins a project without plans, just going along to see how things work out?
If the Triune God began a work in us but did not finish it, who would lose more, God or us? It would definitely be God, for then He would be known as a failure. Others could say that God just could not handle it, that He gave it His best effort but finally gave up on us, that we were just too much for Him.
Moreover, according to Paul here in Philippians 1:6, who initiated the work in you, you or God? God! And if God did initiate the work of sanctification, will He decide against it later? As one man expressed it in a hymn:
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
It was not I that found [Thee], O Savior true;
No, I was found [by] Thee.
And is it not true that we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)? His love and grace are initial and ours responsive, for it was He who began the work in us, not we in Him!
And how do we know that God has begun a work in us? We can tell by our obedience, by the love we have for God, for mankind, for how much we love God’s Bible, by our faithful attendance at worship on the Lord’s Day, praying, and so on. Faith, hope, and love will be the hallmarks of our lives.
Let me give you a good example. Years ago I led a man to Christ who was only 18 years old. He mouthed some words, good words, but I wondered how committed he was to them. He was very much in love with a young lady, but she was not a Christian. When I told him and showed him from the Bible that God did not allow a believer to marry an unbeliever, he paused for a long time and said with tears in his eyes: “If that’s what God says, that’s what I’ll do.” His life has revealed the same commitment all these 49 years. More than anything else, one’s obedience to God reveals whether there has been true conversion or not, but our obedience does not merit our acceptance with God.
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:3-4).
And do you know why it is God who first seeks us, and why we are responsive to Him, why it is that He saves us in this way? It is so that we cannot boast (see Eph 2:8-10). We’ll never be able to say that God did 99%, but if it were not for the 1% I did, I would never have made it to heaven.
Let us rejoice that for all those who trust in the death and righteousness of Christ for forgiveness of sins, our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has taken charge of our salvation, that our sins are forgiven, that His Name and reputation are on the line, and that by His persevering grace, we shall make it home! AMEN. Ω
(You may copy this to others IF you send the location of this blog and its author. Example)
LOCATION: Link address: https://curtiscrenshaw.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1682&action=edit
AUTHOR: ((c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)
13 April 2018
(© 2018 Curtis I. Crenshaw)
What is self-deception? For this article, let us say that it is allowing ourselves to be persuaded against the evidence for some point of view. In other words, we don’t want to believe the truth; thus, we manufacture “reasons” against it. We are all guilty of this to some extent.
When we say something negative about some of the pet sins of our culture, we often get screaming back, and screaming without an ounce of logic or evidence of their position on some moral point.
But how does their response demonstrate that they are suppressing the truth and self-deceived? One can recognize this kind of self-deception by its immediate response to the light, for without even considering what the truth is, he rejects it. When someone opposes him, there is immediate suppression of the truth.
When the emotion kicks in, the brain kicks out. The interesting thing is that they do precisely what God said they would do: Hate the light, hate the gospel, hate Christians, and because they cannot harm the Triune God, they seek to harm Christians who represent Him.
Consider several passages on self-deception:
From Romans chapter 1:
- 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:18 ESV)
- 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. They are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21 ESV)
From the Gospel of John chapter 3:
- 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:19-20)
Again from 1 John chapter 1:
- If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:6)
- If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
- If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:10)
Notice the progression downward in these three verses from 1 John chapter 1: v. 6 is deceiving others; v. 8 is deceiving ourselves; and v. 10 is deceiving God, or attempting to do so. God, of course, cannot be deceived. Moreover, notice that they use unrighteousness to push the truth out of their minds. In other words, they immediately hold back righteous thoughts by identification with sin, and then they dare anyone to say anything under penalty of screaming and bearing false witness. It seems to me that what we have in Romans one, John three, and 1 John 1 is self-deception in this form:
- What the heart desires, the will embraces, and the mind justifies
To put this another way, it is not lack of reason that keeps non-Christians from faith—though they claim that—but that their faith (or better, unbelief) leads them to adopt whatever reason works at the moment to promote their agenda. To restate it, their commitment to their sin in the heart means their will has a commitment to that sin, and then they use their minds to justify a position already embraced. It is never the reverse; that is, that the mind leads them to embrace something in the will, and then the will forces the heart to embrace the sin. No, what we see in Romans 1, John 3, and 1 John 1 is that self-deception begins with the sinful heart, with the person’s desires for some sin that God forbids. Then they embrace that sin with a vengeance, they commit to it with their sinful wills, and then, and only then, they seek to justify the sin with the mind, with evidences.
It is not an intellectual problem with unbelievers; it is a moral problem. They embrace some sin and then use the mind to justify the sin. Thus, the nature of their deception is embracing sin with their hearts or sinful natures. Then their will embraces what they desire, and the finally the mind seeks to justify it. We Christians have an enormous responsibility to help them see the wonderful light of Jesus Christ less they perish.
No one fails to become a Christian because he demands more intellectual proof but because he hates the Triune God, hates His righteousness as revealed in His commandments, and wants to practice some sin that the Triune God forbids. Unbelief is never an intellectual problem but a moral problem. The unbeliever uses his intellect as a cover for self-deception; he WANTS sin and HATES righteousness. That is the problem and nothing else. AMEN. Ω
(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw 2 April 2018
The Bible Is God’s Infallible Word
In this day when some churches are turning away from the Bible, it is refreshing to know that many are not. Those who reject the Bible as God’s revelation of Himself to us must have a new concept of God. And where do they get this standard? They must invent it. Often I hear these people say God is like . . ., and they rattle off something. But how do they know God is like whatever they say? And how can we know the details of what God is like unless He tells us? Indeed, how can we know anyone unless that person reveals himself or herself to us?
Many years ago I worked at an investment and insurance firm while I was helping to start a church. The man who hired me claimed to be a Christian, knew the language of Christians, and could pray quite well. (He prayed in order to prey on Christians!) After a short period, I discovered that he was a con man, selling faulty investments to those he could deceive. I and others thought we knew him, but he had not revealed his true self. Likewise, we cannot dream up concepts of God, and say what He is like, for that would be creating a god after our own image. The only way we can know Him is if He reveals Himself to us, and the Bible makes that claim hundreds of times. Of course, in theory the Bible could be wrong in its claim—and that is way beyond this short article—but at least we must see that the Church has also presented the Bible as God’s revelation for 2,000 years, and it has challenged anyone to show its errors.
Then there are those who say the Bible is only infallible in theological matters but not in history, science, and so forth. But like those who invent a concept of god, these people transfer infallibility to themselves, for they assume that they can infallibly discern which portions of the Bible are infallible and which are not. In other words, infallibility does not go away—it only gets moved around.
And what does the Bible say about itself? There are two passages in particular that are key in the Bible’s presentation of inspiration. First, is 2 Peter 1:20-21:
- 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved [or borne up, carried along] by the Holy Spirit.
There are several points here. Peter is emphatic that God is the source of the holy Scriptures even while men wrote them. Moreover, God used their human personalities of the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles to accomplish an infallible result. In other words, the Bible is both human and divine. Like the Son of God who was both God and man in one person, so the scriptures are both human and divine, yet one, and infallible. Furthermore, Peter says that the scriptures were not “private interpretation,” which means not initiated by men for their own personal doctrines. No, they received them from God Himself. Peter is not saying they were passive pens so that God dictated every word, but that the source was from God. This indicates that the human authors did not originate the message, but rather they were carried along by the Holy Spirit when writing Scripture, receiving the message from Him. They were passive in the message, but active in the writing, using their own vocabulary and personalities.
The second key passage of the Bible regarding its own inspiration is:
- 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.
The word “inspired” means “God-breathed” in the sense that God is the source. It does not carry an active idea so that Scripture is inspiring (though surely it is!) but the passive sense, meaning “inspired,” a body of truth that is fossilized, delivered, and now unchangeable. Nor does it mean “every Scripture inspired by God is . . .” so that there may be some Scripture not inspired by God. The idea is that every part of the Bible is equally inspired, breathed out from God Almighty, and therefore infallible.
Moreover, Christ agreed that the Bible was infallible when He spoke about the Old Testament.
- For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matt 5:18).
The word “jot” most likely means “yod,” the smallest Hebrew letter, and “tittle” means part of a Hebrew letter, perhaps the difference between similar letters, like the difference between the number zero “0” and the letter “O” in English. But the Lord’s view was that the Old Testament’s infallibility was clearly down to the very words and letters. For example, in John 10:35, He stated: “The Scripture cannot be broken.” He often rested His final argument on the infallible authority of the Old Testament (see John 5:39; Luke 24:44-45; Matt 22:29; John 7:19; Matt 4:1-11:
- You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. (Jn. 5:39)
- 44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (Lk. 24:44-45 NKJ)
- 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, “You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matt. 4:1-11 NKJ)
Let us confess with our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the Church of all ages, that the Bible is God’s gift to us, that we know God because in its pages is revealed this one, Triune God: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Let us not seek to invent a god who is more palatable to modern people. Let us fear this God, not people who may control our salaries as gospel ministers. AMEN.
((c) The Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, Th.D., January 2006)
In my first pastorate, a man said to me that he would not go to church because there were too many hypocrites there. I had enough rapport with the man to say: “You’re right so join us—we need another one.” Sometimes we have the idea that Church is just for those who have no problems, for those whose life is always rosy, who never have rebellious children, whose spouses are models of virtue, whose bosses love how they do things, such as never late, who never have an impure thought. If that is who you think you are, you don’t need the Church; but then, you don’t need the Triune God, either, or so you think.
And we Christians should be willing to admit that we have a long way to go in our growth in holiness. Pretending to be something we’re not is hypocrisy, though we should not tell everyone all our problems, for that is destruction. Yes, we have been forgiven by God through the merits of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, but we are still growing. We have been adopted into God’s family, but like legal adoption today, that does not automatically make the child instantly and perfectly holy. It does make the child an heir to our estate, and if we are rich so is the child. But it takes a lifetime to train a child and for the child to grow into the kind of person we as parents desire him/her to be. Likewise, God the Father adopts us into His family based on the legal attorney Jesus Christ, who puts up the bond, the surety, who is Himself our pledge, our guarantee of the adoption. This gives us a change of legal status, but inwardly we are the same as before the adoption. But the Father and the Son gave us the Holy Spirit to make us different over time—but that is the key word, TIME.
Consider that our heavenly Father is seeking to “rear” us in the faith our whole lives, that He brings about problems so that we can learn to be mature, to respond in faith and love to one another and to His providence, that His priorities are not money, farms, cars, bank accounts, though there is nothing wrong with these in themselves.
And this heavenly Father has adopted us into His family, in His Church, the bride of His Son, so that we can care for one another. And consider further that our sibling Jesus has already been through all the trials we have and knows what they are like, but also as God He gives us the grace we need to grow. We are in a family that is supposed to love its own as the badge of our relationship with God: “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). What do you do when loved ones are sick? You care for them.
We are called to live by a different set of priorities from the world, to consider the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to be the highest priority and church and family second. (Church and family actually go together.) Have you seen the bumper sticker that reads: “He who dies with the most toys wins”? That is the philosophy of the world, but our riches belong to another family—the Church. Our estate and inheritance are from Christ, not in pursuing more and more schemes to make money. Our security is in the Lord, not in our bank accounts that can quickly evaporate.
The world does not expect Christians to be perfect, but it does expect us to be genuine, which means we must be willing to confess mistakes when we make them and then seek to make things right. Remember the case of the televangelist caught with a prostitute? At first he was contrite, submitted to the discipline of his brethren, and agreed to the time suspension from the ministry that they placed on him. This was a good start, but then he rebelled, rejecting their authority, and put himself back in the ministry under a new church. It was a great testimony to the world to see the Christian Church at work, helping a fellow brother to grow in grace, exercising the authority of Christ, saying to everyone: “Yes, we are sinners, but we are willing to forgive when a brother repents.” Who could have faulted that? But the preacher rebelled and neutralized the great testimony.
In the early 1970s, Ruth and I were living in Dallas while I attended seminary. W. A. Criswell was a great Baptist preacher in Dallas, TX, who loved the Lord, preached great Gospel sermons, and had a large congregation in downtown Dallas. He was highly respected in the community. Dr Criswell was interviewed on a local TV station on one occasion when I was watching. The interviewer was very caustic, and assuming all the self-righteousness she could muster, she forcefully demanded to know why it had only been in the recent past that his church had opened their doors to African American Christians. I’ll never forget Criswell’s answer, for it stopped her cold, and she stuttered for a come back. His answer was something like this: “We sinned, and we’ve asked the Lord to forgive us. Now we are glad to have our black brothers and sisters worship with us.” That was genuineness! The interviewer changed the subject! We are not perfect but sinners, so let us recognize that! But let us be confessing sinners, not arrogant or rebellious ones. Pride will destroy us, but humility will lift us up in great favor with God and man. AMEN.
((c) The Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, Th.D.)
6 March 2018
Lent Is Repentance
We intuitively respond positively (or more so) to those who own their sin and negatively to those who hid or justify them. It is noteworthy that those who confessed their sins to Jesus received forgiveness, but those who justified themselves, like the Pharisees, were condemned by Him.
The season of Lent in the Church calendar is designed to make us think of our sins and of the grace of God in Christ. It is not that we don’t think of these the rest of the year, but there is an emphasis on God’s holiness and our sins that is healthy, for this drives us even more to the Cross of Christ and His forgiveness.
But what is repentance? In Acts 26 Paul describes repentance as “turning from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins” and “that they should repent, turn to God, and to do works befitting repentance” (vv 18, 20). Notice these things about repentance.
First, it is negative, and its object is sin—what one turns from. Belief is positive, what one turns to, and expresses trust—in Christ.
Second, repentance means a turning from something and to something else. It is as if the person is on a path leading to hell and he realizes his plight, which causes him to reverse directions, taking a U turn. Now he is walking in the opposite direction toward heaven. In changing directions, he turned from hell to heaven, from his sins to the forgiveness of Christ, from Satan to God. This “turning” necessarily involves both from and to. It is not possible to change directions 180 degrees in one’s life without turning from something and going to something else, and this “from” is repentance and the to is “faith.” Repentance and faith are like two sides of one coin: the “tails” is the negative that refers to one’s sins, and “heads” is the positive side that refers to faith in Christ. If one has the “coin,” he has both sides.
By the word “turn” the Bible does not mean that the sinner has to do so many works to merit God’s forgiveness. Repentance is a mental recognition of one’s current condition that leads one to fear God, to hate his sins, and thus to seek a solution. The faith grants the solution, which is faith in the substitutionary death of Christ for one’s sins.
Third, works are not merit to gain repentance, but the demonstration that repentance is genuine. James states that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), but he never says works merits us forgiveness. They are the barometer that reveal if faith is alive, but not the eternal life itself. If faith and repentance are of the same “coin,” then works will be the fruit of repentance just as works are the fruit of faith.
So what is repentance? It is a change of mind about oneself, about one’s sins, and about God, especially Christ. We call this whole process conversion. As a non-Christian, one is satisfied with himself and his life. But once the Holy Spirit enters a person’s life, the sinner becomes convicted of his sins, that they are contrary to God and deserve His judgment. This in turn leads the person to consider a solution, which is to trust in Christ as Lord and Savior who died for his sins. The “process” may be long or almost instantaneous, but it is there.
To put this another way, when one comes to faith in Christ, why does He trust in Jesus (faith) if not to have his sins forgiven (repentance)? In repentance the sinner turns from himself and his sin, and in faith he turns to Christ and His righteousness. Moreover, these two go together; one cannot have one without the other.
And it is the season of Lent that brings to our attention this aspect of the Gospel; namely, our sins and the grace of God in Christ. It is decidedly not the purpose of Lent to have a Mardi Gras so that we can indulge in our favorite sins and then go ask God for forgiveness. This is playing games with God—and with our souls. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, which is a service to remind us of our mortality, that we will die, and that we must be prepared. It also reminds us of what it cost God to save us: the death of His Son on the Cross.
Finally, Lent also reminds us of the battle of light against darkness, of Satan versus God. We are involved in spiritual warfare for the souls of people, and the Gospel is the weapon that brings them to surrender to the Triune God. There is no neutrality here. One is either in God’s army or Satan’s, and when one repents and believes the Gospel, he leaves Satan’s army and joins God’s. That is what St. Paul said as quoted above.
Moreover, the Lord Jesus (quote above) said He came to save sinners, not those who thought they were ok as they were. As He put it, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” In other words, we must present something to the Lord Jesus, and without this “work” on our part, we cannot be saved. IT IS WITH OUR SINS THAT WE GO TO GOD FOR WE HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO GO WITH THAT WE CAN CALL OUR OWN (Horatius Bonar). AMEN.