Archive for October, 2007

All-Church Retreat 2007

The All-Church Retreat promises to be a wonderful time of teaching, fellowship, and growth! Describing the benefit of attending an All-Church Retreat, Pastor John says, “In regards to getting to know one another, one retreat together is better than a year’s worth of Sunday services.” Come out and be encouraged as we open up God’s Word together! Private and shared lodges are available for families with small children.

This year’s All-Church Retreat features Dr. Andy Snider of The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California. Dr. Snider is a professor of Theology and has also taught classes on Hermeneutics and Prayer. He has been teaching full-time since 2002. He specializes in the doctrines of God and salvation. His wife Pamela is an amazing pianist and was featured on the Todd Beamer Foundation CD, “Let’s Roll!”

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theopneustos

by Raymond Kim

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul makes a remarkable statement regarding the words of Scripture. He writes that “All Scripture is inspired by God (θεόπνευστος) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (NASB). What is the nature of this divine inspiration and what relevance does this have for us today?

The phrase “inspired by God” is actually from a single Greek word, θεόπνευστος (theopneustos). It is a compound adjective comprised of the noun θεός (god, God) and the verb πνευω, (I am blowing), which gives the idea of something being God-breathed. Amazingly, θεόπνευστος occurs only once in the entire New Testament and is unique to 2 Timothy 3:16. While words and ideas are often repeated several times in Scripture for emphasis, the rarity of word usage is a significant consideration as well.

The translation rendered as “inspired by God,” in the NASB and others is misleading as it gives the impression that God inspired the biblical authors to write Scripture, when the language is clear that it is the Scripture itself that is “inspired by God,” literally God-breathed. As an adjective (God-breathed), it describes and gives quality to the noun phrase (all Scripture) that it modifies. It therefore asserts something about the noun, namely that all Scripture has the quality of being God-breathed. To correctly understand the doctrine of “inspiration,” it is important to grasp the fact that God did not “breathe into” the biblical authors or their writings, but rather that all Scripture has been “breathed out” by God. Although He used divinely appointed individuals to record His Word, God is the originator, source and ultimate author of all Scripture. The same breath that spoke the universe into being and gave life to Adam is the breath from which the Scriptures were brought forth.

What this means for us today is that as we hold our Bibles in our hands, we can have confidence that we are holding the very word of God. It means that we can place our faith in the Scriptures because all of it has been breathed out by God and reflects His wisdom, not the wisdom of this world. Since all Scripture is God-breathed, all of it possesses His authority to the extent that to disobey God’s Word is to disobey God Himself.

It means that everything in the Bible is important and all of it must be obeyed, not just the parts that we pick and choose. God’s word is our spiritual sustenance, that’s why Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Thankfully, every word that has proceeded from the mouth of God has been recorded for us in the Scriptures for us to know, to study, to believe, to obey, and to live out. God didn’t just speak to an original audience thousands of years ago in the ancient near east. God is still speaking today through His eternal, inerrant, God-breathed Word; the question is, are you willing to listen?

Shame and Secret Sin

by David Ahn

Over past several months, the news has brought a seemingly endless stream of embarrassing headlines and shameful accusations against otherwise respectable figures in society. Whether it’s a conservative US Senator being arrested for lewd acts in a public restroom, or an NBA referee being accused of having officiated games in a way to benefit his own gambling interests, it seems as if no occupation is any longer above reproach. Unfortunately, even a prominent Christian pastor in the past year has been exposed for leading a scandalous double-life. If you’re anything like me, the following string of questions immediately comes to mind: How could this happen? How could they harbor such heinous sins over the span of years, while actively carrying out their admirable every-day lives?

It’s easy to assume that these people are just inherently evil, or that they struggle with unique and extreme desires of the flesh, but we should not be so quick to distance ourselves from them. Their situations did not come about overnight. What most likely took place is that those areas of sin began as seemingly minor temptations, but were cultivated and expanded over many years of indulging while hiding their sin from the public eye. The Bible clearly states that we are all sinners, so we must take heed and really consider the danger of entertaining secret sin in our own lives, no matter how insignificant they might appear at the time.

To begin, we must examine what secret sin really is and the danger that it poses. Is there even such a thing as sin that is truly secret? The answer is a resounding no, at least according to our theology. We worship an omnipotent, omnipresent God who sees and knows everything. Interestingly enough, we know this fact in our heads but yet it doesn’t seem to take root in our hearts, which explains why temptation seems most appealing when our brothers and sisters are not around, or why our private thought lives are often the hardest to control. Sadly enough, this essentially reveals a fear of man over a fear of God, and the Bible firmly denounces such thinking: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, NASB). Secret sin is not inherently any worse than any other sin. God does not rely on human witnesses to sway His judgments. However, secret sin can be more dangerous because of the soil in which it takes root: the absence of a fear of God.

In his book, Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin With Superior Pleasure, John Piper elaborates upon the disparity between the fear of God and the fear of man through a thoughtful discussion of shame. He introduces and defines two types of shame: misplaced shame and well-placed shame. The difference between the two is whose glory is at stake: do you feel shame when you look bad in front of others or fail to meet their expectations, or do you feel shame your actions have dishonored God? The only time that we are justified in feeling shame is when we have done or thought something that takes away from His glory.

King David had the right idea of shame. When he was confronted regarding his sins of sending Bathsheba’s husband out to die in battle so that he would be able to take her as his own wife, King David immediately responded by saying, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13) and also wrote Psalm 51: “Against You, You only, have I sinned \ And done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4, NASB). He was not remorseful because he was being punished with his son being stricken with disease, he was not ashamed because his secret sin had been discovered and might tarnish his legacy, but he was contrite because he realized that he had dishonored God.

A proper understanding of the difference between appropriate and misplaced shame is crucial for fighting secret sin because it addresses the underlying heart issue. Without this, the problem of our fear of man can remain uncorrected even after our sins have been exposed. In this case, we might just go about trying to repair our image by going through the motions of apologizing or even by correcting our behavior, but this is only an incomplete and temporary fix. In fact, it can even exacerbate the problem by causing us to build back up our pride and decrease our dependence on the grace of God, further feeding our fear of man. On the other hand, if we have a correct view of what well-placed shame looks like, we will humble ourselves and remember that our sole purpose is to bring glory to God in everything that we do, then all sin (public or private) becomes equally shameful because it dishonors Him, and we would respond by immediately confessing to God and taking comfort in the work of the Cross, and the joy of salvation would quickly overcome the feelings of doubt and guilt.

This is obviously not an easy shift of perspective that will take place over a day or two, but we can make an effort to persistently check our motivations and intentions for why we do what we do and why we feel shame when we do. Try out the following practical suggestions: The next time your cheeks flush red and your blood temperature rises, try to identify why you are feeling shame. When a brother or sister calls you out and rebukes you, identify why you are feeling shame. When the temptation to sin comes knocking, try to identify what shame it is that you fear the most. Is it misplaced or well-placed shame? Is it a fear of God or a fear of man?

Book Review: When Sinners Say “I Do”

Book by Dave Harvey

Review by Tim Sohn

I should preface this column by saying that I am not married. Lord willing, I hope to be someday. Until then, I will have to read books to live vicariously through more experienced authors. Like many single people, I’ve read a lot of relationship books (if you’re single and you say you haven’t, stop lying). Out of all the relationship books I have read (more than my fingers and toes), this book has been the most eye-opening, encouraging, and convicting. I admit, I was a little embarrassed to have it on my desk or read it on the plane since I keep getting asked, “When’s your wedding?”. Despite these comments, I couldn’t resist since many people in the blogosphere have been saying this is the best marriage book ever. I wholeheartedly agree.

For many years I thought that marriage would be an unusual bliss, almost like heaven on earth. If you had relationship problems, the solution was get married. If you can’t cook, get married. If your car won’t start, get married. Dave Harvey pummels through these ridiculous ideas by laying out the most fundamental fact about all of us, our sinfulness. Every marriage involves two sinners saying, “I do” to a lifetime of love, yet as the wheels start to turn the selfish and unloving attitudes come out. All of our efforts and best works are shot through with sin, making the wedding of two sinners that much more earth shattering.

Sound bleak? When Sinners Say “I Do” is a book that is about marriage, but focuses a lot on sin. Harvey begins by focusing on sin, but leads us to the green pastures where we find grace in the Gospel of Jesus. The first half of the book is spent breaking the reader to see that we are more sinful that we know. Harvey writes, “My friends, when sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet.” This isn’t a book that will give the 7 steps to a better marriage, or secrets found by observing 50 successful couples. This book will show you that the biggest obstacle in marriage is often your own sin, and the only way to deal with it is by looking to the Gospel.

I couldn’t say it any better than Paul David Tripp in the book’s foreword. “This book grasps the core drama of every married couple. This drama is no respecter of race, ethnic origin, location, or period of history. It is the one thing that explains the doom and hope of every human relationship. It is the theme that is on every page of this book in some way. What is this drama? It is the drama of sin and grace. What do all of us do in our marriages in some way? We all tend to deny our sin (while pointing out the sin of the other). By denying our sin, we devalue grace. What is important about this book is that at the level of the hallways and family rooms of everyday life, it is very honest about sin and very hopeful about the amazing resources of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.”

Whether you’re married or not, this book is a must read. It will change the way you view yourself, your marriage, and even relationship with others. However, the way that will happen will be through the cross, and allowing the Gospel to go deeper to cause radical change.

Editor’s Note (2009): Tim is happily married to a lovely Christian woman named Candy now, and they continue to minister faithfully in the Silicon Valley area. Congrats Tim!

Thomas À Kempis

by Stephanie Shin

“For were the works of God readily understandable by human reason, they would neither be wonderful nor unspeakable.”
-Thomas À Kempis

As I read up on Thomas À Kempis (much of the following thoughts taken from Pages from Church History) one of the forerunners of the mysticism movement and author of the well-known work, The Imitation of Christ, it became a challenge to find a happy medium between many of the ideas espoused by the mystics and a faithfulness to the living Word of God. In the end, a growing appreciation for Thomas À Kempis and his teachings found its way in God’s sovereignty. But let’s start at the beginning.

À Kempis was believed to have lived from 1380-1471. Some of À Kempis’s earlier contemporaries were sizeable figures such as John Wycliffe, who championed the then-heretical teachings on the sole authority of Scripture in the church life, and Jan Hus, Wycliffe’s counterpart in the Czech Republic. While the Roman Catholic Church in the 14th and 15th centuries had grown in size and wealth, the pope struggled to maintain its hold on Britain and Germany. This is the era that prefaced the Reformation and the context that À Kempis lived.

A heavy influence on the writings of Thomas À Kempis developed from the monastic order that he was a part of—the Brethren of the Common Life founded by Gerard Groote. The heart of this monastery was the idea of being a “true disciple,” an imitator of Christ. At the time, the scholastic movement had penetrated Christianity. Many criticized the scholastics for the heavy emphasis placed on intellectual examination and rationale. This movement ignited the reactionary mysticism movement of which À Kempis himself was a proponent. The mysticism movement, as a rejoinder, described the knowledge of God as personal and transcendent; God was not to be found in books but experience. Unfortunately, this often came at the expense of Scripture.

Many of Kempis’s own convictions took shape in his most renowned book, an organized meditation named The Imitation of Christ. His book was split into four sections: Counsels on the Spiritual Life, Counsels on the Inner Life, Counsels on Inward Consolation, and On the Blessed Sacrament. A brief look at the three points in the first section is a good indicator of his ideals that:

    1. We must follow Christ’s way of life if we are to attain true enlightenment and freedom from the blindness of the heart.

    2. There must be humility in learning of the Trinity. Lofty words attain nothing, but a good life is pleasing to the Lord.

    3. There must be a withdrawal from the love of visible things and an affection to things invisible.

À Kempis wrote much of his treatise with the context and practice of monastic life in mind, but he acknowledged that spiritual health does not stem from the monastery in and of itself, but from the transformation of one’s life.

Coming from a fairly sparse knowledge of À Kempis and the mysticism movement, it was interesting to see how God used men like À Kempis and Groote to impact the coming Reformation. They gave voice to the dissatisfaction that was rising against the Roman Catholic Church and the need for moral and reform restructuring was identified.

While À Kempis was unable to bring about any extensive change because his teachings lacked the biblical foundation, a relatively new focus on the “suffering servant” and the idea that the Scripture was to be lived out in real life and not just intellectually known surfaced. While faith and Bible knowledge standing on their own do not depict the full picture of the Christian, it was soon made clear through revolutionaries like Martin Luther that Christ demanded full obedience in both areas. How awesome to know we are enabled because we are controlled by His love!

John Wycliffe

by Jennifer Shin

Even before Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, there was another man who opposed the Roman Catholic Church and challenged its teaching and its authority – John Wycliffe. Wycliffe is considered to be the main precursor of the Reformation and is thus called “The Morning Star of the Reformation.” It was through his own Bible studies that he first began to question the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church.

Wycliffe challenged several views that were held by the Catholic Church including transubstantiation – the idea that there is a change of substance from the bread and wine to the actual body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist – and also submitted the view of the priesthood of all true believers. But the foundation of his desire for reform in the Roman Catholic Church laid in the authority of Scripture. He believed in the sole and absolute authority of Scripture in the life of the Church but much of what he saw in the Church was Papal supremacy. The papacy did not adhere to the will of God according to Holy Scripture. Wycliffe stated, “Holy Scripture is the highest authority for every Christian and the standard of faith and of all human perfection.”

Because he believed the Word of God to be the absolute and only authority for the Christian, he also believed that the Bible needed to be made available to all men. At the time, England only possessed Bibles in Latin Vulgate. Church services were conducted in a language the people could not understand. Complete Bibles were only found in monasteries, college halls, the largest abbeys, and in the homes of the elite. Wycliffe thus conducted a translation of the entire Bible into the English vernacular from the Latin Vulgate. Though parts of Scripture were already translated into English prior to his involvement, Wycliffe was the first to oversee the process of translating the entirety of Scripture and to produce the first fully translated English Bible.

Many opposed the idea of the “average man” having a Bible in his hands and attacked Wycliffe and those who shared his vision, stating that those who could read English “did not know enough theology to understand the Bible.” The Church also took action and burned the English Bible wherever they found it.

The Bible was hard to obtain, even after it was translated into English, because of its monetary value. One Bible cost as much as two hogs, which fed an entire family for a year. It’s quite unfortunate to see how the majority of the copies of Scripture today are sitting on our bookshelves, full of truth, yet unable to transform our lives – not because it is powerless, but because we do not care to know what God says. We would rather choose to be swayed by the influences of the world and live under its authority, rather than allow God to govern our lives through His Word.

“Above everything else Wycliffe placed the Word of God, which was to him a beacon and a shining light in a world of gross spiritual darkness.” There is no greater authority than God, Himself. And knowing what this world is like and how it so easily manipulates us and tells us how to live, we ought to be constantly running to His Word for wisdom and protection from its ways.

Martin Luther

by Kevin Au

When we think of the Reformation, no other name comes to mind more than Martin Luther, and for good reason. This was the man who stood at the forefront of the German Reformation, nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, and stood before men who could take his life yet held his ground at the Diet of Worms in one of the greatest moments in church history. But underneath these grand acts of devotion to the truth lay a deep appreciation and die hard commitment to the Bible as basis for truth.

Luther spent most of his early years in preparation to become a lawyer, and came very close, except by a surprising act of God. As Luther was on the road, coming home from law school, he was caught in a thunderstorm and so frightened that he vowed to St. Ann to commit his life to the monastery if he survived. Luther admitted later that this was a blatant act of sin, but he and all of subsequent church history is thankful for all the good that came of it.

True to his word, he committed his life to the monastery, where he developed a deep sense of his sin and guilt, but without the proper understanding of the gospel to free him. He was constantly tortured by his own guilt, desperately seeking God’s approval and mercy on his soul with his sorrow and acts to please God. He would often beat himself, hoping to curry some favor from God. Through his study of the Bible, he would come to understand that salvation and righteousness comes by faith alone. His passion for getting the truth out to the common man would soon challenge the heresy of his day.

What characterized Luther’s ministry and drove his influence in the church was his devotion to and emphasis on the Bible, or the external Word, as he called it. He believed that the Bible was true, applicable, and more valuable than the authority of the hierarchical establishment of Rome. It wasn’t long before a host of circulated writings attacked the beliefs and practices of the established church. This culminated with the nailing of his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, as Luther publicly challenged the stranglehold of the Catholic Church.

This was revolutionary. Revolutionary enough that he was brought before the Imperial Diet and given an ultimatum: either he recant his writings or be condemned as a heretic and punished. In response, Luther gave his famous defense, concluding that “I neither can nor will make any retraction, since it is neither safe nor honourable to act against conscience.

Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

Luther escaped his sentence with the aid and protection of Frederick the Wise, ruler of Saxony. He spent the rest of his days practically in exile in Saxony, where his ministry took place in relatively quieter fashion. Though most would know of the grander events of his earlier life, the bulk of his ministry took place during the rest of his years, as he took on the role of preacher, teacher, and writer.

While he was known as a university professor for most of his life, Luther was also a regular preacher, preaching well over 3000 sermons between 1510 and 1546.

In addition to this, Luther also was a family man. He married Katharina von Bora and had 6 children with her, also having to deal with the loss of his daughter Elizabeth in the midst of the busyness of his life.

During these years as well, Luther’s ministry as a writer flourished. He wrote regular publications, and among them, his most famous work: The Bondage of the Will.

His ministry did not end there. He bore the weight of the church, dealing with the practical issues of churches that were walking for the first time without the support of Rome. Luther continued to fuel the Reformation he helped to start, writing the Large and Small Catechism for the instruction of the church, publishing a hymnal for worship, and translating the complete Bible into the German language, giving the common man access to the Word of God.

The influence this man had on the church is immeasurable.

Though there were reformers before and after him, his writings and devotion to understand the Word, as well as the circumstances that God brought about in his life worked to ignite the Reformation in earnest.


About

The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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