Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Four Marks of True Revival

"I am profoundly convinced that the greatest need in the world today is revival in the Church of God. Yet alas! The whole idea of revival seems to have become strange to so many good Christian people... [This] is due both to a serious misunderstanding of the scriptures and to woeful ignorance of the history of the Church..." –Dr. Martin-Lloyd Jones, 1958

When one hears the word revival images of tent meetings, strange happenings, or Elmer Gantry type characters may come to mind. The Dictionary of Bible Themes defines a revival as "The Sovereign activity of God whereby God renews His people individually and corporately in vigor, affecting both sincerity of belief and quality of behavior." Nehemiah chapter eight gives an excellent snapshot of what revival is and what it looks like. The condition of the walls reflects the spiritual condition of God's people in Nehemiah. Following the completion of the wall, God revives the people spiritually. Here are four observations about biblical revival:

1.  Revival has come when the people of God approach the Word of God with intensified receptivity. (Neh. 8:1)

The people of ancient Israel understood who wrote the Word of God. In many ways, the Bible is just like Jesus in that it is 100% Divine and 100% Human in its origin. When the Word of God, God's people understand the WORDS OF GOD are being spoken, not the opinions of men!

2.  Revival has come when the people of God regard the word of God with the highest possible reverence. (Neh. 8:3)

Time, planning, and effort took place, the people had built a platform and pulpit for this particular occasion. They stood from morning until evening listening intently to God's Word!

3.  Revival has come when the people of God encounter the Word of God in its experimental potency. (Neh. 8:7-9) 

Ezra reads the Word in Hebrew followed by an immediate translation into Aramaic for the 30-50,000 people in attendance. Their reaction to God's Word is brokenness followed by joy. No preacher is good enough to cause that many people to repent! God showed up and dwelt with His people!

4.  Revival has come when the people of God encounter the Word of God in unqualified obedience. (Neh. 8:13-18)

Once God's people understood what was required from them according to the Word, the people responded with unqualified obedience. There was no thinking or praying about it; it happened right then as they launched into the Festival of Booths. Sometimes hesitation is not a virtue, but a sin among God's people.

Bottom line, God's Word is central to revival in the lives of God's people, both individually and collectively. Oh Lord, Grant me, may it revival begin with me! Amen!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Who Can Baptize?

The issue of who should be baptized is discussed far more than who should administer baptism. By its very nature, baptism cannot be performed alone. While many have varying views on the topic, I would like to let Scripture be our guide as we think through the issue of who should baptize. Here are four things we can say with confidence about administering baptism:

1.    Baptisms should be done in the presence and oversight of a local church. In the Great Commission (Matthew 18:16-20), Jesus commands to “go and make disciples” he also assures them that he is with you…PLURAL. Jesus gave his authority and command not to each one individually, but to all of them collectively. The group would eventually become the local church. Paul points out that Jesus died for the CHURCH in Ephesians 5:25. Do not underestimate the importance of Christian community in this ordinance. The local church is also pointed to as the pillar and support of the truth in 1 Timothy 3:15. Note: Mission field examples may be an exception if no local church exists yet.
2.     Baptisms must have pastoral oversight. +Baptizing is not explicitly given in the commands for elders/pastors in 1 Timothy 4 or any other passage in the New Testament. However, based on the fact that this ordinance belongs to the local church, the pastor/elders are overseers. It stands to reason that they would be overseers in this area.
3.     All examples in the NT, except one, are performed by someone holding an office of the local church. The only example of someone performing a baptism that was not set aside for an office of the church was Ananias. Please keep in mind that this may not have been a unique event in the history of the church, descriptive instead of prescriptive. Here are the accounts in chronological order: [1] Acts 2:41; [2] Acts 8:12; [3] Acts 8:13; [4] Acts 8:36-38; [5] Acts 9:5,9,18; (cf. Acts 22:16) [6] Acts 10:44-48; [7] Acts 16:14,15; [8] Acts 16:31-33; [9] Acts 18:8 (cf. I Corinthians 1:14-16); [10] Acts 19:1-7. Baptism is also mentioned in Acts 1:5, 22; 10:37; 11:16; 13:24 -- all in reference to John’s baptism.

While the Bible does not specifically answer the question, I believe that the safest course of action is for pastors/elders to perform this ordinance. Since all the NT examples, with the exception of one, are performed by those who are set aside for offices of the church either apostles, elders/pastors, or evangelists. +It may be possible for exceptions to be made under pastoral oversight, as there is no hard and fast biblical teaching that exactly answers the question in clarity. Although pragmatically, it is simpler for a pastor or perhaps deacon to perform this ordinance, simply because the person who is perfuming the baptism represents the local church in her authority to perform this function. The church will need some way of affirming the person performing the baptism, and that would often add extra steps. Let me give you one more reason it may be better for a pastor to perform a baptism. As a Southern Baptist, we have always viewed baptism as obedience to the command of Christ, and entrance to the body. Given the individualistic/self-centered culture, we find ourselves living in, it may show more community support for the pastor to perform instead of a family member or friend.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Movie Review: God's Not Dead 2

Warning: Spoiler Alert! I will be talking about parts of the movie. 

I had a very low expectation for this film. The reason for my low expectation was two reasons:

1. As a general rule for movies, sequels are usually not that great compared to the original, and

2. “Christian films” don't tend to have the best acting or plots.

God’s Not Dead 2 was a pleasant surprise. The film picks up on a new main character, a teacher in a local high school. It appears a gag order has been placed on all teachers in regard to sharing of religious beliefs. The teacher goes on to answer a question about Jesus in class, which leads to discipline by the school board, which leads to the conflict of the movie. In my opinion, an excellent lead for the movie. Inspired by Real Court Cases, this film captures the first wave of attack on religious freedom, those serving in the public square as civil servants. Here is what I really like about the film, I liked the real struggle the characters face, the expert witnesses in court, and the uncertainty of what will happen up until the end.

It is easy to be drawn into the emotional turmoil of the main character as she struggles to do what will honor God. The overall message of the film is an excellent encouragement to Christians everywhere. Stand strong and courageous in the face of persecution, even if it means losing everything. This film is worth your time. It was better than the first one, in my opinion. I give it a seven on a scale of one to ten.