Paul's Passing Thoughts

Escaping Church and its Culture of Death

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 19, 2015

HF Potters House (2)“This isn’t a technique for boosting our spiritual growth; this is a means of re-salvation because we are still technically lost and under law. ‘Under grace’ merely qualifies us for perpetual re-salvation. That’s Protestantism…period!”

Week in, and week out, and days in-between, professing Christians meet at a local institutional church to further indoctrinate their families in the Protestant culture of death. It doesn’t seem like death as families cheerfully socialize together and lift up their hands as the hipster praise bands make a joyful noise to the Lord. In addition, charismatic orators speak of things that are clearly in the Bible.

But let’s talk about good old fashioned theological math found in the Bible. The Bible addresses the only two people groups that exist in the world: the lost and the saved. As professing Christians, we want to be biblically defined as saved people, no? Can a case be made in this post that present-day evangelicals define themselves according to what the Bible defines as “lost.” Yes. All in all I am sure you will agree; any religion that defines itself as unregenerate is a really bad idea.

Here is how the Bible defines the two people groups:

Romans 6:14 – For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Every person living in the world is under law or under grace; lost or saved. Protestants define themselves as under law with under grace as a covering. Romans 6:14 is defined this way:

We are under grace because the righteousness of Christ continually saves us from being under law.

So, with Protestantism, it’s both. Under grace means we are still under law but progressively saved by grace. Under law is who we are, while we “experience” grace. Under law is what we do, under grace is what we experience. Supposedly, when Paul stated that we are “not” under law, what he really meant to say is under law is the absence of grace. The lost are only under law, but the saved are under both.

Hence, we are still under the “righteous demands of the law,” but if we are under grace, Jesus keeps the law for us. This is achieved by focusing on our sinfulness against the law, and returning to the same gospel that originally saved us out of gratitude. Objections to this idea are met with accusations of indifference to Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore, the “Christian” must live a “lifestyle of repentance” and constantly seek a “greater revelation of self” which is inherently sinful. The goal is to plunge the depths of our supposed total depravity. And if you are paying attention, our sin and the original gospel that saved us are the constant drumbeats we hear in the institutional church week in and week out.

Consequently, our goal is to see more and more of our reality of being under law resulting in an increased joy regarding our original salvation. Mainline evangelical Paul Washer states it this way:

At conversion, a person begins to see God and himself as never before. This greater revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness leads to a greater revelation of self, which, in return, results in a repentance or brokenness over sin. Nevertheless, the believer is not left in despair, for he is also afforded a greater revelation of the grace of God in the face of Christ, which leads to joy unspeakable. This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ. Not only this, but a greater interchange occurs in that the Christian learns to rest less and less in his own performance and more and more in the perfect work of Christ. Thus, his joy is not only increased, but it also becomes more consistent and stable. He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety (Paul Washer: The Gospel Call and True Conversion; Part 1, Chapter 1, heading – The Essential Characteristics Of Genuine Repentance, subheading – Continuing and Deepening Work of Repentance).

This not only turns the Bible completely upside down, but leaves the Christian in a lifestyle of death while rejoicing in it. This is a true celebration of death, and church is the culture thereof. Romans 6 is clear about what it means to remain under law:

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Obviously, if we believe our formal sinful self has been “brought to nothing,” Paul Washer’s sanctification construct is impossible, and his statement speaks to the authentic soteriology of the Protestant Reformation. How do you achieve a greater revelation of your sinful self when your former sinful self has been “brought to nothing”?

You don’t, which leaves the “believer” yet under law and in need of salvation. The “believer” needs to continually return to the same gospel that saved him/her in order to remain saved. Instead of the new birth being a onetime event that brings the former sinner to “nothing,” the new birth is defined as a joy experience resulting from revisiting the gospel afresh for forgiveness of sin that still condemns us.

This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ (Ibid).

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers?… Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (John Piper: Part 2 of a series titled, “How Does the Gospel Save Believers”).

Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, ‘both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,’ as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification ‘again and again.’ Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety (Michael Horton: The Christian Faith; mortification and vivification, pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).

…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God (John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4).

Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death—viz. ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered (The Calvin Institutes: 3.14.11).

Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both (Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; p. 62).

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.21).

Therefore, “under grace” is defined as a mere qualification to return to the same gospel that saved us; in other words, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day” in order to keep ourselves saved. How prevalent is this idea in the contemporary church? Consider this laundry list from Peter Lumpkins .com:

“As Pastors we must first preach the gospel to ourselves before we proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior” Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29 Network.

“Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ’s work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must “preach the gospel to ourselves every day” Jerry Bridges, Reformed author.

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves and one another every day” Ashland Avenue Baptist Church Distinctives, Lexington, KY

“The Gospel must be central to our lives and central to our message. Strive to keep the Gospel in the center of your worship ministry. Jerry Bridges tell us that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday. It has been said that we never move on from the Cross, only to a more profound understanding of the Cross”

Dr. Greg Brewton, Associate Dean for Music and Worship Leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves” Francis Chan, Passion 2011

“Yesterday was a powerful moment in the Word of God as we studied Romans 8:1-4. I challenged those present to learn to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Why? If we do not preach the gospel to ourselves daily, we will return to sin, bondage, guilt, the Law, and legalism…You see, this is why we must preach the gospel to ourselves daily” Ronnie Floyd, former Chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force

“I’ve been re-reading Jerry Bridges’ excellent book The Discipline of Grace…Bridges reminded me of just how important it is to “preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” if we are going to be transformed into the likeness of Christ” Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

“…I once assumed…that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved… But I’ve come to realize that once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. The gospel, in other words, isn’t just the power of God to save you, it’s the power of God to grow you once you’re saved… . This idea that the gospel is just as much for Christians as it is for non-Christians may seem like a new idea to many but, in fact, it is really a very old idea” Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

“We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday… . As we preach the gospel to ourselves, we should be both encouraged and overwhelmed with gratitude, and both should give us a desire to deal with the sin in our lives” Casey Lewis, student, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“A Prayer for Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves… . …Most gracious Lord Jesus, even as Paul was eager to preach the gospel to believers in Rome, so I’m eager to preach it to my own heart today…” Scotty Smith, Guest blogger at Justin Taylor’s The Gospel Coalition site and Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“How can we not shift from the hope of the Gospel? By preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily… . “Preaching the Gospel to yourself” is a phrase I first ran across in The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, and have observed for years in the life of my good friend, C.J. Mahaney. C.J. has written persuasively, biblically, and practically on this topic in his new book, Living the Cross Centered Life… . Don’t take a day off from preaching the Gospel to yourself” Bob Kaulfin, Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries and worship leader at Covenant Life Church led by Josh Harris.

“Far too many Christians are passive in their fight for joy…. What can I do?’ Well, God does not mean for us to be passive. He means for us to fight the fight of faith t he fight for joy. And the central strategy is to preach the gospel to yourself… . John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, p.81, as quoted by Bob Kauflin

I am thoroughly engrossed with Joe Thorn’s personal mediations on preaching the gospel to oneself” Tom J. Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, promoting Joe Thorn’s book, Note to Self: the Discipline of Preaching to Oneself

“In the few months prior to Verge God was really working on me. I’ve been doing a lot of repenting of the idols in my heart. I’ve been preaching the gospel to myself” Steve McCoy, SBC Pastor

“This may sound really selfish, but faithfully preaching the gospel to myself is actually what enables me to share it faithfully to others” Timmy Brister, SBC Associate Pastor.

“I chose not to include the response to the gospel…but just tried to focus on what the gospel actually is. I edit it regularly as I try to grasp and preach the gospel to myself” Ed Stetzer, LifeWay

This isn’t a technique for boosting our spiritual growth; this is a means of re-salvation because we are still technically lost and under law. “Under grace” merely qualifies us for perpetual re-salvation. That’s Protestantism…period!

And the culture that will result is defined in the Bible:

Romans 6:15 – What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[c] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christ said, “You must be born again.” This is clearly a doctrine that redefines the new birth by defining the “believer” as unchanged and yet under law. Along with that is an unavoidable conclusion that this also includes a fruits unto death existence that is part and parcel with being under law.

This will, and does make sin and condemnation the focus and theme of church while the Bible emphasizes ADDING virtue to our faith in contrast to a continual re-visitation of our supposed depravity.

1Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

2Peter 1:3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

In the past, Protestants were confused enough about their own soteriological traditions that the fruits unto death were minimal, but during this Neo-Reformed resurgence that we are witnessing presently, such is not the case; the institutional church is a blatant culture of death. And those who would expose their children to it are woefully undiscerning. Ask yourself this simple question: do I leave church better equipped to see something that the Bible states isn’t there or better equipped to love God and others? Am I better at seeing my own depravity, or have I learned new ways to love which covers a multitude of sins anyway?

The remedy for this malady is a return to where the gathering of believers belongs: in home fellowships where believers are equipped to love God and others as a lifestyle, NOT a “lifestyle of repentance.” The institutional church was first called “church” when it was founded in the 4th century, and it was founded on the same idea that believers remain under law. Therefore, an authoritative institution was created that supplied official re-salvation for those under law. The institutional church goes hand in glove with the idea that it supplies a place for re-salvation, i.e., those qualified to receive it by being “under grace.”

To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers” (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.22).

Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place (Ibid).

Come out from among them and be separate.

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