Thursday, December 18, 2008

Full/fool, or many Gospels

My sister-in-law just recently understood the free gift of God - Christ. She was a bit in tears when I relayed to her the story of our salvation. Needless to say, she and her family attend our local church.

So time went on.

A month ago she and her husband went to a fiesta held by the Filipino community here in Melbourne. She was hired by our friends to distribute some promotional leaflets, so naturally she bumped into lots of people in the fiesta.

Amazingly she did bump into one of her old time friend from Manila. So she and this friend began to talk. In the course of conversation, the friend semi-proudly said to my in-laws that she attends a "born again" Christian church. In my sister-in-law's excitement she and her husband spoke about me and how they now attend church with me.

Her friend disappointedly said to them, "oh what a shame, he should be Full Gospel and should attend a Full Gospel Church". This threw my sister-in-law into a confusing spin. When she reached home with a concerned face, she relayed this incident to me. I had to do a lot of explaining.

My reply to her: "You see these folk believe there are several components to the Gospel. Unlike us, these folk do not believe that there is one and only one Gospel - the forgiveness of your sins at the Cross of Christ freely given by God. For them, it is just one aspect of the Gospel. Jesus came not just to die for you but to make you healthy, wealthy and wise. These for them are all equal in importance to Jesus' payment for sins. So when we simply preach Jesus at the Cross, they criticize us for being not-Full Gospel".

Full or Fool Gospel?

23 comments:

steve martin said...

'Fool' Gospel.

Poor fools...I feel sorry for them.

Excellent post. I will send a link to it to many that I am currently discussing these matters with in the blogesphere. Lots of people out there that are 'fool' gospel people.

L P Cruz said...

SM,

Last Sunday a pentecostal pastor friend of mine asked me if I can do the honors of doing the closing prayer for his anniversary service.

His guest speaker for that day was an A/G so called international evangelist.

I sat for 50 mins, never hearing about Jesus's cross - he even said that if you love God with all your heart, he will bless you! Of course I don't satisfy this criteria so I am stuffed.

Then the altar call came and he laid hands on people, pushing them until they fell.

Crookery.

But I am sad that my friend did not see anything wrong about this. I was disturbed I silently blurted out that he was a crook. Of course, my missus did not want me to create trouble she hushed me. I was upset at this man did.

Thanks for linking.

LPC

steve martin said...

It is a tough when you have heard the gospel to sit and listen to either crooks or fools or both.

Maybe it's best to try and stay out of the 'me' centered temples, whenever possible.

L P Cruz said...

SM,

Exactly what the misses said. Why do I keep letting these people waste our time?

Because deep down I am looking, hoping perhaps they might have reformed, but no - I am continually being disappointed.

They are more pelagian than Pelagius.

LPC

J. K. Jones said...

It's not the full gospel unless it is ALONE. By grace ALONE, through faith ALONE, on account of Christ ALONE, as promised by Scripture ALONE, to the glory of God ALONE.

They do not preach the full gospel.

steve martin said...

J.K. Jones,

Well then, what about my works?

Do I not have to do those things which God commanded that I do?

J. K. Jones said...

Steve Martin,

Goods works are the result of the change God brings about in someone’s heart. They arise from a heart that is overwhelmed with gratitude, motivated to do the right thing, interested in God’s glory, in love with God’s law, or any combination of the listed motives (of course, you can probably think of some that I have left out). Good works do not contribute in any way, shape or form to our justification (right standing before God).

Good works do flow out of the heart God has changed. They must, because the heart has new motives. Technically stated, good works are absolutely not meritorious, but absolutely necessary. As Luther is quoted as saying, “We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.”

I know from my own experience and that of the Apostle Paul (Romans 7) that my own life will never be perfect. Even my best works will never be done from a perfect motive or with perfect precision. As Spurgeon put it, “My penitential tears must be washed…My repentance must be repented of.” The Christian life is a life of repentance and faith that comes from a new heart given to me by grace alone.

JK

steve martin said...

J.K. Jones,

That was a terrific answer!

You have described works in a way that does not take away from 'faith alone'.

Thanks J.K. Jones!

J. K. Jones said...

Thanks, Steve.

L P Cruz said...

Understood, thanks too to both of you.

LPC

Doorman-Priest said...

Works are important only in that they are the marks of obedient discipleship Steve. No more, no less.

The Dude said...

"The Christian life is a life of repentance and faith"

Does repentance entail *doing* anything, or is it merely acknowledging one's sinfulness and being sorrowful over it and seeking mercy? If all my acts are defiled by sin by impure motivation/thought, the case is pretty hopeless for repenting fully of any sin. But it seems many would think you *must* repent fully of very grave sins - i.e. if a murderer or adulterer was sorrowful over his act, yet committed it again day after day (either explicitly or freely indulging in hatred/lust), that does not seem to indicate genuine repentance. But if someone is always sinning "trivially" (in comparison), by watching tv instead of helping his neighbor (by actively seeking him out, not just passively waiting for opportunity to cross him), taking his family to restaurants instead of mission trips, not sacrificing or donating all disposable income, sleeping in on the weekends instead of visiting the sick, etc. etc. why is not the same level of repentance needed there? Does this make sense? There seems to be a line in sinful behavior/acts between where genuine repentance entails a real amending of life/changing of ways versus a resigned acceptance of our lot where we are truly sorrowful about it, but yet don't do much about it. Or, another way, does repentance entail an intentional and genuine desire to inculcate virtue to overcome those vices and acts of sin, and thus one should (if it's a genuine intention) be engaging in the means (consciously doing actions) to achieve that end?

L P Cruz said...

Dude,

Very good questions, I like them as they make me reflect.

Is there an action involved in repentance?

I will follow the explanation of Luther/Lutherans in answering this. Firstly, Luther because he was into repentance as an action thing.

The Lutheran Reformers have observed that repentance in Scripture can be taken in the sense that it includes faith, the other sense is that it is distinguished from faith.


Best to look at the latter sense for the sake of the question.But first, what are we meant to repent of? Are we to repent of our sins, or to repent that we are sinners?

So repentance is the acknowledgement that you are a sinner, that you are doomed by God's Law, that you are guilty and if the Law would have its way, you acknowledge that the Law is correct, it is right in bringing me to hell.

So repentance is acknowledging that you do not only sin and break God's Laws, but you are a sinner who cannot set yourself up free from it. In effect, you are doomed by God's Laws.

Also repentance and faith cannot co-exist with things that destroy faith. Your example of a serial murderer is a wonderment. In my observation, when people view their acts of repentance or anything spiritual as a form of merit, they will use it to pay for their sins. In otherwords, they are simply changing the spiritual virtues as a form of merit.

What we do in the Lutheran liturgy, acknowledge/confess to God we are sinners, not only do we sin but our nature is sinful and cannot free ourselves, and we wish we were not so. I wish I am not a sinner but I am.

But and a very big BUT we long to be forgiven by no other means but only for the sake of Jesus's sacrifice of payment for our sins at the Cross.

It is the Law that hits us and brings us down to the ground -repentance, it is the Gospel that lifts us an creates faith that for Christ's sake God has forgiven us.

In 1 Jn 1:9, when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and clease us from ALL unrighteousness. Not only are the sins we are confessing forgiven but ALL sinfulness we have. God can do this because Jesus died for all our sins.

And as I pointed out at Beggars All - my confession is not a good work that merits forgiveness, no merit on my own can be pulled and presented to God, again my forgiveness is being reapplied by God to me for the sake of Christ. That is why Jesus says without me you cannot do anything.

In front of God, my righteousness is like filthy rags.

Amazingly because faith does not exist without repentance, both repentance and faith produce spontaneous good work, works that are pleasing to God though looked inadequate to man. Why? Because it is produced by the HS.
There seems to be a line in sinful behavior/acts between where genuine repentance entails a real amending of life/changing of ways versus a resigned acceptance of our lot where we are truly sorrowful about it, but yet don't do much about it.

My observation is that the presence of the Law/Gospel lead us to do something about it - first and foremost is to confess/acknowledge it in front of God.

This is also where trusting in the means of grace becomes relevant. Word and Sacraments are to be used to overcome behaviours in our lives that need victory of.

So it plays out in what our real problem is, is our problem we do not have good works? Or is our problem we do not have faith?

Repentance seems to me to entail a longing or one day to be released from this body of death per Rom 7.

Also it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.

From a Lutheran standpoint BTW, the presence of the HS is evidenced by the presence of repentance and faith in the Gospel. How that is detected in practical terms is of course another issue.


LPC

The Dude said...

Thanks for the reply LPC.

"Also repentance and faith cannot co-exist with things that destroy faith. Your example of a serial murderer is a wonderment."

Right, but the point I was making was why is murder or some other sin viewed as grave/mortal and requires "full" repentance (actual change of behavior, not just inward disposition), but the countless other "lesser" sins of self-idolatry committed daily when you are not obeying the 2 great commandments through your laziness and selfishness in your acts and thoughts aren't held to that same standard, but a lesser one where acknowledging your sin and asking for mercy suffices? Why shouldn't someone treat their murderous or adulterous tendencies in the same way they treat their countless other sins - can't those not destroy faith? Isn't a "serial hater/luster" nearly as bad as a serial murderer/adulterer (I wouldn't say precisely as bad; there are degrees of sin no doubt)? It's almost like the attitude, "hey it's hopeless trying to conform your will to Christ completely in your external acts (not to mention their internal motivation) so just realize you can't and live with your selfishness and don't worry about trying to discipline yourself, but whoah, if you are doing a,b,and c, you better knock that off - those can destroy the faith."

"In my observation, when people view their acts of repentance or anything spiritual as a form of merit, they will use it to pay for their sins. In otherwords, they are simply changing the spiritual virtues as a form of merit."

Maybe, but maybe they're trying to actually obey God progressively more and grow in holiness out of gratitude.

"Amazingly because faith does not exist without repentance, both repentance and faith produce spontaneous good work, works that are pleasing to God though looked inadequate to man. Why? Because it is produced by the HS."

Are these works then completely devoid of sinful corruption or defilement?

"From a Lutheran standpoint BTW, the presence of the HS is evidenced by the presence of repentance and faith in the Gospel. How that is detected in practical terms is of course another issue."

Right, which is why I brought up the murderer/adulterer. He gets the book thrown at him, but the lazy guy (all of the rest of the congregation) continually neglecting his neighbor and putting himself first is still accepted and just told to truly be sorry about it and seek out the sacraments, but if no change is evident, not a big deal since it's just our sin nature which will live with us until death.

L P Cruz said...

Dude,


The example you gave does not seem to exude the struggle and the struggle with sin is the presence of the HS.

It is not so much that murder/lust is more grave than the others, the example of the serial does not give a comfortable idea that the person has been struggling with sin.

The struggle is present in the one who is in repentance and faith.

The lack of struggle is something to be worried about.

I might comeback and add some more but let me know your thoughts on what I just said.

LPC

J. K. Jones said...

LPC,

"The struggle is present in the one who is in repentance and faith."

Well said.

The Dude said...

Hi LPC,
"The example you gave does not seem to exude the struggle and the struggle with sin is the presence of the HS."

Right, I did try to say in the original post that the murderer/adulterer did feel sorrowful over his act and struggled with it, but yet continued to commit it daily. Now, admittedly this is a bit far-fetched, a murderer feeling sorrow yet murdering every day. But the only reason most of us view it as far-fetched is because of the gravity we assign to murder as such a heinous sin. But the countless "lesser" sins of omission/commission internally and externally against God and neighbor that are done daily are characterized exactly the same; the person feels sorrow and struggles with it, yet continually commits it and rarely does anything about it (as Steve M is fond of saying, we know what to do but flat out refuse). So why is the murderer and adulterer held to this standard where evidence of his repentance/struggle means he actually stops indulging his sin, or performs it less and less in progressive obedience/cultivation of virtue, but everyone else breaking the 2 great commandments constantly is told sorrow/struggle is fine?

"It is not so much that murder/lust is more grave than the others, the example of the serial does not give a comfortable idea that the person has been struggling with sin."

So should struggling not involve just sorrow/regret, but also change in behavior and growth in holiness (if that sorrow/regret is genuine)? If so, then again, the serial murderer, serial adulterer, serial other-"grave"-sins are taken as faith-destroying, but what about serial-everything else?

"The struggle is present in the one who is in repentance and faith. The lack of struggle is something to be worried about."

But this struggle does not necessarily entail a change in behavior correct? And if not, why is the serial murderer/adulterer getting dumped on and everyone else serially breaking the 2 Great Commandments on their every indulgence and self-centered act not held to the standard of repentance for murder/adultery/etc?

L P Cruz said...

Dude,

Firstly, might we not be discussing a hypothetical scenario that could never exist in our world?

This has left me with lots to think about but I like to comeback with Luther on this. I think the smelly monk dealt with this question before and I have a hunch he has some wisdom on this.

I like to comeback with a quote, but first off, what do you think of Luther's maxim that good works necessarily follows?

LPC

The Dude said...

Hi LPC,
Hmm, I am not sure what you mean by an impossible hypothetical - you mean a serial murderer or serial adulterer or serial whatever that is sorrowful over his actions, yet commits them repeatedly? I am not sure why you would think that is impossible, when I'm betting you also think that "repentant" Christians (I put it in quotes since that's the issue here) serially commit multiple sins every day with knowledge and consent. This gets to my previous point of us viewing this little subset of sins as incompatible with faith (or the repentance from which consists of an actual/progressive change of behavior) since we view them as so heinous, but then these endless other ways we violate the 2 GC are given a pass. This is even stranger when you consider the great emphasis Lutherans put on sin and law with the confessions/reformers defining concupiscence as sin and opposing supererogation and the particular RC/EO view of mortal/venial sin.

About good works necessarily following, absolutely all the Reformers were adamant about that. So does that mean if good works are not following in terms of virtue stamping out vices and clinging sins (progressively of course, not instantly), is that cause to question other's or one's own repentance? If so, then how many in your congregation no longer (or with less frequency) waste time with frivolous activities or their own self-interest - how many are getting up early on the weekends to tend to the homeless, selling their expensive cars or houses or other possessions, not watching tv every night and helping their neighbor instead or reading devotional materials, not indulging in expensive vacations, etc. etc. and doing all of this with pure motives. You're a Lutheran - you know that routine :)

Again, as Steve M said - we know what to do, we flat out refuse to do it. The question seems to become if one ever becomes complacent or hopeless with their sinful behavior/attitudes, and is not trying to do anything about it but just accepting it and praying for mercy, is that repentance and faith genuine? Or are they being sinfully lazy and apathetic and heaping more condemnation on themselves? (Of course, the pendulum swings the other way with legalism as you mentioned in an earlier comment, but I'm not trying to wrap repentance in a way where a person would feel self-righteous about it or anything since that would obviously be antithetical to true repentance and faith).

L P Cruz said...

Dude,

All sins are damnable be it in thought, word or deed. I believe you agree with this.

Yet not all sins are as grievous as others. Do you agree with this?

Me thinking of adultery with my heart is not the same in gravity as I execute it out. I still go to hell for it without Christ's sacrifice.

Also the one reasoning that since thinking is as damnable and you might as well act it out is warped and incurs not only spiritual but physical discipline from the Lord.

Graduation of sins is taught in the Bible - see 1 John 5:16-17, specially v.17.

Why serial adultery and killing stand out is a traditional interpretation seen by the church fathers if I recall, but nevertheless there seems to be Biblical warrant for it if we look at Leviticus.

s not trying to do anything about it but just accepting it and praying for mercy, is that repentance and faith genuine?

Luther (according to Althaus, I have not a good set of Luther's Works yet) says that the Christian is to look at what he has done and not done, his activity and none activity strengthens or endangers his certainty of salvation. Not salvation but its certainty.

Why should the repentant serial killer not consider if he might be a hypocrite? He should and should doubt his salvation, that is only proper and fitting.

Of course, we cannot judge, and you find my question hypothetical impossibility, correct? Why would that not be a valid question, you do not know (nor I) perfectly the state of the soul/faith/repentance of that serial killer or adulterer; you have not gotten into his heart and held in your hand his repentance and faith, correct? Only God knows this.

Luther says that good works or lack of it should not be considered as basis of salvation. Good works or lack of it should be considered as giving a "certain sign of true faith". For Luther they provide a posteriori certainty.
The question seems to become if one ever becomes complacent or hopeless with their sinful behavior/attitudes, and is not trying to do anything about it but just accepting it and praying for mercy, is that repentance and faith genuine?

Hopelessness is part of repentance, I should think. If fruit is not forthcoming then it should be a bother. God has a way of making fruit come out - the sinner may experience things that makes him suffer. Physical suffering has a way of bring God's children in line and God uses such.

Doubting salvation sometimes is valid. There are those who doubt their salvation but are saved. There are those who never doubt but are not actually saved.

On the other hand the BoC enjoins the repentant serialist to dutifully use the means of grace as they strengthen faith and leads to good works that faith produces.

We cannot be certain about the serialist you are speaking about - it has to be an actual specific case, nevertheless, for the complacent church goer who sins by simply watching TV and being lazy, it is always good to review and judge one's self, if one might be a hypocrite.

LPC

The Dude said...

Hi LPC,
Yes I agree there are gradations and severity of sin; thoughts are not as grave as explicit acts, murder is more grave than a careless word, one who thinks they might as well act sinful thoughts out is deceiving themselves as you said. But do you find this distinction heavily emphasized in Luther's or other Lutheran divines and the confessional writings? I mean, you read something like the Apology or LC and it's very hard-hitting with the full reach of the law and sin and not much touches on venial/mortal sins (I realize Lutheran distinction is not exactly the same as RC/EO in the details, but the theory is similar). More to the point, I haven't run across much (in my very limited reading) that talks about repentance/bearing fruit in context of mortal sin vs. venial sin - they always seem to be dealt with interchangeably in that context.

"you have not gotten into his heart and held in your hand his repentance and faith, correct? Only God knows this."

I see what you meant the with the impossible hypothetical, yes, it is difficult to examine others, but what of ourselves?

"for the complacent church goer who sins by simply watching TV and being lazy, it is always good to review and judge one's self, if one might be a hypocrite."

A few things:
You think it is useful to examine oneself for spiritual progress/growth in holiness in keeping with repentance? Can this be harmful? No one can ever keep the law perfectly or be completely free of corruption on this side, but do you believe one should always be progressing nevertheless - so a year from now, you should not still be stagnant or worse?

Is it wrong to *consciously* work at growing in holiness? This adds to my previous post's remark on excluding self-righteousness from repentance; I do not really believe in the attitude that if you are knowingly and actively working at trying to grow in your obedience, you're automatically self-righteous or a legalist and that you need to almost be completely unaware of your effort/work for it to be "genuine" fruit. Is it wrong/worthless to carry out some particular acts out of obedience somewhat begrudgingly or unwillingly, even though it stems from the free and voluntary desire to obey; or does that sinful attitude behind the immediate act negate both its value and the "pure" intent behind the desire to obey?

So, not to pick on you of course - the same applies to me and many others I would think - but do you sleep in on the weekends or do your own thing while your neighbors in your street/block/city suffer spiritually, emotionally, and physically whom you could actively seek out? Do you watch tv or the like more than you should when you could be doing something more spiritually edifying? Do you save some money unnecessarily or not spend/donate all disposable income on godly endeavors? In short, are there many areas you are continually breaking the 2GC willfully and knowingly? And were you breaking them nearly just the same in manner/frequency as 6 months, 1 year, 5 years ago? If so, why is there no fruit/growth/progress in these areas of sin if you've recognized it as such - you did say not bearing fruit should be a bother? Are you not a hypocrite; what would distinguish a hypocrite from a non-hypocrite if not?

L P Cruz said...

Hi Dude,

but what of ourselves

right on, this is what I am getting at, we can only evaluate ourselves and even at that we are not even able to discern perfectly but again trust God - St Paul said something about this.
1 Cor 4:4.

You think it is useful to examine oneself for spiritual progress/growth in holiness in keeping with repentance? Can this be harmful?

This is where the pastoral ministry of the sermon using Law/Gospel helps this. From the Lutheran practice, in theory, the pastor is to give the Law to the person who is comfortable with himself, witholding the Gospel. To the one who is stricken he is to be given the Gospel, so that he may have faith. So this is not necessarily harmful, in fact the Law should do just that - make you turn to yourself and lets you see how ugly you are.

The truth for me is that JBFA is the only one that truly brings sanctification because JBFA brings true justification.

No one can ever keep the law perfectly or be completely free of corruption on this side, but do you believe one should always be progressing nevertheless - so a year from now, you should not still be stagnant or worse?


This is hard to quantify but this is what I read Luthers thinks along this line: the progress in sanctification is marked by more and more realizing how wicked a sinner we are and how desperately we need the Gospel. In short we are to come again and again to the conclusion - oh who shall save me from this valley of death! The cry of St Paul in Rom 7. To him this is progressive sanctification if my impressions are correct.

Progressive sanctification that is quantified can lead to self-righteous pride. There is sanctification but we are not able to quantify this, but in Luther he focuses on the realization at the core that we are wicked more and more - ie we should be saying to Jesus what Peter said to me -- Lord, get away from me for I AM A SINFUL MAN, remember that scene?

s it wrong to *consciously* work at growing in holiness?

Absolutely NOT. In fact Dude, I see that as fruit of genuine repentance. The desire not to be failing though failing is a sign the HS is working on us, we wish to be different and long for that to be a reality.

Is it wrong/worthless to carry out some particular acts out of obedience somewhat begrudgingly or unwillingly, even though it stems from the free and voluntary desire to obey; or does that sinful attitude behind the immediate act negate both its value and the "pure" intent behind the desire to obey?


NO, not wrong at all. We are a mixture of sinner and saint, we are to do things that are right whether we have good feelings about it or not. No matter what our motives are to do the right thing is still what God requires. Even if we are doing it as a duty should be allowed because it is right and true and what God desires. Let me give an example, do you remember the 2 brothers in Jesus' parable, how one said, I won't go to the field but eventually went?

In fact sometimes when we do what our flesh does not want to do, we are denying ourselves and carrying our crosses too. So being conscious of doing what we believe is right (though indeed sometimes we are not) is acceptable because we are both sinner/saint at the same time.


but do you sleep in on the weekends or do your own thing while your neighbors in your street/block/city suffer spiritually, emotionally, and physically whom you could actively seek out?

I see your point but as you know Lutherans believe too that their wives, parents, children, brothers/sisters are also their neighbors too! In fact, God wants us to look at our neighbor that is in front of us!

I wish I could tell you of my grandmother who helped raised me. She is my hero because I saw in her the self sacrifice and service to me. She never had a good life but spent all that she had in service to me and my family.

God has given me a neighbor that hold me accountable above all as to what I do or serve, that is my spouse.

For you at this time if you are single it would be your parents.

It is interesting but I have observed too like others that God puts us in relationships and holds us accountable in that relationship.

We do not have to go out in the streets just right in church, you have people in need already. I can tell you how sometimes in church this is quite hard to do specially when you see folk in church that are cold and not as friendly. Just there Jesus is giving us opportunity to give grace etc.

Are you not a hypocrite; what would distinguish a hypocrite from a non-hypocrite if not?


Indeed I could be and so I look to the means of grace to use them constantly so that they might lead me to Christ for justification and also lead me to genuine sanctification.


To be like Jesus is what a Christian likes to be, this is desire is involved in our repentance and faith, I believe.

LPC

Lucian said...

This threw my sister-in-law into a confusing spin.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Protestantism!