Fundamentalist, Baptist, yet seemingly Graceless churches. What to make of them?

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BDB

Puritan Board Freshman
Greetings,

I apologize in advance for such a long post. I didn't intend to be so lengthy.

Anyhow, I find myself in a hard place. I grew up in fundamentalist, baptist churches and never once in 15+ years of preaching and teaching did I ever hear any of the doctrines of grace mentioned in the least. I've still never heard an actual preacher in the flesh even assent to them in passing-- only pastors/writers via the internet, or old Puritan books.

Now that I understand (in part) the grace of Christ, what ought I to make of such churches? I am surrounded by them, and nothing but.

I often read discussions in which Christians caution, "You cannot say something is heretical just because it contains a measure of error." I agree with that, but I don't know what to think. I go to church week after week and I hear the pastor preach a Jesus that can't do anything, or already did everything he could 2000 years ago and left the rest up to my decisions. My decisions got me nowhere for 20+ years and they still don't, not without Christ in me. They hold to the "fundamentals of the faith" like the Trinity, Deity of Christ, virgin birth, inerrancy of Scripture, and justification by faith alone, but there's not a whiff of grace in it as far as I can tell now that I know what grace smells like.

They have Justification by Faith but then preach sermon after sermon that, to me, sounds like Faith without the need for Grace. What I hear most often translates to this: faith equals accepting historical facts, and you just need a persuasive enough argument.

They all hastily affirm that we are all sinners, all deserve hell, cannot be saved by works, it's by Christ alone... but then Christ doesn't do anything! I have heard every paraphrase of "God has done everything He can do for you." They say God is sovereign in the fine print, but preach day after day that He never gets His way. It is all, "Accept Jesus into your heart," or "Make him Lord of your life." I've never heard a sermon that says we sinners are helpless... there's always something left to do to try to get God to have to save you or give you assurance.

They baptize by immersion and say communion is just an ordinance. Which is great and true, I believe. But I've never heard a sermon on accomplished redemption, election, reprobation, inability, or any of the other "Calvinisms" that I hear some people say are just peripheral to the gospel. "Just accept Jesus." They employ altar calls and all manner of tactics to get people to make professions of faith (close your eyes, raise your hands) and all sorts of stuff like that. I don't know if every church does that, but I've never been to one that doesn't.

I honestly just don't see how even half of it lines up with how things are set forth in the Scripture.

Not ranting or trying to cause debate, just hoping for a bit of help.

Lately I've been reading a lot of John Gill, Edwards, John Owen, and the like, and from all accounts I guess you might call me a High Calvinist, whatever that is. But my entire family, my wife to an extent, and every friend I have that names the name of Christ all staunchly believe in free-will, regeneration by decision, sanctification by willpower (you might call it), and worst of all I think, the death of Christ that doesn't necessarily do anything. They naturally think it quite crazy when I mention I believe God orders all things and that God decided to save me before I did.

I was in darkness for years because I knew I couldn't save myself, but yet I thought I could do something to make God save me-- go into heaven to bring Christ down, perhaps, or I thought I needed to (or could) make him come to my house (proverbially, like the Jew) to do a miracle for me. However, I thank God now that he brought me to love the truths I once hated, and Kiss the Son, as it were.

But I still feel quite alone (in terms of human companionship), despite that I am surrounded by everything called Christian, and I cant shake the nagging feeling that, as one song goes, "they must know a different Jesus than we do."

Thanks for reading, and for responding with your thoughts.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
Ben, I can sympathize with your situation. I myself was saved and baptized in a Free-Will Baptist Church in Maryland when I was 16. The pastor had altar calls every Sunday, and they always played multiple stanzas of "Just As I Am".

I left the church when I went off to college in Florida, and I have not been back there since. Up until I was about 24 years old I was a staunch Arminian. I believed in man's free-will and that one could truly lose their salvation.

When I was stationed in Abilene, TX, I started attending a bible study by one of the chaplains. He was reformed, and he and I had some very long discussions as we walked through Paul's letter to the Romans. Eventually, after spending a considerable amount of time studying God's word (as well as reformed authors such as Calvin and Edwards), I came to the realization that my theology was very wrong. I abandoned Arminianism, and embraced Calvinism. Of course, no one in my family ever heard of Calvinism, and so even to this day it is hard to communicate the tenets of Calvinism to those who hold steadfast to man's libertarian free-will.

Even so, I would like to point out that my conversion was genuine, despite the fact that it was in a Free-Will Baptist Church. Ultimately we Christians are responsible for trying to communicate the gospel as correctly and accurately as we can. Yet even if a church is teaching flawed theology, this does not prevent God from drawing his people to himself through the basic proclamation of the gospel. The church that I was saved in did indeed preach 'fire' and 'brimstone'. The pastor continuously highlighted the sinfulness of man and the need for Christ. At its core this is the gospel. Beyond that our pastor deviated from the Scripture's view of man's will and God's sovereignty. Of course, since every church service involved an altar call, the message never really reached into any theological depth. The congregation never moved from 'milk' to 'meat'.

Anyways, feel free to message me if you wish to talk about our various paths from Arminianism to Calvinism. I know what it feels like to feel theologically 'alone' when it comes to spending time with my family, who are all Arminian in their theology. Of course, I don't see them very often, since I am stationed in Las Vegas. But when I do see them I always try to explain the doctrines of Calvinism to them. On a good note, I feel that I am making progress slowly but surely. Do I think that they are genuinely saved? In the case of some, yes. But whenever I feel discouraged or frustrated, I always try to remember that even when I was an Arminian, I truly was a Christian, despite the fact that my theology was very flawed. I just continue to pray that God, in his sovereignty, will guide my family into all truth concerning who he is and what he accomplishes.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
While I have no background in independent fundamentalism, I have noticed similar things among some Southern Baptists and others. Even when the ministry does not employ gimmicks in the most outrageous ways, it can be rare to come across a clear preaching of the gospel. Either it is easy believism or a message about "Following Jesus" that doesn't explain what that means. The hearers too often probably think it equates to "try harder" even if that's not exactly what the preacher means. Too often the gospel is assumed and is not spelled out clearly, even in cases when the pastor is basically sound with regard to sola fide.

Many are confused about the operation of grace, the divine initiative, etc. and are essentially Semi-Pelagian. (Thus a great many so-called "Arminian" Baptists are anything but Arminian. Instead, they are sub-Arminian.) In Baptist circles I think this is basically due to error being perpetuated for about 100 years (often due to a lack of thorough teaching) with an emphasis on "soul-winning" and little else besides the usual list of don'ts.
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
I have many friends who came out of the John R Rice tradition of Free Will, Fundamentalist, Baptists. Over time and study many have come to treasure the doctrines of grace. May God show you how to graciously reach out to your friends and kinsmen with the truth of God's sovereignty.
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
It's wonderful to hear of others who struggle. Blessings on you as you work through this.
 

BDB

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you all for the responses.

Loopie, thank you. I don't think the Gospel I understand is preached in such churches. Half of me wants to find a softer way to say that just because it hurts to say it. Yes, they highlight the sinfulness of man and the need for Christ but that is not the gospel I understand. The mormons and the catholics and the jehovahs witnesses would assert the sinfulness of man and the need for "Christ" too, if I am not mistaken.

I used to believe and insist I was the ultimate determining factor in salvation-- looking back, I don't see how one who sincerely thinks that knows Christ. It's not that I hadn't heard the true doctrine clarified-- I had, via sermons posted online, and hated it. To me, that seems to truly insist that Jesus is not Lord, which is part of the confession of true faith. Interestingly, that was another hurdle which I had to overcome: I was absolutely unwilling to confess that my childhood "conversion" was a sham. I kept holding on to the profession. I wanted to affirm that I had always been a Christian, even though the terms had changed completely. I did this, of course, just to save face with family and in my own conscience, and not have to admit my shame and falseness to God.

So it is rather difficult. To me, what they preach seems a form of godliness that denies the power thereof. From what I have come to understand, it seems their doctrine, in the final conclusion, boiled down to the essence, makes the death of Christ of none effect.

I do not know how to reckon people fellow saints who not only disagree, but disagree as though I am a slightly eccentric, poorly deceived, or over-particular nut at best, or on the verge of another religion at worst, when I testify that Christ by his death really secured my redemption and left nothing to chance.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you all for the responses.

Loopie, thank you. I don't think the Gospel I understand is preached in such churches. Half of me wants to find a softer way to say that just because it hurts to say it. Yes, they highlight the sinfulness of man and the need for Christ but that is not the gospel I understand. The mormons and the catholics and the jehovahs witnesses would assert the sinfulness of man and the need for "Christ" too, if I am not mistaken.

I used to believe and insist I was the ultimate determining factor in salvation-- looking back, I don't see how one who sincerely thinks that knows Christ. It's not that I hadn't heard the true doctrine clarified-- I had, via sermons posted online, and hated it. To me, that seems to truly insist that Jesus is not Lord, which is part of the confession of true faith. Interestingly, that was another hurdle which I had to overcome: I was absolutely unwilling to confess that my childhood "conversion" was a sham. I kept holding on to the profession. I wanted to affirm that I had always been a Christian, even though the terms had changed completely. I did this, of course, just to save face with family and in my own conscience, and not have to admit my shame and falseness to God.

So it is rather difficult. To me, what they preach seems a form of godliness that denies the power thereof. From what I have come to understand, it seems their doctrine, in the final conclusion, boiled down to the essence, makes the death of Christ of none effect.

I do not know how to reckon people fellow saints who not only disagree, but disagree as though I am a slightly eccentric, poorly deceived, or over-particular nut at best, or on the verge of another religion at worst, when I testify that Christ by his death really secured my redemption and left nothing to chance.

I completely understand how you feel. Knowing what the essentials of the gospel are is not always easy. One passage of Scripture that comes to mind is the following:

Romans 10:8-10 (NASB)
8 But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

Now this is not saying that repeating a certain prayer will get you saved. No, ultimately one must confess and believe that BOTH Jesus is Lord AND God raised him from the dead. Of course, the term 'Lord' connects back to the Tetragrammaton of the Old Testament. What this means to me is that a person must believe and affirm that Jesus is God. He is fully God and fully man, and the Lord over all of creation. It also means that he has eternally existed, which rules out the possibility that Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have the gospel. At its core I believe that this is the gospel, and that whoever believes and confesses these things will be saved.

With that in mind, I do believe that many Arminians are saved, and that many Arminian churches DO preach the gospel. They believe Jesus is God, that he is the second person of the Trinity, that he has eternally existed, that he is fully man and fully God, and that he died and rose again from the dead. That is the most basic form of the gospel. But I ALSO believe that many Arminian churches stop being biblical at that point, and from there they move into error.

In the end, many Arminians are simply inconsistent with their own theology. They believe in so-called 'free-will' yet they do pray for people to be converted and for God to change their hearts (which is a very sovereign act). They believe that Jesus is Lord over all of creation, yet they inconsistently make man's will more 'powerful' or 'pre-eminent' over God's will. They believe in God's absolute foreknowledge, and that he knows all things from eternity past, but they cannot consistently show how this could be the case unless God has decreed and ordained all things that take place in time.

It is for this reason that you ought to view someone as an errant brother or sister in the Lord if they are an Arminian but truly do give a credible profession of faith. As I said, I know for a fact that I was saved at age 16, even though I believed that I could honestly lose my salvation and that I had libertarian free-will. Again, it is not so much that I denied that God could be sovereign. It is that I could not seem to reconcile God's sovereignty with my assumed free will. My assumptions were wrong, and it took several years before I finally cast them aside. I was inconsistent in my theology and in my practice as a Christian. I prayed for people, and I prayed for my unbelieving friends, even though I was an Arminian.

With that said, one of the best things to do when talking with Arminians is to point out those inconsistencies. Help them to see that even though they believe and confess that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, they are inconsistent in their theology and practice. They are also completely going against the testimony of Scripture once they go beyond the most fundamental aspect of the gospel.

Now it is possible that some Arminian churches have gone so far as to actually no longer be preaching the gospel in its most fundamental form. That you will have to judge for yourself. But ultimately, you must show as much patience as possible, while not compromising the truth. When you talk to an Arminian, figure out first what you agree upon, and then from there work towards what you disagree upon. At each point of disagreement try to figure out why disagreement exists. From there, use Scripture (as well as their own practice) to point out that they are acting inconsistently, and that they are deviating from God's word. You might be able to help some see the truth, while others will continue in their error. That is all in God's hands, but it is important to not let anger and frustration cause you to burn bridges. Remember, you yourself were once an Arminian, and your journey to Calvinism was not easy, and probably didn't happen in one day.
 
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BDB

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you for the response,

I understand why you say you believe Arminians are saved and I once insisted I myself was saved before I came to a knowledge of grace. Now, i've never met someone that calls themself an Arminian so I can only go based on what the churches around me and in which I grew up preach (or more importantly, dont preach)

They preach

-the deity of Christ
-the prophecy of messiah
-the virgin birth
-that Jesus is the foretold Messiah
-that he fulfilled "prophecy" (which, i dont know. they deny it later)
-that he died and rose again
-that he ascended

but then they deny the scriptures that give us detailed information as to what He did

they do not preach:

-that he obtained eternal redemption by his death
-that he died in the place of his people
-that his soul was made an offering for sin
-that it pleased the Lord to bruise him
-that he rose for our justification
-that he has a people (making redemption for them impossible, as they do not exist)
-that he saves by special grace
-that he, having been lifted up, draws all to himself
- and so on, and so forth

Now I do not know (perhaps you can help me) how believing in the deity, death and resurrection of a man called Jesus who did nothing of the above, can equal gospel saving faith, when the gospel lies in the very above. Are we saved by a faith in His attributes only, or Him Himself?

I often hear people say, "They deny certain things openly, but they do secretly pray to God to save people, and that is close enough. they mean the same thing, but are just inconsistent." I am not so sure. Roman Catholics pray for God and Christ the Lord to save them, but then work for heaven. Are they inconsistent, or rather are they unbelieving?

Those with whom I am familiar, pray for God and Christ the Lord to save them, but then labor to attain justification by a faith they themselves confess to be self-made (as opposed to that of grace), and which when compared with gospel faith, appears to be not faith in the Redeemer of Scripture but rather just an assent to some historical facts about a god-man. Are they just inconsistent, or rather are they unbelieving?



I so wish that I, with you, could say the former. But how can I?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
It's helpful to think of this whole matter in the broader perspective.

--not all Reformed people are actually Christians
--not all Presbyterians are actually Christians
--not all Baptists are actually Christians
--not all Methodists are actually Christians
--not all Lutherans are actually Christians
--not all... you name the denomination or grouping

These sentences are relatively easy to admit. Even if you or I are one or another of these groups, usually we grant that other churches besides ours contain believers. Although our friends identify with another church--even one with opposing doctrines to ours--each congregation of all these types of churches (in which there may be several independent churches/denominations, all having varying fidelity to core truth) is a mixed body. They all contain Christians and non-Christians of the heart-variety. And they have doctrinal commitments that are more-or-less pure. Some of them can be quite cracked, sadly.

That is the case in the BEST of churches, with the best doctrine-on-paper. Particular members' faith is often times WORSE than their public profession.

We can carry the above principle down the spectrum, and eventually flip the expectation around:
--not all people who have been taught confusedly through basically Arminian or papist or other dogma, actually believe and operate-in-faith according to those explanations offered to them in their churches. That is,
--not all... [you name the error-filled denomination] are unbelievers.
They believe in spite of the official doctrine of the congregation where they worship. Where, alluding to an historic instance, were most Christians to be found in the error-plagued Medieval RomanCatholic religious world? Did they not believe despite what their leaders taught them? Their spirituality must have been tragically stunted, due to the near-absence of the Word of God. But God still kept a remnant alive.

This is not an endorsement of universalism, nor of doctrinal indifference. The tragic fact is that false and heretical preaching does not have the Spirit's promise to accompany it with saving effect as does pure preaching. But it is also undeniable that anywhere the Word is present (and often the bare Word is at least read in many error-filled churches) the sovereign Spirit may be pleased to use that means to convert a sinner to himself; he PROMISES to make use of his own declared means!

We are all weak and stumble in our theology, and the Spirit overcomes our weaknesses and limitations. But genuine submission to the Word means that the gospel promises of that Word will have a blessed effect, because it so pleases the Spirit to work with it. He blows where he wills, and he wills to blow where the Word is proclaimed. And it is natural to look for a greater effect from his work where the gospel is proclaimed in purity than in places where it is proclaimed obscurely. We shouldn't expect there to be lots of true believers in places where man's work is extolled (even slyly) and Christ's excellences are lowered.

But people's faith can be better than their church's theology (just as people's faith can be worse than their church's theology). We should not expect a situation to obtain for long wherein pure preaching and doctrine coexists with manifold unbelief, or false-teaching coexists with robust faith. Something will "go," either the ejection of a faithful minister (and following him, a remnant that craves the sincere milk of the Word); or hopefully, by the grace of God great faith will follow a faithful ministry where at first there was blindness. Or, the faithful man will "go," seeking nourishment. But many poor sheep (real sheep) languish without a clue as to where truth may be found. And many more poor sheep are devoured by the false-shepherds.

BDB,
I can only assume that you are now a sheep-on-the-move (by your signature). You crave nourishment, pure preaching. You wish you could have company on your journey, but like Christian leaving the City of Destruction, you could gather no fellow travelers. But you must follow your conscience, and leave the calling out of others to the same Spirit who called you. Christian met with good company on the Way to the Celestial City. I think you shall also find what you seek.

But you won't find a perfect church, in this world. Hopefully, prayerfully, you will find one in which there are many believers because of, rather than in spite of, the pure doctrine there.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
My pastor sometimes draws a circle and says that the center shows what all must believe to be Christian -- dogma such as believing in the trinity, the deity of Christ and his bodily birth, death, and resurrection -- then he'll draw an outer circle labeled "doctrine" which would include such things as infant baptism, predestination and so forth. While not denying the importance of this outer circle, not all Christians will hold to the same doctrinal points, but to be Christian, they must land in the central circle described in the historic creeds.

I have some experience at independent baptist churches which would openly chide anyone who held to the Biblical doctrines of grace. I found among these saints a strong believe in the scriptures and love for Christ, though we differed widely in many doctrinal points. The legalism could definitely be a problem, and I could see why you might question how someone could be a true follower of Christ with such beliefs. That would best be handled on a person-by-person basis, asking that person where her faith truly rests and digging past the canned responses. I generally found a lively faith and a zeal that makes me blush as I sit around with all my sound doctrine.

"NY" is a really large place. Perhaps if you could share your hometown we could point you toward congregations that are sympathetic to your growing understanding of the scriptures?
 

BDB

Puritan Board Freshman
Bruce,

Thank you for the exceedingly encouraging response.

I confess I am angry, yet with pity, to have spent so long being lied to from the pulpit --about the capabilities and power and sufficiency of the will of man to procure something from Christ, to make His death worth something, to make oneself live near to God out of willpower and diligence-- all assertions nevertheless labeled under "grace."

And there are perhaps some (not at the church I attend, but I know them) who do go against the grain, and confess the truth as far as I know them. And yet they are deacons and teachers under pastors who do not preach the gospel of grace nor the effectual Redeemer that I love, and further, would likely disagree that there is any major disagreement.

That is perhaps most difficult. At least, for now, there is sermonaudio.com.
 

BDB

Puritan Board Freshman
JWithnell,

Thank you for the response.

The churches around here would have the same circle, with the same factual items in them about the nature of Christ. However, there is more. All the demons know that of Christ.

Demon do not, by grace, trust in Christ for gracious redemption by the merits of His blood alone (nor can they.)

When one labels the above italicization as not of core Christianity, it is my experience that they will not ever preach grace.

This verse comes to mind, to the effect that doctrine is also core: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." I do not mean to offend, or say that directly of your pastor (whom I do not know or have ever heard) but merely to use it as an example.

Many I know also have an apparent strong love of the scriptures and a love for Christ, but the Jews too had a strong love of the scriptures and a love for the Messiah. But they refused to hear his proclamation of grace, as it humbled them, which they would not have.

I think one cannot say Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and then describe someone who does not do what the Christ of scripture has done, namely accomplishing redemption according to how the scriptures set forth. Certainly, one can say Christ is God and has come in the flesh, but if he does not save as God our Savior saves or redeem as our Redeemer redeems, one may as well call him Bob.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Ben, the Westminster Confession of Faith teaches that all churches have varying degrees of purity and error. I'd encourage you to seek what the scriptures teach and to try to find a church that is faithful to the Bible. You may feel duped by what you had been taught -- likely given with lots of great conviction, "Amen"s and "that's right"s -- and it's totally understandable why you might feel that way. But in the end you are responsible for you -- let the independent Baptists sort themselves out.
 

reaganmarsh

Puritan Board Senior
Hi Ben,

I remember feeling very angry myself as I learned the doctrines of grace and the truth of what Jesus' death was and did. I felt that I'd been lied to, that the ministers I'd grown up under were charlatans and false prophets. Perhaps that was the case. But then about 10-11 years ago, Heb 6.1-3 leapt off the page at me. It says there that we move to maturity, "if God permits."

It changed my perspective significantly to realize that God opens eyes, not only to the initial call of salvation, but also to comprehend more of the fullness of his Word. I could no longer be angry or prideful about my progress in faith. I could no longer be condescending toward my less-enlightened brothers and sisters. I could only say, "All glory to you alone, Lord, " and pray for them and reason with them from Scripture. It's the entrance of his Word that brings light and makes the simple to be wise.

All that to say, there are those of us who have walked before where you're walking now. Give much prayerful consideration to the glory and ways of God, and much prayer to him on behalf of his sheep. Many are confused and so desperately in need of a shepherd who will lead them gently, faithfully, and patiently to the Word.

I have prayed for you today. You're not alone. (I don't intend anything here as a rebuke, so I hope it doesn't sound like one! Just trying to encourage you.)

Let me also encourage you, as our sister said above, let us know what town you're in. Perhaps we may offer help in finding a new church home.

Grace to you.
 
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BDB

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks JWithnell,

I apologize if I gave the impression I thought it was my responsibility to sort out the independent baptists around me? Did something I say give that impression? I am merely commenting on the fact that there are not any gospel preaching churches near me, as I understand the gospel, and how that is a difficult thing.

I do not understand the import of your comment about the WCF-- I was not talking about purity and error, but the fact that the Trinity, Deity of Christ, bodily birth/death/resurrection thereof, in itself, without clear attestation of the accomplishments and the sigificance thereof to sinners, is not the entire gospel, and so cannot be the only core tenets of the faith. So if a church labels such as the core tenets of the faith, and other things as peripheral doctrine, they are still short the gospel.

I don't think one can say a church has error which lacks the gospel, because, if no gospel, no church... as I understand scripture to say.
 

BDB

Puritan Board Freshman
Reagan,
Thank you. I do pray for more grace and greater understanding. No rebuke taken-- thank you for such words.

I suppose my difficulty can boiled down to this:

Are they indeed my brothers who use the name of Christ, but hate grace when confronted with it, refuse to preach it, refuse to hear it, think it's crazy, think it's heresy or at best gross error, and refuse to believe that Christ's death means anything without their permission?

I do not find in Scripture any consolation as to how I may call such people "less-enlightened brothers." I greatly wish I could. It was a most painful hurdle in my acquiescence to the grace of God-- the realization that my beliefs left me with no Savior, and so I too had been a charlatan and pretender. As for any else who hold those beliefs under that preaching... what can I say? I feel as Paul in Romans 9:3. So if you can help me find such an answer, though I think it does not exist, I thank you.
 

SolamVeritatem

Puritan Board Freshman
Ben,

My appreciation to you for opening your heart and laying it bare about your experiences here on the PB. That is always hard to do, and praise God that He has given you the grace to do it.

I don't really have anything to add, other than just to express that in addition to the great advice from others, both Pastor Bruce and Eric's comments are worth the price of this whole thread. If you can, try to re-read them and work through some of the implications. There is not much, if anything, to be improved on in those statements.

I will leave you with 1 scriptural passage to wrestle with. It may not necessarily answer your question, and I do not profess to know every nuance and detail about its interpretation, but my prayer is that it will in some way give you a bit of perspective and framework with which to consider these very important issues. I won't tie up the thread, but if you'd like to know how I think this passage applies, you may PM me if yo so desire.

"I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice." (Phillipians 1:12-18, ESV)

I am praying for you, and please keep us posted on your situation as best you can.

In Him,

Craig

P.S. Eric, I express those comments about you honestly, even though your salvation is in question because you joined a lesser branch of the Armed Forces...:D :p
 

BDB

Puritan Board Freshman
Craig,

Thank you for the encouragement! I would have been obliged if you'd have shared your thoughts on the thread, but I will send you a PM.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Ben,
Pray for them, like you'd pray for anyone stuck in a system that holds forth--at best--half a Christ. Because in such a deplorable case people are likely to be taking hold of only half a Christ; which if they do is no Savior for them at all.

What we've been trying to say is that indeed, these friends of yours are surrounded by a system that by its very nature is spiritually unhealthy--because along with elements in the dish that are needful and nutritious there are harmful elements--and what is dished in their bowls is doing some number among them more harm than good. BUT, we're also saying that there are some folks that just have a knack (by grace) of swallowing the meat and spitting out the bones. They don't even think much about it, or ask why the stew is so lousy; it's all they know.

People are spiritually childish and selfish and impulsive by nature. I mean, in the physical world we all know grownups who don't think any deeper than today's job, and tonight's beer and TV. The Bible even paints such a picture of unbelievers as spiritually dead; but the illustration I'm drawing on here is of the (also biblical) picture of the virtually indistinguishable cases of the spiritually immature and the downright carnal (ala 1Cor.3).

We acknowledge that the "new birth" brings a believer into the world, and that person starts off as a child,; he should be like a child according to Jesus and Paul. But it's a pity (or worse) if one who first appears to us as a child stays a spiritual babe. It's one thing to lack the mental horsepower to gain godly wisdom and understanding. It's another to eschew growth. It's still another to be confounded by a miserable environment, not conducive to the best development.

You are as right to be concerned about the spiritual health of your friends and family as you would if they were caught in Romanism. You might be hoping for the best, and fearing the worst for them. Why? because they are in a toxic environment that YOU recognize, but they as yet do not. Sometimes plants survive in the most surprising places, but that doesn't mean that we set up the garden to be like those inhospitable places.

In your case, you may well have been lost as lost can be. Until you were rescued. You look at that desert where you were parched and lifeless, and you see other withered vegetation, and you are right to wonder "How can anything LIVE there?! I certainly couldn't." But, here and there you can see what are occasional signs of life. Opportunistic life, by the grace of God, under conditions that do not seem suitable to support it. But, there it seems to be. There, they seem to have taken hold of a whole-Christ, thanks be to God. And you wonder what that life would look like transplanted to a healthy, well watered bed, instead of this dying ground, surrounded by these unfruitful plants.

It's the Gardener's work to move them. He moved you, as far as you know a truly lifeless thing. And now you live. Perhaps, a living thing he might move and it would bloom even greater. Because where they are, they can scarcely live. You can see the struggle going on. And, we have to just admit that sometimes, for reasons he does not share with us, he does not see fit to move them.

Jesus had to deal with a body of religion that had a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof. But there were still believers within it, and they saw him for Who he was, and they became his disciples. Today, you may have come forth from a similar bunch. If you've been brought out of it, you know already it was an act of grace-in-election, and not because you could make the scales fall from your own eyes.

So pray for your friends, that they also will have soft-hearts to believe the truth, not be hardened against it. Because the harder one resists the truth, the more he resembles Pharaoh, whose hard heart God hardened, even by the same means he used to soften others.
 

BDB

Puritan Board Freshman
Bruce,

That was a beautiful post, and exceeding encouraging. Thank you. I will need to re-read it a few times. I appreciate you taking the time.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Rev. Buchanan, what you've written is absolutely beautiful and fitting! Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
P.S. Eric, I express those comments about you honestly, even though your salvation is in question because you joined a lesser branch of the Armed Forces...:D :p

I understand your concern, haha. It is always amusing to tell people that I am fighting the 'war on terror' from the comfort of...Las Vegas? But it's ok, I have a cousin in the Army, and my stepfather was in the Navy, so I am covered for now (with the exception of the Marine Corps, but that's ok), lol.
 

SolamVeritatem

Puritan Board Freshman
P.S. Eric, I express those comments about you honestly, even though your salvation is in question because you joined a lesser branch of the Armed Forces...:D :p

I understand your concern, haha. It is always amusing to tell people that I am fighting the 'war on terror' from the comfort of...Las Vegas? But it's ok, I have a cousin in the Army, and my stepfather was in the Navy, so I am covered for now (with the exception of the Marine Corps, but that's ok), lol.

All in fun brother! I'm quite certain that the USAF does something critically important, we just haven't figured out what it is yet! LOL...No, but in all seriousness, thanks for your service brother. I have to stay sharp in the representation of the Navy because both my wife's brother and her sister's husband are in the Army. I'm sure you're familiar with THAT heated, legendary rivalry. :mad: LOL...

However, I consider myself to now have the USAF covered since I have a brother in Christ that serves in that capacity!

Soli Deo Gloria,

In Him,

Craig
 
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