What We Believe

Good Morning! We’re glad to be back and hope you are all doing well! Patricia and I were talking the other night about some of what is in this message and she told me not to put you to sleep! Not to just read what I wrote. And not to bore you with a lot of history you really aren’t interested in. I told her that I tried to put information in my sermons that people can use like bricks in building their wall of faith. She told me in no uncertain terms that the mortar holding those bricks together has to be the love I have for Christ and my brothers and sisters in His Church! She has lots of good advise, even on those rare occasions when I am reluctant to listen to it! I live by this axiom: the more you KNOW, the less you can be SNOWED! And I believe that knowing my Lord and Savior and His expectations, should be top of the list of things I do NOT want to be WRONG ABOUT! So, Please forgive me if I share details of some of the bricks in my own wall of faith that at this moment in time may seem irrelevant to you. NOW here we go! The last time I asked if you would try to stop a bus that you knew was bound for disaster. Now that you’ve had time to consider what you might do, let’s go a little deeper. That question sort of assumed a group of people you didn’t know. People to whom you had no PERSONAL connection. What if that bus only had a driver? Would that make a difference in the amount of effort you would exert or risk you might take? But what if that driver was your child or grandchild? What then? And what if that bus was full of all their family, children and grandchildren? How hard would you try then to get the driver to stop or change direction, to warn them of certain disaster ahead? Would it be worth making them mad for having to stop and listen? Would it be worth the RISK of making them so angry they never wanted to see you again? Would it be worth sounding like Peanuts school teacher to them? You know-bla babla babla bla bla? What if God heard your words and your prayers for them and at some point in His own good time, in spite of their reaction to YOU, extended His Grace and Mercy to them; Brought them to Christ and gave them ears to hear HIS TRUTH? Would it be worth it then? Remember Saint Augustine’s mother? She prayed for 40 years and never saw his conversion. But God ANSWERED her prayers in His own perfect timing. Is seeing your prayer answered more important than the prayer itself? Is temporary peace more important than bringing the TRUTH to those you care about or maybe even someone you don’t know at all? Is your faith ONLY in what you can or WILL SEE?

Today lets think about that PERSONAL connection. Last time I brought up the idea that we Christians are called to have a PERSONAL relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. What might that look like? I didn’t grow up in a family that went to church. Not that they didn’t have Christian VALUES, they did. But going to church was not high on the TO DO list. Dad’s parents didn’t go and mom’s parents were pretty devout Roman Catholic. So if we went to church it was to Mass and my religious education was one summer of Catholic Catechism classes. The Nuns had rulers and did not hesitate to USE them on the unruly 7-8 year olds who would rather be somewhere else!

Now this isn’t catechism class and I don’t have a ruler to get your attention. Last time we talked about MTD and the effect that doctrine has had on Christians and Christianity. We considered trying to heal our consciences and return to a truly responsible use of our FREEDOM. Freedom is the UNFETTERED ability to do THAT WHICH WE OUGHT to do! That which we OUGHT to DO! When I say unfettered ability, I mean Christians are free to do anything and everything AGAINST WHICH there is no LAW! We are 100% free to exercise the FRUIT of the Spirit! Galatians 5:22-23 says: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

You know its a lot easier to stand up here and bemoan the sorry state of the church and lack of Biblical knowledge in it, than it is to try to explain how and why Jesus, Who perfectly manifested the fruit of the Spirit, made a WHIP of cords and DROVE the money changers OUT of the Temple, turned over their tables, scattered their stuff, without shame or sin He drove them out! His house, He said, was to be a house of PRAYER but they had made it a den of THIEVES! Now, Meekness is not weakness, it is POWER under CONTROL! You do know that where this took place was in the outer court of the Temple which was supposed to be a place for the Gentiles to come, pray, seek the LORD, but those in charge of the Temple turned it over to merchants who sold sacrificial animals to Jewish pilgrims who were coming from all across the Middle East to do their sacrifice. The money changers exchanged their money for TEMPLE COINS at whatever exchange rate they saw fit to buy those animals. They left no room for Gentile proselytes at all. SHOULD we Christians, who are to exemplify a PERSONAL relationship with Jesus Christ, hold ourselves and our leadership accountable to preserve, protect, and DEFEND the TRUTH of GOD in how we conduct ourselves and our WORSHIP? Now we invite EVERYONE in. We don’t sell access. Quite the opposite! We seem to be under the impression that God’s Grace and Mercy are available at NO COST! Meaning it requires no change! Come as you are, stay as you are. Religion and life are separate realms! How settled is your faith? How certain are you that what you believe, is what God says we OUGHT to believe? Well let’s look at Southern Baptist history and see just how certain the SBC leadership has been over time. You are probably aware that the Southern Baptists became a denomination in 1845. That’s about 12 years after the American Baptists decided that the London Confession of 1689 needed to be abandoned and produced the New Hampshire Confession of 1833. When the Southern Baptist split came, they opened their own seminary and its statement of faith was the Abstract of Principles published by James Boyce, the first president of Southern Seminary, and was adequate, although ignored by the SECOND president of Southern Seminary. Ignored, beginning about 1899 with E.Y. Mullins, and the rest of SBC leadership until 1925 when, Mullins, then president of the SBC, decided it was time for a NEW statement of faith and the BFM, the Baptist Faith and Message was put forth as the Southern Baptist’s statement of faith. Bare in mind Boyce’s Abstract of Principles was NOT based on the New Hampshire Confession. It was based on the 1689 London Confession. The 1925 BFM was updated in 1963, 1998 and again in 2000. But all those updates retained the preamble that the 1925 committee wrote when they produced the original BFM, basically a return to the 1833. Some of you may have read bits and pieces of the BFM if you thought it necessary. Few have really looked at it closely. I was ordained an Southern Baptist minister at Central Baptist Church of Coffeyville, Kansas, about 16 years ago. So I am not an outsider looking to undermine anything. What today’s message is about is to affirm some of what that Barna study said and hopefully help you see that this is NOT some new trend. MTD has its roots clear back in the cooling off of the Second Great Awakening, after the War of 1812! As I have said before, Christian history and theological ‘rediscovery’ is NOT just found in the last 50 or 100 years. We have 2000 years of history. Two thousand years of church leadership sometimes taking us down the WRONG path and sometimes taking us back toward righteousness and correct belief. That said, I’d like you to hear part of the introduction to the 1689 London Confession.

  ‘I have thought it right to reprint in a cheap form this excellent list of doctrines, which were subscribed to by the Baptist Ministers in the year 1689.  We need a banner because of the truth; it may be that this small volume may aid the cause of the glorious gospel by testifying plainly what are its leading doctrines . . . May the Lord soon restore unto His Zion a pure language, and may her watchmen see eye to eye.’  So wrote the young C.H. Spurgeon, then in the second year of his ministry at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, in a preface addressed to All the Household of Faith, who rejoice in the glorious doctrines of Free Grace with which he prefixed this Confession when he published it in October, 1855. … ‘This little volume,’ he wrote, ‘is not issued as an authoritative rule, or code of faith, whereby you are to be fettered, but as an assistance to you in controversy, a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness.  Here the younger members of our church will have a body of divinity in small compass, and by means of the scriptural proofs, will be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them. … This is something that, according to Barna, very few Christians today seem willing or able to do! To continue: Be not ashamed of your faith; remember it is the ancient gospel of the martyrs, confessors, reformers, and saints.  Above all, it is the truth of God, against which all the gates of Hell cannot prevail.  Let your lives adorn your faith, let your example adorn your creed. Here is the closing statement of this forward.

A preface to the original publication of 1677 says in part: “. . . It is now many years since diverse of us . . . did conceive ourselves under a necessity of publishing a Confession of our Faith, for the information and satisfaction of those that did not thoroughly understand what our principles were, or had entertained prejudices against our profession . . . This was first put forth about the year 1643, in the  name of seven congregations then gathered in London . . .”  (These early Baptists were conscious that the 1644 Calvinistic Baptist Confession predated the 1646 Presbyterian Confession and the 1658 Congregationalist Confession).      “Forasmuch as this confession is not now commonly to be had; and also that many others have since embraced the same truth which is owned therein; it was judged necessary by us to join together in giving a testimony to the world of our firm adhering to those wholesome principles . . .”

I say again ‘giving a testimony to the world of our firm adhering to those wholesome principles.’ This was written by a young CH Spurgeon when he REPUBLISHED the 1689 Confession in 1855! Over 2 CENTURIES after the initial publication of the articles of faith listed in that Confession.

Remember the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation was in 2017! Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses to the Whittenberg Chapel door in 1517 launching the Protestant Reformation. He was not trying to split the church, he was trying to bring them back to BIBLICAL reality! The pope did not see it that way and the rest is history! So little more than a century after Luther’s Protest, the Protestant movement was in full swing and Confessions of Faith were a THING! They posted for the world to see, those principles of the Christian faith which were MOST ASSUREDLY believed among us. Principles by which most lived and MANY DIED!

Fast forward to 2000 and the Preamble to the third iteration of the BFM since 1925: Throughout our history we have been a confessional people, adopting statements of faith as a witness to our beliefs and a pledge of our faithfulness to the doctrines revealed in Holy Scripture. Our confessions of faith are rooted in historical precedent, as the church in every age has been called upon to define and defend its beliefs. Each generation of Christians bears the responsibility of guarding the treasury of truth that has been entrusted to us [2 Timothy 1:14]. Facing a new century, Southern Baptists must meet the demands and duties of the present hour. New challenges to faith appear in every age. A pervasive anti-supernaturalism in the culture was answered by Southern Baptists in 1925, when the Baptist Faith and Message was first adopted by this Convention. In 1963, Southern Baptists responded to assaults upon the authority and truthfulness of the Bible by adopting revisions to the Baptist Faith and Message. The Convention added an article on “The Family” in 1998, thus answering cultural confusion with the clear teachings of Scripture. Now, faced with a culture hostile to the very notion of truth, this generation of Baptists must claim anew the eternal truths of the Christian faith. With the 1963 committee, we have been guided in our work by the 1925 “statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life . . . .” It is, therefore, quoted in full as a part of this report to the Convention:

There are 18 chapters in the current BFM. There were 32 chapters in the 1689. If each generation is faced with new challenges to our faith why is the confession shrinking topically? If the BFM is so historically oriented why would the authors base the BFM on the New Hampshire Confession instead of on the Abstract of Principles or the 1689 Confession, NONE of which is even mentioned as historical reference? If you take the time to look at them, you will quickly realize that the 1833 looks more like a High School term paper effort when compared to the 1689. Of course that’s my opinion, you are free to check for yourselves. Its all online free to anyone, just google them. Now the real problem I have here is that even though I believe the 1833 and BFM are simplistic and not very comprehensive, the 5 statements quoted from the 1925, really need examination. Remember the authors of the original BFM made these five statements about the NATURE and FUNCTION of confessions of faith, and the subsequent updates made very sure that these statements, while NOT items of the confession itself, directly indicate the VALUE the committee placed on confessions of faith in our RELIGIOUS and denominational life. Statement One says:

  1. That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people. Notice there is no reference to TRUTHFULNESS or TRUTH? They constitute a consensus of opinion on what the Bible says about a particular topic. They site proof texts to support their opinion. Consensus of opinion is an important way to leave room for doubt to anyone trying to wiggle out from under the TRUTH of an assertion. If I say ‘I am staking my life on the truth that Jesus Christ died for my sins!’ Does me saying the consensus of opinion is that Jesus Christ died for sinners really carry the same sense of commitment? Statement Two says:
  2. That we do not regard them as having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

Hence the lack of any sense of COMMITTMENT! Oh, I get maybe not being complete BUT, Having no quality of finality or infallibility? Isn’t this supposed to be a group of statements about Who we worship and how we are supposed to carry out that worship, what He expects of us, what He has DONE FOR us, and WHY we believe them to be TRUE? How can a statement of FAITH NOT have SOME quality of AT LEAST finality if NOT infallibility. AND if the source of these beliefs IS the Holy Scripture and theologians for 2000 years have agreed on what the INFALLIBLE Word of God is saying, how much closer to infallible can we hope to GET? This statement goes on to say we should hold ourselves FREE to revise our statements of faith whenever it seems wise AND EXPEDIENT to do so! Just for reference, when would it SEEM wise and expedient to change your declaration of things you MOST SURELY BELIEVE? Would it be when a gun is to your head? NO? How about when a family member utterly denies God’s TRUTH about SIN? How about when a loved one is in agony and God seems nowhere to be found? Would it seem at very least expedient then? Confessional shoes are just too tight! Confessions get rewritten or just pitched and churches are a LONG way from full now-a-days! Statement Three says:

  1. That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so. My question here is, if a congregation decides to publish their own confession, would they still be Baptists? What are the distinctives of the Baptist faith if they are not contained in the Baptist Confession, the BFM? Or is it that they don’t care what you say you believe as long as you keep contributing to the Cooperative Program? I guess that’s a pretty cynical thought on my part. How have they shown me to be wrong? Statement four says: (4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

Question: IF This Confession has no AUTHORITY over the CONSCIENCE, is only the result of a consensus opinion, is only a guide in interpretation, having no quality of finality or infallibility, which we not only can, but SHOULD feel free to change anytime it seems wise and expedient to do so, what kind of faith in the AUTHORITY of the holy scriptures is the leadership demonstrating? Or maybe its their lack of any confidence at all in God’s clarity in revealing exactly what He wants us to be certain OF! And finally statement five says:

  1. That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.

Are religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures somehow different from any other convictions we might have ? They are telling me that religious convictions are NOT to hamper freedom of thought or INVESTIGATION in OTHER REALMS OF LIFE? Just WHAT Religious CONVICTION should FAIL to hamper openly SINFUL thinking OR ACTIVITY? And MOST mind numbing in statement five is that convictions DRAWN FROM SCRIPTURE are NOT to hamper our investigation into OTHER REALMS OF LIFE! NOW, remember what Spurgeon said the purpose of the Confession was? And now that you have heard these statements, do you believe they REALLY reflect the the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith? Leadership sure seems to! Last time I talked about MTD, moralistic, therapeutic, deism and how moralism is supposed to make us better people, and therapy teaches us to be happy, and how deism teaches that God is hands off. He created us but now we’re pretty much on our own! Talked about how you don’t look for MTD churches, you find MTD doctrine being spoon fed from the Pulpits of all KINDS of churches because over three quarters of seminary graduates are UNBELIEVERS no matter what kind of church they claim to SERVE! Renewing OUR minds REQUIRES that we THINK both deeply AND OBJECTIVELY. The TRUTH is that Paul said we are to hold EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE! If that’s not a Christian attempting to HAMPER their freedom of thought I don’t know what is! And WHY would we want to do that? Because there ARE only two realms of life in this world to be investigated: ONE is the world, the flesh, and the devil, where we contemplate SIN and TEMPORARY life, and the other is in the fruit of the SPIRIT where we contemplate ETERNAL LIFE and act upon what GOD expects of us IN THIS ONE! We are to WALK in the Spirit! How do we do that? Where do we find out HOW? Well, How did Jesus, our perfect example of walking in the Spirit do it when he was in the wilderness and tempted of the Devil? To EACH AND EVERY temptation He answered it with IT IS WRITTEN! If we hold ourselves free of the SPIRIT so we can investigate the realm of SIN, just exactly how is that walking in the SPIRIT? When we meet JESUS and tell Him all the great works we have done, will He say ‘well done’? Or will He say ‘I never knew you!’? Well, if I have to tell the Lord Jesus Christ just what I have done in His NAME? He obviously NEVER KNEW me! Otherwise He would be thanking me before I could even open my mouth! TWO realms! Which will YOU pursue? SBC leadership has written down a bunch of high sounding principles with scriptural proof texts, but they PREFACED these principles with a complete dismissal of their worth! Will you be led down the wide road of MTD, fake-Christian doctrine? Or will you become a disciple, a disciplined learner so that EVERY time the world the flesh and the devil in the person of unbelieving church leadership, OR ANYONE ELSE, tries to deceive you or you are tempted by wanting peace with the WORLD or even an unbelieving loved one, you can answer with God’s Word and ask which realm will this peace lead into! If you have come forward in church and professed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you’ve done well. Have you asked friends and family to do the same? Can you give REASON for the HOPE that lies within you? Is your confession a hill worth dying on? Or is it something to be abandoned when it seems wise and expedient to do so? We are SOJOURNERS in this world. Pilgrims, NOT CITIZENS. We must NOT hold our FAITH captive to the world! Hear, oh heavens, and give ear, for the Lord has spoken. Challenges to our faith are guaranteed! Claiming Jesus is one thing. OBEYING Him is quite another! Presenting ourselves to be used of Him IS our REASONABLE SERVICE! That is true worship. Knowing the difference between being used of Jesus and being a PAWN OF THIS WORLD used by IT is the CROSS we must pick up and carry if we are to follow HIM! Is that cross made of moralism or Truth?  Which is ultimately more painful to fallen man?  And wasn’t that the purpose of the Roman cross in Christ’s example? God’s power and great glory shine all around us but His wisdom can ONLY be found in the pages of His special revelation to us: The Bible, where IT IS WRITTEN! If you have not done it before, now is the time to make YOUR public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. His promise to us is that if we do, He will profess us before the Father. This is the promise of the Son of GOD, and His promise will never be undone. Begin your walk with Him today. We’ll have a Hymn of Invitation and then a closing prayer. Most Gracious Lord we thank you for this opportunity to consider Your mercy and the love you so generously show to us even when we fail you even when we are lazy and weak. We ask again for your aid in putting on YOUR whole armor so we may STAND against the wiles and deception of the world. Please keep us on the NARROW path to YOUR Glory. Lord I pray that I have not brought bricks today without the mortar of Christian Love to bind them. Its in Your Name for your glory we pray AMEN! Thank you for having me back and have a blessed week. Hope to see you again soon.

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