Tag Archives: grace

Always Reforming- Confusion, Clarity, & Controversy

We can’t help but acknowledge the seemingly prophetic words of William Tyndale, the Christian reformer, who in the mid-16th century proclaimed to the then Catholic Pope, “I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you!”

The Protestant Reformation which I believe should be properly be attributed to the glory of God, however can be traced back to the use of Jan Hus as a vessel used by God. So erupted the challenge, that the “average Christian” is called to be apart of the ‘Priesthood of Christ’ and not some religious elite. The Bible was put in the comman mands hands, and thus began the confusion. Denominationalism is what occured as many servants of God began to understand various truths contained in the Scriptures. The Reformed churches placed importance on doctrine, while the anabaptists sought to throw the government off of the people of God. The Anglicans would have their own perspective, and even some within the Catholic Church sought reform (i.e. Erasmus).

As I preached this last Sunday, it would be the God-led work of John Calvin who would seek to offer clarity in the midst of confusion. Surely the 21st century Christian Church can understand that sentiment, amen?

John Calvin which initiate a deeper look at the story of Scripture in what would come to be known as “Systematic Theology”. You can listen to my past sermon on these details by visiting the following link, http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/239650-closing-up-with-clarity-on-calvinism

Since the time of reformation, there has been plenty of controversy and disagreement within the Church. Clarity is surely not all that easy, as anyone who has discussed any topic in public, especially in our post-modern society, should know. There is always that person that will disagree, and you know what? They may have a good argument. I personally have begun a discussion with a brother named Jason Watt on an area similar to the whole John Calvin/ Jacob Arminius controversy. Jason holds to a view called “Open Theism” while I would be more in line with “Calvinism”. We both are diligent students of the Word, we both agree on many areas, however this topic, which we both deem to be pretty darn important, we find controversy. As I detail the history of this historic doctrinal controversy, I am excited to display brotherly love, humility, and respect as we deal with the details in regards to the glory of God. You can read Jason Watt’s article here, http://fulfilledfocus.blogspot.com/2015/01/conversations-with-pastor-miano.html

I follow John Calvin’s line of thinking in the regard that to even think it is possible for man to contemplate or ponder approaching the grace of God, in other words giving man the ‘choice’, is simply put “robbing God of His sovereignty”. If you go about reading John Calvin’s Commentaries of the “Providence” of God, or read through his, Institutes on the Christian Religion, you will find despite the mass confusion regarding the doctrines that follow Calvin, his goal was to defend the sovereignty of God.

In his day, due to the revolt against the Catholic doctrines of Popery and clergy, penance, as well as the very doctrines of man’s understanding of salvation, John Calvin sought to put the details in their right place- taking the false authority the Catholic Church had given to man. Instead, throughout his writings, John Calvin sought to demonstrate the ‘total depravity’ of man as revealed through the narrative of Scripture, nothing good can come from him, and all the good decisions outside of his “carnal nature” is immediately given back to God.

Why would someone want to argue this? Calvin would have simply pointed out that the “innate idolatry” ever present within man causes man to always endeavor to bring glory back to himself- therefore arguing against the very purposes and will of God.

In this article, I want to demonstrate how the Arminian Remonstrance indeed comes off in that manner.

The Arminian Remonstrance was a response to the Belgic Confession (1561) which was drawn up in 1610. The followers of Jacob Arminius, in an effort to memorialize the teachings of their leader after his death, drew up the ‘Five Arminian Articles’ in 1610, in an effort to dispute the Belgic Confession (1561). For some history, information, and a read through this Confession visit the following link, http://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions/belgic-confession

You can read these 5 Artictles themselves by visiting this link:

http://www.esvbible.org/resources/creeds-and-catechisms/article-the-five-arminian-articles-1610/

Something that seems to not come up enough in the Calvinist-Arminianist debate is that both sides believe in “election”. Election is simply the view that God has chosen some and not others. What ‘Article 1’ of the Arminian Articles does it takes the authority away from God and gives it to man. Man is the author of his salvation and God simply follows suit. If only Adam had wandered into the garden on his own….however that did not happen (see, Genesis 2:15; Hebrews 12:2).

Instead, a proper view of “predestination” as originally posited by St. Augustine, then outlined by John Calvin in his Commentaries, and furthered by Ulrich Zwingli gives all authority to God in regards to His Elect.

Much of the confusion comes from “proof texts” instead of understanding the full force of the Biblical narrative. When we open our Bibles, we are reading God reaching down and bringing clarity/order to man, not man pondering the clarity/order he so desires. Simply put, ‘total depraved’ man cannot do good, which means man cannot ponder approaching God unless God acts first. That is the narrative of Israel being drawn out through the Scriptures, being highlighted through the necessity of the Incarnation. God must do something because we simply can’t. Far too many Christians seem to be reading their Bibles from a bottom to the top mindset, putting themselves in charge, rather than top to bottom, properly recognizing the sovereignty of God.

This is exactly what John Calvin was going against. The dangers of such a system is it makes man the author of his own destiny, which understably is an exciting concept, yet again, I posit it robs God of His Rulership.

Following such logic, than robs the Elect of all that God did for them and makes what I can a “Big G God” into a little “g” god. ‘Unlimited Atonements’ means that Christ came and died for all, and we all have an opportunity to partake. This completely removes the story from the narrative of Scripture. It was Israel that needed atonement from the Law they were under. It would be the grace & faithfulness of God fulfilling the promises of intervening on Israel’s behalf that would explode to the surrounding nations and cause them to glorify Him (see, Romans chapters 9 & 15). Again the use of “proof texts” in the Arminian Articles brings much confusion.

Honestly, a simple read through the Arminian Articles should cause one to shudder at how we are putting man in control, all in an effort to give man “free will”, and taking the control that God has and is drawn out through the narrative of Scripture.

I firmly believe that is the key and am willing to walk worthy. In settling alot of these disputes, we must come from a “full gospel” perspective. In noting the harm of “proof texts”, I believe we must follow the narrative of Scripture and if we truly do not believe that God has retired or changed (see, Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6 ) then we must allow the narrative to inform our view of how it is that God works in and through our lives.

Remember this…..the carnal mind is at war with God (Romans 8:7). This is displayed through the story of Scripture, in that for no other reason than bestowing grace upon man, God has chosen to create “covenant”. He did it with Adam, yet Adam chose his own way. He did it with Israel, and Israel again chose their own way. Through Christ the opprotunity has been make known, not simply to the tribes of Jacob, but to all who are called by Him (Isaiah 49:6; John 1:13).

Recognizing the story through the narrative of Scripture, I surely do not endeavor to walk the lines of fallen Adam and judged Israel, instead recognizing the sovereigty of God and the depravity of man (innate idolatry), I would much rather not exalt my “free will” and give in to idolatry, than to attribute the proper sovereignty to the God who desveres it.

As I sum up my thoughts on the Calvinist-Arminian debate that is still ongoing to our day, I simply want to posit my presupposition that this God is to amazing and sovereign for me to even begin to ponder approaching Him, and God fobid that I think such a grace that He bestows upon man is ressistible (see, Isaiah 55:11; James 4:15) . Which therefore makes an “open theism” completely impossible. For some Calvinst “proof texts”, visit the following link, http://www.calvinistcorner.com/verses-gods-sovereignty.htm

In His Service & For His Glory,

Pastor Michael Miao

(P.S.- This is not the full response I would like to give to Jason Watt’s article, that will be coming soon…)

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Dwelling on & Living in an Irresistible Grace

Yesterday I ended a sermon about “irresistible grace” with the following quotes by Shane Claiborne:

Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived.”

…I believe in a God of scandalous grace. I have pledged allegiance to a King who loved evildoers so much He died for them, teaching us there is something worth dying for but nothing worth killing for”.

In citing these quotes, I was calling our congregation (Blue Point Bible Church) to “live in” the “irresistible grace” we believe in. We can read of the “Common Grace” bestowed upon all people in Matthew 5:43-45,

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven: for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.”

If we are called to live in such a love as that in response to “common grace”, imagine what type of love we are called to live out in response to an “irresistible grace” that saves God’s own!

You can listen to that podcast by visiting the following link,

http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/234018-calvinism-for-christmas-bible-series-part-5

So…this morning in prayer I was praying upon this and felt so convicted! It’s a blessing when a Godly conviction comes upon us and spurs us to respond. That is the essence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Daily I read through the Common Prayer book which I find to be a blessed Spiritual Discipline. As the New Year comes upon us, Spiritual Disciplines, or what many refer to as “New Year’s Resolutions”, should be at the forefront of our lives. Sure enough, the Common Prayer book was compiled and organized by a Spirit-led movement called “New Monasticism”. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who once spoke about the need for a “new monasticism” within the Church. I have been blessed to both learn about and participate in the New Monasticism movement.

Last months focus for Common Prayer was “Locating our Lives to the Abandoned Places of the Empire”. A great point was made that, “Everything in our society teaches us to move away from suffering…, however Jesus compels us to mourn with and comfort them”. In response to the Biblical expression of ‘loving the stranger’, Common prayer says, “We are to laugh at fear, to lean into suffering, to open ourselves to the stranger”.

I must say…God has been working on my mind and heart quite a bit lately. In October I felt convicted upon the realities of “hell” and what that means from a truly Biblical perspective. I have mentioned many times I am working on publishing a book in mid-2015 based upon my theological and application convictions of a post-judgment perspective called “Wicked”. Then studying systematic theology through the lens of John Calvin has surely had an impact on my spiritual convictions in regards to those who are outside of Christ. As I prepared for our Christmas Eve message at B.P.B.C. I was impacted by the power of the incarnation and how that should call us to “live incarnationally” and bring light to the dark places of the world.

How often we forget to bring light into the areas we deem “Nazareth’s” of the world. Remember, they said about our Lord, “Nothing good comes from Nazareth.”

As I have been praying for some time now through Common Prayer and being impacted about these “abandoned places”, I have realized it is not necessarily about physically moving to another location, but rather taking time to be convicted to spend time in the areas, or with the people, we have somehow made ‘abandoned’.

In my New Year’s resolutions I made a point to “resolve” to spend more time with family, friends, and others whom I have not really developed “true friendships” with, yet desire to, and therefore spend time appreciating how God in working in there life, and seek to comfort or help where it is needed Surely “irresistible grace” calls us to that!

This has called me to an “intentionality” in 2015 to respond to God’s grace, and I hope as you maybe listen to the podcast, or spend time studying through the amazing story of God’s grace through Scripture, and how Jesus instructs His disciples to respond- you will be compelled with a similar intentionality.

INTENTIONALITY DEFINED, is that which is done by intention or design. Pray and allow God’s Spirit to compel to do this amazing work in your heart and mind.

Blessings in Christ you you and your loved ones in this blessed New Year!

In His Service,

Pastor Michael Miano

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dear Mr. Christian,

               Over the past couple of weeks I have been studying and meditating on the Biblical gospel and reading through J.D. Greear’s book, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. You have continually come to mind. We have talked here and there, and discussed our different views on the gospel. It has been my contention that you have a “zeal without knowledge (Romans 10)” very much similar to the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. I don’t blame you; rather I charge the institution which claims to be “teaching you the gospel”. It seems you have replaced the freedom and grace of God that is given through the New Covenant with “self-righteousness” and good morals. You have charged my position with giving “no hope” and no reason for a Believer to continue to live a “good and upstanding life”. Since I have admitted that I might enjoy a beer occasionally or even a shot of whiskey and even occasionally might smoke pot, you have taken the stance that my fulfilled view is due to my seeking to “live life the way I want” (kinda reminds me of the accusations made against the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 6). Well, besides the fact that I have explained and PROVEN the fulfilled “hope of Israel” to be the BIBLICAL gospel, time and time again, I have decided to take a different approach. Let’s see just how much your view and “your response” to the gospel is the antithesis to what is Biblically taught.  

There is a local pastor who continually reminds his congregants that they are “worthless pieces of monkey crap” in the eyes of a Holy God. According to Isaiah 64, I could agree with this sentiment, but the problem is that this pastor does not clearly explain what is “worthless” about us and the God honoring solution. Our “righteousness is as filthy rags” which clearly shows any attempt we make to please God by our own standard (our “fig leaves” of sorts) are abominable to God. God provided Christ as the “covering” “robes of righteousness” to cover the sins of Israel (and by extension the Gentiles). Notice the key word- God provided. At my recent debate a young man proclaimed that since I believe everything has been fulfilled- including judgment- I am therefore taking away his “hope” (a sort of future heavenly Disneyland) and leaving him with no fear of God’s judgment and no reason to “live Godly”.

Now if you want “religion” which will provide you with morals and so forth, yes they exist..Catholicism, Buddism, Islam, and many of the other “please God” style views can help you there. Granted, there will be different varieties and views (which is going to happen because of culture and personal opinions) but that is not Christianity. Rather when the Bible says, “Be not conformed to the ways of the world (Romans 12:2)”, or we are “in the world not of It (John 15:19)”, it was speaking about the ‘traditions of men’ that were so common in that context. I regularly speak about how ironic it is when a “Christian” will use these verses to proclaim “self-righteous living” when in actuality it was speaking the direct opposite- Do not conform the ways of the world (the traditions and regulations of the Pharisees) and be among them, but not of them. The Christians were marked by God’s grace and lived with a “zeal empowered by knowledge”, or as J.D. Greear said, “True love is a response to loveliness”. Love God!

               It seems that the futurist “judgment of works”, future fantasy heavenly Disneyland, and “self-righteousness” all work together to create a FALSE GOSPEL. If we are living in the FULFILLED HOPE and thus a reality today, we should just live however and forsake God. Thank God for the encouragement and discussion generated through J.D. Greear’s book to fix this “missing gospel”. Sure enough, J.D. Greear is not a “full preterist”, so maybe you will take his charge more serious than mine.

“The goal of the gospel is to produce a type of people consumed with PASSION FOR GOD AND LOVE FOR OTHERS. We certainly don’t seem to have that right. A Christian that does not have as its primary focus the deepening of passions for God is a FALSE CHRISTIANITY, NO MATTER HOW ZEALOUSLY IT SEEKS CONVERSIONS OR HOW FORCEFULLY IT ADVOCATES RIGHTEOUSNESS BEHAVIOR..”

So…how does one deepen passion for God? Well, you might think by living right and memorizing some Bible verses. Or looking toward some future hope. But remember the quote I posted above? “True love is a response to lovliness”. The more we learn about God and see how He works the more we fall in love and passionately pursue Him. Ah…a “zeal empowered by knowledge”.

 J.D. Greear continues to talk about the “behavioral modification gospel”, or focus on prayer, focus on the “Great Commission”, but then he says:

               “These things all have their place, but all we are doing is piling superficial changes onto a heart that doesn’t really love God”.  And what does this lead to? “This creates hypocrites, weary and resentful of God”. Yikes!!! Convicted yet?

               “…if the extent of your Christianity is achieving the right behavioral standard you are setting yourself up for disaster”. Instead of quoting the entire book, here I want to encourage you to get your hands on a copy and read page 30-31, which explains why “Religious Change” doesn’t work!

               So at this point we have seen the claims that behavior modification is the gospel and the truthfulness of the message is determined by our behavior modification is complete FALSE. FLEE THIS FALSE MENTALITY!

               “When our salvation depends upon our righteous behavior, our righteousness will be driven by a desire to elevate ourselves in the eyes of God. This is NOT love for God; it’s self-protection”.

               So…how and what effect does the fulfilled gospel, living in the reality of what God has done, have?

               “The gospel reawakens us to the beauty of God and overwhelms us with mercy. Our behavior changes because we change. Until that happens, ALL RELIGIOUS CHANGES WILL BE SUPERFICIAL. Even if you force yourself to act right, your heart will be going the other direction”.

               Are you falling for superficial changes? My friend, you know your heart. I know what I see externally coming from you. See why I thought of YOU when reading this book?

Instead of holding to a “behavior modification gospel” that leads me feeling that I need to live a certain way to obtain a reward, or escape being condemned to “the bad place”, instead the BIBLICALLY TRUE AND REASONABLE GOSPEL allows me to fall in love with God, and allow that to change me from the INSIDE OUT! Come on…you have song the song, right? Well, let that reality sink in.

               “That’s what happens when you meet God in the story of Jesus. You get swept up into a story of such cosmic drama and beauty that you are changed forever. Your behavior is radically altered because you’ve seen and tasted something from a completely different world”.

               On pages 84-85, of J.D. Greear’s book, he gives an awesome passage about “Freed to Enjoy the Rest”. I challenge you to get the book and read because this will help you live authentically in Christ and stop with the “religious bullshit”. Yes, I am calling it what it is.

               “Changed by Sight” is a chapter in the book, Gospel. This is my point exactly. “When the glory of God is seen in the gospel, changes occur naturally”. The problem is with your over personalized gospel, all you can see is YOU, and how it effects YOU, rather than the message being about the “glory of God”. This is why it is important to understand the Biblical gospel, i.e. the “hope of Israel”, and learn about God. Exodus 19 provides an awesome example of how God dealt with Israel and how this effected them. Let us learn, since as 1 Corinthians 10:11 states their experiences were put down as “examples”.

               Instead of fearing some futuristic “hell” or hoping toward a fantasy land future, we can understand our lives in Christ best by understanding – “the expulsive power of a new affection”- as spoken about by Thomas Chalmers. Far too many “religious Christians” are like balloons being swatted at to stay afloat, rather than letting the “helium of God’s goodness” fill them. (An illustration given by J.D. Greear). It’s a sad day when we are “forcing our hearts to pursue what they don’t want to pursue”.

“The leaders of the church had placed John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, in prison for preaching the gospel. They told him, “You can’t go on telling people that Christ’s righteousness has been credited to them in full. If they believe that, they’ll feel like they can do whatever they want”. Bunyan replied, “If people really see that Christ’s righteousness has been given to them entirely as a gift, they’ll do whatever He wants”.

               I tell you this to rebuke the fact that you believe if your reward/judgment is taken away then you have no reason not to “sin”. As it said in the book, “if people only want to pursue sin, that reveals their hearts are Spiritually dead”.

“Spiritual disciplines must be accompanied by a deep saturation in the gospel….Unfortunately, most Christians gravitate toward spiritual disciplines before they understand the gospel. The result is a cycle of pride and despair”.     

               I hope this open rebuke of the false “behavior modification gospel” that you cling to has caused you to do some examination (2 Corinthians 13:5). It is my goal to make you re-assess what you are calling the gospel, and push you toward the Scriptures. This is why we “demolish strongholds and bring all thoughts captive to Christ”. My friend, flee self-righteousness and seek first the kingdom of God, and HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, and all things will be added (Matthew 6:33).

               “Believing the gospel is what released an explosive power in Jesus’ followers that caused them to live with radical recklessness and audacious faith”.

               Blessings in Christ,

               Michael Miano

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized