“The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP”: A Review

The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP by Terry Heaton is an interesting, self-reflective book. To be honest, upon seeing the title I was not sure what to expect from Mr. Heaton’s work. In a short summary, it is the walkthrough of Mr. Heaton’s time working with Pat Robertson and CBN, covering how the motives of Mr. Robertson and CBN eschewed the lines between legality and truth, adherence to love for neighbors and the pushing of an agenda. Ultimately, it is a memoir of Mr. Heaton’s journey to a more open, emergent faith.

Rather than walking through the book, I want to present my thoughts on different aspects of the work. It may be confusing, but as this is the way I digested the book, I wish to be consistent.

At times, it is difficult to follow the book. It roughly follows a timeline of Mr. Heaton’s time with CBN and Mr. Robertson. However, interwoven throughout the work are “soapbox” stands, political views, and personal issues with both Mr. Robertson and CBN. Unfortunately, Mr. Heaton confuses conservative politics with the actions of a few, presents his arguments as the best, and then leaves the reader with the only conclusion that anything less than a leftist, liberal politic is following a gospel of self.

For example, Mr. Heaton opens his first chapter with these words, “The evangelist’s message has always been self-centered, for it preaches the gospel as a means to saving one’s own ass from eternal hellfire and damnation in the afterlife. Evangelical Christianity has refined the message over the years and turned it today into the means for blessings in this life as well.” (Heaton, 2017) Mr. Heaton is illustrating a failure to grasp the biblical Gospel. It is not a means of “saving one’s own ass” but of God intervening to deliver individuals from death in trespasses and sins to life (see Ephesians 2:1-10). Later in the book his asks, “Was I naïve, because I was such a novice in the faith?” (Heaton, 2017) Yes Mr. Heaton, you were, for the views you present in your work are not biblical Christianity. Furthermore, Mr. Heaton attaches his hatred for conservative views (politically, economically, etc.) by attempting to apply the “blessings in this life” with those views and stances of conservatism.

Let me say that Terry Heaton has a point. This aspect of his book should be eye opening to those who claim to be Christians but do not go to church, do not believe the Gospel, and fail to live the Christian life. Instead, they find an avenue that furthers their greed and personal comfort and cloaks it with the name Christian. Mr. Heaton’s book does an excellent job of this. He acknowledges, “We presented as Biblical mandates or “laws” economic views that catered to the haves of culture, teaching that being one of the haves was available for everybody.” (Heaton, 2017) The problem with Mr. Heaton’s work, however, is a failure to distinguish individuals who proclaim a prosperity gospel rather than the true Gospel. Additionally, his hatred for conservatism belies an ignorance of how the economy works, basic constitutionalism, and how balanced Christianity is in light of both conservative and liberal views. He laments, “There is no zeal quite like that of religious zeal, for it comes with blinders to alternative views of reality.” (Heaton, 2017) Is this not what Mr. Heaton is doing? If you read the book, I believe you will come to that conclusion.

In his condemnation of the politics of Mr. Trump (see pages 7-13) he fails to exhibit grace in reaching out to others (see pages 38-39). He refers to the viewers of his programs as “ignorant, polyester-wearing, Bible-thumping morons.” (Heaton, 2017)

The chapter on The Shadow Government, 1984-1985 was highly interesting. I would like to say I am shocked about the accusations, but Christians, particularly those who are most likely not Christians, it is no surprise.

Finally, the last chapter is an appeal to an emergent view of Christianity. The emergent church movement is a joke. The absence of biblical basis is ridiculous. The movement saps the foundation and material of Christianity from the faith and leaves nothing but a blubbery mess of confusion and damnation.

Who should read this book? I think it would be helpful for individuals claiming to be Christians and hyper-conservative. It may help open your eyes to your own consistencies. For those on the left, I recommend reading this to see the spirit in which some of your own arguments come. Both sides have much to learn from each other. One last recommendation: do not read this book for any information about the Scriptures, God, or the Gospel. It is a failure for this.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

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The Key to Sanctification

As I work my way through Powlison’s book How Does Sanctification Work?, I have been repeatedly impressed. The biblical insight is amazing, the practical aspects are encouraging, and the balanced approach is encouraging.

In my last post I mentioned the coming of snow. I can happily say that snow it did! We received about a foot of snow during the evening. It is beautiful, a small spark of God’s incredible beauty, wisdom, and graciousness. As I type this, I am sitting near a warm fire with BBC’s Planet Earth II playing in the background. I am not sure why I am telling you this, but now you know!

Back to sanctification. Chapter two begins with a question, “Is there one key to sanctification?” My understanding of sanctification would have answered with a qualified answer. Yes, of course there is one key! This key may be multifaceted, but it boils down to the basics of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

This, of course, is simplistic and utilitarian thinking, and unbiblical. Powlison provides nine typical “keys” that we often hear (or that I often say). He makes the point, “These nine assertions becomes problematic only when we lapse into saying, ‘Just remember this one thing…Just rehearse…Just make sure…Just ask…If you will just do…’”. (Powlison, 25)

What are the nine keys? Here they are:

  1. “Remember that God is sovereign and is working all things for good in those who love him.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)

    This one is a go-to for myself. When something bad is happening, I relish God’s control of the situation. While it may be difficult to fathom or understand its implications, God truly is in control. The problem lies when we focus on this to the exclusion of the other biblical truths about our God.

  2. “Rehearse and remind yourself of your identity in Christ.” (Powlison, 24)

    A few people seem to focus on this aspect of the Christian life. It is so important, and it is one of Paul’s emphases in the book of Ephesians. I typically hear this in conjunction with conquering sin. If you just saw yourself in Christ you wouldn’t sin! While this may be a help, it is certainly not the

  3. “Make sure you are in honest accountability ” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)

    Depending on the flare of the church, this one can be huge! Accountability is certainly a vital part of growth in holiness. Yet, it is not everything. Some seem to suggest that having an accountability partner will alleviate all sins.

  4. “Avail yourself of the means of grace.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)

    By ‘means of grace’ Powlison means “corporate worship and sacraments, and maintain[ing] daily Scripture reading and prayer.” (Powlison, 24) This would be second on my list. I love the way Scripture reading and prayer can be completed, almost like a chore that can be checked off my daily to-do list. I encourage people to spend time in God’s Word and in prayer daily. It is a great way to grow, but in and of itself it is not the complete way to sanctification.

  5. Wage spiritual warfare against the predator of your soul.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)

    The spiritual warfare movement received more attention in the past than it does today (perhaps). Ephesians 6:10-18 warns believers about this war and how to fight it. I just began working through William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armor, and in the beginning he mentions the seriousness of the conflict.

  6. “Get busy serving others with the gifts the Lord has given you.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 25)

    This one brings me back to my fundamental Baptist days. Some seemed to think that service equaled holiness (thankfully not everyone felt this way!). The more you do, the more holy you are. If you share with others the Gospel then of course you are a great Christian! God has gifted each believer with a gift (or gifts, as is the case) to be used for the edification of believers, evangelization of the lost, and the exaltation of our Savior.

  7. “Remember that you are accepted by God as his child and that he fully forgives your sins through the shed blood of Jesus.” (Powlison, 25)

    This is a wonderful truth that as a Christian we can never get over! Our sins, which were scarlet, are now white as snow! What a glorious reality! This, in its entire splendor, is not all there is to the Christian life. There is so much more!

  8. “Ask the Lord to give you his Holy Spirit that you might walk in his ways.” (Powlison, 25)

    Frequently the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer is downplayed. We love the Holy Spirit; he helps us live the righteous life. Through the Holy Spirit we are able to pray to our Heavenly Father.

  9. “Set your hope fully on the grace to be revealed at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Powlison, 25)

    This is a look to the future grace that will be all for all believers. And I cannot wait for this! But, this is not the

Powlison’s work is already so helpful. As I continue to work through it, I hope to share it with you!

Sanctification: A Threefold Understanding

First, as I write this, I am waiting in line to pick my daughter up from school. Isn’t technology amazing?

Second, it is cold! It’s around 32 degrees with a chance of snow tomorrow. I’m hoping we see some white on the ground!

Third, I began reading David Powlison’s book How Does Sanctification Works? In the introduction, Powlison defines what sanctification is. He gives a snap shot of the tenses of sanctification: past, present, and future.

I’d simply like to provide his material, as I think it may prove beneficial for you in your walk with God. Everything from here on out is Powlison’s work.

  • In the past tense, your sanctification has already happened. You are a saint—an identity for which you get no credit! God decisively acted by making you his very own in Christ. You have been saved.
  • In the present tense, your sanctification is now being worked out. God is working throughout your life—on a scale of days, years, and decades—to remake you into the likeness of Jesus. You are being progressively sanctified. You are being saved.
  • In the future tense, your sanctification will be perfected. You will live. Your love will be perfected. You will see God’s face when he decisively acts to complete his work of conforming you to the image of Jesus. You will participate in the glory of God Himself. You will be saved.

David Powlison, How Does Sanctification Work?, pages 13-14.

How to Sanctify God: Practical Progress from the Puritans, Part Three

How do we sanctify God? We have been looking at this thought, brought from the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9. Thomas Manton, a Puritan preacher, has walked us through very practical ways in which we can sanctify God. We have noticed how God is sanctified upon us in judgment and by us in our lives. We can sanctify God in thoughts, words, and actions. (Manton, 86) We have examined how to sanctify God in thoughts and words, and now we will look at how to sanctify God in our actions.

Manton begins by dividing our actions into two things: worship and ordinary conversation (or lifestyle).

Sanctifying God in Worship

Manton writes, “In our worship, there God especially will be sanctified.” (Manton, 87) He goes on to write, “God is very tender of his worship: sancta sanctis, holy things must be managed by holy men in a holy manner. Therefore, what is it to sanctify God when we draw night to him? To have a more excellent frame of heart in worship than we have about other things.”

When we worship God, we must remember Who we are worshiping. Manton cites Ecclesiastes 5:1. Feel the reverence and seriousness of this verse, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.” We would do well to consider the seriousness of worship. I am slowly (very slowly) working my way through R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O’Donnell’s The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry. The very first chapter addresses Sunday worship. In the chapter, specifically pages 32-38 provide a walkthrough of Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 in which they address the seriousness of worship.

Manton ends the section with these weighty words, “We must not go about these holy services hand over head, but with great caution and heed.” (Manton, 87)

Sanctifying God in Ordinary Conversation

Our lives can either sanctify God or dilute His good Name. Manton quips that to sanctify God is, “When our life is ordered so that we may give men occasion to say, that surely he is a holy God whom we serve.” (Manton, 87) This, according to Manton, can be accomplished two ways:

  1. “When you walk as remembering you have a holy God.” (Manton, 87) We should build our lives around the truth that God is holy. The Wesminster Confession of Faith describes God as, “…most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands.” (WCF 2.2) In another point Manton observes that God’s holiness “…is that which God counteth to be his chief excellency, and the glory which he will manifest among the sons of men.” (Manton, 88) God is, according to the angels, holy, holy, holy (see Isaiah 6:3). When we remember that God is holy, our lives will be different. We will seek to be like our holy God in our speech (Ephesians 4:29) and in our interactions with each other (Ephesians 5:1-6:9). Manton, bridging off this idea, comments, “Therefore you must be watchful and strict.” (Manton, 87)
  2. “When you walk as discovering to others you have a holy God.” (Manton, 87) This is a wordy way of saying practice what you preach. One of the greatest hindrances to the Christian faith is hypocrisy. If you want some proof of this, check our Barna’s research on this. Manton notes the issues surrounding this, “A carnal worshipper profaneth the memory of God in the world.” (Manton, 88) One of the dangers of living a life rightly structured is human moralism. Not unaware of this, Manton warns, “We should discover (or make known) more than a human excellency, that so those which look upon us may say, These are the servants of the holy God.” (Manton, 88) When Christians sanctify God in action they “discovereth what a God he hath.” (Manton, 88)

So, Christian, are you sanctifying God? We have noted three ways in which we can sanctify God: in thought, speech, and action. Let every aspect of our being sanctify God!

Some Helpful Articles from 9Marks

9Marks is an incredible ministry for churches and pastors. Here are some of their recent articles. I do not own the articles, materials, or anything associated with them. However, I encourage you to visit the links and be blessed.

I was particularly blessed by the Best Books for Pastors in 2017. One book that I’d like to highlight is David Murray’s Reset. I will be reading that annually!

Best Books for Pastors in 2017, by Alex Duke

4 Reasons Every Church Needs Senior Saints, by Tim Counts

Life and Apologetics with R. C. Sproul, an interview with Mark Dever and R. C. Sproul

 

 

 

Photo by Beatriz Pérez Moya on Unsplash

How to Sanctify God: Practical Progress from the Puritans, Part Two

In a previous post we examined Manton’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, namely, how to sanctify God’s name. We noted that God is sanctified upon us and by us. We say that we can sanctify God in our thoughts, looking at maintaining a biblical view of God in our minds and staying close to God during times of difficulties.

Today we are going to walk with Manton as he teaches us how to sanctify God with our tongues (or speech).

Manton gives three ways we can do this:

  • “God is sanctified with our tongues, when we use God’s name, titles, ordinances, and word, as holy things.” (Manton, 87)
  • “When we speak of the Lord with reverence, and with great seriousness of heart, not taking his name in vain” (Manton, 87)
  • “When we are deeply affected with his praise.” (Manton, 87)

Let us look at each individually and discover practical ways that we can apply them.

Using God’s name, titles, ordinances, and word as holy things.

One aspect of Judaism that I admire is their reverence for God. The Scriptures portray God as holy (see Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:3; and Revelation 4:8). This is his “beauty” (see Stephen Charnock’s quote in A. W. Pink’s The Attributes of God, 41). The most common name for God in Rabbinic Judaism is “The Holy One, Blessed Be He” (see Abraham Cohen’s Everyman’s Talmud, 22). This refers to God’s name. What about His titles? What about His ordinances (or works)? Or His Word? Do we reverence these?

Take our Bibles, for example. Do you place God’s Word on the ground? Do you sling it into the pew, on your book shelf, or leave it all week in the back of your car? One way that we can sanctify God is to treat His name, titles, ordinances, and word with great reverence.

Speaking about God with reverence and seriousness, avoiding taking His name in vain.

The command in Exodus 20:7 is, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This, indeed, is a serious matter. One way in which we can sanctify God in our speech is to speak reverently of the Holy One of Israel. To take something in vain is to treat it as common.

How do we do this? One example is in our prayers. If, when we pray, we say “God,” “Father God,” and “Lord,” sixty times in a short prayer, we may be taking His name in vain. I said may, because I cannot see an individual’s heart. However, if we say God’s name repeatedly, it can become common.

Another way in which can sanctify God’s name is by speaking with it lovingly and reverently. Too often I find myself using God’s name in a nonchalant way. When we speak about God, we must treat His name in a holy way. We should take great care in not rushing through it, or speaking of it in a light manner. Let us speak about God with reverence, thus sanctifying Him in our speech.

Being deeply affected with God’s praise.

This method seems off when compared with the other two. Perhaps that is because we are more familiar with the first two, and we are not as well versed in the biblical foundation for worship. Our hearts should be affected. The older usage of the word deals more with the emotions, or affections (Jonathan Edwards uses this definition in his work, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, in Three Parts.) Manton states, “It is no slight thing to praise God.” (Manton, 87)

It is not slight thing to praise God. -Manton

I think of my wife. She is, other than God, my greatest treasure. She is always so kind, loving, and sweet. She adores our three children, always finding new ways to express her charity toward them. She is my life. I cannot imagine going through a day without expression some form of praise to her. This is the idea of our praise to God. On an infinitely higher plane, God deserves our praise. Manton references Psalm 51:15 and 45:1 as texts that support this thought. One can always return to 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul encourages, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Imagine if we walked through our day constantly praising our incredibly holy, loving, and sovereign God! This would change our lives! So, sanctify God through praises.

Meditate on these practical exhortations of Thomas Manton. Live in the Lord’s Prayer, and daily sanctify God in your life!

How to Sanctify God: Practical Progress from the Puritans, Part One

Photo by Andreas P. on Unsplash

The Puritans were extremely practical people. They loved the Scripture, but they loved the application of Scripture as well. This is one of the reasons I am drawn to the Puritans.

Enter my wife: one Christmas she purchased me a set of Thomas Manton and Thomas Brooks. I am alternating between the two, working my way through one at a time. I was delighted with Thomas Brooks’ first volume, and I eagerly began Mr. Manton’s.

Currently, I am working my way through his Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. The doctrine he presents from Matthew 6:9 is, “That God will be so glorified in the world as that his name may be hallowed or sanctified.” (Manton, 85)

He asks the question, “How many ways is God’s name sanctified?” (Manton, 86) and then answers:

  1. “Upon us, by the righteous executions and judgments of his providence.” (Manton, 86) This thought struck me, for it both profound and yet simple. God gets glory from the righteous as well as the unrighteous.I always found it difficult to grasp how the unrighteous could glorify God. Paul’s description of the unrighteous is anything but flattering (see Romans 1:18-32). God is sanctified when He, through His righteousness, judges the wicked. This, God’s name can be sanctified upon us.
  2. “By us. And so he is sanctified in our thoughts, words, and actions; in our heart, tongue, or life.” (Manton, 86)This is where Thomas Manton gets practical. How can one sanctify God in one’s thoughts?
    1. Sanctifying God in our thoughts:
      1. “When we have awful thoughts of his majesty (Psalm 111:9). (Manton, 86) This is so important, because we often bring God down to our own level. We refer to Him as “daddy”. Of course, we must balance a high view of God with the truth of His immanence and fatherhood (see, for example, Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6). Yet, when individuals get a glimpse of the Sovereign God, they are not running up to Him and calling Him daddy; they are bowing before His infinite majesty (see Isaiah 6 and Revelation 1). When we envision God in His unlimited glory we sanctify Him in our thoughts.
      2. “More especially God is sanctified when, in straits, difficulties, and dangers, we can bear ourselves upon the power and sufficiency of God, and go on resolutely and cheerfully with our duty, notwithstanding discouragements.” (Manton, 86) Manton is referring to a resolute trust in the Sovereign God. Rather than focusing on the problems at hand, we choose to focus on the Perfect God. Manton writes, “To sanctify God is to set apart, as the alone object of fear and trust, that he alone is to be feared and trusted, so that we can see no match for God among the creatures; therefore we are to embolden ourselves in the Lord, and go on cheerfully, when we can counterbalance all fears and dangers with his surpassing excellency.” (Manton, 86) What help! O, how much our souls be blessed and encouraged were we to constantly dwell on our Mighty Maker!

We shall take up the remainder of how to sanctify God in our hearts. Brothers and sisters, sanctify God in your thoughts. May you ever dwell on the Divine Lord, our Heavenly Father. Be lost in the fields of His infinite strength. Fly through the endless space of His unrivaled rule. Sleep soundly in the bed of His ever-watching care.

With Manton we agree, “It is a practical acknowledgement of God’s matchless excellency. Thus we sanctify God in our hearts.” (Manton, 87)

 

*You can purchase Thomas Brooks’ and Thomas Manton’s works from the Banner of Truth. I cannot recommend them highly enough.