These Men Fear God

Ever wonder what it would have been like to be a Christian under the Roman Empire? These Chinese Christians are pretty close to it. Their courage is remarkable. Note especially the last line of this confession.

Heard through the Genevan Commons Facebook group:

Pastors in China released a joint declaration September 6, 2018, in light of increasing persecution against the Chinese church. This is sure to go down as a very significant document in Chinese church history.

A Joint Statement by Pastors:
A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith (4th edition, 279 pastors)
—————————————————————————

We are a group of Chinese Christians, chosen by the Most High God to be His humble servants, serving as pastors for Christian churches throughout various towns and cities.

We believe and are obligated to teach the world that the one true and living Triune God is the Creator of the universe, of the world, and of all people. All men should worship God and not any man or thing. We believe and are obligated to teach the world that all men, from national leaders to beggars and prisoners, have sinned. They will die once and then be judged in righteousness. Apart from the grace and redemption of God, all men would eternally perish. We believe and are obligated to teach the world that the crucified and risen Jesus is the only Head of the global church, the sole Savior of all mankind, and the everlasting Ruler and supreme Judge of the universe. To all who repent and believe in Him, God will give eternal life and an eternal Kingdom.

In September, 2017, the State Council issued the new “Regulations on the Administration of Religious Affairs” and began implementing these regulations in February, 2018. Ever since then, Christian churches across China have suffered varying degrees of persecution, contempt, and misunderstanding from government departments during public worship and religious practices, including various administrative measures that attempt to alter and distort the Christian faith. Some of these violent actions are unprecedented since the end of the Cultural Revolution. These include demolishing crosses on church buildings, violently removing expressions of faith like crosses and couplets hanging on Christians’ homes, forcing and threatening churches to join religious organizations controlled by the government, forcing churches to hang the national flag or to sing secular songs praising the State and political parties, banning the children of Christians from entering churches and receiving religious education, and depriving churches and believers of the right to gather freely.

We believe that these unjust actions are an abuse of government power and have led to serious conflicts between political and religious parties in Chinese society. These actions infringe on the human freedoms of religion and conscience and violate the universal rule of law. We are obligated to announce bad news to the authorities and to all of society: God hates all attempts to suppress human souls and all acts of persecution against the Christian church, and he will condemn and judge them with righteous judgment.

But we are even more obligated to proclaim good news to the authorities and to all of society: Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, the Savior and King of mankind, in order to save us sinners was killed, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God, destroying the power of sin and death. In His love and compassion God has prepared forgiveness and salvation for all who are willing to believe in Jesus, including Chinese people. At any time, anyone can repent from any sin, turn to Christ, fear God, obtain eternal life, and bring great blessing from God upon his family and country.

For the sake of faith and conscience, for the spiritual benefits of the authorities in China and of society as a whole, and ultimately for the glory, holiness, and righteousness of God, we make the following declaration to the Chinese government and to all of society:

1. Christian churches in China believe unconditionally that the Bible is the Word and Revelation of God. It is the source and final authority of all righteousness, ethics, and salvation. If the will of any political party, the laws of any government, or the commands of any man directly violate the teachings of the Bible, harming men’s souls and opposing the gospel proclaimed by the church, we are obligated to obey God rather than men, and we are obligated to teach all members of the church to do the same.

2. Christian churches in China are eager and determined to walk the path of the cross of Christ and are more than willing to imitate the older generation of saints who suffered and were martyred for their faith. We are willing and obligated under any circumstance to face all government persecution, misunderstanding, and violence with peace, patience, and compassion. For when churches refuse to obey evil laws, it does not stem from any political agenda; it does not stem from resentment or hostility; it stems only from the demands of the gospel and from a love for Chinese society.

3. Christian churches in China are willing to obey authorities in China whom God has appointed and to respect the government’s authority to govern society and human conduct. We believe and are obligated to teach all believers in the church that the authority of the government is from God and that as long as the government does not overstep the boundaries of secular power laid out in the Bible and does not interfere with or violate anything related to faith or the soul, Christians are obligated to respect the authorities, to pray fervently for their benefit, and to pray earnestly for Chinese society. For the sake of the gospel, we are willing to suffer all external losses brought about by unfair law enforcement. Out of a love for our fellow citizens, we are willing to give up all of our earthly rights.

4. For this reason, we believe and are obligated to teach all believers that all true churches in China that belong to Christ must hold to the principle of the separation of church and state and must proclaim Christ as the sole head of the church. We declare that in matters of external conduct, churches are willing to accept lawful oversight by civil administration or other government departments as other social organizations do. But under no circumstances will we lead our churches to join a religious organization controlled by the government, to register with the religious administration department, or to accept any kind of affiliation. We also will not accept any “ban” or “fine” imposed on our churches due to our faith. For the sake of the gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses—even the loss of our freedom and of our lives.

Signatories of the Joint Statement (279 people total)

First Group (29 people):

Pastor Wang Yi (Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Church)  Continue reading

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Why I’m Through Dealing with SJWs (for the most part)

First, read John MacArthur’s latest piledriver of the SJW (Social Justice Warrior) antigospel here, then read and sign the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel.

A brief thread from my Twitter feed last night:

You know what? Focusing on the racially-obsessed sect of American evangelicalism is starting to smell like a real satanic strategy to me. People like Kyle James Howard are drawing far too much of our attention and energy, when there are 1,001 more urgent uses of our resources.

For a while I’ve poured a lot of my energy into interacting with, deriding, rebuking, admonishing, and refuting the SJW sect within American evangelicalism. Why? They’re dead-set in their doctrines of privilege & power differentials. They are apostatizing from the faith once for all delivered to the saints, and shifting the focus of Christianity to a theology of glory. In this iteration, the glory goal isn’t so much personal life fulfillment & self actualization as it is a forceful equalizing of outcomes.

 

Evangelical SJWs are theologians of glory. They’re not prosperity hucksters for money, but they are equality hucksters. The equality they preach is not a type that Christ promised we could create, or even should create. But it’s all a very emotionally-charged sleight of hand. We all know there is a type of equality that the gospel creates: all equally forgiven & justified. All accepted & adopted, regardless of background or whatever else. Our life in the church should reflect that.

 

Church should be about reflecting the equality of how we are loved by Jesus.

Yet being a part of the church’s life cannot make true forms of inequality or hierarchy that are baked into human society suddenly not exist or impact our relationships.

Continue reading

Sailing with Friends without a Compass: Spiritual Autobiography 10

2011-2014 Part I: Goodbye ECF, Hello Grace Life Church, and a New Marriage

I began my previous post speaking of disillusionment with the local church. As a young Christian, I believed that the better the doctrine a church teaches, the better the fellowship and spiritual health of the congregation would have been. Our experience up through 2011 showed this not to be so; although our church at the time was filled with lovely people (and still is), the good doctrine alone never seemed to assure deep bonds of fellowship or friendship—no blame assigned, at least, it would be self-destructive to keep rehashing my perception of how this person or that person let me down, or let Danielle down, or how we let this one or that one down. There comes a point in the healthy Christian life where, for the sake of love, one must simply let go of the possibilities of how we have brought harm to one another.

Yet since fellowship and friendship are indispensable parts of living the Christian life, this meant we were very lonely, even in rooms full of people. We left ECF embarrassed for our weaknesses and mistakes, having lost the few bonds we made with our church family there. It had become painful to show up to church, always seeking to avoid certain people in small rooms where everyone sees everyone.

From that time, I have looked at life in the local church as a challenge of survival as much as a journey of thriving. These seven years have borne that out for me. Continue reading

You Can’t Kill an Arrow-Hating Dragon by First Asking Him if He Believes in Arrows

In Peter Jackson’s apocryphal The Hobbit trilogy of films, which were almost based off of Tolkien’s single, short children’s book by the same name, we see Bilbo Baggins negotiating for his life with the wily, dangerous dragon Smaug.

Bilbo is able to escape the Lonely Mountain with the object he was sent to steal from Smaug, but the result was a very angry, rampaging dragon who flew directly to Lake Town to wreak his fiery havoc. Continue reading

Spiritually High to Seriously Embarrassed: Spiritual Autobiography 9

From Giant to Dwarf

They say life is the school of hard knocks. If that’s true, church life in a wealthy, comfortable nation is the school of disillusionment—at least, when you’re a young, idealistic guy who thinks getting doctrine just right will yield the perfect local church—or that the perfect local church will stay perfect once you get there with all your sin and imperfection.

Though I had begun to learn some hard lessons about local churches, I was still very optimistic in 2008. I believed that in a medium-size metro area like Rochester, there were bound to be several strong, sound Calvinistic churches to choose from. In my search for the Church catholic, I had begun to eliminate large swathes of denominations and local churches that deviate from the core doctrines and practices of the Reformation. My time in the Arminian, fundamentalist Baptist and Calvary Chapel churches, which had both seemed perfect to me, now looked like 2-D imitations of the real thing. Continue reading

What is a Sacrament?

From Core Christianity, a Reformed ministry branching from The White Horse Inn:

The sacraments are means of grace.

The sacraments are means of grace, not personal pledges of obedience. Theologian Louis Berkhof explains that the means of grace are ordinary means “by which the Holy Spirit works and confirms faith in the hearts of men” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 605). It is easy to think of the sacraments as things we do as a pledge of obedience to God or a sign that we’re giving our life to him. But this is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of a sacrament. Sacraments are not things we do for God but are ordinary ways the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of salvation. In addition, it is only by faith that a person receives these benefits.

While not the means of salvation itself, the sacraments serve to really and truly nourish and sustain a Christian’s faith. It is important to note that the sacraments are signs and seals of what Jesus did, not what Jesus does to save. By themselves, being baptized and eating some bread and wine do nothing. It is when the Holy Spirit works through them and the participant has faith that the person is renewed and refreshed and has communion with Christ himself.

Notice the nuance employed here: the sacraments are “not what Jesus does to save,” but yet “the Holy Spirit works through them” to affect the faith of the recipient. I would use even stronger language than the author here did, but nevertheless, this is the Reformed, catholic religion which Jesus founded. Amen.

Read more here.

Scattered and Disillusioned: Spiritual Autobiography 8

A Hope Dashed

Picking up from the last post, 2007 was the year I really began to embrace the intellectual side of Christianity. For far too many people, even the idea of an “intellectual side” sounds like the death of vital, vibrant, Spirit-led Christianity. Many Christians see the intellectual pursuits of doctrine as divisive, often citing the warning to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:3-5

“I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (ESV).

Indeed!

The Christian life is meant to be a marriage of spirit and truth, of piety and knowledge, of joy and sobriety. Many strains of Christianity end up dry as deserts, lost in pits of books, disputes, and dissensions, while others end up drunk on emotionalism, rejecting the pursuit of knowledge, and susceptible to every wind of doctrine which whips along.

But for me in 2007, the flood of new doctrinal insight I received through studying Calvinism was a flood of information laced with deep pockets of joy. Continue reading