Heresy in the Highlands

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The following post recently appeared on a friend’s Facebook page.

You know it’s a ‘sign of the times’ when even the Highlands and Islands have churches that promote Joel Osteen. What a desperate state of affairs. Why is this trend happening? I’m not a prophet, or the son of a prophet, but I think years of harsh Presbyterianism has left the highlands and Islands spiritually dry, hard and indifferent. That is why the more popular, humanistic, messages like Osteen’s are thriving even in the reformed strongholds. There must be a better way. Why must it be dead religion, or pop-culture Christianity? Why not a theologically robust, Gospel-declaring, missionally orientated, Holy Spirit empowered reformed church? Let’s lift our standard higher.

It was a fascinating observation from someone who comes from a variety of backgrounds and whose insight and enthusiasm I appreciate. And like all good posts it got me thinking – and writing! As somebody who was brought up in the Highlands and who ministered in the wonderful village of Brora for six years and retains a deep interest in that most beautiful area of the world, an area that has experienced a spiritual beauty as well, let me make the following observations:

1) Legalism – It is too simplistic to suggest that it is years of harsh Presbyterianism which has left the Highlands and Islands spiritually dry, hard and indifferent.   No one will deny that there is such a thing as harsh Presbyterianism, but don’t believe the caricature or stereotype. Much of the Presbyterianism I found in the Highlands was deep, personal, compassionate and spiritual. In fact the rest of the United Kingdom has a great deal to learn from Highland spirituality. Including how not to do it. Because of course whenever you have a work of the Lord, you will always find the false replicas of the devil, and the sinful strivings of even the holiest of saints. Spiritual pride, legalism and division have been particularly harmful. But don’t throw the baby with the bathwater! There are many other factors in the current spiritual dryness that exists in many, though not all, areas of the Highlands.

2) Division – many of us can tell stories of small villages with several churches whose doctrine and theology you could hardly separate with a pinhead. I remember one community of 800 people which had four Evangelical Presbyterian Churchs and a fishermen’s mission, each with their own buildings and minister. It was as sinful as it was ridiculous. But those days are largely long gone. The truth is that there is a dearth of ministers and viable churches in much of the Highlands. Ironically some of those who complain most about divisions in the church have created even more by setting up new ‘non-denominational’ churches.   When I was minister in Brora between 1986 and 1992 there was basically the Free Church, the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church. Today we still have those three, but we also have the Free Church (Continuing), an independent fellowship, and who knows, there may be yet be more. More churches/fellowships that is, not more Christians.  In fact given that most people travel by car there are doubtless people criss-crossing communities all over the Highlands heading for the church that they feel called to, or that suits their particular taste.

3) Even in the Highlands – The reason for this post was my friends astonishment that one of these new independent churches in North Uist had posted on their Facebook page a Joel Osteen video. I think what slightly amused me was my friends astonishment that this should appear even in the Highlands and Islands. I’ve known for years that God TV and other forms of Christian media have become part of the staple diet of many Christians in the Highlands, including in the Free Church.   It has ever been thus. Heresy impacts good churches as well. That’s why we need good teaching, and is why we can never rest on our laurels. If we are feeding our people the glorious feast of the word, they will have no appetite for the froth and trinkets of the spiritual fly by night charlatans who think that godliness is the means to financial gain.

The trouble here is not so much harsh legalism, but the pietism that often springs up as a reaction to it. Some people are easily taken in by the Angels of light who give Jesus talk along with nice smiles, entertaining stories and a sufficient amount of cultural critique which makes their listeners think that they are on the same side. And so when someone like yours truly warns about the false teaching of Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland and Joyce Meyer, many people just assume that this is the equivalent of some kind of inter Presbyterian spat, and they want to cry a plague on both your houses! The trouble is that these tele-evangelists are not offering a different form of the gospel, they are offering a different gospel altogether.  

4) Edgy?   – Another friend (yes, I do have two!) posted on the same thread:

 We have a proliferation of independent churches which are: inherently divisive, have no confessional identity, an antipathy towards thinking which has been filtered through over two millennia of robust thinking and will only last for a few years until individual and institutional boredom sets in.

… and they are so not edgy! There comes a time in life when you have to stop throwing frisbees.

 This is spot on. Of course not every new church is bad, nor are all independent churches necessarily dysfunctional, any more than all Presbyterian churches are necessarily liberal or legalistic! We are fully supportive of the work of FIEC- and would encourage those of an independent persuasion to link and join with them. But I’m getting a little bit fed up of the self-styled cool, hip, happening, edgy ,‘we know how to connect with the culture’ churches. It reminds me of the family who visited us after the collapse of a particular ‘community’ church. What went wrong? “Oh, we were really good at community, we drank a lot of coffee, but we just forgot about the word…” Community is of course essential. But without the word you might as well join the atheist church! Community without Christ will always be superficial. Thinking that community is Christ will always lead to tension and heresy. Such a community will continually be driven to and fro by every wind of doctrine.

The Question – So let’s return to the original post and to a great question:

There must be a better way. Why must it be dead religion, or pop-culture Christianity? Why not a theologically robust, Gospel-declaring, missionally orientated, Holy Spirit empowered reformed church? Let’s lift our standard higher.

Theologically robust? Check.

Gospel declaring? Check. Although how can you be theologically robust without being gospel declaring?

Missionally orientated? What does that mean? I hate the word missional! For some reason I have this word association linking it with latte drinking! And it is superfluous to gospel declaring.

Holy Spirit empowered? Check. Although again if we are professing to be a new Testament church is there any other kind?

Reformed? Superfluous. If we are theologically robust then we are going to be reformed. Reformed is not a denominational label or a party label, it is another word for biblical theology.

Biblical Churches?

I think my own way of putting it may be a little bit simplistic and naive, why can’t we just have biblical churches? Any biblical church is a radical church. By definition. I guess the words that are used need to be defined. But the trouble is most of the heretical churches I know would quite happily call themselves theologically robust, gospel declaring, missionary orientated, Holy Spirit empowered and even reformed! The labels don’t mean much if the content is rubbish.   That’s why am glad I belong to a confessional church, where our doctrine is not decided by congregational meetings, or prophetic leaders, but is in line with the teaching and history of the church over centuries. Yes always reforming. Yes always open to change. Yes flexible at the edges. But always hard-core and solid when it comes to the basics of the gospel. Whatever the spirit of the age! And above all a church which stands upon the Bible and doesn’t buy in to the current cultural zeitgeist that is impossible to know what the Bible actually says or indeed to apply it as the authoritative, inspired and sufficient Word of God.

Repentance

Perhaps those of us who would say Amen to all the above, and would describe ourselves as a biblical church, need to have a more biblical attitude of repentance. It is our lack of love, compassion, passion, unity and zeal, which have far too often made the phrase ‘biblical church’, seem like purgatory rather than a foretaste of heaven. Maybe we should take the beam out of our own eye, before we take the plank out of our brothers?!

The Marks of the Church

Perhaps the old Scottish Presbyterian marks of the church were not so far off the mark? Bible teaching, the administration of the sacraments, church discipline and fourthly, distribution (this being what we would call today mercy ministry).

Jean Darnell’s Prophecy

For decades I have heard the Jean Darnell prophecy from 1967, and its subsequent developments. In 1987, just one year after I began serving the Lord as a minister, she pronounced:

It’s here, folks, that spiritual awakening: it’s starting; the very first signs of it are already upon us. Your generation are going to see a harvest of souls in this land such as you have never seen before. And it’s going to have a tremendous effect not only upon this nation and the British Isles, but upon many other nations.

She was wrong. This has not happened. And yet in every generation along comes another Prophet, to tell us that the great revival is just around the corner. I don’t know. They don’t know. You don’t know. And we don’t need to know. The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children. Instead of speculating about what we do not know and being motivated by spiritual pep talks inspired at best by well-meaning individuals, we need to be motivated by who we do know, and what he tells us in his word. The Sunday morning I will be preaching on Isaiah 55:6-11. This is Gods commentary on what we need and what is happening.

 

Seek the LORD while he may be found;

                        call on him while he is near.

7          Let the wicked forsake their ways

                        and the unrighteous their thoughts.

            Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,

                        and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

8          “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

                        neither are your ways my ways,”

                                                declares the LORD.

9          “As the heavens are higher than the earth,

                        so are my ways higher than your ways

                        and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10       As the rain and the snow

                        come down from heaven,

            and do not return to it

                        without watering the earth

            and making it bud and flourish,

                        so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11       so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

                        It will not return to me empty,

            but will accomplish what I desire

                        and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

12       You will go out in joy

                        and be led forth in peace;

            the mountains and hills

                        will burst into song before you,

            and all the trees of the field

                        will clap their hands.

13       Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,

                        and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.

            This will be for the LORD’S renown,

                        for an everlasting sign,

                        that will endure forever.”

 

 

 

 

 


17 thoughts on “Heresy in the Highlands

  1. Haha congratulations on having two friends.

    “I’m getting a little bit fed up of the self-styled cool, hip, happening, edgy ,‘we know how to connect with the culture’ churches.”

    And here is what I think is central to your argument. How would it be if someone said to you that they were a little bit fed up of your dour “truth” being preached at them by a private Frazer “were’ all doomed” and need to repent week after week dragging them down and never experiencing the fruit of the Spirit that is joy?

    No this is not an apologetic for the Osteens of this world or being “cool”. Rather, I ask, where is God in all of this?

    All I know is that when I have felt “fed up” with church then I can spend my time banging my head up as if against a brick wall trying to make changes only to find I get a sore head. All I can do is be the change that I want to see as far as I am able to be and leave everyone else to get on with what they are doing. I have enough troubles with what that brings than making more trouble for myself.

    If there are swine in the church, why share pearls with them?

  2. Excellent article but I often reflect that heresy was exentuated by those responsible for our churches in the highlands from many years back. They set themselves up on pedestals almost making themselves untouchable and never to be questioned!
    Point in case from personal experience 1966 at the ripe young age of 16 and experiencing the death of a grand uncle with whom I was brought up with and very close to. As was practice worship being held in family home and under conviction I decided that I wished to speak/discuss my personal situation with our minister. Having carefully planned to extradite myself from the house as the minister was leaving, I sneaked out back door and was beside his car as he came out of our home. I recall as if yesterday asking him “Mr __________ I wish to speak to you about being saved”. He replied in Gaelic as he opened his car door and said “laddie you are young enough yet” and drove off leaving me there wondering “what must I do to be saved”??

    Here I am 50 years on and have often wondered “what if” after so many years? Thankfully the Lord put a new song in my mouth in 1979. Bill

  3. 15 or so years ago my wife and I while on holiday in N Uist went to a service at a nearby church. Don’t know if it was Free or Cos, but we’d never been to a service like it, before or since.

    The things that mostly stick in mind as non Presbyterian stranger were:

    1 there was no welcome
    2 nearly everyone piled in at the last minute and disperse immediately afterwards, with little or no conversation
    3 apart for one other, my wife was the only female without a head covering including girls.
    4 unaccompanied sung psalms, led by a tuning fork.

    If we were to have moved to N Uist, we may have struggled to have found a church, as it was so alien to us.

    Some of all this change in church, in the proliferation of churches, may be greatly down to changes in society from the time of WW2 with challenges to strictures and structures, and authority: as an older friend regularly says a movement to the emphasis on individualism as opposed to the collective.

    There was also a lot of teaching around in charismatic churches, at the time of Jean Darnal in the UK, of “fivefold ministries” based on Ephesians 4v11 . This I believe became a challenge to traditional church offices, which Bill (above) describes , with ministers being aloof, above and at arms length from those they purported to serve. And more and more congregants have wanted to have an input, to play a part, have a say in church services. Hence divisions and splits, particularly at a time when current culture (including internet Christian stuff) is being imbibed by individual church members and when self protectionism, insecurity and competition abound. And this is exacerbated when there is no commonality of belief.

    (Ironically, I can recall Jean Darnal saying that when she was preparing to speak she always divided her note paper into four sections with a cross so that the cross was always central.)

    Last weekend I was accused of having a critical spirit by a friend when we started to discuss local church plants, which neither of us is part of. An observation that I made was that they could take some time to establish as church members had transferred from their “mother” church and travelled some distance to attend. Not many or any lived in the locality, and were not of the same demographic, were outsiders. But more, from experience, how difficult was it for anyone even to be accepted as helping -out even in the kitchen, as those jobs were already taken by planters. There had already been a split in one plant. It was like lighting a blue touch paper! I’ve not planted a church, so I don’t know anything. (Nor can we learn anything? Even from the “golden rule”?)

    And that’s not even mentioning teaching/preaching, worship, style, content.

    This is where I struggle as I’ve benefitted hugely from marvellous internet teaching/preaching through listening to some great preaching/teaching. But when I’ve tried to share books and internet links there has largely been spontaneous apathy. Perhaps it is seen as implied criticism of what is. And I do really struggle with this: Keller’s comments/teaching on preaching that is full of good advice, information, but where is the good news of Jesus? does get me listening with my heart and mind.

    But the Apollos v Paul temptation abounds, if not with Paul. May all of us have Paul’s attitude. Just last week at the Keswick Convention in a short conversation with a Welshman who had been there for two weeks there was comparison by him of speakers, not what he learned from both.

    RT Kendal has said that you can always tell an Oxford University graduate but you can tell them much. Is that not so with Christians today? We are beyond learning, especially from the past.

    But to finish on a high note.

    Again a number of years ago I attended a “lecture” locally. It was given by a then minister of a church in Portree, Isle of Skye. It was more of a sermon than lecture. Questions were invited at the end. One man was clearly delighted and surprised at the sermon describing it like the biblical teaching he got at a Pentecostal church! The minister seemed nonplussed at the compliment. Engaging biblical preaching removed preconceptions.

  4. What must I do to be saved? Jesus said many things in answer to that question. No single answer should be held in isolation from all the others but on one occasion, Jesus’s answer was:
    “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.“ (Matt 19: 16-19)
    Any complete answer to the question must not exclude that answer or try to pretend that Jesus did not really mean what he actually said..

    1. Actually Jesus didn’t say ‘many things’ in answer to that question. He said a few….the bottom line is that you have faith (believe int he Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved)….but the faith that saves is never alone. Faith without works is dead…

  5. Yes, we should preach biblical Christianity but what does that mean? But the scandalous freedom of the gospel is almost universally misunderstood within the Church and without. Some, like Mike17, suggest presbyterianism is not harsh enough, whereas those outside (unbelievers) would prefer to eat their arm than come into an oppresively presbyterian church whose main focus is the third use of the law not Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

    We dare not preach the scandalous freedom of the gospel because of the elephant in the room (and in Rom 6) which is licence, even antinomianism.
    So we get people into church by fear and fire insurance, and there will never be love other than through gritted teeth – the Stoics were good at that and taight us well, such is Protestant scholasticism

    You’re right; most ‘missional’ stuff is to ease our consciences not to save people out of love for them

  6. Please don’t post this comment David, if it’s not OK to quote Sinclair Ferguson.

    Mike17,

    Where do you get your salvation from, on what or on whom is it based? Is an assurance of salvation a sin of presumption? And what about purgutary and indulgences and praying for the dead and could you sing wholeheartedly the hymn , “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”

    Who, what, how is atonement for your sins achieved? How do you know you’ve done enough?

    Loved the way Bill, above, described having a new song put in his mouth in 1979.

    Perhaps you won’t be taking part in next year’s Keswick Convention theme of celebrating 500 years of the Reformation, with DA Carson and Alistair Begg as two of the main speakers.

    Riichard,

    Loved the way you described the scandalous freedom of the gospel.

    You will be aware of the book that David has greatly endorsed in the past which deals in some detail, nomianism v antinomianism through the Marrow controversy: “The Whole Christ” by Sinclair Ferguson.

    Like Keller in the “Prodigal God” he draws out the similarity between the younger and elder son. Both have a distorted view of the character of God. The root is the same.
    “Legalism , then is almost as old as Eden itself. In essence it is any teaching that diminishes or distorts the generous love of God and the full freeness of his grace. It then distorts God’s graciousness revealed in the law and fails to see the law set within its proper context of redemptive history as an expression of a gracious Father. This is the nature of legalism.”

    Again the gospel is the cure for both legalism and liberalism.

    Ferguson again:
    “There is only one cure for legalism. It is the same medicine the gospel prescribes for antinomianism: the understanding and tasting union with Jesus Christ himself. This leads to a new love for and obedience to the law of God.”

    The default mode of the human heart is to base our justification on our self effort sanctification rather than sanctification being based on justification, on the goodness of a gracious God. Otherwise, we are left with a ministry of burdens: try harder, try harder, never good enough, no assurance.

    1. Geoff

      Thank you, and indeed for your kind word

      I agree with all you say, but pushing the envelope a little further, I think we can identify other subtle issues.

      Yes, there are many of us who, behind our words, believe in our hearts that our justification is based on our sanctification (I like that phrase!). That of course is legalism (and I find in my heart that that is paradoxically present alongside complacency!)

      But legalism apart, there is then the Galatian heresy (or at least one interpretation of it) which is starting by/with the Spirit and seeking to continue by the flesh. This is not legalism, but pronomianism or neonomianism or covenantal nomism. Covenantal Nomism is when we hear that, because we are believers, we ‘ought’ to obey in gratitude, or ‘you will want to obey’, or ‘you are now enabled to obey’. The problem with these is that, as you say, we are left with a ministry of burdens. This is then worsened by the suggestion that, unless we are increasing in fruitfulness, we have to examine ourselves to see if indeed we are of the faith. The introspective pressure thus generated is as dreadful as pelagianism or semi-pelagianism; I call it Salvation by Mortgage – you are given something free up front but must pay it off for ever thereafter.

      It is almost as if the Reformation won for us the battle on justification, but the enemy has now set up his camp further downstream at ‘sanctification’ from where to upset the cart. A famous 20th century Anglican quoted with approval a less famous Puritan’s ‘the law sends you to Christ and Christ sends you back to the law’ which is surely truly dreadful. It is like a small boy, reassured of his mother’s love, nevertheless still sent away to boarding school (a very English experience).

      The only way to resist this nomist leaven of the Pharisees is to stand with Luther on the unbridgable divide between Law and Gospel, and I’m not sure Calvin does this with his third use of the law, and I’m jolly sure that most modern Reformed/Calvinists are pleased to have thrown a rope ladder between the two.

      This is why the scandal of the cross must also be seen as the scandalous freedom of the gospel. The first scandal is Luther’s Theology of the Cross, that the cursed death of a ‘man’ on a tree can free the world. The second scandal is that absolutely nothing is then required of the saved soul. But this is where we get nervous. People often say that it is out of pride that we seek to contribute to our salvation, but I think it is out of fear. We would hate to get to the pearly gates only to be laughed at by one and all saying ‘you’d didn’t really think there was absolutely nothing at all you had to do after being saved’. Consequently we like to have a scrap of paper in our back pocket listing a few, miserable good works we have done.

      ‘It is for freedom that you have been set free’ is much wider and more scary than ‘it is for service that you have been set free’. We have been set free to BE a new creation, to be (or start to be) a better Adam made in the image of our older Brother. Again the strength of Luther’s thought was the ontological change involved. But, despite references to union with Christ, Calvin and Calvinists seem to stress the primacy of the moral component, as if the key is not the new man, but the improvement of the old man. For Luther, intimacy with God by way of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit brings the transformation (and ‘obedience’) that is suited to life in the new heaven and the new earth, but for Calvin or at least Calvinists, it is as if obedience (empowered by – let’s face it – an infusion with a dollop of Holy Spirit) brings greater intimacy. Though hotly denied, this is the Stoic principle that an act brings a habit, a habit brings a disposition, a disposition brings character, and character ultimately brings a destiny – the complete opposite of Christianity

      Regeneration and what follows by way of a transformed life and good works are entirely the work of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me that we must guard against any form of synergism in sanctification as much as in justification. Yes, in justification it is us who ‘believe’ but we never deny monergism, yet in sanctification, since it is us who ‘do’, we readily ditch monergism of the Spirit as the author and perfector of our faith. Human reason assumes that, because we identify alternatives ahead of us in the road, that this must mean we are some sort of ‘supreme’ autonomous arbiter between what the Spirit ‘offers’ and what the Enemy offers, with some sort of ghost in the machine with a free-will power of contrary choice.

      At the end of the day, each of us develops an encompassing and often unconscious hermeneutic. Redemptive history is either about God making us obedient, or bringing us into increasing intimacy. Some will say God is too holy to look on sin, but others will say, no God is too holy to look on sin and do nothing. It all goes back to the garden before even the Fall. Was the arrangement a bilateral mercantile covenant of obedience with us punished for our failings; or was Eden a unilateral marriage covenant, a betrothal period in which the marriage had to be postponed for our benefit.

      I am grateful for the reminder about Sinclair F on the identical gospel cure for leglism and immoral licence (which is slightly different from amoral antinomianism). But, if I may tentatively say so, I do think he claws much of this back when talking about sanctification, gospel imperatives and the Christian life, at which point freedom flies out the wndow or, rather, becomes sufficiently small that it can scuttle out under the door!!

      I look forward to any comments you might wish to make

  7. Well Richard,

    Again David please don’t permit this if it’s not allowable to quote , this time Mike Reeves.

    Well Richard,

    I found the depths of your response edifying indeed. If I can make some comments which will not do justice to yours and may disappoint.

    1 The expression “sanctification based on our justification” comes from Tim Keller, but I’ve expanded it slightly

    2 I’ve not studied in any depth, Luther v Calvin. What I know is from recorded teaching by Michael Reeves and Carl Truman and written “popular” (well not so popular really) level writings from Michael Reeves. So I don’t I don’t know the nuances, which may be more than nuance. I’ve not read Luther’s commentary on Galatians. Reeves in some of his teaching, is quite fulsome in support of Luther

    3 Again at the lay level I’ve benefitted from Keller’s book “Shaped by the Gospel”. In it he addresses critiques from Michael Horton on “Gospel Theology” and from Duane Ortland (who emphasises Union with Christ).

    4 Michael Reeves has written two excellent books (at least) “Our life in Christ” being one, looking at our Union with Christ.
    I’ve also listened to some great teaching by Sinclair F’s teaching specifically on Union with Christ, available on the net which, if my memory is correct, does not directly link to teaching on the place of the law, as does his book “The Whole Christ” in the context of the Marrow controversy. Granted, I do not have the chronology of his teaching, but it seems to me that “Union with Christ” would sum up his dominant theology and that to me he loves Jesus.

    5 Monergism. While I can not give quotations, the sense I get from some of the teaching on the Mongerism website is that there lurks semi – pelagianism in some parts, notwithstanding both the title of the site and what I think is their support for the pre- creation covenant of redemption.

    6 Marriage. I think Luther’s teaching is compelling from Song of Songs. Here we have the divine exchange. I’ve heard evangelical preaching/teaching that we have to beautify ourselves before our marriage to Christ,

    7 This from Michael Reeves Our Life in Christ (it is similar to some of your words)

    “On the one hand there are Christians who want to emphasise the absolute freeness of salvation that any calls for holy living smack to them of attempts to earn God’s favour.” Surely there can be no demands on us if salvation is truly free”, they cry, On the other hand you find a huge constituency quietly terrified of the language of free salvation. “Don’t tell the people it’s completely free”, they murmur. Else, “they’ll never come to church or live holy lives”. As if salvation is some ethereal box of goodies received at death’
    The mess goes away, though if salvation IS Christ. Then you can not slice up salvation and Christian living – or justification and sanctification – for both are about him, and he can not be sliced up. God does not have wodges of “righteousness” or “salvation” that he tears up and lobs down from heaven. He has his righteous Son. So as a preacher I offer Christ to all, completely free . But I offer no life apart from him. He IS salvation: IN him is all righteousness and KNOWING him is the heart of holiness. Martin Luther put it perfectly – “Through faith in Christ” he wrote, “Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; RATHER HE HIMSELF BECOMES OURS.” That is the only reason we have his righteousness: because we have HIM. And knowing him is the only life and liberty for which we are freely saved.
    “This is also transforms what we mean by that tricky word “holiness”….but without Christ holiness tends to have all the charm of an ingrown toenail. For, very simply, if holiness is not first and foremost about knowing Christ , it will be about self-produced morality and religiosity. But such incurved self-dependence is quite the opposite of what pleases God, or what is actually beautiful. God is not interested in our manufactured virtue; he does not want external obedience or morality if it does not flow from true love for him.
    “He wants to share his pleasure in his Son. What is the greatest after all? “Love the Lord your God.” That is the root of true God-likeness.
    “Nothing is more holy than a heartfelt delight in Christ. Nothing is so powerful to transform lives.”

    8 What I don’t agree with in a lot of evangelical teaching is an emphasis on our standing being as sinners, rather than as “saints” who sin, or now as sons of God, and that what the Father says of the Son he says of us and He loves us as He loves his Son. (John 17) Christ’s perfect obedience, perfect fulfilment of the law, perfect righteousness, his perfect love for the Father, his perfect love for neighbours (all of humanity), perfect trust, perfect faithfulness is credited to us.

    As Calvin said; “The Son of God became son of man, that sons of men might become sons of God.” He also said that “we are engrafted into his body- in short because he deigns to make us one with him.” And we may call out “Abba.” (Galatians.)

    9 As Donald MacLeod puts it in his book “Christ Crucified”
    “In him we are made the righteousness of God “….”that last phrase is remarkable. Righteousness is an absolute… In him that righteousness is ours. We are as righteous as God himself: perfect, our sins blotted out”.

    10 Don’t you just love Him? So why would I consciously sin. Why would I want to? Why would I want to dishonour Him/ We have been justified and sanctified and are being sanctified and will be sanctified. And as Jonathan Edwardes puts it His holiness is His beauty,

    11 I need to hear this all the time. But not just words on a page. There has to be a reality, a being brought into fellowship with the triune God. Created for fellowship.
    This is where theology/reality of the work of Holy Spirit may come to the fore. And in a different way this highlights the disputation taking place at present between Liam Goligher (with others) and Wayne Grudem (with others) It is this – Holy Spirit being equal God But David might call this pietism.

    This has turned out to be far too long.

  8. However, these kinds of churches do seem to be connecting with people, particularly immigrants (in Edinburgh at least) in a way that other churches are not. I guess it is a cultural thing. However, I have my own tale to tell of survival for a while in that kind of church environment. It is nigh on impossible to last in one of these “modern”, mildly charismatic churches unless you are entirely positive about life almost all of the time, are predominantly extrovert in character and have lots of energy on a Sunday morning. I am afraid I don’t tick all of these boxes and was considered a bit “suspect”, probably as the result of some hidden sin of mine etc. I am sure you have heard this kind of thing before. These types of church seem to be a form of affirmation for people who have already got their “stuff” together, They might want to be a transformational environment,and some people who are transformed will stick in it, but lots will pass through. A generalisation, but probably not far off the mark most of the time. This is why these churches tend to come and go. If people aren’t feeling affirmed then they move on.

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