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Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.
When I came across the doctrines of grace I was utterly humbled. I was deep into word of faith and prosperity theology and the cross and gospel were a distant memory. My eyes were refocused but today I would like to feature a testimony that has been a blessing. Speaking about refocusing our eyes there’s no one who has been sounding the alarm louder than Holly D. Dye of Refocusing Our Eyes. You see….
For the last 2 years, [Holly says] since leaving the Word of Faith movement, there have been erroneous assumptions, by people of that camp, that I have left the Faith. However, nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, I have become more solidified in Christian truths and more passionate in my service to God than ever before. I trust that through this 2-part article, God would grant me the ability to “make a defense to those who have asked a reason for the hope that is in me and that I may be able to do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3.15).
In this discourse, I have no intention of “sowing strife”, as is commonly asserted by WoF leadership toward those who resist their teaching. Although it is certain, offense will surely come, I will attempt, by the grace of God, to present my beliefs within the landscape of scripture and by the brush of simple reasoning.
“To maintain pure truth in the church, we should be ready to make any sacrifice, to hazard peace, to risk dissention and run the chance of division.” – J.C. Ryle
In January 2009, I reached the peak of a 4-year crisis of my faith. Everything I had been taught to believe as true was falling to pieces around me. None of my positive confessions were working, none of the formulas I had been taught that would “move the hand of God” were coming to pass and no one seemed serious enough about their faith to give extended study to the scriptures to bring clarification to the many questions I had regarding our beliefs. All the coaching to exercise my “faith muscle” began to sound like, at best – a cop-out for lack of biblical counseling or at worst – a formulated mantra.
I was tired of “pat answers” and hyper-spirituality. I wanted truth at all costs. This led me on a 9-month journey of intense study of the Word and everything that I believed was laid upon the altar. I was absolutely amazed that the doctrines I had been taught were not validated by scripture and the ones that seemed to have a scriptural basis were sadly twisted and taken out of context.
To say I felt violated, at that moment of realization, would be an understatement. To think that for more than half of my Christian life, I had believed a lie, created such a surge of emotions through my being that all I could do, night and day, was cry out to God for truth.
In October of that same year, God providentially led me to two different Reformed Asian teenage brothers in the Lord – one from another state in the U.S. and the other from the Philippines, through the Internet – who patiently expounded the scriptures to me. Through their exposition and also by reading and studying good Christian teachers, mostly of the past, the Lord worked in me. Slowly, and at times painfully, the Lord opened my eyes to the truth about the gospel, man and Himself.
What are to follow are affirmations of my faith, written in the simplest form possible. For the sake of clarification, I have categorized my beliefs under four headings: The Scriptures; God – The Father; God – The Son; and God – The Holy Spirit.
I affirm that I hold a high view of Scripture. I believe it to be the infallible and inerrant Word of God. It is the necessary food for the pilgrim traveler, without which he can neither be nourished nor fight off his assailants. It is the sum and total of God’s revelation to man. It is the means by which every authority, office and believer is subject to and judged by.
I believe it is through the faithful reading, study and exposition of this Word, that we are made competent and equipped (2 Tim. 3.16-17) for the Christian life. I think it a great tragedy when the scriptures are not expounded, but merely pulled out of context to create a system of theology that deceives its hearers. All sermons must be faithfully examined to see that what is taught is (1) within the context of both the surrounding verses (immediate context) and (2) in agreement with other accounts of scripture (wider context).
If all the shepherds held such a view of the Holy Scriptures and its interpretation, they would be driving out the wolves, instead of serving up the sheep (Jn. 10). In my experience, I was personally well acquainted with pastors and ministers, who being not serious students of the Word would purchase canned sermons from the Internet, because they didn’t have time to study on their own. Consequently, when the occasion allowed time for them to create an original sermon, I witnessed some of the most bizarre and distorted interpretations of scripture. Sadly, as long as there was emotional excitement in the meeting, people would accept this distortion, as truth.
Many times I heard it preached, “If it’s not in the Word, throw it out.” But, my dear brethren, the very Word they claim to adhere to, cannot support many of the doctrines that are asserted. Now, I stand before you saying, I must obey the exhortation to throw out that which does not line up with the Word. Will I now be judged an apostate for following the recommendation of my teachers, by searching the scriptures for myself to see whether these things be true (Acts 17.11)?
I affirm that scripture is absolutely sufficient in itself and we are warned to neither remove nor add to these Words (Prov. 30.5-6; Rev. 22.18-19). Preachers should approach God’s Word with a holy fear that drives them to ardent study, that they may understand what the text is saying, rather than finding a text to support their own ideas or experiences.
Martin Luther said, “Those whom God means to destroy He allows to meddle with the Scriptures.” What a sobering thought which echos the words of the apostle Peter: “…ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Pet. 3.16) Of this scripture, Matthew Henry stated, “The unlearned and unstable make wretched work; for they wrest and torture the scriptures, to make them speak what the Holy Ghost did not intend. Those who are not well instructed and well established in the truth are in great danger of perverting the word of God.”
No wonder, Paul instructed the young pastor Timothy to “Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2.15) Every doctrine and practice of men will either stand or fall upon the judgement of this Book.
Because we have shallow theology and the absence of biblical preaching, it has given rise to an abundance of fleshly and demonic doctrines that focus on self-centeredness, deification of man, and mysticism, driving it to the very edge of blatant heresy.
“The appropriate approach to systematic theology,” says R.C. Sproul, “recognizes that the Bible itself contains a system of truth, and it is the task of the theologian not to impose a system upon the Bible, but to build a theology by understanding the system that the Bible teaches.”
It is my firm belief that every doctrine/practice must not be formed based upon the subjective experience of an individual (Gal. 1.8), but upon the solid foundation of Scripture and its principles, that can also be traced through the corridors of church history.
“Theology has nothing new in it except that which is false. The preaching of Paul must be the preaching of the minister today…Wherever there is not the old gospel we shall find ‘Ichabod’ written upon the church walls ere long. The truths of the Covenanters, the old truths of the Puritans, the old truths of the apostles is the only truth that will stand the test of time, and never need to be altered to suit a wicked and ungodly generation.” – C.H. Spurgeon
Hence, when I affirm that the scriptures are absolutely sufficient, I conclude that the Bible is completely relevant and should be the governor for (1) our knowledge of God – theology, (2) our belief system -doctrine, (3) our personal disciplines and spiritual growth, and (4) church practice and discipline.
God, The Father
I affirm that I hold a high view of God. He has absolute power, reign and authority. He is the Creator and Supreme Ruler of all that exists. His wisdom is beyond comprehension. His glory is unmatched. He is above all and is subject to none.
Possessing this kind of view of God, as the Almighty, does not allow a belief system that lowers Him in any way. Therefore, it is reprehensible to adhere to any teaching that implies God is at our command, or worse yet, that He has lost all control.
I have never understood how such a Great, Majestic, Supremely Powerful God whom the Scriptures refer to, repeatedly, as not only reigning over Heaven, but earth as well, could suddenly be at the mercy of His creation?
It was perplexing to hear preachers declare, “The devil’s under our feet – he has been defeated!” and then in the next breath announce, “God is not in control.” My question was, how could the devil be under our feet, if God was not in control? Even at their expected rebuttal of, “God has no authority on earth because He delegated it all to the church”, one would still have to acknowledge that God is the One sustaining this reigning power of man over the devil, therefore, He is indeed, always, ever, eternally in control.
Therefore, let it be known that I firmly believe in a Sovereign God, hence, I do not believe in a sovereign devil, and if it needs to be said, I also do not believe in the sovereignty of man.
Scripture has convinced me, that God is the One who is ordering, not only the events on a national level, but also on an individual level – all for His purposes to be established and His glory to be displayed. Although I believe God is in complete control, I also believe that man is completely responsible for his actions and sin. Both, God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are clearly taught in scripture.
L.M. Grant said, “Though the believer cannot satisfy man’s intellect in explaining the compatibility of the inescapable facts of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, yet faith has no difficulty with this. The believer rejoices in both facts, and realizes the rightness of his being fully obedient to the revealed will of God. God does as He pleases: it is His right to do so. I have no right to do as I please, but am responsible to do what God pleases.”
I have also been convinced by scripture, that this great God of love, also exercises great wrath – not only in the Day which is to come, but even now, as is evidenced by His Divine judgment on nations and individuals.
I have heard quite a few people over the years say things like, “If God is like that, I won’t serve Him.” What an offensively arrogant statement. Who are we to dictate what God is like? One may as well hammer away at a scrap of metal to bow down and worship it, rather than decide he will only worship God if it suits him.
“To an age which has unashamedly sold itself to the gods of greed, pride, sex and self-will, the church mumbles on about God’s kindness but says virtually nothing about His judgement…The fact is that the subject of divine wrath has become taboo in modern society, and Christians by and large have accepted the taboo and conditioned themselves never to raise the matter…One of the most striking things about the Bible is the vigor with which both Testaments empahasize the reality and terror of God’s wrath.” – J. I. Packer
“God did not ordain the cross of Christ or create the lake of fire in order to communicate the insignificance of belittling His glory. The death of the Son of God and the damnation of unrepentant human beings are the loudest shouts under heaven that God is infinitely holy, and sin is infinitely offensive, and wrath is infinitely just, and grace is infinitely precious, and our brief life – and the life of every person in your church and in your community – leads to everlasting joy or everlasting suffering.” – John Piper
I would dare say one knows little of the cross, little of God’s love and little of the very gospel itself, without understanding and acknowledging God’s wrath. It explains why Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary for our salvation; it explains what are we being saved from; and it explains why we are admonished to repent. Only then will we truly appreciate the gracious love of God.
Now, in WoF theology, it is commonly taught that Satan conquered Jesus on the cross and that the cross was a place of defeat. They don’t like to talk about the cross because they think it to be “negative” and would rather focus on the resurrection, which is where, they believe, the only victory took place. Some even go so far as to teach an extra-biblical account by saying Jesus died spiritually, while demonic spirits tormented Him in hell. I cannot find words strong enough to express how false this is.
All this comes from a total lack of understanding of God’s wrath. It was God’s holy, righteous indignation against sin that sent Jesus to the cross. It was Jesus’ submission to the Father, in dying on a cross as our substitute, which satisfied the wrath of God. Satan never held any kind of power over the Son of God – never – neither during His life, nor in His death.
I have been convinced by scripture of God’s electing power to save and His foreknowledge and predestination of those elect. Salvation is all of God – from the beginning to the end. Man, being dead in his sins and his will, being in bondage to the devil, does not have the ability nor the desire to seek after God on his own – this desire and ability must be granted him in order to repent and put his faith in Jesus Christ.
Finally, I affirm, as I hold to Soli Deo Gloria, that I “must live my entire life before the face of God, under the authority of God, and for His glory alone.”
It is my sincere hope that through this short discourse, understanding has been given not only about my beliefs, but that God has been able to use this as a means to birth a hunger for truth in the reader. In part two, I shall endeavor, by God’s grace, to clarify and expound on my beliefs regarding God – the Son and God – the Holy Spirit.
May God be pleased to bring us all into the full knowledge of His truth, as it is clearly revealed in His blessed Word.
“Peace if possible, but the truth at any rate”. – Martin Luther.