Category Archives: Christian Living

The Worship Service and the New Testament Assembly

by Peter Ditzel

A contemporary worship service with green stage lighting, music performers on stage, and people raising their hands.
Is this what meetings of the New Testament assembly are supposed to look like?

Ten to fifteen years ago, I exchanged a couple of letters with one of the elders of a small Baptist congregation in rural America. In one letter to him, I asked him some questions about a matter of their worship service. In his answer, he politely answered my question, but he prefaced his answer by saying, “In what you call a worship service….” He never explained it further, but his saying that was like a small poke that awoke something in me. I already had a question in the back of my mind about what I felt was the common overuse and abuse of the term “praise and worship service” to refer to the lengthy, contemporary Christian, music performances that were beginning to dominate so many churches. Now, I was stimulated to look into the worship service itself. How should it be conducted? What was its goal? What were its biblical origins? What I found startled me.

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Why I Won’t Be Signing the Nashville Statement

by Peter Ditzel

On August 29, 2017, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) issued the Nashville Statement. You can read it on their site here or in this PDF version. The initial signatories include many prominent leaders from Christian Conservatism/American Evangelicalism. According to its preamble, it was written “in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture.” Thus, CBMW wrote the statement not just to the Christian community who would, hopefully, understand it in the context of the Gospel and, in fact, all Scripture. It was also written to the public at large, which we must assume is not well-versed in Scripture and internal Christian jargon.

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What Is the Law of Christ?

by Peter Ditzel

A picture of a horse in deep water with a wet dog standing on its back. Overlaid words: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
In love, Jesus bore our burdens of sin. We are to bear one another’s burdens.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Although it is alluded to in other Scriptures, this is the only place in all the Bible that uses the phrase “law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? As Christians, we should have more than vague ideas about something so connected to Jesus Christ as His law. Is the law of Christ a set of commandments like the Ten Commandments? Is it one command, love, that can be expressed in slightly more detail as “bear one another’s burdens”? Is it the law that Jeremiah prophesied God would put in our inward parts and write on our hearts? (Jeremiah 31:33). Let’s find out.

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The Dangers of the Christian Personality Cult (part 2)

by Peter Ditzel

A quote of 1 John 4:1: Beloved, don't believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Testing involves comparing what someone says to the known revelation of God, the Bible. No one, whatever superstar status he or she may have in the eyes of the world, is above this testing.

(<Part 1)

Test the Spirits

When the people of Berea heard even Paul and Silas preach, they “received the word with all readiness of the mind,” they didn’t just reject it without first hearing it, but they also examined “the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11). For even such prominent speakers, the Bible does not berate the Bereans for comparing what was said with Scripture.

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The Dangers of the Christian Personality Cult (part 1)

by Peter Ditzel

A picture of Joel Osteen speaking at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.
Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. This megachurch that Osteen pastors boasts the largest congregation in the United States with about 52,000 attendees per week.

The world loves celebrities, stars, heroes, and superheroes. Although the production of superhero live-action films, animations, and television series constitutes a multi-billion dollar industry, we’re not satisfied with purely fictional heroes. We also take movie stars, television personalities, musicians, authors, chefs, medical professionals, even scientists, philosophers, and religious gurus of various beliefs, and we turn them into idols. We even have the various Idol and Idol-type shows around the globe in which we look for more idols. Given this penchant for elevating mere humans to larger-than-life status, it shouldn’t be surprising that we then apply our desire for idols to Christian speakers and writers.

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Are We Sanctified by Works or by Grace? (part 2)

by Peter Ditzel

A quote of Hebrews 13:12: Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside of the gate.
If Jesus completed our sanctification, what role can our works have? Wouldn’t trying to add our works to our Savior’s blood be insolence?

Progressive Sanctification, View One: Grace Plus Works or Cooperation

In this view, grace and works are usually seen as more or less balanced. Theologian Wayne Grudem is one representative of this view. He believes that sanctification is “a work in which God and man cooperate each playing distinct roles” (“Sanctification (by Wayne Grudem)“). Although admitting that an “initial moral change is the first stage in sanctification” (ibid.), he says “this moral change is actually a part of regeneration [but] we can also see it as the first stage in sanctification” (ibid.). His emphasis is largely on progressive sanctification. He writes, “Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives” (ibid.). To Grudem, sanctification is not just a work of God; it is a work of God and man.

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Are We Sanctified by Works or by Grace? (part 1)

by Peter Ditzel

A quote of 1 Corinthians 1:30: But of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.

What is the relationship between Jesus being made our sanctification and the works Bible teachers often tell us we must do for our sanctification?

 

Why does the Bible seem to teach sanctification by works in some places and by grace in others? Do the writers of the New Testament contradict each other, or are we sanctified by both works and grace? Or, perhaps the Bible gives an answer to the sanctification puzzle that we don’t often hear about.

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Our Spiritual Battle Part 2

by Peter Ditzel

In the first part of this article, we saw how our spiritual battle is not against flesh and blood, and that the opposite concepts of what our spiritual armor pictures show what we are fighting against in our spiritual battle (for example, the opposite of truth is lies, the opposite of faith is unbelief). In Part 2, we will see that our spiritual battle is a rational one founded upon the truth of the Word of God.

Logical Propositions

Joshua and the Israelites before the Walls of Jericho by Christoph Murer about 1600.
Joshua and the children of Israel brought down the walls of Jericho with trumpet blasts and a shout, and Hebrews 11:30 says, “By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down.” Joshua and the Israelites before the Walls of Jericho by Christoph Murer circa 1600.

I’ve heard preachers attack what they call “mere human reasoning.” Some might just mean erroneous arguments. But I know that others truly believe that Christians should avoid logic to
support their ideas. This is unfortunate. Jesus is the Logos of God. Logos is the word from which we get the English word “logic.” Logos is often translated as “word” (as it is in John 1:1) because words express logical propositions. We arrange words in grammatically correct syntax in sentences the way computer programmers arrange computer code.

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Our Spiritual Battle Part 1

by Peter Ditzel

Spanish (Valencian) tempera on wood painting of Michael slaying the dragon, ca 1405, artist unknown.
Artists have often depicted spiritual battles as literal fights, but the Bible even specifically points out that the battle between Michael and the devil was a disputation that ended with the words, “May the Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9). This is a tempera on wood (ca. 1405) by an unknown Spanish (Valencian) artist. Source http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437742.

In Ephesians 6:10, Paul tells his readers to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might,” which, in the next verse, he pictures as putting “on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Paul is making an analogy between the Christian life and an armored soldier standing his ground in a battle. What the Christian must stand against are “the wiles of the devil.” The devil has methodeia—”clever ways,” “cunning schemes”—that we must stand up against.

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