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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
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    An Open Door of Ministry by Pastor John Samson

    This week (Tuesday, March 7, 2006) I had a wonderful God given opportunity to speak to a large audience in the Phoenix area. I was sharing with John Hendryx about what happened and he asked me if I would share some of it here on the blog.

    For 2 hours each week day evening, the largest Christian radio station in Phoenix, KPXQ 1360AM, has a live call in program hosted by Andrew Tallman. Andrew and I have had good interaction over the last year or so, even though we have many doctrinal differences (I would describe Andrew as an Arminian, though he does not like the term). However, the interaction has always been intelligent (from his side) as well as friendly.

    Andrew is away on vacation this week, and asked me to fill in as the host of the 2 hour program Tuesday evening (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.). He gave me the liberty of talking about anything I liked for 2 hours, while taking questions and comments from the listeners who call in. Though I do a 30 minute Bible teaching program each weekday, this live call in element is completely new to me, and more than a little scary.

    So what did I talk about?

    Well I started off by asking the question, "What is the Church's biggest need?"

    Then I asked people to call in whether they agreed or disagreed with me when I said, what the Church needs more than anything else is GOD as He really is, and the GOSPEL as it really is. If one of these is distorted, then so is the other. In that the program lasted 2 hours, I took an hour for each theme: Hour 1 - God as He really is; Hour 2 - The Gospel as it really is.

    There were numerous calls, with many listeners calling in for the first time, which was very much appreciated by those who worked behind the scenes at the station. "That's a good sign that the program is doing well" they said.

    Summing up my presentation (of about 10 minutes at the start of each hour), I was able to say that when we emphasize only one attribute of God, we end up with a distortion of God, and can end up even believing in a false god. For instance, when we emphasize the love of God to the exclusion of His other attributes, we end up believing that God would never send someone to hell because He just loves everybody, equally and unconditionally, and we end up with the heresy of universalism (everyone will be saved). Why? Because we have taken a truth (about the love of God) to an extreme. Most heresies come about the exact same way - something is true, but becomes an un-truth, when we take the truth God has revealed to an unbiblical extreme.

    I was able to say that God has not changed in any way at all. Not recently. Not ever! God Himself says, "I am the Lord, I do not change." - Malachi 3:6. Yet in today's church, I believe that many of God’s characteristics or attributes have been deliberately obscured from view. The more popular attributes of God are still being displayed, such as His Love, His Grace and His Mercy. Yet there has been the obscuring of certain other attributes of God - His Holiness, Righteousness, Justice, Wrath and Sovereignty.

    I talked about an illustration I've used here on the blog. At a Buffet, we find no Buffet Police watching to see if we put every item on our plate, and holding us accountable for doing so. We are free to choose which type of food we will eat, and which we will leave to one side. We do so with impunity, for we face no legal action for passing by a certain meat or the apple pie. But lets be clear, God’s attributes are not a buffet line of options. We are not invited to choose the attributes of God that we like best and leave the others. We have no right to say, “I’ll give Sovereignty a pass, but I’ll take the love." God doesn't allow us to put some of His attributes to one side. God is everything He says He is. To only believe in or to only emphasize certain of His characteristics is to invent our own god. There's a biblical name for that - idolatry! An idol can be fashioned and formed by the heart and mind just as much as by the hand. There is only one God and any god that is not the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture is a false one.

    Romans 5:8-9 declares, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” God in His love sent His Son into the world to save us from His own fierce wrath which is against all that have sinned against Him, defying His holiness.

    Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The ultimate calamity is to fall into the hands of the living God while not being in right standing with Him, facing the full judgment and wrath of God for eternity. If this is the greatest peril, then being rescued from this is the greatest deliverance and salvation. All who place their trust in Christ as Savior and Lord are saved by God, from God, for God.

    As the calls started to come in, I was amazed to hear folk say things like "this is a totally new thought to me. You've given me a lot to think about" On the one hand it was exciting to hear that people were being exposed to sound doctrine about God for perhaps the first time, but on the other, it was more than a little sad to hear that people had been in churches for years and had never heard some of these things.

    At one point I asked - please call in and tell me the last time you heard a sermon on the subject of hell. One lady did so, admitting that she had not heard a sermon on hell since 1973!! I asked her if she was serious and she assured me she was. I found that amazing!

    Another caller said he had no idea that the call to repentance was a command rather than an invitation, as I had quoted Acts 17:30. "That changes my whole concept of evangelism," he said.

    I had a call on free will, and God's Sovereignty, which opened up a good discussion... though I knew I had other callers to get to, and wasn't able to spend as much time on that issue as I would have liked.

    The folk at the radio station tell me that more than 20,000 people in the Phoenix area are listening in at any given time during the 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. drive time (when the show was on), and many more would have heard some part of the program.

    I left the station thinking that the Church is in quite a state of disarray - the people of God, for the most part, have not been exposed to the God of the Bible... yet I also left with a growing hope, because from the reaction of those who called in, many hearts seemed to be very eager to learn more about God as He really is, and to embrace the Gospel as it really is.

    Many in the church desire to get the Gospel out (and rightly so). Others spend the majority of their time seeking to get the Gospel right. But if we can do both - Get it right and get it out, God may well be pleased to awaken His sleeping giant, the Church, and for us to see a great awakening once again. That, I am sure, is something we are all praying for. May it be so, in Jesus' name. Amen.

    Posted by John Samson on March 8, 2006 01:42 PM

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    Comments

    Pastor John,

    I live in the Phoenix area and am sorry to say I missed the show. (However, I do not frequent the radio so that is not surprising.)

    So instead of a call-in I will post a hearty, 'Amen!' to your thesis. The Church is is desperate need of God as He really is and the Gospel as it really is! We are in desperate need of reformation and revival!

    To God be the glory for the opportunity He gave you to proclaim His truth!

    Here in Italy the call for reformation and revival is as most urgent as in your country!

    May God send a true biblical-based revival, allowing His people to know Him and His attributes and His TRUE gospel.

    Pray for us, for our nation, we are in need of a reformation, this is the strong desire of my heart, at least....

    God bless your work!
    Francesco

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