Gregory – Gospel Answers to Ultimate Questions

This is a letter I sent a couple of years ago in response to an email inquiry through our church’s website. I have changed the name of the person I was responding to. I did not hear back from this person, and do not know whether their questions were for research or for their own sake. But as this is a gospel message, I thought I would share it. 

Gregory,

I received your list of questions, and I am glad to give an answer. Thank you for including me in your search. Since I don’t know you, I can only assume that you are searching for the truth by investigating the answers of different churches. If so, I understand why you would feel a little confused about the different answers you have heard. I certainly do not want to add to that confusion.

Can we know the truth? Some scientists (ironically) claim that there is no absolute truth – and they are quite absolute about that. They insist that we cannot know the truth, and are troubled by those who claim to know it. I sometimes wonder if those who insist that the truth cannot be known have ever considered the self-contradiction in that claim. If the truth cannot be known, is that the truth? And if so, how can we know that?

Continue reading “Gregory – Gospel Answers to Ultimate Questions”

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A Note to My LDS Friends about the Trinity

Dear Friend,

Over the past 21 years of ministry in Utah, I have enjoyed the robust discussion we have on issues surrounding doctrine and the church. More than a few of you have made the attempt to “convert” me, and in fairness, I have not been coy about my desire to see you converted either. So what I am about to say comes out of the numerous conversations about God and the Bible we have had in my living room, in my office, or at a restaurant.

It seems to me that you believe the doctrine of the Trinity to be my Achilles’ heel. You might even believe the Trinity to be the strongest argument against orthodox Christianity. I will admit that I am relying more on anecdotal experience than hard evidence or statistics, but every time a Mormon friend – and over the years I have been blessed to make many friends here in Utah – attempts to convert me, the Trinity is always the starting point of the conversation.

Let me just say that I think I understand why you want to start there. The doctrine of the Trinity is absolutely the most difficult of all the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. You have probably noticed that even those who claim to believe in the Trinity struggle to explain exactly what they believe about the Trinity. I will not deny that the doctrine is difficult or even counterintuitive – you might think it untenable. And along with that, you probably recognize that the doctrine of the Trinity is the sine qua non of the Christian faith, the point on which all other points depend. Unless we know Who God is, we have nothing.

As a friend, I want to offer two things in this short epistle. First, I want to give you a brief sketch of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity held by the historic Christian faith. This doctrine, by the way, was held long before Nicea. The word Trinity itself is found more than 100 times in the writings of the ante-Nicean fathers who date all the way back to Continue reading “A Note to My LDS Friends about the Trinity”

Word of Truth Conference Report, 2017

This year’s Word of Truth Conference was a tremendous week of teaching, preaching, and companionship.  Pastor Kent Brandenburg hosts the conference every year at his church.  He places a premium on God’s Word and insists that the preaching at this conference be expository.  As a result, his conference is not your standard fair of emotionally overwrought sermons sprinkled with a dusting of Scripture.  Pastor Brandenburg always challenges me to think in terms of Scripture, and to bring my own doctrine and practice in line with God’s Word.  The Conference and the fellowship at the conference were a special blessing, but three things in particular blessed me this year.

The Church

Bethel Baptist Church of El Sobrante is a wonderful, Christ-honoring church.  The church really loves God’s Word.  The people demonstrate their love for Christ and each other many times over.  The conversations center on the Word, and long after the service ends, the people gather and enjoy what they heard together.  The conversations often branch out into discussions and applications beyond the sermon itself.  It is always a refreshment and delight to be part of this conference, and the joy of the church is contagious.

Apart from the conference, my son and I dropped in at the church on a random Wednesday night, and we found the same thing to be true then.  This is a church that loves the Word, loves the Savior, and loves each other.

The Lessons

This year, Pastor James Bronsveld taught two powerful lessons on Biblical repentance.  I urge you to listen to these lessons as they go beyond the normal presentation.  In the first discussion, Pastor Bronsveld explained repentance in terms of the second Psalm, “Why do the heathen rage.”  He defined repentance as a change of mind from rage against God to sorrow for my rage against God.  In the second discussion, Pastor Bronsveld answered a claim made in this article by Dr. Rick Flanders (here) about repentance in the Old Testament.  Notice especially this claim, made by Dr. Flanders:

Most Old Testament references to men repenting speak of revival, not salvation, and cannot be used properly to illustrate salvation repentance.

Pastor Bronsveld did an excellent job explaining the difference between the old covenant and the new, and then he showed that Old Testament repentance is still repentance.  The clincher came in the book of Jonah and the repentance of Ninevah.  I won’t steal his thunder.  You really need to watch these sessions.

The second lesson on repentance in the OT is available as well.

Pastor Brandenburg also taught a great lesson on the sinner’s prayer.  Actually, he kept promising all week that he was going to “do” the sinner’s prayer.  But he never did.  I was disappointed, because I wanted to see him do it…

Joking aside, he gave an unforgettable illustration of the problem for those who reject the sinner’s prayer altogether.  He stood at the front with his back to the audience, and he said, “God wants me to turn; I need to turn,” and then he started to turn and said, “Oh, but that’s a work.” You will need to watch the video to get a full appreciation – since you weren’t there.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to locate the video.  Hopefully it will be up soon.  You can monitor the YouTube channel here.  Faith and repentance are the gift of God, and so the “sinner’s prayer,” when it is prayed, is a part of that gift.  When we trust the Lord, we cry out to Him and we come to Him.

Pastor Dave Sutton also taught an excellent message on the Deity of Christ and the necessity of that doctrine to the Gospel.

 

The Fellowship

I am always sharpened by discussions with Pastors Brandenburg and Sutton, and this year I had the joy of meeting two other faithful preachers: James Bronsveld and Chris Teale.  Pastor Bronsveld, who I discussed earlier, pastors in Toronto, Canada.  Pastor Teale is planting a church in Carson City, Nevada, sent out from Mid-Coast Baptist Church in Brunswick, Maine, Pastor Bobby Mitchell.  Pastor Teale is an excellent and straightforward preacher, and he preached two tremendous messages on preaching the gospel.  Both his messages are available on YouTube.

You will be challenged to make the gospel the focus rather than your powers of speech or illustration.  Pastor Teale knows what he is talking about – he has gone to a place where few have gone to preach the gospel, and he is seeing slow but steady progress.  His sermons are amazingly short – I say that because he says so much in them.  I lack his gift of brevity.

Overall, we had a wonderful time together in the Word, “breaking bread” at the various meals provided by the church, and sharpening each other.  I am grateful for the opportunity to attend, and I want to encourage all who read to consider taking a few days in early November next year to be a part of this conference.