Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Watching Closely

Here is an excerpt of an interview of Dr Tom Ascol - worth the repeating and worth the application to all of our lives. See this also for similar theme.
What practical steps should be taken by preachers to "watch their life and doctrine closely"?

Recognize that this admonition is given to us for a reason. Every preacher should remember that better men than we will ever be have fallen into grievous sin and error. Ministers need the gospel as much as anyone and we must learn to live by the grace of God in Jesus Christ every day. We need to deal with our sin daily and trust Christ for forgiveness daily. We must fight against every tendency to resign ourselves to professionalism in ministry. As Robert Murray M'Cheyne said, my people's greatest need is their pastor's personal holiness. Dealing daily with our hearts before the Lord is not optional. This work does not compete with my ministry, it is a vital part of my ministry.

Using trustworthy catechisms and confessions can help guard our doctrinal commitments. Such documents are not infallible, but they provide guardrails which we should overrun, if ever, only with great caution and clear biblical warrant.

The New Testament warns us about the subtlety of error. If false teaching isn't always obvious how can we keep ourselves from being deceived?

The best way to avoid being deceived is to be well-grounded in sound doctrine. Becoming vitally connected to a good church is the means which God has provided to provide this.

Why does God allow his church to be troubled by false teachers?

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 indicates that one purpose false teachers serve is to provide a test for the devotion of God's people. Paul makes a similar point in 1 Corinthians 11:19 when he indicates that factions (heresies) within a church are necessary to prove the faithfulness of genuine followers of Christ.

Have you been surprised that the point of attack in evangelicalism over the last fifteen years has been over doctrines that are central to evangelical orthodoxy?

No. Evangelicalism lost its center long ago in its pursuit of relevance and acceptability to the popular and academic cultures. When the gospel has been forgotten and theology has been marginalized, we should not be surprised to fundamental doctrines attacked and discarded.

Are the denials of eternal punishment, penal substitution, and justification by faith alone the "unpaid debts" of the church? Are they a sign that
evangelicals did a bad job of teaching these doctrines or is there some other dynamic at work?

I think they are an indication that we have too long assumed that we know what we believe and why. Attacks on such core doctrines as these are a call to reexamine our convictions in the light of the Bible and to decide whether or not we really do believe what we have professed and too often assumed. Of course, while we can never shirk our responsibility in this we must also remember that we have an enemy who is the father of lies and loves to deceive people.

How do you pray for those in error?

I ask the Lord to open their eyes and show them the truth.

Is there a point of no return for those who embrace heresies? What are the signs that this line has been crossed?

I operate on the conviction that as long as there is breath there is hope. If the Lord can save me then I have no reason to believe that anyone is beyond the reach of His grace.

H.T. Against Heresies


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