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Posted by Matt Postiff September 4, 2020 under Theology 

Christians believe that we can alleviate but not eliminate poverty. Why? The Bible tells us that there will always be poor people.

For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good. —Jesus in Mark 14:7, also recorded in Matthew 26:11 and John 12:8.
For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.' —Moses in Deut. 15:11.

You might wonder why this is. The pandemic reality of sin, the sin nature in every human, total depravity, and the fallenness of the world make some level of poverty inevitable. Natural disaster can bring poverty. Your own sin can cause you to become poor. Or, the oppressive sins of others can cause you to become or remain poor. These effects can carry on across generations. This is harsh, but it is reality.

To assert that humanity can solve the problem entirely—whether through change in government structure, improvement in government policy, or benevolence—is to set yourself against the words of God.

On the other hand, to make efforts to help the poor in substantial ways, not enabling ways, is pleasing to God.


Posted by Matt Postiff August 26, 2020 under Interpretation  Preaching 

There are probably many definitions of expository preaching out there, but let me give you mine:

Expository preaching is that method of preaching where a portion of the Bible text is explained and applied. Its goal for the audience is understanding and obedience.

To expand just a bit: The pastor carefully studies the text of Scripture in order to clearly explain the text and show how its truths can be applied to the audience. The pastor aims for the audience to actually understand what he has explained, and obey how the text should be applied. Explaining should lead to understanding, and application should lead to obedience.

In normal usage, the phrases "expository preaching" and "expositional preaching" refer to the same thing. Attempts to distinguish these two phrases seem unnecessarily picky.


Posted by Matt Postiff August 21, 2020 under Theology  Bible Texts  Sanctification 

Many have wondered what is the key to Christian sanctification. One answer that is often given is "obedience to the Bible." While alone it is not enough--for obedience must be by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit--it is crucial to the Christian life.

I say that while setting aside the currently popular "anti-legalism" philosophy that decries any call for obedience as a legalistic approach to earn merit with God. Christians understand intuitively that obeying God's word is a good thing, and that you cannot earn merit by doing so: it is the work of Christ that washes our sin away and provides ALL the merit God requires to be saved from eternal punishment.

Supporting the emphasis on obeying God are the following texts that I collected in a recent reading of the New Testament text:

Matthew 7:24-27 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

Matthew 28:20 "Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

Luke 6:46-49 "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say? 47 Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49 But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great."

Luke 8:21 "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it."

John 13:17 "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."

James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

1 John 3:10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

Revelation 1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

Remember, before you can embark on a life of obedience regarding the works God has ordained for you to do, you need to "do" the work of belief:

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

For a very similar topic see this blog post from a few years ago.


Posted by Matt Postiff August 20, 2020 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Just an observation:

Matt. 13:39 "The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.

Matt. 13:40 "Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.

Matt. 13:49 "So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just...

Matt. 24:3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Matt. 28:20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

The Bible's teaching in these contexts is clear: we are in an age or time period, and the end of that age will bring some significant events--a separation followed by a judgment, and Christ's second coming. The Lord promises to be with His people throughout the age until its end--at which point He will come back. We are not in the kingdom yet, but we do await the beginning of that kingdom, when Christ will consolidate His rule by removing all rebels at the end of the age, and blessing His people with entrance into His glorious society with its perfect government.


Posted by Matt Postiff August 19, 2020 under Theology 
"Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" Job 2:10

Job had received good from God, and now was facing adversity. His point is that if we accept the good, we should also accept the trials, since both are the design and purpose of God for our lives.

But a "reverse thought" came to my attention because of a couple of circumstances that I observe people are facing. This reverse thought is not the normal way to look at the verse in its context. Normally the challenge is to accept adversity because it is hard. Accepting good is usually easy. But that is not always the case.

On occasion, we may hesitate to accept a good thing from God, as if we do not deserve it, or it is too good, or it is better than someone else has, or we have a false humility about ourselves, or whatever. Have you ever had that feeling? "This situation is too good for me; it is too good to be true; I don't deserve it; God is too kind; etc." Certainly we must guard against covetousness and a focus on worldly prosperity and materialism. But at the same time, God delights also to give good gifts to His children. The best of these gifts awaits us in the heavenly dwelling. Meanwhile...God gives some nice things along the way in this life.

Job thankfully accepted the good things from God. "Shall we indeed accept good from God?" YES, we should. Be thankful for whatever good that God designs for your life right now. Remember, "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17). Learn in whatever state -- whether you abound or are in need -- to be gratefully content (Phil. 4:12).

So, application: if God seems to be providing some good thing for you, thank Him, take it, and make the best use of it you can. Use it to serve the Lord and serve your brothers and sisters around you. But at the same time, work on discerning whether the "good" is truly from the hand of God, or from somewhere else, in which case you should not take it!


Posted by Matt Postiff August 3, 2020 under Bible Texts 

After many years of work, I have completed the first draft of outlines for every book of the Bible. I offer it for your Bible reading, study, teaching, and preaching.

Bible Book Outlines PDF.

I welcome your input and questions. Many outlines I would like to tweak, and others need additional work--particularly longer books like Genesis and Revelation that could benefit from more detail.


Posted by Matt Postiff July 19, 2020 under Theology 

I asked our deacon if he could do me a favor and expand upon this paragraph in the prior post:

By claiming that thoughts and feelings are autonomous, mindfulness excuses guilt, and convolutes the idea of identity and personhood (similar to the way atheism does by denying free will).

The reason I say that mindfulness meditations teaches that thoughts are autonomous (not intentional) is because of their analogy of watching your thoughts go by like you would watch cars go by. They do not acknowledge that when you observe those "cars", your actually driving each and every one of them. They imply that the thoughts are driving themselves.

Atheists have a similar view. Atheists deny free will. (By "free will" they mean being free of nature's dictate, not what we mean by "free will." God's sovereignty is not even a factor in their thinking.) Atheists teach that everything we are and do is a product of our natural environment. Everything is just time, chance, and material reactions.

This materialistic world view can lead to confusion about what a person even is. Your molecules weren't you before you existed, so what is you after the molecules come together to form you? Furthermore, your matter and energy are in a different state at any point in time, and so there is a question as to whether you are really the same person at any point in time. That may sound ridiculous, but these are the kinds of things I have seen the atheist philosophers pontificate about.

By the way, the book I read on meditation is "The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day." This book made it into Bill Gates' recommended reading list and seems to be an authoritative book on the subject. For the Christian who wants to learn more about the falsehood of mindfulness, this is a good resource, as long as he watches out for the leaven in the book. The lies are presented in such an attractive way I fear it could beguile baby Christians.


Posted by Matt Postiff July 10, 2020 under Theology  Society  Bible Texts 

In our area in the past few years, it has become a thing for schools to promote "mindfulness." Immediately upon hearing what the students do during their "mindfulness" times in class, it sounded suspect. I was disturbed by the thinly veiled attempt to get a religious position into the secular classroom while the school system rejects Christianity and makes every attempt to get God out of the schools.

One of our deacons helped me by writing the following after he read a book by a Buddhist monk on the topic.

Mindfulness is a new word for meditation that was invented to help get meditation accepted in more places. It is a less religious, hippy sounding word.

Even though mindfulness is claimed to be non-religious, it smells a lot of Buddhism, and not surprisingly, Buddhists tend to be the topic experts on it.

The main idea of mindfulness is to become aware of your own thoughts. On the surface this idea of self awareness looks similar to the truth of introspection. This similarity to a good mental exercise sweetens the underlying poison of mindfulness. The Bible talks about introspection: 2 Corinthians 13:5—"examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith," Psalm 19:12—believers want to be aware of secret faults, Ephesians 5:15 speaks about walking circumspectly, which includes turning our eyes on ourselves, Prov 4:23—"keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life," and 1 Peter 1:13—"be sober minded."

However, mindfulness differs fundamentally from biblical introspection in that it is non-judgmental, detached, and OK with all thoughts, whether good or bad. The mindfulness book likens meditation to sitting beside a road and watching cars drive by, where the cars are your thoughts. You let the cars go by (the good and the bad ones) and don't try to chase the good ones or stop the bad ones. You just sit and watch your thoughts and study them to become more aware of them. Over time, the busy traffic gets less busy and you enjoy more peace and quiet. Eventually there are times when no cars drive by.

Mindfulness claims there exists an underlying peace and joy that is always present for us to enjoy. We just have to clear our thoughts to find it. Mindfulness thereby replaces the idea of ultimate peace and joy that comes from our relationship with God.

By claiming that thoughts and feelings are autonomous, mindfulness excuses guilt, and convolutes the idea of identity and personhood (similar to the way atheism does by denying free will).

Mindfulness strives to create a perception that things are OK, whether they are good or bad or nothing at all. This sounds a lot like the Buddhist effort to numb the fear of death and to numb the craving for meaning in life. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has put eternity in our heart, yet no one can find out the work of God from beginning to end. In other words, God has put in our hearts a yearning for eternity and meaningfulness. Buddhism deceives by numbing that yearning in the heart.


Posted by Matt Postiff July 1, 2020 under Dispensationalism  Theology  Bible Texts  Eschatology 

It occurs to me that there is a likeness between these two ideas:

1. Splitting the Mosaic Law into components and pulling forward (from the past) the moral component into the church age.

Left behind are the ceremonial and civil parts of the law, as well as the curses for disobedience.

2. Splitting the New Covenant into components and pulling back (from the future) the spiritual component into the church age.

Left "ahead" are the physical, agricultural, economic, and political parts of the New Covenant. Also left "ahead" are spiritual components that find no fulfillment in the present era (all will know the Lord, universal forgiveness for Israel).

It seems inconsistent to criticize #1 at the same time to accept #2.

It seems more consistent to accept both #1 and #2 or reject them both.

The problem with accepting both it puts Christians today under parts of two covenants--the Mosaic and the New. This has a somewhat suspect basis. I say this about the Law covenant because Paul writes:

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Galatians 5:18).
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? (Galatians 4:21)
But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith." (Galatians 3:11)
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14)

So, Christians are not under "the law," nor are they under "part of the law." This is no major loss, for we have the Law of Christ as our directive, a law operational on the basis of grace and the indwelling ministry of the Spirit.

As far as splitting the New Covenant, the New Covenant is specifically directed to Israel, not the church. This is clear from a review of the primary passage:

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

Note the phrase "I will make with the house of Israel."

Finally, it does not appear to me that the New Covenant has actually been made yet. Certainly, its sacrificial basis is complete in the work of Christ. Certainly massive spiritual benefits come out of that work into Christians today. But those are not necessarily direct fulfillments of the New Covenant. They do not constitute the "making" of a covenant, where the people group to be covenanted has offered no agreement to the terms of the covenant. In fact, most of the terms of the covenant (and some could argue all of its terms) remain unfulfilled.

The prophet above says that the time of the making of the covenant is "after those days." Jeremiah is clear that those days were "coming" future to his writing.

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- (Jeremiah 31:31)

According to Ezekiel 20:35-37, this will happen during the eschaton:

"And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face...I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant (Ezekiel 20:35, 37)

This has not happened yet.

The most accurate viewpoint, as I understand it, is to keep both the Law and New Covenants whole, not splitting them such that some terms of one or the other, or both, fall upon the church.


Posted by Matt Postiff June 28, 2020 under Theology 

Several of the Biblical covenants have "signs" associated with them.

The Covenant with Noah was given the sign of the rainbow (Gen. 9:16-17).

The Covenant with Abraham has as a sign male circumcision (Gen. 17:11, Rom. 4:11).

The Covenant with Moses is signified by the Sabbath (Exodus 31:13, Ezek 20:12, 20).

What about the Covenant with David? And the New Covenant? Can you think of a sign for each of them?


Posted by Matt Postiff May 28, 2020 under Theology  Apologetics 

I recently read a paper by David Haines entitled "A Potential Problem with Presuppositionalism." It can be found on academia.edu.

I think the title would be better without the word potential because the author is not claiming that there is a potential problem, but rather he is asserting there is a fatal problem.

Haines wrote on page 5 two claims that underlie his argument:

  1. All rational beings use an interpretive scheme from which they cannot escape, and
  2. There is no common ground

These two claims do not match what I understand of Van Til's apologetic. (I was schooled in this approach and adopted it for myself some years ago, so I am somewhat of an "insider.")

Quick comments on the two claims:

1) All rational beings use an interpretive scheme: true. The believer interprets life through the truth revealed by God in Scripture. The unbeliever uses some other means to interpret life, but never comes to the table "presupposition-less." This is because their minds are darkened by sin. Depravity affects not only the moral system in man, but also the rational/intellectual system. Therefore, the unbeliever's interpretive scheme, of whatever variety it may be, is rooted in unbelief and proud rebellion against the creator, and self-deception about the deity and power of God.

From which they cannot escape: false. Regeneration causes an unbeliever to quickly reach 'escape velocity' from their presuppositions and plants them onto another presuppositional foundation. So in fact, the person can escape from one foundation to another; what he cannot escape is the fact that he is standing on some kind of foundation, never in free space, utterly neutral.

2) There is no common ground: false. As I understand the presuppositional apologetic, it claims that there IS in fact common ground between people, and that is rooted in God, His creation, and specifically the image of God in man (conscience, etc.). There is NOT common ground where the unbeliever wants it--in purely empirical or rationalist terms, nor even where the rational apologist wants it--in rationalism. This is because the mind of the unbeliever is darkened.

For me, it boils down to this: we live in the world. The world and all that is in it was created by God. Neither this world nor the truth about its creation can be escaped. That is the ultimate common ground. You cannot postulate a world which was not created by God, because in order to do so, you are using your mind and world in which you exist, which was created by God. It is utter deception to use a God-given mind to suggest that God doesn't exist!


Posted by Matt Postiff May 12, 2020 under Society  Church 

I'm writing for pastors especially, but the general Christian audience is welcome to read as well.

My title perhaps evoked in your mind various government edicts that presently prohibit churches from worshiping due to the COVID-19 scare. But that is not my point.

In the State of Michigan, each of the several governor's orders have carefully side-stepped a prohibition against corporate worship, while making clear the government's desire that churches not gather for safety reasons. This built-in vagueness is due to the recognition that the first amendment of the United States Constitution as well as the Michigan constitution protect the rights of individuals to worship as they see fit. I appreciate this recognition in Michigan. Governor Whitmer even took flak from the far left for making an "unconstitutional exemption for churches." But governors of other states are a little less sharp on this issue and felt that they could infringe churches' rights.

Almost all churches gladly complied with the government's wishes for the first 6 weeks or so of the pandemic, including ours. But these wishes were never a command and, properly understood, should not have bound the consciences of church members nor of their pastors. The most recent order (ending May 28) is less vague. A lawsuit brought by a number of churches forced the governor to add language to make it clear that not only are church "owners" and "places of worship" exempt from penalty, but also individuals who choose to travel and worship at those places. The executive order (2020-77) is still clear that the desire of the government is that there be no group gatherings, but desire is not a legally enforceable command.

Some Christians feel that this is more than clear enough to go back to worship. After all, a law with no penalty attached is no different than advice. For these Christians, the advice given ("don't gather") has now become unnecessarily restrictive of their right and desire to worship God together. Further, the legal wrangling at the state level causes these ones to have legitimate questions about whether the governor has extended orders beyond her authority.

Others are waiting for explicit permission to gather once again. The "spirit" of the executive order is to avoid all gatherings, and these folks want to obey the spirit of the order.

I am in the first group; I have never asked nor awaited permission from secular governing authorities to worship God, and I am not about to set that precedent now. We exist in a distinct "authority regime" -- distinct but not totally separate -- than the secular government. And, I believe we will be waiting a long time for explicit permission from the governor to worship.

The difference between these two camps has the ring of a matter of indifference in Romans 14. I shared with our church family that there will be a wide variety of opinions as to the "right" time to open the church. There will be strongly-held opinions about wearing masks and taking temperatures and how to do children's ministries and a dozen other issues. Speaking generally, worship is clearly not a matter of indifference. It is commanded. But the particular question about whether to open on May 17 or May 31 or June 7 or August 16 is more like a Romans 14 kind of thing. You have to be fully convinced that what you are doing is right. And I have to be fully convinced that what I am doing is right. Each of us will stand before God for our decisions. It is not my place to criticize another pastor for doing what he thinks is right; and it is not your place to criticize other pastors for doing what they think is right.

At some point, you are going to have to open your church. And when you do, this matter of differences of opinion will filter down to your church members. They will have to make a discerning judgment as to whether it is right for them to attend worship. You will be in fact pushing that decision downward to them--a decision which you took from them earlier in the pandemic when you decided to close the church for the preservation of life. Your approach made it easy for the church because they had nothing to decide. They were stuck with your decision. But when you reopen, they will have the burden to decide: Do they have an underlying health condition? Do they have a family member in the home or for whom they care who has such an issue? Are they fearful? Are they listening too much to the fear-mongering left-wing media and consuming doomsday statistics about the virus? Are they coming to worship for the right reason, not just to "stick it to the authorities"?

I do not have all the data to make those decisions for all the church members simultaneously. Only they are in possession of that information, and since they are servants of Another, I am not going to get into the business of judging them on this matter. One week or another is not going to make a difference in the eternal scheme of things. Granted, if someone makes excuse that they cannot attend worship until January of 2021 or until there is a vaccine (which may never come to be), I will speak to them and question their motives and wisdom, and try to help inform their consciences. But I do not believe today is the point in time to fight that battle with anyone.

Similarly, I am not in possession of the information to pontificate about what church X or Y should do. Maybe it is a small church; maybe they will have multiple services; maybe they will hold outdoor services; maybe they have lots of people with tender consciences. What do I know? Nothing. I am not in their shoes. I trust God to work with those pastors and Christian leaders to make wise decisions. A few will not, and many will. That's how it goes.

So, while trying myself to avoid such pontification, may I exhort you to consider another side of the equation? My concern: pastors and church boards, because of division or fear, may keep the church closed while many of their members long to worship God. They desire, like David, to come to the house of God and express His beauty in worship. They want to see other believers for fellowship. They want to be instructed corporately--directly--in the Word. They want to participate in the Lord's Table, and they have missed it for two months already. Pastors should not be in the place of prohibiting the worship of God's people. Individual hang-ups sometimes have to be set aside in order to avoid unnecessarily hurting a subset of the church by not permitting them to worship corporately as God commands. Their consciences are important too--not just the pastors or leaders or members with a tender-conscience.

Early on in the crisis, the "fog of war" was upon us. Lack of information, panic, and a dreadfully high curve faced us. It was appropriate to take steps to preserve life in the face of many unknowns. That time is past. The curve has been flattened. In general, hospitals are well under capacity. We know more about the virus, we know how to mitigate. Are we past all risk? Never. But things are different now than two months ago. It is time for churches to plan reopening whether the government likes it or not. God's people need corporate gatherings and worship. God deserves our corporate worship once again.

The earth has been strangely quiet toward God for the last two months. Not silent, to be sure, but quiet. Let us not prohibit God's people from making the trek to their houses of worship and lifting their praises to the true and living God, the King of the Universe. May He be praised in all true houses of worship very soon.

Update 7/24/2020: Pastor John MacArthur and the elders of Grace Community Church in California have written an excellent open letter defending the opening of churches despite government orders to stay closed.

Update 7/25/2020: Jonathan Leeman at 9Marks has written a critical response to MacArthur and the elders of grace Community Church.

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