Saturday, March 10, 2007

Transforming Grace Indeed!

Recently, I read for the second time Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. I have found that the second time through any good book I am typically doubly blessed and this was certainly no exception.

Those who have read and enjoyed Bridges’ works will most likely agree with my assessment of him as both a tremendous author and communicator of Biblical truth. What makes Transforming Grace even more powerful is when one has a church background similar to mine and Matthew’s, i.e., one saturated with performance-based Christianity, unmitigated externalism, and what I think to be legalistic tendencies.

**DISCLAIMER: I would like to point out that I have used the word "legalistic" denoting the similarity to true legalism. I am fairly certain that even in Hammond, Indiana, they would deny that the externals earn them merit toward salvation.

The common thread, however, always seemed to be that the preacherboy-appearance, including a “right” haircut, and the IFBx-deemed appropriate neckwear all combine wonderfully to provide a faithful thermometer of one’s "spiritual temperature". I understand that is an exaggeration of sorts, albeit only slightly. It seemed to be forgotten that one of the most vocal enemies of our LORD Jesus during His earthly ministry was the sect of the Pharisees. These same “religious” Pharisees were noted for doing all the "right" things externally speaking but failed miserably in the spiritual disciplines that truly mattered to our LORD. We know from the gospel accounts that they held fast to the regulations laid out in the Mosaic law, yet their hearts were rotten with pride and self-reliance.

I would add that as a student at Hammond Baptist and Hyles-Anderson, only a few major issues were of importance and indicators of one’s love for God or lack thereof. Topping this list would be a close tie between whether a student had ever smoked or drank alcohol and what kind or haircut or hairstyle one wore. We were often told by our leadership how that a young person’s hairstyle was an overt indicator of that individual’s rebellion or their submission to authority...?! This was reinforced via the pulpit ministry in downtown Hammond where we often heard the stories from Pastor Hyles how he had NEVER tasted a even a drop of alcohol nor had he EVER smoked tobacco. He would often tell a story about how on a double date one evening his date and the other couple bodily forced him to the ground and attempted to pour whiskey down his gullet. The story ends with Pastor Hyles demanding them to take him home where he found his mother praying out loud for him to resist temptation. For him to have done so would have been to desecrate the Holy Spirit’s temple. Please do not misunderstand the preceding sentences as they are meant to demonstrate the overemphasis on what are thought by many to be gray areas in the Christian life and exalting them to an unnecessary status while ignoring what Bridges terms the “refined sins” in the Christian life, e.g., anger, pride, resentment, covetousness, etc. I do not at all intend to engage in debate about the use of alcohol or tobacco but would like to point out that the concept seemed to suggest that there was great spiritual merit in having never partaken of these indulgences. Never mind the selfishness and pride which so often go unchecked in the Christian life...! This has only begun to demonstrate the point that externals were so preeminent there.

I understand that the Galatian form of legalism dictated that specific works of the law were necessary for salvation in addition to faith in Christ, His substitutionary death, and resurrection. Nevertheless, as Bridges so aptly points out in his book, there are other forms of modern-day legalism and teachings that perpetuate legalistic thinking and tendencies. Bridges tackles these issues head-on in what I consider to be the most thought-provoking chapter in the book, chapter nine. He points out that legalism is anything we do or do not do to earn favor with God. There is so much that could be said here but I will only take the time and space to include this specific and powerful quotation from chapter nine, "Called To Be Free":
"Despite God's call to be free and His earnest admonition to resist all efforts to curtail it, there is very little emphasis in Christian circles today on the importance of Christian freedom. Just the opposite seems to be true. Instead of promoting freedom, we stress our rules of conformity. Instead of preaching living by grace, we preach living by performance. Instead of encouraging new believers to be conformed to Christ, we subtly insist that they be conformed to our particular style of Christian culture. We don't intend to do this and would earnestly deny we are. Yet that's the "bottom line" effect of most of our emphases in Christian circles today.

For example, many people would react negatively to my quoting only part of Galatians 5:12, "You , my brothers, were called to be free." Despite the fact that this statement is a complete sentence, they would say, "But that's not all of the verse. Go on to quote the remainder: 'But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.' " (We seem to forget that verse divisions were not inspired.)

The person who reacts that way has made my point. We are much more concerned about someone abusing his freedom than we are about his guarding it. We are more afraid of indulging the sinful nature than we are of falling into legalism. Yet legalism does indulge the sinful nature because it fosters self-righteousness and religious pride. It also diverts us from the real issues of the Christian life by focusing on external and sometimes trivial rules."
Another relevant case in point is something that was brought to my attention on the FFF recently. It is reported that a special meeting was held for men at a certain IFBx college for the express purpose of banning the practice of spiking their hair to any degree. This seems to picture so well the IFBx obsession with avoiding “worldly” external practices and making the avoidance of such paramount to true spirituality. Make no mistake, the LORD that we serve is holy and has called His children to holiness as well. What needs clarification, however, is how we would define holiness or sanctification if you will. The IFBx model is that of forced "external sanctification". That is, Christ likeness = maintaining the “right” appearance, avoidance of all “worldly” music (however that is defined), being present at all the regularly scheduled services of the “red-hot” church of which you are a member, going cold-turkey soul-winning at a scheduled time each week, etc. Interestingly enough, this IFBx model is simply that–- it is their model and not to be found in the canon of Scripture. I am reminded of the LORD’s words to the prophet Samuel upon the choosing of a new king for Israel, “...the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."

In closing, I would like to encourage you to get a copy of Transforming Grace--- read it and reread it. I also was informed of a new title from IFBx Publishing put out in response to Bridges' works but only have the cover artwork for it...;)

Josh

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

great thoughts! Glad to see you are back at the Circus! Don't be gone son long ever again!

Baptist Crusader said...

Keep letting them have it! Legalism may be worse than all the other junk because it feeds pride which is the chief of all sins. I wrote about how the trap of legalism makes the legalist believe that his doctrine is correct based on his appearance and not based on the Bible..check it out here: http://reformingbaptist.blogspot.com/2007/02/high-standards-right-doctrine.html

Fundamentally Reformed said...

Wow!! A new post at B&C!!

Just kidding. Great to have you all back in the blogworld.

Great post too. I agree, while I was a conscientious, card-carrying IFBx guy, I would have denied any charge of legalism. But practically, how I felt in worship, and how I felt about what God thought of me, ebbed and flowed in relation to how well I performed--how well I jumped through all the right hoops.

This subtly causes us to be driven by guilt. It causes us to trust in our own efforts. "Just grit your teeth and do it", was a common phrase I heard from the pulpit.

What all of this does is push our eyes away from a day-in, day-out dependence on Jesus Christ. We view His sacrifice as not good enough to secure God's love, because we feel we must peform in order to earn it. God blesses those who are "right with Him" you know. As I read the Bible, all truly saved people are "right with Him".

Don't quit preaching about the dangers of legalism. And go over and read Will's post mentioned above-- it is phenomenal.

Anyways, thanks for the post. (And thanks for updating the link to my KJB Resource Center).

Blessings in Christ to you all,

Bob Hayton

Joshua R said...

anon, Will, and Bob,

Thanks for visiting in light of our recent hiatus and sharing your thoughts. We are hoping to get back into the swing of things now and post more regularly so don't abandon us yet!

The book we are discussing has been watershed for me in my journey and I believe that we will continue to post regarding IFBx legalism and sound the proverbial trumpet for freedom from man-centered ministry and its accompanying guilt.

Grace to you!

David T. said...

Hope you guys are keeping tabs on Hammond Pastors School which I think is this week.
Good to see a new post!

Dawn C said...

As a former member of FBCH and an ex-student of HAC, I stumbled across this blog while perusing the HAC website. It has been a long, long time since I visited the HAC site, and I did this evening mainly because I got started on one link which led to another, etc.

First, let me say it's refreshing to find a place like this on the web. After spending ten years in fundamentalism, I became so entrenched in the name of the game that I honestly didn't have a relationship with the Lord. It was only after I left FBCH that I discovered what true Christianity is all about. And numbers have nothing to do with it.

At any rate, I just wanted to say I'm glad I found this blog!

Dawn C.

Anonymous said...

FUNNY THAT DAWN FOUND THIS SITE AND IS EXITED ABOUT IT--I ACTUALLY FOUND IT WHILE LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ON PASTORS SCHOOL AND FIND IT TO BE SICK. AMAZING HOW AFTER ALL THE INVESTMENT AND PAIN THAT JACK HYLES MADE INTO PEOPLE'S LIVES THAT YOU CAN SEMMINGLY FIND NOTHING GOOD TO SAY ABOUT HIM? I ATTENDED COLLEGE AT HYLES ANDERSON DURING THE MIDDLE 70'S AND THOUGH I DID NOT AGREE WITH EVERYTHING I LEARNED COUNTLESS THINGS FROM PASTOR HYLES AND HIS PREACHING. AFTER LEAVING THERE FOR THE PASTORATE I RECEIVED HIS TAPES UNTIL THE TIME OF HIS UNTIMELY DEATH. HIS LOVE FOR PEOPLE EVEN THOSE WHO WANTED TO DESTROY HIM WAS IMMEASURABLE. I STILL PASTOR IN KENTUCKY AND MY PRAYER IS THAT I CAN ACCOMPLISH EVEN A FRACTION OF WHAT PASTOR HYLES DID DURING HIS MINISTRY. I THINK THAT YOU NEED TO GET OVER YOUR ANGER AND START LIVING FOR OTHERS.

GOD HAS CALLED US TO BE HOLY JUST AS HE IS HOLY AND YOU ATTACKS ON FUNDAMENTALISM ARE NOT HOLY.

BC

David T. said...

1. Well you haven't read this blog through. There is at least one positive post about Hammond.
2. This blog critizes Hammond not fundamentalism.
3. People continue to stumble over aberrant unChristian treatment from Hammond and Hammond-style ministries.
4. The people who complain about criticizing Hyles will gladly criticize Hybels, Fallwell, MacArthur or Schuller.
5. Any one who has had any dealings with management knows the top dog never does the dirty work. He maintains a humanitarian image while letting others rule the empire, so to speak. It should be obvious that Hyles rarely hurt anyone directly, and our criticisms are of what he propogated and what he allowed to happen in his circles.

JK said...

Anonymous, as I see it, as a pastor you already have accomplished a fraction of what Pastor Hyles did during his ministry. Now you can just concentrate on pleasing the Lord.

jk

PT Barnum said...

I want to thank everyone for the feedback--we have been gone for a while and appreciate those of you who have checked back. We will be sure not to allow things to get so dead ever again.

David, thanks for the kind words and also for the response to our anonymous friend. We are not attacking fundamentalism as a whole--only the parts that we have been exposed to that do not square with Scripture. Also, I still believe that there are some solid historic fundamentalist/evangelical works out there and we are in no way attempting to attack them.

Dawn, we are so glad that you have found the Big Top! We started this blog with people like yourself in mind--there are thousands out there just like us who have cast away the works-based and man-centered philosophies that we have been taught. There is no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater--we love Christ more fully today than ever before! Please check back and bookmark us as we plan on keeping things rolling in all three rings of this show!

Bob and BapCrusader, thanks for checking in again with us--we apologize for the prolonged absence. We count both of you as dear cyber-friends and enjoy your blogs as well.

JK, it is always nice to hear from you! We trust that all is well with you and your family. Next time you are passing through the hoosier state be sure to stop in for a visit! You know there is nothing like Hoosier hospitality! Email me sometime and let me know what is new--we pray for you often.
matthewcrichards@yahoo.com

PT Barnum

Wizzle said...

Josh,
Someone mentioned that you had a website so I had to check it out. What's funny is that you were a faggot in high school and now you've confirmed that you still are, Ha, Ha. Wasting your time on a bunch of useless crap, stuff you and FBC cant prove, what a loser! Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap will hopefully burn in hell (if there is one)for the lives they've ruined and deservedly so but you're stooping to their level. Your fighting the bible with the bible, dont you see, your the same, I thought you were smarter than this ha, ha. Oh and another thing, I heard you went to Bob Jones and what does that equal? = Double Loser :)Hey, by the way, hows the hair these days?
-Wheeler King

PT Barnum said...

Wheeler,

Most of the stuff here is done by me and not Josh. I don't spend a great deal of time here but Josh is busy with a lot of other things down in Greenville so he spend even less time here. Glad to hear you are still kicking--are you still in the service?

I really don't know how to take your comments--you throw in a lot of "hahas" and smiles after asinine statements. Whether you are joking or not I would appreciate it if you would tone down the "loser" and "faggot" rhetoric.

As far as wasting time goes--you are entitled to your opinion of what is profitable and what isn't. If you are going to be dogmatic about it then you are dead wrong to do so. Maybe you like to golf, play video games, watch TV, go to the movies, listen to music, etc...Blogging is simply a hobby and I can assure you that it doesn't take up more than an hour or so a week for us here at Bread and Circuses.

Thanks for your concern about how we spend our time and come back under the big top soon!

Matthew Barnum

Wizzle said...

If you think about it, blogging (well, your blogging)is not a hobby. I dont go to the movies to prove a point or to give my opinion. I dont jog so that my neighbors will think I'm educated and all knowing. Your site on the other hand does so to clarify, your blogging is not a hobby.
Its not that I'm interested in how you and Josh spend your time, it's just really hillarious to me how the things you write are really no different than the things you attack or try to prove wrong. You and Josh have your own opinion about an ancient, unproven book and FBC has their own opinion. You quote verses, they quote verses, you use this version, they use that version. To put it nicely you're all a very sad bunch of confused individuals who accomplish nothing but a "computer" argument here and there.

PT Barnum said...

Whee,

You are free to make up your own definitions for words, but you might want to compile them in a volume of sorts--maybe you could compete with Webster's Dictionary--haha just kidding. Daniel Webster said that a hobby is: "a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation." You will no doubt dispute this good man's definition but it is in fact the truth--I cannot prove it to you and I cannot give you any 8"X11" glossy photos either.

I hope you check out some of the links at the top of our sidebar--better yet I would love to talk to you sometime about how you arrived at your conclusions regarding the Word of God and Hell among other things. Feel free to email me at matthewcrichards@yahoo.com or give me a call at (317) 753-6883. I hope to talk to you soon.

God bless,

Matthew Richards

Wizzle said...

Let's see...Uhh..Uhh..That's a negative circus commander. I'm not interested in discussing my opinions or beliefs because in reality, just like yours, doesn't matter. All I'm doing is looking back at the Josh I knew and ten years later laughing at his attempts to be Mr. bible man, sophisticated (love those big words josh) and all knowing. Not that it really surprises me but actually seeing it, cracks me up. Thanks for the laughs and for the sake of us all, I do hope that his helmet head is in good and working condition :)
-W.King

Joshua R said...

Hey Weelz,

Believe it or not, it is nice to hear from you. I don't check in too often and I just noticed your comments.

A few things---sorry that I haven't lived up to your expectations over the last ten years. ;) You sure did see right through my attempt at being Bible Man! ;)

Seriously though, you are the one coming in here with the petty namecalling as if you were still in junior high. Would it not have made more sense to have just emailed or phoned me with your gripes?

Email me sometime at jzarichards@yahoo.com. I am not sure what to think of your bitterness toward me.

Take care,
Josh

PT Barnum said...

Wheezle,

Funny how you are really cracking up but not able to stand on your own two feet. You make general accusations about hair styles from ten years ago and make up new definitions for long established English words. Sounds like you are still a dim bulb and just trying to stir the pot from a few thousand miles away. If you don't like our blog then just stay away.

Obviously as someone who hasn't changed since 7th grade you have a hard time grasping that the LORD can transform someone else and change their heart. I sincerely pray that you will repent and accept Christ as your LORD and Savior before it is too late. I prayed for you today and will continue to pray that the LORD would take your heart of stone and replace it with a soft heart of flesh.

If you ever decide that you are up to it, give me a call at (317) 753-6883--you should be able to explain your beliefs and show a loser like myself how you became so "enlightened". Seems like you should be able to debate a dumb Christ-follower like myself with no problems. I won't hold my breath--you will probably just keep talking about your stupid memories of high school instead of dealing with reality and now.

Give me a call sometime or send me an email.

Matthew

Jo C said...

Wheeler,

I agree with what you are saying. I am a member in Hammond and know your mother very well--I remember you when you were just a little guy--we have been in Phoster Club together over the years and seen manyu souls saved. This blog is nothing but a couple of troublemakers who couldn't cut it at FBC and are now trying to distroy it. I don't know anything about how anyone='s hair is at this point in time...mine is actually long and curly! I know the Richards boys while they were in school at HBHS and never thought they were very spiritual then either. I agree that this blog looks like nothing but a couple of no it alls blaming their problems on a dead pastor. I hope you are doing well and that you come back and visit us sometime soon! I also love your brother-in-law and your sister--she is so cute!

Jo C

Wizzle said...

Josh,
Why does(did) Jackie boy Hyles and Schaap receive the flak they have? Because they put themselves out there on a limb, expressing opinions for all to see. Now your seeing the picture. Your no different, you've put your silly opinions and comments for all to see and since you've done that, I've taken the courtesy to laugh at them and compare them to a pile of garbage...and by the way... wouldnt it have been smarter for you to call or email Schaap?...right... you didn't so why should you be treated any differently? ...right...you shouldn't. Sorry to dissappoint but I have no bitterness towards you, just a laugh and a chuckle.
Matt,
I like the Wheezle..your quick...I would have never have come up with that one.
"Funny how you are really cracking up but not able to stand on your own two feet." I signed my name didnt I?
The one thing that I'm just not quite understanding, is how its ok for you to stir the pot back in Hammond or wherever you may but when I stir your pot, its not ok? Hmmmm...very interesting...
and for the record, I do want to truly thank you for your sincere prayers for me, it completely warms my cold heart :) ...As you pray for my heart of stone, make sure you mention your head of stone... god always loves a person who admits their shortcomings!
Jo C,
My guess is that you haven't read everything I have written, if you did, I dont think you would be agreeing with me. To clarify...Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap completely suck!...For their atrocities... if there is a hell, they will burn there. FBC would be better off burnt to the ground and used as a hot dog stand or garbage dump!...so now do you agree with me? Didn't think so.
-W.King

Joshua R said...

Whee,

You are clueless as to what correspondence I have or haven't had with Pastor Schaap.

It is ironic that you call others confused---did you leave the house without Dr Paul's magic happy spray? Don't get mad, I am just teasing you.

Since it is obvious that you disagree with the content of this blog, it would make sense for you to not visit the blog. 2 + 2 = 4

Take care and tell Justin I said hi. Seriously.

Josh

Wizzle said...

Josh,
C'mon, its free laughs for everyone, I cant leave now. Who knows what great, spiritual pieces of literature and life changing words will flow from your site, I wouldn't want to miss a thing! Tell Justin hi yourself- 509-218-1479

Joshua R said...

Whee,

Don't kid yourself, you have provided some laughs yourself---Wheeler calling other people confused! Priceless! ;)

You know that you loved the Dr Paul remark! I really thought that stuff was working for you back in the day.

:) ;) :D

Wizzle said...

Josh,
Naughty, naughty, your not acting like a Bob Jones graduate and christian should. Someone doesnt agree with your site and calls you on it and you make fun of a past health issue, Wow! Who's in junior high now? Good for you Josh, you go. Maybe your lacking some brain pills or B-vitamins :) I could give you his number and he could really balance you out, who knows with your new found freedom you could repent to master jack and become dean of HAC, your definitely overqualified with that important degree from Bob Jones!

PT Barnum said...

Whiz,

No one said you can't stir the pot here. I have the ability to delete any comments I want to since this is my blog. If I was really bothered by your posts I would just delete them--I won't do that unless things get filthy.

BTW, you may not want to jump to conclusions about our contact with Jack Jr regarding his errors--we have both reached out to no avail.

Keep commenting on our posts--what would be even more fun would be if you could be more specific and articulate exactly what points you disagree with. I will stop calling you Wheezle and you can start adding something of substance to your posts--sounds like a win-win proposition!

I will continue to pray for your heart of stone and my head of stone--you may want to whisper a prayer to whoever for Josh's hands of stone!

Matthew

Tyson said...

Whizzle,

Why do you come in and accuse people of being gay and having a "hair helmet" and then wonder why no one takes anything you say seriously? If I was in charge of this blog I would have deleted you from the beginning. Lucky for you these guys are more tolerant of ignorance than I would be.

You speak about BJU like you know all about them. Where did you attend college? BJU is an accredited university well-respected for their liberal arts education. Have you ever been to BJU? Sounds like you need to email or call Stephen Jones to voice your displeasure with their university.

IMHO, you are nothing but a parrot looking for attention. From what I can gather from your comments you probably recently saw or read The DaVinci Code and took in the documentary on The Jesus Family Tomb on the Discovery Channel. Two words for you are "grow up".

Ty

Wizzle said...

Josh,
All right, all right, I'll tell the truth. When this unidentified person told me about your website, he was lightly joking about it... since he knew about our "funny" relationship,Josh and Wheeler always going at it,...he thought I should argue with you about haircuts or something but I knew that it wouldnt get the rise out of you that would be funny... so I thought I'd use a little howard stern shock value and a little Monty Python to rile you up, I guess it worked :)Then your brother started chiming in and my argumentative(?) side kicked in so I thought I'd keep going, it was quite funny though. C'mon josh, think about it, would it be funny if hicks,yoder or belk had the website? No, of all the people we went to school with, it had to be you, I just had to bust your balls!
Honestly though, since I'm on neutral ground, I really don't care, kinda like Russian, since I'm not interested in speaking it, I dont care. You want to argue about this or that, more power to you, I do think its silly but like I said thats because I'm not interested. Are you planning on going to the reunion?

Joshua R said...

Wiz,

You really know how to stir the pot! You actually didn't rile me up too much, but shock me you did---move over ManCow! Not sure where Monty Python fits into this...? I thought we actually got along well in school and were good friends---with the exception of our Bulls disagreements. ;)

To be honest, we aren't simply here to argue with people, although we do have our strong opinions the blog is therapeutic more than anything else.

Not sure if I'll be at the reunion---for one, I have heard nothing about it, secondly, our second child is due in June. Email me sometime at jzarichards@yahoo.com.

Josh

Joshua R said...

Hey Tyson,
Thanks for throwing your hat in the ring during this blogroom brawl. ;) You bring up some excellent points.

Don't be a stranger!

Josh

Anonymous said...

I Attended HBHS for 10 years and graduated in 1982, and I attended HAC for a semester til I got booted. I even attended BJU for a year (1982-1983) and believe me all this God stuff is really hokey. False and dangerous religion since there is no God, he is just a figment of all these goofball's imaginations. God was only invented for those who fear the unknown, if you truly dont care then why bother?

PT Barnum said...

anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by for the show. My uncle Johnny graduated from HB in 1982--I think--maybe 1983. We have something in common--kind of--I was booted from HB my junior year. I was never booted from HAC but that is probably because I lived off campus and didn't spend much time on campus.

You are entitled to your opinion about who you believe God to be. I am saddened to hear that you have come to this conclusion about faith in the LORD Jesus Christ. I will pray that the LORD will grant you a soft and new heart. I realize you don't believe that this is possible seeing as He is just an invention of the fearful humans who embrace Him--you shouldn't mind my praying to this "invention".

I have said before that this blog is therapeutic for me and my brother after 20+ years in cultural fundamentalism. If you don't see value in it that is fine--we are still working through some issues and this blog is an outlet for us--a hobby of sorts.

Feel free to email me at matthewcrichards@yahoo.com sometime--I always love talking to former hyles high grads like myself.

God bless you,

Matthew