Sunday, July 29, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: DRIVEN BY ETERNITY

Driven by Eternity : Making Your Life Count Today And Forever - John BevereJohn Bevere: Driven by Eternity, Faith Words, 2006. 283 pages.

Introduction
                John Bevere’s Driven by Eternity is reminiscent of what is arguably one of the most famous sermons ever preached: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).
When Jonathan Edwards first preached his now famous sermon on July 8, 1741, the response was amazing. The congregation in Enfield, Connecticut, where Edwards was a guest preacher, was filled with cries, shrieks, and moaning as people called out, asking how they could be saved. Edwards’s passionate warning had convinced them that they were desperately close to being thrown into the endless torment of hell.1

                To be sure, hearing a sermon preached and reading a book are two different things. However they are not disconnected. For, infallible Scripture says, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21. Thus human wisdom believes that a) the act of preaching the Gospel is foolishness. And b) the Gospel message is foolishness. Therefore to the unconverted the publishing of Driven by Eternity is a foolish exercise – a complete waste of a tree!
                The aforementioned ‘foolishness’ being understood, John Bevere shows his readers Heaven while showing them Hell. It’s as if he is saying to the reader, ‘Look, here’s Heaven and there’s Hell,’ as he dangles them over the edge of the fire-filled pit – perhaps like a turkey roasting on a rotisserie spit. Jonathan Edwards did likewise to a group of church attendees many years before. Said Edwards to them:

Your own wickedness weighs you down like lead and is dragging you down toward hell with great weight and force. Again, if God would let you go, you would immediately sink, quickly descending and plunging into the bottomless gulf. All of your health and personal care, all of your best schemes, and all of your own righteousness would no better support you and keep you out of hell than a spider’s web would stop a falling rock.[2]

                No, we’re not reviewing Jonathan Edward’s sermon, but perhaps in a future edition of Driven by Eternity John Bevere might consider including the Calvinist Jonathan Edward’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God as Appendix C of his book. It would be so appropriate, and the response might also be ‘amazing.’ But three cheers to Bevere for shocking Christians into taking stock of their lives in relation to eternity.

Premise & Content
                Driven by Eternity has an Introduction, thirteen chapters and two Appendices. Bevere uses a lengthy but interesting allegory to assist the reader in understanding eternity and the reader’s place in it. In order to have the reader from the very outset ponder eternity, Bevere, in his Introduction, draws the reader’s attention to Sydney’s the late Arthur Stace.
Stace, post conversion from a life ‘filled with petty crime and alcoholism,’ did something strange but remarkable. ‘Arthur would rise early each morning, pray for an hour, and leave his home between 5:00 and 5:30 A.M., to go wherever he felt God led him. For hours he would write one word, eternity, approximately every hundred feet on the sidewalks of Sydney.’
Thus, by arguing that Stace was a man ‘driven by eternity,’ Bevere immediately gets the reader to contemplate the deeper meaning of eternity. Then, for the purpose of illustrating the reader’s relation to eternity, Bevere begins his allegory. The allegory reflects Jesus, God the Father, Satan, the human being’s life on this earth, the heavenly city of God, and the dreaded lake of fire. It is a story well told. And, because of some of its characters therein, it can’t help but remind the reader of that great allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan (1628-1688).
Like Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Bevere in Driven by Eternity seeks to show the reader the many pitfalls encountered along the way by the Christian on his journey to the ‘Celestial City,’ or in Bevere’s case, Affabel, (i.e., the New Jerusalem). To a certain extent Bevere succeeds in his endeavour. He represents some of the various personalities commonly found in the worship community of God (i.e., church attendees), by use of descriptive names such as Independent, Deceived, Faint Heart, Selfish, Charity, and others.
                The sub-title of Driven by Eternity is Making Your Life Count Today and Forever. In Bevere’s own words:
This is the focus of this book: Making your life count not only today, but throughout eternity. The Bible is clear about how to do this. If we are to be motivated by the eternal, let’s start off by getting an understanding of it.[3]

Then follows a couple of quotes from the Bible regarding eternity. Then he quotes a couple of contradictory dictionary definitions of eternity to illustrate that the understanding of many regarding this subject has become vague.
                Bevere holds to the premise that ‘We are saved by His grace.’[4] However, like the contradictory dictionary definitions regarding the meaning of eternity, Bevere holds a contradictory view to the already mentioned Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), and John Bunyan (1628-1688), regarding the meaning of being ‘saved by His grace.’
Likewise, Bevere also would be offside with John Newton (1725-1807) – the slave-trader who God saved by His grace. Thus, were Bevere to be consistent with his Driven by Eternity, he could not sing with conviction the well-known words of the hymn Newton penned post-conversion: ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.’ For, according to Bevere’s take on salvation  (as he espouses in Driven by Eternity) these words at best can only be understood as tentative.
                The Lord knows that we have no wish to denigrate the man John Bevere, but the reader needs to be alerted to Bevere’s faulty theological understanding as expressed in Driven by Eternity. In clear but blunt terms, Bevere has immersed himself in the peatbog of Pentecostal theology.[5] His Driven by Eternity is a by-product of the labyrinth of the contradictory extremities of contemporary Pentecostalism. Bevere claims to hear and see ‘voices and visions’ – which he, without objective proof, alleges is God communicating with him one on one. He also gives unqualified but wholehearted endorsement of the ‘voices and visions’ experienced by others, for example, Kenneth Hagin.[6]
As one would expect from anyone trapped in the dark and dank dungeon of aberrant theology, the eerie sound of chain-rattling and chain-dragging contradictions to the clear ring and teaching of Scripture are heard too often in Driven by Eternity. Indeed, Bevere puts the whole Bible through the mincer of Dispensationalism. Alan Cairns warns us of one of the main pitfalls of Dispensationalism regarding the Gospel. Says Cairns,
The most dangerous element in the dispensational scheme is that it affects the very basis of the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith in Christ. It posits the idea that man has been on probation all along and that God’s mercy is displayed in giving him a new trial after every failure, thus holding out the possibility of salvation by works of obedience…
Thankfully, there is evidence that many dispensationalists are awakening to the failures of the system. Even in moving away quite radically from its fundamental tenets, they hold on to the name. But that name is too fraught with theological error. As Reginald Kimbo argues, dispensationalists must recognize the error, admit that it continues in the system, be clear on the soteriological effects of it, and entirely repudiate it.[7]

In the following we wish in particular to take issue with what is perhaps Bevere’s chief aberration: that those whom God has truly saved by His grace have the power to ‘walk away.’ Thus in Driven by Eternity Bevere builds his house upon the sinking sand of faulty premise. For example, in reference to John 10:28-29 Bevere has ‘Jaylin’ (who represents the Lord in his allegory) state the following:

No one can pluck you out of my hand, but I never said you couldn’t walk away. You alone hold that power.[8]

                Thus the premise and content of the book is a lengthy apology or defence for the false and demoralising doctrine that someone who is truly saved by the grace of God is not truly saved at all!

Faulty Conclusions Drawn from Faulty Theology

The upside of Driven by Eternity is that Bevere occasionally pops his head out of the murky swamp-water of faulty theology to breathe fresh air. His book seems to be a genuine attempt to deal with the ‘Decisionistic Easy Believism’ of Pentecostalism – a culture which has been steeped since its inception[9] in a theology attended by ‘Altar Calls’ and a ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ – whereby people, because they have repeated the ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’ are told that they have now become Christian converts. Says Bevere:

Not only are those who’ve never heard, or refuse to believe the Gospel in bondage, but many typical ‘converts’ of this generation are in bondage as well. We’ve created this dilemma by neglecting to proclaim the cost of following Jesus. Many assume they are free but in reality aren’t and the evidence is in their lifestyles.[10]
               
We wholeheartedly agree with Bevere’s statement just quoted, for Scripture speaks of ‘bad trees’ producing ‘bad fruit’ or ‘evidence’ of non-conversion. Whereas ‘good trees’ producing ‘good fruit’ is ‘evidence’ that the Holy Spirit has regenerated that particular individual. ‘Good fruit’ is the result of the Spirit working in the Christian’s heart. Take as an example of this the following verse of Scripture, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ Galatians 5:22-23a. Therefore, the true Christian ought to be confident in the promise of God that ‘He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.’ Philippians 1:6.
The fruit in the Christian’s life is not only the ‘evidence’ of the Christian’s regeneration, but, more importantly, it indicates that God is true to His Word and that it is God who has all the power of salvation and not the Christian. For, it is God who begins the ‘good’ work. The Christian is powerless – being beforehand in bondage to sin, self, and Satan. If indeed God has begun a good work in someone’s heart, it is not the Christian who will complete it, but Almighty God. Therefore the Christian does not have the power to ‘walk away,’ i.e., pluck himself out of the Lord’s hand as Bevere alleges.
To teach a loss of salvation is nonsense because God does not convert ‘bad trees’ into ‘bad trees.’ Rather He only ever converts or changes ‘bad trees’ into ‘good trees.’ And since ‘good trees’ (i.e., true converts) produce ‘good fruit’ (by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through them) these ‘good trees’ don’t produce ‘bad fruit.’ Therefore, a ‘good tree’ cannot reject God because rejecting God would be extremely ‘bad fruit.’ Thus rejection of God is clear evidence of being unconverted regardless of any prior seeming conversion.
In the Parable of the Sower Jesus illustrates what Bevere is mistakenly portraying as a loss of salvation.
‘A sower went to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.’ When He had said these things He cried, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’
Then His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘What does this parable mean?’ And He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among the thorns are those who, when they heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.’  Luke 8:4-15.
                Notice that the parable does not speak of anyone losing salvation. Rather, the parable indicates, that there are those who, though they seem to be numbered among the saved, prove to be otherwise. No doubt this is why Scripture says, ‘Do not lay hands on anyone hastily…’ 1 Timothy 5:22a. It comes as a shock and is bewildering for a Christian to see another who was so ‘full on’ for Christ ‘walk away’ from Him. But, in light of the Parable of the Sower we ought to expect to see this from time to time.
                Bevere invokes Hebrews 6:4-6 to prove his allegation that true Christians can lose their salvation. But we interpret Scripture by Scripture. Therefore keep in mind the Parable of the Sower as you read what the writer to the Hebrews says:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.’ Hebrew 6:4-6.

                Hear again what Jesus said regarding some of those who have ‘tasted the good word of God’ but have fallen away: ‘The seed is the word of God… The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among the thorns are those who, when they heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity…’ Thus some ‘fall away.’
                The Apostle John speaks of those who ‘… went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be manifest, that none of them were of us.’ 1 John 2:19.  Then later in 1 John 5 he says, ‘There is a sin leading to death. I do not say that he [i.e., Christians] should pray about that.’ 1 John 5:16b.
In the following, Martin Duffield refers to those who have tasted ‘ the good word of God’ but have rejected it, i.e., those who have ‘walked away’ from Christ, as the ‘terminally sinful’:                
The terminally sinful, for who Scripture says we should no longer pray are men and women who have known the truth but have now turned from it, they have known the law of God and will not now submit to it and who have heard the call to love one another as Jesus loved us but now refuse. In these things it would appear that they have crossed the line and belong to that dreadful category captured in the words of Hebrews six,  ‘it is impossible to renew them.’[11]

Kept by Grace

                In Driven by Eternity Bevere demonstrates to the reader that he (i.e., Bevere) has not understood what it means to be ‘saved’ and to be ‘kept’ as such by God’s grace. Bevere’s is teaching that it is we who ‘keep’ ourselves saved and not God who keeps us. We give the following as a clear example of this serious misunderstanding of God’s salvation. Writes Bevere:
To those who keep themselves in love with God by looking for the revealing of Jesus, He says:
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Saviour, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. Jude 24-25.[12]

                Bevere alleges that God Almighty does not have the dominion and power to keep a true believer from ‘walking away’ from God for eternity. Notice that he is saying that it is Christians who ‘keep themselves in the love of God,’ i.e., saved.  Which is it? Are true Christians kept by God or kept by themselves? To put it another way, is ‘God our Saviour’ or are we our own saviour? Shouldn’t we just believe what the Jude verses plainly say? It is God who has dominion and power – not the Christian. It is God (not the Christian) who keeps the true Christian from stumbling, i.e., from falling away. It is God who presents the true Christian as faultless (not the Christian).
                Bevere believes that the person who is, as the Bible states, ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1), is not so dead as to be unable to make a ‘decision’ for Christ. According to Bevere, to decide for Christ is to get one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, i.e., to get saved. It is because of his ‘Decisionistic’ theology that Bevere thinks that if a person is able to ‘decide’ for Jesus, then, conversely, that same person is able to decided to give up following Jesus. But notice what the Lord says through His prophet Jonah, ‘Salvation is of the LORD.’ Jonah 2:9b. Wait! Read it again. ‘Salvation is of the LORD.’ Salvation is not part by God and part by the person dead in trespasses and sins. No! Salvation is of the LORD!
                If it is God who saves you then you are saved indeed! If we have any part in our salvation then we are all doomed! God doesn’t do His part towards our salvation, then we are to do the rest. No! Christ is our Saviour! We don’t save ourselves by making a decision. Therefore we are not saved BECAUSE we believe. Our belief is not the CAUSE of our salvation. God is the CAUSE of our salvation, not our ‘decision.’ Belief or faith is the instrument THROUGH which the Father communicates the salvation purchased by Jesus Christ to the individual by the Holy Spirit working with the Word.
                ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16. Sure, believers may backslide at times. One only has to look to king David with his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband for an example of a believer backsliding. But true believers do not perish and they have everlasting life because God by His grace alone grants it to them in Jesus Christ. Thus God will preserve those for whom His Son died.
                If we are able to snatch ourselves out of Jesus’ and the Father’s hand then Jesus has lost us and our salvation does not belong to the LORD. But Jesus says, ‘All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.’ John 6:31. Those chosen by the Father are those that the Son will not cast out. These are true believers being spoken of here.
                Again, Jesus says, ‘This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day.’ John 6:39. And notice who these true believers are, ‘No one comes to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ John 6:44. And one more, ‘I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.’ John 17:9-10.
                It is the Father who draws those He has chosen or elected and gives them to His Son. Jesus died for those who were chosen by the Father. They are drawn to the Son because they have been elected by the Father in eternity past and saved by the Son some two-thousand years ago. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with ever spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.’ Ephesians 1:3-5.
                Notice who chooses whom: God chooses or elects us. And notice that God has chosen us in eternity past, i.e., before the foundation of the world. And notice that we are chosen according to the good pleasure of His will. ‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ John 1:12-13.
We would all do well to read Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will. Our will is in bondage until God by His Spirit sets us free by regenerating and converting us. Indeed the Gospel is about God reconciling Himself to us and us to Him because all mankind in its fallen state is at war with God!
Being at war with God means that we will not chose Christ: ‘We will not have this man reign over us.’ Luke 19:14b. Fallen man does not choose God in Jesus Christ. As Jesus says elsewhere, ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose You and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…’ John 15:16a. Therefore it is not we who decide for Christ. It is God who chooses us. Thanks be to God that ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.’ Luke 19:10. Otherwise we would remain dead in our trespasses and sins and end up in torments in Hell forever. It is to demonstrate his gratitude to God for saving him that the saved person strives to keep God commandments.
                But we must keep in mind that God does not choose us because of any good thing in us, or because He foresaw that, given half a chance, we would ‘decide’ for Jesus. No! For, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable: there is none who does good, no, not one.’ Romans 3:10-12.

Teaching Also the Hard Bits

                It is good that Bevere says that ‘We are to proclaim the whole counsel of God.’[13] But it is bad that he means by this that we are to teach that true born again believers can make themselves unborn again!
                Yes, the real downside to Driven by Eternity is that Bevere gets himself lost in the leech-filled swamp of real saved-by-grace believers losing their salvation. Rather than suck life out of true believers Bevere ought to have left it where Scripture leaves it. For it is written: ‘For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.’ Romans 9:9b. And, ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be manifest, that none of them were of us.’ 1 John 2:19.
                To be sure, there are people attending churches who are deluded in thinking they are true believers, and no doubt there are those who go to the grave under that delusion, but that is why Christians are told: ‘Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ 1 Peter 1:10-11. You are to ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.’ Philippians 2:12-13.
                Christians are to make their ‘call and election’ sure. They are called by God and they are elected by God. Therefore true Christians are the ‘called’ and the ‘elect’ of God. ‘Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began…’ 2 Timothy 1:8-9.
‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined, to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called, whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.’ Romans 8:28-30 (KJV & NKJV).
It is God then who calls and elects by His grace alone. And those He calls and elects Jesus will in no wise cast out. Therefore would He ever let that which belongs to Him ‘walk away’ from Him? Jesus says to the Father, ‘Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.’ John 17:12b. Judas Iscariot did not belong to Jesus. He belonged to the Devil. (See what Jesus says about Judas e.g., in John 6:70).
True Faith Versus False Faith

                Bevere takes the Biblical exhortations for Christians to persevere in the faith to mean that the true Christian can somehow lose his or her salvation by walking away from Christ forever. Don’t miss the subtleness here! The Bible encourages Christians to run the race so that they will ‘make their calling and election sure.’ But they are not making their calling and election sure to God, for God already knows He has called and elected them. Rather, they are making their calling and election sure to themselves. In other words the Christian is make sure that he or she has indeed been called and elected by God  FOR PEACE OF MIND!
Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about the Arminian theology to which Bevere so tenaciously adheres is that the Christian is left with no real assurance that God has saved him. For Driven by Eternity is promoting the idea that no one can really know if they have been saved or not.
Bevere therefore reads the Scriptures through clouded glasses, for he believes that true Christians can lose their blood-bought salvation. Indeed, Bevere is sure that each of the following early Church Fathers quoted below held that same view. But before you read the following Bevere quote keep in mind that God tests the genuineness of faith of those who claim to be Christians. For example, ‘In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold which perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.’ 1 Peter 1:6-8a.
It benefits the Christian therefore to know that his faith is of the genuine sort and not the ‘power of positive thinking’ type of faith that so often tries to pass itself off as true God-given faith – especially in the Arminian churches. God at times weeds out the phonies through testing.
True Christians practice true righteousness which is the fruit of their Christ-purchased salvation. Those without the gift of true faith are found wanting. But the exhortation is for all to produce ‘good fruit.’ It is those who do not have true saving faith that fall away and are disinherited. With this in mind listen to what Bevere says:
I’ve shared the truths of almost every writer in the New Testament concerning believers walking away from their salvation. Let me now share some of the writings of the noted early church fathers, some of whom were companions of the apostles who wrote the New Testament. I find their writings to directly correlate with the words we’ve seen in Scripture.
Let us then practice righteousness so that we may be saved unto the end. CLEMENT OF ROME

Even in the case of one who has done the greatest good deeds in his life, but at the end has run headlong into wickedness, all his former pains are profitless to him. For at the climax of the drama, he has given up his part. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA

Some think that God is under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy what He has promised [to give]. So they turn His liberality into His slavery. . . For do not many afterwards fall out of [grace]? Is not this gift taken away from many? TERTULLIAN
A man may possess an acquired righteousness, from which it is possible for him to fall away. ORIGEN

Those who do not obey Him, being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons. IRENAEUS[14]

                None of the early church fathers quoted here necessarily give any evidence of the false doctrine Bevere is promoting. For none of them says anything about a truly converted Christian losing the salvation God has given them by His grace alone. Again, the words of the Apostle John equally apply even here, ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be manifest, that none of them were of us.’ 1 John 2:19.
Rejection of the grace offered in the Gospel is evidence of reprobation. Holding fast to the end is evidence of regeneration. Man cannot regenerate himself. Nor does he cooperate in his regeneration. It is God alone who brings men – who are dead in trespasses and sins – back to life. None of us chose when to be born the first time. Neither do we choose to be born again. Both are subject to God’s sovereign control. The Christian community, like the world in which it exists, consists of sheep and goats, wheat and tares. These, of course, will be separated on the last day.
However, as Christians may be distinguished from non-Christians in the world (such as from Muslims, Jews, Atheists etc.), so at times it is possible to distinguish true Christians from false Christians in the Church. For example, the Apostle Peter also speaks of those who give evidence of their reprobation (i.e., unconversion) where he calls those who ‘walk away’ ‘slaves of corruption’ – hardly a term used of true Christians!
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption, for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having been washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’ 2 Peter 2:19-22.

‘Slaves of corruption’ returning to their master the devil has absolutely nothing to do with Christians losing their salvation! What it does is spur the Christian on to ‘make his call and election sure.’ In other words, it goads the Christian into making sure that they really are a Christian and are not deluding themselves. As Scripture says, ‘Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that you are not disqualified.’ 2 Corinthians 13:5-6.
                Jesus said to a group of Jews who did not believe in Him, ‘But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.’ John 10:26-27. Those who do not follow Jesus, along with those who give up following Jesus, are not His sheep. ‘In this the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor does he love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother.’ 1 John 3:10-12a.
Who would deny that Judas Iscariot belonged to the same group as Cain? Judas and Cain were not Jesus’ sheep. All who reject Him are not His sheep. His sheep hear His voice, are known by Him, and follow Him to the very end. This is what salvation is! Salvation includes the gift of perseverance because it is God who preserves us.
Hidden Theological Bias

                Bevere refuses to nail his theological colours to the mast for all to see. Instead he leaves it for reviewers of his book to alert the undiscerning reader to his theological leanings which in turn greatly affect his interpretation of Scripture. Says Bevere,
Upon hearing my stance on these truths from Scripture, some have incorrectly said to me, ‘John, you are an Arminian.’ This is a term that the dictionary describes as follows: ‘Of or relating to the theology of Jacobus Arminius and his followers, who rejected the Calvinist doctrines of predestination and election and who believed that human free will is compatible with God’s sovereignty.’
To these people I simply say, ‘No, I’m neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian, but a Christian who believes in the Bible being the infallible Word of God.’ Jacobus Arminius lived long after the writers of the Scripture and even the early leaders quoted above.
So could you call these writers Arminian? Obviously not, as they lived and wrote before Arminius was born.[15]
                Here we agree with John Bevere. He is not a Calvinist, and the writers of Scripture were not Arminian! But John Bevere Driven by Eternity espouses Arminian theology cover to cover! Driven by Eternity is purely and simply the product of an Arminian theology.
                It is because Bevere holds to the view that human beings have the power on their own to ‘decide’ to follow Jesus that he believes that they have the same power to decide to ‘walk away’ from Jesus. This is pure Arminianism! We commend Bevere’s stand against Antinomianism by his call to Christians to live holy lives, but we condemn his allegation that believers truly converted by grace alone can ever be lost and perish.
                In the Arminian scheme of things the tendency is for the believer to look back to his or her ‘conversion date’ as evidence that they are truly in the faith. Therefore the problem with ‘Decisionistic Easy Believism’ is that the believer constantly looks at his or her own previous profession of faith, i.e., to whenever it was that they went forward at the ‘altar call,’ or whenever it was that they followed the instructions and repeated the ‘sinner’s prayer’ and signed the dotted line at the back of the New Testament someone had given them. But Scripture says instead that we are to be ‘looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.’ Hebrews 12:2a.
Conclusion

                There are many gold nuggets in Driven by Eternity, but it is such a pity that the reader has to crawl around in the decayed and dangerous mineshafts of Dispensationalism and Arminianism to find them! Bevere’s challenge for Christians to live godly lives by keeping God’s Commandments is heartening. His exhortation to do so in order to secure a good seat in eternity is not – although we thank him for the timely reminder that as Christians we ought to be thinking in terms of eternity. However, as Christians we ought to serve the Lord out of love and gratitude for the salvation He has purchased for us on Calvary’s cross. We ought never to presume upon His grace as we strive to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind, and love our neighbour as ourself.
                It was a delight to read in Driven by Eternity of a Heaven that is a real and solid place for real and solid (saved) human beings. And it was good to read about the real and solid New Earth to which the real and solid New Jerusalem descends. Yes, there are some aspects even of these things where we’d beg to differ with Bevere on the basis of Scripture. For example, Bevere speaks of a resurrected Christ who walks through solid walls. However, this is nowhere taught in Scripture. Indeed great care needs to be taken here not to confuse the two natures of Christ and have the divine nature absorb the human nature of Christ even for a moment.
Bevere then ascribes the same divine attributes to resurrected Christians in order for them to do likewise regarding solid objects and also to traverse vast distances at the speed of light by their own power. This is to distort the true nature of man even in his glorified state. To be sure, the resurrected saint will have immortal and incorruptible qualities, but as God always remains God so man will always remain man.
                Chapters 17 and 18 of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), to which the aforementioned Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, and John Newton were able to subscribe, distils what the Scriptures have to say about the perseverance of the saints and their assurance of grace and salvation. It would be a fitting conclusion to this book review, and is worthwhile reading in order to reassure and strengthen the true Christian:

Chapter XVII: Of the Perseverance of the Saints

I. They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
III. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

Chapter XVIII: Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation

I. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation; which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed.
II. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God: which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.
III. This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure; that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance: so far is it from inclining men to looseness.
IV. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.


1 John Jeffrey Fanella, Jonathan Edwards Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, P&R 1996, p. 29.
[2] Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
[3] John Bevere, Driven by Eternity: Making Your Life Count Today & Forever, Faith Words, 2006, p. 3.
[4] Ibid. p. 276.
[5] ‘Historically, Pentecostalism was mainly a holiness movement that accepted the fundamental truths of the Protestant faith, though it was mostly Arminian in its soteriology [i.e., in its teaching on salvation].’ Dictionary of Theological Terms by Alan Cairns, Ambassador Emerald International, 2002.
[6] John Bevere, Driven by Eternity: Making Your Life Count Today & Forever, Faith Words, 2006, p.111.
[7] Dictionary of Theological Terms by Alan Cairns, Ambassador Emerald International, 2002.
[8] John Bevere, Driven by Eternity: Making Your Life Count Today & Forever, Faith Words, 2006 pp. 48-49.
[9] ‘The origins of Pentecostalism may be dated to 1 January 1901, when Miss Agnes Ozman, a student at Bethel Bible College, Topeka, Kansas, spoke in tongues after the principal, Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929), laid hands on her and prayed for her to receive the power of the Spirit. Henceforth, for Pentecostals, the supreme sign of being baptized in the Sprit would be speaking in tongues. This is considered to be the gateway to vivid experience of God, lively worship, the gifts of the Spirit, especially divine healing, and power for Christian witness and service.’ New Dictionary of Theology.
[10] John Bevere, Driven by Eternity: Making Your Life Count Today & Forever, Faith Words, 2006, p. 84.
[11] Martin Duffield, in a sermon preached at Wavell Heights Presbyterian Church, Queensland, Australia, February 2008.
[12] John Bevere, Driven by Eternity: Making Your Life Count Today & Forever, Faith Words, 2006, p. 126.
[13] Ibid. p. 98.
[14] Ibid. pp. 123-124.
[15] Ibid. p. 124.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Covenant Simplified


COVENANT SIMPLIFIED shows the extent of the Gospel, tracing it from eternity past through time to eternity future.
http://www.amazon.com/COVENANT-SIMPLIFIED-ebook/dp/B008AGU2KY/ref=la_B006NTVAWY_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1341797007&sr=1-2

Thistles & Gum Trees


 
THISTLES & GUM TREES is a collection of short stories of which some are set in Loch Lomondside and Rothesay, Scotland and others in Queensland, Australia.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0078H2GG4/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_3Iw5pb0XS2D4Q