Issue 29, Sep 8-11

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Odds and ends

Note passed in class

Last week, as I preached, I noticed a young lady sitting on the pavement beside me, Bible open on her lap, scribbling frantically on a piece of notebook paper. I thought I knew what that meant. Usually, the note starts out with a declaration of love for God, but quickly degenerates into "brother you are doing this all wrong". I was surprised to read the note that was finally handed to me. It read:

God Bless! Speak in a way that praises our Lord, not these people! I will pray for you.

  • The truth us not afraid if scrutiny!
  • Speak in the truth
  • These people are playing a game, but their war is not with you but with God.
  • "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For your struggle is not with flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. - Eph 6:11-12
  • Armor of God
    • belt of truth
    • breastplate of righteousness
    • feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace
    • Shield of faith
    • helmet of salvation
    • sword of the spirit (Word of God)

I've read it several times and am pretty sure it is an encouragement, rather than a rebuke. So I am encouraged that a young Christian would understand the spiritual battle we are engaged in. Of course it could still be a rebuke done in such a way as to not offend. Any thoughts on this?

From the mailbag

I had a short interaction with a recipient of my newsletter. I have duplicated it here without identifying the individual. I would be interested in any comments on the topic from my readers. My responses are in italics. Here is the exchange, without any additional comment on my part:


You miss the point about sin. Even if the individual sins, there is a mediator who has paid the price for that sin... if they confess the sin and repent of it. At that instant, they are in Christ. If they fall out of Christ by sinning again, they can return to Him by repeating the process. If they try to use this grace from God as an excuse for sin (Romans 6), God will turn them over, and they prove they were never in Christ at all. So the sincerity of the heart of the born-again individual is the center of God's attention and the object God Judges.

Your formula creates a works righteousness that does not glorify the Lord Jesus Christ because it is not possible to escape from sin since we walk in the flesh (Romans 7). But even though we walk in the flesh, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God... not through the flesh, as your formula suggests.


If indeed it is impossible to cease, then rip this passage out of your Bible because it says you can.

1Pe 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

The issue is not whether a Christian can sin. It is obvious that they can. The issue is whether a Christian can stop. That is where most Christians are trapped. They still, with their hearts, give allegiance to Satan by their words and their actions. The issue is much deeper than the fact that Jesus has made a way to reconcile. A way to reconcile to God after sin has been around since the garden of Eden. The issue is what is Jesus' mission.

Joh 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

1Jo 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

Jesus did not come to destroy the Law, but to deliver us from it. He did not deliver us from it by removing the punishment. That would be disannuling the Law. He said He did not come to dissannul the Law. He delivers us from it by freeing us from the sin that places us under the Law.

If you don't believe that Jesus can set us free from sin in the flesh, in this life, then you by that belief establish Satan as God. Here is why. If Jesus can not free us from sin, then sin is of greater power than Jesus. If sin is more powerful than Jesus, then Satan must have won in the battle between good and evil. Ask yourself this question. Do you believe this verse? Mt 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

If Jesus has ALL power, then sin can not hold a man unless that man allows it and cooperates with it.

I think it is you that miss the point about sin. One should not be concerning oneself about the provision that God has made for failure. One's mind should be stayed on the power that God has made available for success over sin. If one focuses on the provision for failure, then fail he will. If one puts his faith in success over sin, then success will be his end.

Bro


You really don't see what Peter is talking about in the verse you quoted. Peter himself learned to see his union with Christ from Paul and he did not hesitate to say that what Paul was talking about was difficult to learn. But you need to learn what it means to have what Peter called the "same mind" as Christ. I wrote a book entitled (title deleted because it identifies the writer) to spotlight exactly the point you are wrestling with. Read the following link and perhaps you will begin to understand what it means to have "the mind of Christ." (URL link deleted because it identifies the writer.)

Obviously to see my point it would be helpful to read the few previous chapters, but that one summarizes the point.


I'm sorry, but I am not wrestling with anything. As far as I am concerned, I already have the mind of Christ. The point of ceasing from sin is that it can be appropriated in this life time. It is not accomplished by works of the Law, but by the remaking of our character by the actions of the Holy Spirit. It takes great amounts of suffering, and maintaining one's testimony that God is good. Each trial, each tribulation has a purpose in sight.

After a period of suffering, I found that all sin ceased to be tempting to me. It was easy to cease from doing that which was loathsome to me. Yes, you read it correctly. I ceased from sin some time ago. Now, the righteousness I have is mine, but mine only from the sense that my character has been conformed to Jesus'. He shaped me, He conformed me to His image. I grew up into Him in all things. But here is the mystery. The righteousness I now have I have by faith in Jesus. He shaped me in it, but it is not imputed, it is actually mine.

1Jo 3:5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

The end product of faith in Christ is that we are made into His likeness, and we are made righteous. But that righteousness is ours, because we are like Him in every way. He that doeth righteousness IS RIGHTEOUS, EVEN AS JESUS IS RIGHTEOUS. We are the ones doing righteousness. If we are sinning, we can not even claim to know Him.

Peter was not talking about some mystery in 1 Peter 4:1-2. He was talking about the very hope of the Gospel. The hope of the gospel is not that Jesus will forgive us our sins, yet still require us to languish in them. The hope of the Gospel is that Jesus will deliver us entirely from sin, and as a result, from the just punishment due to us for the sins we have committed. I do not fear the Law because of Jesus' work. He worked me into righteousness, and I don't incur the sanctions of the Law. I am not under the Law because I do not break it. It is not that I am having to constrain my actions because of the knowledge of the Law. What is true is that I do only that which my heart desires. But my heart is loathe to do anything that displeases God. Consequently, I am free of the Law, and do only what I want to do. But what I want to do is perfectly in line with the Law.

True righteousness is doing only what the heart desires, but also desiring only that which is good. A character conformed to Christ-likeness can do this. A character that only has Christ's righteousness imputed to him can not. As long as Christ's righteousness is still imputed, a man can sin again. It is only when Christ's righteousness is fully replicated in a man that it becomes impossible for that man to sin.

1Jo 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Bro


Okay, folks, if you think my theology is works based, I'd like to hear from you. I won't take offense.

More from the mailbag

Dear Bro. Cope,

Praise the Lord for the report (Issue 28). Let the Lord use you. We have been praying for the same thing. We believe God is going to do some great things. He has been impressing in prayer that we must have the faith that Christ had. He spoke and he expected what he said to happen. We are believing for Pentecostal fire to come down and souls to be saved.

Keep up the good work, T

 

Penn State University

Tuesday and Wednesday, Sep 8,9

The weather was good, but for both Monday and Tuesday, the maintenance people were repairing the steps where we preach. This really cut down on the traffic, and the crowds were small as a consequence. Usually, apathy does not set in this early in the year, but I could sense apathy in the crowd.

I preached on issues of science, in particular the nature of matter, and the consequences in the physical world if there was a fundamental change in the universe. Yep, the change in the speed of light issue.

For the most part, I addressed basic issues because there was a young believer still harboring a love for evolution. I worked on Daniel for two days. When I first began talking about the physical evidence, he began to listen. Earlier he had tried to defend evolution using the standard evidences - similarities in morphology and similarities in the gene pool. I think he began to understand when I pointed out that most of what is put forth as evidence of the evolution of species from a common ancestor is really the imagination of the one interpreting the evidence.

When I say it is only in the imagination, I mean that all we have is two fossils as hard evidence. All that the evidence tells us is that two animals died sudden deaths and were buried rapidly in mud so that they were preserved. The fossils are the evidence, the interpretation is not. When a "scientist" looks at two fossils and they look similar, the ability to visualize that the two are connected is not founded on physical evidence, but on the imagination. But when that imaginary connection is put forth as evidence, it is not. It is wishful thinking.

Daniel began to understand. When I started to share with him the effects on the physical world when the speed of light changes, he paid close attention. He was never told this stuff in high school. In summary, the change is based upon measured changes in several nuclear "constants": All of these "constants" are interrelated, and must change together. If one changes, the others must change also.

  • The measured speed of light over the last 350 years
  • Changes in Planck's constant
  • Changes in the rest mass of particles
  • Historical changes in the energy levels of light (red-shifted star light)
  • Changes in the orbital characteristics of cesium atoms - change in atomic clock
  • When the speed of light decreases, the rest mass of particles increases. As the electron's mass increases, the atomic charges increase. As the electron's charge increases, it orbits the nucleus at a higher energy level. As the electron's energy level increases, the light emitted from that atom is shifted toward the blue end of the spectrum. Going back in time by looking at starlight, we see the spectrums shifted toward the other end - red. By looking at the light from stars, we can see that in the past, the electron shell's energy levels were lower.

    The current paradigm says that the red shift is evidence the shift is caused by the Doppler effect as stars fly away from us. If this were true, then the red-shift would change in smooth increments. But the observed red-shift is not smooth, it occurs in jumps. From quantum mechanics we know that when electrons shift energy levels, changes in the energy is not smooth but occurs in increments, called quanta. The fact that the red-shift is quantized would indicate that the red shift is related not to the velocity of the stars, but is related to quantum energy levels in electron orbits.

    After this discussion, I talked about other consequences we could predict that we should see if this is true. First, the physical size of atoms would increase. Electrons orbiting at higher energy levels would cause the atoms to occupy more "space". What we would see on the earth is that all matter would expand. But the expansion would not be uniform. The heavier elements would expand more than say hydrogen.

    This differential expansion would cause differential stresses on the earth's crust, and would explain why the earth's crust is so broken up. Little by little, pieces start to come into place that point not to long ages for the earth, but for young ages. I think this line of reasoning will tie together many disparate arms of "science". For example, plate tectonics is supposedly based upon convection cells in the core of the earth. With only a little investigation, this theory falls apart. It is not a reasonable cause for the apparent movement of the plates.

    But atomic expansion would provide a plausible explanation for plate movement. In addition, this scenario would also solve many problems with such mysteries like the "Ice Age", and the undulating nature of sediment layers thousands of miles from a plate impact zone.

    I also had a good opportunity to discuss with a young man why we preach confrontationally the way we do. It turned out he believes in a Calvinism. Under strict Calvinism, evangelism is unnecessary because those who are elected to salvation will get saved no matter what we do or do not do. He could not understand why we go out, get persecuted, and hated. I tried to explain the theology behind preaching, but his prejudices precluded any progress, I was able to challenge much of what he believed. Several times he was visibly taken aback when I quoted him scriptures that establish what I was saying while undermining what he believed. I think he swallowed Calvinism completely and without any holy skepticism whatsoever.

     

    Lock Haven University

    Thursday, Sep 10

    I met up with the group that preached at Penn State last week to open up a new campus (at least as far as I am concerned). Lock Haven University is less than an hour away, and I ought to have gotten here before. They had about 12-14 in their group. Shawn Holes is the main facilitator of the group. Click on the picture on the right. They look like they are Amish or Mennonites, but they are not. Their women were dressed very modestly. They begin their preaches with a song in three part harmony. I tried to sing along, but figured I was only detracting, so I quit. It was quite lovely.

    One of the young men jumped up on the wall where I had been told was pretty much the free speech area. A crowd started to form pretty much right away. With so many people in the preaching party, small groups sprung up right away. I don't know about the wisdom of peeling people off the main preacher so early in the preaching.

    There are several stages that a crowd goes through. First the preacher has to find his "thread". That is the subject the Holy Spirit wants to preach on. After the thread comes the "hook", which is the point at which the crowd's attention is hooked by to the preacher.

    Starting too early to focus in on small groups tends to detract from the ability of the preacher to hook the crowd, and then to "cement" the crowd. Cementing is necessary if you want to hold them all day. Cementing is when the preacher becomes the only thing on campus worth listening to. I could tell these guys were fairly new at preaching.

    To the right, Shawn is taking a picture, and right in the middle, the police officer came on the scene. I thought there might be problems, because I had heard that LHU was a closed campus, so I hurried over with my video camera. The officer though was not trying to shut us down. The fellow that the officer was talking to was upset because the crowd was getting loud. The officer asked

    us to tone it down, and we said we would. But everybody who has ever preached would tell you that is a vain hope. As soon as the crowd gets rowdy, the noise level goes up. The officer came back several times to ask us to hold it down, and we tried.

    Finally, after I started to preach, the officer came over to ask if we would move to another location. This usually loses the crowd, but we agreed to move a couple of dozen yards down the sidewalk to a spot in front of the Price Auditorium. As it turned out, the acoustics were better, but in moving, we did lose about half of the crowd. I started preaching again, but before I could get the crowd hooked and cemented, a preacher from South Africa asked to preach. I only got to preach about 20 minutes all day. There are down sides to preaching with a large group.

    Here is the area they moved us to. As you can see, if you have been following my journals from Penn State, this area resembles the Willard building area in many ways. On both sides of the steps. There were walls to sit on, just like Willard. Since there was no foot traffic into the auditorium, we got to get up on the steps and preach over the heads of the students. That is a much better acoustic configuration when preaching over brick.
    The police were very professional, and we had no more problems. My only problem was that I could not preach. For the rest of the day, the crowd stayed below 70, even though there was good foot traffic through the area. I will comment on that a little later.

    Friday, Sep 11

    The day was rainy and cold. Once again, the preaching began with a couple of hymns. Shawn started out and within a couple of minutes, he had the thread, the hook, and had begun to cement the crowd. The weather was contrary, and it rained off and on all day long. The crowd never did get very large. I would estimate in the neighborhood of 30. But 30 is better than none.

    As you can see, there was a loud and proud sodomite contingent at this campus. Throughout yesterday and today, lesbians were playing tonsil hockey in front of us. When they did, the crowds would roar their approval. What a shame. They are so ignorant that they will be judged for every word that comes out of their mouths.

    I did not get a chance to preach today. I observed. Only three preachers got to preach, and then by 3:00 the weather deteriorated to a steady rain. Shawn started out, followed by Jake (to the left), and then by

    the fellow from South Africa, whose name escapes me. Like I said, I observed. I didn't think I was going to get a chance to preach, judging from my experience yesterday. But I am fine with that. Instead I wanted to see if I could help in another way.

    In discussions with Shawn, I learned that he was the oldest, with three years preaching experience. The others all had less experience. It was apparent from how the day progressed. I had hoped that I could have had the chance to talk to Shawn afterwards, but nothing worked out. In the future I hope to make time to share with Shawn some of what I have learned over the last 32 years of street preaching.

    Please don't think I am tearing down your work. You are doing a great job with these young men. But there are things that years of experience teach. Since this newsletter goes out to many other people, some of whom are also preachers, and since I did not get a chance to eat dinner with you, I want to share the benefits of my old age with you and with other preachers who might read this. Here is what I observed.

    When you started off preaching, you did a fine job. I mentioned earlier some of the stages of crowd maintenance - the thread, the hook, cementing. Now let me talk a little about a truly important phase. Possibly the most important phase of crowd control is transition. Transition is how the crowd is transferred from one to another preacher. After you finished, you had a good crowd, hooked and cemented. You turned it over to Jake.

    Now Jake has the makings of a great preacher. But Friday in the rain, his transition fell flat. He lost half the crowd in about 5 minutes. Then, though he preached his heart out for another hour, he was not able to get the crowd's attention back. I watched as toward the end of his message, only about 3-5 people were even looking his way. Finally, he turned the crowd over the next preacher, and lo and behold, he made the exact same mistake. He preached as hard as he could but the crowd dwindled to only 2. Finally the rain mercifully ended it.

    What was the mistake they both made?

    When I first preached with Jed Smock, the first time he turned a rather large crowd over to me, I proceeded to lose it in ten minutes. And I mean there was nobody left. Needless to say, I was shaken up, and not a little embarrassed. Jed told me some wisdom. He said that the first couple of minutes after a new preacher is announced, the crowd can become unstable. The old preacher can try to adjust for that instability by a grandiose introduction of the new preacher. But that is only a part of it.

    The new preacher must come on like gangbusters. He must reach out and aggressively retake the attention of the crowd. The new preacher has to impress the crowd with the fact that he is every bit as interesting as the first preacher. Then when he has the crowd re-hooked, he can cement the crowd again. When the crowd belongs to him, and the crowds attention has been taken off the old preacher, he can go and preach whatever he wants. But with a weak transition, the crowd loses interest very fast.

    The first mistake that each of the young preachers made is to go back to the beginning and start all over again. In worship, the worship leader starts off with thanksgiving. That grows into praise, and then matures into worship. The final stage of worship is silence before the Lord basking in His glory. Were the worship leader to switch back to praise after the congregation has entered into the presence of God, the worship union would be immediately broken, and the spirit would back off. I've experienced it many times.

    In this situation after you had the crowds hooked and attentive, Jake started up with step one of the Way of the Master preaching primer. "Have you ever lied...." He did not discern the state of the crowd and try to take them from the state that you had gotten them to. Their attention span was immediately broken. But then when the next preacher came on, he too went right to step one of the WOM primer. However, it is unlikely that he could have corrected the disconnect introduced by Jake at that point. Especially since Jake, after he stopped preaching, went right down into the crowd, right smack dab in front of the new preacher, and gathered the crowd around himself. The old preacher must get out of the way, so the new preacher can make the crowd his own. Jake became immediate competition by setting himself right down in the center part of the audience and keeping their attention on him.

    Some rules of preaching ought to be that the crowd workers ought not to interfere with the preacher in any circumstance. They ought to be around the periphery, and they ought never to be in the situation where they compete for the crowds attention. Outgoing preachers need to make the break clean, away from crowd. If anyone has a serious question, they will follow. Otherwise the interest draw of the crowd between the two competing preachers will split the crowd. Once a crowd's attention span is interrupted, most often it becomes unstable. When that happens, you've lost them.

    The whole necessity of the preaching is to forcibly hold their attention on the things of God. Whenever their attention span is broken, the enemy is in there in force whispering in their ears to get them to leave. From the enemy's perspective, the easiest defense against the Gospel is separation. Get the sinners out of the "danger zone"

    The preachers need to be paying attention to what the preacher before them is saying, so that he can come into the "pulpit" and carry the message further. If they go back and try to take the crowd back to a place they have already come through, the crowd will disintegrate. The preachers have to be able to discern where the Holy Spirit is leading the meeting to.

    It will take time and experience for these young soldiers to recognize and develop the skills that God imparts to the preacher. Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.

    Bro Cope
    3598 N Atherton A , Apt 1
    Port Matilda, PA 16870
    814-883-9183

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