“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."--Matthew 5:13

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Thought About Shepherds and Angels

"Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." Luke 2:8-10

It struck me, after reading this passage, that the shepherds quivered in fear upon seeing the angels in the sky. These shepherds were used to being in dangerous situations. They were the survivalists of the day. The shepherds lived in the fields with their flocks. They braved the elements of nature and weather. They were used to coping with cold, heat, rain, and other elements. The shepherds were not old men, as they are often portrayed in movies, but were young and physically fit.

Not only did the shepherds live in the fields and were forced to brave the elements, these shepherds also had to fight off bears, lions, snakes, and other creatures that would want to eat one of their animals. I am sure that they also had to fight off bandits and rustlers who attempted to steal from the flock. These men were grizzled, fearless, veterans of the outdoors. But yet, when they saw the heavenly beings, they quivered with fear. The fact that these shepherds were scared to death of these heavenly beings, attests to the greatness and glory that these angels brought forth, which of course was given to them by God.

However, the Angels reassured the shepherds that they did not need to be afraid. The angels did not come to bring judgement and fear, but they came to bring the good news of the coming of Christ. Just like the angels, Christ did not come to bring judgement and fear. He came to save His people from their sins. Let us take comfort in the peace that Christ brings.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Book Review of "Counterfeit Gospels"

How do you identify a precious stone from a cheap imitation? You have to know what the real thing looks like. There are many cheap imitations of the Gospel. But there is only one true Gospel: the good news of Jesus Christ. Trevin Wax discusses and compares the true Gospel to the fake ones in his book "Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope". Wax exposes six common counterfeit gospels that are common in churches today.

The "therapeutic gospel" teaches that human beings have failed to reach their full potential. But if they accept the truth about Christ's death, their full potential can be reached. This gospel uses the church as a mode for our quest for happiness and fulfillment. Wax notes, "We make 'pursuing happiness' the central goal of life" (p.45). We can spot this counterfeit when our decisions are based on our own personal happiness. The therapeutic gospel stresses man's worth, while the biblical gospel stresses God's worth.

The "judgementless gospel" focuses on God's goodness, rather than His response toward evil. This counterfeit gospel sees Christ's death as a victory over Satan, instead of the quenching of God's wrath and the need for a sacrifice. Personal evangelism and outreach is seen as unnecessary, since God does not judge. According to Wax, "the judgementless gospel alters the gospel story, diminishes the need for the gospel announcement, and eventually changes the make-up of the the gospel community as well" (68).

In the moralistic gospel, "Our sinful condition is seen as the individual sins we commit" (115). This fake gospel focuses on what we can do to win God's blessing. The church is seen as a place that helps keep the moral standards of the community. This gospel calls people out on their sins, but does not give them a reason why they need to repent. Wax notes that "life transformation is not the cause of God's grace, but the result of God's grace" (121). Wax suggests two ways to tell whether or not one has fallen for this counterfeit. First, how do you react to suffering? Second, check your own heart when someone benefits from God's grace.

When the gospel is seen as a personal and private message that is only applicable to individual hearts, not society or politics, this is what Wax calls the quietist gospel. Proponents of this gospel do not engage with different aspects of culture, but instead surround themselves with like minded thinkers. Wax encourages evangelism by stating, "When we share the gospel, we are not just inviting people to try a new religious experience. We are proclaiming news about something that has happened" (144). We, as Christians, should not hide behind the gospel, but should stand up for it.

The direct opposite of the quietist gospel is what Wax calls the activist gospel. This counterfeit gospel sees the kingdom of Christ advanced through a just society. The Gospel of Christ is seen through political, social, and cultural transformation. Churches of the activist gospel find unity through just causes. Wax suggests that the activist gospel can be overcome if preachers continue to preach on the doctrine of hell. Instead of uniting around a cause, the church should be active, but united around the gospel.

Charles Spurgeon once said, "The church is not perfect, but woe to the man who finds pleasure in pointing out her imperfections." Thus, the churchless gospel sees the community of beleievers as unnessessary. The Gospel of Christ is seen as an individual announcement. The church is viewed as an obstacle to spiritual growth. Proponents of this gospel typically state that they would like the church to be more like the early churches. Wax argues, "Which early church do you want to be like? Corinth? The church took pride in a man's incestuous relationship...Galatia? Paul was shocked to see that this church church so quickly abandoned the gospel. Thessalonica? This church was grieving in a worldly way, without hope that their loved ones would take part in the coming restoration and resurrection" (197). Every church has its problems. Wax emphasizes that the Gospel is for people who recognize their sinful condition. We need the church.

Trevin Wax goes to great lengths to explain why these counterfeits are so appealing, both to beleivers and to unbelievers alike. Time after time, he notes that only the true Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring salvation, happiness, and life transformation.

"Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope"
Trevin Wax
240 pages, Moody Publishers

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reformation Day

Everyone realizes that October 31 is Halloween. But you may not be aware of another important celebration on that day. October 31 is the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. On October 31, 1517 a German priest named Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther was protesting, among other things, the sale of indulgences. According to Roman Catholic theology, salvation could not be attained through faith alone, but through works of charitable deeds, such as purchasing indulgences. Luther's reaction became known as the spark which ignited the Reformation.

Not only did the Reformation have major theological and religious implications, but practical and cultural implications as well. Up until this time, very few people in Europe knew how to read and write. Those skills were mostly reserved for those involved with the Catholic church. The church intentionally kept its parishioners in the dark so they could have more control over them. All works of literature were published in Latin, including the Bible. Luther translated the Bible from Latin into German, making it easily accessible to commoners. The Reformation brought the people of Europe out of the Middle Ages. More people had a desire to read the Bible, and this led to a major jump in the literacy rate.
The Catholic church, of course, was not pleased with Luther. Luther was accused of heresy. He was asked by Pope Leo X to recant or else risk excommunication and possibly even death. When Luther would not recant, it was suggested that he be burned at the stake. Luther's Theses were banned from publication and he was ordered to appear before the Diet of Worms, a general assembly of the Holy Roman Empire, in 1521. During this assembly, Luther was noted as saying, "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason...I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything". Luther was declared an outlaw, his works were banned, and he was arrested.
Martin Luther, priest, theologian, author, and reformer, strongly taught the doctrine of salvation by faith through Christ alone. Although Reformation day is not as exciting as Halloween, it is very important and should be remembered. The positive effects of the Reformation transcend 16th century Germany, Lutheranism, and even Christianity in general. We have all positively benefited from the courage of Martin Luther, as well as other reformers after him.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Transforming Effect of the Gospel

A couple of months ago, I drove past a well-known Christian church on the South side of Indianapolis. The church had a sign out by the road that read "Transforming lives, one at a time". I was curious as to what this church meant by "transforming lives". Who does the transforming? How does the transforming occur? What happens after the transforming? So I decided to call the church and ask them what is meant by "transforming". The church secretary answered the phone and told me that the transforming "means lots of things". I pressed her about what she meant by "lots of things". She again replied that the transformation can mean many different things. I replied, "My wallet needs transforming. Can you help me with that?" She chuckled and said that they have programs that can help me financially. She asked me if I was interested in filling out a form for financial help. This church secretary had an awesome opportunity to share the Gospel with me. She could have told me about the life transformation that comes through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. She also could have explained the transformation that occurs though the sanctification process of the Holy Spirit. But instead, she asked me to fill out a form. The fact is that she had no idea what is meant by transformation.

I heard a commercial on the radio this morning from a Baptist church. It talked about the physical way Steve Jobs changed the world. Then, it descibed the spiritual and emotional changes made by Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and the Apostle Paul. The commerical discussed the positive changes made by these leaders and rightly described how the changes made by these people were greater than those made by Steve Jobs. The commercial was headed in the right direction, but then it stopped. It never even mentioned Jesus Christ, the ultimate earth changer.

Life transformation and change does not involve conferences, workshops, how-to-books, motivational speeches, or paperwork. According to Romans 12:2, we are "transformed by the renewal of your mind". This begins by studying God's Word. We are to meditate on His Word, applying it to our own lives. Everything in the Bible is applicable to our lives. Second Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness".

Transformation can also occur by getting rid of sin in our lives. When we rid ourselves of sinful habits and behaviors, our steps toward Christlikeness become stronger.

Finally, transformation occurs through the Holy Spirit. God chooses us for salvation, Christ cleanses us, taking away our sin, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and makes us holy. The Holy Spirit is our conscience, giving us the ability to recognize right from wrong, and convicting us when we engage in sin.

These two churches have the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands of people, one through a sign on a busy road, and another through a commercial on a secular radio station. I pray that the Lord will open their eyes to show them the true transforming and life changing Gospel that only comes through Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Children Should Hear the Gospel

I remember the first time I ever heard the gospel. I was probably three or four years old. It was during a family devotional, led by my Dad. I remember him talking about how Jesus Christ was mocked, beaten, and killed. He described how Jesus was righteous and that He was innocent of any wrongdoing. When my father described how the soldiers mocked and beat the Lord, I remember feeling angered that they would do such a thing to someone so righteous. I remember wishing that Jesus had called angels to get Him out of this evil. (I realize now that He could not and I'm glad that He didn't.) It was then that I believe I first felt love for the Lord.

Again, I was a pre-school aged child when the gospel was presented to me. I thank the Lord that He gave me parents who appreciated the importance of the gospel. Of course they taught me other Bible stories, but it was the gospel story that they stressed as most important.

We live now in a day in age where Christianity has been feminized. Too many parents are afraid to discuss the importance and sufficiency of the gospel with their children. Believing that their children may not understand, or that it might be too violent,  parents forgo the gospel message. Parents might teach other biblical stories, such as David and Goliath. Or worse yet, they might only teach their children moral lessons, such as not stealing from others. While these moral lessons and biblical stories are no doubt important, the gospel of Jesus Christ should be of first importance. We should not fear discussing the details of Jesus' death because His death and resurrection is so important. Other biblical stories should be explained in light of the gospel. For example, after telling the story of David and Goliath, reinforce it by equating David with Jesus, and Goliath with Satan, for all scripture centers around the gospel message.

Remember that young children learned at the feet of Jesus. I doubt, when Jesus was teaching the children in Mark 10, that he was teaching them moral lessons. He was no doubt teaching them the fundamentals of the faith.

Whether you are a parent, or you teach a Sunday School class, strive to present the gospel to your children in every way possible--For it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Review of "Love Wins"

Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, created a major stir among Christians with the release of his seventh book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Bell speaks and writes with a form of elegance and charisma which is difficult to surpass. However, he is heretical in doctrine, errant in beliefs, and stereotypical in his assumptions.

First of all, Rob Bell questions everything. I would venture to say that the majority of the sentences in the book end with a question mark. He asks a lot of questions, but does not actually come out and answer them. He asks leading questions and wants the reader to draw their own conclusions regarding the answer. This is typical of post-modernist and relativist philosophy. Relativists question everything, including historic Christianity. They have a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers. In relativism, there is no absolute truth. I will try to focus on the book review and save the arguments against relativism for another time.

Secondly, Bell has an errant view of theology. He views Christ's death as one which is universal in nature. He argues that since Christ died for everyone, everyone will enjoy eternal life with Him. Bell shudders at the thought of a limited atonement. Also, Bell translates verses referring to eternal punishment, such as Matthew 25, to mean "a period of pruning" or "a time of trimming". Typical of a post-modernist, he totally ignores the true meaning of these passages and creates his own meaning.

Bell assumes universalism. He never actually comes out and says that he is a universalist, but makes hints many times throughout the book. If he did not believe this way, he would never make it look as though he does. Also, he claims that universalism was at the center of historic Christianity. He says, "At the center of the Christian tradition, since the first church, have been a number who insist that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God" (p.109). There were not "a number" who claimed universalism in history. There were a few who believed in universalism and they were viewed then as Bell is today: a heretic. Universalism has never been at the center of TRUE Christianity. Christ is at the center of Christianity and Christ died so that His elect may enjoy salvation and life. 

Bell also stereotypes Christians, claiming at times that Christians have been responsible for violence against those of other religions. There have been people in history who have fought against others in the name of Christianity, such as the crusaders. However, we all know that the Crusades were more about money and land than about religion. Also, Catholics have been responsible for violence as well, but most of it has come against Christians. He also stereotypes all Christians as espousing bigotry, legalism, and ignorance. He claims to be a Christian, yet tries to place himself on the outside of the window of Christianity.

Finally, one of the most disturbing phrases in the book is when Bell writes that he and his wife desire for their children to be able to "unlearn" as much as possible when they are older. It is the father and the mother's responsibility to raise their children in the "training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Apparently, this must be one of the verses which Bell chose to disregard.

Rob Bell is not a biblical scholar, as this book proves. He is not an authority on Scriptures, and should not be looked upon as such. If he holds to universalism, he is merely writing about his thoughts and beliefs; If he is not a universalist, he is just a man trying to sell a book, a goal which according to sales numbers, has been achieved. People will read this book and be deceived. But I guess this is what was prophesied in II Timothy 4:3: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions". 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ruskin's Definition of Gothic

British art critic John Ruskin, in his work “The Stones of Venice”, wrote that there are six characteristic elements of Gothic architecture--1. Savageness/rudeness. 2. Changefulness/love of change. 3. Naturalism/love of nature 4. Grotesqueness/disturbed imagination 5. Rigidity/obstinacy. 6. Redundance/generosity. He claimed that Gothic architecture “was intended to imply reproach, and express the barbaric character of the nations among whom that architecture arose.” He was referring to the Goths, a Germanic people who ended up conquering the Roman Empire. Ruskin believed that Gothic workmanship was rude and imperfect, representing the soul of the creator. But he did believe that it was still beautiful. He mentioned that the glass created by Gothic Venetians “was muddy, inaccurate in all its forms, and clumsily cut, if at all.” However, “the old Venetian was justly proud of it.” While the Gothics creations were imperfect, they were beautiful in their own eyes due to the imperfections. Ruskin stressed that imperfections are what make a piece exquisite and unique.

This is a typical view of the fallen man. Man views his imperfections as unique and good, while God views our imperfections as evil and worthy of death (Rom 3:10; 6:23). On our own, we can never become perfect physically, mentally, or spiritually. It is Christ, through His eternal sacrifice, who makes us perfect forever (Heb 10:14).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Faith Vs. Works

"Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:17
We have all read this very familiar passage. This is the passage of scripture which various sects of Christianity, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, take out of context, misconstrue, and misinterpret. However, salvation by works is not what this passage is implying. The main point of this passage is that a faith that does not produce good works, is not a truly saving faith. When Christ calls us unto Himself, and the Holy Spirit breathes the breath of life into us, He creates in us a desire to serve Him. When someone claims to have faith, but does not live for Christ, this person is not truly saved. James 2:15-16 describes a person who is hungry and in need of clothing. What good is it if you tell this person to get food and clothing if you do not provide the means for it? You cannot tell a person to eat if you do not provide them with food. "Dead" faith is not a faith that had previously been alive. Dead faith is faith that never had life.
Sacrifice of Issac, Rembrandt, 1635

Good works do not provide faith, but are merely proof of faith (James 2:18-26). Your faith is made visible by your works. You cannot demonstrate true faith by simply believing in God, for even the demons believe in God (James 2:19). You show true faith by doing good works. James provides us with another example. Abraham showed his faith by his godly life (James 2:21-23). He showed his faith in God by leaving the land of his ancestors and blindly following God's call to an unknown land. Furthermore, he demonstrated his faith by offering up his only son Issac, in a symbolic act of obedience to God, as a blood sacrifice. God honored his faith and works by sparring the life of Issac, and ultimately making Abraham the father of Israel. Let us strive to honor God and demonstrate our faith by doing good works, not by necessity or compulsion, but out of true love and obedience to Him.   

Thursday, May 26, 2011

True Love

According to the Miriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, love is an emotion which yields strong affections. It is characterized by a personal attachment to that which is loved. In today's society, love is an emotion that is passive and easily discarded. But as for Christians, love is something that should be embedded in their very being. Only Christians can demonstrate true love. This is why.

God has a myriad of attributes. But one of His many attributes is love. God showed His love by giving His perfect Son as a blood sacrifice for fallen humanity, even when they did not deserve it (Romans 5:8). God showed love to His people, who were wallowing in their unregenerate life. His people were previously slaves to sin, and in fact dead in it. By God's love, His people were brought to life (Romans 4:25).

The mark of true Christianity is love. Christians should model the selfless love that God shows for His people. Christians can show God's love by striving to be obedient to His Word (John 14:15). The only true mark of Christianity is love for and obedience to God and His Word. 

Another way to demonstrate Christian love is to love others. "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers" (I John 3:16). It is impossible for us to lay down our life as a sin offering as Christ did, but we should model His selfless love for others, even those who are enemies to us. We may never have to lay down our lives for someone, but we should be prepared to do so since Christ died for His people.

First Corinthians 13 is known as the "love chapter". In this chapter, Paul outlines the way Christians should love. In the first part of the chapter, Paul writes that spiritual gifts are useless if love is not present (1-3). If God has given us the gift of eloquent speech, our speech is asinine if not used in love. If God has given us the gift of knowledge, but we use it without love, we will sound dumb. And if we give away all our belongings to bring glory unto ourselves, but do not love others, then our sacrifice is in vain.

Secondly, Christians should imitate Christ's love (4-7). Paul lists characteristics of love, which happen to be characteristics of Christ. 
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Finally, true love endures forever (8-13). Paul writes that prophecies, knowledge, and speech will eventually pass away, but "Love never ends." When Christ returns, we will no longer need our spiritual gifts. When the hope of our faith is finally realized with the return of Christ, the only thing that will exist is our eternal love for Christ, with which we will abide with Him forever. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Problem of Evolution on College Campuses

One of the most controversial problems on college campuses today is a racist fallacy that is taught and regarded as supreme truth by most college professors. It pervades the minds of unquestioning college students, not only polluting their views and opinions, but also polluting the way they live and shape their lives. This racist fallacy has corrupted the fields of science, medicine, politics, physics, law, and even education.

This racist error, regarded as truth in colleges worldwide, is Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Darwin, in his 1859 book entitled The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, explains that all life came from a process known today as “the survival of the fittest”. This concept has never been proven to be an accurate account of life, but yet it is regarded as truth by most college professors, who dismiss any other arguments as to the world's existence. As a matter of fact, many proponents of this philosophy have a hard time explaining how this process actually works. Statistical studies conducted by mathematician Murray Eden in 1967 have shown that pure chance could not have produced the world we live in. No one has proven how man has been brought forth by chance, nor will they ever.

Charles Darwin, 1854
Since Darwin proposed his theory, other scientists have based their theories on his. For instance, Herbert Spencer, who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest”, extended Darwin's theory to all of life, including ethics. He believed that only the strong and capable should survive and flourish, and the weak and incapable should be left to die. There was no need for Spencer to extend Darwin's theory to “Social Darwinism”, but he wanted to explain life through science. He wanted to rationalize, instead of find real truth. Men like these did not want to believe that the world was created by God. They did not want to believe that He could have supreme authority over the affairs of the world. Social Darwinism is now the frame of reference for self proclaimed intellectuals to rationalize the existence of themselves and the world around them. 

These ideas had a great impact on Adolf Hitler's Nazi movement. The Nazis believed that the law of nature must take its course--that the strong will survive and the weak must die. This can be seen through the horrors of the Holocaust--the destruction of peoples the Nazis deemed weak, unclean, and undesirable. 

Social Darwinism is also being used in today's genetic engineering fields, as scientists attempt to produce a stronger generation through means of science, while holding to a position that the weak and undesirable should not be kept alive. In fact, when parents find out that their unborn child will be mentally handicapped or disabled, they are encouraged by many doctors to abort the pregnancy.

These are just a few of the many reasons that evolution should not be taught in universities as truth. It never has been truth. It has always been just a mere theory. Instead of teaching the theory of evolution as supreme truth, professors should give both sides of the argument. 

Creationists hold to the view that the universe was created by God. Instead of the universe evolving over a period of billions of years, God spoke it into existence in mere mili-seconds. Intricacy and precision took place during creation, not chaos and confusion as proposed in evolution.

Colleges and universities should insist that their professors give both sides of the argument, instead of teaching only the error of evolution. Students should have the opportunity to hear the arguments given by both sides, not the brainwashing of evolutionist professors.    

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sin and the Grace of God

Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, by Michelangelo
Sin is a deformity that strikes the heart of every person from the point of birth. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Both the mind and the will are evil. Sin is a condition which we have inherited from our father Adam. I Kings 8:46 says "for there is no one who does not sin". According to Romans 3:9-23, no one is righteous.
"None is righteous, no, not one;
 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
   no one does good,
   not even one."
  "Their throat is an open grave;
   they use their tongues to deceive."
 "The venom of asps is under their lips."
  "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood;
 in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known."
 "There is no fear of God before their eyes"  (10-18).
The consequence of sin is that we have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The penalty of this is death (Romans 6:23). Furthermore, Paul writes "nothing good dwells in me" (Romans 7:18).

We do not have the power to believe God or His Word, unless we are drawn by Him. Romans 8:7-8 notes, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Anyone who has not been renewed by the Spirit is an enemy of God and is incapable of submitting to Him. We cannot positively respond to the gospel of Christ unless we are called by God (John 6:44).

John writes,
"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (I Jn 1:8-10)
God grants us grace when we admit our need for the forgiveness of sin, which brings me to my second point.

Without the grace of God, we would all perish. His grace is a gift, one that we have inherited by the work of His Son (Romans 3:24-25). By the death of Christ, His people have been released from the bondage of sin. His death satisfies God's judgment on us for sinning against Him. Grace abounds through Jesus (Rom 5:18-21; Eph 1:6-7; 2:5-8; 4:7). God has called His people to grace (Gal 1:15). God chose to create faith in His people. God's call to salvation is one in which His people have inherited. It cannot be earned.

The grace of God is what prevents His people from being as evil as Osama Bin Laden. He has even bestowed common grace on those who do not know Him. Common grace is not saving grace, but it does allow the ungodly to experience the benefits of God's creation. We should not be arrogant that God has called us to grace. Instead, we should be humble, knowing that without Christ, we are dead in our trespasses and sins.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Should We Rejoice Over the Death of the Wicked?

As most of us already know, Osama Bin Laden was killed in a covert operation by the United States on Sunday. Osama Bin Laden was a terrorist, responsible for plotting the 9/11 attacks, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 1999, and countless other acts of terror. Many people throughout the world celebrated his death.

However, should Christians respond in jubilation? Since the news of his death, many Christians have spoken out against the celebrations of Bin Laden's death, condemning others for taking part in the jubilation of death. Should we rejoice when evil people are killed? Let's consider the examples in God's Word. As David and Saul returned home after the defeat of the Philistines and their champion Goliath, they were met with much rejoicing and celebration. I Samuel 18:6-7 says,
"As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, 'Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands'." 
The people rejoiced that the battle had been won, and that the enemies of God had been destroyed.

In Exodus chapter 15, Moses and the children of Israel rejoice when the army of Pharaoh was swallowed up by the Red Sea. Moses writes, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea." (1) The people had spent years enduring the slavery and persecution of the Egyptians. After watching Pharaoh's army drown into the depths of the Red Sea, the people praised God for His salvation.

When Queen Esther saved the Jews, the city rejoiced (Esther 8:15-17). The evil Haman, who had planned a genocide against the Jews, had been hanged on his own gallows. The people rejoiced that justice had been done. They follow this celebration with more rejoicing in 9:17-19.
Finally, Proverbs 11:10 offers probably the most convincing example of celebration over the destruction of evil. "When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness." Civil societies must recognize the difference between good and evil. Celebrating the defeat of an evil foe is a reward for God's just retribution. Regarding this passage, The Reformation Study Bible notes, "There is a proper rejoicing when the perpetrators of evil, corruption, and human misery are destroyed." I think Bin Laden embodied those words.

I believe the Bible says that a response of jubilation and rejoicing is appropriate when evil is defeated. As Christians, we should be saddened that the wicked are perishing to face eternal damnation. But we should also rejoice that God is sovereign and just, ruling over the affairs of men, and destroying evildoers.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Libertinism and Antinomianism

Libertinism comes from the word "libertine", defined by Miriam-Webster's Dictionary as "a freethinker especially in religious matters" and "a person who is unrestrained in convention or morality". Libertines typically think outside the box. They do not like to be bound by rules or traditions.

Theological libertines argue that they are not bound by the law of God, but are under grace. They cite  Romans 6:14 as the verse supporting their philosophy. "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." Libertines interpret this verse as meaning that God has given them grace to do whatever they want. Since we are no longer bound by the law, libertines claim that we do not have to live up to God's standards because He has given us grace and will continue to give us grace.

Libertinism coincides with antinomianism. Antinomianism, a term coined by Martin Luther, is a belief that existing religious laws are no longer applicable. Antinomians are against all religious laws and restrictions.

While some aspects of the law, such as blood sacrifices, food restrictions, and worship on the seventh day, may be inapplicable for us today, there is a further application to laws such as these. While we are not required to offer blood sacrifices to the Lord, He does require us to be genuine in our worship of Him. This includes offering Him the best of ourselves. Furthermore, God's moral laws are never optional. For example, the Ten Commandments are not optional. These important commands, while given to old covenant Israel, should be kept by us today. Also, we should never ignore anything that the Lord says. Everything in His Word is applicable to us and is included for a specific reason.

Antinomianism is very much alive today, and can occur in different forms. For example, antinomians and libertines believe that grace allows total freedom. Romans 6:1-14 notes that Christians should not take advantage of the grace that God has given us by intentionally sinning. How can we be alive in Christ, but still live in sin? We are no longer enslaved to sin, but have been bought out of slavery by the blood of Christ. We should present our bodies as instruments for God, not instruments for sin. The fact that we are now under grace, instead of the law, should cause us to strive for holiness. I Peter 2:16 also says that we are free to live as people who have been redeemed, but we should not use our freedom as an excuse to sin.

Another example of antinomianism is what R.C. Sproul calls, "Gnostic Spiritualism". This form of libertinism says that there is a secret knowledge of the Spirit that can contradict the will of God. For example, a husband might say that God told him to divorce his wife and marry someone else. A serial killer might say that he heard God tell him to kill someone. The Holy Spirit will never tell someone to do something that is contrary to God's laws.

A further form of antinomianism is when people find loopholes in the law of God. They would argue that certain behaviors are excused because the Bible does not specifically condemn them. To this, we must ask, but does the Bible condone them?

Libertines and antinomians misconstrue the Bible to serve their own selfish purposes. May we carefully read and reflect on what the Lord's Word says. Pray that you will not abuse the grace He has given you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

According to dictionary.com, theological legalism is defined as "the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws." Jesus accused the Pharisees of legalism. They were known for misconstruing the law for their own purposes. They were also extremely judgmental of those who did not hold to the same convictions. Furthermore, they were known for taking God's word out of context. Even though we have been redeemed from the law, legalism is still alive today.

Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees, by Gustave Dore
Modern legalism takes on many different forms. First, legalism is taking God's laws and commands out of context. Some of God's laws were written for specific purposes. While it is true that all scripture is given to benefit all believers, some laws were given for specific reasons. For example, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that women should have their heads covered when praying and worshiping in the church, and should not cut their hair too short. The Corinthian women apparently had a rebellious spirit. They did not want to submit to the male authority in the church. The women seemed to rebel by intentionally cutting their hair too short. Legalists take this verse out of context by saying that it is imperative that women have their heads covered by either a hat or some kind of material covering at all times while in the presence of males. Paul merely meant that women are never to have a rebellious spirit in worship. They were, and still are, to submit to male authority in the church.

Another form of legalism is when we make our personal opinions and convictions law by placing them on the same level as divine revelation. It is honorable to have convictions and beliefs. But when those beliefs are not found in the Bible, we must never pass them off as part of God's law. Furthermore, we should never judge those who go against our convictions when they are not necessarily condemned by God. We should not impose our unfounded and self-proclaimed beliefs on others when they are not backed biblically.

A third form of legalism includes adding rules to the Bible. The pharisees were guilty of this, and the Lord called them out on it (Mark 7:1-13). Legalists today say that partaking of certain pleasures are in themselves sinful. For example, modern legalists are more likely to add rules to the Bible that includes, but not limited to, the prohibition of dancing and movie theater attendance; music preference; and Bible preference. These pleasures are not in and of themselves sinful. God has created everything for man's enjoyment. However, these things become sinful when man uses them to disobey God's specific commands.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Two Thoughts on Jesus' Post-Resurrection Appearances

After reading through John's resurrection account this weekend, two thoughts struck me regarding Christ's post-resurrection appearances.

Resurrection of Christ by Noel Coypel, 1700
The first thought I had regarding the post-resurrection appearances was that the Lord intentionally blinded the eyes of those who saw Him. Jesus' first post-resurrection appearance was to Mary Magdalene at the tomb. She had spent a considerable amount of time with Jesus before he had died. She known Him well, but yet she did not recognize Him. Also, when Jesus walked on the road with His disciples, they did not recognize Him, neither did anyone whom they may have passed on the road. Furthermore, Jesus appeared at the edge of the shore while His disciples were in the boat fishing. Only after they had pulled in a miraculous catch did they realize that the man on the shore was their savior.

Why would His followers, who had spent so much time with Jesus ministering day in and day out, be unable to recognize their friend? One explanation is that they could have been skeptical about His resurrection. John writes that the discples were grieved to the point that they had forgotten Jesus' promise to rise from the dead. They also may not have believed Him. Secondly, the disciples may have been supernaturally hindered from recognizing their Lord (Luke 24:16). The Holy Spirit did not allow the disciples to recognize the Lord right away. Also, the resurrection had caused a change in Jesus' appearance (I Cor 15:35-49). Jesus' body had been glorified. It was no longer material, but had undergone a process of glorification, one that we too will experience in heaven.

Jesus appears to Mary, by Rembrandt
The second thought I had regarding Jesus' post-resurrection appearances was the lack of faith that Thomas had exhibited. Thomas had not been present when Jesus appeared to His disciples in the upper room. When the disciples told Thomas about Jesus' appearance, he said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). Thomas sought a sign, instead of trusting in faith. Faith, and the testimony of reliable witnesses, was not enough for him. He had to see Jesus to believe that He was alive. Fortunately for Thomas, the Lord appeared to him eight days later, proving that He was in fact alive. May we never be a doubting Thomas. We should be those who rely entirely on faith, not on signs and wonders. The Lord's people are marked by faith in the unseen (Hebrews 11:1-3).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Purchased By His Blood

I have purchasing power. When I go shopping, I use a form of currency to purchase a product. Every country has their own form of currency. In America, we use the dollar. The dollars I use to purchase items have either been earned or given to me. Depending on its worth and quality, I may have to use more currency to buy an item.

Christ also has purchasing power. But the price of Christ's purchase never fluctuates. His purchase is the same price, albeit a mighty expensive one.

Calvary by Paolo Veronese
What did Christ purchase? Acts 20:28 states that Christ purchased the church. He purchased His people out of bondage from sin.

What did Christ purchase with? Christ's purchase was made by His blood and His atoning death on the cross (Acts 20:28). Christ's payment was so expensive that it cost Him His life. The blood of a righteous substitute was necessary for His people to be made clean.

Those that Christ purchased now belong to Him. Since He paid the price with His blood, His people have become heirs with Him (Romans 8:17). His people were once slaves to sin. But Christ set them free by His blood on the cross. He payed the price for His elect, when it was impossible for them to make the payment. By Christ's blood, His people are free (Ephesians 1:7).

Furthermore, Christ's payment lasts forever (Hebrews 7:25). Since Christ died for sin, nothing can separate His people from the love and grace of God (Romans 8:39). Nothing can snatch God's people out of His hand (John 10:29). They are His forever.

No matter how much money I have, my purchasing power is weak compared to the payment that Christ has made. Try to make it a point to remember His eternal payment as we celebrate His death this Friday.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Atonement

The Crucifixion, by Vouet, 1622
In keeping with the remembrance of Passion week, I have decided to focus specifically on Christ's atoning work on the cross.

There are several views of Christ's atonement. The first view says that Christ died for all people who ever lived, and who ever will live. This view is called universalism. It asserts that all people will go to heaven, since we know that we are saved by His work on the cross (Isaiah 53:5). This view contrary to scripture. Over and over again in scripture, God says that the wicked will be punished in eternal damnation. Furthermore, there are numerous calls to repent.

The second view of the atonement (which is most popular among Evangelicals) says that Christ died for all, but a work of faith and repentance must be added on the part of the believer. The implication for this is also contrary to scripture. This view asserts that Christ died for all people, but that those people must also have faith and show repentance. The basic fallacy of this view is that it adds to Christ's work of atonement. This is salvation by works.
The third view of the atonement states that Christ's death was infinite, but was offered only to those whom God had graciously chosen beforehand. This is the Reformed view of limited atonement. Despite its attack by Fundamental Evangelicals, is backed by ample scriptural proof.

God graciously chose those for whom Christ would die. John 6:37-40 says that God leads His elect to faith, and that Jesus will raise up all that the Father has given Him. In Romans 8:28-30, Paul wrote that God's elect have a specifically ordained purpose; God has chosen the objects of His saving love; and only those called by God have been justified by Christ. Paul also wrote, in Ephesians 1:3-10, that Christ makes holy those for whom He died. In love, He has adopted His elect, who were previously estranged due to sin. Redemption can only come through Christ.

Christ died for only those whom God graciously chose. Christ died specifically for "us", the elect. "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Romans 5:8-10). Christ saved His people from the wrath of God. The elect were once enemies of God, but Christ saved them and brought them reconciliation with God. In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote that Christ represented His people in both His death and resurrection. Finally, Jesus prayed specifically for those whom He would redeem (John 17:9;20).

Knowing that God chose His elect and that He sent His Son to die specifically for them has brought assurance and humility to the hearts of believers. The doctrine of limited atonement should not cause the believer to be arrogant, but should bring a spirit of humility, knowing that they were once enemies of God, but have now been cleansed and brought to reconciliation by Christ's blood.

Monday, April 4, 2011

John Calvin's Letter to Rob Bell

John Calvin 1509-1564
John Calvin wrote many letters throughout his life, many of which were long exhortations. Oftentimes, he would write to correct someone who was in error. The following letter was written to Laelius Socinus, a man who had once embraced the Reformation principles, but had begun to fall away. He is the founder of Socinianism, a heresy that blended skepticism and humanism. Socinus acted like a Christian, but basically denied everything that Christianity stands for. Had the "Emergent Church" existed in his time, Socinus would have definitively been sympathetic toward their cause, since he questioned everything about the faith, instead of asserting anything. For this reason, I have entitled this entry, "John Calvin's Letter to Rob Bell", because Rob Bell seems to question, not just the culture, institution, and traditions of Christianity, but he seems to also question the very foundation of our faith: the Word of God. In his latest book, Love wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell asserts that all will go to Heaven. He asks the same old worn-out question of why a loving God would send someone to hell. I have inserted Rob Bell's name for Socinus.

Calvin's letter is as follows:
"Certainly no one can be more averse to paradox than I am, and in subleties I find no delight at all. Yet nothing shall ever hinder me from opnely avowing what I have learned form the Word of God; for nothing but what is useful is taught in the school of this master. It is my only guide, and to acquiesce in its plain doctrines shall be my constant rule of wisdom. [I wish] that you also...Pastor Bell would learn to regulate your powers with the same moderation! You have no reason tro expect a reply from me so long as you bring forward those monstrous questions. If you are gratified by floating among those airy speculations, pertmit me, I beseech you, an humble disciple of Christ, to meditate on those things which tend towards the buidng up of my faith. And indeed I shall hereafter follow out my wishes in silence, that you may not be troubled by me. And in truth I am very grieved that the fine talents with which God has endowed you, should be occupied not only with what is vain and fruitless, but that they should also be injured by pernicious figments...Unless you correct in time this itching after investingation, it is to be feared you will bring upon yourself severe suffering. I should be cruel towards you did I treat with a show of indulgence what I believe to be a very dangerous error. I should prefer, accordingly, offending you a little at present by my severity, rather than allow you to indulge unchecked in the fascinating allurements of curiosity. The time will come, I hope, when you will rejoice in having been so violently admonished."

Calvin's letter from: Parsons, Burk. John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008. Print. pgs. 206-07

Friday, April 1, 2011

Thoughts on Exodus: Moses' Four Objections to God's Call

When God came to Moses in the burning bush, He told Moses that He wanted him to go back to Egypt to lead the Israelites into a land in which God had given them. Moses responded with four objections as to his disqualifications for this service.

1. "Who am I that I should go" (3:11).
Moses claimed that he was a "nobody". God responded, "I will be with you" (12).

2. Moses stated that he did not know God's name (13). God responded by telling Moses to say, "I AM has sent me" (14). The people were to know God by that name.

3. "They will not believe me or listen to my voice" (4:1).
God responded by saying that He would give Moses power to perform miracles in His name (2-9).

4. "I am slow of speech and of tongue" (10). Moses claimed that he had a speech impediment. He implied that this definitely disqualified him to speak in front of Pharaoh.
God first responds by asking a series of rhetorical questions. “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" (11-12). Then the Lord says that He will guide Moses speech. The Lord promised that He would give Moses the right words to say. Throughout all of Moses' complaints, the Lord remained patient with him.

After all these reassurances of the Lord's provision, Moses still objected to God's call (13). Finally, God became angry with Moses' lack of faith. He allowed Moses' brother Aaron to help Moses with his speeches to Pharaoh and to the Israelites. When God calls, we should not make excuses as to our lack of qualification. God has created each of us with a purpose to bring glory unto Himself.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thoughts on Exodus: Did the Hebrew midwives lie to Pharaoh (1:15-22)?

Two obvious answers can be given for this question. First, one could say that the Hebrew midwives completely lied to Pharaoh. In order to save human lives, the midwives had to choose what they saw as the lesser of two evils. This was to lie to Pharaoh, the "almighty" ruler of the land. The midwives lied by saying that the Hebrew women gave birth before they could arrive (Apologetics Study Bible).

A second conclusion can be gained from this question. The midwives could actually have been telling the truth. In order to save the lives of His people, God miraculously had the women give birth before any midwife could arrive.

Whatever the answer to this question may be, we know that the midwives had no intention of killing innocent babies. Verse 17 says that the midwives feared God. They knew what was evil and what was right. They knew that God wanted these babies to live. They already had their minds set to obey God.