“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, June 28, 2013

Deny Yourself and Follow Christ Daily

"And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
-Luke 9:23

Continuing in our discussion of putting Christ above all, we come to Luke 9:23, in which Christ not only commands His people to take up their cross and follow Him, but He also says that we must deny ourselves. 

What does it mean to deny one's self? Certainly there are some things that we must have to live, for example food and water. If we deny ourselves of these very vital nutrients, we will die. However, Christ is not prohibiting life giving necessities, but He is commanding that Christians must resist the materialism, philosophies, and sins of the world. 

But how can we resist these things when we live in a world in which evil is in our face and sometimes forced down our throats everyday? In order to deny ourselves, we must take up our cross daily to follow Christ. This command does not mean that Christians must live in a commune. We are called to be salt and light in this world. We must stand out, not live in the shadows. This command to deny ourselves and take up our cross means that everyday, we should be ready and committed to follow Christ, regardless of what the world throws in our face. We cannot pick and choose which days we want to follow Christ. Christians must follow and obey Him everyday. Of course there will be times when our old sin nature pokes through, causing us to disobey, but the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us if we repent, which His people are not only commanded to do, but should be willing to do. Christ command in Luke 9:23 means that His people must be willing to go wherever and whenever He desires us to go.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Take Up Your Cross in Humble Submission

"And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
-Matthew 10:38
What does Christ mean when He tells us to take up our cross and follow Him? What is the cross that we must bear? Those that do not do it are not worthy of Christ.

Jesus had just previously said that, in order to be His follower, a person must place Him above all other things, including one's own parents and children. In verse 38, Christ is saying that His people must love Him more than life itself. Christ wants His people to be faithful to Him. He desires for us to live a life of faithfulness and repentance. 
Think of this statement that Jesus has made. How many people would follow a man who taught that they must put Him first above all? This man would be hailed as a raving lunatic, instead of a teacher. That's because Jesus is much more than just a teacher: He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
The cross we must carry is faithful submission to Him. If we cannot do that, we are not worthy of His salvation. But if we live a life of repentance and faithful submission to Him, we are blessed above all others.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Let Those Who Boast, Boast in the Lord

"Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord."
-Jeremiah 9:23-24
In the hedonistic culture of the world, self-exaltation is everywhere. It has always existed since the fall of man. But since the creation of mass media, it seems more prevalent now more than ever. It is not uncommon to hear a great athlete boast about his abilities, a famous actress brag about her beauty, or a politician brag about the great things that he has done for his constituents. As sinners, we desire nothing more than to bring glory to ourselves and away from God. We do this subconsciously because we have been born into sin. It is something that does not need to be learned.
            It is a sin to boast in our own abilities and possessions because it is God who gave us these things. While we think we ourselves are the ones solely responsible for creating our own wealth, might, and wisdom, it is the Lord who has actually granted us these abilities. Even when the Lord has blessed us, we still do not give Him the glory. Yet He is still merciful as to not take these blessings away. He still allows the sun to shine on the ungodly.
            While the Lord’s people should not be boastful in material possessions, wisdom, or health, there is something that we can boast in. We can be boastful in the Lord and His attributes. We can take delight in and be proud of the Lord’s enduring love, justice, and righteousness. We can take pride in the fact that our God is one who is willing to forgive our sins, even when we continually sin against Him. We can be proud that our Lord has promised to never leave His people. We can take pride in the fact that God’s justice will and has prevailed. And we can boast about the righteousness of our Lord and His willingness to die for unworthy sinners. As believers, we should strive to cultivate these altruistic attributes in our own lives, while giving God the ultimate glory and honor. Boasting in the Lord brings glory and honor to Him. It is easy to boast in our own abilities, but it takes true humility to bring the Lord the glory and honor that He deserves. Paul wrote, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14). Christ is the author and leader of our faith. Christians should be proud and thankful for Christ’s sacrifice of Himself for them. Boasting in Christ brings Him the ultimate glory, and there is nothing evil in that.
            Believers should desire to see the entire world recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Savior. We should pray that all the nations of the earth forsake their own selfish pursuits toward false holiness, humbly understanding their own weakness, depravity, and inability, and reveling in the one who brings true holiness and salvation.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Christian Perspective of "Life of Pi"

It is not uncommon for a Hollywood produced movie to question spirituality, the existence of God, and supremacy of religion, but rarely are these doubts projected in such a powerful way as they are in Ang Lee's Life of Pi. The Oscar winning film is based on Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name. The movie centers around a 17-year old Indian boy named Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, the son of a zookeeper, who survives a shipwreck aboard a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker.

Prior to the shipwreck, Pi, who was raised Hindu by his mother, had experimented with both Christianity and Islam. Pi discovers Christianity and Islam and incorporates the philosophies of these faiths into his Hindu lifestyle, culture, and spiritual pursuit. For example, in his prayers, Pi thanks Krishna for the salvation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Pi's father, who has thoroughly rejected any religion, thinks that Pi is ridiculous and actually says something that seems to make the most sense of anything in the movie. Pi's father tells him, "Believing in everything at the same time is the same as believing in nothing at all." However, throughout the film, Pi's father is cast in a negative light. Pi's father decides to move his family, and his animals, by ship from India to Canada to start a new life. But a savage storm ensues and the ship sinks, killing all its passengers, save for a few animals and Pi.

After the shipwreck, Pi shares a lifeboat with a zebra, who suffered a broken leg, a female orangutan, who lost all her children in the wreck, and a cackling hyena. Before long, the hyena gets scared and hungry and begins to attack the defenseless zebra. The hyena kills the zebra and then begins to attack and kill the orangutan. While the hyena is in the process of killing the orangutan, Richard Parker jumps out from underneath a tarp and kills the hyena, while also trying to kill Pi as well. Pi then builds an inflatable life raft and attaches it by rope to the side of the lifeboat in order to distance himself from the tiger. But he knows that tigers are very good swimmers, so he catches fish in order to keep Richard Parker fed and to prevent the tiger from eating him.

Amazingly, Pi and Richard Parker are able to both stay alive as their lifeboat washes up to shore in Mexico. While recovering in a hospital bed, Pi must tell his story to two of the ship's insurance adjusters who have come to question him about the incident in which no one survived but himself. Pi tells them his fantastic tale of how he survived 227 days in the Pacific Ocean with a hungry Bengal tiger. The insurance adjusters don't believe Pi. They ask him to give them "the truth". Pi then gives them a similar story, but changes the animal characters to humans, casting the tiger as himself. The insurance company chooses the more fantastic story with the animals, to which Pi responds, "And so it goes with God".

This movie is the embodiment of post-modern philosophy and thought. The prevailing sentiment of post-modernity is that there is no ultimate truth. Everyone must choose their own truth and must not infringe their truth on others. All religions lead to the same truth. Pi seems to emphasize that we are to choose the story that we like the best and believe that one, although it will ultimately lead you on the same path as the other stories and religions. Everyone's spiritual path leads to the same outcome. Everyone worships the same God.

This same type of thought is expressed by Pilate in John 18:38. Christ had just said, "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate then condescendingly retorts, "What is truth?" Pilate responds in a very post-modern relativistic manner. Pilate proves that he is not a believer because Christ had just said that those who hear His voice will recognize the truth. Such is the case today. Only the elect of Christ will be able distinguish truth from falsity. The reality is that there is only one truth. Christ says in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." There is no other way to experience truth and salvation except through Jesus Christ. All other religions offer false hope.

Life of Pi, while visually stunning and entertaining, is an allegory of a young man trying to find spiritual truth in this world. Truth is very real and literal. It is not an allegory or a metaphor, but is presented in very clear and precise statements in the Word of God.