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Basis of Righteousness

January 22, 2018

Richard Dawkins made a name for himself opposing Christianity. In 2006 he published a book called “The God Delusion.” The title pretty much says it all. In 2016 Dawkins write in an online article that religion is fine to observe as a tradition as long as it is only concerned about things like Christmas Carols, family meals or annual festivals. He said, “But there really is an important difference between including your children in harmless traditions, and forcing on them un-evidenced opinions about the nature of life or the cosmos. Tradition is fine where it amounts to songs or literature, styles of dress or architecture. But tradition is a terrible basis for ethics, or beliefs about the origin of the universe or the evolution of life.” Richard Dawkins says religion is acceptable as long as it is nothing more than the equivalent of going to visit grandma every summer. When religion begins to affect how a person lives, how he interacts with others, how he thinks, what he values and how he understands the world, then that kind religion is a terrible thing which must be stamped out.

Many others have come to the same conclusion. Religion is fine as a private exercise that remains in the heart and in the church. Religion has no place in the public sphere. Yet many of these same people desire a nation in which everyone is kind to one another, none practice violence upon another and all care for the poor. The delusion of these oblivious atheists is that kindness, goodness and compassion will naturally spring out of the heart of man. Russia, China and North Korea can all attest a godless people will never be a good people.

Biblical Christianity is the only support and defense of basic morality and human decency. Not that everyone who treats other well is a Christian. Nor will treating others with compassion make a person a Christian. True Christianity produces charity in the heart and promotes compassion in a nation. The Christian view recognizes that genuine morality can only come out of a moral heart and genuine compassion can only come out of a loving heart. Biblical Christianity recognizes that no one is naturally moral or loving. Only those who have been made righteous within can truly practice righteousness.

The Christian is one who has been transformed by Christ. The transformation of the believer affects every sphere of life, including relationships. Psalm 15 describes the transformed relationships that evidence a transformed heart. The righteous will live a righteous life, will do righteous deeds and will speak honestly with his own heart. The righteous will not spread slander, will not bring harm to his neighbor and will not ridicule others. The righteous despises the wicked and honors the godly. The righteous keeps his vows even when they are costly and he will not go back on his word. The righteous will not get rich off the needs of the poor and he will not pervert justice for any amount of promised wealth.

At the heart of genuine civic virtue is a heart that loves his neighbor. Such selfless love can only come when one’s entire being has been transformed so that he now loves God with all his heart, soul and might.


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Omniscient Forgiveness

January 18, 2018

“The Lord knows all our sins. There is not a sin that has ever escaped his eye. Those committed in the secret chamber, in the darkness of the night, those which never struggled into action—sins of the heart and imagination, those which have never been whispered into any human ear, God has known. What doth he not see? And this is a blessed thing for us, because it causes the pardon to cover fully the whole extent of the sin.

A priest once said that if we did not recollect all our sins, and confess them, they would never be forgiven. Well, then, certainly they never will be forgiven, for no man can ever recollect one thousandth part of his transgressions; but blessed be God, the pardon does not rest with our knowledge of the sin, but with God’s knowledge of the sin; and, therefore, that pardon is complete which comes from the all-seeing God.

“I, even I, am he,”—the Omniscient who am everywhere present, who saw thee in the darkness, and heard thy heart in all its evil speeches against the Most High—I, the all-knowing one, “I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.” Oh, this unrivalled pardon, how full of consolation it is! Every attribute of God adds to its splendor; every beam of the divine glory heightens its grandeur.”

-C. H. Spurgeon

A Savior for Sinners

January 15, 2018

God’s evaluation of humanity is disastrous. God does not look at the world today and marvel at how enlightened, progressive, loving, accepting and tolerant humanity has become. God looks at the world and says, “They are all gone aside. They are all together become filthy. There is none that does good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:3)

Man looks at himself and imagines that he is good. All his little foibles and mistakes do not mean a person is a sinner deserving eternal judgment. Man is a flawed creature but he is really doing the best he can. Most people aren’t as good as Mother Theresa, but they are much better than Hitler so they must be pretty. Is that the standard? Is goodness the failure to murder millions of people? Is goodness not murdering the irritating guy next door? Is goodness measured on a sliding scale, with only the very worst of humanity being declared bad?

The Divine standard is perfection. Doing a good deed every so often does not make man good. Not doing all the bad things he wants to do does not make a person good. The Bible judges humanity as completely corrupt. No amount of human good can remedy man’s corruption. “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1)

Man must be condemned if man is to saved. Psalm 14:1-6 lays upon humanity a horrible burden of guilt, shame and condemnation, but- and this is a marvelously wonderful conjunction- God has promised One who will forgive our sin and remove our condemnation. God knows the full depravity of sin, but in His mercy He provided a substitute to take the punishment, a covering to hide the shame and a remedy to remove the sin. Men do not have to hide from the face of God. No one has to live in fear of God’s wrath. None need tremble before the judgment of God. Though “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” God has promised, “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

For those who have run to Him for mercy and forgiveness, the promise of God is a source of great joy. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) The guilt of sin, the shame of guilt and the condemnation of sin is taken away. God will never punish those who run to Him for pardon. God has punished another and the judgment has been paid. Rejoice! God has given to sinners a Savior.


Eclipsing Scripture

January 11, 2018

While doing some research last fall for an Ask the Pastor question I came across something that surprised me. Before that time I had never done any extensive research into the Bible’s references to eclipses. I was familiar the various prophetic passages about the sun being blotted out and the idea that they are descriptions of eclipses. I knew some had suggested an eclipse caused the sky to darken during Jesus’ crucifixion. (Which is impossible. Solar eclipses only occur during a new moon and Passover always takes place at the full moon). When I began searching for references to eclipses, I found the Bible never mentions them.

What surprised me was not the lack of clear Biblical statements about eclipses. I do not expect the Bible to make specific statements about supernovae, photosynthesis, gravity or many other natural phenomena. What surprised me was the apparently large number of Christians who believe the Bible says that eclipses and other natural celestial phenomena are signs from God that we are living in the last days.

The last few years have seen a lot of conversation about the importance of eclipses to Biblical prophecy. The solar eclipse of 2017 set off another round of pronunciations like this one from Mark Blitz, “From a biblical point of view, a solar eclipse is meant as a sign from God. When there is a total solar eclipse, it is a warning to a specific nation or nations depending on its path. … Could God be giving us a warning that we need to repent or judgment will be coming to the United States? The timing couldn’t be clearer!”

If the Bible makes no clear mention of eclipses, how does a Biblical point of view lead to interpreting an eclipse as a sign from God? Even allowing that the prophetic descriptions of the sun being blotted out are descriptions of an eclipse does not justify viewing eclipses as signs from God. The passages describing th sun being blotted out are clearly describing events of the Tribulation shortly before the Second Coming of Jesus. The Bible does not speak about normal solar eclipses that happen every couple years. The Bible does not teach that eclipses have any prophetic significance for Christian’s today. Why do Christians believe otherwise?

But this article is not about eclipses. This is about the Bible. Why look outside Scripture for information on when Jesus is returning? Why do Christian’s act as if important information about life will be missed if we rely only on the Word? Could it be because of an underlying suspicion that maybe God left some important things out of the Bible? The Christian who does not hold a firm conviction in the full sufficiency of the Bible will not trust the Bible to teach him everything he needs to know about the Christian life.

The Bible contains everything the Christian needs for life, Godliness and complete preparation for all good works. (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) The Bible contains everything the Christian needs to live for eternity, prepare for the Second Coming and be ready for the rapture. Christian’s do not need cosmology, meteorology and seismology to reveal when Jesus is going to return. Christian’s do not need psychology, philosophy or culture to tell them how to live for Jesus. The Bible is the full source of everything Christian’s really need.

God’s Word is enough for Christian living in these days. His Word is enough for the needs of the nation and the unsaved masses. His Word supplies all essential answers for times of trouble. His Word is enough for emotional stability, mental health and personal growth. His Word is sufficient to bring the lost to salvation. The unsaved world is not going to be drawn to Christ by a focus on extra-Biblical omens and harbingers. The Biblical message of the coming King is sufficient for the salvation of men. The Bible is enough for all men in all times.

Singing Praise in Severe Pain

January 8, 2018

“But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”
– Psalm 13:5-6

Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi for healing a demon possessed girl. The Philippian jail was nothing like modern jails. It was more dungeon than jail. Their stone-walled cell was dark and damp. They were locked in the most secure, and most foul, cell, farthest from light and fresh air. Their feet were placed in stocks to secure them from escape. They had no mobility and little ability even to shift their position and ease their discomfort.

Before being thrown in jail Paul and Silas had been beaten with thin rods. They were aching from many lashes and in need of medical attention. They had every right to be miserable. Yet, in the middle of the night Paul and Silas decided to have a worship service. They prayed together and then began to sing praises to God. Why would they do that? The reason for their praise is found, in part, in the Psalms of lament and praise. In times of deep sorrow David sang praises unto the Lord. He could rejoice in times of trouble because David knew the blessings of God and the character of God.

In times of sorrow remember what God has already done. His greatest work for you was done in redemption. The Christian can go to God in prayer because he is the child of God. The great work that opened the door of prayer gives great rejoicing in heart broken prayers. God has given His Holy Spirit who resides within every believer. This same Spirit intercedes for us with great concern and sympathy. When we pray the Spirit of God prays with us. God has promised all things, even terminal illness and sudden tragedy, will work for the good of them that love Him. God is actively at work during the darkest times of life. God has promised sufficient strength and grace to enable the believer to endure the trial for His glory. God has promised the worst trials are working a greater, eternal work in the child of God. Sorrow gives way to rejoicing because God has worked and God is still working.

Many Psalms of David move from lament to priase, from sorrow to rejoicing. David could rejoice in God despite intense pain because he knew God. David trusted the mercy of God. He knew the faithfulness of God. David knew the compassion of God to deliver His people. David was confident God would deliver because he knew how God had delivered. The history of Israel shows the deliverance of God. David’s own history shows the deliverance of God.

The Christian today has even more evidence of the deliverance of God. The long Biblical history shows God’s repeated compassion upon His children. Church history tells of God’s unfailing kindness to His people. The knowledge of God’s past working gives confidence in present troubles because it looks with great joy to future deliverance.


Why is the doctrine of the Trinity so important?

January 4, 2018

The doctrine of the Trinity is the teaching that “God is one God in three persons.” The Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God, but the Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Spirit or the Father, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Each person of the Trinity fully possesses all the attributes of God; God is not three Gods nor is He divided into thirds. God is a single God comprised of three persons. This is a difficult idea to understand, but it is what the Bible teaches.

The doctrine of the Trinity is so complex it is easy to see how doctrinal errors would arise. One common error is the heresy of modalism. This error teaches that God is one God who manifests Himself in three different ways. The Father, the Son and the Spirit are each expressions of the one God, but they are not three distinct persons. God is never simultaneously the Father, Son and Spirit. He manifests each personality at different times in His dealings with men.

The church long ago decreed modalism to be a heresy. Promoters of this doctrine in the third and fourth century were excommunicated from the church. The early church fathers believed the doctrine of the Trinity matters. Orthodox churches throughout history believed the doctrine of the Trinity is essential. Today few doctrinal conservatives consider the Trinity to be a non-essential doctrine. All of church history affirms that modalism is a serious heresy.

Why is this doctrine so important? The Trinity is not a doctrine that has to be confessed to be saved, nor are all denials of the Trinity acts of apostasy. Why does it matter if God is One God in Three Persons or One God in Three Manifestations? Modalists do not deny that Jesus is God. They do not deny that Jesus died on the cross for sin. Why is correct doctrine about the Trinity so important?

The doctrine of the Trinity matters because the clarity and authority of the Word of God matters. The Biblical teaching about God can be summarized in several brief statements. God is one God. The singular God is plural. The Father is God. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God. All three members of the Trinity interact with one another as distinct and separate individuals. These truths are not inferences drawn from other truths, nor are they deductions from other theological tenets. Each of these truths is clearly presented in the Bible.

The doctrine of the Trinity developed from the plain truths about God is difficult to comprehend, but a denial of one of these clear statements disregards the clarity of the Bible. To deny the teaching of the Bible, to reject clear, though complex, teaching, is to elevate the reason of the individual over the authority of the Bible. No reader of the Bible has the right to reject a Biblical truth because he cannot understand it or because he finds it logically difficult. If a doctrine is clearly taught, it must be believed, even if it cannot be fully understood. To do anything else places the reason of the reader over the revelation of God.

The doctrine of the Trinity matters because the nature of God matters. Trinity defines the essence and character of God. A God who is not Triune is a very different God from One who is. Denying the Trinity has a profound impact on the Christian’s understanding of the nature and work of each person of the Trinity. For example, an early adherent to modalism believed that God in the flesh is called the Son and God apart from the flesh is called the Father. Was the man Jesus also God the Son existing simultaneously and distinctly from the Father or was He a temporary human expression of a manifestation of God?

If Jesus is the manifestation of God and not the eternal God the Son, then everything is changed about how Christians understand God. John 1 and Colossians 1 claim that Jesus is the eternal Creator God. According to classic Trinitarianism, Jesus was always God the Son. As God the Son He created all things. According to modalism, the expression of the Son succeeded the expression of the Father. Did God create as the Father? As the Son? As the Spirit? The Bible declares all three to be active in creation. How is this to be understood if God is not Triune? The modalist God is very different from the Trinitarian God.

The doctrine of the Trinity matters because salvation matters. The Bible presents salvation as the accomplishment of the Triune God. The Son suffered on the cross, and in doing so propitiated the wrath of the Father. The Father sends the Spirit to regenerate. If God is not Triune, whose justice was satisfied at the cross? To whom was payment made? How was Jesus’ forsaken on the cross? How can the transaction between Father and Son that took place at the cross be understood if the Father and the Son are just different manifestations of the One God? Noetus, an early proponent of modalism, taught, “Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself suffered and died.” Clearly this matters!

A correct understanding of the Trinity is essential to a proper understanding of the Bible and of God. A right understanding of the Trinity is essential for a coherent view of the gospel. A right understanding of the Trinity is essential for a proper understanding of the remarkable work of the God for salvation. A right understanding of the Trinity is essential to a proper understanding of God. The doctrine of the Trinity matters.

Sterling Purity

January 1, 2018

The purity of God’s Word is foundational. Our Sunday School classes right now are following the ABC curriculum from Answers in Genesis. That program spends the first seven weeks discussing the Word of God. In discipleship and basic Bible studies one of the foundational lessons is about the nature of the Bible. The conflicts between conservative and liberal theologies have long been about the nature of the Bible. The doctrine of Scripture is a major battleground and a monumental truth. Why does this doctrine matter so much?

The Word of God is pure- perfectly pure without a single error or flaw- or it is not the Word of God. There is no middle ground. There is not Bible that is mostly right, or right only about religious matters. The Bible does not allow for the possibility of a mostly correct Word of God. The Bible claims to be pure, “true and righteous altogether.” Either the Bible is completely reliable in all it teaches or it is not reliable at all.

The Psalmist likens the purity of the Word of God to the purest silver. The process of purifying precious metal is relatively straightforward. Metal is heated until it becomes a liquid. As the heavier metal liquifies the impurities float to the top. This dross can then be scooped off and the metal allowed to cool. Repeating the process brings more impurities to the surface allowing the metal to be made more and more pure. The Word of God is like silver that has been purified seven times. The Word of God is sterling in its purity. The Bible is purest.

The Word of God is permanent. What God says stands fast, but men speak empty words. Human speech is filled with things that don’t matter, things that don’t last and things that mean nothing. God’s Word does not. God always means what He says. What God decrees, happens. What God promises, occurs. What God says, remains.

God’s Word remains because He upholds it. The Bible in the hands of Christians today is the Word of God. What good is it if God gave His inspired Word to men like Isaiah and Peter but then the Word disappeared from the earth? God’s Word remains. God’s Word is preserved for His people from generation to generation. Most importantly, God’s Word never fails. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” His Words are not just so much hot air. His Word is sure.


New Book about the New Testament

December 28, 2017

Last fall I led the church through a study of the New Testament. This survey gave a brief overview of the historical context and major themes of each book of the New Testament. At the conclusion of the study I compiled my notes into a study guide for the church. That book is now available on Amazon.

I had every intention of making the book available for free, but the capitalistic conspiracy at Amazon does not allow such goings on. However, if you have a little bit of technological savvy you can download this copy for free and sideload it into Kindle on your device. I won’t tell Amazon if you won’t.

 

 

Glory to the Newborn King!

December 25, 2017

The New Testament opens with, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The gospel of Matthew shows that Jesus is the promised Messiah sent by God for the salvation of sin and the redemption of Israel. A crucial component of Matthew is Jesus’ relationship to David. The family tree of Jesus proves the important fact of His familial connection to King David. If Jesus was not the descendant of David, then He could not be the Messiah.

God promised to David and the Jews that the Messiah would establish an eternal kingdom and an everlasting Davidic dynasty. Jesus is the promised King. The angel told Mary. “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:31-33)

In the gospel of Luke the Bible makes a point of declaring that Jesus “was of the house and lineage of David.” The Isaiah prophecies of the Prince of Peace. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” In the words of Psalm 89, “His throne (will be) as the days of heaven” (v. 29) “His throne . . . shall be established forever.” (v. 36-37)

Joy to the World is the song of the triumphal king coming to rule the world. The angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” The wise men went to Jerusalem looking for the king of Israel. They brought with them a gift of gold to honor the infant king. The last verse of Silent Night calls upon men to sing “Alleluia to our King.” In The First Noel men sing of the Christmas day when, “born is the King of Israel.” The royalty of Jesus is essential to Christmas.

The baby in the manger is the long awaited King of the Jews. The infant king was the invasion force of the eternal kingdom who established a beachhead in this world and began the formation of a fifth column of citizens of the eternal kingdom. One day He is returning to establish the promised kingdom. The baby in the manger will come to earth again, not as a lowly infant but as the conquering King. He will overthrow the wicked, punish evil and create the first- and only- worldwide empire. As Daniel 7 says, to Him will be given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”


The Crux of Christmas

December 18, 2017

Anglican pastor Christopher Wordsworth said Psalm 89 “is a Christmas carol.” The Psalm is a cry for God to remember His promises to David. It tells the glory of the Son of David who is the Almighty God and the Eternal King.

Jesus is the Son of David. Jesus is God incarnate. Incarnation is defined as deity taking on the human form. The idea of incarnation was known before the birth Jesus. Greek myths tell of the gods appearing as humans. Yet the incarnation that is celebrated at Christmas is something different. The incarnation is God becoming man. It is the wonderful truth that God the Son took on Himself humanity. Jesus is God who became fully human while remaining fully God.

To understand the depths to which Jesus humbled Himself when He became man, remember who Jesus is. Psalm 89:6 asks, “Who in heaven can be compared unto the Lord?” What mighty hero of history can be compared to God? What Hercules, Samson or Superman can be compared to God? At best the superhuman greatness of fictional characters stir a longing for the One Mighty Hero who brings true salvation. “Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord.” He is greater than the mightiest of earth and yet He humbled Himself to become a despised, rejected man.

Christmas is a reminder of the amazing truth that God the Creator became human, that the eternal God was born of a woman, that the all powerful God was a helpless baby, that the ruler of all spent his first night in a feed trough, that the maker of heaven and earth spent the final years of his life with no where to call home and that He who is the everlasting object of angelic praise was scorned by men.

What is even more amazing is that God the Creator died. He redeemed men by His death. His death is why we celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a time to remember that God became flesh and dwelt among us and a time to remember that that the little baby in a manger was there to hang on a cross. Jesus was born to die.

It is fitting to celebrate His birth by considering His death. It is fitting to remember that the little baby Jesus would be beaten, torn and tortured on the cross. It is fitting to remember that the little baby Jesus was the lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. It is fitting to remember that the little baby Jesus would one day shed His blood for the sin of men. It is fitting to celebrate Christmas with an eye to the crucifixion. The cross cannot be relegated to one Friday in March. The cross is the crux of all salvation and the cause of real Christmas celebration.