Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What is man?


What is man asks Job (7:17)? The Psalmist asks the same question, "what is man that thou art mindful of him" (8:4)?  In Mark Twain's "The Old Man"--- the old man and the young man had been conversing and  the old Man had asserted that the human being is merely a machine, and nothing more.

Man has been trying to figure this question out since the beginning of time. Philosophers of all stripes have tried to answer this question and it has stumped them all. Some philosophers see man in all things such as Confucius when he says, "and remember, no matter where you go, there you are." Sylvia Plath took a philosophical jab at the question when she noted, "I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart.  I am.  I am.  I am."  Walt Witman, took his turn in trying to figure out who we are when he notes in his poem Leaves of Grass, he says, "The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one single individual - namely to You."

So, who are we? why do we exist? why are we here? what is our purpose? It is my belief that only Christianity provides the answers to the questions "who is man" and "what is his purpose?" Christianity answers these questions with clear and unambiguous language. Christianity purports to have God's revelation of Himself and His answers to the the questions of man's purpose. The Church claims to have God's revelation given to us as found in the Bible, all sixty-six books, written over a period of some sixteen hundred years with  over fort different authors.

We find in the first book in God's revelation to us that man was created in God's image (Genesis 1:27). We see purpose for man as he was to care for the earth and all living things (Genesis 1:26-30). We see that man was to live in relationship with his wife (Genesis 2:18) and man was to walk in constant communion with his Creator God (Genesis 3:8).

We were created to live for the glory of our creator. As man moves away from the purpose and design of his Creator man loses his identity and purpose for life. As man moves away from the source of life and light, he drifts closer and closer to the darkness of despair and doom, he moves away from life and lives in emptiness and hopelessness, ever trying to satisfy that inner desire to be happy, contented, and at rest. Man will flounder and fail as he seeks to fill his life with things other than the God of peace and life.

The ultimate failure of man is that he tries to fill the God vacuum with the things of this life---while our creator tells us that we must be in relationship with Him in order to experience true inner rest and peace. Since the fall (man's disobedience to God) the bridge has been burnt, and man has become spiritually dead with no way of rescuing himself. Humanity is lost and separated from the source of life and light.

The central teaching of the Bible is that God has built a bridge between Himself and sinful disobedient man---Jesus is the mediator, Jesus provides redemption for man, and the call in Scripture is to come, look to that bridge (Jesus) and humbly thank God for His provision to restore man and bring him back into relationship with Himself.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I did it my way, somethimes not a good thing!


What happened at the fall? No, not when you tripped on the sidewalk down town, not when you fell off your bike or fell out of the tree house when you were a little tike, but the fall that is recorded for us in the first book of the O.T.

The first disobedience of man against God is recorded for us in Genesis 3, this "act of disobedience" has become known as the fall. The concept of the fall is extrapolated from an exegesis of Genesis chapter 3. The word fall is not recorded in the Genesis account, but it has become the normative name for identifying what happened after man's disobedience to God's direct rule over Adam and Eve.

Let's focus on the effect of the fall. There are a myriad of thoughts, ideas, and biblical concepts that can be dug out of Genesis chapter 3's account of man's disobedience to God, but I would like to take just one effect of the fall, and I believe it is to be front and center. Think first about what kind of relationship Adam and Eve shared with their creator before the fall: close communion, friendship, the creator's protection and provision, all of the things that are good and wholesome. Adam and Eve lived in the paradise that we see continually trying to be recaptured by Hollywood, romance novels, and yes even certain philosophies of government where man is told that he can have heaven or paradise here and now.

The devastating effect of the fall was that man would now live autonomous from his God and creator. The state of living in communion and dependence on God was gone, the state of living in innocence and purity was gone, the paradise that they so enjoyed would now see weeds and erosion, the joy of living with God would now be replaced with the devilish and hellish seed of man's motto for life, " I'll do it my way."

This effect of the fall is echoed throughout the entire Bible with language like Isaiah's when he tells us that we are all like sheep who have gone astray and turned to our own way (53:5), and again, Daniel uses the same language when he tells us that we have turned away from God's plan and purpose for our lives (9:5), and even Jeremiah the prophet speaks of our  rebelling; and sinning against our creator and God (14:7).

This is the effect of the fall; we have fallen away from dependence on God and have replaced that dependence with the mother of all sins---self-sufficiency. This sin is the weight on the ankles of all men, it is the weight that will pull all men down to the pit to live eternally in such a separated condition from the King and Creator of all life.

As the old hymn tells us:

  • I was sinking deep in sin,
      Far from the peaceful shore,
      Very deeply stained within,
      Sinking to rise no more;
      But the Master of the sea
      Heard my despairing cry,
      From the waters lifted me,
      Now safe am I.
  • Love lifted me!
    Love lifted me!
    When nothing else could help,
    Love lifted me.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    Labels


    Why I'm a Calvinist! I'll admit, I'm one who does not like labels, and for sure there is something pure and simple about just answering with well, "I'm a just a Christian." We see no such labels in the the Bible, but we do see that they were called Christians in the book of Acts. Even the Catholic Church rails against Protestantism for all our divisions and labels.

    An extremely interesting study would be to look at Church history and discover where all the different streams of denominations come from. One of my favorite classes when I was studying for my masters degree was a class on church history. We diagramed and outlined many of today's denominations and their founders with the history behind each one, quite interesting! 

    So, why do we have a myriad of different denominations with different teaching and contrasting ways of doing church? Short answer, most all denominations started as a reaction to something that was askew in the church, so to answer the error another denominational sect was founded.

    Let me now get back to my question, why do I label myself a Calvinist and not just a Christian? Or why not just label myself a Biblicist? that certainly covers all the bases.  Here is why I think of myself as a Calvinist, with the plethora of denominations and sects within Protestant Christianity, the label or tag of Calvinist distinguishes or qualifies my belief system. Now, I know that in our post-modern culture distinguishing yourself by what you believe is akin to blasphemy. It is like poison, and to be avoided at all costs, but what we believe about the Bible, Jesus Christ, redemption, salvation, justification matter to God, and doctrine is the foundation for the life of the believer.

    The Apostle Paul while addressing young Timothy gives instruction on how the people of God are to conduct themselves as the Church, he tells Timothy, "If am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). The Church is the "pillar and foundation of the truth," pretty awesome responsibility that the Chruch is to place on her shoulders and carry---to protect the truth, to keep the truth, and to proclaim the truth, yes doctrine matters and matters supremely to God.

    I call myself a Calvinist because the body of truth that Calvinism teaches captures God's plan to redeem his people in the most Biblical way. The teaching on soteriology that Calvinism purports is Christ honoring and exegetes the Scriptures in an honest and academic way, making the best use of grammer, historical context, and applies the rules of hermeneutics in the most precise way.

    Today's blog does not go into the details of Calvinism, just lays out my position on why I align myself with the teachings of Calvinism.

                                          Colossians 3:17 

     "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."


    Monday, May 20, 2013

    Mission = Gospel


    The mission of the Church comes up in many a conversation. How do we make sense of social justice, community/relationship building, doctrinal truth, and the Great Commission? Remember, we are the Church, the Church is not some abstract idea or building with steeples and bells, or is it an organization that is to maximize its resources in order to grow the organization.

    Let me cut to the quick, I say this without any qualifications, or without any apologies, the one thing that the Church is to be (in terms of mission) is that she is to be proclaiming the gospel in all she does, she is to be a gospel community. The gospel you say? well, isn't that helping people, and building relationships? wouldn't that include being involved in the sex slave trade movement?

    It seems whenever we speak or write we need to make sure that we are all on the same page or at least playing in the same ball park. Defining our words and our Bible talk is extremely important in a post-christian culture. I'd purport that anyone who is even halfway Biblical literate would conclude that the focal point in the book of Acts (the history of the early christian church), would be the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    The Apostle Paul told us that he was not sent or commissioned to baptize, but to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17). Paul again repeats this theme of the importance of the gospel when he writes his letter to the Church at Corinth, he says, "... it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe ( 1 Cor. 1:21). Paul then speaks of the gospel as the means of salvation when he says that the gospel is the power of God that leads to salvation see (Rom. 1:16).

    So what was this gospel that the early church preached, and that the Apostle Paul was so emphatic about? Well, Gilbert Beebe gives us a good workable definition when he states, "the Greek word "evanggelion" is translated "gospel" in the King James Version. This word, together with its rendering of "good tidings," glad tidings" and "preach the gospel" occurs some one hundred and eight times in the New Testament, none of which intimate anything less than "finished redemption" in Christ" http://www.pristinegrace.org/media.php?id=366.

    Good news, glad tidings,--- that Jesus the Messiah has accomplished redemption for His people, the price has been paid at the cross, victory was evidenced through the miracle of the resurrection, this is the good news for the sinner who was under the curse of the laws penalty. Jesus rescued His people, He accomplished their salvation when He cried from the cross, "it is finished."

    So if the gospel is anything we know that it is this: The proclamation of the good news, the glad tidings, that Jesus has provided redemption for those who were once separated from God because of their sin. Eternal life, eternal life, eternal life, this is the message the church carries to the world, for she has the words of eternal life.

                                                             Go, tell it on the mountain,
                                                             Over the hills and everywhere
                                                             Go, tell it on the mountain,
                                                            That Jesus Christ is born

    Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    Make your calling and election sure!


    One thing that seems to get overlooked in the Christian life is the practice of self examination. The most important point of self examination is for the believer to know that he is truly the Lords---or in the words of of Peter, "making your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10).

    Throughout the pages of the Bible we are confronted with the reality of false professions, false prophets, and those who are self-deceived. Jesus says, "Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, see Matthew 7: 21. Again, this issue is addressed by our Lord in the gospel of  Mark when he says, " Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not what I say?" (6:46), the implication of what our Lord is saying is that there will be those who think they are His, but in reality they are not---this is the group of people who will hear the dreadful words from our Lord, "depart from me, for I never knew you" (Matt. 7: 23).

    One of the dangers in our churches today is the profusion of a teaching called "easy- believism," you might be saying, "what is easy- believism?" So that question should get answered. First, let me say that any deviation from the gospel the Apostle Paul preached is to be avoided and is to be considered heresy, see Galatians 1:8 "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse."

    Easy-believism certainly falls under the heading of "another gospel!" I'll make this as simple as possible, for one, easy-believism's emphasis is on "the decision" that one makes. This emphasis on the "decision" leads to making salvation man centered instead of God centered. A decision for Christ does not save us, if the decision saved us then salvation would be considered a human work, and we know from Paul's teaching in his letter to the Church at Ephesus that we are saved by grace through faith and not of ourselves (2: 8-9).

    When we place our faith in the "decision" we are  indeed placing our faith in something "other" than God's work of regeneration in the sinners soul. Apart from God regenerating the dead, blind, and spiritually deaf sinner they would never come to faith (or a decision).

    There is much more that can be said about the dangers of easy-believism, but for now just the understanding that this heretical teaching emphasizes man's decision for salvation while ignoring the work of God in the sinners heart should be enough.

    So how does one examine himself/herself to make their calling and election sure, or really know if they are saved? How does one examine their lives to make sure that they are truly the Lords? and  avoid hearing those dreadful words on the day of judgement; " I never knew you, depart from me."

    Any self-examination must start with what you believe about the gospel as taught in the Holy Scriptures:
    1. Dispel any notion that a decision saves you.

    2. Stop trusting in your decision and understand that salvation is completely a work of God.
    3. Get an understanding of what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of regeneration.
    4. Know what the Bible teaches about salvation: regeneration, justification, conversion, sanctification etc.
    5. Humble yourself before God and ask Him to show you where your trust is being placed? And if you have your trust in anything other than the Cross of Jesus ask God to grant you repentance and cling to the cross as your only hope of salvation.

    Self-examination must also include looking at the fruit in your life:1. Jesus told us by their fruits you will know them (that you are His).
    2. Sanctification is the evidence that regeneration has truly taken place in your life.

    3. Do you have new desires and new motives?
    4. Do you seek and desire to do God's will (as revealed in the Holy Scriptures)?

    5. Does disobedience to God's revealed will bring deep grief  and repentance into your life?

    Go into your prayer closet and do some good old detective work and see if their is the evidence in your life that would indicate that you are a Child of God. This is one of the most important disciplines that one could ever practice---in fact, your eternity depends on it!












    The Renewing of the Mind

    I've have written in the past on the life of the mind. I cannot stress enough the importance for the Christian to develop the life of ...