Archives For Christianity

It seems that everyone has an opinion about Gay Marriage, and these opinions are rarely ambivalent. Christians have (and rightly so) been outspoken in their opposition to a redefinition of marriage. This recasting of the institution of marriage is not, we would argue, a progressive and healthy advancement but rather a disastrous detour from what biblical, therefore, right and good.

At the same time and while marriage is on the front burner, particularly the undermining of God’s plan for it, let me ask a question. Are Gay and Lesbians the only ones who undermine God’s plan for marriage?

The answer is, “Of course not!” Just because you are hetero-sexual does not mean that you are reflecting God’s plan for marriage. You don’t get a pass just on marriage because you are not Gay. The basis of a marriage reflecting God’s plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God’s plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.

This is where it gets quite personal for us inside the Christian camp. God’s plan for marriage includes the following:

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One of the favorite lines around our house when one of the kids does something wrong is, “What is this going to look like when you are 18?” As parents, our point is that these sins in their toddler stages do grow up and mature. Pigging out and lusting after the cheese dip does mature into a lack of self-control in all of life as you grow. Connect the dots.

Let’s apply this principle to your Bible reading and devotions. If you take your current practices of spiritual discipline, what does this look like when you are 80?

Too many times I hear people talking about wanting to be more disciplined, more faithful, more intentional without being more active. The fact of the matter is, you will be tomorrow who you are today if you don’t make any changes.

So who do you want to be when you’re 40? 50? 60? 70? or 80?

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Christ is the Great Pole-Star

Erik Raymond —  September 28, 2010

For centuries people have navigated their way across unfamiliar territory by utilizing the celesstial GPS in the night sky. The stars and their alignment remain as amazing as they are helpful.

One of the first things you learn when you are trying to discern the heavenly canopy is that Polaris is important to find. This is because Polaris, or the Pole Star, stands almost motionless over time. And further, all the stars in the North sky seem to rotate around it.

As star gazers would tell you, “Find Polaris, get your bearings, and go from there.”

The Christian life operates in like manner. The person and work of Jesus (gospel) is the fixed aim point by which we calibrate our understanding of reality. By understanding who Jesus is and what he has done we understanding the world was created by him and for him (Col. 1.16-17). We remember that he is the one who is accomplishing God’s eternal plan to unite everything in him (Eph. 1.10-12)…that is he is the King of everything! We learn also that all of Scripture points to, it testifies to him (Luke 24.27, 44-47). Christ is the great pole-star!

The danger for Christians is to find ourselves getting our spiritual alignment on ourselves, our circumstances, other people, etc. This is as foolish and untenable as trying to navigate a journey by calibrating yourself on the dot of Orion’s belt. Things move. They change. Christ is fixed. Christ gives meaning to everything.

Christ is the centerpiece of history, our lives, and eternity. He is to be the continual recalibration of our souls. As pilgrims toward another land we must find ourselves syncing up with the gospel. If we need a model we just need to think back to those unsophisticated, dependent pilgrims who walked across unknown lands as they were led by the stars above.

I recently enjoyed a great discussion with some seasoned saints. One gentlemen wisely stated that your true theology is how you live. This is an incredibly inciteful and important conclusion.

Here are some examples that have been fermenting in my mind since then:

Most of us do not openly confess to be open theists but then when a trial or tragedy comes we react like God is not sovereign or knowledgeable of the present and the future.

We confess that God is loving and good but yet complain and bemoan circumstances.

We confess that God answers prayer but yet there is dust in our prayer closets.

We confess that God’s Word is sufficiently powerful to equip and sanctify us yet we too often tip our hat to it like a privacy disclosure form.

We confess that Jesus is the only Savior yet we rely upon other saviors to meet and satisfy our deepest needs (money, sex, power, fame, fitness, etc).

We confess that we must honor Christ with our mouths yet we find ourselves attacking others because they are not like us.

We confess that the church is the unique place whereby God has designed to meet with his people through the Word and corporate gathering yet we too often arrive for meetings dull & distracted.

We confess that this is not our home and our citizenship is in heaven yet we plant roots here, find our identity in politics, a flag, and are more moved by the National Anthem than In Christ Alone and are more frequently reading Drudge Report than God’s Word.

We confess that God is a God of grace but yet we are quick to engage in and rely upon religious duties (quiet times, service in church, evangelism, etc) for our righteousness & merit.

We confess that the preaching of the Word is indispensible for our growth yet we are carried away during sermons into the fantasy land of self-glory.

We confess that trials are important for our sanctification and even brought by God for good, yet in the midst of them we grumble, complain and petition for deliverance out of them.

We confess that it is the gospel alone that saves sinners yet we suffocate our unbelieving friends and neighbors with the blanket of morality rather than the tonic of grace.

We confess that missions are important but we remain deaf and mute to those who are spiritually blind.

At the end of the day our true theology is how we live. It is the picture of arrogance and hypocrisy to think that biblical Christianity is true and that you have got everything all figured out; we all have our blind spots and issues.  We all need to grow.  We need to reform. None on earth are glorified.

Therefore, we study and learn so that we might know, love and serve God better–not to just be affirmed, get a fat head, or intoxicate ourselves with self-righteousness.

It is as good a time as any to take a look at the rope that you have tied together to form your theological bridge.  After all, you are stading upon it. I suspect as you look at it from the vantage point of your everyday life that you will see that you have some holes, loose edges, and danger points. It is time then to sure things up with the Word that you might find yourself walking safely across the ravine of life supported by the word of truth and not by the false affirmation that everything is good on paper; you need to look at reality.  Because this is, after all, who you are.

True or False: The essence of the Christian message is that you are to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.

The answer is…

FALSE!

This is not the message of the gospel but the message of the Law!  When Jesus was asked about the sum of the Law, what did he say?

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 22.37-40)

The gospel message is not a call for us to get busy doing the best we can to please God but rather a call to realize our sinfulness and to trust upon one who truly did please God.  In other words, the essential message of Christianity is never about what you and I can do but about what God has done in Christ!

Sadly many professing Christians have unwittingly wandered to Sinai and tried to package it as good news.  Do you not still see the bright lightening and the dreadful mountain wrapped in smoke? Do you not hear its trumpet blast, peals of thunder, and knocking of Moses’ knees?  As God descends upon this Mountain to proclaim his inflexibly rigid standard of righteousness he is to be seen as holy, unapproachable, and worthy of awe.

This is devastating.  If you ask Christians what we are all about many will give this summary of the Law.  This should not be.  After all, if it was all about what you do why would you need Jesus?  A sinless substitute sounds kind of unnecessary if you have the ability to earn God’s favor.  This is exactly what Paul wrote in Galatians:

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal 2.21)

It is frighteningly alarming that we can so easily and quickly forget about our need for Christ’s righteousness.  How in the world can a humbled sinner stand for one second clinging to self-righteousness before God almighty?

Romans 3 shows that the proper working of the Law brings about a posture of silent humiliation before God’s Law (Rom. 3.19).  This is our disposition.  We are lacking righteousness, turning away from ourselves, and looking for help.  And there stands the beloved Son of God.  He is not lacking righteousness.  He has ‘fulfilled all righteousness’ for the sinner.  In his life he perfectly obeyed the law of God, always doing what is pleasing to his Father (Jn. 8.29).  Then he gave up his life to pay the due penalty for sinners (Rom. 6.23; 2 Cor. 5.21).

Please understand that if you answered this ‘true’ I am not trying to embarrass, insult or berate you.   Instead I am trying to show you that such subtle carelessness with regard to the gospel leads you to wander far from Golgotha, all the way to Sinai.

The essence of the Christian message is that you can’t but Jesus Christ did.  You can’t earn God’s favor, but Christ did perfectly through his life of obedience culminating with his sin atoning, guilt removing, wrath satisfying, death defeating sacrifice on the cross.  It is with this reality fixed that the Christian then lives their life to love and honor God supremely while loving their neighbor as themselves.  Christians obey God not to earn God’s favor but because Christ has earned the favor and we are now living lives controlled by the Spirit, in obedience to the Word.

Never get careless and sloppy with the gospel.  It is far too precious and the consequences are far too perilous.  We dangerously turn the gospel into law.  This is unacceptable.

(note: Michael Horton beats this drum pretty hard in his book Christless Christianity. In particular he lights up the legalism of Joel Olsteen)

Yesterday I began looking at some of the characteristics and demonstrations ecumenical ministry. In this post I want to briefly consider if and how God restricts his people from involvement with others. Specifically I aim to answer questions such as, Does God put restrictions on partnership? Is ‘unity at all costs’ biblical? What is the criteria by which believers are to measure their ministerial involvement with others?

God is a God of unity. He is not the source of error rather Satan is (Jn. 8.44). At the same time as the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth he does have the final say as to what types of spiritual endeavors his people are to enter into.

: the teaching of Second Corinthians

Second Corinthians chapter six is a passage that is often cited with reference to marriage, however, the passage falls within a context of instructions on biblical ministry. Christians are given clear and concise instruction that there are parameters within which the Christian church can do ministry. Look at what the Scriptures say:

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

The imagery employed by the Apostle Paul draws a great picture for us. The word translated “bound together” could also be translated “unequally yoked”. This agricultural image draws us to the field where two animals would be “bound together” for the accomplishment of the farmer’s objective. Here Christians are warned not to be “bound together” with unbelievers for the purpose of ministry.

Notice what the criteria is? Verse 14 says, “unbelievers”. This seems simple enough. Those who are not believers in the gospel; those who do not embrace what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ, his person and his work; those who do not embrace what the Bible teaches about humanity, our depravity and the means of justification; those who do not embrace what the Bible teaches about its own authority, its nature, inerrancy, and sufficiency. If someone is an unbeliever a Christian cannot partner with them for a spiritual endeavor, it is a sin to do so, for God commands that we do not.

In God’s view the question to be asked is not whether or not the partnership or alliance with various religious groups would further our agenda but whether or not these partnerships would be congruous with the divine agenda.

It is unsettling to consider what is really happening when folks, in the name of unity, promote an agenda or cause above God’s chief agenda. God has willed the Jesus Christ be the unique and exclusive Savior, that he receive the unmitigated praise, devotion and allegiance, and that he be preeminent in the church. However, if the goal (regardless of its apparent nobility) demotes Jesus from this position of preeminence then any appeal that ecumenicalism may have had has just been eradicated.

: the teaching of Galatians

The Apostle Paul marched into the region of Galatia to encounter the religious teaching of the Judiaziers. These conservative Bible believing members of the church promoted a gospel that did not rest solely upon the finished work of Christ alone. Instead it insisted upon a gospel that included the cooperation of the sinner through circumcision.

The Apostle Paul had a lot in common with these people in terms of worldview, family values, and a conservative leaning. However, we are not left with any level of ambiguity in the strong assertion by Paul upon penning the Epistle to the Galatians, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the main thing, and if folks will not accept the pure gospel of faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone then they are unbelievers:

Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

Paul uses extremely strong language here. He says those who believe and promote a false gospel are to be “accursed” literally they are to be “anathema” that is damned without pardon.

In understanding the teaching of the New Testament, believers are not to receive the teaching of those who promote a false gospel (Gal. 1.8-9), they are not to welcome them into their home or bid them well (2 John 10-11), and they are most certainly not to be bound together for purpose of ministry (2 Cor. 6.14).

(tomorrow we’ll conclude with the answer to ecumenicalism: biblical unity)

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We have read the horrific accounts from witness and school officials at Virginia Tech explaining in some detail of the morbid brutality that erupted on the Blacksburg, VA campus yesterday. We have now further learned that the assassin was a 23 year-old senior named Cho Seung-Hui.

The prevailing question that arises in all of this is: Why? Why did this happen? Why did Cho Seung-Hui do this?

As the reporting of the facts gives way to an attempt to understand, categorize and otherwise deal with what has happened, many suggestions have been offered. I have read that it was an argument with his eighteen-year-old girlfriend, Emily Jane Hilscher that was the cause of this. Emily was the first victim of his brutal rage. Others have blamed the prevalence of violence in culture, whether it be movies, music or video games. Still others have weighed in and placed blame upon his environment. Others blamed his upbringing. I have also read of folks blaming everyone from the NRA to Charlton Heston. And for each suggestion there are thousands of question marks.

So what is the answer? Can anyone give a reasonable answer as to why something like this happens?

Surely the humanism that prevails our culture is not equipped to answer such grim displays of evil through the actions of people as Seung-Hui. The psychologist, likewise, may attack outside influences in trying to nail down precisely what was troubling him, however, the answer as to “why” remains elusive. Many post-modern university professors may have a hard time even deciding whether or not this was evil or not. Regardless of who is asked we seem to get a similar response, something was wrong with him. For most assuredly, something has to be wrong in order to make someone do such unspeakable things.

This is a perfect time for the thinking Christian to raise his hand and offer clarity. Instead of trying to excuse God from any knowledge or involvement in such things, we would do well to speak with clarity as to the root that has produced such a vivid and painful disaster.

As Christians we understand the presence of evil is not limited to those things that merely unsettle us, but rather everything that undermines the will of God. Evil is not limited to the squeeze of a bullet or the rage of a murderous attack but in every act of self-exaltation that comes at the expense of the God’s preeminence. The essence of evil is seen through its relentless attack upon the goodness of God. From our vantage point there are levels of evil, however, from the holy eyes of omniscience there are not levels of evil, only God-attacking-evil.

This is why the Christian understands murder not just in terms of squeezing the trigger but also the mental homicide of hate. It is why Jesus threatened hell fire to those who would exalt themselves above others and speak with hatred towards them (cf. 1 Jn. 3.15; Matt. 5.21-22).

We understand this world to be plagued by the persistence and pervasiveness of the effects of sin. By the mercy of God the effects of such sin is restrained from being as devastating as it potentially could be, however, on days like today, its effects are no doubt horrifically gripping.

Additionally, it is a good time for the Christian to compassionately speak out against evil and to promote the God who alone has triumphed over it, will not turn a blind eye to it, and will one day completely eradicate the earth from it. We understand that history is moving in a linear direction, towards its pinnacle point, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to rule and reign with all evil firmly suppressed under his sovereign foot. There is a day coming when he will reign in righteousness and all who do not submit to him will be crushed.

In the meantime we have a message do we not? Our message is one of good defeating evil. It is a message of redemption. It is a message of victory. However, this message is not for those who believe that they are without evil but for those who see themselves as evil. Pride is the mother of evil; she has birthed every atrocity known to mankind. It was pride that flooded the heart of Adam in the garden, it was pride that requested a murderer to be released instead of the sinless Son of God, and it was pride in the heart of Cho Seung-Hui that put himself first and took the lives of thirty-three other people. Pride is indeed evil, for we are all pridefully evil people.

Further, it is pride that keeps people from even now submitting to the sovereign authority of Jesus Christ over them. It is an evil pride that rejects his Lordship in view of self-sovereignty. If you, even now, do not see yourself as evil, there is a good chance that you do not see God as good. And therefore, it would be impossible to love him through the sin-bearing Savior Jesus Christ. If this is you, I urge you to come and join the millions of evil men and woman like me who have found mercy, grace, love and forgiveness through our good and faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

If you are a Christian please speak-up with biblical clarity to your hurting neighbors, friends, and family. For we are a people who pray for opportunities to speak of our God. God in his providence has given us such an opportunity today.