Apologetics and the Rebuke of Sin

The other day I watched a clip called ‘Christians are delusional’, and I began to consider… I recently also watched Derren Brown, this guy on TV and saw how he attempted to discredit Christianity. However my fight is not with these.

As I considered the possibility that I may be delusional I considered how one can know if one is delusional or not… As a Christian I consider the Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Atheists, Wiccans, and any other religion you wish to throw in there, to be not so much delusional, but rather deceived (2 Tim 3:13)

If someone is deceived (or delusional if you prefer) then only by throwing down one of the pillars of their belief can the delusion/deception be revealed. For example if I want to prove to you that cookies are not made out of bricks, I would clearly demonstrate to you that bricks have not ability to make a cookie. So I asked myself, what are the pillars on which my faith stands… What could I offer someone as an option to disprove that would topple what I know to be reality?

I came up with the following:

1) Rationally explain away the need for a First Cause

2) Allow/cause/make nothing exist (this one is hard)

3) Show how, according to the normal laws of reading any document there are contradictions in the original manuscripts of the Holy Bible.

4) Explain the origin of the moral conscience without a moral law giver.

5) Prove that Christ never existed, and that he never rose again (this would require much re-interpretation of history.

Does my faith rest on these things? No. Yet it requires these things. Just like a TV does not need pictures on it for me to believe it exists, yet without pictures on the screen, if it could be proved that they don’t appear, I would stop believing in TV’s.

What does this all mean to me as a Christian, well… Apologetics is not merely a defense of the faith as it is written, or in a creed. But apologetics is a rebuke to me, it rebukes my sin, my sin is unbelief, I believe that the momentary sin will satisfy greater then Christ.

If I really believe all those facts, I know in my mind that Jesus is the Christ, that He is God incarnate, who died and rose, and whose resurrection power is available to keep me from sin (Ex 20:20; Jude 24), how then can I not fight sin with confidence? How can believers not act on their belief?

In a sense, all the knowledge that Christians have regarding the defence of their faith should be a motivation to fight sin, confident in Christ.

Meditations on James 1:18

Although salvation is all God’s work, God  in His wisdom integrated us Christians in the process. The way the gospel is heard is through men and women you you and I. Roman 10:13-15 says, “`Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (NASB). Our responsibility is not to save others; it is to proclaim the gospel and let the Spirit of God do His saving work as He sovereignly chooses.

Ask God daily for opportunities to share the Word of truth with relatives, friends, neighbors, or co- workers, there are so many excellent resources available, WayoftheMaster is one such great resource. Meditate on 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, and follow Paul’s example by doing all you can to lead others to Christ.

Don't sleep, some people are on thin ice!!!

Don

Think about the incredible privilege we have as believers, in being the firstfruits of God’s new creation, and thank God for it. Pray that you might shine in the world as a light of truth and hope. Make sure that others see your attitude of gratefulness to God so that they might desire to have the new life and joy that you have been given. If you have blamed God for your sin, confess that to Him, seeking to live a life of holiness in the power of His Spirit. Meditate on Paul’s words: “Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16, NASB).

Emergents, Reform and Band-aids on Bear Bites: What is this Gospel?

It’s been a while since I have written, but alas I have been busy, however, the time off has allowed me to think and get a better grip on some issues facing the Church and relating to the Church. One of the major problems of our time is that people no longer understand what the gospel is. This has manifested itself in so many ways, but perhaps one of the most telling is how the so called ‘emerging church” explains it. As old liberalism (founded in modernism) focused on social justice and needs, so does this new kind of liberal.

I am not suggesting that acts of mercy are not important anymore then Christ was in John 6:26 when He rebuked the poor crowds that were following Him only for food. Did Jesus miss God’s mission for social justice? No. But Jesus did go on to explain the He is the Bread of life, those that believe in Him will never hunger, those who come to Him will never thirst (v35). Towards then end of this entire dialogue with Pharisees who were getting pretty upset with Jesus, Jesus asked Peter if he would also desert Him, like many other disciples just had, notice what peter says in verse 68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life”. I find it so fascinating, Hindu’s, Muslims, New-Agers, mother Teresa, emergents, even atheists all agree that we need tolerance (which was really re-discovered by conservative Baptists in the 1600’s as they grasped the Biblical truth again), does this mean that we all ‘adhere to Jesus’? Is that really what Jesus was about? In John 6 as well? When someone stands up today and talks to a group of poor people about justice and liberty and about ending social injustice do they get full of rage and try though the guy off a cliff (Luke 4)? No, the world loves that kinda talk. Does the Gospel involve helping the poor and freeing the oppressed? Yes, I think it does, James makes it so clear is his epistle, the kind of faith that has no works is dead. But in 1st John, the person who does not believe certain prepositional truths about Christ has no fellowship with the Father.

I plan on writing a lot more on this, but just for now I need to approach this issue of Isaiah, Emergents often appeal to Isaiah, and the number of social ills that God condemned (and still does today, so watch out!) And for all their talk about narrative and reading the story, they appear (at least to me) to not have read the story in Isaiah. For example Isaiah 59:2 shows that the issue is that the individual is not right with God, people are not right with God and are thus in trouble (verse 18). Chapter 66 tells us Christ will come and bring justice; Christ will come and repay each man for his deeds. Unless we as the body of Christ are supposed to be paying people back for their deeds? No, there is a suffering Messiah and then a conquering Messiah. Activism won’t change peoples hearts, petitions wont draw people away from selfishness, giving food and skills to the poor wont give them contentment, taking riches away from the rich wont give them peace. But when the gospel genuinely touches a life their will be fruit, the person who understand the gospel, understands their sin and the grace of God towards them will see their brother in need and give (1 John 3:17), they will not show partiality to the rich (James 2), they will not beat their wife, despise their husband, cheat their employer, oppress their employee, these people energized by the Spirit will live lives of contentment till Christ returns to take His bride the Church.

Christianity is about real change, not superficial social reform.

A Response to Codringtons “Perspectives on Homosexuality”

What follows in this paper is not an attack on Dr Graeme Codrington, I am sure he is a wonderful person, and what I remember from the few times I have heard him speak is that he is a articulate, friendly and intelligent man. In addition, this is not an attack on gays, the Bible teaches that real Christians love homosexuals and accept them as people, yet the Christian call is the call of the gospel, that all those who labor and are heavy laden, may come to Christ for rest, and our call to the homosexual is the same as our call to the gossip, murderer, adulterer, liar, they are commanded to repent and have faith in Christ, there is hope and freedom in the gospel.

As many may know, in the recent (August 2008 ) publication of the ‘Baptist Today’ Dr Graeme Codrington wrote an article in entitled ‘Perspectives on Homosexuality’ in which he looks at the texts which were traditionally understood to condemn homosexuality, subsequently concluding that all these references really addressed situations containing inhospitably, idolatry, shrine prostitution, adultery, promiscuity, lust, violence and rap etc (pg18). For those of you who may have read this article and been swept in by the appearance of biblical respect, or for those who are merely inquisitive I wish to examine Codringtons’ use of hermeneutics (science of Bible interpretation).

Sodom and Gomorra –

Genesis 19 refers to Sodom and Gomorra, (v4-9) which is a story which has traditionally been understood to contain a situation where men of the city wanted to have homosexual relations with Lot’s visitors, Sodom was subsequently destroyed for its pervasive wickedness. Codrington appeals to a excellent hermeneutic, letting Scripture interpret Scripture, and asks that we see what Ezekiel 16:49 says that the sin of Sodom was; there we read that the sin of Sodom was “pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness… neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” thus he says, homosexuality was not the issue.

While this argument is partially true, when Sodom was destroyed, homosexuality was only part of its wickedness, this does not negate the fact that homosexuality was also part of the wickedness. We find a similar kind of picture in Romans 1, where homosexuality is given as a symptom of a generally corrupt mankind. As for Codrington’s statement that only those who have prejudged the story can say that the ‘detestable things’ mentioned in Ezekiel 16:49-50 is homosexuality, I would respond, only those with a desire for it not to be homosexuality can say confidently that it was not.

As for Jude 7, Codrington here explains that the ‘strange flesh’ mentioned refers to the men of Sodom desiring the flesh of angels. However this interpretation has a number of problems, if you read the context (as Codrington rightly says you should) you may want to ask these questions: When did the angels invade Sodom and Gomorrah? And, if fallen angels are meant, how can their sin and the sin of the Sodomites apply to us today?[i] Furthermore, certainly the men wanted to engage in homosexual relations with the men at Lot’s door, but they did not know that they were angels. In any case the language of ‘strange flesh’ and its meaning has resemblance to Romans 1:27 which speaks of ‘unnatural use’ in the original languages, all together the evidence lies weightier on the fact that homosexuality was one of the issues of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Law –

Next Codrington approaches Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 Here he gives two main reasons why this text against homosexuality should be disregarded:

1) There are verses surrounding this which speak about many other laws which we do not follow anymore, thus he implies, we are picking and choosing what we want to obey and what we don’t want to obey.

In response to this, I point out Codrington comment on page 17, “ The accepted hermeneutic is that only those laws specifically reiterated in the NT are still applicable to us today”. Right, that is the accepted hermeneutic, thus the entire wave of writing he goes, on arguing about the other laws surrounding this text, seems a bit puzzling, since he knows how the interpretation is done; but allow me to expand on that rather limited statement briefly.

Firstly, we know that the law is good, and that we cannot keep it no matter how hard we try. However in and of itself the law is good, and the NT in no way makes it void (Romans 7:12). Thus whatever role we assign the law we must remember that it is good, perfect and holy (Matthew 5:17)

Secondly, the NT shows what portions of the laws are no longer binding on believers. When laws are mentioned in the NT as no longer binding, then we conclude that we do not have to keep them. This is not making unbiblical categories, far from it, this is a matter of looking at the whole counsel of God. In Galatians 3:10-13 we see that the ceremonial and dietary laws are no longer binding on Christians for example.

Thirdly, some commandments that are in the law also go beyond the law. In Leviticus 18 and 20 bestiality, incest and adultery are also condemned. These are repeated in the NT, making them not only part of the law, but a larger biblical ethic as well.

2) Codrington suggests that this practice of homosexuality may have had some relationship to cultic practices of the surrounding nation…

Does this apply to adultery, incest and bestiality as well? In Lev 18:27 God says that all the practices mentioned, defiled the land, when they were committed by the people living there. God said that He ‘abhorred’ the people in the land before Israel did, since they practiced such behaviors (Lev 20:23). So we see that these practices offended God no matter whom or in what context they were practiced by or in.

– New Testament –

Next, Codrington comes to 1 Cor 6:9-10 and 1 Tim 1:9-10, and begins discussion on two Greek words, ‘μαλακοὶandἀρσενοκοιτης, he attempts to throw doubt on the translation of these words by suggesting that they can best be understood as referring to pederasty, a practice in which young boys were used to serve adult men and offer them sex, and effeminate call-boys who were used as sex-slaves. He maintains that this cannot be seen as a blanket condemnation of homosexuality. Part of this is seen, he says, in the fact the Paul uses a new word for homosexual when there were other words that meant homosexual already available.

I respond to this by saying, Paul actually coined 179 new words; this does not change the context of the verse these words appeared in.

Lets examine the word ἀρσενοκοιτηςthis is made up of two words in the Greek ἀρσενοwhich means ‘male’ (used in Romans 1) andκοιτηςwhich we only see twice in the NT, both times meaning bed (Romans 13:13; Hebrews 13:3). What is interesting is that in the two terms ‘male’ and bed’ there is not mention of any kind of ‘use’ or ‘abusiveness’, Paul puts these two words together to create a picture of a sexual issue, not one of prostitution or anything like that at all. This same construction is used in Leviticus 18:22 where the two words תִשְׁכַּב and זָכָר which is ‘bed’ and ‘man’ are used in Hebrew to speak against homosexuality, thus if one reads the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) one sees the Greek words mention by Paul in place of the Hebrew words forbidding homosexuality. When Paul made his statement against homosexuality he could not have been clearer, making the word out of the words in the Septuagint used to forbid homosexuality.

– Romans –

Yet the real issue becomes clear in the end of Codrington’s article when he mentions Romans 1, since here Paul is so emphatically against homosexuality that one is hard pressed to wiggle out of the text some other meaning. Codrington suggests that one ‘viable’ option in dealing with Romans 1, is to say that God was against homosexuality at the time, but now things have changed. The theological problems with this are implicit and I do not want to lengthen an already long article. Suffice to say that those who which to immediately throw the word cultural at every text that does not fit with our ‘advanced’ society should be alert to see where the rabbit hole eventually leads.

The article ends with a few more short confusing statements about Scripture, ones to which I am sure Dr Condrington knows the answers from a hermeneutically faithful and biblically conservative view. Yet he does not say them in an attitude that suggests their may be an answer. Granted a paper in a journal like ‘Baptist Today’ would be under space constraints, and thus Codrington could not go as deep into the arguments as he would have liked or been able to. However, this does not diminish the fact that there is an agenda pushing his interpretation of these verses

In Conclusion, the Bible and God, who does not change, clearly condemn the practice of homosexuality, yet that same God, who does not change, still offers in the good news of Jesus Christ, an escape from the wrath of God, and freedom from the bondages of all and any sins.


[i]Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jud 5

The Knowledge of God- Implanted in Every Person

I have been considering lately the idea of knowing God. And I would love to just throw out three things about knowing God, (1) Everybody has the knowledge that God exists, (2) Arguments given against God that claim the idea of God was just made up to control people actually gives proof to the fact that God exists, (3) That people who try to deny God’s existence or change who God is, as a way of removing all fear of God, only prove God’s existence and their knowledge of it.

(1) The first thing I noticed, is no matter where one goes, to whatever culture, tribe or people, everyone has the knowledge of God. All around the world from the hardened atheists to the farming natives, there is everywhere a fear of God. There are few people so backwards in thinking, and religiously anti-logical that they would deny His existence, even the man in an isolated tribe feels the desire to need and worship, so much so, that he will worship an idol made with his hands rather then not worship anything. In our western ‘civilized’ society, we worship ourselves, our dreams, our aspirations, we think man is the end of all things… Even then there is the invisible line that people will not cross, the line of human dignity, which for the atheist there is no basis, even though the Humanistic manifesto has this is its first point. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that everyone knows there is a God, but man became backwards in thinking, and mans heart was darkened.

(2) Some people in an attempt to disprove God say that the idea of religion was just made up to control people. I agree, that often people have added their own laws and made up rules, using religion to control masses (much like the Catholic Church in the ‘Dark Ages’ or Mohammed when he was preparing his attack on Mecca). However, this merely proves that everyone has the inherent knowledge and fear of God. Here in Africa, sometimes rebel warlords will use food to control people, they capture UN food supplies and force the people to starve or submit, no one has yet said that hunger was a tool made to control people… However, the fact the warlords can use food to control shows that the need for food and the very existence of food exists. In the same way, the fact that people have at times abused Christianity and religion to control others, only proves that the desire and fear of God exists universally.

(3) The contemporary move to post-modernism, and this your-truth-is-truth-to-you theory also proves this all the more, whether people make up gods that they are comfortable with, or all together try to deny His existence, it all the more proves He is there. You see, it is the universal fear of God, the fact that people know in their conscience that God will judge them, and that He is just, that forces them to either deny His existence, or to make up a god to suit themselves. Now, the skeptic may say, “Ah, but I can disprove your God”, the moment he does that he proves it… Tell me, how many papers have you read which argue against the existence of fairies and unicorns? None, well that is because it makes no difference to the atheist, but God, the One they know will judge them, although they don’t always feel this equally as strong, He, the need to rationalize away, they need to calm their conscience, so that when they live their life of selfishness, lust, lying, hate and blasphemy they can be at peace for a little while, Nietzsche and Dawkins are the opium of the atheist. This is why when so much as a leaf falls they fear that it may be the end.

God be gracious to those who do not know Him is a saving way, praise Him for Jesus Christ who brings freedom, freedom from sin and bondage, and not onkly a true fear but a love of God.

What is it to Know God (The Trend of this Knowledge)

What do I mean when I say, “The knowledge of God?”, what I mean is not only that we grasp the fact that there is some God, but also understand what relevance it has to us, and what brings Him glory, really what I am saying is, what is relevant to mankind with regards to knowing God. WHATS THE POINT?.

If we have to speak properly we cannot say God is known where there is no religion or holiness. I am not talking about how people who are lost and under God’s curse understand God as a Redeemer in Christ or anything like that, I simply mean, a knowledge of God that humans would have had if Adam did not sin and fall. Of course now, no man in the current ruin and lost state of this human race can see God as their Father, or author of Salvation, until Christ makes peace for them. Still it is one thing to understand God as our Maker, Who supports us by His power and rules us by His providence, leads us with His goodness and gives us all kinds of blessings; and its another thing to embrace the grace of reconciliation offered to us in Christ. A knowledge of God as Creator and then as Redeemer.

Although we cant think of God without giving Him some worship, no one will worship Him and only Him alone, unless they see Him as the fountian of all goodness, as the spring of all joy, hope and meaning. What I mean is, we must be persuaded, not only that He once made the world, and sustains it by His power, governs it by His wisdom, preserves it in His goodness, rules the human race with justice and judgment, bears with them in mercy, shields them by His protection; but also that not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or genuine truth can be found anywhere that does not flow from Him. By the way must learn to expect all things from Him, and thankfully praise Him for whatever we receive. It is this understanding of God’s perfections that teach us holiness, out of which genuine religion comes.

*By holiness I mean a union (a marriage, a mixing) of the fear and love of God, which is inspired by a knowledge of what He does and Who He is.*

You see, because until people feel that they owe everything to God,  that they are cherished by His parent-like care, and that He is the author of all their blessings, so that they should look nowhere else but to Him,  man will never submit to Him in voluntary obedience; even more so, unless they place their entire happiness in Him, they will never give their whole life to serve Him in truth and sincerity (Where do you place your happiness? What things do you do to make you happy? Eating, movies, porn, relationships, sports? Do you get happiness apart from God in these things, since they are not all bad in and of themselves? Or do you realize that He is the one that gives everything good, and your happiness even in these things is due to Him?)

People who argue about what the essence of God are rambling with silly speculations- it is much more important for us to know what kind of being God is, and what things relate to us in His nature. I mean whats the point of knowing a ‘God’ who doesn’t care about anything but His own ease, and has nothing to do with us? The effect, read carefully, the result of the knowledge of God should be first to teach us reverence and fear; and secondly to cause us to ask for everything good from Him, and when we have received it, to praise Him for it.

How can the idea of God even come into your mind without causing you to think, “Hmmmm? I am His workmanship (He made me), I am bound by every law of nature to submit to His authority” (Ah! the folly of making a God to suit yourself, ‘to me God is…?’). I mean how can you think of God without knowing that you owe Him your life (you did not choose to exist), that whatever you do should have something relating to Him. If you can think of God without that, then sadly your life is corrupted, you are not in obedience to Him, because His will should be the rule of our lives. On the other hand you understanding of Him is not clear if you don’t see Him as the fountain of all goodness.

I think we would have confidence in God and a desire to hold onto Him, if the sinfulness of our mind did not lead us away from this kind of proper thinking.

First of all, the Christian (and holy) mind does not try and make up a God, but looks alone to the one true God, the Christian mind also doesn’t make up characteristics of God, but is happy to accept God in the character that He reveals Himself in.

The person who understand God like this, sees how He governs all things, confides in God as His protector and guardian, and throws himself on God’s faithfulness- understanding that He is good and merciful, he rests on God with sure confidence, and does not doubt that in calamity, a divine remedy will be provided for every time of need- understanding Him as Father and Lord, he considers himself bound to respect His authority in all things

Listen to the words of Calvin, “Such is pure and genuine religion, namely, confidence in God coupled with serious fear- fear, which both includes in it willing reverence, and brings along with it such legitimate  worship as is prescribed by the law. …. only a few truly reverence Him. On all hands there is an abundance of ostentatious ceremonies, but sincerity of heart is rare.”

Dedicated to Book 1 of Calvin’s Institutes

A Challenge to Christians (Part 1)

I have been thinking lately about the issue of Christians living not like Christians! You know what I mean, the lady living with her boyfriend who is a youth leader at a local church, or the guy who buys his FHM magazines, but the issue is much bigger then that isn’t it? If we read books like 1 John and James we can clearly see that those people are not genuine Christians, however genuine, authentic Christians get lumped with the professing- Christians right, and thus the name of Christ is reproached by the world. However, I think as a side effect of this, the genuine Christians are being diluted by the world around us a bit, I’m not sure many of us would survive in a Puritan village. Fortunately the puritan villages are not the measure of What God expects of us, and so I would like to challenge you Christians out there, challenge you as Paul would, follow with me over the next few blogs and lets look together at Romans 12:9-21… I dare you to venture with me.

Romans 12:9a “Let love abide without hypocrisy”

After the long theological foundation of Romans 1-11 Paul drops this, so if you think you have your theology right, you may have it right in theory, but is it in practice (notice the therefore in verse 1 of chapter 12, therefore, meaning, as a result of this long theological treatise, offer your body up as a living sacrifice, and then he tells us how)?

Now it goes without saying that we are saved by grace, but our salvation allows us to obey, we are now free to obey God, Eph 2:10 nsays that this is why God made us in Christ Jesus, to do good works.

The one thing we should do is love, ‘agape’ (unconditionally, sacrificially love) one another. Not the “I love so and so in the Lord” kind of love (Translated, “I cant stand them but I put up with them). Its the kind of love that comes from above, its the kind of love that makes you not sound like a banging piece of steal (1 Cor 13). Do you have a lot of Bible knowledge? Can you preach in 20 languages? Have you given up your life to serve God? If you don’t have love you are like a piece of steal banging banging banging banging banging banging banging! Is that annoying yet? It is if you don’t have love (1 Cor 13).

Furthermore we are to love without hypocrisy, that is not just in word, but in deed and truth (1 John), not with false motives, not self see-kingly ( I encourage you to meditate on 1 Cor 13, see how your love matches up).

You know what the greatest thing is, this is so practical…

Who are you to love? Read the story of the ‘Compassionate (thanks Thomas) Samaritan’, in Luke. You are to love the first person in real need that comes across your path. Sacrificially and unconditionally, not based on you time or comfort (I don’t think we should stop and help everyone change a tire, but we can access if a person needs help or if there is already someone helping).

How do you answer the phone to: Your mother, father, wife, boss, brother, sister, friend, sales guy, annoying neigbour? Are you loving in the way you sound, dont go fake the love now, deal with your heart… go re-apply the doctrine of Romans 1-11 to yourself, cause you may not have grasped the point.

You see how applicable this is… How you speak, act and think, towards your family, friend, next circle of influence and enemies.

This article is already to long, Christians lets take up the challenge, mediocrity is not what we have been saved to live in. Dream big, live passionate for God.

1 John 4:20
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

Knowledge of God and Man Connected.

John Calvin said, “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” This seems to be what most people think, even philosophy lectures at universities begin with the existence of God (philosophy of religion) and then move on to man, trying to figure out how man knows what is right and wrong (interesting, when you throw God out the equation, you can only toy with theories about right and wrong, there is never a basis…. ethics – God = nightmare)

To start with man cant look at himself without first looking to God, he cant understand himself without first turning to look at God, since it is in God that man lives and moves. The gifts, talents, abilities, everything we have is not from ourselves, it is all from God, He determined where and when we would live, what our IQ would be, our environment, everything. To try to figure out who one is or anything about oneself, without first looking to God is like a man trying to discover who he is, but not looking at his parents, background, or anything that caused him to be…. maybe this is why people have identity problems and what not…

However, God is the being from which all life comes, He is the font of every blessing, all the blessing we have point us upward to God. Now the infinitude (what a great word) of goodness which is in God becomes so much more real. A rich person, in the face of infinite riches might be a little amazed and think its great, but the man who comes from utter poverty can grasp what the riches really are, because he has come to grips with the nothingness he has, so he marvels at the riches.

More specifically, the ruin that sin has plunged man into, the pain, suffering, bondage, poverty, hatred all wall us in and cause us to look upward; not only because we are hungry and starving, but being shaken by fear might learn humility, that God is God, and guess what, we are man. Did you get that? When you are lonely, and in pain, depressed, worried, fearful, let it teach you humility (Broken and contrite spirit the Lord will accept).

In man there is an ocean of misery, ever since we were stripped from the divine clothes in Eden, our nakedness shows a great amount of horrible abilities (envy, pride, vengeance, lust etc.), every man being stung by conciseness of his own unhappiness, in some way obtains some knowledge of God. What I am trying to say is that all our evil and corruption reminds us that in God, and Him alone is the true light of wisdom, solid true beautiful, amazing, wonderful goodness.

Listen to what Calvin says about this, “We are … urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves” … wow! put that in your every-body-is-special-and deserves-the-best theology. Do you chatter about theology to feel pleased with yourself and escape the results of theology, to humble you?

I think many ‘reformed’ need to think on this, reformed (or put whatever theological label you want there) in theology will take you to hell, one needs to be re-formed in heart. Be honest, who doesn’t naturally trust in themselves? In their own abilities? Completely unaware of their own misery, not only teenagers, but everyone thinks they are immortal to one degree or another. As a result anyone who comes to a knowledge of himself is not only urged to seek God, but even led by the hand of God to find Him.

On the other hand, its also true that man doesn’t fully understand himself till he looks at God, and comes down after the look at God, to then look at himself. Mans pride works in such a way that we always look good to ourselves, we always look just, or at least, not too bad- we are only convinced by solid evidence of our own impurity, vileness, wickedness (I think to many of us just believe as an abstract thought that we are evil and wicked, but we are not moved by it, we don’t believe it as a fact which effects reality). We will never be convinced of our poverty and evil unless we first look at the Lord. He is the only standard which can show us what we are really like, when we compare ourselves with others it is like the ape looking at another ape and saying, “I am more human then you” maybe because he is sitting and the other hanging?!

We are all prone to hypocrisy, an empty bag labeled righteousness (goodness) will satisfy us, instead of righteousness itself. You know what I mean, people will be happy to just carry the empty bag from an expensive store. People who think they are good, that they have the power within themselves to please God, they are like people who in the afternoon go outside, and look around, they see cars, trees, children playing, the person then thinkis to himself “Ah, what good eyes I have” they look to distant mountains and their pride grows stronger, but wait- when they look up with their powerful eyes and look at the sun, their eyes begin to burn, the squint and pull weird faces, they cannot even begin to see any form or shape on the sun, they become confused and their eyes water…. the object which gives us light to see, also shows us how limited out vision is…. It is the same when we look at our spiritual qualities, as long as we don’t look beyond the earth we are happy with our abilities, with our righteousness, wisdom and goodness- we think of ourselves in the best ways and imagine ourselves to be nothing less then demi-gods, the masters of our own destiny. But should we ever look up and put our thought on God, and reflect on what kind of Being He is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness and wisdom and virtue, He who is the standard of what we should be like… we will see how silly the way we thought of ourselves really is, how the world pollutes our minds with thoughts of goodness inherent in us.

Now you see why in The Holy Bible men were so struck with dread and amazement when they were in the presence of God. You can see how the people who stood so firm and sure are now shaking and trembling.This is why people would die if they saw God…

Isaiah 24:23, “The moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign” When God comes to reign, the brightest objects will seem dark next to His brilliance.

See also: Judges 13:22; Isaiah 6:5; Ezek 1:28; 3:14; Job 9:4 Gen 18:27; 1 Kings 19:13

(Dedicated to the memory of a man used by God greatly, John Calvin, glory to God through Jesus Christ)

Why Read The Bible?/Whats the Point of Having a Bible? (Part 2)

          Hard to Understand-

 

One of the most encouraging passages in the Bible is in 2 Peter 3:15-16. There Peter talks about Paul’s writings and admits that some of it is hard to understand. To be honest, sometimes I read something in the Bible and I am like huh? What was that?! Have you ever felt like that?

If so, its okay, so did Peter.

 

I read one author who looked at the story of the fall of Jericho in Joshua 6. He reacts in the same way most of us might react… with shock!

 

“They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it- men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.”

 

How could God have commanded that, how could a good God have commanded that?

 

God was with Joshua when he slaughtered men, women and children?

 

Is that God?

 

What does a person do with something like that?

 

The way I see it you have a couple of options:

1)     Deny that the Bible is God’s Word

2)     Humble yourself and try understand it, even though it may be difficult

3)     Say that the Bible is kind of God’s word except for the parts that I don’t like and are too hard to figure out

4)     Hide under your bed and recite the Greek alphabet

 

I remember years ago I had a third-person computer game called ‘Blade Runner’, in this game you are a detective and you have to try to figure out what is going on in the story, and as you figure stuff out and put it into action you move on. On day I got to a place where I just didn’t know what to do anymore… I must have spent three hours walking around the same place. I got so frustrated, I turned the game off to play a more mindless game, one where I just run and shoot (I wouldn’t have had to do this if some of my friends had finished it and could have told me what to do).

 

Many people are like that when it comes to their Bible, they read Joshua 6 and get a shock, cause all their life they have read bumper stickers that say ‘Jesus loves you’. Now God sends in armies to attack and destroy….  So they throw in the towel and jump to an easy out conclusion.

 

Ah, the folly of bumper sticker theology.

 

Reading the Bible is really important to understand it, I mean really reading, not just remembering flagellum. Before Joshua goes out In Leviticus 18:25 God speaks about the kind of people that live in the land the Israelites are about to invade, it seems from the rest of the chapter there was the worship of Molech, this involved sacrificing a child into the fiery arms of a steel idol, furthermore homosexuality and bestiality were rife. All these things being loathsome before God.

 

God was visiting judgment upon them!

 

This leads to a whole load of other questions, and that is not all there is to it, but the real question you have to stop and ask is, am I willing to keep looking and searching, or should  I cop out now?

 

In Peter chapter 3 Peter goes on, he says that because some of what Paul writes is hard to understand, other men who are untaught and unstable twist what he says as they do with the rest of Scripture.

 

A favorite one which is twisted is in 1 Corinthians 7:12. Here Paul says, “But to the rest I, not the Lord, says…”

 

Oh, so this is not inspired right, this is just Paul’s opinion!

 

Well if you read the few verses before (v10-11) and you have been reading widely in your Bible, maybe places like Mark 10:6-10, you would see that Paul had just been quoting Christ Himself. And so now, to end his quotation he uses the words ‘I, not the Lord, in case you are thinking I’m still quoting Mark’.

 

Anyway, wasn’t Paul’s opinion inspired when he wrote Scripture?

I though men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit? Oh, how the bumper-sticker theology has made so many unstable and untaught teachers.

 

Have you ever looked at Christianity and thought, wow, so many denominations?

 

I have, all the disunity is quiet a problem. Let’s boil it down a little…

 

Most of these denominations exist because of a difference in interpreting the Bible. What we want to know then is what influences how we interpret the Bible:

 

1)     What is the Bible

2)     Rules of interpretation

 

Those are the two major influences on how we interpret the Bible.

 

Islam, is relatively unified because they all see the Koran as being Allah’s word so they just obey it, Hindus, don’t really care, nor do Buddhists. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses all see the Bible Joseph Smith and Charles Taze Russel want them to, so that’s pretty unified. The average catholic doesn’t care, they just do what they got to do to get into heaven.

 

Let me say it like this, how much value you place on the Bible will determine how you understand it, and it will determine if it will bring you the life it is supposed to.

 

I believe that the Bible is God’s perfect revelation of Himself to man, that all of the Scripture is God-breathed, and flawless, and that it contains all things the man of God may need to be fully equipped for very good work.

 

Tell me, does democracy mean that I can say or do anything I want to?

 

Does freedom of expression mean that I can kill someone to express myself?

 

Have people done that before?

Does that mean that anytime someone argues a point from their democratic right and from their right to freedom of expression that they are being crazy?

 

Exactly, it doesn’t.

 

Now even though someone may try to use the Bible to defend something that’s wrong, and that the Bible doesn’t say, that doesn’t mean that whenever someone uses the Bible to defend a point, that they are wrong.

 

Peter points out that people can twist things, but God in His wisdom placed the Bible in a context, in actually history with actual words that have actual meanings.

 

So, guess what, people can not make the Bible say whatever they want it to say.

 

There is only one interpretation of every verse, one. But people twist what it says to make it mean what it does not say…. Why? Two reasons

 

1)     They have a low view of the Bible

2)     They don’t know who to interpret the Bible

 

Times are crazy. When I go out to share the gospel, I often encourage people to find a good ‘bible-preaching’ church.

 

What does that mean?

 

Does that mean that the pastor must quote verses?

Must the preacher have verses to back up his point?

Should the preacher only say stuff I can imagine God would say?

 

Lets compare this to a professor of medicine who is about to graduate and next month will be doing his first open heart surgery…. On you!

 

Does that mean the professor must quote parts of the textbook?

Must the professor recite sentences from the textbook to back up his point?

Should the professor only say stuff that you would imagine could help during open heart surgery?

 

No, I want him to teach medicine, what does the textbook say, line by line, tell him how to do everything properly.

“Oh, yes, I remember the professor saying I should use a scalpel, then he spoke about the nice patterns one can make with it, hmmm yes”

 

What really helped me to grasp this was to see how Jesus interpreted and used the Old Testament. Jesus Himself said that he did not come to do away with the Law or the Prophets, but rather to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).

 

Lev 19:18 tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, that’s pretty simple, but the Pharisees had messed it up by Jesus’ time so he simply restates it for the people in Matthew 5:43-44 and corrects the wrong rabbinical interpretation, that’s why Jesus says, ‘you have heard it said’ so often, they had heard it from rabbias who were making their own self-serving interpretations on God’s word.

 

The Bible is the best interpreter of itself, why do I say that?

 

Well, who is my Neighbor? In Luke 10:30-37 Jesus answered that exact questions when he told the story of the good Samaritan.

 

Well, how do I put this into action day to day? If you read the book of Leviticus there are hundreds of day to day principles for loving your neighbor, from keeping him safe when he is in your house to making him feel welcome and giving him refreshments (lets not forget 6 of the Ten Commandments)

 

Well, what kind of love should I have, who defines that love? Jesus did in the rest of Matthew 5:43-48.

 

The Bible is a closed book, and its perfect. Yes we need to interpret it, but we are not alone, we have most importantly the Holy Spirit, and we have common sense.

 

Words have meaning, contexts give color, and surroundings writings give added and deeper meaning.

 

Did you understand what I just wrote? Did the words mean something? Did you know I was talking about the Bible not a Superman comic cause of context? When you read the next chapter I hope you will have some added meaning to have I have just written.

 

Guess what? I mean everything I just said, and there is only one way to understand what I said, you may make a mistake and miss-read me, I hope not though. In the same way the Bile has meaning, and if one is fair to it, one can see it, it will be meaningful and applicable to life.

 

 

Car Accidents and the Sovereignty of God/Rejoicing in a Smashed Car

Yesterday I was in a car accident, to get that out of the way… I am totally physically unharmed and so was the other person, we were both alone in our respective cars, suffice to say we collided and that is all I really care to say about it. Now it is horrible, I am without my car for a period of time, I have to change many plans I have made for the next few days, possibly weeks. This I would consider, along with the loss of money, a trial, James speaks about trials in James 1, and I have recently preached on the issue and am currently studying my way through the book.

The point of my writing this is to at least demonstrate how the sovereignty of God shines through in this situation, which from all human reasoning is not good at all.

Firstly, this is a guaranteed opportunity for expressing joy, James wrote in verse 2 of chapter 1, “My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” Why? Well I am now more dependent and can be joyfully dependent on the One who allowed the accident. This draws me closer to God, since I must now trust him for a number of things, money, my car, transportation, the thoughts people have about me, my relationships. I like what commentator Warren Wiersbe said on this passage, “Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to `count it all joy.’ If we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter, not better” (Be Mature, [Wheaton, Ill.: Victor, 1978], p.23).

So now i pray, God help me value the spiritual more then the material.

Secondly, I must have an understanding mind. verse 3 says,”Knowing this, that the testing of your faith worketh patience” two things I need to know 1) The reality of the testing… Look every Christian will get it, we are promised trials and tribulations and problems in this world… we are not in heaven .2) the reason for the testing….. Why am I being tested? Well according to Romans 8, God’s intention is to make me conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and according to verse 4 of James 1 these things will make me complete and lacking in nothing. So I can rejoice because God is working in my life through the tools of these trials, to make me more like Christ. So I have thought about it so I don’t waste it, and this is some of the things I figured out, the rest, only God knows.

1) I need to be grateful, not like those of Romans 1, who were unthankful, I should be thankful that the Lord spared me from injury, from being totally written-off, spared the other driver, spared me from going to jail due to any death that could have happened. Grateful that I have a car to crash… There are people who suffer living in abject poverty. Thankful for a kind church with godly elders that care and have provided me with a car till mine comes back, thankful for God’ provision of insurance, thankful for the opportunity to give witness to Christ to the lady I crashed with, and to the police later. Thankful that I had friends with cars to help me after the accident. Basically thankful for so much, since in fact I am a sinner who deserves hell, so in fact I got off light. That leads to my second point….

2) Humility. Contrary to my own prideful heart, I am not the worlds most perfect driver who never makes a mistake. Now other people may think less of me, they may think, “Ah, what a typical 23 year old” and my flesh hates that, but the only reason it does is because I think I am so much more then that, my heart tempts me to think I am more then just dust. Humility, that will make me more like Christ, oh that the sin of pride would be gone from me, and praise God for allowing this accident to cause it to be attacked.

3) Patience. Wow, I thought I had patience, but I saw how the next day, not having my own car, and after being a bit ruffled, I got so frustrated in traffic, which I don’t normally. I thought I was a pretty patient person, but I see how when things are not going well, my patience are short.

Thirdly, I must have a submissive will. James 1:4 says, “let patience have her perfect work, then you will be perfect and complete lacking in nothing” I need to let the perfect work happen, patience is not the point, the end result is to make be perfect… The Greek word was used of a mature animal, who was fully grown. I must not be angry or impatient, upset that God is working, I must not wish for it not to have happened… Its funny, I was sitting yesterday and thinking, “God, you can do everything, please undo time or make us all wake up and the accident never to have happened”, what a foolish attitude, what I am saying in essence is that God did not know what He was doing. But I know, what happened was the best possible thing that could happen, cause it was the will of the all-wise, all-loving God, and He knows what I do not, so I pray God by the grace of Christ, help me to be submissive in this my lesson.

One other thing I learn’t also comes from James. Foolish man, you say we will go here and there and do this and that, yet you do not know what will happen tomorrow. I had such grand plans, to go to Bible study and teach, then go watch some soccer and have a restful night, after that the next day I would go watch my German teach beat Croatia (Its been a rough three days), but alas, God had other plans, I should rather have said God willing. I need to remember that the Lord is in control, it is so easy to become self-sufficient in your thinking. As if this was bad enough, my computer crashed today, and showed me the blue screen of death. Praise the Lord, this is truly great my friends, the Lord is working, and I need to become more like Christ, not have a good car and fancy computer.

I hope this helps those of you out there who have heard my sermon on James 1:1-4 see this in a contextual light. If you would like to listen to this sermon you can click on one of the following links, and search for my name and this text (James 1:1-4)

http://www.birchleighbc.co.za/resources/

http://www.cpbc.co.za/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=44&Itemid=60