Is Doctrine that Important/ The Distaste of Doctrine (Part 6)

DELIGHT-

The point of all of this, is our delight! That is what most glorifies God, when we delight in Him… not in a mystery, or not knowing Him. God’s glory and our delight and happiness are not two opposing things. We are commanded to rejoice in the Lord always, and in case you missed it, again I say rejoice (Phil2). Obeying God’s commands is the most enjoyable thing to do…. Not the easiest, but the most joyful.

This became so clear from me recently when I read Genesis 29:20, listen to this:

“So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.”

Wow! Sometimes obeying God seems like its seven years work in one moment, but because of the love I have for God, its nothing to me. This is why John says, if you love God you will obey His commands.

Why do we not have to be anxious? Because God is near!

Which God is near? The capable God of the Holy Bible, who is faithful and loving and just and powerful… the God who would part an ocean for His own, the God who works all things (even the horrible, terrible, evil things) for our good and His glory. The God who works in the real world, not in my imagination and hopeful wishes.

When I build a model boat, or watch gymnastics at the Olympics, or watch a jet scream past, or hear inspiring music, I stop and think… what an amazing God! Who makes all these things, and shows Himself to me in His Word.

Is Doctrine that Important/ The Distaste of Doctrine (Part 5)

QUESTIONS – (I recommend you read part 1,2,3 and 4 before this, unless it makes sense first time)

A Christian with a faith grounded in reality doesn’t steer clear of questions, he runs to them because He knows that God invaded the human world and became a man. He knows that God gave a perfect revelation of Himself in His word so we could have all the questions we need answering answered.

Questions are not daunting

What is daunting is when there are no answers.

What is heartbreaking is a faith that can’t stand up to them.

The other day I was sitting in a university first year philosophy lecture, I got into a conversation with a guy next to me, he saw I was reading a book which argues for the historical proof of Jesus and His resurrection. This guy told me how its good to ask questions about these things but His church doesn’t really let him ask those kind of things ( some churches want questions, just for the fun, but they don’t want to answer them, just enjoy not knowing). He went on to explain how the philosophy classes had made him think, that maybe Jesus wasn’t real, maybe God wasn’t real. After I said that there are answers, he got real excited, for the rest of the lecture he wrote down questions instead of listening, to ask me after the lecture ended.

He asked:

How does one become holy?

How do you know what is right and wrong?

How do you know if your interpretation of the Bible is correct?

Some other questions I have had asked:

Why do good people die in tragic ways?

Why do evil people prosper and good people suffer?

Why is there war and poverty if God is loving?

If God will forgive us when we ask, why not life any way we want, and ask him for forgiveness in our dying moments?

Since God controls all things, why is there evil, does God make evil happen (that sounds terrible right?) or do we have free-will and God has no control (cause that is also rubbish)… What’s going on.

These are a few questions, I have had hundreds upon hundreds thrown at me in my short life. I’ve spoken to heart-broken people, angry people, humble people, intellectual people, philosophical people. Let me tell you, the joy I have knowing that my God invaded this messed-up, crazy, painful, really real world and He didn’t bring a placebo, He brought the truth, a truth that can set us free from the pain, anger, lost-ness, intellectual burnout-ness.

This is why peter goes out of his way to point out that this is all real, he said, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” We were eye-witnesses? He saw it, it was real it happened. What an amazing truth.

Am I saying that I know everything? No.

Am I saying that God has given me everything I need for life and godliness while I’m here on earth? YES (2 Peter 1:3)

I remember at school when I was young, they always said that there is no such thing as a stupid question, but as I got older, they started saying, that smart questions make one smart.

The truth of God’s word being a freedom, a freedom that I’m not lost without answers in a world that is full of questions. However some people ask questions like that ad, where the child just keeps asking ‘why?’ for the sake of it, not really to learn anything.

A question that doesn’t come out of the hunger for an answer is not a real question, it’s a heart with no blood.

Humility is saying, God you have the answer, I’ll accept what you say, no matter how hard it is, because you are the potter and I am the clay.

Trying to deny that there is an answer in the name of humility is like a student who doesn’t want to show his marks, or see anyone else’s, because ignorance is bliss, and I don’t want to know if someone is better then me, and I don’t want others to know I’m not so good.

Oh, that we would humble ourselves like little children and come to God to learn from Him.

Most often God brings questions to our lives about reality so that we have to throw ourselves at Him and learn more about Who He is? Like with Abraham in Genesis 18, God goes to Abraham, and by God’s actions brings a whole lot of questions up in Abraham’s mind, and each time God answers, Abraham knows God a little better.

Central to our Christian Faith, is that we have the truth incarnate. And so we bring our dead daughter to Christ and ask Him to bring healing, we bring our confusion about meaning and hope and ask Him to answer, because that’s part of why He came, to show us the way, the truth and the life.

Robert Brownings wisely said, “I thirst for truth, but shall not reach it till I reach the source.”

The Christian faith is something which makes a difference and is real, but more then that… its true. Otherwise it would be easier to just believing something else, if there was some natural nobility in believing something.

Pauls said that we should answer each person (Col 4:6). The problem is when people sometimes attempt to answer back to God (Rom9:20).

Many people today would like to turn Christianity into a mystery, they would like to turn God’s revealing of Himself and His answers into mystery…

And to be honest, it is, as we saw earlier, the natural man does not understand the things of the spirit! They are foolishness to him. It was once said in the Scriptures that no one understands (Rom 3:11).

But what does it say to believers? 1Co 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” Wow, what a gift, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).

Where do we discover the mystery? Where do we find the answers? Paul said, “Eph 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

Eph 3:9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,

Oh, Christians, are you left on earth to reveal in questions? Did the all powerful, loving God decide that the best answer for mankind would be mystery?

Build the boat!

Take the cruise!

It will save you!

Two possibilities: One; oh, wow, God is so big, I don’t understand how he is going to save or bring hope or life, I’m trapped in despair, and now I feel free to share it with everyone.. its so exciting to be lost without an answer and hope!

Two; Rom 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages

Rom 16:26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith–

Rom 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

This has always been the understanding of Orthodox Christianity, a group of God loving holy theologians put this in a plain way in a great Christian confession, they said:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word

This tell s us a very obvious thing: If we are going to travel the distance Jesus traveled, if we are going His way, we need to make sure our ship has the right equipment to travel across the ocean. Then we can take our feet off of the firm ground of this worlds sinful and dangerous ideas, and put our faith in something ‘more sure’, we are aliens and travelers on this world, it is not our home.

In a world where the pieces don’t matter, and the focus is more just about the journey, we would be led by a group of people who are very much like kids about to go on holiday with their parents. They don’t know to pack the spare tire, or fill up, or do checks on the car, or pack medicine.

Now, as I have said, somethings are not as important as others….

Whether Jesus comes back before or after the tribulation, or after the millennium, is not an important issue… whether Jesus is coming back at all,, is a very important issue….

This is why Paul under the control of the Holy Spirit wrote these heavy words: Gal 1:9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Is Doctrine that Important/ The Distaste of Doctrine (Part 4)

FOUNDATIONS – (I suggest you read Part 1,2 and 3 before this for it all to make sense)

I recently brought a book, and the author was a rather popular guy in ‘Christian’ circles these days. At one point in his book he says, that he believes Jesus was born of a virgin, but if that was not true, he could keep being a Christian! Apparently Jesus being born of a virgin or not being born of a virgin doesn’t impact on His saving work on the cross. That’s a bizarre leap of reasoning don’t you think.

I realized while I was reading that for this guy doctrine won’t save yourself and others, so you don’t have to watch it closely. His faith is kind of blind, detached from reality, a reality where a ship needs certain parts to make a journey.

What if someone could prove today that Jesus really had an earthly father? What if there was irrefutable evidence and there was a DNA test to prove it. What if the gospel writers made up “cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”? What if it was some ploy to appeal to secular Mithra cults at the time, whose gods also had supposed virgin births?

What if that part of our ship was left out?

Could a person still sail? Could a person still love God? Could a one still be a Christian?

Would you still want to travel the distance Jesus traveled?

Or does everything just shatter?

But it is so amazing if you consider the following:

Jer 36:30 says, “ Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David” right, but now look who is in Jesus’ genealogy in Mat 1:11 “ and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. “ Fortunatly, this is the family line of Joseph who was Jesus adoptive father, but not blood father.

As we read on in matthew we see the wonder of the whole thing, Mat 1:20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Mat 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Mat 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

Mat 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

When the angel points out that this is fulfilling a prophecy he does it on purpose, because this baby has got to be able to pay for peoples sins, what man could do that, except the God-man, God with us.

So without the virgin born Jesus, we are lost in our sins, not saved from them.

This is because truth is fixed in reality, it doesn’t flex or bend or change, gravity will always stop you from jumping of a building and going up, unless you have some kind of flying contraptions attached to you. Traffic will always be dangerous if you are standing in a freeway, there is just nothing but that reality. The natural laws God made to allow the universe to run and work, what an amazing God, a God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor 14:33).

This really made sense for me a while ago, in college I was doing a course in Pastoral counseling, and one of the issues I was looking into was how psychiatrists use medication, when I came across rather interesting information about a placebo (not to be confused with the band). What doctors do mostly with people who are hypochondriacs or psyco0semantically ill people, you know the kind that think they get healed at those ‘healing crusades’ on TV (people who think they are sick, but really aren’t) is give them something that looks like a drug, but really it is just sugar or some other harmless substance, and suddenly the people feel better and are able to get on with life. If man’s sickness of sin and brokedness was not real, then we wouldn’t need a real cure, one made up in my mind would b e just as good.

But in the real world death crushes families, people starve in poverty, countries make war, children are lost, women are raped, men are murdered. I see sin and its wages all around and it’s a problem in reality, and so whatever cure I’m going to grasp hold of has to come into this same reality and be different, not just some fancy idea made up in peoples heads.

I am far more concerned with what is true and right and can fix these problems, then with ignoring the cure in the name of false humility or anything else for that matter. You always defend the things you love, you delight in it and want to bring others to delight in it.

Imagine someone who came to a doctor with a deadly sickness, and the doctor gave them some lame placebo that does nothing, imagine the doctor said that the real cure is not that important, and it makes no different what ingredients are in you tablet. Would you fight that? Wouldn’t you complain to the superintendent of the hospital?

This is why Paul told Timothy to teach only what goes along with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1)

This is why God said that those who oversee and watch over the church “… must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Rebuke those who contradict it? Sounds harsh, but its important, life and death important.

The gospel was called ‘good news’ by the early Christians, but if you change that message and tell people something that is not real, then its not good news… it’s a lie.

Jesus never lied, he told the truth to the barest of reality, but not reality as natural man sees it all the time. One time His teaching was so hard and difficult that his disciples said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” and later some of those who had been following him turned back and stopped following Him (John 6:60,66).

So people today want to make the gospel massage so wide, they want to change the drugs ingredients so much, maybe so more people feel comfortable taking it, I mean, who wants stuff loaded with all kinds of crazy chemicals.. unless it will save you! But Jesus said, they way to life is narrow and hard, and few will find it (Matt 7:14).

Is Doctrine that Important/ The Distaste of Doctrine (Part 3)

PARTS OF A BOAT-

(if you have not read them, then reading part 1 and 2 will be helpful to follow the thoughts)

Not all the parts on my boat were essential, the boat could sail and get to where it going if it was missing a velvet couch, and maybe if I didn’t put the stickers on to distinguish between the guys and girls bathroom (although it make for some weird situations)

Take for example the piece of our boat called ‘baptism’. Some think we can baptism babies, and others think we can’t. I think if we all went honestly to the Scriptures and wrestled it out together we would come out with the same conclusion, but at the moment there are more important pieces to be sure about, so instead of fighting about that specific piece I link arms with someone who might not understand it like I do and fight to get the doctrine of the trinity on our boat.

Some guys make a piece that’s not important become important though… imagine if on a bot a guy put ‘no-entry signs’ with a toxic symbol over all the bathroom doors! That could cause all sorts of major problems and in the end even cause sicknesses and all crazy things on the ship… I’ll leave it to your imagination. That would be like people who say baptism is essential for salvation, they do not build the ship according to the manual, but their mistake in construction will jeopardize the whole voyage

Paul wrote to Titus and said one of the most amazing things about the connection with doctrine and living a righteous life… he said, “…showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Paul was writing to slaves and telling them to be obedient and not to steal, before that he spoke to young men, young women, older men and older women, telling the Christians of all walks of life to live is such a way that adorns the Doctrine of God our Savior.

I think that’s so beautiful, its like how a husband would not look at other women and always speak highly of his wife, loving her by his actions all the time, and so he adorns the truth of the vows and marriage he is a part of.

The truth that he is married is important, its vital, if he wasn’t but was living like he was married that would be fornication. But if one has the truth as a ‘thing’ its made beautiful by the actions.

Paul when he was teaching Timothy showed the importance of doctrine, he said that Timothy should watch his life (the way he lives) and his doctrine closely, and by doing that he would save himself and those that heard him teach. (1 Tim 4:16)

Wow! The lights come on… Timothy, make sure you follow the instructions in that boat, that why lives will be saved. Paul could have said, “Timothy, the instructions are important, but the boat is a whole lot more then just a set of instructions, the boat is big and glorious and magnificent!” People die on big magnificent things…

But then comes the question…. And questions are vital….. What is the essentials? What pieces does our boat really need?

I may have opinions, you may have opinions, but what did God say?

Paul wrote down God’s out-breathed words and said, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. ( 1 Cor 15:3-7)

Some people say that it doesn’t really matter if Jesus rose or not, some ‘christians’ say that they could continue to be a Christian if this were not true, if Jesus didn’t historically rise. Well.. Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (1 Cor 15:17).

From those verses I see some stuff of first importance, do you?

It seems like Christ dying for our sins is rather important as well as His rising.

Because, he explains, both of those have to do with our salvation, that is, with how man is made right with God

So when someone says, you have to be baptized to be saved…. That’s adding a wrong piece to the boat, that’s going to cause people to suffer and never make it possibly

When someone says that you can get your sins forgiven by saying a prayer, or by eating a piece of bread, or doing good things, that’s not Christ dying for our sins. That’s taking things from other parts of the baot and putting it where its not supposed to be.

We can pray to communicate with our heavenly father whom we love and fear

We can eat bread in remembrance of Christ at communion

We can do good things because that’s why God made us His children, to do good works (Eph 2:10)

But if we take those things and put them where they don’t belong, we can make a very dangerous ship, on that can even make shipwreck of peoples faith (1 Tim 1:19)

In history a man named Martin Luther was on a really messed up ship, but he got hold of a manual and saw how wonderful it was meant to be! He tried to get the people who ran the ship to put the right pieces in the right place, but they wouldn’t. They didn’t understand the things of the Spirit and so they treated Luther like Jesus was treated, the rejected him and even tried to kill him.

This was called the reformation, it wasn’t a time of coming up with new pieces for the ship, it was a discovery that things when they are put in their right place, when the doctrines are understood correctly, leads to having a cruise the way Jesus intended it, the way God revealed it, the most glorious and life giving exciting way. Many people, called ;’reformers’ saw how beautiful this was saw how things were meant to be, and they were so amazed at the beauty of how God revealed Himself in His word that many many many of them died painful deaths, trying to show a so called ‘church’ how the boat was supposed to look.

I’m trying to convey a message to you through these blogs, but I’m limited, my vocabulary, the length of the blogs, my background, but there is a good chance that this blog will not convey all that I intend for you to know. Let me ask you a question:

Do you think God is limited by all of the things that limit me and you?

Is Doctrine that Important/ The Distaste for Doctrine (Part 2)

-THE DISTANCE TO BE TRAVERSED- (Reading part 1 will help)

As a Jesus follower I am a person who is just trying to live the way Jesus lived, to follow Him as he walked, to travel the same distance he did. I know that the path He walked is the absolute best way to walk.

This isn’t a blind faith, anti-intellectual way of living. It’s simply living the way the Creator who proved himself with signs and purity, that He is the best path to follow. Jesus surpasses every other person in all of history in purity, in righteousness, in compassion, in holiness, in wisdom, in Life.

I’m persuaded that loving what Jesus loved is the right distance to travel

I’m persuaded that hating what Jesus hated is the right distance to travel

I’m persuaded that pursuing God’s glory in every situation is the greatest distance to travel

I’m persuaded that being holy is the best distance to travel

I’m persuaded that having the wisdom of God is the best way to travel any distance.

This isn’t ignorant blind following of a random historical person, it’s looking into reality with a strong desire for truth and seeing a man who came back to life, who forgave those who killed him, who overturned tables at a temple, you called religious leaders ‘children of the devil’, who showed compassion on a hungry crowd, who lifted up a crushed adulterous.

When you start traveling the distance Jesus traveled you notice that people start treating you like they treated Jesus, your family might think you are out of your mind (Mark 3:20), others think you are to harsh or hard and leave you, your friends betray you, the majority of people want to kill you.

Not to say that there are not other ways to get people to treat you like that.

Jesus purpose was to show people who God really was… Often people say, ‘If God is real, why doesn’t He just show Himself?’

But God did!

Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)

The Light that came from God is God and the world couldn’t see it – He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him ( John 1:10). Why didn’t and doesn’t the world see the Light that is Christ?

Is it because science has disproved God?

Is it because The Bible is too narrow-minded?

Is it because the church doesn’t reflect God accurately?

Or is it because ‘people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)

Jesus once claimed to be ‘the way, the truth and the life’ what Jesus was saying is rather plain for anyone to see, the way of Jesus is the only way, the truth of Jesus is the only truth, and the life of Jesus is the only real life. I look in a world and I see catholics and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews and Mormons and unnumbered others trying to tell me there way is the right way… And I’d be lost if I had to sift through all those millions of views to find truth, but Christ came into the reality He created and gave me the right to be a child of God (John 1:12).

1Co 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

1Co 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

And then Paul climaxes his chapter with this great statement “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Jesus brought life to dead corpses in sin and at enmity with God

So the distance of Jesus is not about pretty thoughts, its about who He is and what he taught

It about traveling the road as He lived and taught it should be traveled

What we need to ask ourselves is not what sounds cool and noble, but who lives and teaches what Jesus lived and taught

Being right and living righteously are not separable: If a murder has some mental understanding of what is right, that doesn’t change who he is… If someone who gave their life for dying people on the streets of India does it to earn or merit something for them self and not out of a love for God, that is no more vitreous.

John brought right belief and right action together in chapter 5 of his first epistle, he said, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

Notice how he says, those who believe something.. are born again

And then goes on to say those who love other Christians…are born again

The only way to know the truth about reality is to know the truth of God, the truth Christ came to bring us.

Is Doctrine that Important?/ The Distaste of Doctrine (Part1)

A number of years ago, I enjoyed building model airplanes a whole lot, I thought fighter jets were the best (which kid doesn’t?). I remember when my older brother had gone overseas and he sent back this huge birthday present for me the one year, it was bigger then anything I had ever gotten and I couldn’t wait to open it up. To my amazement my brother had sent me a aircraft carrier with like 12 jets on and everything….

I couldn’t wait to get at it and build this huge, dream come true – ship…

I was so into it, I remember waking up real early in the morning to get it done, and I wanted to get it done in the same way my dog wants to eat all his food with one bite, I wanted it done quick cause it was just so cool.

As I got near the end and started putting all the big last pieces on, I noticed that I had a whole lot of pieces left over… Now, to be honest, in my haste I may have skipped over some parts of the instructions. And I wondered if this was going to mess it up after I had spent so much time on it

I realized that as I was building some parts looked so obviously like they would fit here or there and it just made sense that I skipped over parts in the instructions. In the end I had still built a killer ship, it was great and I was satisfied. Looking back I’m glad it was not a real ship or I might have been in a little trouble.

When I say a little I actually mean a whole lot, because its fine to make mistakes and skip things over when it doesn’t effect anyone, but like if that ship was real and I built it, it would have gone no where, maybe only down, with the crew and all. Thankfully 14 year olds are not allowed to build real ships.

As I think back about those fun filled moments with the ship I keep down in the garage, I’m reminded of some of the things Jesus said. I remember he spoke about a guy who is wise and how he should build his house, and then I remembered Jesus explained the story and said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock”

It really made sense, I could build a little model ship, but without following the carefully made manual by the designers I would get it wrong, even if it looked right.

People often question and ask, ‘What is Christianity supposed to look like?’ or ‘What did Jesus want us to do?’

The world are filled with people who claim to know, and try make communities and groups that are supposed to be the real deal, and I wonder sometimes, did these guys read the manual properly, or are they just building obvious parts of the ship?

Its funny, but when people start talking like this. other people seem to get their back up. Like if I was a ship inspector and came in and checked out the ship, I noticed that the connection to the rudder was missing and the radio had no aerial. Imagine how insane it would be if when I was pointing this out to the guys who built the ship they got all upset and said something like, “Cant you just appreciate it’s ship-ness? Are you saying you are the only one who knows what the ship needs? I mean, if I look at that ship out there on the harbor and look at this one, they look the same, ours even looks a bit better! You are so close-minded about ship construction!”

That would be a totally mad situation, not the kind I expect to find. If they ignored my recommendations they would be in real danger if the ship ever sailed out.

What is so fascinating to me as a Christian is that at the center of Christian Faith is the fact that God exists outside of everything we know as well as in it. Paul spoke about this, he said that a natural man doesn’t understand the things of the Spirit, and that the things of the Spirit are foolishness to him. Apart from Christ no one can really know anything spiritually beneficial to them, sure they might build something that looks like a ship, it might even have everything but the little connector to the rudder, but that’s not good enough. I’m not saying that everything is as important as every other thing, but we can agree that some things are essential.

We all have some kind of belief, even if we believe in nothing

The question is not what are you believing, but what are you basing your belief on

Evil is Under God’s Control

As I begin my series on God’s control of all things, including evil we must consider the evidence (as found in His book, the revealed Word, the Scripture, if you don’t agree, check the evidence). When I refer to evil I am speaking about both moral and natural evil. By moral I mean sin, such as lying, stealing, adultery, and all other ways in which people refuse to love each other and obey God. By natural evil I mean hurricanes, floods, disease- all the natural ways that death and suffering afflict mankind. What I am considering in this series, is that God rules the world in such a way that all sin remains in His ultimate control and therefore within His ultimate design and purpose.

I have read a book on a movement, mostly in America, called ‘Open Theism’ this group denies that God has full foreknowledge of the entire future. The denial of God’s foreknowledge of human and demonic choices is a mattress for the view that God is not in control of evil in the world and therefore has no purpose in them.

However, I believe that the Scripture teaches Go is in control of everything, including evil, and thus any view that suggests evil is out of God’s control, not only is wrong (or unscriptural J), but it offers no hope for a world that at times seems to spiral out of control with evil.

Let’s examine the evidence:

Does God control Calamity?

Let us consider the evidence that God controls physical evil, however keep in mind that often physical and moral evil meet, many of our pains happen because of other people or demonic forces decisions.

In Scripture humans life is seen as something God has complete authority over. He gives and takes away life. We do not have life, nor do we have any complete right over it. So it makes sense then that for God to give life is a gift, and to lose it is never an injustice on God’s part, whether it is taken at age 2 or age ninety-two.

Remember how Job reacted to losing his children at the initiation of Satan? He did not say that Satan was the ultimate cause of it. Instead he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” In case we might say that Job made a mistake, the author adds these words, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (v22). And “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10).

In Deuteronomy 32:39, God said, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” When David impregnated Bathsheba, the Lord punished him by taking his son (2 Samuel 12:15, 18).

What about Disease?

When Moses afraid to speak God said to him, “Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:11). In other words behind all disease and disability is the ultimate will of God. Not to say that Satan is not involved- he is probably always involved in one way or another with a destructive purpose (Acts 10:38). But his power is not decisive. He cannot act without God’s permission.

That is one of the points made clear in Job’s illness. The text makes it clear that the disease came upon Job by… “So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” Job’s wife encouraged him to curse God, but he said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?(Job 2:10)” again, the author says, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2v10). That is to say, this is the correct view of God’s sovereignty over Satan. Satan is real and may have a hand in our affliction, but not the final hand, and most defiantly not the decisive hand. James makes it clear that God had a good purpose in all Job’s afflictions, “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11)” So Satan may have been involved, but the ultimate purpose was God’s, and it was “compassionate and merciful.”

We learn this again in 2 Corinthians 12:7, where Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh as being a messenger of Satan, and yet it was given to make him more holy: “So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.” Now Satan’s goal is not Paul’s humility, therefore the purpose is God’s.

There is no reason to believe that Satan is ever out of God’s control ultimately. Mark 1:27 says about Jesus, “And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And in Luke 4:36, “And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” In other words no matter how real and terrible Satan and his demons are in this world, they remain subordinate to the ultimate will of God

The point of the teaching I think is in us to cause humility and hope, humility since we are so small and God so great and some things are far beyond our understanding and hope, since no matter how crazy things get, they are never out of control of a all-wise faithful, good and great heavenly Father

In the next Blog: God’s control of Natural Disasters and all other kinds of Calamities.

I am indebted to John Piper for my clarity and articulation in this: See Desiring God by John Piper.

God Even Works Sin For Our Good

Oh sin, how the believer in time comes to hate it, and how I hate the time that I do not hate it. I do not want to sound in anyway in favor of sinning or sin, it is a most evil and disgusting thing, it destroys lives, it nailed the purest and holiest, the very Son of God to a tree- He that knew no sin became sin for those who are saved. Sin is so evil, so exceedingly sinful that is so corrupts man that he will never be free from it until he dies, it even brings about that death, for the wages of sin are death….

However, for the Christian, there is a blessedness in sin, for we know that God works all things together to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). Can it be that God can even use sin? Well the apostle says, ‘all things’ now, this is not to say we should then sin that God may use it, no, for if we say God uses our sicknesses and suffering, do we go out and make ourselves sick, do we hurt our own body and thus not look after the temple of the Holy Spirit, certainly not. Likewise with sin.

Sin troubles me so much, I often cry out like the apostle in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”… Christian listen to the apostle’s sweet answer, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”(v25a). I have noticed within me, when I fall, and I fall so hard, I am moved I am compelled, either to give-up or to fight! How easy it is to give up, the flesh indeed is weak. Christian don’t waste your sin!

If you have played soccer/football you will know what I am talking about, when you are tackled, you can sometimes feel a fire inside of you that says NO, and you turn and run to get the ball back from the one who took it from you, before he passes it and you are the one who is to blame for the subsequent goal. Or you could just give up and say, “I’m to tired, we will just have to make it up. Or you can wonder what you did wrong, and blame the ball, or the uneven ground.

Christian brothers and sister, it is the flesh, sin within you…. But there is one answer to it. And so when you sin, do not be weary, though I know it is easy, do not blame others, for James tells us when we sin we are led away by our own desires (James 1). Say rather the truth, “Woe is me, who will deliver me from the body of death!!!!

Let me tell you who will deliver you, it is the one who chose you, not because you are attractive, it is the one who saved you to make you glorified, not because you are glorious, it is the one Who became sin for you, Christ Jesus the righteous. So pure and holy, compassionate, tender, meek, merciful to those who come with a broken and contrite spirit. Oh may we Christians ever live with broken and contrite spirits, a spirit that will never trust itself.

Why do I then say sin is blessed?

Look at this list, and I am sure there are more then these, but these are what I have thought up in this short time.

  1. My sin causes me to throw myself again at the feet of Christ, and shows me my utter need for Him
  2. My sin cause me to love and cling to Jesus my savior so much more, for there is nothing good within me, but if I can just touch the hem of His garment I will be made well.
  3. My sin crushes my pride and self-righteousness; it shows me my need for Christ and my lack in myself.
  4. My sin reminds me of what grace and mercy is, and what a truly great gift Salvation is
  5. My sin moves me more to hate it as I see it wickedness, it becomes a fuel to fight it with more and more
  6. My sin makes me love my brothers, for I am the chief of sinners and the least of the saints

Christian fight sin, and let Micah 7:7-9 be your chant of war or your cry for victory as you press on

But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.

I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.

A Conservative Critique of Rob Bell’s ‘Velvet Elvis’

Well again with a book review. Let me say from the outset that i am not convinced that the best way to approach the emerging church movement is by discrediting and trashing their claims (see my blog series ’emergent detergent’), however, for those who are interested, and some of those emergents who are open to conversation with anyone and not just other emergents who say what they want to hear, maybe this can be useful for you (forgive my viscousness there).

I would prefer someone to read the ‘book of shadows’ (Wiccan Bible) or the ‘Koran’ or listen to a Marylin Manson cd then read this book. Why? Well, at least those others let you know that they are bad, at least you know what you are in for, but this book, is so shneaky, so deceitful, it is way more evil (please don’t let that comment put you off from reading further).

Strategically throughout the book Bell reconstructs Christianity in such a way that makes him believable, those of us who are evangelical, reformed, conservative (but however, not this new brand of blind fundamentalist) will half agree with parts of what he says, so for example on pg 21 Bell mentions the time that Christ said that He is the Way, truth and Life, then Bells says that ‘Jesus was not claiming one religion is better then another’. Thats a half truth, there is a negativity connected with religion, however, that does not mean that that is all religion is, James at the end of chapter 1 of his first epistle seems to be very pro religion. However, like the serpent in Eden, (I hope that is not unfair for me to say, just drawing a parallel, not saying Bell is the devil, although I am pretty sure he is inspired by the devil, there is a difference between being mistaken and not having everything right, and teaching outright apostasy)

His entire fist chapter bell uses the analogy of a spring, however, he then takes the analogy of truth and his connections with truth and thus says that doctrines doesn’t really matter, eventually saying that He could still be a Christian if Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin (although he claims he still believes that Jesus was). This is terrible, listen, if God did not invade the real world and be yet different, then there is no hope! If all Christainity is, is a bunch on pretty imaginations and good concepts, then we are doomed, because death and suffering and all other consequences of sin are real life things, not imaginations!

Then on page 27 he says things like God is bigger then the Christian faith. Well that is true, however, that is the only place He has revealed Himself specifically (for a further investigation on this I encourage you to do a study of Psalm 19, notice the change in thought that occurs in the second half of the Psalm).

Bell later talks about questions (pg28), says they are good and healthy, goes on to suggest that churches are generally against people asking them. I am not sure what churches he has been to… However, he stays at the question, he suggests that we relish the mystery of not knwoing things, instead of presenting peeople with the Word of God and godly Bible teachers who God has given as gifts to the Chruch to help us walk and find answers to what God has revealed. I am not saying all answers are easy, but if we stop at just asking qustions that is celebrating our ignorance, and people perish for lack of knowledge.

He misquotes and reinterprets most scriptures, there is not historical-grammatical method happening in his book. In his second chapter he suggest that when Jesus gave the command to bind and loose to the Church, Jesus was telling the church to interpret and reinterpret Scripture. This my friends is the problem, there is no way that is what Jesus meant, now I can go into a whole exegesis of the text with you, or I can just tell you to go and read 200 commentaries by godly men and find one that even hints at that. Actually no, wait, I think i will reinterpret that Scripture now, binding actually means giving a tattoo and loosing means to remove bracelets from people. 2000 years of Church history and this is still the kind of stuff that deceives the church, wow! This is a proof of the doctrine of ‘total depravity’.

on page 67, Bells attacks the teaching of Sola Scriptura, that Scripture alone is our guide, that really tells us where he stands, and I say this respectfully, how he misunderstands Church history. The serpent in Eden also said, did God actually say….

There is much more I could write about this book, however, there are many good crits on it available for those who want to take a deeper look. For me the main point was Bells stance on Scripture, and since thats out, so is anything he writes really. If you have questions or would like me to expand on anything I have written here or elsewhere, just drop a line.

let me close by quoting the Westminster Confession on Scripture:

4. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

6. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and [PCUS that] there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

God, Suffering and Christians.

I have been thinking about suffering. It may be that God is allowing physical suffering to sweep our world in order to shake His Church to the worldwide ravages of spiritual starvation. Our hearts break more quickly when we see a skin-draped skeleton in its mother’s arms than when we hear a missionary say: millions have never heard the gospel and are bound for hell in the wickedness of their worldliness or idolatry. Of course our heads tell us that it is much worse to be happy in this life and in torment for eternity than to be miserable only in this life. But visible earthly misery reaches our hearts more directly. Perhaps God is touching us this way in order that we might feel the horror of spiritual starvation when our heads declare: Do you weep over the suffering of these bodies now?—How much more, then, should you weep over the suffering of soul and body in eternity!

Seeing this in real life:

*An 84-year-old tribesman stands patiently in line waiting for a precious handful of cornmeal. He is only three people from the head of the line when famine strikes its final blow—he collapses and dies. His skeletal body is dragged a few yards away. And the long line shuffles forward.

*A gaunt young mother holds a tiny bundle of skin and bones to her withered breast . . . but there is nothing there. Soon—perhaps tomorrow—her child will be dead, and she will have only bitter memories of unbearable suffering.

*A missionary steps out of his home to find the hunger ravaged corpses of small children at his doorstep—left there in the dark of night by distraught parents.

*At a feeding station, a fine trail of white flour drifts to the ground from a punctured bag. The children who can still move their arms and legs scoop the flour up with dirt and swallow it before the wind can blow it away.

*A gaunt and withered man is shot in the head for his 12-cent bowl of maize porridge.

*In town after town, village after village, local trash collectors pick up the shriveled little bodies of dead children by the ankles and carry them out to their garbage trucks.

Do we stop and ask ourselves anything? Do we feel bad and shrug it off?

These things do not mean God does not exist, if God did not exist then why would we see it as terrible? Why is suffering wrong? We never try to stop one animal suffering in our games reserves, because we see it as a course of nature- survival of the fittest, but why not with humans? why is suffering… suffering? It is suffering because we have an endued worth, the image of God that sets us apart from the animals. The question is not, if there is suffering how can there be God, the question is, if there is suffering, how can there not be a God?

But alas, we are left with the question, why does God allowing suffering, this is a more appropriate question, from the depression I have to the starvation and political strife in Africa, why would God decree it? Well, I think there are many reason, which I will in time elucidate on this blog, however my point today is where we started. Not to the philosophers, or the atheists, or agnostics (all though there is a parable for you as well), but Christians God is showing us the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Should we merely debate theology and go to Bible studies and pray and read our Bible, if all that learning leads to nothing, then is there life (fruit). We need to take share the answer if we so believe He is the answer (Jesus Christ).