Ice Skating Critique

Mainly I refrain from social and political commentary here, but ice skating really annoys me.

First, if you are a professing Christian and you watch men’s figure skating, you need to repent. Present day men’s figure skating is just flat out sin.

Second, the hubbub over the Canadian skater who skated two days after her mom died bugged me too. Christianity Today, of all places, sums up my thoughts better than I could:

” , , , we don’t like to be confronted with the emotions of a grieving person, so we expect the bereaved to function as if nothing had ever happened. It used to be that when someone died in Christian societies, the normal activities of life stopped.”

It used to be that people didn’t participate in Olympics on Sundays, now we do two days after our mom dies. I’m no fan of legalistic sabbath-keeping, but I am a fan of respect.

That is all.

Partakers of the Divine Nature

Self-help has overrun Christian thinking. We’ve replaced Biblical teaching with 8 ways to improve your marriage and 5 ways to pay off the mortgage for Jesus.

This has led to biblical illiteracy amongst professed Christians. Incidentally, it has not seemed to help professed Christians’ marriages or finances either. Go figure.

The real problem is that we’ve cancelled out one of the central tenets of Biblical Faith: regeneration.

Professed Christians are not remotely aware of the fact that they can have new life in Christ. To the extent they are aware of this, they chalk it up to mind games, vision coaching or something. “Think happy Jesus thoughts and you will become a happy Jesus.”

Regeneration is a literal fact and act. You are buried with Christ: old man is crucified with Christ. Dead. Gone. Dealt with. You are raised up to newness of life with Christ. Alive. Present. New.

We are partakers of the divine nature, says Peter. We have all things that pertain to life and godliness because God’s divine power has given them to us.

This is not mind games. This is reality. In Christ you are new. You are strengthened, made alive and empowered to live godly. I understand that our flesh is corrupt, in it dwells no good thing.

But don’t stop there in your masochistic drivelly sorrow! In Christ you are new! Able to please God! Made to do good works!

Christ is powerful enough to save you; He’s powerful enough to sanctify you and change you progressively into the image of Christ from glory to glory. Believe it, reckon it true and act on it.

Hard Scripture

“The hard sayings of our Lord are wholesome to those only who find them hard.”
–C. S. Lewis

I found that quote yesterday and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, except when I went to check if our septic tank was clogged again, then I didn’t think about it. I thought about other things.

It amazes me how often and easily we chuck parts of Scripture because we’ve come to our conclusion on them long ago. We know that part, yah, yah, yah, give me something fresh.

Romans 7 is a hard passage, it just is. Yet I’ve heard so many people flippantly dismiss it, give their answer, and deride you as an immature, carnal Christian for not having equally dismissed it.

We have our systems and flow charts in how to handily dismiss stuff that bugs us. We all have passages that bug us. Those who continue to see them as hard will benefit from them. Those who think they are easy and already answered, will not.

All that being said, there is a time for a sure answer, for a resolution of thinking on a passage. But beware the puffing up of knowledge. It’s always good to review, re-examine where we are in our minds with passages we “figured out back in college.”

The Problem With the Law

In yesterday’s post I said, “The Law is not the issue; your interpretation of it is!” I’m writing this post one minute after writing that line.

I know that many will respond, “The Law is too the issue! It’s what kills me, it’s what Christ had to abolish for me.”

Yes and no.

There has never been a problem with the Law. It is a revelation of God’s righteousness, therefore, Paul says it is “holy, just and good.” Paul’s problem with the Law was not the Law, it was himself, “I am carnal, sold under sin.”

In our current age we feel it imperative to bash the Law. I suggest we be careful with this. The Law was added to codify our sin, to let us know what it is, and yes, it did stir us up to sin.

However, that’s not a problem with the Law–it’s a problem WITH US! Therefore, I will persist in my statement that “The Law is not the issue; your interpretation of it is!”

I will stick with it also because it’s exactly what Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:8, “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” In other words, the Law is not the problem, our interpretation and use of it is.

Legalism and Love

A point I touched on in yesterday’s sermon:

Logically speaking, the opposite of legalism is license. People trapped in legalism often flip-out and go after license–everything goes, let ‘er rip, baby. They will then get upset if you tell them what to do, or point out a commandment of Scripture. “You can’t tell me what to do, that’s legalism!”

However, passages like Galatians 5 teach us that the acceptable alternative to legalism is not license. Believers are still restrained, but not by legalism.

Biblically speaking, the opposite of legalism is love.

Legalism is defined as “a hyper-strict interpretation of a law.” Frequently it misses the point of the law and merely carries it out in the cold deadness of the letter.

Like when you tell your son to apologize for throwing a ball at his sister’s face and he glumly says “I’m sorry” and gives no proof of any sincerity whatsoever. That’s legalism–“I’ll do it cuz you said so but I don’t really want to.” No love there at all.

The opposite of this approach is to actually get the point of the law. Paul tells us that the point of the law is LOVE. Therefore, legalism misses the point; Love nails the point. The Law is not the issue; your interpretation of it is!

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Faith Works

I beg you to listen to my sermon from today. It addresses a fundamental error in evangelical churches. It shows a link between Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, circumcision, infant baptism and “the sinner’s prayer.”

It addresses Galatians 4:21-5:14. It will bore you to tears for half an hour, and then I drop the hammer. I beg you, please, listen and work with me.

Two Types of Christianity

There are two basic views of Christianity in the professing church:

1) Christianity reforms, improves, teaches and helps Self succeed. Christ died on the cross so you could be you, only better.

2) Christianity does away with Self. Christ died on the cross and you died with Him, it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.

Type 1 Christianity is no Christianity at all. It’s self-help with Jesus tacked on. It does not see the suffering and death of Christ as payment for sin, but as an ugly episode on the way to helping God make you all you can be.

Type 2 Christianity is what the Bible teaches. This is it. This is what the whole Bible is about–the getting rid of you and the elevation of the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

Don’t play around with pseudo-Christianity. Take the real deal or quit playing the game. At the point of salvation YOU ARE DONE! This is bad news for your flesh nature; this is complete victory for the Spiritual Man.

O, For A Good Heretic

For Bible Study I have been doing a series on Christology. Each lesson starts with a heresy from Church History that misunderstood who Christ was. Stuff like Socinianism, Nestorianism, Arianism, etc.

In looking at these heresies I have to admire the chief heretics that began them. They were logical and consistent. Every heresy that denied the divinity of Christ also denied the Substitutionary Atonement.

It has to be this way. If Christ is not God then the Substitutionary Atonement can’t be the Substitutionary Atonement. They knew this. It was logical. If A is not true, and B relies on A, then B can’t be true either.

These guys were great heretics. They were not afraid to stand on their issue and be consistent.

Unfortunately, we live in a much dumber age. Today people deny A, but even though B relies on A, they still stick with B. “Jesus was not God, but relax, I still think He’s my Savior who died for my sins.”

“Yeah, but, you can’t. That doesn’t make sense.”

You can’t explain to them that you can’t believe contradictory things. But they do. They go half way in their heresy and quit. I hate that. Be consistent.

Old School Heretics took their stand and were logical about it. Oh for the good ol’ days, when a heretic was a heretic.

What Do You Learn At Church?

Yesterday a child of mine came home from school and told me that she learned about presidents. Great, what did you learn?

It took a concerted effort on my part, for several minutes, to finally draw out something she actually learned.

“It doesn’t sound like you learned that much about presidents.”

“Well, actually, all we did was go on presidentforaday.com and fill in answers about what we would do if we were president for a day.”

This absolutely reminded me of modern Church. Rather than actually learn about God, or the Gospel, or Scripture, we just talk about us and how much we and God think about stuff, and stuff, you know?

We leave church feeling good that we just “learned about God” but in reality all we did was talk about us. Indeed. The public school system may be in rough shape, but it’s on par with our churches.

Intercession Means Action

Back in December I did a post on intercession. My point was that intercession is not just begging God that He will radically change people we can’t stand. Intercession is doing something to help a person.

I came across another proof for my “theory.” Isaiah 53:12 says that the suffering Servant “made intercession.” This is a Hebrew word that is also used in verse 6, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

“Laid on him” is the same Hebrew word as “made intercession.” Christ makes intercession by having our sins laid on Him. He doesn’t just pray for us, make a nice case for us, He went above and beyond and took our sin from us and took it on Himself and paid the penalty for it.

Intercession is much more than thinking of them in prayer: DO SOMETHING FOR THEM. I think you could sum it up with: love your neighbor.

Christ did things for us, this is His intercession for us. Intercession is more than words; it’s action on behalf of others. In fact, without the action, it’s not intercession.

Why “Knowing Enough” Kills

Christians that are content with “just knowing enough” are miserable people.

They know enough to feel guilty. They know enough to enjoy the notion of forgiveness. They know enough to be irritated at sin. They know enough to fear judgment. They know enough to want to enjoy heaven.

Unfortunately, that’s as deep as it goes.

They don’t know what to do with their guilt. They don’t actually know the true joys of being forgiven. They don’t ever know victory over sin. They don’t feel or see the judgment now so it remains ineffectual practically. They know heaven is great but have yet to see it in their lives.

So, why do they stop? Why not learn more? Why not pursue and really know what true Christianity is all about?

Because there is an application of effort to break through the wall of resistance your flesh puts up when truth comes near. Although they think their heart wants freedom, it doesn’t, it’s still trapped in sin. The new life has not yet dawned.

Those who “know enough” are bothered that I said it requires effort because that’s legalism and perfectionism, and so they’ll continue on “knowing enough” to be perfectly miserable in Christ.

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.”

John Piper on Adoniram Judson

Several months ago I did a short post on Adoniram Judson and the letter he wrote to his girl, asking her if she’d like to marry him to go die on the mission field.

She did agree and she did die on the mission field.

Much of the response to that post was along the lines of: Who is Adoniram Judson?

John Piper does biographies of people in Church History and he did a biographical sketch, with application, on Judson. I highly recommend you take a listen.

Baptism and Covenants

I got some edumacation fer ya here. Work with me now, some learnin is bouts to be dropped on ya.

PART ONE: Israel went out of Egypt into the wilderness, passed through the Red Sea, entered the Promised Land where God revealed the Law. If Israel kept the Law, as they said they would, they could stay in the Land.

PART TWO: Israel went out of Jerusalem into the wilderness, was baptized by John, entered into repentant,expectant faith in the Messiah and then Jesus Christ was revealed. If Israel kept faith in Christ they could be eternally saved.

God establishes covenants the same way

1) Had to leave to go into wilderness
2) Had to get wet
3) Needed revelation from God
4) Had to maintain God’s Word (faith, which comes by hearing) to enter into the benefits of the covenant then revealed.

Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 10–People were baptized unto Moses in the Red Sea; we are now baptized into Christ. Israel entered a covenant with God, which they blew and were cut off.

Believers are now in a new covenant with God, we should live this new covenant better than Israel or else “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

I, by the way, did not say this, Paul did. Enjoy.

“Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition.”

Sheep Before Shearers

Sheep before their shearers are silent. I have never experienced such things in person so I did the next best thing–I looked up a video on YouTube about it.

Here is Walter Peak shearing a sheep and demonstrating the silence of the lambs before the shearers. It’s actually called “the sulks.” Watch it, what a great illustration of Isaiah 53.

To get a fuller explanation of shearing sheep in Isaiah 53, take a listen to my sermon from Sunday. Good stuff and it’s supposed to mark our lives too!

Begging Answers

The Bible is large. As I said earlier, mine has 1,566 pages. That’s a lot of information.

Most of our Biblical knowledge is boiled down stuff we’ve heard other people tell us. Most of us have not read the Bible enough to know what it says itself.

Everytime you read the Bible you should have questions and you should seek to answer those questions from the Bible, the rest of what you actually read in it.

If you ask another person you will get one of two things:

1) An over-simplistic answer. “Why did Christ die on the cross?” “Because He loves us.” Now, that answer is not wrong, you can use verses to back it up, but it is simplistic. That’s part of it, but not the whole thing.

2) An over-complicated answer. “Why did Christ die on the cross?” “It all starts with creation and involves the outer reaches of the cosmos in the unfolding of the materialization of the inner workings of God. . . .” Four days later the answer rolls on still not ever touching on the cross.

We need to be careful that when we seek answers we do not settle for over-simple answers, nor should we go for overcomplicated answers that miss the simplicity that is in Christ.

Theology is great. But if your theology causes you to know less, it’s not helping.

Conjecturing on Abraham

Here are a few goofy thoughts I had about Abraham that I will float out for peer review!

1) Ham was the son of Noah that settled in the land of Canaan. The “ite tribes that Israel was later to kick out of Canaan come from Ham. Abram was called to go into the Land of the Canaanites and when he was given that charge, God changed his name from Abram to AbraHAM. Hmmm.

2) Canaanites were bad people and they were all related to Ham. Pork was bad, so is that why they call it ham?

3) Hebrews 11:17 says “Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” Isaac was his only begotten? Really? I understand it’s the only true son with his true wife, but still, that seems to be playing fast and loose with “only begotten.”

Two Gospel Facts

The Gospel is a huge subject. According to my Bible, God wrote 1,566 pages about it. That being said, allow me to share two basic facts you should get from the Gospel:

1) You are more sinful than you could ever imagine.
2) You are more loved than you could ever imagine.

We are not compared to other people or their depth of sin; we are compared to our perfect Father in Heaven. We are all continually falling short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no, not one. In my flesh dwells no good thing.

If I were told to be as perfect as my earthly father, I might have a shot and you might too. But to measure up to God? No way. We’ll never make it.

The first sin of Adam and Eve was to eat a piece of fruit. That’s it. They ate fruit and the whole earth fell into sin. They didn’t murder anyone, they didn’t have an abortion, nor commit homosexuality, fornication nor did they start the holocaust.

They ate fruit.

Not listening to God in any degree is sin and sin deserves death and God’s wrath. We are filthy, sick, sinners. More than we’ll ever imagine.

This depresses us. We get bummed out. Our self-esteem is ruined. We’re in the dirt, grovelling, smelling worm feet. We can’t lift our heads. We’re broken, defeated, guilt-ridden.

But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that we who believe might not perish but have everlasting life. The Son takes away our sin. We, who couldn’t come anywhere near God, are loved!

Why? I have no idea, but we are. I know this because God says so. You are loved more than you could ever imagine. You must believe both points. They are contradictory, but both are true. Lay hold of them, herein lies salvation.

Typical Christian Compassion

Christians are about as compassionate as a box of molten lava, which is like a box of rocks, only burniery. Here’s a typical, albeit completely made up, scenario:

BOB: I got laid off from work. This was a horrible time, we have medical bills to pay.

CHRISTIAN JOE: Pray man, you have to pray. God will provide.

BOB: Yeah, I’m just worried because our son has to go back in for more surgery next month.

CJ: Cast your cares upon Him. He’s the great physician.

BOB: I know, but the lesser physicians charge a lot of money and without my job I don’t have insurance.

CJ: Well brother, God uses these times to test our faith, to make us stronger.

BOB: It’s tough though, you know? Wanting to provide for your kids and not being able to. It’s tough.

CJ: I know this place in Colorado that provides cheap health care to people. You should check them out.

BOB: Do they do brain surgeries for free?

CJ: Not sure. But I know this guy that had a broken finger and they fixed him right up. Only cost $50. You should call them.

BOB: I’m worried about all this. What am I going to do?

CJ: Just pray. Pray and spend time in the Word. Quit worrying that shows lack of faith.

I could go on. You know the scoop and you know I’m not making stuff up. We’re so quick with advice, magic cures, superstitious Jesus will put you on a magic carpet ride to happiness with Disneyland afterwards.

Life is rough. Chrsitians, in general, don’t want to hear about it. If you want to whine, don’t go to them. They don’t want to be brought down man, they’re living high on Jesus.

In the end, this is American churchianity I’m discussing, not true Chrsitianity. American Christians deny reality, living in a pain free bubble of happy thoughts. They barely even listened to your concern before they spewed forth their advice and pandering verses.

Oh Christians, be like your Savior. A Savior who listens, feels compassion, is moved with compassion to help. What good is it to pray or give advice if you don’t do anything?

Herein lies the problem: American Christianity is about being not doing. We talk. We advise. We pander. We lecture. The Lord does the doing, not me, shut up and go to Him. Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.

Love is patient, love is kind. Try it sometime.

Pitfall of Doctrine

Doctrine is teaching from Scripture. Without doctrine we are lost. That being the case, one would think you could never have too much doctrine!

But an out of proportion stress on doctrine can be dangerous.

Substitutionary atonement is a great doctrine, crucial to the Christian faith. But if all you do is hash and rehash the atonement you’ll fall into pits, or at least ruts.

Messages on the substitutionary atonement are very well received. It’s nice to think good thoughts about forgiveness, about God’s love for us. No one has a problem with these themes.

But talking about finer points of doctrine, examining theological nuance, arguing over words and the meanings of words, discussing what everyone from Athanasius to Calvin to Lewis to Yancey said on the subject and endless into the wee hours of the night discussion of Pauline soteriology can completely miss the point.

Practice is also vital. Substitutionary atonement has a very practical side to it: we are saved to walk in newness of life. Christ was our substitute death He is now our substitute life–no longer I who lives, present your bodies a living sacrifice, we were buried with Him and we are raised up with Him, etc.

Everyone likes the atonement/salvation bit, not so much when we talk about practice and the reality of whether the atonement actually happened for you.

I know the Bible wants us to do more than talk doctrine because it does more than talk doctrine. It is highly practical, demanding say in all facets of life. Bible churches are some of the worst offenders of this. Pastors of Bible churches lead the offense. I am one of those. Let our moderation be seen before all men.