Knowing God Might Mean Knowing a God Whom You Don’t Currently Know

An article that might mess with you, which, aren’t they the best kind?

“The God of Hebrew Scripture is not depicted as immutable, but repeatedly changes his mind about things (for example, he regrets having made man). He is not all-knowing, since he’s repeatedly surprised by things (like the Israelites abandoning him for a statue of a cow). He is not perfectly powerful either, in that he famously cannot control Israel and get its people to do what he wants. And so on….

“The ancient Israelites, in other words, discovered a more realistic God than that descended from the tradition of Greek thought. But philosophers have tended to steer clear of such a view, no doubt out of fear that an imperfect God would not attract mankind’s allegiance. Instead, they have preferred to speak to us of a God consisting of a series of sweeping idealizations — idealizations whose relation to the world in which we actually live is scarcely imaginable.”

Oswald Chambers on Christ’s Standards

“When once we realize that through the salvation of Jesus Christ we are made perfectly fit for God, we shall understand why Jesus Christ is so ruthless in His demands. He demands absolute rectitude from His servants, because He has put into them the very nature of God.

“Beware lest you forget God’s purpose for your life.”

Addiction Can be Overcome

Overcoming addiction can be a struggle and this should not surprise us. But the hardness of overcoming certain compelling sins does not grant excuse or an “oh well, whaddaya gonna do?” attitude.

Unfortunately, this has been lost. In admitting that overcoming sin is a struggle, some assume that since they are struggling they are fine. Or worse, that since it’s a struggle God doesn’t really expect us to overcome it. “If God wanted me to do it, it wouldn’t be this hard” kind of a thing.

Christians too often assume that faith means open doors and open doors mean everything is smooth like buttered glass, no hindrance or obstacles.

“Fight the fight of faith” means something. Primarily, it means that faith is a fight, it’s not an easy road, which is why few find it and fewer travel on it.

Through the power of the Spirit, the chastening of the Father, the life in Christ, and the corrective nature of God’s living Word, the believer can indeed overcome sin.

One must never lose sight of the victory ahead. Unfortunately, many have given in and grown content with struggle. “This is the way it has to be, Romans 7 says so.”

I do believe Romans 7 is indeed talking about a believer who struggles with sin. I also believe there is victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Addictions can be overcome, and when they are, new addictions will be revealed that need battling next.

It is through the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the Body. As our spirit interacts with God’s Spirit, growth occurs. Two errors arise now:

1) God does it all. This is the “let go and let God” crowd. The idea that we passively sit by and let God do stuff. If you sin, it’s only because God didn’t prevent you from sinning. You just need to try not to not try to sin and as you don’t try you overcome. It’s a self-defeating circle of not trying to not try, which, ironically, focuses your energies on you and your not trying.

2) You do it all. God saves you, gets you out of hell, but you’re on your own now, buddy. You have to isolate yourself from everything, live in a hole, beat yourself, sleep on the floor, it’s all about the body triumphing over the body. Make the list, keep the list, do penance when you break the list.

Faith is often demonstrated in taking two opposing ideas and combining them. In Christ we have all we need to be reconciled with God, to have sin forgiven and inherit eternal life. We are also crucified with Christ, which means we are crucified to the world and we are dead to sin.

At the same time, our flesh is very much alive and still leaning toward sinful tendencies ingrained in us over all our years of fleshly living. There is a part of sanctification that is our doing. But it’s not us doing what we can; it’s us utilizing what Christ has provided.

Yes, Christ makes you dead to sin and alive unto God, but then we have to yield ourselves as instruments of righteousness and not instruments of sin. We have choice. We have sowing and reaping. There is self-control and disciplining the body.

Overcoming sin by faith is not a passive deal. It’s an active usage of the instruments of warfare provided us by Christ. Sin can be overcome. Don’t forget this and don’t give up. Christ didn’t just die to get you into heaven; He died to free you from sin’s power.

Pornography, Christian Advice and the Bible

When it comes to sexual addiction, pornography is Enemy Number One. This is a big deal in our society where sexuality is flaunted everywhere. Pornography is sin. There is no other way to look at it (pun intended).

But let us also know that looking longingly at that girl in the t-shirt ad is also sin. Pornography does not have to be blatant to still be sin. Men are stirred up with pictures; women, as far as I understand it, get stirred up more with dragged out, blah, blah, blah, romance, talky stuff.

So whether you get stirred by t-shirt ads or two hour long romance movies, it’s the same thing. (Although it is interesting there are no adultery commands concerning what a woman thinks in her heart about a man. Oversight or possible point? Or perhaps another proof that we shouldn’t ask too many questions?)

Pornography is addicting. Brain scans show that it releases certain chemicals that drive a guy crazy and makes him want to feel the crazy over and over again. The growing pornography addiction is one that Christianity feels a need to address, and rightly so. But, once again, seems to miss the mark.

Christian porn-defeating advice takes one of these approaches:

1) “You can defeat your porn addiction when you see Christ as your fulfillment in life. When you see that Christ truly answers all your longings, you will defeat porn.”

Is salvation really about Christ fulfilling my fleshly lusts? I don’t think so. I suppose there is some truth in this, but frequently the truth is not communicated well. When I see a t-shirt ad in the sidebar on the weather page, my problem is not that Christ does not fulfill my needs, my problem is that there’s a woman who looks rather attractive and all come-hitherish, and boom, I’m hooked.

2) “Women are created in God’s image and they deserve better treatment.”

Yes, and God is beautiful. The Bible describes certain women as “very fair to look upon.” Which loosely translated means, “she looked hot.” Notice the Bible does not describe all women this way! It’s just a fact, even a biblical fact, that certain women are more good to look at than others. My being in Christ does not change this fact! A spirit-filled man wrote that she was fair to look upon! Even God realizes how good some women are to look at. There is nothing wrong with admitting this fact (although it may be insensitive depending on how such a fact is communicated). Women do deserve better treatment, and, at the same time, women who routinely go out of their way to trip up men should cut it out! Women posing in pictures for the express purpose of stirring up a man are getting the treatment they asked for. This does not get me off the hook, however, but it’s still a fact.

3) Pornography messes with the marriage relationship, general view of women, leads to stupification, and usually ends with guilt and emptiness.

Pornography may mess with you in many ways. I don’t think heaping up guilt on guys who probably already feel guilty is much of a deterrent. They already know this, but when Miss. Come Hither flaunts her goods, a guy isn’t thinking about such things. The power of an addiction is that it overrules rationality. These things are all true and a rational guy knows this, but rationality has little to do with it.

4) Think of the pain you cause your wife. If you loved your wife you wouldn’t do this.

It would be hard to prove that viewing porn was demonstrating love to your wife (although I’m sure some have given it the ol’ college try), but seeing a woman who is fair to look upon does not mean I don’t love my wife, it means I see a woman who is fair to look upon. There is nothing akin to love going on when it comes to porn. This charge is equivalent to telling a wife that when she desires to call the pizza place for yet another supreme pizza to satisfy her pizza craving she is not loving her husband who normally cooks for her. Porn is a physical reaction to a physical urge just like eating, sleeping, lounging, or any other physical urge. It has little to do with loving your wife and much to do with physical lust. (This may make sense to you, but it probably doesn’t to your wife.)

5) Just believe in Jesus really, really, a lot and you will be set free.

Covered this one yesterday.

So, if none of these are the answer (and I’m not fully convinced they are not, or aren’t at least part of the answer), what is the Bible’s answer? It’s the same answer it gives to all sin: stop it!

Defeating sin is a battle. The Bible says we’re in a war, we require spiritual armor. Temptation is the big enemy in addiction. Flee youthful lusts. Know the time and place where this kicks in and avoid it. Stay away from tv, books, computer, whatever it is that kicks you into your spiral and flee, run, resist, get away.

Confess it to someone. Battle it. Flee from it. Resist.

This is the Bible’s counsel on the issue. Why doesn’t it get more air time? Because it’s too hard and practical. We’d rather deal with psychological, feel better about Jesus mumbo-jumbo than do something hard. As Hebrews 12 says, we’re wimps “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Man up and fight!

(The problem I see is that most men who battle pornography don’t really want to defeat it. Wanting to defeat it is a good beginning point, and probably where 2, 3, and 4 above can be helpful.)

Plenty of other people have overcome sin, the great cloud of witnesses, so you fight it, too! No one likes this, sounds too much like works and self-righteousness. Nope, it actually sounds like sound biblical counsel. Sin is a big deal, lay aside every weight of it that slows down the race of faith.

Have you ever strived against sin to the point of shedding blood to flee it? No? Then you’re not doing all you can. Christ is faithful, the Spirit is powerful, the Father is willing to forgive, and you, you who are in the Body of Christ, are fully equipped to resist, so resist!

Everyone wants the magic rabbit’s foot that immediately cures all struggle. Not gonna happen. Fight the fight and run the race, and run it to win, which means controlling your body. Self-control means there’s some control the self has over itself. Self-control is part of the Spirit’s fruit. The Spirit enables the believer to control the self, but it’s not automatic, it’s a battle. One worth fighting. Never stop fighting. Never assume you’ve conquered the addiction–pride goes before the fall. We’re in a war; act accordingly.

Addiction, Christian Advice, and the Bible

Addiction is a tough enemy, one of the toughest I think. Addiction, according to me, is any sin that trips you up regularly. Smoking and drinking get most of the attention, closely followed by pornography, in our addiction ranking system, but eating, anger, bragging, lying, coveting and many other more “innocent” sins are just as destructive as the Big Three.

Christian advice on addiction lacks a certain something. Usually it’s a certain something called “The Bible.”

Perhaps the worst bit of advice is telling the story of your conversion and “after I truly believed, I was set free of smoking. If you truly believe you will be set free, too.”

Couple points:

1) I am glad this worked for you, but your experience is not the Bible. Don’t assume that your experience is normative. Peter was addicted to impulsiveness his entire life even though he believed the Gospel. I know people who tell me that when they got saved they stopped drinking immediately, but still did other sins regularly. Don’t make overcoming one of the Big Three a substitute for all addictive sin. Coldly telling someone to “just believe” makes a mockery of severe trial this person might be going through.

2) Whatever is not of faith is sin. Telling people to “just believe” might, in fact, be true and helpful. Lack of faith is what all sin is. But the just live by faith. We walk by faith, not by sight. Overcoming sin with faith is never once recorded in Scripture as a one-time event with permanent sin-beating properties. Faith is always treated as an ongoing race or battle, not a past tense, dead and gone event that magically cures all ills.

3) It is my contention that initially believing the Gospel begins your battle with sin, rather than ends it. When you truly believe the Gospel, you begin to see sin for what it is. You begin to see how far you fall short of God’s glory and how evil your common behavior actually is. Believing the Gospel does not immediately cure all sin, it opens your eyes to truly see what it is so you know what to overcome. When you eliminate one, you have eyes to see another. Yeah, conversion may have cured your alcoholism, but getting drunk is not the only sin in the world. Your body is filled with many others. Don’t quit the battle before it’s even begun.

4) Those who have overcome A sin at conversion bludgeon all comers who struggle with sin. I’ve run into this enough to know whereof I speak. Why is it that those who overcome one of the Big Three think they have arrived spiritually? Some tell me they know they are saved because Jesus got them to quit smoking. What about Muslims that quit smoking? Are people saved by not smoking? Again, I’m glad it worked for you, but you do not get spiritual guru status making you an expert on everyone’s sin problems. Relax a little. (Maybe go smoke a few.) The fact that so many use overcoming one of the Big Three to buck up those who aren’t quite as arrived as them, is a sign that there’s something very wrong with this advice.

Patience in Spiritual Growth

Being perfect is tough work, trust me, I know.

Being perfect is tough because we live in an imperfect world, just becoming serviceable is pretty tough in this pit.

Christianity has some pretty high ideals: love, forgiveness, grace, charity, sacrifice. We all love those things being shown to us, but when we are asked to do it for others is when we flip.

We make some progress, we slip, we progress, we slip, we get frustrated, we quit, we pull ourselves back up, we progress, we slip, we slip, we get discouraged.

This whole thing is quite tiring and has even caused some to quit and just chuck it for fleshly pleasure.

It is said that for a person to achieve mastery of any skill, 10,000 hours of dedicated practice is needed. That’s a lot. Patience is the word. Seeing the guitar master play an awesome tune is inspiring, we pluck a few strings and give up in desperation. “There’s no way I can do that.”

Growth in Christ is the same thing. It’s another “skill” that requires practice. I know, the Spirit is the one who grants everything we need, but putting it into effect requires something on our part, what Paul referred to as “bringing the body under subjection.”

It takes a long time. Frustration merely shows how highly we view ourselves. Faith in Christ and in His work should be marked by patience. “Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Be patient with the expectations you have for yourself, and especially with those you have for others. Growth takes time. Be patient. Plants grow out of a dead seed, but that plant doesn’t grow to maturity over night.

I write this for me!

Self-Actualization and Jesus

“Self-actualization” is one of those phrases that you hear and maybe use even though you don’t know what it means. To actualize something is to have that thing exist in action, not just potential.

Therefore, self-actualization is you living up to your potential, whatever that may be. Some may even say it’s using what God has given you to its fullest, or being a good steward of the gifts God has given you.

Such phrases are fine attempts to make self-help doctrine seem like biblical doctrine, but I assure you Jesus isn’t interested in your self-actualization.

Rather than being self-actualized, the Bible would have you be Christ-actualized.

We are called to deny self, die daily, be a living sacrifice, and to be crucified with Christ and living the life of Christ.

To be Christ-actualized is to put in action the potential of Christ, which may sound like “be holy as I am holy.”

Your self has no potential apart from Christ, therefore, there is nothing truly worth actualizing in you. Begin by actualizing your crucifixion with Christ, being dead to the world and the world dead to you.

Then follow it up by actualizing the resurrection and living the new life in Christ Jesus that puts to death the old life of the flesh. The Gospel isn’t just what Christ did for you; it’s what Christ is calling you to join Him in.

Oh, if we could actualize that! That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death. This is Paul’s desire; let it be yours.

Balance Kills Faith

Great blog post by Brant Hansen about reckless giving. We love talking about sacrifice and radical this and radical that until it comes to an actual concrete radical sacrifice of money. Then it’s “slow down, slow down.”

Suddenly our desire for radical is replaced with balance.

Balance demonstrates no faith.

Man, someone should write a book about that. Oh wait.

Experimental Sermonizing

This past week in the comment section of a post, there was a discussion of education based on this Ted Talk video about teaching math.

The criticism in the video is that too often teachers give students the answers too easily, they don’t make the kids struggle to get the answer. This facilitation of the answer dumbs the kids down.

The theory is that maybe teachers should not only not give the answer, but also let the students figure out what the problem is. To not make a smooth path between problem and solution. This creates patient problem solvers, people able to discern facts and dismiss irrelevancies. Figuring out the answer then gives satisfaction and fun into learning, teaches critical thinking and develops problem solving and the proper application of knowledge.

The challenge was then put that I should do a sermon like this. Although I’m not entirely sure how that should be done, I tried it out this morning.

You can listen to my experimental sermon attempt here. Let me know your feedback to see if I achieved the goal or how I could do it better. Thanks! And thanks, Frank, for the challenge!

God Didn’t Give You All The Things You Thank Him For

A Thanksgiving repost from earlier this year:


Hebrews 11 talks about people of faith, a great cloud of witnesses showing us how faith is done. The consistency of their testimony is that they lived for another world, a better country.

Christianity has lost its voice. We do not live for a better country, instead we make ourselves at home in this one. We sell out our responsibilities and authority to the government, get wrapped up in economic debates and live as the world does.

This is all very sad. Pretty much every book of the New Testament has a warning about living in and for this world. We are warned over and over that money is the great faith killer, and yet we continue to think we are the few who can serve both God and money.

Furthermore, when we get our material blessings, we thank God for them. I have heard a number of people give thanks to God for landing the job that allows them to live a better sinful lifestyle and ruin their family.

“All good gifts come from above, brother. Praise God for my excessively wasteful house I have.” We are under the impression that faith equals prosperity, oh sure, not crazily like them whack-job Pentecostals, but evangelical Christianity believes God blesses spiritual faithfulness with physical abundance.

It’s why we thank Him for our comforts, don’t ya know.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and  the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

We know these verses, but do we really understand what it’s saying? Allow the ever so correct ESV to put it nicely for you. Notice the “–” in there and the phrase it sets apart, a kind of parenthesis. Read the verse without that phrase once.

“For all that is in the world is not from the Father but is from the world.” Now, specifically He is talking about our lust and pride after the worlds things, the things of the world we are not to love–lust after.

But the things in the world that you lust after for your own pride, when you get those, don’t thank God for them, He didn’t give them to you. You heaped them to yourself after your own lust.

Contrary to Opinion, The World Cannot Be Fixed,

Monday’s post was about Christians thinking there is a solution to Israel’s problems and Tuesday’s post was about Christians wanting to advise others how to solve their problems. These posts are linked.

The link is that we honestly believe we have a shot at doing something of use on this earth. We honestly think we can solve problems. We actually have the idea that we can be helpful.

It’s a nice notion, one that motivates many to enter ministry and poke their noses in everyone’s business. Much of ministry would be eliminated by heeding the Bible’s command to not gossip.

We can’t solve problems. Ask Job. Ask Job’s friends. Ask Moses. Ask Elijah. Ask Paul who was left alone at the end of his life with just one faithful guy, Luke, with him. Where were all those “I am of Paul” people then?

One of the verses we ignore happens to be in the one book most Christians ignore, Ecclesiastes, which says twice “That which is crooked cannot be made straight.”

Yet you wouldn’t know it by listening to us blather on about how to solve marriage problems, raising kid problems, genetically engineered chicken problems, getting out of debt problems, curing hunger, peace in the Middle East, fixing public education, balancing the budget, and on and on we blather on with our know-it-all worthless opinions.

Our words give the idea that the crooked can be straightened merely by shutting up and listening to me. The world is a sinking ship. There is no hope. Read the Book. It doesn’t work! It gets burnt up.

I know this is pessimistic and flies against the social gospel and the do-gooder approach to Christianity, but it’s Bible Truth. “That which is crooked cannot be made straight.”

It cannot be.

No matter how great your ideas are.

It cannot be.

Does this depress you or drive you to Christ and make you cling to the Gospel, forgetting all else and pressing toward the mark? Do we want God, or do we just want Him to make life better? If He doesn’t make your life better, do you still want Him?

The Stupid Advising The Stupid

Nobody has any idea what they are talking about.

I’m serious. Probably even that statement is wrong, how do I know?

The main point of the Book of Job is that it’s best to be quiet, all your advice giving isn’t helping and is from the wrong assumptions anyway.

Yet we continue, not only to give advice, but also to keep taking our problems to others who can’t help.

We are anxious for advice, we want someone to make us feel better, or really just someone who will tell us it’s OK to do what we were going to do anyway, so we can relieve our guilt.

Pastor after pastor tells about all the people he has helped and cured and rescued and saved, and he probably even believes this because the average stay of a pastor at a church is three years. Try sticking around some time and deal with the reality that you have no clue what you’re doing.

I have no idea what to tell people any more. I used to think I did. I talked a lot trying to solve everyone’s problems. “A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?” The more we don’t know, the more we talk.

I have the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what I have. If you come to me for advice, I’m going to give you the Gospel and tell you to figure out what to do based on that. We humble ourselves, submit, love, even die if we have to, for the good of another, and be a living sacrifice.

That’s all I got, which is fine, because it’s enough. I merely wish people believed that.

Israel, Hamas, and Covenant and Dispensational Theology

There is much Christian hububbing going on about Israel currently as they swap missiles with Hamas.

Politically speaking, I believe Israel has a right to defend itself. I see much twisted reporting coming out of the situation, showing Israeli inflicted casualties and no mention of Hamas evil at any point.

One thing that surprises me is the Christian reaction to Israel.

If you are a Covenant Theology person, I don’t understand why you’d give a rip about Israel any more than any other nation. Covenant Theology believes the Church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people, the Church has swiped all the blessings and left Israel holding the curses. Israel is merely getting what it “deserves.”

It makes no sense to me that a Covenant Theology Christian would be moved to defend Israel for any sort of Christian doctrine, other than perhaps mere Christian sympathy.

If you are a dispensational theology person, I also don’t get why you are bugged about Israel. Dispensational theology sees that the Old Testament Covenant with Israel was earthly bound, whereas now we have a heavenly calling–set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth.

Nowhere does the Bible say that Israel will be rescued by Christians or America or any other country. Israel won’t be saved until Christ returns. It is a mockery of dispensational thought for a dispensationalist to desire to want to send missiles to Israel so they can get their land back, when the land isn’t the point anymore.

Christians are not to be entangled with the affairs of this world and I don’t get why so many get fired up about this sort of thing. It’s just another example of how a fallen world continues to struggle and groan, waiting for Christ to return and set it all right.

We need to consider carefully that being called to think on heavenly things and not earthly things actually means something. Israel is another nation that wants to protect itself. This is fine, but it’s not a Christian cause.

But what about the sheep and the goats of Matthew 25? I have heard this repeatedly explained as God’s judgment for how nations treat Israel. It isn’t. It’s a judgment based on how people treat any follower of Christ. The brothers Christ refers to are defined elsewhere like this, “whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother.” Modern Israel is not doing the will of Jesus’ Father.

How we treat the earthly nation of Israel has nothing to do with our stand before God on judgment day (unless, of course, it is sinful). The modern earthly Israel has little in connection with the nation of Israel God established and ruled over.

Perhaps I am wrong. I am willing to be corrected, but I am largely confused by the Christian response to modern Israel.

Righteous Judging and Shutting Up

“And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.”

We don’t know anything and the minute you do, you can rest assured you don’t!

The context of this passage is in light of offending Christian brothers. He says in the same chapter, “And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?”

You and your knowledge are great, you know what you’re doing and why it’s fine. But you and your knowing can cause a brother to perish, to be destroyed. Wow.

We demand our rights. We justify our actions. We know all the verses that give the official OK to our desires. We argue. We fight. We adamantly press on. And people get hurt. People die. Some even go to hell because of what we do.

But hey, as long as I can keep doing my thing, who cares?

God does.

How many of our actions, our arguments, our ideas should be put away so as not to cause offense? Which of our theological bones to pick should we let go? How much of what we say and do should be left unsaid and undone?

Paul concludes this chapter with “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”

Yet how many of us would pull out the verse “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused” and go on eating because we know? Do we hold our views so tightly that we would never be as one under the law to win them? Do we shove the “You need to learn grace” line on them because we know? Or do we use the “you need to be under my law cuz you’re getting carried away” line because we know?

The same standard you use to judge others will be meted out to you.

Man, we should shut-up more.

Judging Righteous Judgment

Righteousness is right.

When we get focused on determining what is right and wrong in others we become judgmental, especially if while we are judging others righteousness we are convinced of our own.

Righteousness is an attribute of God. The Law was an attempt to reveal the righteousness of God, maybe “attempt” isn’t the right word, it did reveal the righteousness of God, but Christ did it better.

The Law codified righteousness, listed out what it was, so we would get an idea of God’s righteousness. Jesus, God in the flesh, lived the righteousness of God because He was God and thus righteous.

We know righteousness now through Christ who revealed the righteousness of God apart from the Law. He revealed it, not in the deadness of the letter, but through the spirit of the law. He picked corn and healed on the Sabbath, both of which violated Pharisaic notions of God’s righteousness, but these acts did not violate the spirit of the Law.

When we have the deadness of the Law written on stone tablets, we are able to judge, “Yup, they did it.” or “Nope, they missed it.”

But if the spirit of the Law is our guide, judging slips away because you don’t know the heart. Judging is ultimately Christ’s work and He will do it well, as He is God and knows righteousness. We are to remain silent in self-righteous judging until then.

Easier said than done.

Exceeding the Righteousness of Pharisees aint that Tough

Doing righteousness that counts is only possible through faith. Once faith is present, righteousness shows up–faith comes by hearing God’s word. Faith is doing what God says. What God says is right, therefore, faith means doing what is right.

When we do what God says because God said it, we are doing righteousness by faith and this is the only righteousness that counts.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Unfortunately, some have concluded that Christ is preaching a works salvation. This is not true and is an incredible misunderstanding of everything He said and did to conclude such a thing.

Unfortunately, others say “and the Pharisees were very righteous, the only way you could have more righteousness than them is if Christ’s righteous deeds were credited to you.” This is also a gross misunderstanding.

The scribes and Pharisees were not righteous people in God’s eyes! They were righteous in man’s eyes though, so if you asked a first century Jew who was the most righteous person they knew, a Pharisee was liable to be named.

But in God’s eyes, nope. Jesus goes on to say “you have heard it said” . . . “but I say unto you.” What they had heard said was human tradition, not God’s Word. The things Jesus says are not new things, not a deeper teaching of the Law, they are what God had already said that they were ignoring!

Christ is calling them to quit going after self-righteousness, a righteousness that appeared righteous before men because it was concerned with the traditions of men.

Instead, Christ is calling them to hear God, His word that abides as long as heaven and earth, and do what God said. Doing what God says is faith. All else is merely filthy rags.

Being Righteous is the Point

Romans 4 is about justification made possible by faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through faith, our sins are forgiven and we are counted as righteous.

Romans 5 follows up the point. again using the Old Testament, to show that what we have in Christ is helpful just as what we had in Adam is hurtful. We had no choice to be related to Adam; there is a choice to be linked with Christ.

Romans 6 then carries it a step further, shows what being linked with Christ results in–doing righteousness. We were crucified, buried and raised with Christ. New life results and brings forth fruit unto holiness with the end everlasting life.

Righteousness is not done by us in the power of the flesh, nor is it irrelevant because Christ’s righteous deeds are counted to you so it doesn’t matter what you do, or the idea that when God sees you He only sees Christ. Hooey on that.

Righteousness is indeed necessary for eternal life, because righteousness is always the fruit of faith. No righteousness? Then there was no faith. No faith? Then there’s no reason for eternal life.

The whole is summed up in Christ. Seeing that you are dead with Him, it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me. How do I know I have faith? Because there is righteous fruit, which grants assurance of eternal life.

Works don’t come first. You can start doing righteous looking things immediately, yet if your old sins are not removed, there’s no point. One must come to Christ for forgiveness of sins made possible through the shedding of His blood, then the new life rises and righteousness results.

Do not have a concordance Christianity, picking and choosing your favorite verses to prove whatever nonsensical point it is you desire to prove. Read the Bible. See the context. Follow the train of thought.

Yeah, it might mean your 5 minutes a day you graciously grant to God are not enough, but your knowledge of Him and the resulting fruits are totally worth more study.

Being Counted Righteous is the Same as Being Forgiven

Romans 4 is the great chapter on justification. Justification by faith is a great thing, our sole lifeline.

Unfortunately, there are many who think Martin Luther invented Justification by Faith, that until the 1500’s no one had ever heard of it. This is obviously not true. Church fathers spoke of it and, of course, Luther claimed to get it from Paul in Romans.

Unfortunately, there are many who think the Apostle Paul invented Justification by Faith, that until 60ad no one had ever heard of it. This is obviously not true. Habakkuk said the just shall live by faith. Romans 4 quotes Genesis and Psalms.

Note Paul’s two citations of the Old Testament:

Romans 4:3 quotes Genesis 15:6, “he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

Romans 4:7 quotes Psalm 32:1, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”

Romans 4:8 quotes Psalm 32:2, “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity.”

Both of these OT quotations are proving Paul’s point that justification (being made righteous) is by faith. But note that they don’t say the same thing!

In Genesis, Abraham’s faith is counted as righteousness, whereas Paul quotes David proving that righteousness is imputed (counted) by merely saying his sins are forgiven.

This should then lead us to see that having sins forgiven is the same thing as being counted righteous. Most have the idea that sins are taken away and some sort of righteous acts are accredited to you. This usually has to do with the righteous, law-keeping acts of Christ being credited to your account.

There isn’t any verse in the Bible that says that the righteous deeds of Christ are credited to you. There is one that says merely having your sins forgiven is the same as being counted righteous! (In fact there’s more than one)

The reason why is because if your sins are forgiven, if you’ve been released from them, separated from them as far as the east is from the west, then you’re righteous. Being innocent is indeed a definition of the term righteous.

If all that you did that was wrong is removed, then you are right! It’s that simple.

However, some say that being innocent might get you out of hell, but it doesn’t result in heaven. In order to enter heaven you have to have righteousness, good deeds, on your account.

This is faulty logic. It seems to imply that salvation is achieved by works of the law–if the only reason I’m in heaven is because Christ kept the law for me, then one must conclude that salvation is by the works of the Law.

Romans 4 says being counted righteous is the same as having your sins forgiven. It’s what we need and it’s precisely what Christ alone can do.

Is Jesus Holding Back God From Killing You?

There is a common conception of God that He really, really wants to punish people. His desire to kill sinners is so strong, He killed His own Son because He couldn’t let sin go without killing someone. Now, Jesus is in heaven, restraining His overbearing, foul-tempered, wanting to kill you Father, holding Him back lest He break forth upon you.

This view usually sees a difference between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. Basically, that not only did Jesus save us, He saved God too, converted Him into being a much nicer, mellower God, a God who might vote libertarian.

This whole notion is wrong (although God still might vote libertarian, who’s to say?).

Does God have wrath toward sinners? Absolutely, anyone who decides to disobey the Creator of the universe is liable for severe punishment.

Did Jesus do something about God’s wrath? Absolutely, if you believe in the Son of God, the wrath of God that abided on you, no longer abides on you.

But here’s the important part: this is not a change in God, it is not a change in His attitude toward sin: it is a change in the sinner.

Being declared righteous means you have no sin. If you have no sin, God has no anger or wrath or punishment coming for you. He is still angry, wrathful and desiring to punish sinners though, and you, being in Christ, aren’t one anymore.

See the distinction? I think it’s a vital one when we try to understand the character of God. God is good. He demonstrated this goodness by offering forgiveness of sin, made possible by the death and resurrection of His Son. This is the everlasting Gospel that God used to save Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter, Paul, me, and everyone in between.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. There is no shadow of turning with God. I AM is His name, He always is and what He always is, He always is. He didn’t change. But by His Gospel, we do.

A Christian’s View of Suffering

OK, so I’ve done a lot of blathering about suffering this week. What’s my point?

Suffering is part of life whether you believe the Gospel or not. Our job is not to try to fix people’s sufferings or cheer them up with banal platitudes, “Oh, don’t worry, everything will be fine.” You don’t know that.

Our job is to comfort, point people to the love of Christ and the consoling arms of grace.

Christ did not come the first time to remove our suffering; He came the first time to suffer with us. He came the first time to show us His love for us, to show us there is something bigger in life than what happens on this planet, to show us there is hope.

Suffering may be the result of your choices or your sin, figure it out and act accordingly. It may also be random acts of goofiness by the fallen world we live in. Suffering is here to point us to God, to show us the evil of sin and the wonders of God’s grace.

Suffering is not a problem to be fixed, but a reminder to pray and to seek Christ and set our affections on things above, not on things on earth.

We are fallen people on a fallen planet and suffering is the result. Get used to it. You’re going to suffer anyway, might as well suffer for Christ.

C. S. Lewis on Tyranny

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.

“The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

“They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult.

“To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

–C. S. Lewis
God in the Dock

Oswald Chambers on Not Trusting People

“If we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give.

“There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why Our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because He knows that every relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster.

“Our Lord trusted no man, yet He was never suspicious, never bitter. Our Lord’s confidence in God and in what His grace could do for any man, was so perfect that He despaired of no one. If our trust is placed in human beings, we shall end in despairing of everyone.”

Denial of Suffering

There is a group of Christians out there who think admitting or showing pain, suffering, or mourning is somehow a bad thing. They refuse to show weakness and do so with a Gospel-veneer.

“Jesus is all the world to me! With Jesus I overcome!” To show pain is to show a lack of faith, a lack of confidence in Christ, or something. I really don’t know, it never made total sense to me.

In the end, this non-pain showing mentality is nothing more than selfishness and pride at work. When we are weak He is made strong, so anyone who refuses to acknowledge mistakes or weakness or doubt or pain is demonstrating how much they don’t think they need God.

Ezekiel was told that his wife was going to die and that he was not to mourn for her. The Bible does say we are not to mourn as the world mourns. But none of this means we are not to show pain or mourning. Ezekiel was an exception and a sign. Not mourning as the world mourns is not the same as saying “don’t mourn,” otherwise “let your laughter be turned to mourning” makes no sense nor does weep with those who weep.

In the end, people who don’t show pain and suffering become lonely because everyone thinks they have it all together, they don’t need me. No one offers to share the burden because you give off a “I’m strong enough for my burden, I don’t need you” vibe. No one will come to you with their weakness either, because you appear too mature to deal with something so trivial as temporal pain.

This is soul crushing. Don’t be tough. If you desire to deny pain, then become a member of the Christian Science church and quit messing around with Christianity.

“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

God Loves You and You’ll Still Get Hurt

Some interesting verses about suffering from Matthew 10 say, in part

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. . . Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

This verse is used to give us comfort. God cares about nearly worthless sparrows, certainly He cares for you. This is indeed encouraging, but let us also not overlook that the sparrow still falls to the ground!

Many view God as a guy who can make problems cease. Health, wealth and happiness are what we can expect when we come to Him, is the way most understand it.

But God’s consolation does not prevent suffering. In fact, according to Scripture, if there’s no suffering there can be no consolation. How’s that for a kick in the pants?

Suffering is what we get down here on this fallen world. What will we do with suffering–let it draw us to God or let it drive us from Him? The choice is yours. Consolation or no consolation, either way, you’re on the ground!

The Sufferings of Christ and Your Sufferings

Another answer Christians give to others suffering is “Just think of Jesus, He suffered for you.”

This is true in one sense. We should always think of Christ and we should also know that He intercedes for us and can comfort us in our pain.

But often this sentiment is said with coldness, “Hey, quit your whining about your leg that fell off and the ensuing gangrenous infection, you know Christ suffered on the cross for you without whining, suck it up.”

Even if it’s not said like that, it often sounds like that to the one being “consoled.” Is this a valid excuse to buck up under suffering? Couple points:

1) I don’t see it in Scripture anywhere. There is a verse that says Christ was tempted in every point like us, but I don’t think this is referring to suffering per se, although He did maintain sinlessness during His suffering.

2) His suffering had a point. I could go through suffering much more easily if I knew it was redeeming creation! But when suffering is just stupidly pointless, it does get irritating.

3) Christ’s suffering, in all fairness, was for a few hours. I mean no disrespect with this, I’m just saying. I know, I know, He had to suffer with all our sins so there was spiritual suffering on top of it all, but still, a guy living with cancer for ten years slowly painfully dying seems pretty harsh, plus the whole pointlessness aspect again. On the other hand, if His suffering was so much worse with the sin, being forsaken part, then it’s not even a fair comparison that way either. I’m sure I’ll get in trouble for this one, but I just don’t see a comparison, nor does Scripture ever hint that we should make a comparison.

4) Heaven and future glory seems to be the one thing Scripture tells us to look at when it comes to overcoming suffering.

5) When the Scripture does speak of partaking in the sufferings of Christ it is referring to hardship brought on by living for Christ–persecution–not cancer and projectile vomiting.

In conclusion, telling people to look at Christ’s sufferings to get you through your own may work and again, it’s never bad to think on the cross. But let’s be careful that we don’t use the cross merely to make a whiner quit whining around us so we can get back to life without being troubled with the whining.

Christianity and Election 2012

I refrain from political comment for the most part, due to the fact that no one agrees with me and I don’t want to argue about it, but I want to make a point and the election illustrates it nicely.

In my opinion, what is happening in America is that people are deciding they’d rather have stuff given to them than work for stuff. As the old saying goes, as soon as people figure out they can vote themselves money we’re doomed. Well, we’ve figured it out. We want handouts; not work and responsibility.

At the same time, we enjoy talking about how America is a Christian nation. I would debate this point if I felt like it, but I’ll go with it to make my point. So put these things together:

America is, or was, a Christian nation
Americans want stuff without having to work for it.

Hmm, any connection?

Uh, yeah.

While Christianity has been in America, American Christianity has gone way overboard on the notion of grace, inventing easy believism and other trite doctrines. There are many, in fact, who would define grace as “getting stuff without working for it.”

What came first–our obsession with grace or our desire to get rid of work?

Shouldn’t Christians be thrilled that America has discovered grace? Yet we seem so angry and upset at all those who want something for nothing. I enjoy reveling in irony and the fact that God is not mocked, you will reap what you sow.

Reap, American Church, reap.

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