The Goodness of God

Whatever comes out of God’s mouth is true, righteous and is the Law. God, having given us free-will (because He has free-will and we are in His image), equipped us with the ability to choose whether we will listen.

Adam and Eve chose not to listen, spiraling creation downward, causing us to be born self-centered creatures desiring to preserve our existence. Our insecurity in this fallen world, which should drive us to God, starts us out fighting for our selves.

Thus, we violate God’s law and continually fall short of His glory. God could have left us there, just thrown us into hell, but instead His love and righteousness provided a way we could be redeemed and brought into right relationship with Him.

In order to do this righteously, God submitted Himself to His own Law, He (in the person of Jesus Christ) submitted to His own Law perfectly, and even took on Himself the curse of His own Law even though He was innocent.

This willingness to submit to His own Law and His own curse, shows us His love for us. God demonstrated this love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

This is the goodness of God on display, and the goodness of God leads people to repentance. He didn’t drop us in a no-win situation, He didn’t dictatorially gloat in His power to condemn, rather He became like us, suffered with and for us, and is now interceding with God on our behalf as one who knows our suffering.

He can relate to us and we can relate to Him.

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Knowing the goodness of God on display through the Gospel, how can we not trust Him? How can we desire to disobey such a good and gracious God? The Gospel demonstrates His goodness and our corruptness: the end result is that we want Him more than we want our selves.

By faith, come alive to this new life in Christ. It is the point. He is The Life. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Happy Easter!

Being Made a Curse for Us

God is the Lawgiver and His Law has declared us guilty. The Lawgiver has the power to save or destroy. In order to be saved by the Lawgiver whose Law we broke, we need help, primarily we need help from the Lawgiver!

A boy comes into his house after school and his mom is baking cookies. There are cookies everywhere and the smell of fresh-baked cookies fills the air with delicious intoxication. Mom says, “No cookies or you get double vegetables at supper!” But the boy can’t help it, in fact, he already swiped one and ate it and it was so good, he waits for his mom to turn her back and he takes another one.

His mom turns around to see him licking chocolate off his upper lip. “You ate cookies? Double serving of vegetables at supper for you young man!” As supper approaches and the smell of fresh-baked cookies is replaced by the awful smells of broccoli, the boy repents in sackcloth and ashes, crying and mourning over his sin and the coming punishment.

The mother, being humble and gracious, feels pain for her son and has compassion on him. “I feel your pain. I forgive you. But what do we do with all this broccoli? I already made the double serving.” The boy looks at his kind and benevolent mother with sad, puppy eyes. “OK, I will eat the double portion of vegetables for you!” She says.

God has demonstrated His love, grace and humility by choosing to submit Himself to His own Law. He was born as a human, humbling Himself and being obedient to His own Law, a great demonstration of His humility and grace. He came to do what His Father commanded.

But not only did He perfectly fulfill all that the Father told Him to do, He went above and beyond even that. There is a whole other side to the Law–punishments for violations–that Christ never submitted to as He never broke the Law.

But the Lawgiver, in unbelievable humility, also took the punishment of His own Law. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree”

He who knew no sin was made sin for us. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree. The wages of sin is death, His Law says. He submitted to His own Law and never sinned, yet He took our sin and took our curse upon Himself.

It’s an amazing thing! When we see what our Lawgiver did for us to redeem us from the curse of His own Law, who can find fault? The Lawgiver is completely benevolent and humble with His law, being righteous with His power the whole time. He is a Lawgiver we can approach knowing His gracious nature. The goodness of God leads people to repentance.

Beauty of beauties. Let this light shine!

Made Under the Law

Yesterday I talked about the Lawgiver being the one with the authority to judge what is right and wrong and also His authority to save or destroy. He judges and His Law declares that we are all guilty, so what do we do?

If a brother takes a cookie from the cookie jar and his mom says, “No cookies!” The boy better listen! He knows the Law and he knows violating the Law will get him busted by the Lawgiver. Mom’s can abuse this power!

If mom says to the boy, “No cookies!” while she takes a handful and shoves them in her mouth, can she do this? She can, she has this authority, but it is rather rude! It demonstrates that she has some issues and is of a messed up heart.

Luckily for us, our Lawgiver is also good, gracious and benevolent! Although His Law demonstrates our guilt that makes us eligible for His wrath, God is willing to forgive.

But how can a just Lawgiver pardon those who offended His Law? This is where the Gospel and the humility of our Lawgiver enters.

God could have given a law, condemned us as violators of His Law and then threw us into hell. He had the right to do so. But if God had created us, put us in a classic no-win situation, where we are condemned before we know it and can do nothing to get out of it, then couldn’t we charge God with not being fair? How is that right?

God, in order to be just and be able to justify the wicked, devised an ingenious plan in which He became part of His creation and was “made of a woman, made under the law.” The Lawgiver submitted Himself to His own Law!

This is phenomenal! It blows the mind. He came not to do His will, but the will of His Father–He submitted entirely to God’s Word, the Law for Him. Amazing humility, but we’re not done yet.

Bobby Knight on God in Sports

“I have a problem with calling God into play for anything competitive–whether asking, or expecting, Him to take sides.

“I’m familiar with the line from Paul in Philippians 4:13–“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”–and I don’t think that advisory had anything to do with the mundane world of basketball, or any competitive sport.

“I did have a player who made the sign of the cross before every free throw. I told him to quit it–not because the act offended me; he was a lousy shooter and I told him he was giving the church a bad name.”

–Legendary coach and one of my sporting heroes, Bobby Knight

There is One Lawgiver

If a brother is dipping into the cookie jar and his sister says, “You can’t have cookies!” The brother will no doubt continue to snatch cookies. “You can’t do that!” The sister protests.

“I can if I want, you’re not my mom!” The boy says as he shoves cookies in his mouth. “You’re not my mom” is a classic kid argument. It’s an acknowledgment that only the Lawgiver needs to be obeyed.

If mom says not to eat cookies, well, that changes things, but a sister? Nope, sorry, sisters have no authority over brothers and brothers know it. Inevitably, sister will then fall back on, “I’m telling mom!” She does this because again, she knows the Lawgiver is the only one with power to judge.

“There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy”

The one Lawgiver is the One Judge. No one else can tell you what right and wrong is except the one who has defined right and wrong. There is no point in conforming to a person’s rules. What good does that do when God is your judge?

The Lawgiver alone will judge between right and wrong as this is His authority. He can save or condemn based on His judgment. He alone is to be obeyed as He alone judges.

This concept is not mind-blowing, even kids grasp this one.

The Lawgiver judges between right and wrong, and, unfortunately for us, we have done wrong. We are under the condemnation of the Law and are condemned by the Lawgiver. What will we do?

1) Talk our way out of trouble?
2) Point the finger at those who tripped us up?
3) Do good to work off the bad?
4) Show how others are worse than you?

These won’t work. We are dependent on the Lawgiver to save us or destroy us. How, oh how will we escape His wrath?

David and His Heart

The heart is an important part of you. It’s the part of you that determines what the rest of you will do and say. It is also what God looks at when He judges.

This seems cool and people generally bring it up to get others to quit judging them. We often use the heart as the great excuse–hey, don’t judge what I do, you don’t know my heart, man.

There is obviously an aspect of this that is true, but the Bible also says you can tell what’s in a man’s heart by watching and listening to him, so it’s not entirely true!

But the fact remains, you can fool people.

David, as we all know, was a man after God’s own heart. David did some fantastic sins in his life and yet was always considered a great example of love for God. Why? Apparently because of his heart. (Although it must be noted that he was still punished for his sins and most of the good stuff said about David’s heart was said while he was a young man!)

As a young man, David was chosen by God because of his internal character, not on externals like Saul was chosen. But even in his youth, when God viewed David as being after God’s own heart, others didn’t see David’s heart that way.

This is what his brothers said when he came to see how they were doing in their battles with Goliath. “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”

Shortly after being described as a man after God’s own heart, David is described by his brothers as having an evil heart! This seems consistent with Jesus as well. he did what was righteous, yet the Pharisees continually saw Him as disobedient and sinful.

People’s opinions can matter, but not always. It takes discernment to find out when they matter. In the end, God judges the heart and it’s a good idea to love Him with all your heart and the rest will take care of itself.

Loving God with the Mind, Soul and Heart

God, who is intellectual, emotional and has a will, created us in His image. Thus, we can know that we have an intellect, emotions and a will.

The Bible speaks of all these things and perhaps one way of viewing them is to see our intellect as the Bible’s term “mind” and perhaps the “spirit” of man, our emotions as the Biblical word “soul” and are will denoted by the term “heart.” Although it is difficult to differentiate between the soul, mind and heart, they are different things.

Here is some biblical proof for such a theory of each word:

Intellect—self-cosnciousness along with consciousness of everything around you. Often referred to with the word “mind” or even the “spirit of man” in the Bible. Romans 7:23-25; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:11-12

Emotion—feelings arriving from actions or thoughts—happiness, sadness, pain, pleasure, adoration and worship. Bible often uses the word “soul” in relation to this. Psalm 42:1-6; 63:5-7; Matthew 11:28-30

Will—self-determination, enabled to originate your own actions. Bible uses the word “heart” to reference it. Jeremiah 17:9-10; 29:12-13; Mark 7:21-23; Romans 6:16-18; Hebrews 3:7-9

To sum it up, Jesus tells us we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. If we use our theoretical definitions from above we could say we are to love God with our intellect, our emotions and our will (our decision making).

God is not looking for 1/3 or 2/3’s love, but all 3/3’s!

It is possible to love the Lord intellectually and with the will, and yet have no emotional love. It is possible to have emotional and intellectual love but it isn’t demonstrated by decision making. It is possible to have combinations of two, but love will be lacking something that God desires.

God loves us intellectually–His intellect is on display in creation, guidance and His written revelation. God loves us emotionally–He rejoices over us, He is grieved by us. God loves us with His will–His will is what has created us to begin with and what instigated the plan of redemption.

We love Him because He first loved us! All three aspects of His love are on display and He is looking for us to return His love in the same way.

Raising Kids

I am a father of three kids, one is 13, one is 11 and one is 9. I like my kids and generally they like me.

My kids also annoy me and I annoy them. Half my stuff is broken and the other half I haven’t seen for three years.

Being a father has been the best experience of my life. I have learned more about myself and about God the Father.

At the same time, I hesitate to use myself as a great example, to tell others how to raise kids because mine aren’t done yet. Pride goes before destruction.

So, I’ll just link to what another guy said and let his kids be ruined by his pride! But seriously, go read this.

How to Show Love in a Day of Entitlement

One of the main themes of evangelism is that we show people the love of Christ in hopes they will be attracted to Christ and ask a reason for the hope in us. There was a day this worked, but I think we face new challenges with the idea.

Being nice to people, giving them money and stuff is rather chic right now. Half of reality shows on network tv are about rich people wowing poor people with extravagance. We makeover people’s houses, millionaires give thousands to homeless shelters, undercover bosses dump rewards on unsuspecting employees and so on.

Governments all over the world hand out free stuff to people to the extent governments around the world are in financial crises because they can’t stop handing out stuff.

Giving away stuff doesn’t even register with people any more. There is even a large portion of our society that believes they are entitled to what they are given and are offended when they don’t get gifts.

In the end, the church can’t compete. My church cannot hand out thousands of dollars to homeless shelters, makeover poor people’s houses or anything else spectacular. Government has taken over in the mainstream conscious as the place you go to for free stuff.

The church is no longer the place people go to for help. Showing the love of Christ, if that means giving people stuff, is harder to do in a society of entitled people and there’s no way Christians can do it as well as reality tv or government.

HOWEVER! There is a way Christians can make a difference and do something that will show love.

Government gives out money cuz it’s not theirs–always the easiest money to give away. They dump money on people and assume their problems are solved, yet we are now entering the come-upins stage of this. They really don’t care, they just throw money at you.

Reality tv dumps money on people and it sure seems they are dumping money on people because there’s an audience. Once the house is made over, where does everyone go? Can they pay the property tax?

The way Christians can still matter is by spending time, not just money. This is tough since every Christian you will meet today will immediately tell you they are “busy.” Everyone is busy. Spending time is the only way to stand out today. Love isn’t throwing stuff at people; it’s taking time to care.

It’s not flashy, no one will make a reality show of you visiting an elderly woman every week for 7 years, it takes forever and, in the end, it still might not work, if “work” means you get attention or some sort of tangible affirmation.

God is the judge, the true rewarder of deeds, and He recommends we show love quietly, no flash, no attention, just a slow, patient continuance in doing well. It’s the only thing that will work while appearing as though it’s “not working.”

Bashing Catholics and How God Judges Who is Saved

So, the Catholics got a pope last week. This brings out the two predominant sides of evangelicalism: 1) The side that has to prove how cool and open-minded they are by saying loving things about the pope and Catholicism in general (even though we “don’t agree on everything”) and 2) the side that will use this as a spring-board to bash Catholicism.

I am of a third camp, probably also predominant, but you’d hardly know it, because we just really don’t care!

One of the things that Catholic-bashing people do is bash Catholics for being fixated on “works righteousness.” There is certainly room for this charge, as there is in any religion, but Catholics, by no means, have a monopoly on such a thing.

The vast majority of Catholics I know are not only not doing works of righteousness, they are quite frankly doing works of who-gives-a-rip. And, again, this is just like any other religion.

Evangelicals have feared works righteousness for many years. It has gone so crazy that some seem to view any good work as actually being a bad work because it means you are thwarting grace. This is silly.

Most evangelicals believe, if not come out and say, that they are saved by faith and by “faith” they mean, “Said a nice thing about Jesus one time when I said I was sorry and asked Him to move into my heart,” or some such thing.

Evangelicalism has gotten so far away from works one would think works have nothing to do with anything. Frequently I have heard evangelicals say that “the only works Christians will be judged on is for reward.”

This is based on 1 Corinthians 3, and Christ judging the works done on the foundation of the church. These works are tested by fire and if all your works are burned up, hey, no worries you’re still saved.

This being the stated case, most evangelicals believe that God’s judgment of them is based on their nice words they spoke one time and that’s it. The rest is optional, if you get around to it, try to do some good, that way you get rewarded, but hey, don’t fret too much! You still get heaven so those rewards can’t be all that great anyway, cuz how can you make heaven more heavenly?

But the Bible contains scary little truths in it when you read it. Will God judge based on a couple words that came out of your mouth at some point, or is He actually paying attention to how you are spending your life?

Evangelicals might be well-served to note that every judgment in the Bible that God does, including deciphering between believers and non-believers, is based on works. There is not one judgment in the Bible where God says He will judge based on good intentions, praying the sinner’s prayer, asking Jesus into your heart, baptism, or anything else other than what your life was spent doing.

As we’ve flipped out against Catholic error–working off sins with religious works, we have wandered into our own error–denying works of any sort. Although both camps desire God to judge us on anything rather than on what we do, God is consistent in telling us what He will judge us on–our works.

Romans 2:6-11
Who will render to every man according to his deeds:To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

Matthew 16:27
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

1 Corinthians 3:13
Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

2 Corinthians 5:10,11a
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men

Revelation 20:12,13
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Colossians 3:23-25
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

1 Peter 1:17
if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear

Christianity’s Tent Pole Franchises

Came across a term the other day I was not familiar with–a “tent pole franchise.”

It’s a Hollywood term. Since it’s so hard to do marketing and get people interested in something new, Hollywood franchises well-known characters to keep their studios afloat, which is why we have a bazillion James Bond, Spiderman, Star Wars, Ice Age and Batman movies.

It’s easier to feed people what they know, it takes out the hard work of winning over an audience to a new concept and also is easier to market for the marketers. Everyone wins!

The problem is that it stifles creativity and risk taking and most will admit that sequels are never quite as good as originals. Perhaps eliminating effort, creativity and work makes Hollywood profiteering easier, but is it heightening the outcome?

The music industry does the same thing with the new boy band spawns and the teen girl “singer” clones. You already know what you’re going to get just by seeing a picture of the singer (Meet the new boss, same as the old boss). Book publishing is doing the same thing. You can actually judge books by their covers now.

Is Christianity doing the same thing? Is it easier for us to label ourselves, our theologies, so we don’t have to do any work? We just attract the people we want and not bother with the work that might be needed to teach actual biblical truth?

Is it easier to name yourself after a denomination so you don’t have to do any work at teaching people what you believe? Is this why so many denominations are splintering, becoming more defined? Each new group grabs a new identity that soon becomes a cookie cutter group.

Is the “New Calvinism” any different from the New James Bond? If we plaster Calvin all over stuff, everyone knows what to expect. Those who like that sort of thing will come and those who won’t, still won’t. It’s easier that way!

The new trend in naming churches anything that has nothing to do with church, seems like it might have been bucking this trend, until now it has become its own trend so now you know what you’ll get when you attend “Woodland Heights Friendship House.”

I suppose, in the end, this is human nature. Stereotyping groups is how our brain is wired. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, as long as the stereotypes are actually true. As soon as I hear “Calvinist,” or any church without the name church and with the word “Friend” in it I immediately pigeonhole.

But I wonder how much our desire to maintain the stereotype of our own group keeps us from truth? This is where the danger comes in. When I have backed myself into my corner where not even truth can get me to come out, when I have to keep doing what I’m doing to make a buck, then we have problems.

I fear this is where most of our Christian Tent Pole Franchising has brought us.

Odd Song Lyric: If I Could Love Myself the Way that the Lord Loves Me

“If I could just love myself, the way that the Lord loves me.”

I actually quoted the song wrong in my post title. Being a good Christian tune, it had to have the word “just” in it.

This little gem is from an 80’s Christian rock song I heard recently. I knew the song from my rocking days in jr high, but I was not very theologically astute at the time. When I heard it today, I paused. “Really?”

The context of the song is about God’s love and how great it is. Can’t argue that point. But why would a guy turn a song about God’s love into being about me loving myself?

One of the points of the greatness of God’s love is that it is so great it encompasses all we need in the love department. As it overflows us, it spreads to allow us to love others.

The Bible never commands us to love ourselves. The Bible commands us to love God and love our neighbor.

Now, I know, you are to love your neighbor as yourself, and “how can I love my neighbor if I can’t even love myself?”

Ephesians 5:29 says, “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh.” We all love ourselves. This is kind of His point about telling us to love others as we love ourselves. He already knows you love yourself! Spend more time loving others!

If we didn’t already love ourselves, He wouldn’t have told us to love others like that!

If I did “love myself the way that the Lord loves me” wouldn’t I become my own Savior then? What would be the point of loving myself the way the Lord loves me?

Perhaps I’m over thinking it and yet again turning a minor deal into a major point, but this statement is very odd.

Which is Better: Spending Time with Family or Church?

What is more important: your family or The Church?

What’s your answer? Go ahead and pick one. Be a man and take sides!

I’m guessing most see family as more important, after all, the first institution God made was the family, not the church.

What is more important: your family or Jesus Christ?

Again, pick a side.

I’m guessing most people would say that Jesus Christ is more important, after all, Jesus said if you don’t hate mother and father, brothers and sisters you can’t follow Him.

OK, I’ve set you up! What is The Church? The Church is the body of Christ! How is Christ more important than your family and The Church not be more important?

So, is the local church The Church? Is taking time to be with family more important than church attendance?

How to Tell the Difference Between Good Good Works and Bad Good Works

So, what’s the difference between non-faith obedience to what God says and faithful obedience?

Ephesians 2:8,9 tell us we are saved by grace through faith and that our salvation is not by works. Paul goes on in verse 10 to tell us we become created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Works are an integral part, they have to show up sometime, the key is: when do they show up?

Israel picked out a few laws to obey: they were fastidious about circumcision, the Sabbath day and their food laws. All of these are external, easy to verify they have been kept or not. They focused on these three and more or less forgot the rest.

They also began to see sacrifices as a way to circumvent obedience while still looking obedient. If the law says, “don’t trip blind guys and bring a sacrifice if you do,” some went about to trip blind guys and just killed some animals afterward and called themselves “good.”

That wasn’t exactly the point! They turned sacrifices into lasciviousness. At the same time, they began bringing more and more defective animals, to the point that God finally said, “Hey, even your governor wouldn’t take this as payment, why do you think I will?”

In the end, God said He prefers obedience rather than sacrifice.

Non-faith law-keeping is based on externals, it is rooted in gaming the system–what can I get away with while still maintaining appearances?

Top 5 ways to identify Non-faith good works

1) If no one is around, your desire to keep the law fades away
2) You’ll do the time after, if you can enjoy the crime now
3) You frequently mention your good deeds to others and mention the faults of others to deflect attention from your faults. Judgmentalism is a sure sign of non-faith good works.
4) Religious duties are done with pomp and ceremony and attention grabbing techniques are employed
5) Works are often calculated and premeditated, requiring much effort and restraint to pull them off

Top 5 ways to identify Faith-driven good works

1) Works are done out of a motivation of love for others, beginning with love for God
2) They often happen automatically as your mind is retaught by the Spirit and the Word
3) Your need for human applause dies and you do good because it’s the right thing to do
4) No one will know, you spend more time figuring out how to be secretive than you do figuring out how to do the act
5) Rather than boasting about what you’ve done, you are more aware of how much more there is to do

These are not all-inclusive lists. In fact, I hesitate to make lists because our flesh desire is to say, “OK, I’ll stop doing list one and start doing list two. Now that no one knows I helped the old lady cross the street, now I know I’m good to go.”

The heart is deceitful! Faith is ultimately wanting God more than anything else. When you and He are on good terms, faithful good works are a natural outflow. When your primary concern is with you, well, expect your works to be self-righteous and vain.

It’s all about wanting more of God, having Christ formed in you, not about you being impressive to you or others. God’s opinion is the one that counts!

Faith, Law and Needing God

I have been making the point that when God speaks, what He says is law. Faith comes by hearing, therefore, faith establishes the law because faith carries out what God said.

But what about Galatians 3:2, 5, 12?

In verses 2 and 5, the same point is being made–do you get spiritual blessing by “the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”

The main problem with Israel’s failure is that they didn’t think keeping the law had anything to do with faith. First, they thought that being given the law was already proof they were God’s people. Therefore, they assumed they were going to heaven just because God gave them the law.

Second, when Israel did pay attention to the law they felt they could do it just fine. They went about to establish their own righteousness by attempting to keep the law without any aid from God. In other words, why bother with faith when we can do it ourselves just fine?

One of the law’s main points is to demonstrate our failure. The law’s insatiable appetite for pointing out failure is to drive us to faith, the schoolmaster that brings us to Christ. Israel didn’t think they needed a suffering Messiah who would be wounded for their transgressions. We have the law, we don’t need God!

Galatians 3:12 says, “And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” Doing the externals of the law doesn’t require faith, even heathen scum can do law-abiding, good-looking things. Just because you nailed a couple law points means nothing.

We don’t live by doing the law, as Paul says in the phrase right before this quote, “The just shall live by faith.”

Faith is living on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It’s a dependence upon Him for sustenance; not an “I aint hungry, I already ate.”

I think the confusion arises when people depend more on the words themselves rather than the One who spoke them. Israel boasted in the law and forgot who spoke the law. They got so enamored with themselves and their abilities, they forgot God.

Gentiles do the same, as we’re all cut from the same cloth, we all have feet of clay, we’re made from the same pile of dirt. We boast about our religious looking, good deed affirming duties and never think of God at all.

The dependence is on us rather than God, and this is the opposite of God’s point. The people of Galatia missed this, as they emphasized their external duties they thought made them look good.

We mess it up today in the opposite direction–making it about us and our non-law-keeping, do nothing Christianity. We prove our non-dependence on God by not adhering to what He says.

We’ve swung from one stupid extreme to another. Both are wrong. We are justified by faith and the just live by faith and faith comes by hearing God’s Word, which results in His gracious provision to form us into the perfect man Christ Jesus and creating us as new creations to do good works. It’s a beautiful thing when understood.

What is the Law of God?

Faith and God’s law are on the same team. Being opposed to faith or law means you are in sin (see yesterday’s post).

“Law” can be a confusing word when trying to interpret the Bible. Law can refer specifically to the Mosaic Law, which was given by God to the people of Israel as the conditional part of their covenant to remain in the Promised Land.

But you must not assume that every time the Bible uses the word “law” it is referring to the Mosaic Law of Israel.

Law can also mean something more “generic.” Psalm 119, the largest chapter of the Bible, is all about God’s Word. Nearly every verse uses a synonym for God’s Word, and frequently the synonym is law, precept, commands, etc.

Basically, whatever comes out of God’s mouth in our direction is a law!

When God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: this was His law for them
When God told Noah to build an ark: that was God’s law for him.When God told Abram to get up and move: that was God’s law for him.

Hebrews 11 recounts all manner of lawful commands God gave various people. Each person in Hebrews 11 did what God said. Why? Because of faith!

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, and the word of God is law.

Today we have the law of Christ–summed up in faith in the Gospel, a faith that works by love because love is the fulfilling of the law!

Faith does not cancel law; faith establishes law. Law is what God says. Faith is hearing what God says, which results in doing what God says.

Faith, Law and What Is Sin?

The Bible defines sin a number of ways. Here are three succinct ones:

1) sin is the transgression of the law
2) All unrighteousness is sin
3) whatsoever is not of faith is sin

Seems to me the middle one is unhelpful unless one knows how to define righteousness. There is only one righteous being in all creation, therefore, righteousness is dependent upon what He says. The second definition can’t be understood without the first.

The righteous God has revealed His law and violating this law is sin. This makes sense and is pretty clear-cut. Righteousness was, in part, revealed by the law, therefore definition one explains definition two.

What about definition 3? Now this is weirder! Does it mean “If I believe I’m right, I am?”

Here’s where things get interesting. According to definition 1 and 3, faith and the law are the same thing.

Let that settle in nice. Pull the warm blankets of reason high and let it snuggle into the pillow of logic.

If sin is defined by law, and sin is also defined by not-faith, then law and faith must be resting upon and revealing the same thing.

No one was ever saved by deeds of the law. People have always been saved by grace through faith. You can’t un-sin yourself and the law only stirs up sinful desires. So faith is a key component of the law.

Allow Paul to pontificate my point:

“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

“Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.”

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

The law is established by faith, the righteousness of the law is not attained by works but by faith, and the law ultimately drives us to faith because without faith it is impossible to please Him.

The fact that Israel misapplied the law and distorted it to a means of working out righteousness, does not mean the law is bad. The proper application of the law is to bring us to faith. Faith is the point of the law.

Thus, the opposite of faith and law is sin, because faith and law are two parts of a whole!

Jesus is the Way to the Father

I have never seen God the Father, nor have you. In fact, the Bible says no man can see God. But God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in a way we can handle. This is primarily done through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ maintains that He is the way to the Father. The Way seems to have a present tenseness about it. Jesus is not the road already traveled, but The Way we are currently on in understanding who God is.

Many people think our dealings with Jesus begin and end with salvation. We ask if people have found Jesus, past tense. We ask if people have trusted Christ, past tense. We ask if people have accepted Jesus into their hearts, past tense and unbiblical.

Jesus is always past tense in our Gospel talk. But Christ Jesus lives today. You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart. Because not only is Jesus The Way, He’s also The Life. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

There’s too much past tense in our Gospel. This is primarily because we view salvation as a get out of hell deal, and very few see it as rebirth into newness of life.

We want our life and we want heaven. God the Father says, “No can do!” The only One acceptable to God the Father is His well-beloved, highly acceptable Son.

The Gospel is not about you. The Gospel is the elevation of Christ and Him alone. Not how Christ makes you great so God lets you into heaven. Not about how Christ molds Himself to our lives. Not about how Christ is a fine fashion accessory to our materialistic lives.

The Gospel is new life. It is present tense because it deals with the present tense, I AM, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, Lord of the living.

Jesus is The Way to the Father. The question is: are you on The Way?

Oswald Chambers on Grace and Responsibility

On the ground of the Redemption I can ‘wash my robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ Pseudo-evangelism has twisted the revelation and made it mean — ‘Now that God has saved me, I do not need to do anything.’

The New Testament revelation is that now I am saved by God’s grace, I must work on that basis and keep myself clean. It does not matter what a man’s heredity is, or what tendencies there are in him, on the basis of the Redemption he can become all that God’s Book indicates he should be.

The essential truth of Christianity in thinking is that I can ‘wash my robes, and make them clean in the blood of the Lamb.” That is the exposition of the Redemption in actual experience.

Complete My Salvation! Are You Kidding Me? Nope

I remember once preaching about “take up your cross and follow me.” A guy had a problem with my message and said, “I don’t have to take up the cross, Jesus did that for me.”

This is a typical modern American “Christian” response. Even though evangelicals tend to be the most outraged by government programs they are taxed for that others take advantage of, they see Jesus as The Great Sugar Daddy in the sky. Suddenly not working and getting benefits anyway is OK when it comes to the Gospel.

An amazing thing happened to me while reading Philippians, I saw something for the first time! What makes it so amazing this time is that the thing I saw for the first time is something I wrote in my Bible!

How could I have written something and not seen it until now? I have no idea. I’m just as confused as you with this.

It had to do with Philippians 2:12,13, the verses that talk about us working out what Christ is working in us. Here’s what I wrote in my Bible at some point that I don’t remember “Two words for ‘work’ are different words.”

Philippians 2:13, “God which worketh in you both to will and to do,” is the common word for work, energeo, from which we get our word “energy.” The sense of the verse according to Vine’s, is that God is at work in us, present tense, giving the idea “to display one’s activity.” God’s active energy is displayed through us.

That’s cool. Here’s where the head explodes though. In verse 12, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” is a different word. Often people let verse 13 cancel out human obligation in verse 12, but this is not Paul’s point as the word he uses for “work out” fascinatingly demonstrates!

Here is the definition of “work out” from Strong’s: “to finish, accomplish, work out fully.” It’s not the energy behind the work but the completion of the work.

Now, hold on buddy! We all know Christ finished my salvation, so just back off! He said ‘It is finished,’ remember?

He did say “It is finished,” but it has nothing to do with the finishing of your salvation. Allow Vines’ to again enlighten us on what this verse is saying:

“There is a saving work which God only can do for you; but there is also a work which you must do for yourselves. The work of your salvation is not completed in God’s work in you. God’s work must be carried out by yourselves. “Whatever rest is provided by Christianity for the children of God, it is certainly never contemplated that it should supersede personal effort. And any rest which ministers to indifference is immoral and unreal – it makes parasites and not men. Just because God worketh in him, as the evidence and triumph of it, the true child of God works out his own salvation – works it out having really received it – not as a light thing, a superfluous labor, but with fear and trembling as a reasonable and indispensable service”

OK, clean up the brain goo on your computer! I love God’s Word! Mostly because it says much better things than most people come up with. Anytime you are receiving a teaching that tells you you’re not responsible, you know you are hearing a doctrine from the heart of man’s deceitful heart.

Cookies, My Mom and Struggle

Chocolate chip cookies have always been a favorite snack of mine. The problem with a good chocolate chip cookie is that they need to be home-made.

When I went off to college I settled for Chips Ahoy cookies, which weren’t horrible but they were not homemade by any stretch.

The mother of my youth had a problem with my cookie eating: She didn’t want me to eat all the cookies so fast. Therefore, whenever I want more cookies I was told “No, they need to last the rest of the week.”

There came a point in my life where my mother said to me, “Jeff, if you want more cookies then go make them.” Somewhat unexpectedly to both of us, I began making chocolate chip cookies. I became quite good at it.

When you make your own cookies there are not as many regulations. My mom can eat cookies whenever she wants because she made them.

This is an important aspect of life. It is easy to consume, not so easy to produce. Kids have it easy and yet they are usually the whiniest among us. They don’t know what cookies cost, nor the pains of having to make them over and over and over again.

As Dr. Forsythe once said, “There is no reality without struggle. If you are not called to wrestle, it is only because the wrestling is being done for you.”

Salvation has been gotten for us by the sufferings of Christ. There are many immature ones who treat salvation lightly, those who merely want the benefits. But the Bible is clear that true faith brings with it struggle, fighting and wrestling.

Christ’s sufferings for us don’t entirely get us off the hook. We are invited to know the fellowship of His suffering, to partake in the afflictions of the Gospel, to fight the fight of faith, and the fact that all who desire to live godly will suffer.

Everyone would love a never-ending cookie supply with no cost, pain or struggle, but not even God supplies that kind of largess. Kids who get everything they want with no responsibility turn out to be spoiled brats, lacking moral qualities due to their detachment from reality.

I imagine some in our hyper-grace and hyper-love Christianity are objecting to what I am saying about Christ’s sufferings, even though they agree with my point about kids! Tomorrow’s post will further explain my thoughts on working out salvation and how Christ didn’t do everything to the point of no responsibility for us.

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Resisting Sin

I want chocolate chip cookies every day. I have two or three at lunch and usually one at 10:30 and usually one around 3. My wife has gotten frustrated with me because she gets sick of making them all the time. “Don’t you ever want anything new?”

“Nope, just chocolate chip cookies.”

What about peanut butter cookies? Nope
What about sugar cookies? Nope.
What about molasses cookies? Nope.
Brownies? Nope.
Mississippi Mud Bars? Nope.
Chocolate cake? Nope. Just chocolate chip cookies.

If only my desire for other things was as strong and clear.

Our tendency is to get sucked into all manner of new things. Israel, delivered from slavery, began whining about the poor food choices in the wilderness. God did not appreciate this. God doesn’t like our unappreciation of His heavenly bread.

We are tempted all the time to do new things, to try some sin.

Want to covet? Nope
Want to lust? Nope.
Want to gossip? Nope.
Want to steal? Nope.
Want to lie? Nope.
Want to fight? Nope. I just want to do God’s will.

We should have a single-minded fixation on doing what God desires us to do. Nothing should sway us from this. Set your face like flint. Come out from among them and be separate and touch not the unclean thing.

Is doing the right thing irresistible enough to keep us from sin?

Chocolate Chip Cookies Prove the Existence of God

I love chocolate chip cookies. They are one of my favoritest things in the whole world. Nothing is more depressing than a good cookie ruined by raisins, nuts, assorted dried fruits or any other-non-chocolate chipped item.

OK, there are actually many things more depressing than that, let’s not go overboard. But it is sad to taste such good cookie ingredients spoiled by nefarious ingredients.

“Nefarious” is the proper word to use there too. It means “offense against divine or moral law.” Indeed.

A good chocolate chip cookie, one that is firm yet chewy, is loaded with chips and yet evenly dispersed amongst the coagulating cookie dough, sometimes with a touch of peanut butter, oh man oh man, is the pinnacle of human achievement.

Chocolate chip cookies are one reason I know God exists. (Other leading reasons why I know God exists are that 1) He said so, 2) I’ve seen childbirth–not the miracle of childbirth itself, although that is spectacularly amazing, but the fact I saw it three times and never threw up–3) my wife–not my wife per se, although she is pretty amazing, but the fact that I was able to find a woman who would marry me–and 4) baseball).

Consider a chocolate chip cookie. They do not grow on trees. They consist of an assortment of ingredients, some from plants and some from animals. Imagine what a good and great God there must be to have created such ingredients!

Well, you may say, evolution could have done that, too. Perhaps billions of years of time filled with chance events could result in the exact ingredients to make a chocolate chip cookie. I suppose mathematically there is a statistical chance this could occur.

But think about it. In order to make a chocolate chip cookie there needed to be all the ingredients and the proper plant or animal to bring them about. Then you need someone intelligent enough to see the possibilities of these ingredients.

Not all chocolate chip cookie baking attempts work out properly. You have to follow the directions, sometimes it’s even important how you stir the dough or when you add the dry stuff and when you add the wet stuff. There is an art to it.

In other words, I’m calling upon Paley’s Watchmaker illustration. In order to create something as excellent as a chocolate chip cookie, there had to be an excellent and good natured intelligent designer.

The odds of chance making a chocolate chip cookie are slim, the odds of evolution making an intelligent person who can collect, organize, refine and mix ingredients to make a chocolate chip cookie are slim to none.

Chocolate chip cookies are proof God exists. You can know by them alone that God is good. “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”

(This post is one good proof of why I do not ever enter into a creation/evolution debate. If the simple logic of this post doesn’t work, hey, I got nothing else!)

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