Watching the Super Bowl or Go To Church? That is the Question

Tomorrow is the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday always brings baggage with it. There are several issues you hear every year from Christian types. Let’s examine a couple

1) It’s a sin to worship football on God’s Day.
This one gets lots of mileage. It never seems to dawn on folks that Saturday is technically God’s Day, so actually it’s college football that’s evil. Furthermore, the fact that people watch football on Sundays doesn’t mean they have turned from the faith. It means they watch football on Sundays. “Let no man judge you  regarding holy days” is what a guy named THE Apostle Paul said.

2) God doesn’t care who wins football games.
This is usually from the same people who think God cares about all their inane details of life. If God cares about all your inane details of life, does He not care about the details of athletes’ lives? Does He not care about people who are interested in such stuff? Many believe that God is sovereign, has every meticulous detail worked out from before the foundation of the world, but not football? Really? A little consistency here people.

3) People skip church to watch football and that is Satan.
Yeah, well, listen up, newsflash, people have been skipping church for any number of things. Based on some of the excuses I’ve heard, watching football seems fairly legit. If you believe that God will bless you for attending church during the Super Bowl, you might need a refresher course on the concepts of the New Covenant. Furthermore, if you believe you are inherently better than others for having gone to church while others watched football, you might want to examine your pride. If Super Bowl Sunday is one of the few Sunday nights you are in church just to prove a point, you have serious issues.

4) Football is stupid.
Fair enough. I think most of your interests are stupid too. Just because you don’t get my enjoyment of football doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just means it’s different from your enjoyment. God did freely give us all things to enjoy. If your heart condemns you not; go for it.

5) Football is unclean.
Pigs don’t chew the cud. Tom Brady throws deflated pigskins. Do the math. Just made that up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were actually a complaint that some make.

Romans 14 is probably called for here. Don’t flaunt your footballness. If a fellow believer is tempted to skip church because of you skipping for football, I strongly encourage you not to skip. Otherwise, do your thing. Hast thou faith? Have it to yourself before God. I trust the Holy Spirit enough to let Him lead you on this issue.

Or, you can be like my church and never have Sunday night church, then you don’t have to worry about it.

It’s Easier to Prove Faith With Miracles than Good Works

Since so many believers think good works are a bad thing, what do they use to prove their faith?

According to James, good works is what proves the legitimacy of faith. “Good works” doesn’t mean full-time ministry, nor stuff you do in church, but rather doing what God says we should do in our lives. Love is the summation.

But, since we’re stuck on good works being bad and having liberty, which we think means I can do what I want, love seems like a burden. Not much fun to put myself aside for the needs of others. Too much like work.

Instead, one of the main things people use to prove faith is “miracles.”

By “miracles,” I mean what people call miracles. In the Bible, miracles are rare, obvious and astounding, blatant violations of physical laws.

To people, “miracles” are when things fortuitously work out my way. I’ve heard some of the following listed as miracles:

–good weather
–sweet parking spots
–missing an accident by four seconds
–getting your husband to divorce you
–sore throat went away after only three days
–getting an A on a test you didn’t study for

Although any of these things may be nice for you, they aren’t miracles.

The reason I know they aren’t miracles is because everyone claims such things as miracles. If they are truly that common, then, by default, they aren’t miracles.

So, why do people keep saying that nice things that happen to them are miracles? Because it proves their faith. It’s a way for them to talk about how much God loves them.

Since they can’t prove their love for God by their consistent obedience, they claim miracles. This softens their own conscience, “Obviously God loves me, look at how I hit all those green lights through town!”

Much easier than loving people.

Yet many of these “miracles” end up disastrous. The girl who miraculously meets this “great guy,” who then dumps him after a week because he stole her money and just wanted sex.

What happened to your “God thing?” Is your “great guy” still a miracle?

Nope, that one is long gone, faded into the mist, never to be remembered again. Plus, God has now miraculously given her girl friends who “totally get me.” Until next week when they gossip about her and she can’t stand them. And on and on.

Miracles are obvious and not regular. Be sure to differentiate between miracles and time and chance happening to everyone. The sun that shines on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Your attempts to proclaim miracles all over your life is not proof of your faith, nor does it mean God loves you, and mostly it just advertises to everyone that you’re a spiritual fraud.

Will Christ Deny Us If We Deny Him? That’s What He Said

One of the reasons Christians are adverse to good works is because they want to avoid merit. Merit means God looks at what we do and then decides to reward or punish us for what we did.

Grace, to many, means God overlooks all wrong and instead views you as perfect in Christ. Although there may be an element of truth in this, the idea that God no longer sees you is ridiculous.

God is all-knowing and all-present we affirm, but somehow or another He doesn’t see my sin? Riiiiiight.

God is very interested in what we are doing. If it were otherwise, I fail to see how you could have a “personal relationship” with Him.

There are many verses about doing what pleases God. There are many verses that talk about God responding to us based on what we do.

For instance, 2 Timothy 2:11, 12:

It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us

There are some “ifs” to deal with. Ifs are conditional words. “If/Then” statements are cool. They are statements of action and reaction. If I punch your face, then your face will hurt.

If you are dead with Him, then you will live with Him.
If you suffer, then you will reign.
If you deny, then He will deny you.

If you read these statements and are bugged by them, you’ve probably bought into the notion that if/then statements are a “law mentality” thus don’t apply to those under grace.

But Paul tells us not to be deceived, God is not mocked–you will reap what you sow. Reaping and sowing is an if/then idea. This is not law mentality; this is common sense.

There are many who throw in 2 Timothy 2:13 to oppose what Paul just said. Since people don’t like thinking about God denying us if we deny Him (sounds too much like losing your salvation and works), they attempt to make verse 13 contradict and cancel out that scary idea.

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

Here is a typical explanation that attempts to wipe out the warning about being denied.

“So why does Paul start talking about disowning and denying in the second part of the passage? He does it to reinforce his point which is that Christ is trustworthy. Here’s the punchline: since Christ cannot disown himself, Christ cannot disown you! Not ever. You are one with the Lord. His future is your future and his future is very good!”

In other words, they read this as saying Christ won’t deny you, a “believer,” if you deny Him, because Christ can’t deny Himself.

Guess He didn’t really mean what he said then.

I doubt it. Verse 13 means that we are unfaithful people. We say things all the time and don’t do them. Christ isn’t like that, He’s faithful, always does what He says. He can’t deny His own character.

Paul just told you about Christ’s character–He will let people reign with Him if they suffer with Him. He will let people live with Him if they die with Him. He will deny people if they deny Him.

He said it, not me, and He always keeps His word, because He is faithful to His character.

We may not like this. Certainly it is much easier to think that grace means nothing you do matters. However, Christ is the judge, not you, and this is what the Judge said.

I imagine we should respect His character and get moving.

When Good Works Get In The Way

Yesterday I made the point that doing good actually is good. There’s nothing bad about doing good.

But, but, but what about the older brother in the Prodigal Son parable? What about the Pharisees and all their “good works?” What about all those who say “Lord, Lord, look what we did” and He tells them He never knew them? Surely that good is bad.

All of these examples are about one point–works to achieve salvation.

The older brother of the “Prodigal Son” thought Dad owed him for services rendered. He was ticked that the younger, idiot son got “salvation” while he got no reward at all.

The Pharisees thought they were so good because of their works, they didn’t even think they needed a savior, which is partially why they did not recognize Christ.

Those who point to their works on Judgment Day have missed the point. They did good works as a point of pride. Again, they are looking for the payout–look what I did; now where’s my heaven?

All of these people have works in the place of faith. They didn’t need faith, they never saw their need for grace, because they had their works.

No man is saved by works. Boasting about what you do is eliminated.

To take these examples and then tell Christians, “So be careful not to do good so you don’t become like them” is grossly missing the point.

Sure, there should be warnings about the dangers of works apart from faith. But to go to the exact opposite extreme and point to the dangers of works with faith solves nothing.

People go to extremes, it’s what we do. Stop it.

“Faith works by love,” is how Paul puts it. “I will show you my faith by my works” is how James puts it. Both are expressing the same truth–faith leads to works. Faith is hearing God’s Word. God’s Word is largely filled with commands. Faith does what God says.

Faith is first. You must be born again. Apart from Christ you can do nothing. Which then has to mean that with Christ I can do all righteousness. It has to mean that, otherwise saying apart from Christ “you can do nothing” makes no sense.

What would be the point of apart from Christ you can do nothing, if it’s also true that with Christ you can do nothing?

It is through faith in the Gospel, our joining in the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ that we are raised to newness of life. This new life is always marked by being a servant of righteousness.

There is nothing wrong with doing righteousness then. In fact, it is the greatest proof of what right is!

Doing Good Is Never Bad

It is my contention that Jesus Christ wants us to work with what He’s given us. When we don’t, we disobey Him, and we also disrespect the Gospel.

Works don’t and cannot save us. We are saved by grace through faith. This saving faith raises us up to newness of life where we are equipped to fulfill the true righteousness of the law.

However, these works of righteousness are not automatic, we have something to do with it. We are to work out what He has worked in us.

Upon saying this, there are two frequent objections.

1) You are trying to perfect yourself by the flesh.
This comes from Galatians 3. However, Galatians is about people going back to the OT covenant Law of Israel to achieve perfection. Primarily they sought this by circumcision and Sabbath keeping.

No one here is telling you to go under the Law, to be circumcised, nor to keep the Sabbath. Galatians goes on to say we are to fulfill the law of Christ, which is love, demonstrated by bearing the burdens of others.

This is what Christian virtue is all about. It’s the new life in Christ–no longer slaves to sins but servants of righteousness. No longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.

2) You are enslaving yourself to the law!
There is a notion within, at least American Christianity, that freedom means “the ability to do whatever you want.” Although this may be a notion of freedom, it is not biblical freedom.

Biblical freedom is freedom from the law that condemns and kills. Biblical freedom goes further and explains that we are now slaves of righteousness. This new slavery to righteousness, is actually true freedom! We can finally do what pleases God!

For the believer this is untold joy and peace! For the unbeliever, this sounds horrendous. I cringe when I hear professed believers say that serving Christ is bondage. They are missing the point.

There are plenty who teach that life in Christ means you can do what you want and get away with it. They promise liberty, they sound charming, but in the end, all they do is bind you and enslave you to stupid.

There is a reverse legalism at work with these libertine teachers. They make you feel bad for wanting to do good. Good works are suddenly one of the worst things you can do. You are always in danger of falling into bondage to works righteousness.

Which, I mean, how ironic is that!? If nothing matters, why are they always so panicked about people wanting to do good?!

For many of these folks, hearing that someone wants to do good is perhaps the worst thing they can hear. It seems they’d rather you admit to being a crack whore than saying you’d like to give more money to church.

In the end, people like sin. Like, a lot. They also like to feel good about themselves. Since this isn’t possible by sinning and listening to God, they like to surround themselves with people who sin.

Since we’re all sinners, none of us has to feel that bad about it.

Unfortunately, this does a great disservice to the power of God available in the Gospel. Gospel living is desiring and then carrying out good works, all summed up in Love.

Desiring to do good and doing good are never bad. Ever. Don’t buy the stupid doctrines that attempt to prove otherwise. They are wrong.

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

Hey Christians! Get to Work!

Learning requires time and work. Whatever skill you wish to achieve, or what subject you desire to “know,” you’re going to have to dedicate yourself to it and do the work.

Somehow, we think Christianity is an exception.

I imagine that’s because of our aversion to “works righteousness.” Since the Bible clearly says we are not saved by works, we assume Christianity will just happen for us.

This either takes the approach of “Let go and let God” where you just kind of float around and let God take the wheel. Or it’s some sort of warmed over Calvinism that God always does what He wants, so just sit and let Him do His thing.

Either way, or even if there are other reasons, all of them are wrong!

The New Testament is filled with commands to get moving, to get to work, to study, to be sober and watch, to move toward perfection, to purge yourself, etc.

When you look for these verses, you’ll find them all over the place. If you desire not to see them, that is possible too apparently!

In our desire to avoid works righteousness and elevate grace, we end up making human responsibility null.

Then we wonder why we have no fruit. Many lack assurance and can’t figure out why. Many are stuck in besetting sins and can get no victory.

I believe many want to fight these things and legitimately do the work to overcome, but alas, they’ve been told that is wrong. “Just let God do it in His time.”

Therefore, we’ve conveniently blamed God for our mediocrity.

I imagine when we stand before Him on Judgment Day, this line of reasoning isn’t going to hold water.

It is high time to wake out of slumber and get busy using what Christ has provided through His Gospel. Work out what He’s worked in.

Christians are the one people who have been redeemed to do good works. It’s the whole point of being here! It makes us peculiar, because everyone else has no motivation and thus become lazy.

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Love, God’s Commands, and Sin

Love seems to be the only legitimate reason to not follow one of God’s stated commands. I believe this is what is at work when David and his guys ate the shewbread, when the midwives lied to Pharaoh, and when Rahab lied to protect the slaves.

We need to be careful here. Love is the fulfilling of the law, so even the loving act must still be in agreement with God’s character.

(I’m not sure that Rahab and the midwives won’t still be judged as sinning in those lies, based on Romans 3:7.)

In other words, I have heard people attempt to justify their sin by putting a cute, lovey spin on it.

Well, smoking cigarettes keeps me calm, so I have to smoke in order to love my kids.

I have to let loose and get drunk to maintain patience to love my husband.

That kind of stuff.

It is my opinion, that if you have a premeditated violation of God’s law and work your way into a fine sounding justification, you’re probably just feeding the flesh.

Most of the acts that were done in “violation” of one of God’s laws, was done on the spur of the moment. The loving thing to do when confronted about spies was to lie. I doubt she thought about it much beforehand.

Living by faith and testing God are split by a fine line. It’s a line we need to be mindful of, one that ought to make us doubt our reasonings and justifications.

The heart is deceitful. Don’t trust yourself.

When we are sincerely loving others, very little of what comes out of that love is going to violate God’s commands. Love is not a loophole for fleshly living.

Really, what it is is a better glimpse into the mind of God. He is a judge that is righteous, and because of that, one worth trusting because righteousness also makes Him compassionate.

This is a good thing. Go and do likewise.

When Breaking One of God’s Commands is Good

There may be a time and place to disobey a command of Scripture.

The priest gave David and his men some of the sacred bread to eat. This was a violation of God’s law.

The midwives lied about the Hebrews babies, yet they were blessed by God.

Jesus healed on the Sabbath, breaking the long-held rule of not working on the Sabbath.

Rahab lied about the location of the slaves, yet she was protected by God and joined with the community of Israel.

What do all these have in common?

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He said it was to love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.

Love is the fulfilling of the law.

Each of the apparent violations of God’s laws, were really just violations of a command. A command that bends when love is at stake.

If breaking a specific command has to be done to show love to someone, then bend away. Simultaneously, it is possible for a person to keep many commands and yet not ever love anyone.

This is one of the main battles Jesus has with the religious leaders of His day, and a battle He’d no doubt fight with the leaders of today.

People are excellent at missing the point. Find out what this means–God will have mercy and not sacrifice.

You feeling special for keeping rules isn’t the point.

Loopholes to Get Out of Obeying God’s Commands

Think of a broad category of sin and I bet I can find an instance in the Bible where it really wasn’t that bad, in fact, it might have been good.

Sabbath day–Jesus violates it all the time. Israel violates when walking around Jericho. Priests violate it all the time.

Honor parents–unless a person hates mother and father they can’t be Jesus’ disciple.

No murder–Phinehas kills two adulterating people with a spear and gets justified because of it.

Adultery–the woman caught in adultery was released without condemnation. Hosea was told by God to marry an unfaithful woman, thereby making him one with an adulterer, and thus making him an adulterer.

No stealing–OK, struggling to find one on this one! Jesus comes as a thief in the night maybe!?

False witness–midwives lie to Pharaoh and get blessed by God for it. Rahab lies about the spies and gets rescued.

Don’t covet–Paul tells us to covet earnestly the best gifts.

I skipped the first few commandments since they relate to worshiping God alone and not using His name in vain. Although God did “wink at” the time of idolatry the Gentiles were in, I wouldn’t push these commandments.

Having said that, none of the exceptions make the rule less binding. The point is that we do tend to get judgmental about external things, whereas God leaves a little wiggle room for the internal heart at the time.

God blessed the lying midwives and Rahab, will they still be judged for their lie, or will God let it go because they were protecting innocent lives? Romans 3:7 seems to touch on that.

I would never recommend someone go to Scripture with the mindset–let’s see how we can loophole our way out of doing right. At the same time, I don’t think we should entirely eliminate loopholes in the deeds of others.

In fact, that might be the key–don’t give yourself a loophole, but feel free to extend one to someone else. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Nothing I can say here will be the final word on the subject. Just when you think there are loopholes for seemingly good reasons, Uzzah dies for steadying the Ark. Even the loophole theory doesn’t work consistently.

In the end, God is the judge, not you. Chill. Live by faith.

Finding Unity When My Secondary Doctrines Are Better Than Your Secondary Doctrines

There are subjects in the Bible that are “weightier.” It seems that there are indeed primary and secondary issues.

It is important for us to keep the primary in the primary spot and the secondary in the secondary spot. Many church splits are over secondary issues, stuff that wouldn’t be an issue if people were esteeming others better than themselves.

But alas, you can’t really expect the church to do that, can you?!

The problem with defining a secondary issue and a primary issue is in just that–defining. What is a primary issue for me may be a secondary issue for you. The Bible can be of some help here.

The Bible warns about certain beliefs that if you hold them you are heading toward condemnation:

1 Corinthians 16:22—not loving the Lord your God
Galatians 1:8-9—preaching any other Gospel, let him be accursed
1 John 4:2-3—denying that Christ is God in the flesh

The Bible also puts extreme importance on a proper understanding of the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 in particular.

Primary issues then are things relating to the Gospel–who Christ is, justification, bodily death and resurrection of Christ, the fact that you are a guilty sinner in need of salvation, and so on.

However, many people think their other issue is primary in the Gospel. So, even here secondary issues might appear primary. What about baptism? In my mind water baptism is a secondary issue. But for others, water baptism is an integral part of how they think the Gospel works.

I also think Communion, The Lord’s Supper, is a secondary issue. For me it’s something that flows out of a proper primary view of the Gospel. For others, Communion is how you get grace, it’s how the Gospel becomes real.

People can argue about any issue, and there are always people who are willing to die on any hill that arises on the horizon.

Patience and grace should mark our existence together. The Gospel is worth fighting for. If someone maintains that Jesus is not God in the flesh, that’s a problem. If someone maintains that Jesus didn’t cry as a baby, secondary issue, let it go.

The Holy Spirit dwells in all believers and in the corporate fellowship of believers. Christ is the head of the Body. Let them do their work. Give each other time and patience to work it out. Unity does not come by eliminating doctrines; unity comes by mercy and patience.

Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

Faith Implies That You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

The Bible is a large book covering large topics. Typically the Bible gives both sides of an issue, and by faith we decide which side to do at the moment.

Although Christians have typically bashed situational ethics, the Bible is a book largely suggesting situational ethics.

Ecclesiastes 3, for everything there is a season, is just one primary passage on that topic. Romans 14 is another big one. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 is another.

David eats the shewbread that no one was supposed to eat, but if it’s life and death, it’s OK to eat it. Jesus seemingly disobeys the laws of the Sabbath, and He explains why that’s OK.

It’s amusing how many Christians think the Bible is so black and white on everything. It’s funny how many think the Bible makes life easier! The only way you can think that is if you don’t read it.

The Bible explains just how complicated life can be. Faith is what helps us decide which option to choose at the moment.

Religion tries to simplify everything. Human religion is based on conformity. Groups set up black and white rules. At any moment you know exactly what to do. You don’t need faith; you have your rules.

The Bible puts us in the position of faith. OK Lord, what do I do now? Humanity hates that. You know you’re in human religion when you never have to think about anything.

Going on faith, stepping out and obeying God’s Word through the direction of the Holy Spirit, is terrifying.

Believing that life is simple and that problems have simple answers (primarily your answers), you are, and are becoming an idiot.

A recent study on why people believe conspiracy theories concluded that people who believe in conspiracies also are “convinced that the world’s solutions could be easily solved if everyone simply fell in line with your self-evidently correct beliefs.”

There is very little difference between human-religious belief and conspiracy theories. I think when Paul talks about “old wives fables,” the modern version is conspiracy theories.

Life is complicated. You do not have all the answers. God does have the answers, and one of the answers is “Hey, people, you messed up the world. Your problems are unsolvable. You need me to take over. The world won’t do that, so just let Me take you over.”

Die to this world. We are dead with Christ. We are new creations, we know not where we came from or where we are going. We walk by faith, not by sight. You have no clue how to solve the world’s problems and neither does anyone else.

Relax. Think. Be sober and watch. Walk circumspectly. Think about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Are you walking by faith or just doing stuff cuz that’s what someone said you were supposed to do?

Have the faith to go on the narrow way.

Weightier Matters

Jesus Christ rips into the Pharisees at one point by telling them they neglected the “weightier matters of the law.”

While the Pharisees were intricately counting out exactly 10% of their grains, they were neglecting judgment, mercy, and faith. Jesus tells them while swallowing a camel, they strained out gnats.

Is Jesus saying that there are some issues in the Bible more important than others?

Yup.

At the same time, Jesus adds that they should take care of judgment, mercy, and faith, and not neglect their tithe either.

In other words, just because one doctrine is more important than another, doesn’t mean the other is not important at all.

People have the tendency to go to extremes with such things. We find balance by flipping out to the exact opposite polarity. Wrong answer.

The Pharisees took care of the minor issue and ignored the major issue. Flipping out and taking care of the major without doing the minor is also wrong.

This episode shows us the importance of finding the right hills to die on. You can’t fight about everything. Some things come first.

Make sure you pick the right thing to go first! Don’t fight over smaller matters when what’s important is the big stuff.

It’s why Paul said he was under the law to those under the law, even though he himself was not under the law. He just wasn’t going to fight over law issues for the sake of possibly jeopardizing the sharing the Gospel.

If we only had that self-control and that awareness of the needs of others and dropped our obsession with our rights. Lord help us all.

One More Time: Justification Is a Reality, Not Just a Statement

Typically, justification is defined as God making a statement about us. God declares us righteous. It is used as a legal or accounting term. God moves us from one column to another column. It signifies nothing more than God changing His mind about you.

Although this is part of what is going on, it’s far from the whole story. Justification includes the aspect of rebirth that we are made the righteousness of God.

Justify, in the Bible, carries with it the notion of vindication or proving something to be so. When we view ourselves as being justified, it’s more than just God’s mind game; it’s a reality.

I’ll take one verse from Jesus to make the point. When Jesus was being accused of being a bad guy because He hung out with bad people, Jesus said, “But wisdom is justified of her children.

The New American Standard says, “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.

The English Standard Version says, “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

Wisdom eventually shows itself regardless of what immediate circumstances appear to be.

Being justified is a proving of what is true. A declaration, not just in the words of the one justifying, but a proof in the one justified. Remember, declaring a wicked person to be just is an abomination with God. In declaring us righteous, God also makes us righteous.

I think this is an important, yet neglected, aspect of what “declared to be righteous” means. We know a justified person is righteous because there is proof of righteousness going on that wasn’t there before.

Again, to be clear, this is not saying a person is justified by works. We are justified by faith in Christ, His blood, and resurrection.

The result of believing this is being born again, being made a new creation in Christ Jesus, which obviously means we are made righteous, justified.

The new life that flows out of that proves that we have received, or been made the righteousness of God. We no longer live as slaves of sin, but as servants of righteousness with fruit unto holiness with the end everlasting life.

Justification is not a floaty concept in God’s mind; it’s a reality the new life declares.

“Just as If I’d Never Sinned?” Well, Sort Of

Many folks define justification as “just as if I’d never sinned.” See what they did there?

Yeah, cheesy. It is my opinion that all cheesy answers are wrong, just because.

But even beyond the wrongness of cheesiness, I don’t think this definition is adequate. Easy to remember? Yes. States partial truth? Yes, but not adequate to this pivotal word in biblical doctrine.

The majority of the time justif- words are used in the Old Testament, it has to do with justifying the righteous. What is meant is vindication, prove and show to the world that the righteous are God’s people.

At the same time, the OT says not to justify the wicked. This is interesting in light of the fact that we think justification is about saying wicked people are righteous. But this is abomination with God!

When we speak of “declared to be righteous” we usually leave it as a renaming–God says I am right, so I must be, even though I know I’m wrong.

But declare is much more of an action word than a speaking word. Declare and demonstrate are close. The righteous want God to show them off to the world of sinful haters. Put on a show, God! Come to our aid and demonstrate your love for us and not them!

One glaring exception to the common OT usage is in Isaiah 53:11 “my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” The servant we know in hindsight is Jesus Christ, the Messiah. His role was to bear iniquities of sinners and thereby justify them.

The sinners did sin, Christ bore their sins, and took them away to the cross. Through faith in Him we are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ.

So, what does this all mean? Justification is a fundamental change in who we are. “Just as if I’d never sinned” is right, but then it just stops!

Through faith we are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection and are now raised up to newness of life. No longer servants of sin but of righteousness, people with His Spirit in us to fulfill the righteousness of the law.

Justification has a proving aspect in it. It’s the heart of that word “declared.” We, by our behavior, declare God’s righteousness, because through regeneration we are made the righteousness of God.

Justification isn’t just a mind game–you were sinners but abracadabra, poof! It’s as if you never did! Oh no, we did! That’s why Christ died. But Christ also rose again that we might be raised to new life, a new servant of righteousness life.

Justification happens by faith, not by works. You cannot justify yourself. Upon faith we are cleansed of past sin, they are removed, but it goes beyond this! We are then made the righteousness of God, not just in name, but in reality.

The righteousness that then flows out of us is the declaration of our justification we have in Christ. No righteous acts coming forth? Then there is no chance you have been justified. This is James 2.

“Just as if I’d never sinned” is a definition that is content to make my past sins gone. A fine desire. But a saving desire is to now live for righteousness. Many sinners want their sin and guilt removed. Few desire to live for righteousness.

Justification is not just about the past, but about the glorious new life in Christ lived in righteousness.

Justification is More than a Declaration

Justification is more than just a declaration of being right. Justification is about being made righteous.

If you look up the “justif-” root words in a Bible dictionary, don’t be surprised if they say “to be declared righteous.” Usually it is said to be a court room term or an accounting term. You were moved from the guilty column to the innocent column.

This is certainly true, but it is more than that.

To be justified means to be declared right and made right.

Although justification is not the same thing as rebirth, they go together.

Through faith in Christ, we are declared righteous, just as Abraham was. On top of that, we are born again, old things are passed away and all things are new. We are new creations in Christ Jesus.

This is not some head game that God plays in heaven, keeping track of all sinners and putting them in their right columns. This is an actual reality as part of the new birth, being made the righteousness of God.

God gives us His Word that equips us to do good. His Spirit that helps us mortify the deeds of the flesh and bring forth spiritual fruit. The testimony of Christ that we might walk in His steps. The edifying work of the Church where fellow believers help us along.

We are thus equipped to be and do right, not just having been renamed, but reborn!

Vincent’s Word Studies says about “justified” in Romans 2:13 (“For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.“),:

The meaning ‘to declare or pronounce righteous’ cannot be consistently carried through Paul’s writings in the interest of a theological fiction of imputed righteousness.. . . If one is a real righteousness, founded upon his conformity to the law. Why is the righteousness of faith any less a real righteousness?

What this means is that you cannot leave justification as simply a declaration  and have it make sense consistently in Paul’s usage. In other words, if the just were those who did do all the law, then how can the justification of faith be fake? Why would one be actual and the other just in name?

Justification is being made righteous. Being made righteous and being given all that we have by new birth, raised up with Christ, we then bring forth righteousness.

As John so simply says, “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

Justification is more than a name change, more than a change of columns (bad to good) in God’s ledger. It is being made the righteousness of God and now equipped to do righteousness.

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

This does not happen by works, it happens by faith in God’s grace as demonstrated on the cross of Christ. We are equipped to do what God says. If this is not happening in your life, it’s not a matter of more effort, it’s a matter of testing yourself to see whether you are in the faith.

It’s a serious issue, one not to be taken lightly. One that many theologians completely blow. Go with the simple words of Scripture over the theological theories of sinners pretending not to be so bad.

Scientists and Creationists are Both Stupid

Scientists have managed to win the PR battle in the creation/science debate.

One reason why is because Creationists are often very dismissive of scientific stuff and resort to wink-wink, nod-nod belittling humor.

Also, many Creationists should shut up. Just because you read Genesis 1 and 2 a couple of times does not make you an expert on science.

One of the things scientists have managed to do is portray Creationists as biased, blinded, follow the pack idiots. Although this is often the case, Creationists do not have a monopoly in this.

Scientists portray themselves as unbiased observers and proclaimers of fact. It is somewhat stunning how they’ve pulled that off, since it’s impossible to actually do this.

I recently read a for-real, actual scientist say:

But scientists, like everybody else, base most of their opinions on the word of other people. Of the great majority who accept Darwinism, most (though not all) do so based on authority.

This scientist is frustrated by the lockstep acceptance of Darwinism in the scientific community. In his study of biochemistry, he sees no ground for continuing to go with Darwin in most areas. This man is by no means a Creationist either.

He’s frustrated because, fearing they will give ammunition to Creationists, scientists won’t take seriously the scientific challenges against Darwinism.

Science is filled with just as many empty-headed religious people as Creationism is.

Science is supposed to be observation, classification, and explanation of tested facts. Everyone knows this, but the idea that this is routinely being done is silly.

It takes just as much faith to believe Darwinism as it does Creationism. That’s why atheism has become more popular lately. Science knows it needs a religion too, hence the recent invention of atheist churches.

At the end of the day, you have to believe something. Believing people know what they’re talking about is probably the first step to your destruction.

People are idiotsscience and religion hold this as true. Idiots cannot be trusted. Let us agree to begin there, and then do the serious work of figuring out what to believe about life, death, God, and everything else.

Luke 18’s Persevering Prayer and New Cars

I read a book on prayer last week. 150 pages were good. Unfortunately, the book was 270 pages long.

All books on prayer will eventually touch on Luke 18 and the widow who bugs the unjust ruler until he finally gives in to her demands lest she “weary me.”

The word “weary” is actually a Greek word for “to give a black eye.” It’s used by Paul talking about buffeting his body to keep it in subjection. It’s a fighting or boxing word. To pummel.

The application is always:

Don’t give up in your prayers! Wrestle with God! Hang on for your blessing! Keep bugging Him and He will finally relent.

This is a nice try at an application, but I suggest we stick with the application Jesus gave with the parable.

Jesus is not talking about you really, really wanting your kid to get into your choice school, nor is it talking about a new car, or a new job God will give you if you’re irritating enough about it.

Nope. Sorry. You’re just irritating, that’s all.

Jesus explains what the parable means.

It’s about the elect crying out to God because of injustice done to them. The promise is that yes, God will avenge His people for the abuse they take down here. When will He do this? When He comes back.

Unfortunately, when He comes back, will He find faith on the earth?

It seems to me this scene is played out in Revelation 6 when those who came out of Great Tribulation call out to God, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

Yes, we should not lose heart in prayer, but specifically we are not to lose heart in tribulation and persecution. God will avenge. Hang in there.

This isn’t the kind of prayer where you have to gin up emotion. If you have to be told to persevere in your prayer, this isn’t what He’s talking about!

These are people who are beaten down, there is massive injustice, and they want God to take care of it quickly. They cry day and night over it. Not because they were told to do so to manipulate God to do their will, but because they had no other option.

They were in a bad place. Perseverance was natural. They will do it and God will avenge.

Apply the passage the way it was written, and give up on bugging God until you get that Mercedes.

Where Praise and Criticism Come From

Found a good quote from C. S. Lewis about praising God. Lewis explains how he struggled with God asking for praise so often in the Bible. What’s up with that?

When people ask for praise it’s because they are arrogant and needy. Is that what God is? Lewis went on to think that praise is something you naturally do when you like something.

The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses, readers praising their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.

But Lewis also then noticed something about the character of the ones giving the praise.

I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least.  The good critics found something to praise in many imperfect works; the bad ones continually narrowed the list of books we might be allowed to read.  the healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously brought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal:  the dyspeptic and the snob found fault with all.

Praise came from humble and balanced people. God isn’t asking for praise because He needs it; He asks for praise because it means good things from those who can do it.

Yes, God is infinitely deserving of praise, but we’re too stupid to know it. People who do praise God have figured something out. By seeing the bigness of God, they have also seen their smallness.

Humility is a great virtue. Humility means good things are going on in a person. Lewis sums up by saying:

Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.

Lewis grants that there are times when you can’t praise, when things are “intolerably adverse.” But they are rare occurrences.

If we are too quick to criticize, it means there are things wrong inside us, we are not internally healthy. People who always find fault with what others are doing, people who always hate a movie when others all liked it, one who can never be kept happy, is in a bad place spiritually.

Can you be humble enough to compliment something, or do you have to be a snob and show your superiority?

Praise is something that flows from a heart that sees how happy we are to have a God like ours. A proper view of Him, His salvation, His faithfulness to His Word, changes our view of life and all that it is as well.

Humble people praise; proud people tear down.

This is meaningful to me because I find fault too quickly.

See, I did it again. Ah, yes.

Do Atheists and Some Christians Worship the Same God?

Yesterday I attempted to explain why God has to have a problem with sin, why Jesus dying on the cross is necessary, and why repentance and faith are part of the deal.

The discussion began with a question usually asked by someone hostile, or at least ignorant, of Christianity–why can’t God just forgive sins?

It comes from the assumption that God, if He truly loved people, would let them all in heaven and not be so angry about what they did here. It’s an attempt for an atheist type to belittle the angry God of the Bible.

What I find fascinating about this atheistic challenge is that it’s pretty much mainline Christian doctrine at this point!

Fewer Christians are continuing to uphold the doctrine of hell. Many Christians are off on weird things about grace and love that make God into a being who doesn’t care about what we do. (See this little bit of satire)

In other words, the unbeliever’s challenge about God overlooking sin is usually answered with, “Hey, you know what? You’re right! We’d like that better too if God didn’t care what we did!”

Modern notions of grace (I say “modern” because it’s really only been a teaching for the last 75 years or so of Christianity) say that repentance is not necessary for forgiveness. Often going a step further in saying that a Christian can sin all he wants and God lets it go. He can even deny the faith and become an atheist, but if he said the prayer he’s still “in.”

This God is the same God as the God of the atheist’s question above. Neither God minds sin. Neither God is offended or angry. Neither God thinks sin is a big deal.

This is where human philosophy has corrupted biblical doctrine.

Repentance is a change of mind about sin based on your increased knowledge of who God is and who you are in light of that. Repentance says, “Oh, wow, didn’t realize how bad that was. I should stop doing that.”

There is a sincerity about the depth of the grossness of sin that makes one ask for forgiveness.

God puts repentance as a necessary part of salvation. If there is no repentance over sin, then there is no understanding of what sin is, which means there is no understanding of who God is.

Sin is the opposite of God’s character. When we sin we are denying the character of God. If there is no repentance for sin, there can’t possibly be a true knowledge of who God is.

If there is no true knowledge of who God is, how can you possibly believe God will save you? Why even bother with salvation if you don’t understand the depth of sin?

Yet we sinners like to think we’re not that bad. The atheist thinks God is stupid for getting so mad about sin. The atheist wants a God who is more or less non-existent.

Those carried away in “grace” want the same thing. They want a God who lets them do whatever they want with no standard, no responsibility, nothing.

Both want a God who pretends sin isn’t a big deal.

In so doing, both completely undermine God. God has to take sin seriously. The reason why is because God takes Himself seriously.

The day God thinks sin is no big deal, is the day God thinks He Himself is no big deal.

This isn’t going to happen no matter how much sinners want it to.

God can’t just overlook sin, it violates His character. It must be dealt with. The sinner must understand the seriousness of what he just did in light of who God is.

In the end, there’s not much of a difference between the ideal atheist God and the God of many Christians. This is a bad thing, but not too surprising. We really do like our sin.

Why Can’t God Just Overlook Sin?

“Why can’t God just forgive sin without all that Jesus dying on the cross and faith stuff?”

This question is typically asked by those opposed to Christianity. It usually expresses disdain for Christianity, and in some cases actual curiosity about the Gospel.

It’s not a bad question, one that many Christians couldn’t answer based on the poor state of much theology today.

The best way to answer the question is to get specific.

OK, what kind of sin would you like God to “just forgive?”

Child rape seems like a good place to start. A twisted man goes out and rapes a seven-year old girl.

“Oh, that’s OK,” says God. “I love you anyway. No worries! I’ll just act like I didn’t even see that.”

So, who is more worthy of worship:

1) A God who doesn’t mind one bit about seven-year old girls getting raped, feels no outrage at this, and has no desire to set things right. Or

2) A God who is enraged by such grossness, is willing to punish it, but is also willing to forgive and has laid down His life to justly deal with sin, and will grant forgiveness if the offender sincerely repents and desires forgiveness?

The first God has no reason to be worshipped. If sin does not offend God, then we don’t have much of a God.

OK, so child rape is an extreme example, sure we’d like a God who doesn’t like that, but what about little lies, eating forbidden fruit, or off-color jokes? These aren’t that big of a deal, can’t God let those go without getting all hot and bothered?

At what point does sin become not sin? The fact that we who live in the midst of sin aren’t too bothered by sin, doesn’t mean sin is right.

I’d still desire a God who is separate from our contamination. There are some sins that appear more “innocent” than others, less harmful anyway. But when people tell “little lies” to you, or take your stuff you didn’t want them to take, or make jokes at your expense, you don’t like it.

Even you are offended by what others view as “innocent” sins when it is at your expense. How much more is God offended who has a standard of righteousness He died to uphold?

Morality is us lining up with the character of God. God is the source of righteousness and morality. Sin isn’t just bad stuff, it’s a rebellion against who God is.

When David committed adultery he said to God, “Against you and you only have I sinned.” That doesn’t mean he didn’t sin against Bathsheba, her husband, or others, but it means the main issue is with God.

So much so that sinning against anyone else is nothing. Knowing you offended God is the best detriment to further sin.

If God simply dismissed sin He would contradict His character and it is His character that makes Him God.  God has to take sin seriously, there must be a cost, and there must be a remedy.

In God’s full character He does all three. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t be God.

A Leading Cause of Prayer

There are many reasons why people pray, but it seems to me there is a leading cause. I was trying to find a way to express it, and if you know me you know how much I love algebra, so I came up with a formula.

LR+SI=P

Life Realities often fly in the face of Scriptural Ideals. When this happens, Prayer is the result. As an example:

Scripture presents the ideal of patience and long-suffering. This sounds lovely and indeed it is. After reading in the Bible about the peace and stability of patience, we are resolved to meet this ideal. It’ll be awesome! I totally want this!

Along comes life.

School is cancelled due to “cold” and weak people’s notions of what kids can handle. Therefore, after two weeks of unbroken time with my kids, I am now forced to have two more days with kids all shut up in our little house.

Never mind I was looking forward to routine and quiet. It will not happen. So there is singing, jumping, banging, yelling, arguing, fighting, etc floating through the air as I sit in my basement.

Life Reality has met Scriptural Ideals and I Pray.

The temptation is to want Life Reality to change. “Dear Lord, please take these children away, either that or make me deaf and blind.” That seems like the obvious answer. Make God change my reality.

However, might I suggest that the proper prayer is, “Dear Lord, although deafness and blindness are still viable options, as long as I can hear and see, please help me be patient with my reality.”

People like to say that “prayer changes things.” Indeed it does. Often it changes us. Sometimes it changes our reality.

The best answer to prayer is a change in us. Reality shifts all over the place. Even if I were deaf and blind, no doubt I’d get sick of people touching me.

Life Reality will always exist. It’s a fallen world and there aint any perfection here. Therefore, my sincere desire is for Scriptural Ideals to be made real in me, so that no matter what Life may throw at me, I am equipped to handle it.

I believe this should be our prayer. Not so much for all pain to be healed, but for strength to bear the pain. Not so much for inconvenience to go away, but for me to be patient. Not so much for money to appear, but for me to be content.

I believe this is the Scriptural Ideal. I believe we ought to pray for this to be real.

Selfish Ambition and Love

It’s amazing how much selfishness gets blamed on love.

I have heard many athletes say that they train so hard because they love their wife and kids. Yet all their training they do is alone away from home, but it’s somehow or another done for love for those they are ignoring.

I have heard several mountain climbers say they summit their huge mountain because of love for wife and kids, to get back to them, because for all the months they are gone climbing their family is not with them.

I have heard many successful business people say they work long hours because they love their family, even though those long hours take them away from their family.

This is a very odd notion of love: I’m doing what I want away from you to show you my love for you.

Not too shockingly, many of these folks have multiple marriages since, for some odd reason, their marriages don’t work out well.

All of this seems akin to Christians and their professed love for God.

No, we don’t do anything God says really, and no, we don’t spend any time “with Him,” but hey, look at all these cool things I did that I did for you!

Many a large ministry is done “for God” even though it violates many of God’s commands.

Many a minister has a broken family because he was busy being busy in what he felt was busy for God, but was actually just his ego trying to be impressive.

Many a church schedule is filled with things God never mentioned, while what He did command never seems to make the to-do-list.

Jesus says that on Judgment Day many will call Him Lord and will have all kinds of impressive deeds to point to. “Look at all I did away from you! But it was all for you and my great love for you!”

Jesus tells them to go away, all they did was work iniquity.

How much of your religion is merely egotistical achievement you do to feel better than others?

What are you actually doing out of humble obedience compared to how much you are doing out of prideful ambition?

Are we doing the commands of God or the traditions of men? Doing what looks good to man and calling that “good enough” for God?

So much of true faith is done in secret, stuff no one even knows about. If you only serve God when people are watching, when Facebook posts can advertise it, or when attention can be grabbed, you’re way off.

Go home. Spend time with God. Don’t let your left hand know what the right is doing. Obey God in silence. Let your Father in heaven reward you, not the people on earth.

If you love God, He’ll know. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else knows.

On Reading Christian Authors

In 2014 I read 30 theological books, plus about 60 other kinds of books.

Some of these books are written by academic theologians (professors), while others are written by pastors, and some just by general Christians.

I like to read professors of theology because they really do some thinking. They will take a word or phrase and write a whole book on it and come up with stuff my brain would never come up with. They also have a way of quoting other smart guys, opening up new thoughts and resources.

I like to read pastors because I am one and can relate to much of what they say. They tend to be heavy on application, showing how these scriptural truths can be put into action, something most professors never touch.

I like to read “laymen” because they tend to have fresh approaches, new angles and insights, often related to other subjects that shine new light on oft rehashed verses. Hearing a voice from outside the walls can be very enlightening.

I do not like reading professors because in all their genius, they are some of the most clueless people I’ve ever met. They have spent so much time thinking in their heads and so little in the actual world of people that much of what they come up with is asinine. Much of the rest of what they write is so thick and jargoned it’s hard to tell what the point is. Plus end-notes. I hate end-notes.

I do not like reading pastors because they are often one issue people. Everything has to do with that one thing they like talking about. This often keeps them from seeing what the actual point of a verse is. There emphasis on application often leads to incredibly ridiculous applications. Many pastors are hyper-sensitive and defensive resulting in pages written to prove some point that has nothing to do with anything. There is also a disturbing trend among pastors to be trendy and hip, which I hate.

I do not like reading laymen because they frequently have no clue. They probably have a fresh insight, which is then ruined by 50 more pages of very odd usages of Scripture, twisted to bolster their theory. Frequently they rely upon visions, dreams, special messages, and other hooey that gives me the creeps. They lack peer review of ideas so often come up with the strangest theological ideas ever.

In the end, the reason I read from all three categories is because they each have something to offer and, at the same time, have faults that make you leery to become a disciple.

Read widely. Don’t be a fan of one author who has Everything Figured Out. I guarantee you they don’t.

Learn to discern truth and error, which is only done by reading stuff that has truth and error. Read the Bible a lot so you can better detect which is which.

I recommend reading the Bible as a tithe (10%) amount to other books. In other words, if a guy reads 20,000 pages a year, make 2,000 of those pages the Bible. This is not unreasonable (20,000 pages might be, but not the 10% Bible for other reading).

There is nothing finer than a good theology book. One that gives you new insight into God and the work of the Spirit. Find these books, but also know you’ll read lots of drivel to find those few gems.

Do not ask me what the gems are! My gems will be different from yours. Do the work and find your own! It makes them that more gemmish.

Children’s Ministry vs. Old People Ministry

Church growth experts frequently use children’s ministry as a tool to get people into the church. Children’s ministry is one of those things churches have to do.

I find this ironic in light of the fact that there is nothing in the Bible about churches doing anything for anyone’s kids. Nothing. Zero verses.

I know Jesus with the “least of these” thing, but that’s still a far cry from a verse about children’s ministry. (The “least of these” are called “brothers” by Christ, leading me to believe they are other believers, not kids anyway.)

What you do find is Paul giving Timothy half a chapter on taking care of widows.

Very little is done in an organized fashion to care for Christian widows; much is done to take care of kids.

Why the focus on kids and not old people?

As I’ve heard it many times, “We need to get the kids so we can get the parents.”

In other words, it makes more financial sense to get families. Families also have more people so it increases your attendance with minimal effort. Attract one and you get five.

With widows, if you attract one you get one. Not much payoff.

The church frequently has the exact opposite priorities than the Bible.

I think this is because the church has a different end than the end the Bible gave it. The church does not exist to be impressive in externals–money, attendance, etc. Whereas the church today is largely focused on these things.

There are exceptions, but they are few, which is why they are “exceptions.”

The Bible says the function of the church is to edify believers so the members can do the work of the ministry and be ministers of reconciliation.

Instead, the church gets sucked into marketing, worldly measures of success, and extensions of human power.

It’s my opinion that modern children’s ministry is a manifestation of this thinking. It’s certainly not biblical.

In the end, I wonder what would happen if we put as much resource into old people as we do into young people. I’m not saying serving old people would grow the church either.

What I am saying is that church growth is not a biblical end; loving people is.

Only serving people who serve your ends is not Christianity.