Recommended approach

Sojourner's paradigm challenges atheists and skeptics to make a shift in the way they examine and approach the claims of the Bible and Christianity. It is best to first watch the gospel message video and read the foundational truth of God. Other blogs speak on a variety of topics.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Drugs and Sorcery and a plea to those who practice these things

“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 (New King James)


In this passage, the word ‘sorcerers’ comes from the Greek word ‘pharmakos’ (Strongs # 5332) which is derived from the Greek word ‘pharmakon’ and is defined in Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament as follows:

a druggist (“pharmacist”) or poisoner

Interesting.

But of course these individuals who practice such things, indeed, it defines their very existence, are blind to the fact that they have a bigger problem. They make light of God and see no reason to submit to his authority. Their authority lies within themselves. They are like the passengers on board the Titanic who were oblivious to the sinking ship on whose deck they so confidently walked about. Their destruction is sure. It is certain. Their only hope lies within their eyes being opened to the One who stands before them and knocks on the door of their heart. Notice the reference above to the “second death”. Those who live their lives in self indulgence will die just as all of us will face that ultimate hour. But unlike those who have placed their trust in the redeeming work of Christ and the Holy Spirit’s work in their life, they will have to experience a second death in the lake of fire which continues throughout eternity. How tragic. Those of us who pray for them and want desperately for their eyes to be open find it agonizing to know our loved ones will spend eternity separated from the One who holds out hope for abundant, purpose filled life. We want them to listen to the voice of those who were once caught up in that lifestyle but whose eyes were opened to God’s Salvation and hope. Listen to those who have been “born again” by the Holy Spirit of God. But again, they continue to make light of their only hope of life and continue to live a wasted life on board a sinking ship, all along, thinking they are okay, even though they know in their hearts that their life and attitude towards God is not okay. They wonder why they experience pain and wonder why life sucks. The pain they suffer is there for a reason. It is there to motivate them to turn their life over to the One who give them “everything they need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). But their faith continues to be in themselves and their own ability. They never step out of themselves and place their faith in the One who can do anything. They will not bend a willing knee to their Creator. Perhaps they don’t know how to escape this existence. Again, it first takes the Holy Spirit opening their eyes to their own sinful condition. At that point, their attitude must be, “enough is enough. I don’t want to live this way anymore. God, thank you for giving me a way out. Thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus. I want His sacrifice to cover my sins and make me right with you. I want the Holy Spirit to change my heart and give me a heart for you so that I can live a life of meaning and one which glorifies you and not myself. I will willingly allow your resources and provisions to permeate my life. I will live life according to your direction. But Lord, I need your ability working in me to will and to obey. Lord, here I am. Take me. I am yours.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Speculation

Speculate. It’s something we all do real well. We speculate about the weather. We speculate about investments, a job change, a new car purchase, or even whether an upcoming feature film will be worth the price of admission. We speculate when we don’t have all the facts. Sometimes we get lucky and our speculating pays off. Other times we bomb out. The picnic got rained out. We lost money in the market. The new job didn’t pan out. The car turned out to be a lemon. And the movie didn’t live up to all the hype. While the down side of speculation may put us in a quandary, it usually doesn’t end in tragedy.

Those times when we do have all the facts but choose to ignore them are the times we may find ourselves in a deadlock with the truth. Do you care to speculate on who will prevail?

The process of speculation typically involves sorting through a myriad of information, facts, and opinions. We download all that criteria into a four pound mass of tissue between our ears, thereby formulating our conclusions. Isn’t it remarkable what that mass of tissue can conjure up? Unfortunately the human brain is not as reliable as a well tweaked computer processor. The download we feed into our brain is filtered through a lot of junk stored up there making the task of speculation a bit more cumbersome. Who among us would doubt that everybody everywhere is messed up to some degree? Not only does the environment provide opportunity for cluttering up our brains, but the body down below adds to our ailments affecting our ability to reason. Then on top of that is the fact that we were even born with various idiosyncrasies, anomalies, faults; oh let’s just call it what it is… the nature to ignore God and have our own way: The sin nature.

So we just continue to speculate. We need a basis of truth. We need an authority from which to draw conclusions. Who has the answers? You know the answer to that one. God. And I’m not talking about someone’s idea of God… someone’s supposed speculation of who God is and what he stands for. I’m talking about God himself revealing his answers to us. God has made himself known. We just don’t want to accept those answers. Paul in his letter to the Romans said that men “… suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21)

Notice the progression. Evidence in creation alone is enough to reveal His power and sovereignty. No one will be able to say to God, “you did not make yourself known.” We all are without excuse. Do we therefore honor Him as God or give thanks? On the contrary, we begin the process of speculation apart from anything God has to say about his creation and this life. This whole process of speculation becomes futile as we determine truth apart from his sovereign rule and authority. The human heart becomes darkened as it continues down this road of ignoring His principles, guidance, training, and admonitions he so graciously provides. Am I speculating on the source of God’s truth? Hardly.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy he says, “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16). Look closely at this passage. “All” means all. Now before you begin speculating as to which scriptures Paul is referring to, let’s just take this at face value. “God breathed” means that while men wrote it, God’s Spirit inspired the writing. God was in the process of bringing about his revelation to us beyond what natural revelation conveys. Biblical revelation has a purpose for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. Finally, these things serve the purpose of preparing us for God’s work in the world. Elsewhere we read, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

If we had read these scriptures only to then begin the process of futile speculation, we would have missed the valuable message it has for us.

The world’s principles are often in conflict with God’s wisdom. In order to obtain God’s truth over futile speculation, we need to begin with a view of the basic tenants of the gospel. For it is here that we are able to get back on the narrow road which leads to life. Christ put it this way, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) What is Christ saying? He is letting it be known that the speculations of many in this world only lead to destruction. The less traveled road of God’s rule and word is that which brings life. Why is it we cannot accept this simple truth? It’s because, as Paul had stated in Romans, our heart is darkened by sin. The gospel alone has the power to break sin’s power and bring life to our darkened soul. It is as if a dark thundercloud has covered the land. Then suddenly there is a break in the clouds. The marvelous sunlight comes streaming through. You’ve seen it and marveled at the sight. This is a picture of the penetrating power of the gospel. This message is simple yet powerful.

Sin, because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, came into the world and was handed down through the generations to you and me. We are hopeless and helpless to do anything about it. Obedience to the law won’t make us righteous. “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:7) Our hearts need changing. We need a savior to do what we are helpless to do for ourselves. “For as through the one man's disobedience (Adam) the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One (Christ) the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)

“That if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Through faith in Jesus Christ, you are given new life. His Spirit must come to live inside of you. That old heart full of sin and death must be replaced by a new heart which can never die. “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:10-11)

Upon receiving the life giving power of the Holy Spirit in our heart, we are then able to overcome the world.

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

So you see, unless and until Christ comes to live within you through faith, speculation apart from God’s truth, will continue to take you further down that road to destruction. Now, rather than speculate, we are able to examine and understand God’s Word to us. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us (His Word). This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” (1 Cor. 2:12-13)

And rather than futile speculation, we are given the ministry of upholding the authority of God.

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Let’s bring this all home. Our tendency is to try and figure things out. Even if we call ourselves Christians, we continue to use that four pound mass of tissue between our ears as a higher authority over anything Scripture tells us. We use reasoning and then justify it by stating, “Well, why not, God gave us our brains to think, didn’t he?” Quite true, but we fail to remember that our brains have been corrupted due to the power of sin both in our own nature as well as the world’s corruptive influence. In other words, God expects us to walk down that narrow path of utilizing His resources, that is to say, His Word, His Church, His Holy Spirit, all working in tandem to bring us to the truth concerning a matter. Yes, use your brain, but do so in connection with those resources our Lord so graciously supplies. Receive this admonition from the Lord:

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”]; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” (1 Corinthians 3:17-19)

Here are some other scriptural references to drive home the point:

1 Timothy 1:4
…or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.

2 Timothy 2:23-26
23But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sin and the Master Rejuvenator

Art aficionados for centuries have unanimously agreed that Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, the “Mona Lisa” is the world’s most famous work of art. The 500 year old painting is kept in a climate controlled display case behind bullet proof glass. Curators, security guards, and experts in art preservation at the Louvre Museum in France are meticulous in their handling and care of this priceless masterpiece.


Now try and imagine what would happen if a bottle of paint thinner were to inadvertently spill over the surface of Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile resulting in a painting resembling more of a Picasso than a Da Vinci. Wailing would be heard in every corridor of every art museum throughout the planet. Within the cultured world of art the tragic event would instantly become the top news story of the day, the week, perhaps even the century. The painting would most likely be ruined forever. And this from a simple drop of paint thinner allowed to seep into the oils of what was once considered the most famous artwork in the world.


Visualize this tragic occurrence and then transfer that image to the tragic consequences of your own sin. Let us not limit this sin to its mere consequences. For how much more valuable are you than even the most famous painting in the world? Jesus pointed out the birds of the air which are taken care of by God then said, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matt. 6:26c)


When you sin, you are, in essence, causing insurmountable devastation, not only to your own life, but contributing to the debilitating cycle of pain and misfortune your sin has upon those around you. Like a cancer, it continues to unleash its life destroying agents and becomes a festering sore upon humanity. Even more than its dreadful stain upon life, is its affront to the absolute Holiness of God. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.” (Isaiah 64:6-7)


It is easy for us to see the ugliness of sin in others. We have our list of sins and we rank them. Even if we recognize our “mistake” and feel sorrowful for a season, we still justify it or lessen its impact. We are cavalier in our response to our own sin, for after-all, the culture around us is saturated with a myriad of “acceptable” sins. The very wrongs our God has emphatically stated are against his divine directives are even sanctioned and worse, venerated in our culture. If we could ever grasp just how impactful our sin, even the “smallest” sin, is in contrast to the goodness and holiness of God, it might cause a paradigm shift in the way we view ourselves and the grace of God.


Some of you, who are Christians, may exclaim, “Praise God for His Grace.” Praise Him indeed. How highly do you value His grace? In the example of the tragic loss of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, I wonder how the art world would react to God’s grace being able to restore this remarkable work of art. How much more would we value not only the painting, but the gift of restoration from this Master Rejuvenator? How much more would we sing his praises? Carry that scenario over to the gift of grace that was made on your behalf. You are a creation far more valuable than the work by mere human hands. God’s grace has been bestowed upon you through the costly sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Let us open our eyes and take notice. How highly do we esteem this sacrifice when we take such a casual view of our sin? Let us love and reverence our gracious Creator. With love for God and our fellow man becoming our heart’s cry, along with an accurate awareness of the atrocious nature of our sin, we may more easily live a worthy and victorious life.


Why then, do we take such a callous attitude towards the One to whom we must all give an account for our heart’s affections and life choices?


Let’s travel back in time, long before you were born, long before Christ walked this earth, long before Moses handed down God’s directives, all the way back to the days when our ancestor’s, Adam and Eve walked in harmony with their Creator. Few examples today portray the kind of relationship this couple experienced with God. But then something happened which perfectly composes the very fiber of today’s sin filled world.


Satan, that crafty serpent, posed a question which has remained in the minds of all men and women since. He hinted, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1) Notice the inference of this question. “Did God really say…” suggests to Eve and to us that God can be judged. Satan suggests that we can live autonomous lives apart from the authority, wisdom, and directives of God. Secondly, Satan twisted the words of God. God did not say, “any tree”. In fact, He told Adam he could eat from any tree in the garden… even the tree of “Life”. He commanded Adam (and thus Eve) not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God warned Adam that, “for when you eat of it, you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)   This declaration from God was also discounted by the Adversary. We do the same. Death did indeed come to Adam and Eve. Spiritual death came immediately and physical death many years later. But make no mistake. Disobedience to God brings about death. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23) Those nasty little DNA’s of Adam and Eve have transported their spiritual comatose hearts down through the generations of mankind, showing up in you and me. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)


Thus the very nature of sin is to subsist in our own godhead. At the heart of every act of disobedience is the declaration, “I am the captain of my soul.” You may be surprised at the frequency of this occurrence, not just in society, but even in your best of intentions and life principles. See which ones apply to you:


Trusting in the principles of this world over God’s principles found in his Word


I’m going to live life my way without any regard to God’s rule in my life


Living to please self rather than living to please God


Ignoring any sense of accountability to God – after-all, it’s my life and my time


Believing that it’s better to “try out” my potential mate first by living with and having sex with him or her, rather than trusting God’s authority through his standards for sex and marriage


Having the attitude that your money is yours with no appreciation or reverence for the One who graciously provides for your needs


Trusting in Church tradition and the principles of men rather than the authority of Scripture


Getting advice from a secular counselor rather than reliance on Biblical admonition


Looking to astrology and horoscopes for direction rather than God’s sovereign rule (worshiping the creation over the Creator)


It’s not sin. It’s just a lifestyle choice or a “disease”


Trusting my emotions or my heart over God’s authoritative Word


Searching for satisfaction from God replacements (idols) such as:


Believing you must have another person to meet your needs


Reliance upon alcohol or drugs to replace God’s provision


Money and things


Success and prestige

If my mate isn’t meeting my needs, then the answer is to divorce and find someone who does.


Esteeming the acceptance and approval of men more than the approval of God


Leaving God out of government


Leaving God out of education


Ignoring God as the Creator and substituting Evolution, thus diminishing any sense of accountability to this Creator

Do any of these apply to you? Could you add to the list? You may have noticed that this list does not include the usual list of “sins” we normally think of and then rank.. Every act of disobedience, to reiterate, comes from the conscious or subconscious desire to set one’s self over God. As you and I become aware of our transgressions against our Holy God, it is critical that we acknowledge these through confession and repentance. Suppose, if you will, that the Mona Lisa had indeed become damaged beyond any hope of restoration. Imagine still that it was discovered that the Master Rejuvenator was able to restore the painting to pristine condition. Now imagine that no one ever asked this Master Rejuvenator to perform his work on the painting. This is all too often the scene in our own sinful condition. We may realize the sin, realize the consequences, and experience remorse. But unless we confess this specific offense to the One who can restore us, we are still lagging behind in the ability to overcome this tendency to sin. “But if we confess our sins, he is able and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Yes, be analytical. Take the time to confess the sin and not just assume God’s grace has covered it. Allow that grace to penetrate our hearts and complete the restoration. James tells us, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…” (James 5:16a). Therefore, it becomes necessary to confess these sins to someone you trust; someone who will be honest, hold you accountable and will pray for you. It also becomes necessary to make restitution, either in a practical way by making the wrong right, or by seeking forgiveness from the one you wronged.

2 Peter 1:3 (New American Standard Bible) says this:


“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Read it again.


Do you truly believe this?

This article began by providing an illustration of the dreadful and tragic nature of sin. God’s wonderful and glorious grace was pointed out. I then led you to recognize that what makes up the very essence of sin is living an autonomous life with disregard for God’s wisdom, rule, and principles in our life.


You may have then recognized the fact that you have been deceived by the wiles of the wicked one who wants nothing more than for you to live a life apart from God’s rule.


Hopefully you then gained insight from discovering that everything you need for overcoming sin and living a victorious life comes from God who powerfully works through the knowledge we obtain of Him through his Word. And then finally you have come to see the need for confession: True, specific confession applied to a specific transgression which will cleanse and change our heart.


Although you may have gained some insight from this treatise, another truth reigns supreme. For you see, recognizing these things will do you no good whatsoever. With the best of intentions you may make the decision to change and to begin living a life for God. But God’s Word makes it clear that you cannot, on your own merit, do this. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18) Those traits of Adam and Eve were handed down to you, rendering you helpless to live a sinless life fully devoted to God. “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:7)


That is, unless He comes to live within you and actually live the life he intends you to live. Did you catch that? His Spirit must come to live inside of you. That old heart full of sin and death must be replaced by a new heart which can never die. “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:10-11)


This is what Christ’s sacrifice did for you. By acknowledging that sacrifice and receiving this new life of Christ, you are given the Holy Spirit. Without God’s Spirit living within you, you are destitute and hopeless. Dead men cannot make themselves live. Only God can bring life to that which was once dead.

Since Satan (the adversary) is all about casting doubt on God’s Word, then it goes without saying that we must trust in these life giving Words of God. The Holy Spirit works in tandem with God’s Word to bring about change in the believer’s life. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us (His Word). This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” (1 Cor. 2:12-13)

The Master Rejuvenator is waiting to remove the stains from the canvas of your life and restore you to your “original condition”, which is not the condition you were born into, but His intended design of you which He will one day bring to completion. “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6) “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Phil. 3:20-21)