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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.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Do all faiths worship the same God?

Do all faiths worship the same God?  Sure there are doctrinal differences, but aren’t they basically worshipping and praying to the same God?  This question was put to me recently.  Here was my response.

It all centers around the identify of Jesus Christ and what he did for those who trust in his Lordship.  Let me explain.

Jesus made his identity and divinity clear through his miracles, fulfillment of prophecy, and the Father’s acknowledgment.  Jesus is our final and full revelation of the Father.  As he told Philip,

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?  John 14:9.

The book of John is replete with a demonstration of Jesus’ diety.  “I am” the “resurrection and the life”, “the good shepherd”, “the true vine”(connecting us with the life of the Spirit), “the light of the world”.  There are several more.  A couple of my two favorites:  “Before Abraham was, ‘I Am’” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  This last one helps us define the essence of who He is.  The former identifies him as part of the God-head from the very beginning of time. 

Colossians paints a vivid picture of the identity of this Jesus. 

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”  (Col 1:15-20)

Here is another reference from Colossians.  “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in human body.” (Col 2:8)

Let’s examine Jesus’ claim that he is the way, the truth, and the life.   Take a look at the passage from John 14:4-7.

And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

When Jesus said he was the way, what did he mean?  He was explaining the way to God and his heavenly Kingdom.  We humans tend to want a map or GPS or something showing us the way to someplace.  That was what Thomas was asking.  But Jesus made it clear that he wasn’t just giving them/us a path to a destination, but he was giving himself to them/us.  He is the way to the Father.   We get to know him through his Word (John called him the Word) and we discover the “way” to God and his Kingdom.  By saying that he was the “truth” he was saying that all of God’s revelation is wrapped up in and through him.  When he said that he was the “life”, he was indicating that they would find their new life (as he said to Nicodemus, ‘you must be born again’ – born from the Spirit.) in Him.   The Bible is replete with showing us our depravity and just how messed up we truly are.  We are all marred by this malady of sin.  And because of this malady, we have been separated from God the Father.  As Isaiah repeated God’s words,  “ It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” (Is 59:2 NLT) 

Big problem!    He also said, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” (Is. 64:6 NLT)  

So although God, being all-knowing, can hear anyone’s prayer, they might as well be praying to the wind. 

Everything centers around Christ.  We can’t sweep him under the rug and pretend he doesn’t matter when it comes to our worship of God.  It is easy to lose sight of that in a culture which tells us that anyone’s belief is as good as anyone else’s. 

“My faith” is truly meaningless if it is merely “my faith.”  Faith in what?  Faith in my faith!  True biblical faith means believing God and taking him at his word.  It involves trust in what God says is true.  That is what saved Abraham.  That is what saved Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Rahab, all the prophets, and all who place their hope and trust in God, and not in themselves.  Did the Pharisees of Jesus’ day have faith?  Jesus condemned their so-called faith.  Their faith was in themselves living up to a set of laws and regulations (most of which were man-made).  This is still what Judaism tries to do.  There may be some who truly believe and trust in God and desire to do his will.  I truly believe that such a person, when exposed to the full-revelation of God who is Jesus, will realize his or her own depravity and need for mercy.  They know they cannot stand before God on their own merit.  They need God himself to save them.  They will recognize God’s grace coming through his propitiation of their sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I have seen several testimonies of former Jews, even devout Hasidic Jews, who give this very testimony.  It was Martin Luther who recognized his own depravity and finally placed his faith and trust in Christ and not in his own ability to obey the rules of the church.  I read a book by Mosab Yousef called “Son of Hamas.”  He was the son of the founding leader of Hamas.  Over time he finally recognized Christ as his true savior.  He turned his back on Islam.  He had memorized the Koran and warns all who will listen of the deception of Islam.  There’s also a movie out about his dealings with Israel’s spy organization.  It’s called “The Green Prince.”  Google him. 

Even church-goers who attend a bible-believing church, may sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday, thinking they are okay because they perform as a Christian, participating in the rituals and even being “baptized.”  But many have never truly placed their hope and trust in the one who is the way, the truth, and the life.  They think they are in control and can make it on their own.  They are their own way, truth, and life, calling the shots.  They pray but their own sins have not been dealt with through faith in their Savior, and so their prayers go unanswered. 

From a full systematic theological approach, I have come to realize that God himself must make it possible for someone to come to a saving faith in Christ.  He must open their eyes and ears to hear and respond to the truth.  Otherwise, we are still the ones calling the shots.  We may listen to a sermon and say, “that sounds good to me.  I choose that.”  It’s more like choosing a flavor of ice-cream.  They are still relying on their own initiative.  They believe God must respond to them rather than the other way around.  The mark of a true answer to call is one who says, “your will, Lord, not mine.”  That is why Jesus warns us that…

 22 Many will say to Me on that day, (judgment day) ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ’ (Matt. 7:22-23 NASB)

We marvel at these stern words of warning.

So you see, belief is not really what saves you.  It is not adherence to rituals or rules which saves you.  Works do not save you.  It is God’s grace through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice which then changes your heart from the inside out which allows you entrance to the throne of God.

So does everyone pray to the same God?  No.  Some may pray to an entity they have conjured up in their own minds which fits their own notion of who God is.  Their sin-filled heart keeps them from a relationship with Jehovah God.  They must be “born again”.  The Holy Spirit must enter their heart and change their motives from self-fulfillment to submission to God’s Lordship.  This is even true of many in the Christian “faith”.  Only those who worship and approach him through the one mediator between God and man, are worshipping the one true God. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

False Conversions and the "Sinner's Prayer" - A Damnable Epidemic in the Modern Church

False Conversions and the “Sinner’s Prayer”: A Damnable Epidemic in the Modern Church

Landon ChapmanChristianity30 Comments
2 Corinthians 13:5 [ESV] “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
This is a good question for all of us to ponder.  Is Christ in you?  How do you know?  What proof is there of his presence in your life?  Of course, along with Paul, I believe there is a core of belief that surrounds true faith. But this test asks about your subjective awareness.  So, is Christ in you?1
I recently addressed this issue in Episode 003 of Fire Away! but I’m going to take some time to expand on this idea of false conversion and how the “sinner’s prayerdecisionism theology is the leading culprit in creating false converts in today’s churches.
If you are at all familiar with social media I have no doubt you have seen what are known as “memes“.  One particular brand of meme I particularly enjoy bear the hashtag “Things Jesus Never Said.” Most of these include some picture of a fictitious Jesus and then a quote that goes against something Jesus said in the Bible. Recently, R.C. Sproul, Jr. inadvertently created one of these with a quote in one of his speeches and it is as sad as it is funny. Mr. Sproul said, “Be sure to never speak of sin or repentance because that will drive people away. Just love them into My kingdom.” Then of course he insinuated the “things Jesus never said moniker”.

I think what saddens me the most is that many Christians actually believe the content of that quote to be Biblically correct. While we are called to speak Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), we must not forget that the full Gospel message is more amazing and much more in-depth than American’s concocted “hippy Jesus“. This American Jesus looks like a model in a Vidal Sassoon commercial rather than the man the Bible describes in Isaiah 53:2 as having no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him.  Why is this?  Why does Jesus of the Bible not align with this fabricated Jesus? The simple answer lies in the 2nd Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6) which instructs us to not create graven images. It is a form of idolatry when we create a God to suit our desires and needs rather than bowing the knee to the one true and living God of the Bible! Idols are powerless aside from their use as kindling in stoking the fires of hell upon a person’s eternal soul.
So, how does one become saved? Take a moment to think about how people get saved in your church. Is there an altar call, baptismal call or baptism weekend, or maybe it’s reciting the “sinner’s prayer” along with a Pastor or Elder. It could be that someone convinced you to “ask Jesus into your heart”, or it could be a combination of all the things I listed.
In regards to asking or accepting Jesus into our hearts, it’s a completely ridiculous notion. As David Platt astutely noted, “Accept Him? Do we really think Jesus needs our acceptance? Don’t we need Him? Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender.”
That, dear friends, is an illustration of true reverence for our Savior! That comment illustrates that David Platt has a full understanding of exactly why Jesus Christ died on a tree for sinners such as myself. Could it be that the reason you are not growing to look like Christ is because you’re not actually in Him? Is it possible you have been duped into believing you’ve been granted justification when, in fact, you were fooled into the false concept of “decisionism theology“?
Pastor Platt went on to further expound on this notion. “Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer like the “sinner’s prayer” in the New Testament? Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrases ‘accept Jesus into your heart’ or ‘invite Christ into your life’? It’s not the Gospel we see being preached. It’s modern evangelism built on sinking sand, and it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls. It’s a very dangerous thing.”
That is very strong language from Pastor David.  Why would he use the word “dangerous” when describing something seemingly so benign; a simple prayer?  The reason is because to lead people to think they are Christian when they have not Biblically responded to the Gospel gives them a false sense of Salvation and makes it very difficult for them to be Evangelized later in life because they think they’re good to go.  He continues, “If we’re not careful we’ll take the Gospel, the lifeblood of Christianity, and put Kool-Aid in its place so it will taste better to the crowds.  It’s not just dangerous, it’s damning.  Then, when we think about making disciples, we think it’s just about going out and getting someone to ‘pray the prayer’ and we spread that.  No, let’s give them the full picture of the Gospel!  Let’s show people the greatness of God.  Yes, he is a father who loves us, he’s a loving father who will save us, but he is also a wrathful judge who may damn us!”
You have got to give the whole picture because if we don’t show both the Law and Jesus then we’re not presenting the full Gospel to the person.  If it’s not the Gospel of the Bible it’s a different Gospel, and a different Gospel does not have the power to save.  Thus, we are not helping to bring people to Christ, rather, we are contributing to their eternal damnation.  As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
It should be obvious by now my feelings on the “sinner’s prayer”; that it is anti-biblical garbage good only for the damnation of souls.  For the purposes of this article, the sinner’s prayer is defined as the prayer that contains biblically true elements (repentance, belief, praying to Jesus, etc.) but is then concluded with a statement such as “Because you have prayed this prayer, you are now a Christian.”  That final statement of the assurance of salvation is unbiblical because we are not saved by praying a special prayer.  We are saved by the grace of God who calls us to repentance (Acts 17:30), grants us repentance (2 Timothy 2:25), and grants that we believe (Philippians 1:29).2  The sinner’s prayer is a modern Evangelism concoction that serves merely to bolster baptism numbers in the church and make people feel better about themselves.  To be clear, I am in no way insinuating that some people who pray to God in the form of what is being referred to in this article as the sinner’s prayer aren’t actually having God overtake them and receiving the Holy Spirit and being truly regenerated as a new creature in Christ Jesus.  However, I’d be willing to bet that is not the case for most and if you were to follow them around for a few months following their baptism, I would venture to say you’d be hard-pressed to find continuing evidence of a true conversion having taken place.
Paul Washer has mentioned numerous times that he has “declared war” on the sinner’s prayer.  He contends that it has sent more people to hell than anything else on the face of the earth.  You may be asking, “how can he say such a thing?”  The answer is quite similar to David Platt; search the scriptures and tell me where anyone evangelized that way.  The scripture does not say that Jesus Christ came to the nation of Israel and said that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, now who would like to ask me into their heart?!  No, he said repent and believe the Gospel!
To further illustrate how ridiculous this has become in the evangelical church, I once heard a story told by an itinerant preacher about how he witnessed something he has never forgotten.  He was at a service where there was an altar call and a man had come down to speak to one of the pastors.  After a few minutes of chatting, the preacher asked if the man would like to pray and accept Jesus into his heart.  Obviously uncomfortable and not fully on board, the preacher then said that he would pray the prayer for him and, if he agreed, to squeeze the pastor’s hand.  This scene played out and the pastor proclaimed the man saved!  To date, that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!  Do you think that man understood he was as sinner?  Do you think that man understood that he’s not a good person and that he’s in dire need of a savior?  How could he possibly know these things when no one ever told him! (Romans 10:14)
Do not make your evangelistic goal be for someone to recite the sinner’s prayer.  Give the full picture of the Gospel which includes the Law.  You’re not being a big meanie because you help someone to realize they are a sinner in need of a Savior.  You’re actually loving that person enough to set aside your personal fear because you care for their soul.
SCR044-G-02The idolatry of decisionism.  Men think they are going to Heaven because they have judged the sincerity of their own decision.  When Paul came to the church in Corinth, he did not say to them, “Look, you’re not living like Christians so let’s go back to that one moment in your life when you prayed that prayer and see if you were sincere.”  No, he said to test yourselves, examine yourselves to see if you’re in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).  Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  It is a work of God.  The evidence of conversion is not just a measure of your sincerity at the moment of conversion, it is ongoing fruit in your life.  Sixty to seventy percent of Americans claim they’re converted and yet we kill how many babies each day?  While that’s incredibly harsh to hear it is not without merit.
So, I’ve mentioned a couple of times that we must present the full Gospel, not just the parts we think people will be okay hearing.  What I mean is that in an effort to “win converts” we tend to water down the Gospel and present it in such a way that it no longer represents the true gospel.  Just because you went under the water does not mean you’re in Christ.  I do not say this to be unfairly critical or self-serving, or that I’m somehow better than you.  All I want is for men to know Christ!
Matt Chandler mentioned the fact that most of us grew up in a “do this, don’t do this” culture.  The simple truth is that is moralistic deism at it’s best.  It does not transform.  People walk away from the church because when we accomplish all these feats of morality by white-knuckling our way through them, you let something bad happen to us and all we can think is, “I was good!  I did everything I was supposed to and this is how you repay me?!”  We are sold and sell others that this is how to put God in your debt.  This is ridiculous, right?  Christians aren’t promised happiness!  We are only promised tribulation (John 16:33).  God is not our divine butler.  Being a good person by worldly standards is worthless.  In fact, by God’s standard, none are good.  Jesus in Luke 18:19 says, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.”
Yet by using the sinner’s prayer and other emotive means to tell people they are saved, we are  promoting moralistic deism and giving false assurance to the lost.  Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t been intentionally trying to send people to hell.  We’ve just gotten sloppy about preaching Gospel, the Law, and the biblical response to the Gospel which is repentance and faith.  Is it not a scary thought that you and I are potentially unintentionally creating false converts?!
The truth is that there are so many ways evangelism can run askew but they all center on biblical illiteracy.  If we know the truth of the Bible, we will not lead people astray.  If we are careful to explain to people man’s sinful nature and the beauty of a Savior dying for our sins, we will not inadvertently push people to eternal torment.
Because I so enjoy reading Charles Spurgeon, I must share a quote a I came across recently that pertains to this idea of false conversion.  Spurgeon was specifically addressing false conversion in the context of people trying to be saved because they fear the idea of hell, not because they want to repent and put their trust and faith in Jesus Christ.  He said, “A wolf may be scared from his prey– yet he keeps his ravenous nature.  He has not lost his taste for lambs, though he was obliged to drop the one which he had seized.  Just so, a sinner may be forced to forgo his beloved lust and yet remain as truly a sinner as before.  He may give up his drinking for fear of losing his job, or dying of disease, but he would be at his liquor again if he dared.  The fear of hell whips him off some favorite vice and  yet his heart pines for it, and in imagination he nourishes it.  In the sight of God, each man is as his heart is!  The muzzled wolf is still a wolf, the silenced swearer is still profane in heart, the lewd thinker is still immoral.  Something is done when a wolf is scared, or a transgressor driven out of his evil ways.  Yet nothing is done which will effectually change the wolf, or renew the ungodly heart.  A frightened sinner is a sinner still.  Like the frightened dog, he will return to his vomit!  And like the sow that was washed, he will wallow in the mire again as soon as opportunity offers.  You must be born again!  This is the only effectual cure for sin!  While the nature is unchanged, it is but the outside of the cup and platter which is washed.  ‘Truth in the inward parts’ is what God desires, and until that is given, we remain under divine wrath.  Any thief will turn honest under the gallows and yet if he were set free, he would rob the first house he came to!  A scare is not a conversion.  A sinner may be frightened into hypocrisy, but they must be wooed by God to repentance and faith.  Divine love tames, and divine grace transforms.  May the God of all grace deal thus with each of us!”
So, how does one get saved biblically?  As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  In order to be truly saved, and truly grasp what Christ’s work on the cross meant, we must first understand that we are sinners.  Every breath we take we steal the air from God and all we’ve ever done is sin against Him.  We are not good people (Mark 10:18), we need rescuing!  Further, we can not work our way to Heaven (Isaiah 64:6).  Spurgeon said, “I cannot endure the sight of God until I seem Him in Christ; and God cannot bear the sight of me until he sees me in Christ.”
Hell will be full of “good people” because Heaven is not a place for people who are afraid to go to hell.  Heaven is for people who desire to honor and glorify Christ in all they do and live solely for him.
Do not let another day pass.  Put your full faith and trust in our savior Jesus Christ and repent of your sins.  Avoid becoming a false convert and join Him in paradise.
Landon Chapman

Landon Chapman

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Did Christians "slaughter" 100 million Native Americans?

Let's explore this claim.  I've seen it posted in various forms on Facebook.
I've been on a "How do you know what you know" kick lately and am trying to ask folks to explore the truth about any truth claim.  Let's take jab at this one. Before Columbus it was estimated that the population of all Native American tribes throughout South, Central, and North America was around 50 to 100 million. Two to 18 million were estimated to live in North America. Over the years that number grew of course but it never reached 100 million in North America. No where near.  And yes, some might point out the reason for the lack of high population is due to the number who died of European disease.  Out of the total number throughout the Americas, approximately 92% died of disease brought over by Europeans over about a 300 year period.   Tragic of course, but it wasn't deliberate. And Christian & non-Christians alike brought these diseases such as small pox and other epidemics from Europe. Ignorance was the cause. And ignorance is what I am attacking in my comments here. There were, however, deliberate attempts to annihilate Native Americans. There were also actions taken by our government which caused many deaths. These were, indeed, calculated measures intent on dwindling down the Native American population. The trail of tears directly caused the deaths of between 5 & 20 thousand. Many of these were the elderly and young. Most Christians at that time were deceived into thinking this re-location program was going to be a good thing since they felt it would remove them from the animosity surrounding them.  Only one group, some Baptists tried initially to stop this "Indian Removal Act".  Their motives may have been pure, but they did not take into considerations the irresponsible act of forcing these indigenous people out of their homeland or the terrible consequences of the transport.  Many missionaries accompanied these Indians trying desperately to provide better provisions. There was no doubt hatred poured out on these Native Americans.  One awful attempt to exterminate Indians occurred at the Sand Creek Massacre. The army opened fire on about 150 Indians from various tribes. One soldier, Col. John Chivington had this to say, "kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice." The soldiers were said to have cut fetuses out of the women, slaughtered infants by stepping on their heads with their boots, cut the genitals off men and women, and decorated their horses and wagons with body parts and then paraded them through Denver. Does this sound like someone who has given their life to Christ? Is this someone who realizes that life is a precious gift from our Lord? No. In fact, just because someone calls himself or herself a Christian means nothing. Only those who have surrendered to Christ are entitled to claim His name. I could go on but one more point then I'll drop it. Each year in the U.S. there are about 16 to 17 thousand homicides. That number is dwarfed by the number of people who have died through medical malpractice which is about 225 thousand and upwards. What is the take away? In the instance of death by Doctor, it means that Doctors and the medical community need to continue to improve, study, research, commit, and apply the highest standards of patient care. We do not condemn Doctors who genuinely want to help people.  We do not condemn Christians who genuinely want to honor the God of love by loving others.  Ignorance should be the focus of our condemnation. For me, as a Christian, I also need to do the same and allow the Holy Spirit to change my heart, making me more like Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord. God's Word tells me how to do this. I must learn and apply more of it to my life.  Many who claim the name of Christ fail to do this and thus they make terrible choices.  Apart from God's revelation, mankind will always try and "suppress the truth." (Romans 1:18) Ignorance is no excuse. And as such, this is why I thought I would do my part to challenge this incredibly irresponsible and deceptive claim.  Before throwing your fiery darts at me, please research for yourself.  If I am wrong, I will own up to it.  Truth, not revised truth, should be our source in making any claims. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Source of Anxiety & Bitterness & Joy & Peace

The Tragedy of Man

Quoting from Arthur W. Pink (1886 to 1952):  Throughout the ages man’s efforts have been directed toward ruling and regenerating the world. Man has been given full scope. With what results? With the result that the incurable hatred of the human heart to God and the utter depravity of ...human nature have been fully displayed. How has man used the freedom, the opportunities, the privileges, the relents with which his Maker has endowed him? To what profit has he turned them? Have they been used with the purpose of glorifying God or of deifying himself? To ask the question is quite enough. Loud have been man’s boasts. Lofty have been his claims. Pretentious his vauntings. Such terms as improvement, advancement, enlightenment, evolution, civilization, have been his favorite slogans. But the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, and the folly of the world’s wisdom and the vanity of man’s claims are now displayed before our eyes What has ‘civilization’ effected? With all our so-called enlightenment and progress unto what have we attained? Let the records of our Law-courts tell us. Let the columns of the daily newspapers make response. Let the economic, political and moral conditions of the clay make answer. Let the world war with all its inhumanities, its barbarities, its fiendish atrocities, give reply. And mark, it cannot be said that these things are clue to man’s ignorance and inexperience. Man is not just starting out to make history. We are now living in the twentieth century of the Christian era. Man then cannot—complain that God has not given him plenty of time to mature his plans. No; God has given ample time, time enough to show that he is an utter failure, time enough to demonstrate that he is totally incapable of governing himself, time enough to prove that if relief comes at all it must come from outside of himself.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Biblical World View

The Biblical World View:

Those of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ and His Lordship in our life hold a different world view than that of the world in general.  We are who we are not because of a cultural influence, even though a major segment of that culture may revolve around the church and other believers.  We are who we are and believe what we believe because we have been regenerated.  As Jesus said, we must be “born again”, or rather, we must experience a re-birth through the Holy Spirit.  This re-birth is not driven by information gained from the natural world.  It must come from the super-natural world.  It must come from God himself.  

Let me draw you a picture.  Imagine that we all live inside a box called the natural world.  This box has immeasurable information, opinions, and philosophies floating around inside it.  We are bombarded by many of these through a variety of sources including our parent’s and family influence, education, culture, TV, movies, magazines, science, church traditions, friends, pastors & teachers, the internet, and, yes, even Supreme Court decisions.  On and on it goes.  We all tend to rely upon these influences in forming our world view.  The problem stems from the limitations of the contents of this box.  We are also limited by the capacity of our own brains to absorb and process this information.  We often believe what we want to believe regardless of evidence to the contrary.  Now imagine that everything inside that box were corrupt, including you and me.  This, in effect, is the picture the Bible presents of the world we live in. 

So what hope is there for discovering and trusting in any ultimate truth?  Many have come to realize that they are limited by this corruption from the natural world.  They know there must be a higher authority beyond the reaches of this world.  So they take hold of their spiritual pick-axes and start digging away at the walls in the hope of peering out into the super-natural to find answers.  This is what religion attempts to do.  Religion is man’s attempt to discover the answers not found in this natural world.  

There is another way, which points back to my opening assertion that we must experience a re-birth.  Since God is the one who created this natural world and universe we all live in, then He alone is the ultimate authority and thus the source of all truth.  He alone has not been corrupted by this world.  Consequently our Creator is holy and just.  If we are to know any of this truth which originates from Him, then He must reveal this truth to us.  We cannot discover God using limited and corrupt resources, including our mind, because it too has been corrupted.  We cannot use all of the methods set forth by religion to try and “reach God.”  We will only come to know this perfect and authoritative God by his revealing himself to us.  And before we can truly receive this full revelation of God, He must make it possible for us to receive this revelation in order to place our hope and trust in Him.   We must be “born again”, or more accurately, born from the Spirit of God.   If this re-birth does not take place, then if God were to suddenly reveal his full presence to us, we would merely use our own powers of reason to decide if he met our criteria for belief in Him.  In other words, we would stand in judgment of God rather than allowing him to be judge over us.  Instead, God took precise measures to progressively make this revelation known to us.  He began by revealing certain attributes through His creation.  As we examine this creation we are witness to God’s power, intelligence, authority, and creativity among a host of other aspects of His divinity.  But He doesn’t stop there.  He revealed himself further in a special and progressive way.

God’s revelation first came through his established relationship and the words he spoke to the nation of Israel over a 1500 year (approximate) span of time.  God revealed his words, character, principles, life application, prophecies, and laws through Moses and the prophets (the entirety of the Old Testament), and then ultimately through his entrance into humanity through His “Son” Jesus the Messiah and the Apostles’ teachings and letters, along with the writers of the New Testament (the entirety of the New Testament).  The Bible is the history (His Story) of God’s progression of revelation culminating in this Jesus, the finality of God’s revelation of Himself and His source of Life and salvation from the corruption of this world.

Let’s get back to the notion of living in a corrupted world.  The very first book of the Bible, Genesis, sets forth the progression of this corruption.  It also details the strategy of our adversary who wants to lead all mankind away from God’s truth and to accept the lies and corruption of the world.  The very first step which Satan took (and still takes) is to question God’s authoritative word.  He posed the question to Eve, “Did God really say…?”   Consider that this is the very thing the unbelieving world insinuates about the Bible.  Even professing Christians want to place doubt on God’s Word.  They will defer to their own reasoning and speculation in order to supersede scripture.  Often this comes in the form of “interpretive” issues.  While the Bible does, indeed, need to be interpreted correctly, using correct interpretive techniques, the problem stems from trying to make scripture fit our own reasoning and ideas, rather than submission to God’s authoritative word.  We think we know best.  This too is a result of living in a fallen, corrupted world.

The Bible tells us,

14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)      

The question to you is this; do you find the words of scripture foolish?  Maybe you think they are simply another alternative view among a smorgasbord of many other philosophies.  Do you think it foolish to believe in and trust in an un-seen God?  Do you assert that you are the captain of your own soul?  Welcome to the human race.  But unless you are born of the Spirit of God, you will never have any hope of escaping the natural world and all of its corruption.  Unless you receive God’s gracious gift of life found only through his design by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord, you are still stuck in your own in-born sin as well as the sin of the world around you. 

In forming your world view you will rely solely on the ideas presented to your by your culture and own fallible reasoning.  You will be easily swayed by the tactics of well-intentioned but counterfeit philosophies.   Take a hard look around you.  Everyone has a different idea of what is right and wrong.  Truth, many will claim, is relative.  Are you going to rely on the ability of that 3.5 lb mass of tissue between your ears to figure it all out?  This is why the Bible makes it clear that we must repent (do a 180 turn-about) from trusting in our own ability and way of life, and then turning to God through faith in Jesus Christ.  (I’ll have more to say on this later).

As previously stated, the progression of corruption and sin is found in the very first book of the Bible; Genesis.  For instance, marriage and family is an institution established by God.  We see God’s design and purpose for marriage and the family from the very start:  One man and one Woman for life who bear children from this one union.  The strategy the adversary uses centers around the degradation of this institution.  Let’s examine the progress of this degradation:

Once Eve listened to Satan’s reasoning, she then did what everyone born from her has done throughout the centuries.  She took the leap from temptation to desire to lust, and then to ultimate destruction.  Her lust took on three forms:  Lust came from what she saw, what she felt, and what she wanted to experience for herself.  You and I would be hard pressed to find a TV show or movie which does not present these three versions of lust.  These form the basis of all rebellion and sin.  In fact, Satan used these three methods when tempting Jesus.  He still uses this same tactic on us.

But now back to the progression of degradation of marriage and family:

Once Adam and Eve sinned in rebellion against God, a domino effect took place.  In Genesis 3:7, the relationship between this couple and God was compromised.   In Genesis 3:16-19, the relationship between Adam and Eve (husband and wife) was marred.  Discord is found between Cain and Abel.  Murder occurs.  Polygamy is introduced in Gen. 4:19.  Homosexuality is introduced in Gen. 19:5.  Adultery and divorce are seen in chapter 21 of Genesis.  We see rape occurring in Genesis 34.  Pornography is also conveyed through this chapter.  Prostitution and incest is found in chapter 38.  Add to this list infidelity, sodomy and every other kind of sexual perversion.  The Bible does not try and gloss over these issues.  It portrays the real results of a fallen and corrupt world.  It shows the consequence of straying away from God’s original design of one man with one woman for life.  If we are honest with ourselves, we see that we too have strayed from God's perfect design.  We are all guilty.  No one is exempt.

 Now let’s skip ahead to the New Testament.  Paul, the writer of Romans, has some very revealing and harsh words to convey concerning this fallen nature of mankind and the resulting consequence of ignoring God’s revelation and authority.

Romans 1:18-32English Standard Version (ESV)

18” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

I could write a lengthy commentary on this entire passage, emphasizing the progression of corruption and the result of turning our backs on God.  I will let the passage speak for itself.

To sum up my point:

God holds all truth and has revealed this truth to us in the Bible.  His love wants us to know his principles for life, marriage, family, and every other area of life.  God designed marriage.  Any deviation from that design is rebellion against God.  Our sin separates us from God.  But God provided a means to overcome this problem and to restore our relationship with him and get us back in line with His principles found in his word.  That solution was to send himself, born into this world as the Son, Jesus, who was both fully human and fully God.  Jesus was not corrupted by the sin of this world.  He took upon himself our sins when he died on the cross at the hands of men who were in many ways like you and me, who rejected God’s authority over their lives.  We do the same.  Jesus represented all of mankind when he took the punishment we deserved.  In exchange, he gives us his life… but only by grace through faith.  We must receive this new life and allow Jesus to control our lives through the Holy Spirit and God’s infallible Word.  This is why those who claim his Lordship cannot do anything but accept God’s perfect design.  This is why we must be holy (which simply means to be set-apart for God’s purpose).  We cannot allow ourselves to be swayed by the reasoning and ways of the world.

The Biblical world view makes it plain that we are born into sin.  This sin is manifested in many different ways throughout our lives.  But when we choose to live our lives by our own definition of right and wrong, God allows the natural consequences of that rebellion to exhibit itself.  In other words, we become what we believe.  This is why we cannot come to God without turning in repentance from our own sinful self-controlled life while also turning in faith toward God and his authority and control over our life. 

Lest you think I am singling out any particular deviation from God's design, let me be clear.  All of us have sinned and fallen short of God's perfect design.  This is the beauty of God's grace and his provision for this problem.  Our challenge is to confess these short-comings to God.  We cannot and should not remain in denial and try and justify our beliefs and world view when it opposes God's truth.

The world will define values of right and wrong based upon the norms of the culture.  Most Christians get this. We understand why the world says and believes what it does and are not surprised by this.  The world will often celebrate those values even when they are diametrically opposed to God’s declaration of his standards.  We, as Christians, realize we must live in this world which operates in opposition to God’s ways.  Christians must be very careful when pointing an accusatory finger at the unbelieving world.  Each Christian must first examine himself to see if his heart and life are in line with God's righteousness.  Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit and the Word of God stand in judgment of the world.   Our job as Christians is to point them to the solution to this rebellion and sinful nature.  We are to declare the Gospel (which is what I have done in this piece).  We must realize that the consequences of continued rebellion and self-willed life are to eventually experience God’s righteous wrath.  How can love condone a lost and dying world which ignores God and his salvation?  I write this in love and hope that perhaps others might receive this new life which comes only through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is King.  He is Lord.  Give him control of your life.  He will put you back onto the “narrow road which leads to life” and away from the “broad road which leads to destruction.”  (Matthew 7:13-14).



Friday, November 14, 2014

Quieting the Disquited Soul

The phone rings at 2:14am. It’s the police. Your son has been involved in a horrific hit and run accident.

Or you discover that a close trusted friend has been spreading lies about you behind your back.

Your spouse turns to you as you settle into bed. He admits to having an affair and tells you he wants out of the marriage.

These represent events in which you or a loved one has been wronged by someone else. You rehearse the events and the pain over and over again in your head. Anxiety doesn’t have to come in the form of another person’s attacks or offenses. Trying times come in many forms. Events may have happened suddenly or have been building up over time. Anxiety and disquietedness suddenly moves into what had previously been occupied by a settled and quiet spirit. Or perhaps you cannot remember the last time you felt peace. Anxious thoughts have been your constant companion as far back as you can remember. No one is immune.

You spend sleepless nights listening to those troubling thoughts. You then decide to talk to God. But still the dialogue in your head continues. Nothing changes. What’s the answer?

I want to be upfront with you about the motivation behind this writing. My intent is to offer biblical counsel on how to quiet the disquieted soul. But that isn’t my primary objective.
First, I want to show you the answer found in scripture. (Emphasis on “answer”) All too often we look for answers in uncertain areas. Even if we choose not to look for answers, we put a band-aid over the anxiety through various vices. We try and substitute “feel good” avenues to cover up the pain.

Second, I want to show you the answer found in scripture. (Emphasis on “scripture”). I am not referring to token bible verses. Bible bombs seldom hit a specific target. I want to demonstrate to you the depth of even the shortest passages of scripture where you will discover a treasure trove of resources and provision the Lord has made available to us.

Israel’s King David had written a good many of the Psalms. Engrained within the words are gut wrenching, raw and honest emotions laid out for all to see. There are few, if any, pious platitudes. Even so, masks which might be worn are then ripped off as the truth exposes the naked realities of one man’s human condition. The reader soon discovers the persona of the psalmist resembles himself. Struggles we thought were unique to us are universal. They are no respecter of eras or cultures. As Solomon once commented, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

David wrote Psalm 43. We aren’t sure of the circumstances behind this psalm of plea, but some have suggested this was written during a time when his son Absalom was spreading false accusations against his father and trying to have him killed. Absalom wanted to take over the kingdom. Psalm 43 has 5 verses. The 5 verses represent 5 phases of a soul’s journey from disquietedness to quietness.

Verse 1: “Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
deliver me!”
David wanted to be vindicated. Vindication means setting the record straight. David wanted the truth of his innocence to be made known. He wanted to see justice served. Can you relate? I can. My vengeful nature rises up to plead my case. I rehearse the wrongs committed against me over and over again in my head. Hurt and anger control me. My focus is on myself.
Verse 1 therefore signifies phase 1 of the journey from a disquieted to a quiet soul: VINDICATION.

Verse 2: “For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
In this verse David is trying to make sense of what’s going on. He is interpreting the matter according to how he feels. We get a glimpse into David’s inner thoughts. In this phase of the journey we begin to ask a lot of why’s. The whys then turn into accusations against God. Have you had those moments when you cry out, “how could you let this happen to me God?”
Verse 2 signifies phase 2: ITERPRETATION.

Verse 3: “Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!”
David is beginning to figure out that his only hope is going to have to come from God. He needs God’s truth to illuminate and enlighten his soul. He realizes he needs intimacy with God and that the only way to experience that is by getting into God’s revealed truth and allow that to bring him to a place of worship. His attitude begins to change. We too should realize that God’s Word is our source of hope and strength. Intimacy with God is the result.
Verse 3 signifies phase 3: ILLUMINATION.

Verse 4: “Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.”
As David’s heart is illuminated by God’s Word and he begins to have intimacy with God, this naturally brings him to a place of worship and adoration of God. Joy replaces anxiety. He realizes that as long as he has God, he has everything. God alone is his salvation. Recall the episode when Jesus and his disciples were on a boat when a storm suddenly arose. Jesus was asleep. The disciples began to fear for their lives. They certainly had a disquieted soul. They woke Jesus and pleaded with Him to save them. He quieted the storm. They had nothing to fear. Jesus was by their side. We need to ask ourselves; are we walking hand in hand with Jesus, the One who calms the storms of life?
Verse 4 signifies phase 4: ADORATION

Verse 5: “Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”
These words aren’t the first time David had written them. He also concludes Psalm 42 with the same words. He is reminding himself of the source of his joy and hope. He is having a conversation with himself. We too must realize that the words we tell ourselves will determine the direction of our life. If the words we tell ourselves come from within a troubled mind fixated on self, then we will continue to have a disquieted soul. But if the words we tell ourselves originate from God’s Words, then we can walk in the assurance of his sovereign control over the circumstances of life.
Verse 5 signifies phase 5: CONVERSATION

Notice how the psalm began. David was listening to himself and then talking to God. Notice how it ends. David was listening to God and then talking to himself. We have learned much from this short psalm. It causes us to ask a few questions.
First, ask yourself; where is my focus? Is it on God or myself?
Second; how am I interpreting the circumstances of life? Am I viewing these events through the lens of my own finite and flawed mind or am I utilizing God’s timeless and infinite truth?
Third; how does God’s Word speak to these particular events and circumstances? This will involve reading, researching, and studying God’s Word.
Fourth; how can I turn my anxiety into worship? Only by reading God’s Word can I begin to enter into a place of worshiping God for who He is.
Fifth; what do I need to tell my soul right now? You may need to remind yourself that, “... we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). There are a myriad of other truths you can stand on during troubling times.

What it all boils down to is living in trust that God is in control. Despite the difficulties, we need to submit to His will, no matter the cost. We must often wait for God’s timing.

I hope you can see that the answers to life always come from God’s Word. We must allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to His truth in Scripture. Then we may fully realize what a privilege it is to walk hand in hand with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Only two kinds of "religion"

When it comes to "religion", have you ever considered there are only two types of worshippers in the world. And each is represented by either Cain or Abel portrayed way back in Genesis. Cain "worshipped" in his own way, deciding for himself what was acceptable to God. Abel on the other hand, intensely aware of the appalling nature of his sin, knew that a "life for a life" sacrifice was required by... God. He sacrificed the best lamb from his flock as a substitute for his own sin. Several thousand years later we see this portrait become reality with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the "spotless lamb of God". So which kind of worshipper are you? One who does your own thing or one who recognizes the propitiation of your sin offered through Jesus Christ?