Thursday, June 30, 2005

21 Thing you need to know about your Bible

Articles Of Affirmation

  1. We affirm that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God.
  2. We affirm that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God binds the conscience, and that the authority of the Church is subordinate to that of Scripture.
  3. We affirm that the written Word in its entirety is revelation given by God.
  4. We affirm that God who made mankind in His image has used language as a means of revelation.
  5. We affirm that God's revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive. [We deny that later revelation...ever corrects or contradicts it.]
  6. We affirm that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration.
  7. We affirm that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us.
  8. We affirm that God in His Work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.
  9. We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.
  10. We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy.
  11. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.
  12. We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.
  13. We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.
  14. We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.
  15. We affirm the unity and internal consistency of Scripture.
  16. We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration.
  17. We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church's faith throughout its history.
  18. We affirm that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers of the truthfulness of God's written Word.
  19. We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.
  20. We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith.
  21. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Don't stop for a cup of Coffee while the house is on fire

This is highly irregular, however...

It is my suggestion that you stop reading what I have to say immediately and follow the link on the title to Phil Johnson's blog Pyromaniac. As we speak smoke is billowing from and you need to check and see what is on fire.

If you are still here I will continue (but you should be gone by now). Phil Johnson is the right hand man of sorts for the Well-known Pastor John MacArthur. However, if Phil's blogspot continues to grow he may become Phil Johnson, that guy with the blog. As of yet he has not actually lit anyone on fire (all of his detractors seem to be doing that without his help). One of Phil's most recent hobbies has been talking to Fundamentalist. In a lecture given at the annual Shepherd's Conference (March '05) Johnson gave an apt description of the Fundamentalist movement. Unfortunately for the fundamentalist He was right in proclaiming the movement to be dead. This ruffled some feathers in Detroit where Dave Doran and Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary is attempting to revive the movement. The correspondence (also seen on has been slightly redundant. It goes something like this:

Phil: The fundamentalist movement no longer exists as it originally was intended.

Detroit: Evangelicals are really bad.

Phil: I know we did a lecture on that as well, but what does that have to do with the death of the fundamentalist movement?

Detroit: I don't even know what an evangelical is anymore.

(so on and so forth)

I little more of this and Phil will be able to write the next best selling book: How to talk to a fundamentalist: If you must (sorry Ann Coulter).

This is just one of the fires burning at Phil's Blog. If "flaming fundys" aren't what you are looking for don't worry there is plenty of fire to go around.

A Few Thoughts On James

A Few Thoughts on James

I. Historical Information.

a. Author.
There is some debate about who wrote this letter, but quite frankly there is little debate about. James was a common name in New Testament times, but there are two different James in the Bible that hold the credentials to write a NT book. First there is James the son of Zebedee. He was one of Christ’s disciples and the brother of John. So far he makes a good candidate for our author, however there is one problem… Acts 12:1-2 James was martyred too early to have written this book. That leaves us with the other James, James the half brother of the Lord (Mark 6:3). After Christ’s resurrection James believed in him. Later James would become the pastor of the Church in Jerusalem. This is the James who wrote this letter, and we will see that more as we continue.

b. Date.
Well since James is our author then the letter had to be while James was alive, and since James was martyred in 62 AD the letter had to have been written before then. It was probably written sometime before AD 50 (the Jerusalem council). It was written near the same time as the book of Galatians, probably a little before. James directed his letter toward the Jewish believers of the time, and this makes since because the church was primarily Jewish during its infancy.

c. Recipients.
In verse 1 we can see that James was writing specifically to Jewish people. This is in keeping with what we know about James. Remember what Galatians 2:7ff says? Just as Paul’s scope of ministry was to the Gentiles, James’ scope of ministry was to the Jews. In effect he was the pastor of a church body that was primarily Jewish. What we will see as we continue our study of the book of James is that these Jewish believers were mainly poor people who were caught in a situation of considerable social tension. They were oppressed and taken advantage of by the wealthy landlords (5:4-6), and taken to court by the rich people (2:6) who also scorned their faith. It also says in verse 1 that they were dispersed abroad. James was writing to Those Jews who were living outside of Palestine. In Acts 11:19 we see why they had dispersed… As a result of the stoning of Stephen many Jewish Christians were scattered, and traveled as far as Phonecia, Cyprus, and Antioch. This was difficult for the young church. As one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church it would have been entirely natural for James to address a pastoral admonition to these believers from his church who had been scattered due to persecution. They had recently accepted Christ, and then their lives became very difficult. James was writing them as their pastor to encourage them to stand firm in their faith against the mindset of the world.

d. Occasion.
Our discussion on the recipients of the letter really spilled over into the purpose of the letter. James was shepherding his flock with this letter. There were probably a lot of new Jewish Christians who were scratching their head, and wondering what they had gotten themselves into. Many of them probably expected Christ to return immediately, and instead of the second coming they faced persecution. This would have been hard for them, they had no NT and now they were separated from their pastor. James was writing to instruct them on the “now what.” What is interesting is that one of the themes of the book is the second coming of Christ. Throughout his letter James emphasizes the immanent return of Christ. Do you see what James is doing? He does not rebuke his readers for being wrong about the timing of Christ return. Instead he exhorts them to continue to live like Christ could return at any moment, but not to be disappointed when he does not return.

II. Main Themes.

a. Practice.
The main theme of the book of James is practical Christian living. James wrote to help his people who were in a new situation with a new faith. James does not write primarily on doctrine in this book; however we will see that all of his practical pleas build off of doctrinal truths. A great example of this is seen in the first 4 verses of the book. James tells his readers to consider it all joy when you face different types of trials. This is a practical plea. His readers were in situations that they may have never been before, and they need to know how to react. They could have been disappointed because instead of Christ’s second coming they had to leave Palestine because of persecution. James encouragement to them was to consider it a joy, why? In short, because it tested their faith and furthered their sanctification. That is the practical side, but the doctrine behind this encouragement is God’s sovereignty. This makes sense, because what you believe will determine how you will live. In the book of James there are three major ideas behind James’ practical pleas: View of God; View of Sin; and the Return of Christ. These themes set the backdrop to the book.

b. View of God.
First a view of God. This is the doctrine that surfaces more than any other in the book of James. In Calvin’s book the institutes of Christian religion Calvin teaches that the knowledge of God is the most important knowledge. If we do not know who God is and what His character is like then we will not even know who we are. If we loose sight of God’s perfection we will lose sight of our sin. In the first chapter of James alone we see that God is generous (1: 5); holy (1:13); source of all good (1:17); and his righteousness is unattainable for men (1:20).

c. View of Sin.
The second doctrinal emphasis is the doctrine of sin. James’ doctrine on sin was built off of his view of God. Often times we see the sin of man contrasted with the character of God (1:20). God’s perfection is the context through which we must view ourselves. James also sees sin as universal (3:2), and resulting in death (1:15). James sees humans as sinful because he views men in light of God.

d. Return of Christ.
The third major doctrinal emphasis is on the return of Christ. Remember the readers of this letter were disappointed because they thought that Christ should have already returned. James does not condemn them for looking forward to the coming of Christ; instead he encourages them to continue to live with the kingdom in mind (1:2; 2:5; 5:7-8). We are to look forward to the immanent return of Christ, but ours is not to know the times or places.

This is the background, and context of the book of James. When you are having a bad day try to remember who God is, your sin, and the coming of Christ. When you have this type of eternal perspective then you will be on the right track.

Friday, June 24, 2005

One more Sports Post

They Got Duncan the Ball

Well I hate to say I told you so (see below), but Duncan came through and now has more hardware than your local Home Depot. And oh what a sports world we live in. The same analyst who were ready to put Duncan in the casket on Wednesday are ready to put him in the Hall of Fame today. Wednesday's Sports Center ran something like this: "Where is that bum Duncan?" and "Billups is the greatest clutch player in Detroit history." Whoops!

On a more serious note yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that your local government can excercise immanent domain to replace your property with private property. In other words if your local government decides it would be better for a Super Wal-Mart to be on your property than your house you are out. All your local government has to say is "economic development." In the past the government had the power of immanent domain for the purpose of government use. In other word if they need two more lanes they can tear down your house. I am very familiar with this law. The house that I grew up in is now the right hand lane of a four lane road. There was not much we could say about it either. I guess it is not so bad, they really needed those extra lanes, but if there was a Wal-Mart there I am not sure that I would feel the same way.

In another scary case the Supreme Court will be ruling on public displays of the Ten Commandments. This should be scary to you no matter what your religious views are. In effect the Supreme Court will soon be ruling on whether or not religion has any valid place in the public eye. The problem with this is that even no religion is a religion. If we exclude the Christian World View then we promote a Humanistic World View. I am not even sure what to look for in this ruling, but I have to remind myself that it is in the Lord's hands not matter what (Can I say that? Or is that a public display of religion?)

Now you don't have to read the Paper, you are caught up with sports and news.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Deep Theological post...

I have something deep and theological to....

To be honest with you all I can think about right now is game 7 of the NBA Finals. This is why you are reading about basketball instead of deep theological insight. If the Spurs had just finished the Pistons off when they had the chance I could concentrate on writing a post dealing with the deep issues of life. Oh well, basketball it is.

The question is can the Piston finish off the series like they finished off game 6. The Spurs were able to hang around for 3 quarters, but when it came down to it the Pistons knew how to finish them off. Now Tim Duncan is taking all kinds of criticism for the loss. Some are even questioning his legacy as a player. The problem Tuesday night was not Duncan. In his typical fashion Duncan has a double double, and dominated the boards. If you are looking for Duncan to make a "show" of it (i.e. his counterpart Rasheed Wallace) don't hold your breath. Duncan is going to play within the offense and spread the ball around. The problem is if he doesn't get the ball he can't win the game.

I guess that is enough of the SportsCenter act. I will save the rest of my sports writing for the baseball season. And if anyone knows Chris Berman go ahead and forward this to him, I really don't mind if he uses my stuff.

*Baseball Tonight immediately following SportsCenter*

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

John Calvin’s view of God

John Calvin was the great exegete of the Reformation. Calvin wrote commentaries for almost every book in the entire Bible. Missing from the list are 1 and 3 John, and Revelations. Of these books, Revelations in particular, Calvin did not write on because he said he did not understand them (a route that many should take today). Of all Calvin’s works The Institutes of Christian Religion was his greatest work. In these books Calvin outlines what we would consider orthodox Christianity. In his summation of orthodox Christianity Calvin begins with how we should view God. Our view of God will determine what we believe in every other area of doctrine.

First, to Calvin, God is necessary in our World. Not only is God the creator of the universe, but in Jesus Christ he is also the sustainer. When we look out the window and see a 30 foot oak we have to ask ourselves how it got there. And the only way to really answer that question is God. This is what Calvin deemed natural revelation. The heavens and the earth are declaring the glory of God! Are we listening? But beyond natural revelation we have special revelation. Special revelation is Scripture. We have in one book God’s word about himself. And this word is just as powerful as God’s word when He spoke creation into existence.

The second thing that Calvin highlights is that all men have an innate knowledge of God. It is what theologians have termed the imageo Dei, or the image of God. We can go back to Genesis and see that all men are made in the image of God. All men posses universal qualities because they are created in the image of God. All have a sense of right and wrong, no matter how jaded it may be. All have senses and feelings. All have the ability to think. What other way can we explain this, than all men have been created in the image of God. As witnesses to this we have Scripture, we have nature, and we have our own experience. Scripture tells us plainly that men are distinct from all the rest of creation because they have been created in the image of God. It is clear the men have a place of dominion within nature. And in our own experiences we can see that there are universal morals and feelings that must come from some where.

The third thing that Calvin highlights is the result of knowing who God is. To paraphrase Mr. Calvin one cannot even know who he is without first knowing who God is. When we see the utter majesty and perfection of God it leads to a proper understanding of man. We realize our need for a savior, and the wonder of God’s grace. When we know who God is we realize that we have no right to mistreat the guys next to us. This is why Calvin begins The Institutes of Christian Religion with how we should view God.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Father's Day at Pinehurst

Campbell won, Woods showed up, and Goosen unraveled

Coming into the day it looked as though Retief Goosen would claim his third U.S. Open Championship in five years. The analyst knew he would win, his opponents knew he would win, and even the quiet reserved Goosen admitted it would be hard for him not to win. But not win is exactly what he did. Goosen’s cool demeanor was reduced to a silly grin as he unraveled from within. And just as quickly as Goosen gave the tournament away Michael Campbell was willing to take it from him. Campbell played the course like a champion. It was as if he bottled that one miraculous up and down from the ’95 British Open into a whole round. In a week where up and downs were few and far between Campbell made all the big ones. Not only did Campbell make all the big shots on Sunday he made them with Tiger Woods chasing him down. With roars on 10, 11, 15, and 18 Campbell knew that Tiger was not going to lie down. However, Campbell was able to do what Goosen could not, keep his cool. And so with another major Sunday in the books we are left trying to answer all sorts of questions.

Was Sunday’s push by Tiger a sign of things to come? With St. Andrews lurking can Tiger get his putter working just enough to win by 15?

Will Goosen ever be the same again? Will we always remember Retief for his two U.S. Open titles, or for his U.S. Open meltdown?

Will we ever hear from Jason Gore again?

And lest we forget the guy who actually won, what will this do for Michael Campbell’s career?

These are all the things that my Father and I talked about as we watched the tournament unfold in front of us. We had the family around, and a pot of coffee to watch the end of the tournament. Without Dad golf would be boring weekend TV. But thanks to Dad I can appreciate the skill it takes to play in the U.S. Open.

For us the tournament was as much about Father's day as it was about Golf.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What Does Matter

The Mindset of the New Creation
Galatians 6:11-18

Introduction (vs 11):

I started to think about what I have taken from my study in the book of Galatians, and what I want you guys to take from our study. Then I noticed that what the apostle Paul left for us in these last few verses is a perfect conclusion to his letter, and our study. Here in these verses Paul warns us one last time of the dangers of legalism. And what we see is that the more mature we become as Christians the less worthy we feel to be a child of God. The closer that we get to the real beauty of Christ the more obvious and ugly our remaining sin appears to be. Jonathan Edwards had this to say: “The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires; their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable and full of glory, is a humble, broken-hearted joy, leaving the Christian more poor in spirit, more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior (Works I, 302).” The warning against legalism is a warning against pride. It is a warning against people who are proud of their growth; speak highly of their spirituality, whose joy in the grace of God is not deepened by the recurrent remorse because of failures to walk by the Spirit. It is a warning against loosing the creature Creator distinction.
The first thing that we see in these verses is that Paul wrote them with his own hand. There is some question as to why Paul wrote with large letters (bad eyes, or bad handwriting). But I think no matter what you think it is easy to see that Paul’s “big letter” writing added emphasis to what is about to follow. Paul took the pen from his secretary to finish his letter. With his own pen he recorded the final exclamation point on his letter to the Galatian churches. In this final exclamation point we will see both the mindset of Paul and the mindset of his opponents, and the principle that separated them. In verse fifteen we will see the point of the entire letter. It is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision that matters, but it is the new creation that matters.

1. The Mindset of Judaizers (vss 12-13):

The Judaizers had two reasons for doing what they did. The First was to make a good showing in the flesh. With this phrase “in the flesh” Paul shifts back to the major discussion of the letter. The Judaizers were interested in themselves. They wanted to give the outward appearance of a godly life. They trusted in their own flesh, and this is the path that they were led down. There is no doubt that Paul had in mind circumcision with this phrase. They had no problem with circumcision because they only had to change the outside. They were interested in the appearance of godliness without being interested in godliness. When we read this phrase, “good showing in the flesh,” it is hard for our minds not to go back to chapter 5. “The deeds of the flesh are evident… and those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” In their teaching they were not at all interested in the Galatians, or in honoring God. In fact, in chapter 4 verse 17 Paul reveals their motives. They swooped in, after Paul left, teaching that the Galatians needed to be circumcised for their own earthly benefit. They were teaching a salvation that comes by works (3:1-5). And why? “So that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.” Paul may not have even known the names of those who were opposing him, but he sure well knew what they were up to. They wanted to make things easier for themselves. They wanted to compromise the gospel to fit with Jewish culture so that everything would just be easier. If they could just fit Christianity into the culture then there would be no problems, and no persecution. Problem is that when we do this we are left with no Christianity. We lose what makes us Christians. We are trading the great doctrines of Grace for fellowship with unbelievers, and we are caring more of what they think than of what we know that they need. It was really not even Christ who was the cause of this persecution so much as it was the Cross. For a Christ who is a teacher only can well be mixed with Judaism or any other religion. It is the Cross that brings persecution. And the difficulty of the Cross is that it speaks of the necessity of Divine death as the only solution for man’s problem. The Cross of Christ is the great stumbling block for people who do not have the grace to humble themselves before God.
The second reason that the Judaizers were doing what they did was so that they could boast in the Galatians. Let us remember who these people were. They were trophy hunters and they wanted to report mass conversions. They were people led by their own flesh, who taught damning doctrine for selfish motives. Despite teaching circumcision and the law as a means of grace they did not even keep the law themselves. They could not do what they taught the Galatians to do. This should not surprise us. In fact in 3:19 we see that the whole purpose of the law is to point out our need for a savior. In 3:10-15 we see that no one is justified by the law, in fact because no one can keep the moral standards of the law we are all cursed by the law. But Christ has taken this curse upon himself so that through faith we might be freed from this curse. In teaching that we need to go back to law the Judaizers were placing themselves under the curse. And yet, despite their total depravity, they sough to convert the Galatians that they might boast in their own works. They could avoid persecution by boasting, or glorying in, how many converts they had to the Jewish customs. In their own mind their success was tied to the praise of men, instead of their success resulting in the praise of God. The Cross will humble us before God, and men. It is hard to truly understand this in our culture today. After a couple thousand years of being the symbol of Christianity the Cross is looked upon as being noble. However, we must remember that to the NT world the cross was an instrument of death. It would be equivalent to us wearing an electric chair around our necks. And to be associated with the Cross was obscene to the world. We often remember that Christ’s words “except a man take up his cross and follow me he cannot be my disciple.” We must join Christ on the Calvary road to be saved. But we often forget that the Calvary road is where people jeer and spit and laugh. Therefore, no one who is enslaved to the praise of men will join Christ on the Calvary road. What is more important to you, the way that other people see you, warts and all, or your place on your face before the throne of God? The mindset of legalism uses morality as a vehicle of pride, it fears human rejection, and it craves human praise. The mindset of legalism trades the more visible sins for those that are easier to hide from the outside world.

2. The Mindset of Paul (vs 14):

But now let’s look at the alternative mindset which Paul aims to have in himself and to teach to others. Whereas the mindset of legalism is centered around pride, Paul’s mindset is centered around humility. Look at what Paul says: “may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul knew who God was, and he knew himself; because of this the only thing that he could glory in was the Cross. That same Cross that was a stumbling block for the Judaizers. The Lorn Cross design was found in a churchyard in a village in the district of Lorn, Scotland. The knotwork running the length of the cross is endless. It symbolizes the eternal theme: the Alpha and Omega - beginning and end in the eternal circle, the very essence of Celtic art. The outer circle represents heaven.This is a beautiful cross that was artistically designed to remind us of the eternal work of Christ. However, it is a far cry from the tree that Christ was hung from. The apostle Paul, quoting Scripture, said that all who hang from a tree are cursed. But why did Christ the eternal Son of God have to be cursed and die on the cross? Paul gives us the answer to that as well. In his letter to the churches in the region of Galatia Paul wrote that "everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law" is cursed. Because man is unable to live up to the perfect standards of God we are destined to a cursed eternity.This is why Christ had to hang on that tree. This is why Christ had to be cursed. It was for us! Our sins had to be punished, and we had to live up to the standards of God. We could do neither; so Christ accomplished both for us. Now when we identify ourselves with Christ through faith we are no longer cursed by our own shortcomings. Instead God looks upon us and see the work of Christ.Let us enjoy the beauty of the Lorn Cross, and be impressed by the artistic ingenuity of the Celts. But do not forget about that cursed tree on which the sin of man was nailed. Marvel at the wonder of Christ's perfection, and indebt yourself to his grace. Remember if anyone had room for boasting in his accomplishments it was Paul (Phil 3:4-6). Yet he realized that in light of who God is the only thing that he could possibly boast in was the Cross that revealed his sin. As is pointed out in 3:1 The gospel of Christ crucified so completely rules out any other means of being righteous before God that Paul found it utterly incomprehensible for anyone who has once embraced such a gospel to ever think of supplementing it in any way. “For if righteousness comes through the law then Christ died needlessly.” We really are that bad that we needed Christ to dies for us. This is the mindset of the new creation, and it begins with a realization of how bad the old mindset was.
The result of being identified with the cross, by boasting only in the cross, is to be crucified to the word and the world to you. I think that what Paul means by this is something to the effect of: “Since I met Christ the mindset of the world has come to look like a despised, worthless, cursed thing.” And conversely “when the world looks at me it sees nothing very attractive, either.” In 1 Corinthians 4:13 Paul says that we have become the refuse of the world. They are busy with their lives deny their own frailty and the supremacy of God, and there we go again admitting our own frailty and the supremacy of God. Our lives are centered around the very things that the deny. In my cross centered mindset I have become refuse to the world, but in its mindset the world has become refuse to me. Christians who believe in self-denial for Christ’s sake are crazy to the world. They are like dead people- fools at best, and scorned and persecuted at worst. Is it a surprise that the head of the sociology department of a prominent university was quoted slamming Christians as fanatical imbeciles? What he has spent his whole career fighting against we are affirming in our acceptance of the cross. With are identification to Christ we no longer have worldly of fleshly advantages dominate our thinking or living. We must see ourselves for who we are, and God for who he is. We must see ourselves as sinners indebted to the Grace of God. When we do this we can have the same mindset that Paul did, the mindset of the new creation.

3. The Mindset of the New Creation (vss 15-16):

We have talked a lot about this new mindset, but really have not looked at the principle behind it. Here in verse 15 Paul reveals this principle to us. This principle is the focal point for this whole section, and really it summarizes the content of the entire letter. Paul has spent the entire letter opposing the teaching the Gentile converts were required to be circumcised (consequently converting to Judaism). But he has not spent all of this time opposing circumcision in favor of uncircumcision. Paul’s point is that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters they are just outward acts; it is the inward act of being made a new creature in Christ Jesus that is worth something. All that matters is that a Christian be a new creation and the he or she express this inward work in ways that reflect being “in Christ” and “led by the Spirit.” In other words we need to live as new creatures in the same way that we became new creatures. We need to humble ourselves before God so that we, like Paul, can boast only in the Cross of Christ. And in verse 16 we see that those who walk according to this rule will receive peace and mercy. “This rule” refers to this mindset of the new creation.
Let’s look at the two mindsets one last time. First the mindset of self-exaltation. It desires to make a good showing in the flesh with religious rituals. It craves at the applause of men. But the mindset of Christ-exaltation regards the pleasure of human applause as a pile of garbage compared to the pleasure of knowing Christ. Self-exalters fear persecution, Christ-exalters expect persecution. Self-exalters regard outward works like circumcision (or in our day going to church) as the essence of religious life, Christ-exalters regard an inner new creation as the essence of religious life. Finally self-exalters remove the stumbling block of the Cross by ignoring or despising its implications, but Christ-exalters glory in the cross that splinters and pops the balloon of self-exaltation.


Paul concludes his letter to the Galatians much as he began it, by highlighting his own apostolic authority and warning regarding continued agitation within the Galatian churches. Paul bore the marks of Christ on his body. But he was not wearing a cross, as we might, nor did he have a tattoo. The marks that Paul had in mind were the scars and disfigurements left on his body as the effects of his sufferings as an apostle. He was Christ’s marked man. He received these marks defending the gospel of Christ, just as he did throughout the letter. In a fitting way Paul closes this letter by writing of the grace of God within the family of God.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Religion and Politics

“A Unified Country Without Unified Causes”

In the last year it has become increasingly evident that people’s religion has a major impact on how they vote. The most evident example of this is what the media has deemed the “right wing Christian.” To the political world Christians are just another demographic that need to be won over. But this “right wing Christian” demographic has a wide array of people groups included in it. There are no doctrinal distinctions in this demographic. The question that many are left with is: “where do I fit within this demographic?” When is it ok to work with people that we do not agree with, and why do so many different groups fall into this one political demographic? To answer these questions is to answer how people think, and why they do what they do.

The first thing that we can note is that there are many different World Views within one political ideology. People can have a unified ideology without having a unified World view. These are people who come to the same conclusion on issues, but have a different way of arriving there. Take Terri Schaivo as a test case. There were plenty of people on both sides of the issue, but lets look only at those who wanted to keep her alive. There were a lot of people who fought to keep Terri’s feeding tube in, including Jesse Jackson. For the most part these people were all fighting for the same reason, because they felt like it would be taking her life to remove the feeding tube. While this was the common answer not all came up with this answer in the same way. For instance, some wanted to keep her alive because they did not want to end up in the same situation one day. Others wanted to keep her alive because they did not trust her husband. And others wanted to keep her alive because they believe that God is sovereign over human life, and for man to unjustly take a life is murder. All of these people came to the same conclusion, the sanctity of human life, but they all arrived to that conclusion in a different way.

But there is another distinction within political ideologies. There are those with unified causes without unified ideologies. These are people who fight for the same causes, but for different reasons. A good example of this is the recent political activity with same sex marriages. Again we could look at either side as an example, but we will look those who oppose same sex marriages. The cause is the same, ban same sex marriages, but the answers are different. There are those who hate homosexuals and see banning homosexuality as a means of ridding the country of homosexuals. There are others who see the negative effects that homosexual marriages have had on other societies, and see banning homosexual marriages a means for saving our society. There are others who see supporting a ban on homosexual marriages as a political advantage, and see banning homosexual marriages as a means for furthering their political career. Finally there are those who see homosexuality as rebellion to God’s established order, and see banning homosexual marriages as a way of upholding Biblical truth. These are not concrete categories some people can hold to a mixture of two or more of these generalizations. But the point is that they all have the same cause with different ideologies. Their motives are different for one another because their answers to life’s questions are different. Take for instance the final example given; if this person truly wants to uphold Biblical truth he will love the person caught in homosexuality and hate homosexuality because it will result in the eternal punishment of the homosexual.

Because so many different people have so many different ways of viewing the world we are a unified county without unified causes. So be careful when you identify with a political demographic. Remember what politics are. We can be in agreement with someone on a particular issue and be diametrically opposed to their view of the world.

The More Excellent Way

1 Corinthians 13
The More Excellent Way


This passage is one of the loveliest passages in the Whole Bible. However, it is a passage that is regularly read out of context. Paul was concerned with the religious traps that the Corinthians had fallen into. In their zeal for spirituality the Corinthians had abandoned genuine Christian ethics, and the supremacy of love. To Paul love is primary in the lives of Christians. Love is primary because it has already been given concrete expression in the coming of Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world. In Paul’s writing love is not an idea. Love is not really even a motivating factor for behavior. But rather to Paul love is behavior. To love is to act; anything short of action is not love at all. This is Paul’s point within the context of the letter to the Corinthians (see chpt 12 and spiritual gifts). Love is the way that our spiritual gifts are to function. To desire that the Spirit would work through you to build up the community is how love works in this context.

The Necessity of Love

To have love means to act lovingly, just as to have prophecy means to speak with a prophetic gift. To act lovingly is to actively seek the benefit of someone else. This was the case with Christ. In fact the definition of love is found in the character of God. Love is found in God’s activity on behalf of his enemies (Rom 5:6-8), which was visibly seen in the life and death of Christ. To “have love” therefore, means to be toward others the way God in Christ has been toward us. This is the necessity of love: God “has love” and so we need to “have love.” If we do not have love we are only a hollow sound. What Paul is saying to the Corinthians is to speak in tongues as they were doing, thinking that they were being spiritual but with no concern for building up the community, is not merely to speak unintelligible words; it makes one sound like the empty hollow noises of pagan worship. Paul is not arguing for love instead of spiritual gifts; rather Paul is arguing for the supremacy of love in the use of spiritual gifts. Paul applied the supremacy of love to the lives of the Corinthians and we can do the same thing. If I teach the best Sunday school lesson on love but have not love…

The Character of Love

Paul goes on to describe the love that he just insisted was necessary for the Christian life. We see that the foundation for Paul’s teaching on love is found in God’s character. Paul's first two descriptions of love are patience and kindness. Can we find any better example of patience and kindness than God’s actions toward us? God’s loving patience is demonstrated by his holding back wrath toward human rebellion. God’s loving kindness is found in the countless expressions of mercy toward men. These two positive expressions are followed by seven verbs that indicate how love does not behave. The first five, at the very least, are taken right out of the Corinthian file. In this description of what love is and is not Paul seems to have captured the life and ministry of Jesus. So much so that Jesus could be substituted for love.

The Permanence of Love

Paul’s concern in this passage is to redirect their thinking on the true nature of spirituality, and to place even their emphasis on tongues within the framework of the primacy of love. Paul wanted to redirect their eagerness for the spirits (14:12) toward edifying the community rather than directed toward spirituality as the end goal. The root of the Corinthians problem was pride. They thought that because they were exercising the gifts of the Spirit that they were already partakers of the ultimate state of spiritual existence. Paul is not condemning the gifts he is teaching them how to use the gifts. The gifts are for now to edify the body of Christ, however love will never come to and end. Love will never be invalid. At the coming of Christ the final purpose of God’s saving work will have been reached. At that point the gifts now necessary for building up the Church in the present age will disappear, because the complete will have come. When the sun rises all lights are extinguished. Our knowledge has not yet been made complete. It is accurate knowledge, but it is without completion. We are looking at the photo, and it is not yet the real thing. We are dependent upon faith and hope until that time when we will see the real thing. At that point love will remain.

"Love never fails"
"... among these love is the greatest."

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Lorn Cross

The Lorn Cross design was found in a churchyard in a village in the district of Lorn, Scotland. The knotwork running the length of the cross is endless. It symbolizes the eternal theme: the Alpha and Omega - beginning and end in the eternal circle, the very essence of Celtic art. The outer circle represents heaven.
This is a beautiful cross that was artistically desi
gned to remind us of the eternal work of Christ. However, it is a far cry from the tree that Christ was hung from. The apostle Paul, quoting Scripture, said that all who hang from a tree are cursed. But why did Christ the eternal Son of God have to be cursed and die on the cross? Paul gives us the answer to that as well. In his letter to the churches in the region of Galatia Paul wrote that "everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law" is cursed. Because man is unable to live up to the perfect standards of God we are destined to a cursed eternity.
This is why Christ had to hang on that tree. This is why Christ had to be cursed. It was for us! Our sins had to be punished, and we had to live up to the standards of God. We could do neither; so Christ accomplished both for us. Now when we identify ourselves with Christ through faith we are no longer cursed by our own shortcomings. Instead God looks upon us and see the work of Christ.
Let us enjoy the beauty of the Lorn Cross, and be impressed by the artistic ingenuity of the Celts. But do not forget about that cursed tree on which the sin of man was nailed. Marvel at the wonder of Christ's perfection, and indebt yourself to his grace.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

June, 9th 2005

Galatians 6:7-10

I. The principle: a man reaps what he sows.

a. Do not be fooled. Here is the principle behind Paul’s encouragement to share in the good and in the Bad with one another. Do not fool yourself by sowing little and expecting much. This is a principle that has always been true. We can go all the way back to Deuteronomy 28 to see this principle. Dt 28 lays out for us a list of blessings and curses which are dependent upon our actions. But this list should not be seen as God zapping everyone who makes a mistake. The list should show us that there are consequences to what we do. If we disobey God’s Word then we are doing things in a way that God would not do it. And frankly that can only lead to bad consequences. There is a direct correlation between sowing and reaping that has been established by God. We cannot just ignore the cause-and-effect relationships of this world. Studentds, do you realize that what you are sowing in your lives now as students you will reap your entire lives as adults? Do not think that you will grow up and then take things seriously. If you do not start now, you may never start. Guys if you have a problem with lust now you better nip it in the bud because it will not go away when you get older. And do not think that you can be a Christian and you can sin without any consequences. As I see it there are two problems with that. First, even as believers there are bad consequences for sin. There may not be eternal punishment for them, but there will be consequences for them. Second, remember what Jude says in verse four of his epistle. Things being what they are, the consequences will be what they will be.

b. God is not mocked. Why are there bad consequences for bad actions? Because God is the perfect and just judge of all the World. As we will see in the following verses one cannot expect to sow to the flesh and then reap eternal life, and so mock the justice of God, for God is not mocked. This phrase here literally means to turn your nose up at God. Those who claim to be Christians with their mouth, but deny him with their life cannot expect to sneak past God in the final judgment of the World. True conversion to Christ is not a mere human act of giving lip-service to Christ. Genuine conversion is a divine act by which the Spirit of Christ is made to dwell in our hearts giving us the ability to struggle with the flesh. There are attitudes that cannot coexist with true saving faith in Christ Jesus. This is why Jesus said that “many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord... but I will say depart from me. I never knew you (Matt 7:22-23).” In this passage Christ is not saying that they needed to be saved by what they did, instead he is saying that what they did (or did not do) proved that they did not believe. Some will look at this passage as a salvation by works passage; however that just does not “work.” Look at what their basis for Christ acceptance was: “did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” It never occurred to these men that their only basis for merit before the perfect and just judge of the world was Christ Jesus.

II. The application of the principle.

a. If you sow unto the flesh you will reap corruption. Having stated the general principle Paul now divides it into parts. Here we see the application of: “whatever a man sows he will also reap.” If you sow unto the flesh you will reap corruption. What is sowing unto the flesh? I think that sowing unto the flesh carries with it the idea of looking forward to the wants of this present life, without any regard to a future life. It is to be so entirely devoted to the flesh, as to direct all our thoughts to its interests or convenience. And when you sow unto the convenience of your own flesh you will reap corruption. Here Paul is alluding back to the end of chapter 5 and the works of the flesh. When we sow unto the flesh, it is clear that we will reap corruption outside of the kingdom of God.

b. If you sow unto the Spirit you will reap life. From two different fields one reaps a harvest that corresponds to the nature of the fields themselves: either corruption from the flesh, or eternal life from the Spirit. If you sow to the Spirit you will reap eternal life. To sow to the Spirit is have one’s views directed more to heaven than to earth, and to have one’s life regulated by the desire to reach the kingdom of God. From these spiritual seeds come incorruptible fruit. Here is a question that John Piper asks: “Do you get up in the morning and feel a need for the power of the Spirit in your life and so you seek his filling in the word (Bible) and prayer? Or when you get up do you feel like there is no time o seek his fullness and besides, this is a pretty normal day and I don’t need much help. A prayer on the stairs will do!” Every day I struggle to be the first one. Where are you? Do not forget, if you sow to the Spirit you will reap eternal life. Romans 6:20-23.

III. Do not grow weary in doing good.

a. We will reap in due time. Remember we are not to be fooled, God is not mocked and He will prevail. In due time we will reap the fruit of true labor. There are numerous biblical examples that we can look at and see how in due time they reaped the reward of Godly service. Think of Abraham. Look at the life of David. Even we do not see the fruit of our labors in this lifetime, as Paul said in the previous verse, we will have eternity to see the fruit. Missionary.

b. We will reap if we do not grow weary. We will reap in due time, and we will reap if we do not grow weary in reaping. Probably the worst enemy of enthusiasm is time. Human beings have a remarkable and sad capacity for getting tired of wonderful things. Vacation. Toys. Christians get tired of doing good. At first the excitement of teaching a Sunday school class was strong, but now you have grown weary of well-doing. The inner power and joy that comes from this well-doing slips away and it becomes a chore. You have lost heart. It is tiring to, and expensive to make an investment into the kingdom of God, but oh what a pay off. We as a youth group have committed to supporting Travis and Laura Sawyer with 100$/month. This is no small commitment. It will take help from each and every one of you to keep this commitment to them. But oh how it is worth it. One day if we do not weary we may meet someone who heard the gospel only because we helped support the Sawyers.

IV. Work hard as doing good.

a. Now that you have opportunity. All that being said, now that we have the opportunity let us work hard at well-doing. When you get your paycheck (or just some money) look to see how to turn that money into the best advantage for God’s kingdom. Invest your time into where the Spirit aims to produce fruit for the glory of God. Just as there is a season for farming we have a season for well-doing. It is our whole life. God has set apart the whole of the present life for plowing and sowing. He has left us here to be salt and light. He has left us here so that we might bring Him glory in this earth. No that we have the time, in other words while we are alive, let us sow to the Spirit working hard to do good to all men.

b. To all, especially members of the divine household. We must work to do good to all men, but especially to those who are of the same house as we are. To those who are our brothers and sisters through Christ Jesus. There are duties which we owe to all men, but he tie of a more sacred relationship established by God himself, binds us to believers. What Paul is saying is that if you have limited resources then they should first go to the believers. If we as a church give all our money to the homeless people who come to the door how would we be able to do the things we need to do as a church?