Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holiness is happiness

My daughter plays by sitting in one place and manipulating objects, because in her mind sitting leads to playing, and playing is happiness. For the longest time this is how I saw the interplay between holiness and joy. 'If I am holy, then I will be joyful' seems so very plausible because it's true that if you are holy, then you will be happy in Christ, but the very structure of the thought is harmful because it imposes the idea that holy is the cause of the effect happiness, that they are two distinct things.
Now this is a step up from Piper who starts from the wrong end "Look for joy and then you will find holiness" but even so, upon watching my kids today it occurs to me that there is an even better way to view the dynamic between holiness and joy.

My son plays by crawling around, to him mobility is not a means to an end, it is the end, the crawling itself is what brings him happiness. 
This, I think, is the superior way to view the interchange between joy and holiness- not that one causes the other, but that one is the manifestation of the other. That they are essentially the same thing.

And so, mans chief end, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever could be shortened to be Holy, just as God is holy, (1 Peter 1:15), because holiness is joy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A lesson about panic

Last night while the kids and I were in the car, but my wife was still in the house my daughter began to scream because she was convinced we were going to 'leave mommy behind' and no amount of 'no we're not, just trust me' seemed to make a difference. Once in the car the wife and I had a good laugh because Kaylie was so worked up over nothing, but then it occurred to me how very much like that we are. We too have this irrational unexplainable belief God is not going to make good on His word to go and prepare a place for us, He is not interested in coming back for us or ensuring us He is telling the truth, we are going to be left orphans- abandoned.
Man is by nature distrustful of God's promises because he is fallen. This is why we reject Perseverance of the Saints, not because it isn't biblical.

The Church of Christ monkeys with a good song

The song 'To God be the Glory' as seen here (minus verse two) is probably well known, but because I grew up in the Church of Christ we learned a different version. This is the line I heard yesterday for the first time:
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Perhaps it's not shocking to you to hear the confession of justification in this hymn, nor it is surprising to hear that a decree of God cannot be undone, which means a pardon is good for all time. But because some guy changed it I learned it this way:

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly obeys
That moment may enter the heavenly way
.

No pardon, no belief, just obedience (that means baptism and good works). No mention of Jesus, no respect to Him as sovereign, fit to dispense grace as He sees fit. You do what God, not Jesus, tells you, you work hard and you may just make it to heaven. Because you see, you don't enter heaven, you enter the heavenly road, the narrow way, which begins your work. In light of this last line the first stops making sense, for how can redemption be perfect unless it's complete? But no matter. Work hard and be a good person, and one day you will go to heaven.  And my wife wonders why I get mad at them occasionally.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Integrated Advent Chronology

Luke 1:5,8-9,23-24a,26-28,31,39,56 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah (1 Chron 24:10). And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth....Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty (about late September) according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense...And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived....In the sixth month (about late March) the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!...Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus"... In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah...And Mary remained with her about three months (until John was born, late June) and returned to her home.

Matthew 1:18b-21 When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

Luke 2:1,4-5,7-11,16 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.... And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child... And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, (about late December) because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord... And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

Luke 2:21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Matthew 2:1,7,11-15- "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."(this would mean they left before He was born)...Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him."... And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

Matthew 2:19-21 - But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead. And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. "

Luke 2:22- And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, (Lev 12:1-4) they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

Luke 2:39a, Matthew 2:22a, Luke 2:39b, Matthew 2:22b And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord...he (Joseph) heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee...to their own town of Nazareth....(so) that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: "He shall be called a Nazarene."

(Note: The temple dedication is the last thing the family does in Luke's account (Luke 2:39) before returning to their home in Nazareth, and according to the law of Moses that's 40 days after He was born. It therefore seems unlikely to me that the family waited around 40 days in Bethlehem, dedicated Jesus, went home to Nazareth, then returned again to Bethlehem (for no given reason) to live there for nearly two years before the Magi reach Judea. It also stretches credulity to say the Magi took nearly two years to make a two month trip on something they were excited about; I think rather that they saw the star before Jesus was born and left in time to arrive very near the time of His birth. That they found Him in a house is not surprising, it is reasonable to assume that immediately after the census everyone fit to travel left for home, clearing up enough space for Joseph to find a house to stay in for a few days while Mary recovered. For that reason I don't think the account of the escape to Egypt should be inserted between Luke 2:39a and b. I think it much more probable that the Magi gifts financed an escape trip and Joseph and Mary were running very low on cash by the time they returned to Jerusalem. The Matthew story should be either right before or right after Luke 2:21.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The verse that makes you a Calvinist II

In the Arminian worldview Christians can lose their salvation, in the Calvinistic one, true Christians cannot. Which is right? When the Bible uses the word election the Arminian must assert this is a corporate election, rather than an individual believer being chosen by God for salvation as the Calvinist does. Let's consider the problem of Christians being predestined as a class to salvation, the problem of this notion is readily apparent at 2 Peter 1:10, "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall."
On the surface this looks like Christians can fall, because Peter is warning them to make sure they don't fall, but that's shallow, because what does the word calling or election mean here if that is true? Corporate election? How does a church make its election secure? What do they need to do? Go back to verse 9
 "For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins."
Whoever doesn't sound like a corporate entity.  Neither does the word he, nor does the fact that this person  is cleansed from their former sins.  All of these promises are things that belong to a person, and in fact this discussion starts at v3 where God's mighty power v4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." 
If the Arminian is right then it's not the individual Christian who is the partaker of God's divine promise but Christians as a class. Which means the promises God makes to us such as "if you believe with your heart and confess with your mouth you will be saved" are not really for us, they are for us only when we gather together collectively.  And the verses in context are not for us either:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities  are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now then, faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love are not for the Christian. So if the Arminian is right then we have totally and utterly destroyed not only all the promises of Christ, but the ability to be sanctified- which is amusing because the Arminian insists that they can keep their salvation through sanctification.
So if election means corporate election, then all the promises and power of Christ have been stripped away because it's a meaningless thing.  Only in the personal Calvinistic scheme is election and sanctification persevered.

Friday, December 2, 2011

25 Advent Prophecies

Leading up to Christmas I am leading my family through the famous prophecies about Christ and what they mean. I'll keep a record of them here.

Day 1 - Genesis 3:15 - "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."  From this we learn the Messiah will come from the sperm of a woman, but not of a man. He will hate evil, and crush Satan underfoot, but it will cost Him dearly.

Day 2 - Job 19:25 - "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth." The messiah would be a fellow man, a brother, come to save us from misery and bondage. He lives even now, eternally, and will one day come down to earth to deliver us.

Day 3 - Genesis 12:3,7 - "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed...Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." This prophecy shows that the messiah would own the land of Judah, come from Abraham, and bless all the nations of the Earth.

Day 4 - Numbers 24:17 - "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth" The Messiah will be a king from Israel. He will utterly crush His enemies and those who oppose Him.

Day 5 - Deuteronomy 18:18-19 - "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him." The messiah will be a prophet, who sees God face to face like Moses did, and will pass on His words to us. He will have the full and complete authority of God, such that anyone who questions Him questions God.

Day 6 - 2 Samuel 7:12-14 - "I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'" From this we learn a great deal about the Messiah, He will be a son to God, come from the line of David, sit on the throne as a King of a kingdom that will never end (for it will never be taken away, nor will He die).  He will be punished by God for sins, by flogging, but God will never take His steadfast love off of Him.

Day 7 - Psalm 2:7-8,12 - "I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession...Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him." The messiah will be one who is not merely a Son of God, but begotten by Him, sharing His essence, nature, and traits.  He will own all that God owns, with the very might and strength of God, and demand worship and obedience of all the nations of the world as is fitting for God. Yet just as the Lord is a shelter to those who trust in Him so will the messiah be to His people.

Day 8 - Psalm 16:10 - "For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption." The messiah will not be abandoned by God to the place of the dead, He would be raised up from the dead before His body would decay.

Day 9 - Psalm 22:7-8,14-16,18 - "All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!... I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet...they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots" The messiah would be mocked by many, and delivered to death by them. His limbs would be pulled out of joint, His strength run out, and He would thirst. They would pierce His hands and feet, and use gambling to decide who gets His clothes upon His death.

Day 10 - Psalm 41:9 - "Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me." The messiah would be betrayed by a close friend.

Day 11 - Psalm 68:18 - "You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there." When the Messiah would ascend He would release the captives He loves and take them to God, so that He would dwell among them.

Day 12 - Psalm 110:4 - "The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."The Messiah would be a priest, but a priest like Melchizedek, that is, righteous, just, the king of peace. He would have an unending priesthood that continues forever because He Himself would never die.

Day 13 - Psalm 118:22 - "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." Although the messiah would be rejected by those of His own people who should receive Him (priests, scribes, holy men), He would nonetheless become the foundation of salvation.

Day 14 - Isaiah 7:14 - "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." The messiah would be born of a mother who was a virgin, and He would be 'God with us.'

Day 15 - Isaiah 9:1-2,6-7 - "But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined...For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." From this passage we know the Messiah would minister and be from the land of Galilee, where there was darkness of understanding. He would be a light, the son of God given to mankind, and not only so, but a King, an ever lasting help (an advocate with the Father) God Himself, establishing peace. He would be of the line of David to assume his throne, and He will hold it forever. This is a certainty, and God will do it.

Day 16 - Isaiah 25:8 - "He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken." By His work and rule the Messiah would forever put an end to death, it's sting, and it's sorrow. To His people He will give eternal life.


Day 17 - Isaiah 35:4-6 - "Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert" The Messiah would perform miracles, opening the blind eyes of those who cannot see God, unstopping deaf ears of those who could not hear Him, making strong the legs of those who were incapable of coming to Him. He would make them alive again, bringing them new life.

Day 18 - Isaiah 42:1-3 - "Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice"The Messiah would continually delight God, and would not seek His own or demand justice, but He would continually submit to God in all things. He would be gentile and loving, faithful to show them the mercies of God.

Day 19 - Isaiah 50:6 - "I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting." The messiah would submit to torture and not dispute it or resist it.

Day 20 - Isaiah 53:3-7,9-11 - "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.... And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities" Perhaps the longest and most comprehensive account of the messiahs work of all. Although innocent and sinless, God would place upon Him all our sins- just as the lamb is sacrificed to atone for sins so would the Messiah be. He would be counted among the wicked disobedient and there killed, buried in a rich mans tomb. Yet although He would be cut off from the living He shall have children, by adoption, those men and women He brings to God, and God will count them as righteous, by justification.

Day 21 - Ezekiel 37:24 - "My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes" The messiah will be a good shepherd to God's people, and will cause the people to obey God by changing their inner disposition.

Day 22 - Hosea 11:1 - "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." The messiah, the Son of God, would come out of Egypt while He was still a baby.

Day 23 - Zech 9:9 - "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." The messiah would be righteous, having salvation, and He would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey in humility.

Day 24 - Micah 5:2 - "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days." Although He would exist long before Bethlehem existed He would be born in Bethlehem of Judah.

Day 25 - Luke 1:31-35,50-51,54-55, 2:4,7 - And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, (2 Sam 7:14, Ps2:7) and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High (Is 9:6) And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, (2 Sam 7:12)and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" (Is 7:14) And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God...His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever (Gen 12:3).... And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (Micah 5:2) because he was of the house and lineage of David...And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Lying to your Children About Santa

I realize that I'm in the minority (as far as I can tell I'm in the extreme minority here) among baptists for doing Santa with my kids. From most other people I hear something very similar to "I don't want to lie to my children, so I tell them Santa isn't real."
Set aside that St. Nicholas (in dutch, Santa Claus) was very likely a real guy, who at one point put gold coins into stockings so their poor owners would have enough money to pay their dowry and could avoid a life of prostitution. Set aside also the celebration of that spirit, like what everyone is actually aiming at, even non-believers, that that kind of action is good and should be celebrated, and emulated.
Set it aside, I want to point something out something more important about the idea of Santa.

All things that really matter are non-corporeal: love, joy peace, patience, goodness, our souls, these things have no real physical manifestation. As a consequence, they must be comprehended by way of analogy. Take God Himself for example: being utterly other than time, space, and matter (this is what is meant by the world Holy, it means He is so very other) results in us being unable to understand Him. (The Reformed thinkers called these communicable attributes because God is communicating them to us)
For example, how do we understand God when He says He's a Father? By understanding earthly fatherhood and relating it upwards- because God has decreed that we have kids and could experience that for ourselves, we are able to get a glimpse of God Himself. Indeed this is what Jesus says "If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much greater does your Father in heaven?"
And I'm arguing from the greater to the lesser here, if God, the highest end of our knowledge, demands we approach Him via analogy, and we care for our kids, then would it really make sense to deny our children this learning platform when we appropriate it for ourselves? Are you concerned about lying to your children about Santa? You might want to rather be worried about being a hypocrites before God.

All that to introduce the argument that if you sat down and try to explain to children in the highest terms the concept of Christian generosity and the necessity of loving your brothers and sisters and ensuring their well being because they are fellow believers, the kids are going to tune out, because they are concrete thinkers, and have not yet moved to grasp such lofty ideas. If however you provide them a concrete example then they may be able to latch onto it and understand it. For us then Santa is the real manifestation of Generosity and Christian Love. It's a simplification by way of concession, but it's not a lie. It's an object lesson. When they get older the notion of a physical Santa will be improved to see that while these attributes are embodied in Santa who acts as an example for us, they are not exclusive to him.
They are learning with their hearts now, and heads later.
So if it's lying to your children to tell them Santa is real then the subject matter expert witness in court is lying to the jury because he is not telling them everything just as it is. In fact simplifying anything for matter of explanation is a lie. Which means you had better cancel your kids Sunday morning Bible classes at your church and have them in with the adults or face the sin of lying to them.

Lastly, let's just be honest and admit that any child who grows up, falls away, and offers that line for why they don't believe in Jesus is putting up a pitiful excuse. "My parents lied to me saying there was such a person as Santa, they must therefore have lied to me about God. I do not believe in God." What they are saying is "Unless my parents could explain God perfectly to me they were lying to me." Tis nonsense. 
And this is why we will do Santa for our children on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The remnant - remember this to avoid depression

I preached Sunday night at at Union Gospel Mission here in Sacramento.
Immediately afterward a Modalist came up to me and told me how foolish I was for talking about God as a Trinity, or Jesus as the Son of God. Needless to say I didn't tolerate this for a second and began to warn him about the coming judgment, and how if he believed this he would certainly be damned, pleading with him to accept Christ as the Son, pointing out that Christ is praying to the Father, so they can't be the same person. He just walked away.
Then a whole line of people passed by me looking away, they obviously didn't want to talk to me.
Then came a group of people who came to criticize me for attacking Joel Osteen. In my sermon on Acts 8 I pointed out that Simon Magus is not the father of Gnosticism like the commentators say, he is the author of Joel Osteenism, the notion that the gospel can be used by us. The ideas that God is our servant, He can be our tool, He can be twisted and shaped, that the Bible exist for us to get things we like, such as money and riches and health I declared to be sick, and I warned them of believing it. And after it was over they attacked me for heaping scorn on the notion of 'your best life now'.
And after all that, when I didn't think it could get worse, one man came up and said he really appreciated the sermon. He mentioned he was studying the ordo salutis because he wanted to grasp from scriptures a Biblical wordview. He wanted to transform his thinking.
How sweet were his words! The Lord will save His remnant. May the name of the Lord be praised.

Why Jews are Atheists

I had an interesting conversation with one of our interns yesterday, who is a Jew, but considers himself an athiest.
I asked him if he believed that the Scriptures were divinely handed down to mankind by God and he said no, that was a silly notion.
I then asked why he would think so, and his answer was more or less that there are things in the Bible that nobody takes seriously. Although he was not this articulate, his argument was thus:
There are instructions in the Scriptures that are impossible to obey (such as the Temple sacrifices).
Since it is impossible to follow them they are irrelevant and useless. All scripture then is useless and should be thrown out because God never intended us to keep them in the first place. And if God doesn't intend us to keep His laws then He is no God, He is irrelevant.
This is why all the Jews have left is their tradition, or they are atheists.
I find this sad but inexorable, and commendable. If Christ has not fulfilled the whole of the law then it's hopeless for the Jew, and he is therefore bound to conclude that this is all a bunch of nonsense.
Only in Christ is this veil of "Meaningless!" removed, only in Him do we understand.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hebrews 6 Explained

Chapter 6 exists almost as an after thought, a parenthetical inserted into the discussion of Jesus as a faithful high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Chapters 5, 7).  Its as if the writer really wanted to cover the nature of a changing priesthood, but knowing his audience (Heb 5:11) he had to stop and point out the consequence of having such a priest in detail.  After showing that if Jesus is our High Priest, and God has promised Salvation, we can have trust and hope in the certainty of Christ.

Introduction to Chapter 6 - Everything I'm about to say is really easy stuff
1Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of
·         Enough ABC’s in other words. Thus it follows that whatever the writer is about to say is actually really easy to grasp and come to terms with.

repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
·         Faith and repentance from dead works are the very first things we learn, we cannot earn our salvation, our righteousness isn’t enough to merit the presence of God, but Christ has accomplished everything for us, if we accept Him by faith

2and of instruction about washings,
·         The ceremonial washings of the Old Covenant (such as Ex 30:18-21) foreshadowed the Holy Spirit cleansing our hearts by faith (Titus 3:5)

the laying on of hands,
·         I tend to agree with John MacArthur who thinks that given the context of the letter the Laying of hands has the idea of the man bringing a sacrifice forward, laying his hands on it, and in so doing identifying with the sin.  (See Lev 1:4). We identify with Christ by confessing our sins put Him up there. 

the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
·         Resurrection of the dead probably speaks to the fulfillment of God's OT promises with regard to eternal life. (See Ezekiel 34:22 for example)

3And this we will do if God permits.
Now for the moment you are all waiting for.

The Argument Proper - why believers will be saved 
4For it is impossible, in the case of those who have
1.      once been enlightened,
2.      who have tasted the heavenly gift,
3.      and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
4.      5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God
5.      and the powers of the age to come,
·         The word impossible doesn’t mean difficult, it really means impossible, and further, this list has every mark of a genuine Christian since these five things only a true Christian experiences: they have new minds, have felt for themselves the goodness of God, are partakers with the Spirit in regeneration and sealing, and have tasted both the joy of the word of God and the power of the age to come.
·         So it’s well and truly impossible for to genuine believers to: 
       
       6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance,  
      But that’s a problem because true believers can’t fall away, Phil 1:6,
and they can be restored to salvation James 5:19-20
·         (As a side note: the structure of the argument helps us to determine these men are true believers: they cannot be restored to salvation. If they never truly repented it would say: convert them.)

since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
·        ∙ Thus concludes the argument which really has begun at Heb 5:9. So in summary it looks like this:
      Only the blood of Christ can cover sins
If a Christian could lose their salvation it would mean sin has overpowered the blood of Christ
The only remedy for sin is Christs blood, but since the first is no longer effective Christ must make a second atonement.
      Christ will not be crucified again.
Therefore nothing remains to save a true believer who falls away.

      An analogy might be helpful. Say I'm a convict chained to a federal marshal on a plane traveling from New York to London. If I was able to smash through the handcuffs, overpower my guards and jump out of the plane into the ocean could I then get back on that plane?

      The Second Argument - why believers will be saved  
7For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
·          This is essentially a reassurance point out his previous argument was merely a warning.  This brings to mind the Parable of the fig tree (Mat 23:32-33) and the Parable of the gardener (Luke 13:7)

9Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.
·         To reassure them the writer includes this. We aren’t worried about your salvation in reality, although it’s a dreadful thing to fall away, because God is faithful.
·         The writer will expand on this more.

10For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.
·         Firstly why we shall certainly be saved: God is not unjust. No one who has given even a cup of water will lose his reward (Mat 10:42).  If Christ were to promise a reward to us, and then fail to deliver it, He would be a liar, and He would not be just.

11And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
·        This could not be more explicit that eternal security is true, the writer has included all this so that they may know the full assurance of hope.It's only when you have been set free that you can run the race. Only with the supreme confidence of Christ can we really work or have hope.
·         
13For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you."
·         Second reason: God has made a promise. Going back to v10 the writer is now going to expand on the nature of Christ being faithful and just.
·         Salvation is a promise so it doesn’t depend on human effort or ability. This is what Paul argued in Romans 4.

15And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.
·         All Abraham did to obtain the promise and blessing was wait.
·         Heaven is acquired likewise. Not by good works, but by patience.(Gal 5:5)

  16For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,
·         The heirs of the promise is us. We are the children of the promise, see Gal 3.
·         Our modern notion of signing a binding contract is equivalent to the notion of an oath.

18so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie,
·         God cannot change His mind, neither can He lie. Therefore we have a sure confidence in His two things: His oath, and His promise.

we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
·         If then we have a God who has guaranteed our salvation let us hold fast.
·         The ‘fled for refuge’ speaks to the idea of a murder or criminal fleeing to the city of refuge Josh 20:1-9

19We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
·         That is the Most Holy place, the place behind the temple curtain where the ark of the covenant was.
·         This marks the end of the parenthetical, the end of chapter 6, being a summary of it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Geisler on Bible basics

I'm currently reading through A General Introduction to the Bible by Geisler and Nix, these are my thoughts on the organization of the Bible inspired by that book.
Part 1 - Moses 
God Spoke to Prophets
Moses (the lawgiver)
The Prophets
The Pentateuch (Torah)
The Prophets (Nebhiim)
The Writings (Kethubhim)
Genesis
Joshua
Psalms
Exodus
Judges
Proverbs
Leviticus
Samuel
Job
Numbers
Kings
Song of Songs
Deuteronomy
Isaiah
Ruth

Jeremiah
Lamentations

Ezekiel
Esther

The twelve
Ecclesiastes

Divided into the early and later
Daniel


Ezra-Nehemiah


Chronicles
                                                                                                                Poetry / Five rolls / History

The Jews understood that Scripture is a revelation from God, faithfully passed on by men called prophets who communicated Gods commands Amos 3:8, 1 Kings 22:14, or written words Ex 34:27, Jer 36:28, Isa 8:1, 30:8, Hab 2:2. These men were chosen by God 1 Kings 12:22 to serve Him 1 Kings 14:18 by beholding, seeing, or hearing a message from Him Is 42:19, 30:9-10. They predicted the future as proof of their claim Is 41:23, and were never wrong Deut 18:20.
To the Jews then, the whole of the writings were together called Scripture, Matt22:29, 26:54, Luke 24:32, 44, John 2:22, 5:39, 10:35, Acts 17:2, 11, 18:28, 2 Peter 1:20-21 (that’s enough to make the point), and understood to be God's oracles Rom 3:2.
The Jewish ordering of these books are testified to when Jesus spoke of the guilt of the blood of prophets, from Abel to Zechariah, and you can see that this list begins in Gen 4:8 and ends 2 Chron 24:20-22. Our expression “from Genesis to Revelation” would be equivalent.
Under this banner of infallible prophetic writing there was a two-fold division: Moses and the prophets. 

Moses, being the first prophet Deut 18:18, 34:10 was far and away the greatest, for he gave the law as received from God face to face Ex 33:11, Num 12:8, and the first five books.  In fact, as the chart above shows, the Scriptures were understood by the Jews to be divided into two parts: Moses the great Law Giver and everybody else not Moses, Matt 5:17, 7:12, 22:40 Luke 16:31, 24:27, John 1:45, Acts 24:14, 26:22, 28:23, Rom 3:21.
It’s hard to understate this.  Moses stood unequaled among the other Bible figures Acts 15:21, warranting a whole division of sacred Scripture to himself. It’s not a wonder that people were so up in arms to defend him Acts 6:11. This is also why the writer of the Hebrews ascends from showing Jesus is greater than the angels to showing us He is greater than even Moses.
We may be tempted to read Deuteronomy 18:18 as one verse among many that point to the person and work of Christ, but this is a rather serious mistake, we should not think of Moses as a mere prophet, we should think of him as a person so pivotal and revolutionary that He warrants a whole new division in Scripture. Therefore, when this man came as Moses had prophesied Acts 3:22-23 He reshaped the fundamental way we understand God’s revelation.
And He did. Matt 11:13, Luke 16:16, John 1:17.

Within this two-fold division there was another twofold division: the Nebhiim and the Kethubhim, or things God said, and the things God did.  So there is in the larger picture a threefold division of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms Luke 24:44.

But that's for next post.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Church of Christ's Shorter Catechism

Okay, sure, it's not polite to call it a catechism, because that would bring up the notion of creeds and formal doctrine, but in reality if you go to just about any church of Christ this is what you will answer with.
(But first, I cannot resist recording a short anecdote of just how much they hate the notion of creeds while ascribing to them in practice.  My dad was an elder at one of the biggest CoC in California, perhaps the biggest, when the ministry staff put out a 'What we believe' on the internet. He pointed out that that is a creed, they panicked, and took it down.)
Where the answers are the same as the Reformed ones I have omitted them. 

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. To love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, but particularly the new, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. 

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. What we should believe, and how we should live.

Q. 4. What is God?

A. God is a Spirit, powerful, eternal, loving.

Q. 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A. There are two persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, both are worthy of worship, although the Son is less than the Father.

Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?

A. The decrees of God are: creating and sustaining existence.  

Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. He already did. 

Q. 11. What are God’s works of providence?
A. God’s works of providence are in empowering men to do as they please.

Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Failing to do the right thing, or doing something prohibited in the Bible or by church consensus. 

Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. Yes and no. All men became condemned to die, but it wasn't as if Adam acted as a federal head, or there was a thing called original sin.

Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. In having a tendency to sin or slip.
 
Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. No, He sent His Son to redeem men, by having Him die on the cross. 

Q. 21. Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The word elect has no meaning. But Jesus is a redeemer for all.

Q. 24. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A. By revealing Himself in the Bible.  

Q. 25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. In his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice.

Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. In conquering all his and our enemies.

Q. 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. He doesn't. The work of Christ is applied by us, when we believe.

Q. 31. What is effectual calling?
A. The calling of God that reaches out to everyone who hears the Gospel message. 

Q. 32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A. The ability to hear which leads to the ability to believe. 

Q. 33. What is justification?
A. A weird word. It means 'to make just, or to imbue with righteousness' although it's not a very useful one. 

Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. Another word we don't use. The Baptists mean it as 'holy living.' 

Q. 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. Heaven awaits us in the next one.

Q. 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A. True Christians go to heaven. 

Q. 39. What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A. The duty which God requireth of man, is lifelong obedience, faithful church attendance, and baptism in an authorized Church of Christ baptistry.

Q. 60. How is the sabbath to be sanctified?
A. In the new covenant we are absolved of keeping the sabbath. 

Q. 61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. Saying 'God' 'Jesus' in an unseemly manner. Saying 'Gosh' and "Jeez' fall into this. 

Q. 82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. With the strength of God all things are possible. 

Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. No. Divorce is the worst of all sins. 

Q. 85. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse, due to us for sin?
A. To believe in Jesus, and to confess Him as God's Son before baptism, to faithfully attend church the remainder of your life. 

Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. An inward belief that is so powerful it changes our habits and actions. 

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance is not a word that has meaning. 

Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The Bible, communion, baptism, and prayer.

Q. 89. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?
A. Reading the Bible, listening to sermons, and going to church camp.

Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. Faith alone in Christ is effective, the Catholic church's notion of sacraments to save is incorrect.

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?
A. A Catholic notion that is un-scriptural. 

Q. 93. Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A. Baptism for conversion and The Lord's supper taken weekly. Except stop calling it sacrament.

Q. 94. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a total immersion in an authorized body of water, (typically back first) preferably in a church, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and become members into the one true church.

Q. 95. To whom is Baptism to be administered?

A. Children or teenagers old enough to understand that Christ is God's only Son. 

Q. 96. What is the Lord’s Supper?
A. The Lord’s Supper is an event wherein, by giving and receiving unleavened bread and grape juice, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.