June 29, 2012

We're to Engage The Culture Not Conform To It

    Evangelism and Culture

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

The implication from this verse is that we are to go out into the world like fisherman and catch people and pull them out from the sin of the world.  In reality we are pulling them into isolated boats or islands of Christianity in a sea of wickedness as this world is the Devil's own. Sadly, we do not often do this. Instead of pulling the people from the sin of the world system...the sin of the world system pulls the Christian in into its depravity. It pulls us overboard into the depths and we quickly get pulled under and flail trying to get back into the Christian boat. It would've been better if we hadn't hung our head over the bow when the sin of the world makes our boat pitch and turn in turbulent seas. Better to stand in the center of Gods will near the Captain and perfecter of our Faith: Jesus Christ. 

If we look closely, many practices within Christianity today do not have Biblical foundations. Some trace their origins to paganism or are of uncertain origin. We can think of the veneration of saints, or feasts like Christmas or Easter. As the church evangelized the Barbarians, it was met with the challenge of how to deal with pagan practices, whether to accommodate them, Christianize them, or simply outright eliminate it.  Is there anything we can learn from medieval evangelistic practice?

Yes, I believe there is quite a bit that can be learned and what we learn from them can be brought forward or contemporized to help us avoid making the same mistakes now (as we are already doing in some cases).

During the period of the Imperial Church 313-476AD, worship increased in wealth and pretentiousness but spiritually suffered. Ceremonies/forms of paganism crept into the worship. Old heathen feasts became church festivals with a change in name and location only. We begin to see the adoration of Mary and veneration of the saints, etc. (Hulbert 62). What started as an honest attempt to give honor to those who came before turned into something much more dangerous. Honoring people is fine, elevating them and deifying them is not. This is not biblical as all are one in Christ (Gal 3:28). Sadly, this is often the proclivity of mankind. Although man is commanded to be theocentric, because of man’s fallen nature, we always drift towards man-centered behavior attempting to make ourselves gods.

It is during the Imperial Church period I believe we begin to see the onset of the world transforming the church, not the church transforming the world (anti-Romans 12:2). The piety, holiness and humility or the earlier ages which were fruits of the Spirit of the true church gave way to things like ambition, pride and arrogance which are not fruits of the Spirit-nor are they Christian. It is here that we see the dividing line that needs to be made between Culture/Church or State/Church. It is biblical to maintain this division in light of Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees and the Scribes: “Render to Caesar what’s Caesar’s and God what’s God’s”. In other words, obey the authorities of this world until they attempt to trump God our put themselves in God’s place. This is where the early church went rogue. It wasn’t Constantine’s acceptance of the Church that changed it but the hearts of those that were no longer under persecution because of the Edict of Milan and subsequent changes in the church. They now had time and energy to devote to things that were more self-centered rather than Church centered.

It is always a challenge to engage the culture/world system without becoming part of the culture / world system. A church under persecution often fights to keep the world out because it is hostile but when the world is friendly, we let it in without being discretionary and this is to our detriment. Just because we have it easy does not give us license to become lazy with doctrine and practice. We are to be vigilant regardless (1 Corinthians 16:13, 2 Peter 2, etc.)

In our rush to convert or evangelize the world we often absorb so much of it that we end up selling out to it and this what we see in the medieval evangelistic practices (Cairns 153). This is usually to the detriment of the Church, not to culture. I believe it could’ve been done in a more controlled and quality manner in a series of “weeding out”. Mass conversions don’t necessarily make real Christians, it just make large groups of people call themselves Christians due to either the socio-political benefits or doing so to “fit in”. Quantity does not necessarily equal quality and this is what we saw then and it is what we see now when numbers are more important than people soul’s. Christianity is a change of the heart and mind, not just outward actions. Outward actions should be a reflection or manifestation of what is within. They are the effects not the means.

Romans 12 is clear, we’re to engage the culture, not become the culture. We’re to renew our minds, not remove them to “fit in”. To blindly attempt to convert people without sound theology behind the conversion cannot be considered true evangelism with intent to make true adherents. Jesus told us in the Great Commission that we are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “and teaching them to obey everything He commanded us.” If we are attempting to convert without educating people from the Bible we are not fulfilling the Great Commission as it was given to us by Jesus. What's worse is we are really encouraging a form of syncretism if we add in other religious "embellishments" to get people to convert to a false version of Christianity which in reality probably isn't even Christian. As such we need to engage culture carefully and biblically. We can accept people of the culture into the church but as 1 Corinthians 6:11 says: “such were some of you.” We need to expect people to change to the tenants of the Christian Faith, not the other way around. We cannot add their pagan practices and rituals to our faith. This is no different than what we see in the Interfaithism movement today.

In the end we need to avoid secular methods of engaging the “pagans”. This requires that we engage culture Biblically intent on redeeming them from their sin, not adding numbers to our ranks. Power doesn’t come from human numbers anyway (David’s census). We also need to do so humbly (Philippians 2) and this means we should pray reverently. If we interact with the culture with intent to convert them it then becomes an act of worship of God therefore bringing God glory. It is only when the Church stays wholly God-centered (theocentric) and does things with the sole motive of bringing glory to God in a Biblical manner that we can be assured of avoiding the mistakes of the past. In approaching people with intent to teach them of the God of the Bible in a redemptive manner we ourselves are working out our salvation.

Cairns, Earle Edwin. "Chapter 15: Hierarchical and Liturgical Developments." Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub., 1996. 150-155. Print.

Hurlbut, Jesse Lyman. The Story of the Christian Church. Latest rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1970. Print.

June 27, 2012

God Sets Up Kings and Deposes Them

The Conversion of Constantine

Without a doubt, Constantine’s conversion to Christianity changed the Western Civilization as well as Church history. He set the stage for making a minority, persecuted, religious sect into the most powerful institution in the Western world. But at a cost, for the State reserved to itself the right to intervene and control church affairs. So the question one would ask is: Is it possible that the Church would have been as powerful as it was in the Middle Ages had a policy of separation of church and state defined their relationship from the very beginning? 

I suppose what is really being asked here is whether or not the Church could survive its infancy and transition to adulthood without the “power of empire” to bolster or look over it. In this mismatched marriage of opposites: State and the Church was there a beneficial end result for the nascent Christianity. My answer is simple and succinct. Yes, I believe that the symbiotic relationship between Christianity and the State was beneficial to the survival and propagation of the Church (universal) that allowed it to grow to the magnitude it did.  By the time of Charlemagne we will virtually see a Christendom or what amounted to a Christian Kingdom in the consolidation of power in Charlemagne.

The fact that Christianity had the power base of something as large as the Roman Empire (at least in the beginning) boded well for its immediate growth and eventual survival. It grew from an anaemic sect that appeared to have broken from Judaism into an institutional Goliath. Although Christianity ran a risk of being assimilated by the State until it was unrecognizable…this seemed improbable. The resources of the empire being at Christianity’s disposal is similar to and comparable to the United States involvement in World War II. When separation and isolationism is no longer possible and the power of empire is turned to a focused cause, the empire and its State sanctioned religion become a juggernaut. The protection afforded by Rome allowed a relatively defenseless infant Faith to grow and strengthen. We see this in the councils, dogmas, creeds, formation of doctrine and combating of heresies throughout the period 313-451 A.D. [Nicene, Athanasian, etc.] (Cairns 125-133; Davidson 32)

Constantine seems to have initially used Christianity for political expediency. This is alluded to in our text (p.119). Interestingly I believe we are seeing an image here with Constantine and Christianity that’s similar to Nebuchadnezzar / Daniel and Artaxerxes / Nehemiah. Although Nebuchadnezzar, Artaxerexes and Constantine may have done things for selfish or political reasons, so too we saw David, Solomon and even Abraham do the same that pushed history and kingdom forward. God is sovereign over history and kings.

Daniel 2:21~He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;

In the long run, a sovereign God’s will, shall be done and we see this in the symbiotic relationship of the Church and State at strategic points in history. If God had done this in the Old Testament, why would He not do it in the New Testament age? Had Christianity not been assimilated into the dominate power of the time and given its resources, it may have never exceeded “backwater” status and survived the barbarian incursions. It seems as if it was a marriage of necessity (or sovereignty). So instead of a dead extinct Faith we at least have a somewhat healthy church to survive the barbarian onslaught and to some extent had the resources to even begin to be missionaries to meet the warlike barbarian masses [Gregory of Tours, Clovis, etc.] (Cairns 123)

Because of Missionary work like that of Patrick of Ireland, there were bastions of culture in the Dark Ages in places like Ireland that was a home to monks and monasteries (Cairns 124). Because of the work of people like Augustine in the City of God, we have a philosophy that allowed believers to look towards the end goal of history, that is beyond history and in the hands of an eternal God (Cairns 142). This in turn helped sustain a church through coming hard times.

Interestingly, we see the partial “paganization” of Christianity that was due to successful missionary efforts, mass conversions and a massive influx of pagans. I suppose this is not unlike the syncretism of Israel in the Old Testament. Although there was syncretistic blending, in the end God purified his church and purged the unwanted elements. Although things crept into the Faith that shouldn’t have God will eventually rectify and set His people straight. We will eventually see some rectification of the Church and their abuses after the Medieval and Dark Ages in the form of the Reformation.

I guess in the end we see things have happened again in God’s world for a reason. History unfolds as God plans because it is His-story. In the crucible of persecution we see the formulation of Canon and Creeds, dogma and doctrines. This strengthens the faithful in courage to actually go out as apologists and polemicists further winning more adherents. Adherents as a power base is political power whether it is realized or not by the adherents. Those in power and stature like Constantine took note of this and find it politically expedient to cater to this “power in numbers” thereby granting religious freedom that will positively affect these growing Christian ranks [Edict of Milan]. Subsequently, Theodosius I made Christianity the official State religion. (Cairns 120) Even at this point Constantine realizes that he might as well take on Christianity as an ally to preserve classical culture. This is nearly prophetic in its insight as it will probably be the power and might of Rome even in a diminished form that allows the Faith to survive the coming barrage of pagans in the form of barbarians. The freedom granted by Constantine and Theodosuis allows the building of the Church and therefore churches (Cairns 154). An edifice is only as strong as the cornerstone it is laid upon. The Church being laid upon Christ assured its survival. The Church being helped by the power of empire behind it (even with some of the errors) aided it and pushed it along.

[I'll be elaborating more on this in later posts.]

Cairns, Earle Edwin. "Chapter 11: The Church Faces the Empire and Barbarians." Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub., 1996. 118-124. Print.
Cairns, Earle Edwin. "Chapter 12: Conciliar Controversy and Creedal Development." Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub., 1996. 125-133. Print.

Davidson, Ivor J.. "Chapter 1: Constantine and the Pagan Religions." The Baker History of the Church from Constantine to the Medieval World, 312-600. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2005. 19-46. Print.

June 26, 2012

They Live Among Us

Exclusivism and Inclusivism

The fear of Exclusivism to me is the bane of Christianity. To some extent an aversion to exclusivism has crept into our churches through uninformed or uneducated laity. At worst it has actually taken over pulpits and soapboxes that have the ear of influential people in powerful positions in the form of ecumenicalism. It is looked down upon because many believe that if we as Christians begin to define our faith and what we believe in absolute terms and do so with certainty we are somehow being unloving or somehow bearing bad or poor witness to the world of our Christian walk. The bottom-line is that we have misinterpreted Jesus statements about being weak and are becoming doormats to the world…even when it comes to orthodoxy and doctrine. Many believe that if we just get the world to like us, not only will we convert them, we make Christianity look good too.  No, we become Christian doormats. Frankly, this spineless approach to evangelism is gaining ground in the world. In spite of this, the Holy Spirit is doing the work winning these people anyway. We can plant seeds but the Spirit does the work in the heart. The adherents of the idea that we need to continue to water things down to try and win people at the simplest level is naïve. Jesus didn’t do this and neither should we. Jesus told the truth and never backed down from it. When He did it with the Pharisees and Sadducees he actually was quite harsh. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”

Working with others to see where there are comparisons between denominations is one thing but when I see interfaith gatherings and adherents of different religions entirely trying to “work out their differences”, what I usually end up seeing is Christians compromising some piece of their faith or forsaking entire core tenants in an attempt to meet people where they are. It is always the Christian that jumps out of orthodoxy first to be as Christian as possible. There is a point where compromising is not acceptable and it just turns into apostasy or a forsaking of the faith and that is just plain sinful (and stupid).  We are to engage the culture, not accept the culture. The Bible tells us to “renew” or minds, not “remove’ our minds.

To varying levels and degrees adherents of the philosophy of inclusivism in the Christian faith end up watering-down the One True God and the truths that stem from His self-revelation in the Holy Bible. On this very point I will be mercilessly attacked as hackneyed and ignorant in backwoods uneducated kind of way. I will be told that I need to be more open to other truths and this I believe is exactly where Inclusivists get it totally wrong. Sadly, some of these attacks will come directly from Christian brethren that believe I am delivering the Gospel or Message without love. These people need to go back and read their Bibles and see how Jesus dealt with false teachings and false teachers.

Those that tried to embrace inclusivism to keep the wolves of pluralism at bay ended up throwing out the baby with the bath water. One cannot abandon the idea that Salvation is through Christ alone. I agree that inclusivism is indeed a de facto pluralism. Call it whatever you like, the gate is narrow for salvation and not all can get in. I suspect that this lean towards pluralism is spurred by the mad headlong rush into postmodernism. It is the reason pluralistic religions of the Far East like Hinduism have become all the rage. They tend to be more accepting of a larger variation of “diversity”. Christianity in and of its very nature makes it exclusivist. If you attempt to make it pluralistic or de facto pluralism (inclusivism), you’ve made it not Christian. The Bible tells us that we can only approach God in a specific ordained manner. It is concise in these statements.

The source here, states that: “private inclusivism contends that one who is accepted by God apart from the preaching of the Gospel is saved in spite of whatever religion to which he may be an adherent. His religious orientation plays no part in his salvation and in fact is a definite hindrance. The non-Christian’s ignorant beliefs, if sincere, are inculpable but have no positive role in his relationship with God."

This is repulsive because it totally diminishes the work of Christ on the cross and essentially alludes to or suggests that it wasn’t necessary. To me this is a turn towards Universalism (hello Rob Bell). This makes God a liar and the Bible a tome of false statements as revealed from God. This is absolute tripe. Corporate inclusivism says that the non-Christian religions mediate the work of Christ. Corporate Inclusivists try to distinguish their position from pluralism (as if they could) …but the bottom line is that they agree with pluralists that the world religions can be conduits of saving grace. This fallacy, like private inclusivism, diminishes the work of the cross. I find this absolutely unacceptable as this then negates statement of the Bible such as, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). So who are we to believe, love-dovey touchie-feelie capricious humanity or the time-tested inerrancy of Scripture. I’ll take the latter. Postmodernism and pluralism is a trend and the Scriptures will outlast them. My belief is that inclusivism is nothing more than a cultural aberration doomed to the funeral pyre of history but not one jot or tittle of Scripture will pass away until the Lord returns.

Sadly, what I see being allowed to happen is marginal Christians or people that are not even Christian are controlling real believers en masse. We are essentially are allowing shepherds and  Inclusivist types of people in leadership positions to dictate to a large extent how Christians react to what amounts to heresies or outright apostasy. We are literally being asked to accept wolves into the sheepfold and we are being told they are our friends. Instead of us converting them, they convert us. It is the same old story of Israel and how they did not drive out the pagan's from their midst. This bodes poorly for us just as it did for Israel as we read in Joshua/Judges. These books describe the apostasies and subsequent invasions and oppressions of Israel (Joshua 13:13, 16:10, 17:11-13 Judg. 1:29, 37 to name a few). God shows us in that narrative why He treated His people as He did. It was their failure to obey God's instructions regarding driving out the corrupt pagan nations of Canaan. Joshua may have succeeded in conquering Canaan but the failure to drive pagan's out of the land or destroy them only left these bad influences to hang around to cause trouble later either through violence or more subversively, through syncretism.

Am I an Exclusivist? Yes, I am. We see from history what happens when we allow godless ideas to intermingle and intermarry with believers. Man's natural inclination is to be a sinner (Romans 3,5,7). We of ourselves have no way preconditioned to be able to resist these infectious evils when we are in the midst of them constantly. Through attrition they eventually wear us down until we slip. We must be vigilant in guarding our flock. Not calling wolves shepherds and bringing them in among the flock to shepherd the sheep. This then only makes us later wonder why our flock is diminishing right before our eyes. I can not disagree more with people like Stanley Grenz when he states:

“Just as in the biblical era, so also today, wherever people are drawn—even through other religions—to worship the most high God, there the true God is known." ~Stanley Grenz

Mr. Grenz is being severely disingenuous when he makes a statement like this. He using semantic posturing to make a nebulous point akin to universalist beliefs. If people are drawn to a god through other religions it is a god that could not be the one described in the Bible as the Bible is the only true revelation of the One True God outside of the incarnate revelation of His Son. To say otherwise is blasphemous. Therefore the god they think they are following is not the one revealed in the Scripture, it is one revealed from other non-authoritative sources. These so-called converts to this religion would then not be Christian, would they? Christianity is not the "best among all the religions to chose from", it is the only religion. 

The corporate Inclusivist view holds that the world religions are more salvation-based and therefore more effective than the preaching of the Gospel (the question I pose is: What are we saving people to?). This should be utterly repulsive to any that hear this statement. Romans 10:17 specifically state that Faith comes by hearing. What Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 is absolutely damning to this view:

"...I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures"

What was preached? The Gospel
By what were we saved? The Gospel (of Jesus Christ)
What did believers take their stand on (for eternal life)? The Gospel
The Gospel (Good News) of whom? Jesus Christ
What is this Gospel? "That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures"
What validated this event? The Scriptures & The Resurrection itself
What documented this event? The Scriptures
What foretold of this event? The Scriptures

I see no Inclusivism in this passage unless you believe exactly what this Scripture states as any true Christian would. Otherwise, for all others this is indeed viewed as Exclusivist and should be. I didn't make these stipulations, God did in the Scripture. Inclusivism (corporate and individual) and its misbegotten siblings neo-ecumenicalism and interfaithism, were born out of an unwarranted panic brought about by the supposed failure of the Church to accomplish evangelism and saving people (as if people could). The true conversion of new Christians is the work of the Spirit, we need only try to inform people of other religions what is the truth of the Bible without watering it down. This doesn't even mean that we need to bludgeon people over the head with it either. Christianity needs to be relational not revolting.

Instead we have watered down what the Gospel really is so we end up preaching something that isn't even the Gospel. In this respect we failed the Great Commission anyway because it is not what Christ told us to preach to all the world (Matthew 28:19-20). In the end it is better to preach the entire truth of the Gospel in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4)  no matter how biting and exclusivist to save a few, rather than preach a lie and damn people in droves.

June 24, 2012

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Acts 16:29-31~ “…and the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 

The clear statement on/in most Christian web sites is that: Salvation is a gift from God we can’t earn, we can only receive it from Jesus! This is a correct statement. It is indeed by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). This is so that no man can boast in anything they have done. Nothing you've done gets you salvation. It follows that once salvation is attained, continued work is not necessary to maintain it as it was never attained through work to begin with. The flip side of this as James tells us is that, although we are not saved by our works they are indeed fallout or manifestations from our salvation and an absence of them is a possible indicator that we were never saved to begin with. If we are saved we are suppressing the Holy Spirit with sinful behavior as to make the works of the Spirit unrecognizable or misinterpreted by outside observers (including ourselves). It is because of God’s love for us that we receive this mercy and grace that even allows us a chance at salvation. The grace is unmerited. We did nothing to earn it, God gave it. It is part of the exchange between the Father and the Son. We are literally a gift from the Father to the Son…and from the Son back to the Father. The implication is that it was predetermined since before the foundations of the world or pre-time in eternity past. A sinner (you and I) were kept for this purpose. Surprisingly, we are even extended an undeserved gift in this transaction: Grace. Please note this is predestined for those willing to obey His call, not against but with God’s will to do so. It is a concurrence of wills not a conflict of wills, like two rails on the same railroad track heading in the same direction at the same time-albeit for possibly different reasons...the train will arrive at its intended depot on time as determined. (I refuse to get into the Calvinist/Arminian debate here. I merely mention this because this is what I see in Scripture when I read it)

Having said this I now shift gears to address salvation and conversion in and of itself.

Many will say Romans 10:9-10 is pretty self-explanatory: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” What must be seen here is that it is not the confession that is the route of salvation in this passage. It is an effect of the salvation that is caused by the “belief in your heart”. We need to interpret this passage correctly and delineate. I have heard many say that you need to believe and confess verbally to be saved. Confession verbally is a work and it is not by works that we gain our salvation it is purely by trust and belief in the Gospel or what Jesus Christ did on the Cross. To attribute any man-centered act as a vehicle for gaining correct standing in God’s eyes for eternal life is a misinterpretation. Any works centered salvation goes against the premises we know to be true in Scripture (Ephesians 2:8).

I believe you can say a sinner prayer and accept God into your life. You can pray a prayer of repentance and ask forgiveness from Jesus. If the Christian life for the sinner stops here I hardly think we can consider these people saved in the strictest sense. If this “convert” shows no fruits of the new life and does not leave habitually sinful ways behind (1 John 3), this person had better take a better look at themselves. They may be flirting with the razor thin edge of damnation. If there is no repentance and no change there is a high probability this convert is no convert at all. The path to salvation is narrow. Just because one thinks they are saved because of a single prayer and then manifests absolutely no outward signs of salvation or presence of the Spirit is bad news. A Godly inward reality should be busting at the seams of a person to get out and should be fairly evident to observers over time in that person's acts/actions. To say a prayer like a magic incantation does not necessarily magically create a Christian (*POOF*)....eh...no...it doesn't work that way. Christianity is a permanent change at the very core of being (we are ontologically changed or created anew, and a new heart is put within us (Ezekiel 36:26). Our “new”evangelical way of converting people is to have them say prayers almost in a ritualistic practice. This is fine but we also need to then follow-up and assure that their roots of faith have taken root in the word. This will become manifest in the behavior of the person (or not).

I often hear people say that we need to confess Jesus and what he has done. We can invite Him into our hearts. This strangely sounds an awful lot like a work. We need to “invite” God to do something, thereby performing an act ourselves to attain salvation. This is where we flirt dangerously with “Evan-jellyfish-isms” and poor word usage that makes our repentance or “attempts” at conversion rather watered down in an attempt to draw numbers rather than true converts. Instead of demanding that converts come to God on his terms, instead we try to get God to come to us on ours. To me this is amusing in a sad way. When we “accept” Christ, who is accepting who here? It’s not as if we can just march right up to God on our own terms. A few people tried that in the Old Testament and they were toast, literally (as in dead, just as Uzzah). We can paint the approach from a human point of view any way we want. If we approach God in a way not prescribed by God we will get no closer than if we had walked away. It’s God’s way or the highway…not our way. God’s way is one-way or no way.

John in his Gospel is clear what Jesus says, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)” In reality we are accepting nothing. What we are really doing is trusting God’s promise and believing what has done for those that will repent and believe that He did what he said He would do. It is what saved the likes of Abraham and it is what will save us. If we are going to split hairs on terminologies we had better do it right. The confession is not the Salvation, nor the sinner’s prayer. It is the simple act of believing and trusting God. So… go ahead confess Jesus and what He has done and invite others to do so but remember that these acts/works and are not what is saving you. These acts are called evangelism. They are signs of the salvation that has already taken place or at least should be.

In a short sermon essay from Cotton Mather, What Must I Do To Be Saved? The Greatest Concern in the World, Cotton Mather asks: “What must one do to be saved?” I suspect Mather knew he was using a misnomer or misappropriated word to get his point across when he answers the question. When he answers he alludes to the fact that the “do” is not a “do” at all. We “do” nothing. It is what we “know”. I suppose know is the ultimate desire of any Christian. To know what Jesus has done for us. To know Jesus. This “knowing” starts as faith in what He has done or belief that He did what He promised He would. We are to trust Him because ultimately, He is trustworthy and deserves our trust as He has given us no reason to not trust Him, only reasons to trust Him. It is what follows the knowing that becomes the doing. Once we know that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day in accord with Scripture, it is then and only then that the “do’s” come along as they are not the conduit but rather the aftermath. Mather states:

“You must know, that There is a Great Salvation proposed unto the sinful Children of men”
“There must be practice joyn'd [sic] with your knowledge” [in other words, faith without works is dead]

Cotton Mather than goes on to drive the nail home. He unequivocally states:

“A pure gospel, a sound doctrine, must be pursu'd, You are now to be treated with nothing but wholesome Words; nothing but the faithful sayings of God"

Then a sentence later he hits the nail again.

“When the poor man said what must I do to be saved, we read they said believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” "Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Only Saviour; This, This must be found in all that will be saved. The faith, which is, a satisfaction of the mind in the way of salvation by a glorious Christ revealed in the Gospel. The Faith by which we deny ourselves, and rely on a glorious Christ, for all salvation. The Faith by which we receive a Glorious Christ, and Rest on Him for Salvation as He is offered unto us.”

After this has happened, anything that comes of this...is the Holy Spirit working through us. We then go out and preach/teach the Gospel as commanded by Matthew 28:19-20. Why? Because faith comes by hearing.

Romans 10:17: “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ”

The believer becomes a believer because of the Spirit working through another believer. It takes one that already has faith to proclaim it so that others will hear and come to faith. That way the very vessel that God converts becomes the very vessel to convert others and the Spirit indwells them all. This then causes unity of the Body of  Christ. This method and message based in faith has continued in an unbroken chain since time immemorial.

June 21, 2012

In A Land Of The Blind, One-Eyed Men Are Kings

Blind Ignorance or Intellectual Arrogance

I view this question as being closely linked to the previous post. The modern Scholars are doing the same as the heretics of old. Taking Scripture or at least poor interpretations of it, passing themselves off as experts and then exposing heresies or false beliefs based on the power or prestige of their elevated “secular” positions. Thereby they lead thousands if not millions astray with a warped unbiblical view that has been twisted by having approached the Scriptures with an improper anthropocentric view rather than the proper theocentric view. I imagine some of these new false teachings are just modern day convolutions or versions of century old Christological heresies. As they are too numerous to mention all I will only hit on a few as points of reference or case-in-point(s).

Heretic...αἱρετικός or airetikos/hairetikos airetikós means "to choose, have a distinctive opinion" – a factious person, specializing in half-truths and misimpressions "to win others over" to their personal opinion". Whether it be through ignorance of purposely educated and deliberate “academic” polemic or dialectic (arrival at truths through debate or dialogue), heresy is still heresy. As noted one internet source the Christ-centered or Christological heresies usually revolve around three premises:

  1. The Denial of Christ's Divinity: This has led to errors that include: Ebonism, Arianism (Jehovah's Witnesses), Nestorianism, Socinianism, Liberalism, Humanism, Unitarianism.
  2. The Denial of  Christ's Humanity: This has led to errors that include: Docetism, Marcionism, Gnosticism, Apollinarianism, Monarchianism, Patripassianism, Sabellianism, Adoptionism, Dynamic Monarchianism.
  3. The Denial of Christ's Two Natures-Fully Human/ Fully Divine. This third premise falls out from the first two and this has led to errors that include: Monophysitism, Eutychianism, Monothelitism. These all confuse the two natures of Christ by either absorbing one of His natures into the other cannibalistically or dividing them out completely in a form of Christological modalism and splits Jesus into distinct radically separate entities.

All of these heresies in some way ended up forcing true believers to formulate statements or creeds defining absolute true positions. Many are often considered by academic "experts" as irrelevant just as they view many things within the Bible. This attitude has in turn allowed the same old Christ-centered heresies to resurface again from dormancy under new names and from new people but sadly, they are the same old errors.

Of particular interest is Gnosticism which plagued the early church and was vehemently defended against by early church fathers and (it appears) even by some of the Apostles.  The proof of this is especially evident even as far back as some of John’s reasoning in his gospel (logos) and Paul’s reasoning in 1 Corinthians against the “wisdom” of the world. Jump ahead 2000 years and we see that this heresy never went away, it went dormant. It resurfaced in the form of New Age mysticism and similar nonsense when it had no resistance or few that will defend against it.  I suspect this is true because people/believers either cannot recognize it as error or chose not to fight it. The first attitude is nearly unbiblical (2 Peter 3:15) in its ignorance as we are called to be prepared to give a ready defense/apologia of our faith. The second is clearly unbiblical as we are called to not only defend our faith but we are to actively proselytize and take it out into the world (Matthew 28:19-20).

These statements mentioned seem to get at the core of why heresies arise. They arise because they run rogue of Scripture. It is the inspired text of the Holy Bible that has been the canon and measuring stick of everything God has chosen to reveal about Himself to man outside of His Son Jesus Christ. When people either fail to understand properly what is in Scripture or refuse to accept what is in it as “Gospel Truth”, we have error creep into the faith. We see this is exactly what happened in the early days of the faith with all the named heresies. We also see it when we observe the cults like Mormonism which add to the Scripture or academic "experts" like Rudolf Bultmann and others of the Quest for the Historical Jesus when they  attempt to take away from what Scripture tell us.

Deuteronomy 4:2 ~ “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.”

Sadly, my experience has been the many just don’t know or understand Scripture. In that case it is a matter of ignorance or not knowing (gnosis). In the case of the “academics” and the “scholars” they chose not to acknowledge what is in Scripture and then attempt to intellectually dissect it until it is only a pile of disparate facts and data taken wholly out of their original context…therefore it becomes nearly meaningless. In these cases it is a matter of intellectual arrogance. Either way, man himself becomes his own worst enemy by becoming his own highest authority when that distinction has clearly been reserved for Almighty God. In the end, heresies often result. It is why we are told to turn towards God. Seek the Lord and live.

June 19, 2012

Quest For The Historical Jesus

Albert Schweitzer

Godless men and the Holy Scriptures do not mix very well, they're like oil and water. As such, in the 19th century we entered in the Quest for the Historical Jesus. It was a knee-jerk reaction to the philosophies of people like Immanuel Kant, Hegel, and their ilk. We also have the new thoughts on Christianity that plant themselves in Liberal Theology. From things like the Enlightenment, Rationalism and a desire to make society and church anthropomorphically (man) centered and not theocentric (God) centered, we see the corruption of Christianity to the point that it is no longer Christian. Liberal Christian "experts” and Christian "scholars" after the 18th and 19th century (and after the abuses of the Church for centuries) felt the need to adapt to the anti-Christian heterodoxy and the “cult of reason” sentiments that surfaced in things like the French Revolution. In a so-called attempt to save Christianity from itself, scholars tried to rescue Christianity from irrelevance by putting it on a Procrustean bed and proceeded to amputate the Faith until it became invalid theologically. What remained when they were done was no longer Christianity but a syncretistic “Christianized” new age pantheism that mostly relied on reason, rationalism and virtually no metaphysical or supernatural elements. This thereby precluded or removed the true God from the picture-who is Jesus. At least the Jesus we read of in the Bible that is fully man and fully divine. Begotten (μονογενής), not made. You know, the One that died for our sins and was raised again the third day in accordance with Scripture.

As a way to refine (or redefine) Jesus and contort belief in Jesus for what amounts to a new generation of non-believers or Christians in name only (CINO's) we run smack into the idea of a Quest for the Historical Jesus (visualize a theological Titanic and a secular iceberg). Enter people like D. F. Strauss, Albert Schweitzer, Rudolf Bultmann and their ilk played a paramount role in this derailing of Christianity. Regardless of how highly touted these men were for their intelligence and insight I view them primarily as an un-Christian lot. To me, theirs was an inane godless pursuit that made Jesus nothing more than an ordinary man or myth with a knack for teaching…and he was really nice too (usually). A radical Rabbi that was in the wrong place at the wrong time that was “removed” before he really had a chance to affect a political change in the Roman Empire (or at least create a Social Gospel-type change that would usher in a kingdom of goodness). Too bad He got crucified first. From a modernist demythologized view we see a trivialized and nearly pointless death of a dissident from a Roman backwater called Jerusalem. All of this nonsense is an attempt by mostly non-believers to secularize the church and attach it to the most prevalent and prevailing ideas of the society or culture in the last century or two.

The problem with this is that people (mostly godless), don’t like the Gospel of the Bible because it offends their sensibilities (a la 1 Corinthians 1:23). So the quest for the historical Jesus was an attempt by people that really don’t understand their Bibles to water down the Gospel and Bible itself to its rudimentary parts that had been demythologized and had removed the supernatural from Christianity. This is to say it wasn’t even Christian anymore because to remove the supernatural from the Faith is to remove God. They were trying to (and still are) to remove Jesus’ deity. Plenary inspiration of the Scripture is ditched and the Bible became nothing more than idle ramblings of regular men about their thoughts on God. In centuries of advance and “wisdom” (mostly worldly) we had advanced to the fact that the Bible was nothing more than a book of myths that needed to be demythologized to find truth. It was then clearly viewed as fallible and errant. It was to be viewed as nothing more than literature, therefore the characters within are nothing more than vehicles to convey the purpose of the story. People like Abraham, David and Jesus then become nothing more than characters like Macbeth and Odysseus.

The modern (and poorly named) higher criticism enters the picture and essentially eviscerates the text by dealing too heavily with a false presupposition (the Bible is not the inerrant word of God) and dwells too much on the rhetoric, semantics and historical-critical concepts that led to what these new “experts” viewed as an error prone text that had been heavily edited or redacted. Although some new valid truths could’ve come from these methods it is highly improbable that most would be of any value (in my conservative and fundamentalist view). This is especially true considering the absolute antithetical and anti-supernatural bias many go in with wishing to “gut” the Scriptures. This is no different than sending a white supremacist in to document the truth about a Jeremiah Wright sermon. There might be some truth in what the person will write but it will be so heavily tainted with bias and prejudices, it will be hard to pick out the truth, if not impossible.

The most current incarnation of this blasphemous nonsense has culminated in the Jesus Seminar that only allows for Jesus to have said a fraction of what has been attributed to Him by Scripture (about 18%). The word “experts” is a dubious term for these heretics unless it is used to describe them as unorthodox apostates. Many of the self-proclaimed Historical Jesus seekers including some of the sources I’ve read claim there is nothing heretical about wanting to find the Historical Jesus. I beg to differ. If the heart is inclined to darkness, their intents might very well be heretical and it is foolish to assume otherwise. So instead of simply accepting the Scriptures are supernaturally and divinely inspired, they take semantics, lexicography and grammar into a fool’s paradise by dismantling it and turning it into a language minefield. As accurately as I believe people like N.T. Wright may try to be in his assessment of the Historical Jesus, I will reserve comment until I see a review of all his findings. He is an adherent (however loosely) of Schweitzer who was essentially a non-believer that arrived at his conclusion based on what appears to be pure rationalism and historicism. Schweitzer is considered a theologian by history books, I consider him nothing of the sort. If he went to his grave believing what he espoused, he died as an apostate regardless of how many humanitarian deeds he did. Considering we need to approach God and Jesus with fideism, his approach was self-defeating from a Christian point of view.

Trying to interpret the Scripture with the intent to try and understand its truth better is fine. Trying to read into the text and then interpret the Scripture so to impose intent of the person trying to interpret it is demonic and is not even Christian (or the utmost in stupidity, naivety or ignorance). It’s bad enough when people do it blindly following the “wisdom of the world” and think they are pursuing what they view is truth. It is sadder still when they are chasing a twisted version of it that is tainted with influence of the culture around them. A culture that says there are things like contradictions and intentional mistruths to manipulate people in the Bible. This of course is an approach to the Scripture that either believes there is no inspiration or assumes God is doing the deception and manipulation. What is worse are so-called Christians in Seminaries and institutes of “higher learning” that utilize “higher criticism” with malevolent intent to do no different than the Devil did with Jesus on the roof of the Temple when he tempts Jesus with a deliberate and premeditated misquote of Psalms 91:11-12 in Luke 4:10-11. Just as Satan in a premeditated manner leaves out “in all your ways”, he therefore changes the intent and context of the passage.

This is no different than a person that enters the Scripture intent on mangling it with a presupposition to produce a non-supernatural output. I see these two things as the same. Both are issues of motives and what comes from the heart…a heart that is either for God or against Him. Obedient or Disobedient. A heart is either mutilated and desensitized by sin,therefore reprobate or a heart is softened and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Ezekiel 36:26~ “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Used properly the Scriptures are capable of giving us a clear historical picture without the need for “scholarly” accompaniments. Accompaniments are for those that are not comfortable with plain truth as it is revealed in Scripture. This discomfort whether people will admit it or not - is a lack of faith.

“Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrew 4:12.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17”

Scripture when used improperly, misquoted, or read into…becomes the tool of the Devil himself.

Apocalypse Prophecy LXII: The End Is The Beginning of Forever

This will be the last post in the Apocalypse Prophecy as we have reached the end...and it is just the beginning...

Everlasting Kings and Priests Praising God's Glory

In Revelation 22:1–5 we see the conclusion to all of chapter 21.  The opening verse of chapter 22 combines the prophetic pictures of a spring or river of “living water”  flowing out of Jerusalem and its temple, which appeared respectively in Ezekiel 47:1–9 and Zechariah 14:8. Zechariah reads “in that day living water will come forth out of Jerusalem” when the city has been finally reestablished. This is also in Joel 3:18: “a spring will go out from the house of the Lord”.

The “living waters” are a portrayal of eternal life (John 4:10) found in Christ. If the waters symbolize the Spirit, as in the similar portrayal in John 7:37–39, then Rev. 22:1 is an early picture of the later Christian confession that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Just like in Ezekiel 47, the living water flows from the temple, though now God and the Lamb are the temple Revelation 21:22. Though the Holy Spirit may be in mind, the water metaphor primarily represents the life of eternal fellowship with God and Christ, which is borne out of salvation. This fellowship is reserved in Revelation for those who have maintained their faith in the Lamb’s atoning death and their testimony to his redemptive work. The water purifies away people’s sins so that they may enter into the intimate presence of God. Hence the symbolism in Baptism. “The river of the water of life” is located “in the middle of” the city’s main “street” because the imparting of eternal fellowship with God is an essential characteristic of the city itself.

This analysis of the trees in the next few verse seems to confirm that the tree was “yielding its fruit each month,” a time period that can only be understood according to a literal calender reckoning based on solar days and lunar months, whereas in the figurative depiction of the new cosmos in Revelation 21 there will be no sun or moon. Peculiar. A later total of twelve months of fruit bearing together with “twelve kinds" of “crops” or "fruits” in 22:2 reinforces the repeats the idea of normal sowing and reaping cycles and the multiples of twelve already used in the vision to highlight fullness of redemptive provision. My guess is that the best conclusion is that the healing effect of the fruit is figurative for the redemption accomplished by Christ, which will be consummated at his final parousia.

Additionally, the curse of physical and spiritual death set on the human race by Adam in the first garden is permanently removed by the Lamb in the last garden at the time of the new creation. Everything has come full circle. There will be no form of curse in the new Jerusalem because God’s consummate, ruling presence will fill the city: “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it.” Therefore there will be no room for it. All who enter the city have access to the presence of God and the Lamb.

We see a prophetic vision of the perfected people of God in unending fellowship with him is intended to comfort and motivate God’s people to persevere through temptations to compromise.

The prospect of final victory should impel us all to run the race with endurance because it is race being run to win.

Apocalyptic Outro  (Revelation 22:6-21 )

We now enter the formal conclusion to the whole book  of Revelation and to the Bible as a whole. We now enter into the outro of the entire symphony of Scripture 

The introduction of Revelation pronounced a blessing on all who obey the revelation, whereas the conclusion now issues an emphatic curse on all who disobey the Revelation or adds to Scripture. Unlike the formal introduction, the concluding  portion stresses final judgment for disobedience and the final coming of Christ, the latter perhaps hinted at in Revelation 1:7. The last judgment occurs at the climactic coming of  Jesus Christ. The epilogue now shows clearly that the purpose of the book is to induce holy obedience among God’s people so that they may receive the reward of salvation (which is also part of the entire point of Scripture)

There doesn’t appear to be any explicit flow of thought in 22:6–21 but  merely a series of repeated exhortations based on prior portions of the Apocalypse, each of which is concluded with an interjection concerning Christ’s coming. There are repeated exhortations to holiness in the end and they are the main point of the epilogue, since they are supported by the exclamations about Christ’s coming.

The first exhortation to holiness is in Revelation 22:6–7. The speaker could very well be Jesus, since v7 continues the statement and it is clear Jesus is the speaker there. Revelation 22:6 echoes Daniel 2:45. Given that “the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets” is bracketed by allusions to Daniel 2, it is probable that “prophets” is restricted to a special class of officeholders or of persons that God specially commissioned to reveal his word to the Old Testament and New Testament covenant communities. We know that “slaves” refers to all saints means that the visions in the book have been “shown” not only to John but in some sense also to all in the churches, who are “slaves” along with John.

The things “that must come to pass quickly” appears to be Christ’s own coming. This refers to his final appearance but includes his earlier comings throughout the church’s existence, all of which are imminent for every generation of the church. Those who “keep the words of the prophecy of this book” will receive a “blessing,” a promised repeated from Revelation 1:3. The goal of the book is that God’s true people would obey its revelation and be blessed with salvation.

The second exhortation to holiness is in Revelation 22:8–10. John is in a long line of prophets who witnessed to Israel and God’s true people about God’s covenantal stipulations, Israel’s disobedience to those stipulations, and the consequent impending judgment. The notion of “seeing and hearing” is the basis for a legal witness, as in 1 John 1:1–2: “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes …we testify.” Just as with the OT prophets, so now John’s witness is also directed to the covenant community. The believing remnant will be blessed for their obedience, but the rest will be judged for their disobedience.

Just as in Revelation 19:10, so again John begins to worship the angel, again the angel responds by forbidding John to worship him because he also is, like John, the prophets, and the rest of those who obey God. With the angel as a messenger of God’s word means that…to believe and obey the words of John’s prophecy is equivalent to holding the testimony of Jesus. The angel commands John not to “seal up the words of the prophecy” so that God will be worshiped. If the revelation is sealed, the churches will not know its contents and will not be able to respond to its contents in obedience and worship…duhhhh. Therefore, John is to write down the revelation and send it to be read to the churches in Asia Minor. This is the mirror image of the prohibition of sealing “the words of the prophecy” is linked to the command to Daniel at the conclusion of his prophecy: “close the words and seal up the book until the time of the end.” Daniel prophesied about a final tribulation for God’s people, the consummate defeat of wicked kingdoms and the eternal establishment of God’s kingdom. The sealing of Daniel’s book meant that its prophecies would be neither fully understood nor fulfilled until the end.

The third exhortation to holiness is in Revelation 22:11–12. Both passages make two declarations about the destiny of the unrighteous and two about the destiny of the righteous. Both the righteous and unrighteous will continue in their present condition.

The fourth exhortation to holiness is in Revelation 22:13–17. The Revelation has already called God “the Alpha and the Omega” and “the Beginning and the End”, and Christ has been called “the First and the Last”. Now all these titles, which are used in the OT of God, are combined and applied to Christ to highlight his deity. The titles figuratively connote the totality of polarity: Christ’s presence at and sovereignty over the beginning of creation and over the end of creation are boldly stated in order to indicate that he is also present at and sovereign over all events in between. The emphasis of the bipolar names here at the end of the book is to underscore Christ’s divine ability to conclude history at his coming. For the second time in the conclusion Jesus identifies himself. And, as in Revelation 22:13, the self-ascription combines names attributed to him earlier in the book: “I am the root and offspring of David-Revelation5:5, the bright morning star Revelation 2:28”. These titles combine two Old Testament prophecies (Numbers 24:17 and Isaiah 11:1, 10) concerning the messianic king’s triumph over his enemies at the end of time. Do we sense a culmination now? We should…Jesus now applies these names to himself in the present shows that he has already begun to fulfill these prophecies.

Verse 17’s “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’” here as a reference to Christ, and others equate it with the speech of prophets, but it is best to see it as simply the Holy Spirit. The “bride” most likely represents the true people of God who say through the power of the Holy Spirit,


The fifth and final exhortation to holiness resides in Revelation 22:18–20. They are better seen as a warning. The “adding and taking away” are not general disobedience to the divine word, but adherence to false teaching about the Word as it is in the Bible. Belief in the abiding truth of God’s word is the presupposition for positive obedience to it (Deuteronomy 4:2). The Deuteronomy background is suitable here since the descriptions in the vice lists in 21:8, 27 and 22:15 have all concluded with emphasis on the deceptiveness of the ungodly in connection with idolatry.

The whole range of plagues recorded in the book will come on the apostate, in agreement with the allusion to Deuteronomy29:20: “every curse that is written in this book will rest on him”. As one would guess, the punishment for disobedience is severe, since they are the very words of God. John’s words are not his own but God’s just as the rest of the Bible.

Jesus reaffirms that “Yes, I am coming quickly,” serves to confirm the validity of his glorious testimony.

John then says the only thing that makes sense at this point “Amen, Come Lord Jesus”

June 18, 2012

Repentance, Forgiveness and Issues of Accountability

Unless those in society are of a Christian inclination already, trying to have them understand the concept of God’s forgiveness is pretty much pointless like wings on a penguin. The importance of other people forgiving and God forgiving someone serve different functions. God’s forgiveness is base in repentance and acceptance of what Christ has done on our behalf on the cross. We empty ourselves in humbleness to approach the cross in a contrite spirit. In the face of an awesome God there is no other manner proper. When we forgive wrongs others have done to us we need to not necessarily forget the wrong but not be willing to act on it. In this we emulate God in his forgiveness. God is omniscient, he forgets nothing. When the Bible says the God no longer “remembers” or sin what it is really saying is that He is no longer holding it against us a debt against our account. We have been purchased with the blood of Christ. God’s forgiveness if we’ve met the criteria cleans the slate for us to start from “0” and work back towards holiness with the help of the Holy Spirit. In my experience, most if not all non-Christians view this as a totally alien or unacceptable concept. The world may view moral crimes just immoral but for the secular world that does not even believe in God I find it hard to stomach that they still hold to a “moral high ground” when they do not even believe in an ultimate moral law giver. They don’t believe in any more absolute. Most view man as the highest moral good. That’s like considering a computer made by a man as the highest form of intelligence.

Although men can forgive other men this should never ever be confused with the forgiveness of God who actually has the ability to forgive the sin or wrong in a way that releases the offender from punishment due him on the eternal scale. It is Salvation that is being dealt with here. Sadly, even when religious people speak of God forgiving nowadays, even in religious articles, the idea of the forgiveness is not matched up with Salvation often (such is the case here). It is important to realize that when we sin against others in a situation that requires them to forgive us it is not just them we are wronging. When we are wronging someone whether by omission or commission, we are sinning. By sinning we are first and foremost committing an offense against God. One because we have disobeyed but also because we have committed the infraction against another that is made in the image of the Creator. This is especially true in the case of murder. If we do not reconcile ourselves through repentance and forgiveness to God we alienate ourselves from him. If we stay in this state until death we are condemned.

Conversely, if another person does not forgive us for our trespass it is more an issue of the other person’s heart than ours. We realized we were wrong and sought the forgiveness. If the one wronged knows this and remains unmoved by the plea for forgiveness it presents the issue of a hardened heart. How is this different from God? God would’ve forgiven a truly repentant person in this situation because this is His nature. A perfectly just God would forgive a truly repentant person that has accepted His Son. Whereas a person that not forgiven a truly repentant person is not perfectly just.

When we enter the realm of seeing sin at the holistic level we begin to see a synergism of powers bigger than individuals that rise to the level of nations, nation states and leaders. Instead of cells we see what amounts to multi-cellular organisms that are an amalgamation of the smaller constituent components. We begin to see that the sins of the individual begin to multiply as the consensus of a majority of these types of sinful people pick “like” minded people at an ideological level. It’s like cancer that spreads on cell at a time.  When there is enough of the disease the system eventually fails but the failure is the cause of a million little accumulations of failure (sin). Therefore based on the aforementioned states, I do not believe the Social Gospel that says social sins are a collective whole or collective nature, an aspect of our society as a whole itself which doesn't resemble the Kingdom of God.  I believe that it is just the opposite. It is the individuals that are all individually responsible to God for their own sin.  Jesus didn’t change entire towns or convert entire towns. He converted individuals. Salvation is not a group thing, sanctification can be communal and eventually glorification will be. Salvation? No! When we die, we all pass through that turnstile of judgment one at a time. Entire communities do not pass through as a herd, based on the merit of the collective whole. This is where the Social Gospel gets it totally wrong (that along with the fact that it advocates salvation by works). The sin of society is a million little accumulations of cancer cells acting as a parasite on the entire system that eventually kills the host. Change starts one person at a time. It’s called discipleship. We are not going to save society as a whole if we do not act individually to turn towards God first. It doesn’t say to love you neighbor with all your heart, soul and mind and love the Lord God as yourself, it says to love God first. If our hearts are not in the right place first, our actions are nothing but works that do not gain us favor in God’s eyes.

June 16, 2012

A Spirited Flame

A newly kindled flame needs to be fortified to be turned into a raging unquenchable fire
Likewise, a newly kindled faith needs to be fortified to be turned into a raging flame also

Coals will burn with fervent flame when they are with other coals because of the cooperative and communal effect of being with those of its same kind. They will even burn zealously on their own for a while. In the case of Christians, we all burn with a divinely kindled fire and the power of Christ drives us. If we remove lone coals (Christians) from the furnace or from others like it and fail to feed them fuel (Scripture. prayer), they quickly burn out and go cold. Things from the outside batter the loan coals like wind and rain (persecution). If they are not moved back into the larger group they really do not stand a chance. On the other hand, if they are kept together, invigorated, stirred in a “spirited” manner, not only will they burn brighter, they will actually throw sparks out that will light other things on fire. They will throw off life and create more life. Thereby they spread holy fire. This is the principle repeatedly called for in Scripture (Hebrews 10:25).

When we get a person to convert to Christ this passion or flame for Christ must be nurtured and cultivate by adding more fuel to the fire: Scripture and Prayer. The relationship with Christ does not create a strong bond unless two (or more) choose to work together to strengthen the bonds. Otherwise…the once intense desire flames-out and turns into a burnt cinder with no light and no heat. It is effectively dead or worse-the flame never really caught on, did it?

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