May 30, 2013

Revealing Christ In The Old Testament XXVII: Your Time Is Gonna Come

Zephaniah could be considered the culmination or the compendium of all prophecy as it speaks of the end result of all prophecy in an eschatological or end-times manner. Although it speaks of an immediate fulfillment, it also speaks of fulfillment of God’s great day of wrath at the end of time as we understand it. It is a survey of the universal government of Jehovah, His judgment of the whole earth. When we read of "in that day" what we see is a time coming when time will literally stand still and God is going to take sovereign control and judge the wayward and unrepentant.

The name Zephaniah means 'the watchman of Jehovah'' and his prophecy comes just previous to the national reforms of Josiah. His reforms remove idolatry from the land. The dominate theme in Zephaniah revolve around Christ. Specifically, they revolve around the “Day of the Lord”. Better understood, we could term this day, the “Day of Jesus Christ”. The very One that will come to save, will come later to judge in a great “Day of Wrath”. First a loving God but once long-suffering and patience is done, a God that unleashes judgment in fury.

Zephaniah speaks of an immediate judgment coming for Judah and a later judgment that is again referred to in Revelation 6. A day of wrath in Revelation that will come forth from the Lamb and the question will be proffered: “…the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Zephaniah speaks of them as

Zephaniah 1:14-15 ~ “The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness…”

Zephaniah reprimands and rebukes Judah to seek the Lord before it is too late.

Zephaniah 2:1-3 ~ “Gather together, gather yourselves together, you shameful nation, before the decree takes effect and that day passes like windblown chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s wrath comes upon you. Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.

Many of these exhortations will echo down into the time of Christ as they are calls to holiness and righteousness that Christians will need to adhere to when they abide by the Gospel. This could be an echo down through the centuries to us in America also as most have abandoned the Lord wholesale.
After pronouncing judgment on surrounding nations like a circling the real intended target, the third chapter shows God turning his wrath on Jerusalem, the once shining jewel of Judah turned to an immoral cesspool. In this chapter we see a description of a soul at a distance from the Lord, distant from Jesus Christ.

Zephaniah 3:1-2 ~ “Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.

We see leaders of a nation that had once been righteous but are now nothing more than reprobate fools, not unlike our nation today in America. Having walked away from the truths of Scripture and abandoned God, they spin in an amoral and immoral chaos…just as we do today. Some within the nation knew God and obeyed His commandments but the leaders were plummeting the nation into madness and eventual judgment. We also see something else. We see the Lord replace these leaders by taking their place.

Zephaniah 3:3-4 ~ “Her officials within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave nothing till the morning. Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law.

In Christ we will see the Lord fulfill all of these roles at some point: Judge, prophet, priest. He comes to the heart of the believer as judge. In so doing He brings the wrong in our lives to light. If we respond correctly to Him we will accept His correction. Those that don’t will bring His judgment to the forefront.

Zephaniah 3:5,7 ~ “The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust knows no shame….I said, ‘Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction. Then your dwelling would not be cut off according to all that I have appointed against you.’    

He then comes as the prophet. He declares that we are to wait for Him (me). He speaks of a day to come or “on that day” or “at that time”. The kingdoms will be assembled to pour out His indignation (fury, displeasure or heat of His anger) and they will be consumed.

Zephaniah 3:8 ~ “Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.


Zephaniah 3:10-13 “On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.”

Christ then finally comes as king of all. To reign in absolute authority and will do so in love.

Zephaniah 3:15, 17 ~ “The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.

Zephaniah 3:17 ~ “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love, he will exult over you with loud singing.

Finally we see the Lord as our Great High Priest. We see the “I wills” of the Lord.

Zephaniah 3:18-20 ~ “I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach…I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.  At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth…

All these future(s) unfolding are foretold for believers, it should also be understood that the first another primary audience for these prophecies is to a remnant Israel which the Lord will most certainly restore once they have recognized the One whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10). It must be understood that God’s covenants from man’s viewpoint seem temporary but from God’s viewpoint and position, they are immutable and eternal like his being. When God makes a covenant, He will maintain it even when man utterly fails. When God’s Messianic kingdom arrives, all covenants will be fulfilled “on that day”.

May 26, 2013

Bono, GMO's and the Bible

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) for Third World Countries

I have seen recent posts in the news and on blogs concerning genetically modified organisms or GMO’s. As there has been a lot of discussion recently of the biblical, ethical and moral implications, I as a Christian felt compelled to at least comment.

I will admit outright that I’m torn on this one from a biblical/theological viewpoint. To some extent as Christians we have an obligation to help keep people from starving to death and care for our fellow human beings as they are all created in the image of God. We live in a fallen world and the lesser of two evils is to prevent a painful death from starvation. The issue is more political and governmental than it is shortage of foodstuffs most of the time. I feel the secular ground swell against GMO's is an issue not of tampering with God's order so much as it is tampering with people's health. People are not so concerned with the theological issues as they are with the biological issues. Some Christians will be concerned with both but most just see this as another case of corporate and governmental over-reach with high-profile spokesmen like Bono banging a drum for it (pardon the music pun).

On the flip side of the coin, Monsanto (and companies like them) controls 90% of worldwide GMO seed stock. The possibility of GM contamination in our food supply is practically unavoidable at this point. Man is tinkering with the basic elements within the Creation and changing them so that they are probably not even within "their own kind" anymore. The question is: Is it unbiblical to tinker with the genetics of plants? Are we undermining basic tenants of Biblical Creation and doing it under the guise of humanitarianism? Bono from U2 has used his notoriety and high profile public image to endorse this and help make this happen for companies like Monsanto as noted here. I suggest the Bono may be well-meaning but perhaps jumping the gun prematurely before all the data comes back concerning the safety of GMO's. Perhaps he should have stuck to his music this time? it unbiblical to propagate genetically modified foodstuffs? To rearrange the basic genetic building blocks of agricultural life to produce a heartier strain of corn or grains that are resistant to insects but might end up being unhealthy to people? My question is this: Haven't we been doing this for centuries in the form of animal and plant husbandry? This to dramatically alters genetics in plants and animals. Husbandry that has produced some really stellar hybrids that produce healthier and heartier yields...while simultaneously producing some horrid and sickly mutations that were short lived or non-viable

Did the Bible forbid the mixing of seeds as I have read on other Christian blogs (and thereby claim that any mixing whatsoever is evil and sinful even now in this day and age)? Is mixing of seeds and livestock forbidden in the Bible? Yes, it was. Does this mixing prohibition still apply today? No. Are things of the Creation to remain within their kind or is it evil to move beyond certain borders? Plant to plant, animal to animal or human to human? Is there to be a distinction? 

I will note outright that in humans, there should be a distinction when it comes to genetics as I will speak of later. Plant and animal I am not so sure based on biblical evidences. Right from the beginning we see that God created within "their kinds" and God saw that it was good. People must understand that this was pre-Fall and what was good then became fallen and twisted after the Fall being subject to the curse. Every iota of husbandry, breeding and hybrids have been an attempt to improve upon a fallen Creation, not God's original intended order or actual good Creation. Could man improve upon God's original Creation? No. Could he possibly work to improve things in the fallen Creation through God's common grace? I suggest that through industriousness, well-meaning intent, adherence to God's will and God's allowance through His sovereignty, He may have allowed for us to at least right some wrongs through Christ. But like everything else man does, it comes with sinful side-effects or circumstances. In the case of genetically modified foodstuffs, nutrition suffers and toxins that might not have originally been in the food are introduced. It ends up being a trade-off of one negative for another negative or desirable traits like farm-ability or insect resistance.

Genesis 1:11 ~  Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so.

Genesis 1:20-21 ~ And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good...

We see what happens when the angels defied the natural order of things and did not stick to their own positions or realm and were reserved for condemnation in darkness.

Jude 6-7 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Additionally, in the Bible we see things like the Holiness Codes of Leviticus 18-20 and how it forbids specific mixing. There are prohibitions of mixing people in terms of race like the Israelites and other nations. This is not because the Bible is racist, it is because God was trying to prevent the spiritual contamination of pagan practices and keep His people distinct and holy. People were not to mix in a sexually immoral ways either as in marrying pagan women which eventually caused King Solomon to apostatize. Nor were people to mix certain seeds, livestock, etc. If we try to bridge the same principles from sexual immorality to the mixing of seeds, livestock and fabrics in Leviticus 19, the argument does not hold up.


It is because the laws concerning human relationships were couched in covenant and were also based in moral grounds or were moral laws and pertained to keeping God’s people separate from the surrounding immoral nations. They were to be adhered to, to keep Israel as a holy priesthood used to interact with the nations of the world. The livestock, seed and fabric restrictions were ceremonial and civil restrictions that have been abrogated or fulfilled in Christ…so the mixing of seeds is not a violation of the Law per se since the ceremonial and civil aspects of the law no longer apply as requirements for Christians, they were under a different dispensation under the Law for Israel.

We must realize there were different types of laws: Moral, Ceremonial and Civic. We must understand that ceremonial and civic laws no longer apply but moral laws can still apply because they can continue to make a person holy. These laws (moral) include things like the Ten Commandments. Let me ask you this: If someone does not kill or cheat on his neighbor’s wife…it’s a good thing, right? Leviticus 19 is what the Jews considered the Kedoshim קְדֹשִׁים or Hebrew for "holy ones" and were mainly statements and penalties for transgressions of the Holiness code of Leviticus chapters 17-26.

Animals are not to be interbred with other species, just as humans are not to have intercourse with animals (Leviticus 18:23). Holiness relates to purity, which inter-species breeding or sexual abomination destroys …i.e.: Gen 1:24-25, "of the same kind". If sacrificial animals are in view here this law could have been put in place in order to stop inter-breeding between acceptable sacrificial animals and those that were that the offspring which would’ve been unacceptable for sacrifice wouldn't be inadvertently used for sacrifices. This would've been an unacceptable or polluted sacrifice and would've been considered cheating God (Malachi 1). Plants/seeds were not to be mixed either. Mixture of seeds and the resulting mixture would be hard to separate at harvest, so it was better to keep them separate from the beginning. Separation of seeds does not necessarily imply that mixing after Christ’s advent is something to be viewed as evil or an abomination.

So what does one do with GMO's from a humanitarian perspective or from a “love thy neighbor” viewpoint in modern times? 

Like I said, I’m torn. 

Do we let people in Third World countries die from starvation (which is one of Bono's concerns) because we are worried about monopolistic corporations controlling and contaminating the world’s food supply or do we try and help the less-fortunate even though we might be poisoning them down the road in the long run? It is like choosing to kill one’s self or kill another person with a lethal injection or saving them to live a sickly malnourished and diseased life. Nor am I naive enough to believe that a wholesale "experiment" of GMO's on an entire continent will stay confined to that continent (Africa). We know our governments do not necessarily do things in our better interest, why would this issue be any different?

So if the Bible does not strictly forbid or speak to genetically modified foodstuffs per se, where do we look to determine a morally justifiable position? I personally have looked to the Golden Rule in Luke 6:31 and to the greatest commandment according to Jesus for my moral high ground in this issue. In the end, I need to opt against GMO’s as a precautionary measure until all the facts about GMO are in. I would like having as much data and facts as possible before making a decision that so profoundly affects so many people. I decided against GMO’s based on two specific theological principles. They are quite simple and what is ironic is that one is mentioned right within the holiness code of Leviticus.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” Leviticus 19:18


"Do to others as you would have them do to you". Luke 6:31

We need to ask if producing a GM food could harm someone. If so it is clearly wrong to impose these types of foods on unsuspecting people (or even suspecting but uninformed ones [product labeling]). Due to the fact that we do not know what the long-term effects of GMO’s are on the human body, they must be viewed as ethically and morally suspect. Of course starving people would eat them…but it would be like us giving rat poison to our children. Why would we do this if we were unsure of the effects of the poison/food on humans? The answer is: We wouldn't. To satiate the pain of hunger in mercy we could be slowly poisoning them to death like feeding them Strychnine. When it comes to non-consumables like cotton I am not horribly concerned.

What I also find particularly unnerving about genetically modified foodstuffs is the ideologies and presuppositions of many of the people that are doing the modifying. Many are of a scientific/biological bend. Many of these are methodological naturalists and by their very nature are atheistic or at least firmly adhere to an evolutionary principle devoid of God. Furthermore, many within this realm view man as nothing more than an over-evolved simian or bipedal primate. With my own eyes I have often seen naturalistic evolutionary adherents take a low view of the human being since they believe we are nothing more than the sum result of millions or billions of chemical reactions or mutations over eons. I as a Christian take a much higher view of man in a much shorter time-frame. It unnerves me that many in charge of these modifications or willing to do them tend to be a godless lot. Frankly, it scares me.

Addendum: As for genetic modification of humans we must draw a line here because we are then crossing a theological border that should not be crossed. I believe this if only for the reason that we are dealing with a created being unique from the rest of Creation in that they are specifically created in the image of God and are the only being that have a soul and are capable of volitional will based in reasoning. We are spiritual beings, not just a beast of the field...contrary to what evolutionary dogma will tell you. More importantly we are beings God came to save in His incarnation as a human. By God coming as this being He instilled a specific and unique dignity and purpose to it that should never be tampered with or allow it to cross between "kinds".

This of course just touches the tip of the iceberg. I have barely scratched the surface of this issue. Obviously, there is much more to this issue than the points I have raised here. I just felt compelled to mention a few. What are your thoughts?

May 25, 2013

Revealing Christ In The Old Testament XXVI: God of My Salvation

To any Bible savvy reader, the name Habakkuk is synonymous with faith. In the short prophecy of Habakkuk we see what seems like sin and evil winning just as we do today in our hyper-partisan country and religiously divided world. We see in Habakkuk's time the same seemingly insurmountable obstacles to believers as we see beginning to mounted against Christians today. One must understand that what we experience today is nothing new, just a historically reoccurring pattern of apostate and unregenerate humanity ebbing and flowing in intensity. It is a humanity that some day will meet its end and then face judgment in the presence of an infinitely holy God. The One that saves will be the One that judges. 

As we can expect from anything God is involved with (which is everything), the seeming paradox of evil triumphing over good changes quickly and dramatically. Habakkuk opens his prophecy with the cry, “How Long O' Lord?” or ''O Lord, how long shall I cry and Thou wilt not hear?'' He is looking around at a nation (Judah) engulfed by wickedness. This is not unlike what we see today in America and other nations.

Habakkuk 1:2-4 ~ How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

The Lord's answer is succinct and absolute. He is about to bring a brutal punishment upon Judah in the form of a devastating Chaldean invasion.

Their cavalry was furious and infamous:

Habakkuk 1:8 ~ Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour…

They were known for demeaning conquered kings:

Habakkuk 1:10 ~ They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they capture them.

Having seen, in a horrifying vision the destruction of his people, Habakkuk again brings his questionings to God.

Habakkuk 1:13 ~ Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

In other words: Habakkuk's question is, how is it that God, who is literally too holy to behold iniquity, will execute vengeance upon Judah by a people even worse than Judah themselves? God of course answers again and tells Habakkuk that essentially, ''the just shall live by faith.''  It is here in Habakkuk that God speaks of an immediate vision, but he is also looking on to the end as the words “(v.4) the just shall live by faith,'' is preceded by, ''(v.3) For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. ''

God would use the very people that didn’t even believe in Him to carry out His own will, then they themselves would fall under divine judgment that would obliterate them. There would be a day when Babylon would become desolate (Jeremiah 50:23). What we see here is God's sovereignty over all peoples and all nations...even those that do not believe in Him. It is the old adage: You may not know of God but He certianly knows of you. Whether or not you believe in Him is irrelevant. You will be judged by Him all the same. If you know not Christ Jesus, nor will you know eternal life in His presence. Ignorance is no excuse and wanton rebellion once you know of Him is even worse.

Habakkuk then prays in chapter 3. His description, of God’s glory and grandeur is second to none in the entire Bible. Habakkuk describes the faithful and continued dealings of God with His people. How He brought them into the land of Canaan as they promised. This of course is a foreshadowing of Jesus and how He will ring us into the Kingdom. It is the Kingdom that He has already initiated with His first coming and will complete upon His second coming. We see a type or shadow of a greater salvation yet to come in Christ…and a greater promised land which is Heaven. A time and place we can only get a glimpse of now but will see in full when Christ comes to reign in full.

Habakkuk uses the word “Selah” in this prayer (v.3, 9 & 13). It is an appeal to silence or for one to pause from what they are doing. This is done because,the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him as Habakkuk 2:20 had told us. This silence is to wait and see, “what he will say to me” ~ Habakkuk 2:1

Do we have this silence with God as Habakkuk did? Can we hear if He calls on us and beckons us to do His will? Has the world cluttered and drowned Him out? Do we still make the time for God to enlighten us and illuminate our paths…or do we walk in darkness? It often takes a Biblically fine-tuned mind, eyes and ears to hear and see what God wants of us. It is not our will that need be done…it is His. If we are not paying attention we end up doing our own will by default. This is the will of a fallen person. It takes biblical and spiritual focus to stay on God’s task rather than our own selfish ones.

As with Habakkuk, so too with us: The righteous will live by faith alone. Sola Fide. Even in the prophets lament and the "shock and awe" effect of being in the presence of a holy God, the Lord Himself comforts Habakkuk. He can and will do the same for us. 

No one said being a man of God was going to be easy. As a matter of fact the Bible states just the opposite.

Luke 9:23 ~ “…whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Matthew 10:34 ~ “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

In the face of abject failure and inability to get anything accomplished for God or the Kingdom because of the evil that confronts and resists us, we’re exhorted and encouraged by the little book of Habakkuk. When all hope is well-nigh deader than a door nail we read a prophet that is willing to lift of God’s name aloft even in the face of his consternation and confusion—in total faith (as he had nothing else to rely on).

We see Habakkuk lift up God’s glory in the face of failure and what appears to be desolation:

Habakkuk 3:17-19 ~ “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.

The words “God my savior” are interesting. They are more properly understood as: “The God of my Salvation.” It is in this compact term for Habakkuk’s God that we see Jesus most clearly. It is stating בֵּאלֹהֵ֥י  יִשְׁעִֽי “Elohim-of my salvation”, “Jehovah-salvation” or “Jehovah is Salvation”: The modern rendering of this phrase is very familiar to Christians. It is Jesus! Praise God!

Hebrews 5:9~ “…and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”

Just thought you’d like to know.

May 22, 2013

Stand Your Ground

Acts 13:4-12 ~ So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

I was studying this passage today because of its demonic/satanic peculiarity. It at first appears to be two people but in reality is it only one, Bar-Jesus and Elymas (a title) are the same person. In verse 8 we read that he ἀνθίστατο/resists or “withstands” Paul and Barnabas. What are Paul and Barnabas doing? They are proclaiming the word of God (most likely some form of the Gospel of Jesus Christ). Elymas is withstanding them while they are doing this and appears to be successfully turning the proconsul away from the faith as noted in Acts 13 above. It appears he is literally pushing back against Paul and Barnabas. Since Bar-Jesus appears at least initially to be successfully withstanding Paul and Barnabas’ proclamation of God’s word he takes on a gravely sinister personality. Of course nothing can withstand God's word and Gods authority and power in His word so eventually Paul rebukes him and he is blinded for a season.

In this demonic man we see a special tool of the Devil strategically placed to try and circumvent the plans of God. Of course this is not possible and he is essentially verbally smacked around by Paul and sent on his way but the confrontation is of interest for Christians today. Why? We need to recognize when we're being detoured from our proper tasks. We need to give the “how-to and the what-for” to those that would attempt to withstand or actively repress our proclamation of the word of God or the Gospel.

As in the case of Bar-Jesus, some of Satan’s tools will be those right within a public gathering to proclaim the truth of God’s word, or in this case, a synagogue. Also in this case it is a new area that had never been evangelized before. The probability of elevated demonic activity is always higher in places where the Gospel has not been heard. We see the same in Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8. What is the godly man’s response? A gentle conversation? No. Paul flames this dude! It is a scathing unrelenting rebuke of (dare I say it?) biblical proportion. Why does Paul do this? It is mainly because of the overt and obvious biblical denunciation of sin. In particular, the biblical denunciation of occultism in which Bar-Jesus appears proficient, hence the fact he is called a μάγος or magician/sorcerer.

We need to realize this passage very much speaks to us today on a few different levels. One, the forces of evil will stop at nothing to subvert the will and purposes of God. They will even infiltrate our places of worship and gatherings in an attempt to shut us down and silence us. This should only embolden us even more to do what we’ve been called to do by the Lord. Two, Paul writes of a time in the last days when:

2 Timothy 3:1-8 ~ “…there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 

These people and tools of Satan will literally walk boldly right in our front doors. A person needs to ask how this would be possible if we are vigilant and on the lookout for dorks such as this and the answer should be obvious. We apparently are not as vigilant as we believe we are or worse…we too will have turned away from sound teaching. How? Perhaps the infiltration occurs because we are not rebuking those clearly in error and accepting their heresies and lies directly into our homes and places of worship? In other words this could also be a call to the biblically educated laity to politely bring error to leaderships attention.

What are we to do if we are blatantly resisted? What does Paul go on to tell Timothy later in 2 Timothy 4? The answer to these demonic intrusions and resistance for dark corners is in the immediately following verse…

2 Timothy 3:10 ~ “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness”

All these things that Paul had done were based firmly in the truth of the Scripture (v.15) and virtually nowhere else. Scripture was good for just about everything so that the people of God would be equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ~ “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Additionally, Paul also says that we should expect resistance and outright persecution (v.11-13). Once we have our footing established and our foundations lay in the Scriptures…we are to preach the Word.

2 Timothy 4:4 ~ I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

It is the old saying, “Stand for what you believe.” If you are truly on the path you were called to be on evangelizing and preaching the Gospel…count on the fact that you will encounter resistance (vicious at times). If you are doing what you’ve been called to you will be on the offensive for God and will be the point of the sword into the lair of the enemy that lies in darkness. An enemy cornered will fight viciously like a rabid dog to get away. If you are not encountering resistance and trials…there is an incredibly high probability you are not doing what you were called to. Sorry folks, I take the Good News to everyone that I have the proper opportunity to whenever I can. I can tell you right now, it is a Sisyphean effort to get the boulder to the top of the hill only to get it swatted back down (in hostility or ignorance) just when I think I am making headway with an unbeliever. The system of this world and children of darkness hate us with a consuming hatred. People that hate you rarely let you go scot- free. There will be a price to pay. Expect the darkness to push back at the light. Expect the storm to try and snuff out the candle. In 2 Timothy we see the last of Paul’s letters. It is the last letter he will write before he is executed. We see a man that preached the Gospel boldly and fought the fight of good to the bitter end. He never reneged and he never back-pedaled. He never compromised. We could only hope to be so valiant in the face of death. 

1Timothy 4:7 ~ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…

There needs to be a place, a line where you will say, "This far, and no farther!" That line for me is the truth of Scripture, the truth of the Gospel, the truth of Jesus Christ. Where is your line? Do you even have one?  As for Paul, Scripture tells us he fought the good fight. He had not compromised the truth…he had not compromised the Gospel to tickle people’s ears with false teachings and a false gospel. He had driven his sword in the ground and not given an inch. He had stood his ground fearlessly.

So should you.

Stand your ground for the Gospel. Stand for what you believe.

May 20, 2013

Christianity & Homosexuality XXII: How Does the Church Address Homosexuality?

Truthfully, this paper is not being written with the intent to agitate or be polemic but the very nature of this topic has become intensely polarizing (Holtam 592). The issue has been handled so poorly by the both the liberal and at times the conservative church, that it needs to be addressed before communication shuts down completely. It has already gotten to that point of wariness in many quarters. Mention homosexuality in a negative manner or call it sin and you are condemned for using hate speech. The divisive and confrontational nature of this topic and the way it has forced people to take sides has caused many to retreat into silence for fear of being ridiculed or persecuted.

In the Church, liberal theology adherents are inviting homosexuals into leadership so quickly they are practically tripping over themselves to open the door to let them in. On the conservative side many adherents seem to be tripping over themselves running in the other direction. What both views appear to be failing to address is how to properly assimilate practicing homosexuals into the church and help them find ways to stop their sin(s) (Holtam 592). It seems that both sides, if they are not avoiding the issue for fear of being misunderstood, then we are just not handling situations well when they arise because of a proclivity for hasty generalizations in this polemic issue.

Evangelical Christians need to address the issue of homosexuality the same as adultery and other sins. We cannot reject it outright in disgust because of its divergence or repulsiveness in comparison to the way we think or worse we often tiptoe around it avoiding it completely. We need to address it head-on as the sin it is defined as in the Bible. We need to continue to teach what the Bible teaches. We must accept people into the church and feed them the word of God so that it will take hold of their heart. We must preach the Gospel boldly.

We need to treat all people in a manner which we ourselves would want to be treated if we were dealing with sin. We are not behaving in a Christian manner when we condemn homosexuals and look away in antipathy?

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

An entrenched sin is something we have all fought at one time or another. A sin that clung so tenaciously it was like a parasite in/on its host. It is a sin that we had even come to accept in our own lives because we couldn't shake it off. Homosexuals as all other sinners are enslaved to sin. We should have sympathy or a compassion for these people, not hostility. They are lost in their sins just like we were before we came into the faith but now we are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God, just like homosexuals could be if they see the error of their ways and turn to God. Who better can bring them the message of the Gospel in an understanding and loving manner than we as repentant sinners. Sinners that have struggled and continued to struggle in sins. We help not because we wish to be sanctimonious or to try to act as if we are on higher moral ground. We try to help because we too are flawed in sin and wish to come alongside our brethren to lift one another up and guide others to the answer...which is Jesus Christ.

May 19, 2013

Cultural Crossroad XXI: The Gospel and Homosexuality

The Gospel

[If you have not read the previous twenty posts in this series before reading this post, it will make little sense. If you have not read them I recommend you go back and do so now to frame the context of this conclusion to my thesis]

If this series of posts ends in what seems like one large evangelization of the Gospel, perhaps that is what it is? It was my original intent to show a biblical view of homosexuality in this series. I believe I have done that earlier in the body of this work. The clear biblical view of homosexuality based on this series is that homosexuality is a sin. Sin is something that needs to be forgiven and that is only possible through repentance and acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Erickson 250, Grudem 695). A choice to repent is a choice to not sin. 

The wrath that a sin incurs from God is the exact thing that Jesus Christ came to earth incarnate to placate or atone for (Enns 233-234, Erickson 253-254, Grudem 574-575). In the end, the proper way to view homosexuality is to view it as a sin that needs to be stopped and repented of on an individual basis (not culturally or in plurality), just as other sins. I am not downplaying its sinful nature but nor am I going to build it up and say it is any worse than adultery or other sexual sins. The bottomline is that the only way to repent of sin and gain salvation is through an individual choice to trust and believe in Jesus Christ and His message. That message is best summed up by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ~ "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..."

Humans will never stop sinning and the Bible shows us this clearly but sin should not have dominion over a believer's life either (Grudem 748). We can make inroads with the help of the Holy Spirit to become more holy but while we are in this flesh (sanctification), we will never fully win the battle against sin (Romans 7). It is one of the reasons men are appointed to die once and face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). It is the only way a person stops sinning.

In this series we see with the utmost clarity the truth of the need for the Gospel and the utilitarian nature of the Gospel not only for homosexuals but all sinners regardless of race, gender or sexual inclination. The Gospel is the only answer for our sins and the passage to eternal life. It covers the entire gamut of sins in the Creation including fornication, idolatry, adultery, thievery, covetousness, drunkenness, and of course homosexuality. It covers the sins of all of those that repent and turn the Christ and His Gospel. What we end up seeing is that the root of all depravity and sin including homosexuality starts when we turn our back on God and ignore or avoid God (Romans 1:25) and the Gospel. Our life and salvation comes by turning towards God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ in obedience.

Be a Good Representative of Christ

Even though this series of posts has effectively argued for the unbiblical nature of homosexuality this does not give license to Christians to maliciously malign homosexuals and live up to the stereotype of overzealous hate-driven fanatics (see Addendum). We can easily use Leviticus 18 & 20’s references to abomination, and wickedness to drive home the fact that God views homosexuality negatively but there are gentler ways to reach the lost. Aggressive rhetorical bludgeoning through the use of terms like abomination and perversion have been used before to try and reach homosexuals and it wins few converts to Christianity. It most often sends them sprinting or screaming in the other direction. Although the words in Leviticus are absolutely true as is all of the Bible (Inerrancy of Scripture), and the passages in Leviticus also immediately erect a brick wall and cease dialogue between the two sides of this volatile issue. Although I addressed Leviticus’ passages in this series, they were not the main focus, nor did they need to be. 

It’s no different than if I were a doctor and I walked into my office and told someone, "You have cancer, you're chances of survival are zero." Is it telling the truth? Yes. Is it a proper way to do it? No! Where is the compassion for people? Where is the mind of Christ? Sin is just as deadly as any cancer.  Overcoming sin can be daunting for people, especially if they have a lot of it in their life and have become conditioned to accepting it by an immoral and promiscuous culture/society. Even if a person converts, conversion does not guarantee instant sanctification as the sins in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 clearly illustrates. People are often broken in stages one sin at a time, anger, vanity, arrogance, adultery, homosexuality, etc. In the case of some of these sins, it is an ongoing battle. Rhetorical bludgeoning is counter-productive and ineffective. Judgment and wrath are to be left to God as it is in His perfect judgment in His perfect righteousness if it would be necessary. If Christians cannot explain to sinners the sin that they are committing and why they will be condemned because of them, what good is being aggressive and divisive to begin with?

We must never forget that the focus of Scripture is on the following facts: (1) Sin is an offense to Almighty God. (2) Those that are in this sin are enslaved to it (Romans 1), which is consistent with what we see elsewhere in Scripture about sin in general. (3) Those that are trapped in sin can be set free (1 Cor. 6:9-11). We're in the church are often very good at emphasizing that sin is indeed an offense to God, and arguing over "choice" and the origin of the sin. Unfortunately, we too often forget that people are enslaved to their sin, and the enslaving power of sin. The result is that too often in the church, we give the impression that people need to free themselves rather than turning to Christ to set them free. We give that impression that their sin is worse than ours when all sin is an affront to a holy God. We lose the compassion of God for lost sinners who are in the throes of a sin they simply can't defeat. In sight of this fact, we end up wasting time arguing over the offensiveness to God (which most people internally know, but suppress it). Thereby we give a twisted witness by our aggressive unpleasant behaviors rather than preach the Gospel like we should.

It is clear that most of the church may have missed the boat on this, both liberal and conservative denominations. We have been tolerant of sexually suggestive wardrobes, immoral media and adulterous heterosexual relationships when they are all sins equally denounced by God. We tend to often turn a blind eye to immoral heterosexual interactions and are dragging out the rhetoric and verbosity when we see an infraction by homosexuals. Many churches then set themselves in a real unhealthy position of hypocrisy and project a double-standard to the world when they are found guilty of other sins common to other people while simultaneously hammering on homosexual’s sin. We must denounce all sin equally, not just certain sins unequally because we find certain sins more repulsive.

Practicing Homosexuality is Still a Sin

Conversely, this does not allow homosexuals (and other sinners) license to pursue their sin recklessly in complete disregard of Scripture without, receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error (Romans 1:27). Sometimes the retribution for an unrepentant and wicked life comes in this life, sometimes not. What the Bible is clear on is that it will certainly come at our judgment if we do not repent. In the end, we will all be judged for our sins whether we are straight, gay or whatever. It behooves us to stop our sins now, not justify them and accept them. We are to live our lives in an expectation that Christ could return today. The more we sin without seeking repentance the more we will incur God’s wrath on the Day of Judgment. We are to assume judgment can come at any time and we are to be prepared for it by living biblical lives in accordance with Scripture.

2 Peter 3:10-11  ~ But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…?

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 ~ …and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…

Romans 14:10-12 ~ But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

Cultural Crossroad XX: Towards The Bible’s Centrality

Towards A Biblical Conclusion: The Bible’s Centrality

The Theological and Logical Consequences of Sin

It is Scriptural fact that humanity (homosexual or not) cannot do things to save themselves from their sins as there is nothing in our natures that is good or righteous before God (Grudem 497). Humans cannot they make themselves more righteous or holy without the assistance of God (Erickson 326, Grudem 753-754). Romans 3:9-20 and then 3:21-26 does an excellent job of showing this.

Romans 3:9-20 “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for god; all have turned aside, together they have become useless, there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of god before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to god; because by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight; for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

We see many things in this lengthy passage but we see a few crucial theological items. (1) There are none righteous (not heterosexual nor homosexual). (2) There are none who do good (neither heterosexual nor homosexual). There is no fear of God before their eyes (not heterosexual or homosexual). This means that in humans in their natural state (1 Corinthians 2) that have rejected God have no Godly wisdom since to fear God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). This is because a human’s carnal (sinful) mind is enmity against God or hostile towards Him (Romans 8:7). Therefore, it is only through faith in Jesus apart from the Law (human works) and not our acts that we break free of sin in God’s eyes. This is regardless of what sin we are dealing with, homosexuality, thievery, adultery, etc. Obviously, we will not stop sinning but from a legal/divine standpoint our sins can and will be overlooked if we repent and seek the Lord.

What is ironic about the Romans 3 passage is that it leads a sinner directly to the answer for their sin in its finale (v.21-26). 

Romans 3:21-26 “But now apart from the law the righteousness of god has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of god through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom god displayed publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The answer or antithesis to sin is the righteousness of God apart from the Law in Jesus Christ (Enns 244, Erickson 317, Grudem 204). 

Specifically it is by grace through faith in Christ (lest any should boast) that we receive His righteousness and that pardons the sin that we cannot rid of ourselves of. There is no distinction between sins in this passage, not heterosexual adultery nor homosexual immorality. All humans have sinned and all are guilty before God (Erickson 204, 311; Grudem 498). This should give all people pause to reflect before deciding to point the finger at anyone else’s sin. A person who commits a homosexual act is no different than the one who cheats on his wife and commits heterosexual sin outside the boundary of their marriage. In the end, we are justified and redeemed in salvation through Jesus Christ and this is a free gift of God through faith (Ephesians 2:8). 

God’s wrath passes over people’s sin that repent and seek His Son Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19). There needs to be a heart change and this is exactly what Paul says about the sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which included homosexuality. In other words: To take hold of the righteousness of Christ requires an admission of guilt of a person’s sin and a desire to seek repentance. It means that there should be desire to stop committing sin and if one does commit sin, they are remorseful for doing so. There is no other way to escape the judgment of wrath of God that we deserve for our sins (Erickson 260, 262; Grudem 580).

After our conversion our salvation is further worked out in a joint effort with the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, it is the Holy Spirit that is the seal or assurance that this conversion has taken place (Ephesians 1:14) and an assurance that we are children of God (Romans 8:16) (Enns 267, 279-280, 352; Grudem 644). The signs or manifestations that the Holy Spirit is at work in us working out our salvation through process of sanctification are the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) (Grudem 804). In opposition, the signs that He is not in us are the sins or deeds of the flesh which include immorality (by implication: sexual, homosexual). 

It follows that an unrepentant active / practicing homosexual cannot possibly be Christian. Only someone who is convicted of their sin and are repentant can be saved and this repentance must continue throughout life (Grudem 717). Therefore we cannot be accepting of or allow active homosexuals to stay within the Body of Christ without an expectation that they will at least attempt to cease their behavior in a conscientious manner (1 Corinthians 6). To help a sinner by allowing them into the Church and expect them to change is biblical, to bring them into the Church and not expect change/repentance is to be an enabler of sin. We thereby become sinners also. This means that churches that allow practicing homosexuals into leadership or are accepting of overt homosexual behavior without rebuking and correcting it are effectively accomplices of said sin. We are then propagating or enabling unbiblical ideas within the church and we become false teachers and false witnesses of Christ and biblical truth.

2 John 10-11 ~ If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching [the Gospel, Jesus Christ], do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

The sine qua non of my paper ends up being the same as that of Scripture. It is not what humanity does that makes them align to God. It is what God has done and still does for us. It boils down to sin and the thing that forgives or annuls it: The Gospel. To accept the Gospel requires that the one acknowledge their need for it. This requires that one realize they are a sinner that continually commits sin. This therefore requires an acknowledgement of one’s sin and a turn from it: repentance.
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