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Thursday, June 01, 2023

Claiming To Be Wise, They Became Fools

Paul warned the Romans that natural man's rejection of God makes us futile in our thinking and foolish in our hearts (Rom 1:21). So Jude's short letter is written expressly with false teachers in mind. He urges believers to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 1:3) because of false teachers. In his description of these teachers he includes this: "These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit" (Jude 1:19). Note that "worldly-minded."

The truth is there isn't one of us that isn't, to some extent or another, worldly-minded. It's our environment, our surroundings, our pot (Remember the "frog in the pot" thing?). We don't even notice it. Consider. Prior to the second half of the 20th century most people considered contraception a bad thing. Certainly Christians did. Today, we're baffled by this. What changed? The 1960's brought a sexual revolution, and, obviously, a real danger of "free love" is unwanted pregnancy, so, since abstinence was the alternative, contraception became first a necessary evil and then an expected norm. Consider. Scripture routinely commands us to love God and love one another. Our world defines love as "warm affection." How does that even make sense? Why would God command us to have warm affection for God and our neighbors? How do we choose to drum that up in ourselves? That's because Scripture describes love differently than we do (1 Cor 13:4-8), and we seem to miss it. Consider. For most of history the majority view has been patriarchal. Still is today. But the 20th century brought us feminism which brought us radical feminism which has given us "toxic masculinity" where everything masculine is evil and women ought to rule the world. Worldly thinking. But it isn't biblical thinking. Yet, even in the church a majority today believe that God's design -- "Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ" (1 Cor 11:3) -- is wrong. Consider. Prior to the 1970's in the U.S., divorce was exceedingly rare. Enter "no fault divorce" and we're floating around (ostensibly) at 50%. Why? Worldly thinking. And it's not just in the world; it's in the church. Many churches today will not abide Paul's "I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet" (1 Tim 2:12-15) because of worldly thinking. The list goes on and on and, sadly, we Christians are barely aware of it.

Jude warns that judgment is coming on these kinds of people. God is coming with His forces "to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 1:15). Do you see a trend in that warning? They are ungodly, the polar opposite of godly. Godliness is right living as produced and defined by a right relationship with God ... in direct opposition to "worldly-minded." Our pursuit ought not to be to think like the world thinks because we know that the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God (Rom 8:7). Our pursuit ought to be "building yourselves up on your most holy faith" (Jude 1:20-21). "Wordly-minded" is not an asset; it's a threat. We need to weed it out everywhere we find it ... in ourselves. Of course, the only way to do that is to expect it and to recognize it.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Kept

Jude is a short book. One chapter. It is almost an echo of Peter's second letter. It's like Jude read Peter's letter and said, "I've got to write more on this." He employs the same theme -- false teachers -- with the same descriptions and the same warnings and the same encouragement to deal with them. There is one very interesting feature in Jude. Look.
From Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, wrapped in the love of God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:1)

Now to the One who is able to keep you from falling, and to cause you to stand, rejoicing, without blemish before His glorious presence, to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time, and now, and for all eternity. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)
Did you see it? Jude starts and ends his letter with the concept of "kept." He writes to those who are "kept for Jesus Christ" and declares that He is able to "keep you from falling." Bookends, if you will. Now, Jude intended to write "about our common salvation" (Jude 1:3), but got sidetracked with false teachers. In the end, though, he still included an important component of our common salvation. Jude doesn't write this from the perspective of the saved; he writes it from the perspective of the Savior. He tells the saved, for instance, that we should build "yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life" (Jude 1:20-21). That's us. That's the kind of thing we are responsible for. But God, according to Jude, is in the business of "keeping." "The called" are kept. They are kept from falling. They are kept for Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures are not vague on this. After telling us we're saved apart from works (Eph 2:8-9), Paul wrote, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Eph 2:10). James said that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). So we must "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Php 2:12). Not for salvation, but because of it. Believers have a job to do. It's good to know that maintaining salvation is not part of it. It is God who is at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure (Php 2:13). It is God who keeps us from stumbling. We are kept in the salvation we are given.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Muzzled by the Media

Back in 2019 more than a thousand PhD scientists signed a "dissent" statement over Darwinian evolution. "We are skeptical," they said, "of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life." Like "We believe that homosexual behavior is a sin" or "We believe it is unsafe to allow biological males free access to women's bathrooms" kinds of statements, this falls in the category of unacceptable. "We will not listen. We will not hear it. We will reject it without examination." As bad as any conspiracy theory or "fake news" complaint, this one received little air time. Why?

These aren't religious nuts. For instance, Dr. Marcos Eberlin, founder of the Thomson Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, said, "As a biochemist I became skeptical about Darwinism when I was confronted with the extreme intricacy of the genetic code and its many most intelligent strategies to code, decode, and protect its information." Science, not religion. Back in 2012 when scientists discovered a triceratops horn that retained soft tissue, California State University, Northridge (CSUN) fired the guy that found it for publishing his findings. "This data will not be heard. Our narrative is the only one to be allowed."

So, in a world whose thinking is ruled by mass and social media that systematically screens the information we're allowed to have, you won't hear much about this. You won't hear much about irreducible complexity. You won't hear about the unexplained massive gaps in the fossil record. You may hear that DNA is the code that rules our existence, but you won't hear that it's code, which requires intelligence. We aren't allowed to question these things. And, of course, it's been the story forever (Rom 1:18-21). As for me, I don't have enough faith to believe in Darwin's evolutionary explanation for the origins of life.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Who Are You Going to Believe?

They assure me that God may have wrath, but it's not wrath for petty rules that have violated God. He's bigger than that. No, it's for Man's inhumanity to Man. The mind set on the flesh would call that reasonable. Jude says the Lord is coming "to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 1:15). So, who are you going to believe? The "reasonable" ones or Scripture?

They tell me that God did not punish Sodom and Gomorrah for sexual sin. It was for inhospitality. God said, "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy" (Ezek 16:49). "See," they tell me, "it was for not helping the poor and needy and not for sexual immorality, let alone homosexual behavior." But Jude, using Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of God's judgment, says they, "indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire [and] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7). So they pit Scripture against Scripture and ignore one for the other. Who are you going to believe? The "quasi-biblical" ones, or Scripture?

Peter warned extensively about the false teachers (2 Peter 2) that Jesus promised (Matt 7:15-20) and John warned about (1 John 2:18-20) and Paul predicted (2 Tim 3:1-9). Paul followed his warning with a remedy. "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" (2 Tim 3:16-17). Who are you going to believe?

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Evidently

The biology professor told his class, "Just because it looks designed doesn't mean it is." I want to ask, "So, just because you say it isn't means that it isn't?" You see, no one seems to actually believe that it is not designed. (Consider, for instance, this video, produced by Harvard Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Lab showing the inner workings of a single cell.)

Watch any nature show -- preferrably those who tout Evolution -- and you'll hear it over and over again. They talk about the "design" of this animal or that organ or this physical feature. More to the point, they are always asking, "What does this do?" On the surface, of course, it's a natural question, but, consider. If we're looking at millions of years of random evolution, why would we think that everything does something? Why would we think that everything has a function? "Vestitial organs" is the term. We've got a lot of them. (They even try to figure out what they did.) Take, for instance, the appendix. They used to take them out willy-nilly. If you look it up, most of the references will tell you it has no purpose. Except ... "modern researchers believe that the appendix has many key functions in the human body and it protects the body’s internal environment from infection." (Reference) Like tonsils that used to come out at the first sign of trouble but were discovered to be part of our immune system. And so on. So they always ask the function even if it shouldn't necessarily have one if it was just a cosmic accident. And that's just the human body.

David wrote, "I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psa 139:14). Paul wrote, "What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made" (Rom 1:19-20). Which, as it turns out, is the truth humans suppress (Rom 1:18). And the reason for God's wrath. Me? I don't have enough faith to deny the existence or majesty of God. Look around. It's present everywhere.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. (Psa 19:1)

Saturday, May 27, 2023

News Weakly - 5/27/23

From the Land of the Easily Offended
Florida's Zoo Miami has apologized for the treatment of a kiwi "that offended a nation." It seems that New Zealand as a country is outraged that anyone would allow people to pet a kiwi, their national bird. Aborting babies in New Zealand is very liberal and, oh, free to anyone who wants to, but God help you if you want to pet a kiwi. It's what we call "values clarification."

News to Mull
I have to be honest. I don't exactly know what to do with the story that Ron DeSantis is going to run for president. On one hand, he'd be an excellent alternative to Trump and, well, anyone the Dems could offer, but on the other hand he'll be running against the "forever Trumpers" as well as the Dems and the media who has made it their practice to oppose him at every turn. Oh, and, of course, every American that gets his thinking points from the liberal media. Not sure what to think.

From Whence Comes Rights?
New York City Mayor Eric Adams is asking the court to suspend the court mandated "right to shelter" placed on New Yor in 1981. Now, I understand. More than 70,000 asylum seekers have rushed to the city in the last year. But are rights rights, or are they only rights if the government says they are and removed when they don't? This is what you get when you drop a Creator who endows rights. The Babylon Bee points out that the "sanctuary city" is now bummed that they actually have to provide sanctuary. They're working on remedying that.

Conspiracy Stuff and Nonsense
Special Counsel John Durham has released his final report. It "failed to produce any major convictions," I suspect, because those who would have faced conviction currently own the Justice department. The report says the FBI interfered with the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, lied under oath, and misled Congress. They helped bury the Hunter Biden laptop story and lied about the Russian disinformation. They claim they did it under orders of Biden's Justice appointee, Merrick Garland. But, hey, it's all conspiracy stuff and nonsense, right? Until it's not.

Sweeping it Under the Rug
George Washington University is changing its moniker from "Colonials" to "Revolutionaries" because revolution is so much better than colonies. At the same time, the history department is dropping that old "Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it" motto. Ought to be a good thing.

From This Week and Beeyond
You all heard that DeSantis's Twitter launch of his presidential campaign crashed Twitter, I suppose. Biden was not impressed. "Anyone can crash Twitter," he said, "but it takes a real leader to crash a nation's economy." And you heard that Target stores hit the news this week by pulling LGBTQ+ merchandise after employees were threatened. The LGB ... I'm not typing that again ... crowd are outraged and believes all Target employees should be targeted. (Get it?) They're calling for a boycott. Husbands are praying that Hobby Lobby does something like that, too, so their wives would boycott that place, too. Tricia Sloan started to, but called it off after her first visit to Walmart. "Target spokesperson Glenn Dennis expressed appreciation for Mrs. Sloan's reversal, saying, 'We at Target are always grateful for the chance to serve our customers and meet their need for a place where they can shop for quality, stylish, queer, Satanic apparel at a reasonable price without being surrounded by a bunch of gross, fat, poor people'."

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Crazy People

Job encountered a really bad day. He lost all his riches and all his children on the same day. His response? "YHWH gave, and YHWH has taken away; blessed be the name of YHWH" (Job 1:21). Not long thereafter he was struck with sores. Sitting on an ash heap scraping his sores, his wife told him to "Curse God and die." He told her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:9-10). Your average people would respond, "That's just crazy talk, Job. Yes, we will allow good from God and not bad. That's normal. You are crazy."

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:23-24). The world is flabbergasted. "What?? Are you nuts?? 'Take up his cross'? 'Daily'?? Deny self???! What lunacy! We function in precisely the opposite mode. We take care of #1 -- self -- first. Don't be ridiculous!"

In a letter largely about the certainty of suffering in the Christian life, Peter wrote, "If you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:14-15) "Really? A reason for hope when you suffer for righteousness' sake? 'Blessed'? And you do it with gentleness and respect?" Crazy.

Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Php 4:11-13). "Really?? Content? In whatever situation? I mean, we get when you have a lot, but when you don't? You're telling us that 'I can do all things through Him who strengthens me' is a sufficient answer?" Crazy as a loon.

My father died a couple of months ago. We, his family, believe that he is not just "in a better place," but is an enviable and glorious place without pain or sorrow, filled with joy. "Really? He's dead and you're happy for him? A 'better place'??" We're crazy. I worry, sometimes, for Christians that are not because walking with God is not intuitively obvious.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Deny Yourself

Jesus was not unclear. "Whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matt 10:38-39). "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt 16:24). Jesus made it clear that denying self was critical to being a follower of Christ. That, of course, is not one of the selling points for most people. You don't often hear a preacher at a revival suggesting that to unbelievers. (Of course, when you think about it, that seems odd, since the Jesus they're encouraging you to place your faith in said it.) Denying self is a necessary lifestyle for a believer.

The whole concept sounds off. It gives off a vibe of constantly looking back and making sure you're surrendering self. It exudes false humility and self-righteousness.It calls up images of priests whipping themselves like that's the right way to go. It seems ... backward. That is because, I would suggest, it is. Surrendering self is not the aim -- it's a starting point. The idea of denying self is a look at Christ. Paul wrote that he had learned contentment with much and with little. How? Not be looking at what he had, but at looking at Who he served. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Php 4:13). Jeremiah found his hope in the steadfast love of the Lord rather than circumstances (Lam 3:21-26).

Here ... let me put it another way that might make it easier to get. Self-denial is not about you. By definition, self-denial is not about you. It is, then, about Christ. Hebrews says we are to "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:1-2). That's the idea. If we are in full pursuit of Christ, we are led to ignore self for Him and for others. The problem is that this is in direct opposition to the basic sin nature. That means that it won't be natural and it won't be easy and it won't be fast, but there is nothing better than a life pursuing Christ as your all in all. And, of course, the alternative is not pretty.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A Particular Perseverance

Peter in his second epistle talks of God's patience toward believers. He's talking about scoffers -- "Where is the promise of His coming?" -- and the fact that it's taking Christ so long to return, but the principle Peter points to is "The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you" (2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus talked a lot about prayer. He told us to "pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5:44-45). He gave two parables to specifically teach His disciples "that they ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1-14). Paul told the Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). It appears that we are called to pray ... a lot.

Putting those together, then, I think I see a pattern. God is patient toward you, and you are commanded to pray without ceasing -- to always pray and not lose heart. We, apparently, need to be patient with the God who is patient with us. We need to persevere in prayer to the God who perseveres for us. Each of us has "impossible" prayers for people or circumstances or problems that seem to be hopeless. Remember, God is "able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us" (Eph 3:20). So be patient with God. If you can't see what He's doing, trust His heart. Don't lose heart. He hasn't.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Restoration's Enemy

The world would like Christians to believe that they should never judge. It's a nonsensical concept, of course, because they are judging Christians for judging. Further, living without judgment is just plain stupid. It cannot be done. You need to judge if this food is dangerous or that action could get you killed or this person is trustworthy or ... judgments all around. In fact, Christians have the obligation of using right judgment for the purpose of restoration.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:1-2)
You can't catch anyone in any transgression if you have no judgment, and clearly the aim here is to "restore him in a spirit of gentleness." Jesus's well-known comments on "If a brother sins against you" (Matt 18:15-17) were aimed at getting repentance, not "justice" or "revenge." Paul ordered the delivering of a sinning church member to Satan "for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord" (1 Cor 5:5). Judgment is always necessary. It is required for restoration. It is an act of love.

So why do we get in the way, so often, of this act of love? I mean "we" Christians. We will discover transgression in another and seek their repentance (often in precisely the wrong way, talking behind their backs and gossiping), and when it comes, we shut them out. It is dangerous in many church circles for a divorced Christian to admit he or she was divorced. It is a kind of death to admit as a believer that there had been a time when they practiced homosexual behavior or lived a life of sin. There is one unforgivable sin -- blasphemy against the Holy Spirit -- but we believers have our own versions as well, and if you commit them, regardless of repentance and the restoration we're supposed to provide, the bearing of one anothers burdens we're commanded, the love of the brethren that Jesus said should mark us, you can rest assured you'll never get in with that mark on your record. So we end up defying God's command to restore sinners and consider ourselves more holy for doing so. Perhaps we ought to check for logs in our own eyes? Self-righteousness is the enemy of restoration.

Monday, May 22, 2023

The Credential

I recently wrote about false teachers, their certain presence among us, and some of the signs to look for. Turns out I wasn't emphatic enough on a very clear one, and it comes right out of Scripture. The problem is, it is easy to miss because of our chapter breaks ... which are not biblical.

If you look at 2 Peter 1, Peter is writing about how we can know the truth about Christ (2 Peter 1:16-21). He insists it's not some "cleverly devised tales," but he's giving actual eyewitness testimony. He goes on to say that the Word is now more sure (2 Peter 1:19) because of his eyewitness account. "The Word" he's talking about there is our Old Testament -- especially the prophetic parts. He says,
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
Peter here confirms what Paul claimed -- that God (the Spirit) breathed (2 Tim 3:16) or moved men to speak for God. It's not man-made. Now, here we encounter a problem. The chapter ends. Without the chapter break, the next sentence would be, "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves" (2 Peter 2:1). That "but" is a contrast term and "also" indicates "along with the prophetic Word." We have a contrast. We have the Word -- sure, God-made, reliable -- and we have false prophets and false teachers. In contrast to the sure Word, they introduce destructive heresies. Heresies are those things in opposition to the Word. They are destructive. And they are rampant.

It is this "but" and "also" that give us this additional characteristic of the false teacher that we need to watch for. We have the Word -- God-made -- and we have those who deviate from the Word. "Because of them," Peter writes, "the way of the truth will be maligned" (2 Peter 2:2). Which, as it happens, is precisely what we see today. The culture maligns biblical Christianity because of the lies. Now, notice one other thing that might help. It says false teachers "introduce destructive heresies." You see, we started with the truth. We have a "faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 1:3). So you will find these heresies in the deviations from the original rather than in the "corrections" to the original. They're not offering you a better way; they're offering destruction. So if you know the original -- if youre intimate with Scripture -- you're going to be better off in sighting the new.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Idolatry

We know idolatry. We've seen the movies. We've seen the images. We've seen the gods of the Greeks and the Romans and the Norse gods. We've read about Ba'al and the Asherim and even what they referred to as "household idols." Humans have been a superstitious lot from the beginning. We're smarter. We know better. Whether we know better because we know science or we know better because we know the true God, we know better. That is, unless you take into account the other kind of idols. Biblically -- basically -- an idol is anything that we supply in the place of God for some blessing, or help, or guidance. It is any substitute for God. It doesn't have to be a wooden image or a marble statue. Paul argued that greed was idolatry (Col 3:5). We have lots of those kinds of idols, but I would suggest that the most common idol we worship is ... self.

There are many ways to demonstrate this, but the one that seems most obvious to me is the simple reality that it is our common experience to pass judgment ... on God. On an ongoing basis. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard people tell me, "I couldn't worship a God like that" where "that" is something straight from the pages of Scripture -- God's own self-revelation. They can't tolerate a God of wrath (e.g., Rom 1:18-20) or a God who is actually sovereign (e.g., Psa 115:3; Psa 135:6) or a God who judges (e.g., Psa 7:11). According to God's Word, He seems to be in the business of regularly offending our sense of propriety. God chooses whom He will save (Rom 9:16)? God made the wicked (Prov 16:4)? God causes calamity (Isa 45:7)? "No, no, this can't be. This is not the God we signed up for. We know better." So humans are in the practice of measuring God against their own sense of right and wrong and, often, finding the God of the Bible wanting. So they change the Bible or they reject the God revealed there. You see, of course, who is substituted. They are. Their sense of right and wrong, their moral and rational evaluations, their judgment prevails when God fails.

The truth is all of us do this at times. Some more than others. Some without end. But we routinely apply our version of "God" to the God we see in Scripture and see if He is wanting. When a loved one dies or a catastrophe occurs, we're not there with Job declaring, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). Oh, no. We're wondering why God let us down. Why? Because we are little idol factories making, first and foremost, ourselves into idols that we substitute for God. And we wonder why God hates sin.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

News Weakly - 5/20/23

Values Clarification
They say you can always tell what someone truly believes by what they do. So New York City is evicting homeless veterans to make room to house migrants. Because homeless veterans are not worth as much as immigrants entering the country outside of the legal process. Thanks, New York. Message received.
Update: You will all be relieved to learn that this story is in question. It appears to be fabricated. We bought it so easily because a general perception of the governing bodies of New York as not pro-veterans. And it goes to highlight the danger of excessive reaction to news items, like our cancel culture is so prone to do.

Pro-Life/Anti-Life
North Carolina's legislature banned abortions after 12 weeks. The governor vetoed it. Now the Senate and House both voted to override the veto. "Shame, shame!" came from the floor, with its new GOP supermajority, per the Washington Post. Because, while a significant portion of the GOP still wants babies protected, Dems want them dead at will. We got it.

Saving Lives
So North Carolina (so far) got their 12-week abortion ban, protecting the lives of children who live more than 12 weeks in their mothers' wombs. Now South Carolina is aiming at 6 weeks. Mind you, prior to the overturn of Roe v Wade, almost all states had limits on abortions; 12-14 weeks was typical. But now any limit is classified as an "abortion ban." And, of course, this is America. We won't stand for keeping babies safe. I'm not optimistic about South Carolina's attempt to save more lives.

The Irony is Thick With This One
After starring in a Disney film that focused on accepting people for who they are, Joshua Bassett is now in trouble with fans ... because of who he is. He gave his testimony and attends church and included a mention of his faith in the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards and that crossed the line. This from the "tolerant" and "nonjudgmental" crowd?

A Different "Same-Sex" Marriage
Dottie Fideli married herself last weekend. Yes, you read that right. She married herself "in an emotional and symbolic ceremony surrounded by neighbors, friends and family." I'd have to agree with the "symbolic" descriptive. Symbolic of the vacuity of "marriage" in America today. Symbolic of the isolation, where "neighbors, friends and family" didn't see fit to point out the absolute absurdity of a marriage for one. We've redefined marriage ... to mean nothing at all.

Harder to Beelieve Than Not To
Do you think it could be true that Indiana Jones has changed his name to "Land Stolen From Indigenous Peoples Jones"? I guess it would make sense. Elon Musk compared George Soros to fictional villain, Magneto, saying he "hates humanity." (He really did.) Later, Musk apologized ... to Magneto. The character is fictional and conflicted, while Soros, he says, actually is a mega-villain. Sports Illustrated decided on a transgender model for the recent cover of their swimsuit edition and Martha Stewart on another (both are true), so a dad caught his son misbehaving and punished him with his own copy of the latest Sports Illustrated issue. There are concerns about cruel and unusual punishment.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Dogs and Pigs

Peter writes in his second epistle about false teachers who "after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them" (2 Peter 2:20-22). The text might be taken as an example of someone who lost their salvation. I mean, they did have "the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," right? They did escape the defilements of the world, right? Surely that's lost salvation. Peter goes on to say, "... the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them" (2 Peter 2:20-21). So, what are we looking at here? Lost salvation?

Let's look. First, you must admit that knowing the truth is not the equivalent of being saved. James points out, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder" (James 2:19). As someone once noted, "Believing in God merely qualifies you to be a demon." In Paul's indictment of the human race, he says that God made His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature known through creation, but "even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (Rom 1:20-21). Knowledge without salvation. In fact, the knowledge was their indictment. They couldn't plead ignorance. Nor can these false teachers. They know the way to genuine salvation; repent and believe. They know what genuine believers are supposed to look like. And they start out even affirming and acting the role. No, the text doesn't require actually saved people to fit this description. Further, Peter uses a couple of illustrations from the animal kingdom to make his point. "What the true proverb says has happened to them: 'The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire'" (2 Peter 2:22). Now, let me ask you ... what makes the dog return to its vomit and the pig roll in the mud? The answer is simple. That is their nature. For those creatures to stop being like that, they have to ... become new creations (2 Cor 5:17). Instead of proving that salvation can be lost, the text actually argues thus: if you know the truth and reject it, it's because your nature hasn't changed. Of these people Peter wrote they had "eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin" (2 Peter 2:14). But John wrote, "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9). If John is accurate, those who "never cease from sin" would be described as not born of God. Those who are born of God don't make a constant practice of sin, even though they commit it.

This doesn't answer the question of whether or not you can lose your salvation. Those answers are elsewhere. I think it does show that the text does not claim anything about salvation, lost or otherwise. And that was not Peter's point in talking about this. Peter wanted to warn his readers against false teachers. They are marked by sin -- sensuality and greed and false words. They malign the truth. So the point is two-fold. First, keep an eye out. False teachers are promised and present. Second, you need to keep an eye on yourself. Do these describe you? Because the most dangerous false teacher is not the atheist on the corner or the Satanist in his pulpit; it's the one among us who seems to resemble us. Is that you?

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Being Sure

The doctrine of Election is not up for debate. It is, beyond doubt, biblical. Jesus talked about it (Matt 22:14; Matt 24:22, 24; John 15:16). Paul talked about it (Rom 8:33; Rom 11:7; 1 Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1). Peter talked about it (1 Peter 1:1). And those are just selected references. Paul told the Ephesian church, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him" (Eph 1:4). But, look, even before that, everyone recognizes that Israel was "God's chosen people." As far back as Abraham we have God choosing whom He will save. It is certainly biblical. We can discuss how He chooses and how that works out, but that He chooses is not in question.

With that in mind, many people ask the pertinent question, "How can I know if I am one of the elect?" Good question. Peter had an urgent message in his second epistle. "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you" (2 Peter 1:10a). Good, Peter. How do we do that? "As long as you practice these things, you will never stumble" (2 Peter 1:10b). Ah! A clear method to determine if you are one of the elect. Do you "practice these things"? So let's look at what things he was talking about.
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
That's quite a list. And rather comprehensive. It starts with "faith" and, literally, builds on it -- things we are to be "diligent" to add to our faith. Virtue, knowledge, self-control, godliness, brotherly kindness, love. He goes on to say, "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:8). So, a comprehensive list that you should possess and be increasing. "As long as you practice these things, you will never stumble." Now, that is assurance.

I've never met a true believer that hasn't questioned his or her salvation to some extent or another. The primary reason seems to be that they recognize sin in their life and it's troubling. Of course, the measure of a true believer is not sinless perfection. Not this side of heaven. But, if we are diligent, we can build on our faith the character traits that make us useful and fruitful and allow us to make certain of our calling and election. Who wouldn't want that? So ... are you working on that? Assurance is available, but it requires diligence on your part.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

A God Without Wrath

H. Richard Niebuhr wrote in his book, The Kingdom of God in America, that typical liberal Protestant theology offers "A God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." It is pretty accurate. That's what they claim. We "sin," sure, but it's not that bad and God's not mad and we're going to be alright. I hear it from folks who "take a high view of Scripture" while they delete all the references to the magnitude of sin, the wrath of God, and the work of Christ on the cross. In our efforts to ease the tension between "God is love" and "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men," we toss out all reason and say, "There, we made it all better." But if God is not angry and sin is not bad and Christ didn't really accomplish much on the cross, tell us again why we should go to your church? I can get this "positive thinking" stuff from any decent psychologist.

"The gospel," they tell us, "is not good news at all if it isn't good news for everyone." Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? But, hang on. Think about it. In simplified terms, if a doctor devised a cure for a horrible disease, would that be good news? Why would anyone answer "yes" if it only was good news to those who had the disease and not to those who didn't? "Good news" does not require a universal application to be good. And, going with that fine doctor and his cure, what if someone who had the disease refused the cure? It surely wouldn't be good news for him. Well, you might look at it that way, but his refusal to accept it doesn't make it less good, does it?

Scripture is clear. God loved the world in this way: He sent His only Son to die on our behalf so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. That's as broad as it gets. It's not even limited to my fictional doctor with the fictional cure. It's available for everyone. But if there is no "bad news" -- if there is no wrath of God and no really serious sin, then, really, what good is it to tell me you have a cure for something that no one has? If Christ did not appease God's wrath (Rom 3:25) and did not redeem us by His blood (Eph 1:7), then what good is it? No wrath. No sin. No redemption. No good news. Contradicting the Gospel by denying what Scripture says is the bad news and removing what Scripture says is the good news does not make for a better gospel.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Paradise Lost

It was the discussion topic that got picked up all on its own in the Sunday small group: Can we lose our salvation? Interestingly, the teacher brought the question out assuming everyone knew the answer was "No." He was, apparently, misinformed. It was somewhat painful to watch. All these older Christians taking Scripture out of context, missing the point, and making claims that, frankly, scared me. The leader assured us that the topic wasn't significant to salvation, like a "pre-Trib"/"post-Trib" discussion isn't. I beg to differ.

It was Jesus who made the first promise regarding the certainty of the salvation of those who come to Him. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28). This would rank among the "precious and magnificent promises" Peter talked about in his second epistle (2 Peter 1:4). No one will snatch them out of His hand. "Oh," several assured us, "that may be true ... but I can." I get what they're saying. "Maybe you can't take me out of His hand, but surely I retain sovereignty over my own salvation!" Because if we humans are anything, it is autonymous. Self-ruled. But Jesus had just told the Jews, "You do not believe because you are not of My sheep" (John 10:26). Notice cause and effect. He didn't say, "You are not of my sheep because you do not believe." It was reversed. So those who are not among those who will be His sheep won't believe. So if I retain the final say on whether or not I ultimately end up in heaven, then Jesus was wrong. And I can't trust Him. Paul was wrong when he told the Philippians, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Php 1:6). Well ... maybe, Paul. As long as they cooperate. And Jude was overly optimistic when he praised "Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy" (Jude 1:24). You'd like to think so, Jude, but it ain't necessarily so. Human beings routinely override God's ability to keep us from stumbling. Get over it.

If you examine Scripture, you'll find that every reference to our end of the equation requires work. James said that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Paul warned the Philippians to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Php 2:12). From our vantage point, we need to be adding to our faith (2 Peter 1:5-11) in order to have any assurance of salvation. But wait! If you examine Scripture, you'll find that in every reference to God's work in salvation, it does not hinge on us. It isn't relying on us. He calls, He saves, He sanctifies. Paul asked the Galatians, "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3), where the clear answer is "NO!" Instead, God's work in salvation looks like this: "Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified" (Rom 8:29-30). It's one unbroken chain from "those whom He foreknew" to "those whom He glorified" and we don't get to break that chain because that's His work. One other concern here. If we can, indeed, lose our salvation, as suggested by many in Hebrews 6, look at what that says. If that passage (Heb 6:4-8) is a proof text for people losing salvation, then it proves one other fact: Once lost, always lost. If you lose your salvation, you can never regain it. It is "impossible to renew them again" it says. The possibility, then, of losing your salvation has several direct ramifications on salvation. You can't trust God to get it done. You can't trust Scripture for making such certain claims regarding God's ability to maintain your salvation. And, oh, if you do lose it, it's game over. No coming back. Paradise lost. I'm not willing to go there in the face of the bulk of Scripture that claims the opposite, thanks.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Be Alert

The topic of false teachers is all over the New Testament. Jesus was the first. He famously described them as wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt 7:15) and told us you could tell them from the true teachers by their fruit (Matt 7:16-20). That was just the start. He said they would appear and "perform great signs and wonders" (Matt 24:24). Paul warned the Ephesians that "savage wolves will come in among you" (Acts 20:28-30). John wrote about "antichrists" (plural) who "went out from us, but they were not really of us" (1 John 2:18-19). So false teachers existed then and exist now. A repeated theme in these warnings is that they come from within, not from without. They are among us and they look a lot like we do.

This is a problem. It is a problem today. If they "look like us", how do we figure out who they are? That would be kind of important. Well, Jesus told us to inspect their fruit. "You will recognize them by their fruits," He said (Matt 7:20). So what does that look like? One fruit is what John indicated. Are they going "out from us"? Are they deviating? Are they living lives that contradict Scripture? A popular version of "false teacher" today is the health-and-wealth teacher. These live obvious lives of greed which Scripture refers to as "idolatry" (Col 3:5). Deviation. One preacher preached against sexual immorality, it seemed, in every sermon, but was caught with a prostitute. Deviation. Then there is the question of doctrine. Look, if Jesus was right and the Holy Spirit has led His people into truth (John 16:13) and if Jude was right and there is, indeed, a faith "once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 1:3), then we shouldn't be seeing much that is new. Adjusted? Maybe. More fully understood? Perhaps. But not new. So when, for instance, the Church for 2,000 years held that marriage was between a man and a woman because that's what the Bible teaches and someone comes in with a brand new understanding that directly contradicts that understanding, you're likely looking at a false teacher. Just an easy example. If believers from the beginning understood Scripture to teach that homosexual behavior was a sin and someone waltzes in to explain that, "no, everyone for the last 2,000 years has misunderstood that and it actually doesn't teach that at all," you're looking at a deviation. If Scripture clearly teaches that Christ saved us by His blood and you have teachers telling you "It ain't so," you're looking at a false teacher. John wrote, "We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (1 John 4:6). One other test is the gospel. Scripture is clear about the gospel -- saved by grace through faith through the death and resurrection of Jesus and apart from works. If an angel from heaven preaches a gospel contrary to that, Paul says, "let him be accursed" (Gal 1:8-9).

False teachers have always been around. We have been, in fact, warned by our Savior Himself that they're going to be around. We need to be vigilant. We need to watch how they behave. We need to see if they are teaching true doctrine (as opposed to, say, the pastor that assured us that there was no such thing as hell). We need to see if they submit themselves to Scripture or simply overlay their own somewhat contrary version. And we need to see if they agree with the biblical version of the gospel. It needs to be a constant watch. We need to be in constant prayer. The consequences of failure to detect them can be dire (2 Peter 2:2), even the risk of misleading the elect (Matt 24:24). Be alert. We need more lerts. (Sorry; bad joke there at the end.)

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Church Members

This is not a continuation of the large debate from last month. It is only loosely connected. Last month we discussed whether it was right and biblical to be a member of a church. I said it was and gave biblical reasons; others disagreed. As it turned out, I had ignored completely the actual reference that made it clear that church membership was mandatory.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. (1 Cor 12:12-14)
There you have it. The church is made up of members. Okay, I hope you see the play on words there. This isn't about going to a membership class or signing an agreement or the like. This is using the word "member," not in the sense of "being part of a group," but "a part or organ of the body, especially a limb." (Interestingly, the dictionary lists that last one as "archaic.") This version of being a member of the church is a given, not a choice. When we become believers, we become part of the body of Christ.

The text the quote above comes from is all about spiritual gifts. Paul says, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor 12:7). So each of us has at least one gift and that gift is not for you; it is for the common good. The other point Paul makes there is that our gifts differ -- we are not all the same. Just as the human body has various parts with various designs and purposes, the body of Christ has ... members ... parts with various designs and various purposes. The body needs all of them. No design or purpose is more important or valuable than any other, and no design or purpose is of lesser value than any other. "But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?" (1 Cor 12:18-19)

Putting aside, then, the debate of church membership, we Christians need to embrace fully the principle that we are indeed members of the church. We are necessary members. No one is intended to "show up" at church, to "soak it in," to simply "get fed." We are members of the body of Christ, specifically and individually equipped by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:11) to contribute to the well-being of the whole. If we are not ministering at church in accordance with our gifting, it looks a lot like something that the medical field would call "cancer" -- cells growing and not doing their job. And we know that's not good.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

News Weakly - 5/13/23

Newsworth?
In Britain, King Charles III was coronated. Yawn. Next. (I mean, how newsworthy is it when the UK -- a republic, not a monarchy -- has a non-king king coronated?)

Playing the Trump Card
Now, let me just say (though you should already know this); I am not a Trump fan. He is not "my guy." But I'm also not a Trump hater. So when Trump is held liable for sexual abuse and libel, it's no surprise to me. There is the nagging question of whether or not he can get a fair trial in New York, given the state's known hatred for the man, and you have to wonder why it isn't a criminal conviction, and it seems strange that she filed against him just after a Law and Order episode aired that was the very same as her claim, but, hey, it's all conspiracy stuff, right? Right?

We Don't Care What You Think
After the president announced his re-election bid, apparently his approval rating hit its all-time low. Fortunately, modern politics claims no allegiance to truth or reality or the people it ostensibly represents, so it shouldn't make a difference.

Newsworth? The Sequel
It was news, somehow, that Biden was complaining about the GOP because of debt limits. I mean, we all know that Biden has no sense of economics and no concern for the economic state of the country or its people. He's proud that inflation isn't climbing as fast, as if that's a solution. So, of course he wouldn't be happy about those who wish to limit how much the government can increase our debt.

Solutions Without Solutions
As governments -- state and federal -- push for more electric and less fossil fuel lives, Biden's administration is seeking to crack down on power plant emissions. On one hand, it makes sense. I mean, those emissions are fossil-fuel fueled, right? On the other hand, there is currently insufficient sources for "clean energy" (I put that in quotes because even the cleanest energy has some dirt behind it.) to take up the slack. So while, for instance, California seeks to eliminate all fossil-fueled cars pretty darn quick, they lack the infrastructure to actually carry out the plan ... and continue to buy outside electricity from "unapproved" sources. So we need to change our electrical structure, or there will be trouble. But we aren't offered an actual replacement source. What could go wrong?

No Justice; No Peace?
Trump has to pay damages for sexual abuse; these guys get 10 days in jail and a year and a half probation ... for cheating in a fishing tournament. And we consider that "justice"?

Be All You Can Bee
Oddly enough, because the nation is fat, the Air Force is relaxing weight standards ... rather than, you know, maintaining standards ... prompting the Bee to tell about the Air Force saving money on bombs by dropping obese airmen on the enemy. With the end of Title 42, Jill Biden is excited about the arrival of all those breakfast tacos. And the report is out that George Santos has been arrested for federal money laundering, theft, and fraud charges, while 534 other members of Congress are still at large.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Of Frogs and Pots

You know the old "frog and pot" parable, right? You can drop a live frog into a pot of hot water and he'll leap right out, or you can drop him into a pot of cold water and slowly turn up the heat. He'll get used to it bit by bit until he's cooked. Now, I'm sure it's not actually true, but you get the idea. So I want to talk about one of these "frog and pot" situations.

I've argued for years that the current definition of "marriage" is no definition. In fact, back in 2008, when the California courts mandated "same-sex marriage," they agreed that they were going against the "traditional, longstanding definition of marriage." So I prefer to refer to "same-sex marriage" as "same-sex mirage" because, whatever it is, it is not marriage. Now we have two groups. One says, "No, that is a perfectly suitable use of the word" and the other says, "It doesn't even come close." One would think, then, connecting back to the frog analogy, that those who have moved on to this new definition of "marriage" (which, as it turns out, is hardly a definition at all) are those frogs in a heating pot. They're so used to it by now that they're unaware they're on the verge of being cooked. I don't think that's it at all. I think that they are in that pot, but I don't think that most of us are out of any pots. I think most of us who call that nonsense out as nonsense are simply in a different pot that's not quite as hot yet. You see, while we're pointing fingers at that crazy "same-sex mirage," we've swallowed whole another version of "mirage" and consider it normal because, well, it's what we're used to.

Since we can't determine the heat of our water based on our experience, we will need to go to a standard outside of any pots. I recommend Scripture -- God's Word. Biblical marriage is something absolutely opposed to same-sex mirage, for sure, but it isn't on our side, either. Biblical marriage, in its most basic form, is "A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24) -- the union (a rather intense union) of one man and one woman. There are additional components right there at the beginning as well. God made this wife for Adam to be his "helper" (Gen 2:18), so that concept is included in this, and they were commanded to "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1:28), so that would be included as well. Therefore, a biblical version of marriage would be "The union for life of a man and a woman for the purposes of mutual support and for procreation." Is that what we see as the definition today among conservatives? Not so much. Among Christians? Not really. For instance, in the 1910's, 1 in 7 marriages ended in divorce. By the 20's it was 15%. After a spike in the 40's, it was at 20% in the 50's and 26% in the 60's. Of course, most people say that we're up in the 40-50% range now, so, as any good frog can tell you, that's fairly normal. Divorce is just a part of marriage. But Jesus said, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt 19:6). In fact, in Scripture you find no acceptable reasons for divorce. Jesus gave His famous "exception clause" in Matthew 19:9 (which, I believe, is sorely misunderstood), but that exception wasn't an approval of divorce, but an acceptance of remarriage. And Paul never said it was okay to divorce an unbelieving spouse who leaves, but just that if they did, you weren't bound anymore (1 Cor 7:12-16). Divorce in Scripture is not the unforgivable sin, but neither is it the go-to solution if we're unhappy in our marriages.

There is a sense in Christianity that coming to Christ is the place we go to die. We are to "take up your cross" (Matt 16:24), to die to self (Eph 4:22). Similarly, marriage is another place we go to die, so to speak. Wives are commanded to "submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph 5:23). Husbands are commanded to love their wives "as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). Both are outward facing commands. Both are made without regard to the self. Marriage, the union -- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual -- of two people, is not about "me." Yet, how many of us, seeking a spouse, ask, "Am I the best one for him or her?" How many of us wonder what we can contribute to their lives? No, we ask, "Is she or he the best one for me?" Because my comfort and well-being is the primary purpose of marriage in our day. No one has ever divorced their spouse because "She won't let me be kind and loving to her." It is always "I'm not getting what I need/deserve/want." And we've sat in that water for so long that we don't even notice that it's contrary to Scripture and God's version of marriage.

There are plenty of people that complain about my opposition to "same-sex mirage." Rest easy. I equally oppose "my side" -- those who agree that "same sex" and "marriage" can't go together ... but believe that divorce is a good solution to problems and marriage is simply the best way to get what I want. Biblical marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman for purposes of mutual support and procreation. (If a spouse becomes unable to provide support -- disease or something -- or is unable to procreate for some reason, that doesn't negate marriage. Please don't go there. I'm just giving the basic, biblical definition.) Until we agree with God on marriage, we're either frogs in really hot water or frogs in water being heated. Neither is a good place to be.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

A Discussion Among Believers

Glenn has explained in recent comments that he is opposed to Calvinism and gave us a link to his explanation as to why that he entitled, I Am Not A Calvinist. Now, several people commented that following someone (like Calvin) is wrong, and this is a silly point. "Calvinism" is not a following of Calvin unless it is based on Calvin's views and writings. If it is based on Scripture, it's not following Calvin, but simply shorthand for "this set of beliefs we find in Scripture." I am not a Calvinist either, especially in that regard. But I didn't see Glenn going there, and that's not the issue here. I wanted to look at some of his points not to refute Glenn, but to answer the claims. Glenn is not my enemy and nothing here ought to be taken as a personal attack.

Glenn wrote, "Calvinists claim what they teach is the 'Doctrines of Grace,' implying that any other belief has no doctrine of grace." They are simply saying that the core of their beliefs is grace. Other beliefs have other cores -- mercy, judgment, works, etc. -- and most of those other cores aren't false. They are simply claiming their approach is centered on grace and saying nothing at all about anyone else's core. It is not a contest, unless it is one in opposition to works-based Roman Catholic salvation.

On "T," Glenn wrote, "Nowhere does it say man is UNABLE to do anything, rather it says man is unwilling." Disregarding what his sources say, Paul says, "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot" (Rom 8:7). Paul says, "A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor 2:14) The author of Hebrews wrote, "Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6). (Paul says the same sort of thing in Romans 8:8.) Jesus said, "A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit" (Matt 7:18). There are ample texts that indicate that the unsaved lack ability to do what is required to be saved, starting with grasping the things of God. Mind you, in what sense "cannot" is intended should be discussed, but it's a biblical term, not an extrabiblical conclusion.

Glenn talked about the commands to make moral choices for God and to seek Him. He concludes that it must be possible. On one hand, that's not necessarily so. For instance, I could tell you, "In order to travel in time you'd have to exceed the speed of light." That may be a true statement, but it doesn't imply it can be done. And if we conclude that unbelievers can and do seek for God and do good, what do we make of Scriptures (not Calvin) that say, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one" (Rom 3:10-12)? That's a lot of absolutes to deny by the understanding that everyone can and does.

Glenn denies "Unconditional Election" on the basis that faith is the condition. Setting aside the "U" there, we need to consider what Election is. Jesus told His disciples, "You did not choose Me but I chose you" (John 15:16). Paul wrote, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4). Speaking specifically on Election (Rom 9:11) (not on the basis of anything we have done), Paul wrote, "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy" (Rom 9:16). These and more indicate that election is not based on faith, but on God. Further, if we are saved by grace through faith so that none may boast, why is there no room for boasting for supplying the single necessary component lacking in our salvation? But, mind you, that's just thinking it through, and I find no text that says it even if it is implied.

Glenn writes of Limited Atonement that there is "absolutely no hint in the Bible of agreeing with the claim." I suspect that the problem here (as in all of the TULIP acronym) is a failure to comprehend the intent. (I personally despise the TULIP acronym for that reason; it distorts the intent.) "Limited Atonement" is not about atonement being limited. The question is, when Jesus said from the cross, "It is finished," to what was He referring? When Scripture says Jesus died for the world, does that mean that all sin is atoned for? Most directly, what was Jesus's aim when He died on the cross? To pay for all sin and save everyone, or to pay for some sin and save some? That's it. That's the question. Now, if you say, "He died for all sin and all sin is paid for," you have a problem. People are going to Hell for sin that is paid for. If you say, "He died for the sins of those who receive Him," you have "limited" the atonement. And that is all that in view in the "L" -- Christ did not pay for all sin for all men for all time. He didn't come to do that (because if He did, He failed). And I'm pretty sure Glenn is not a universalist.

Glenn disputes "Irresistible Grace" because it is not grace to force a gift on someone. (Note: he doesn't do that with any Scripture that refutes the idea.) But, thinking down that line, if a father gives his son a kidney against his son's will to save his life, is that grace, or is it evil? But, again, the "I" is misleading. You see, if we truly cannot respond positively to the call (e.g., Matt 7:18; Rom 8:7-8; 1 Cor 2:14; Heb 11:6) and we are chosen apart from any qualifications we bring (e.g., Rom 3:10-12; Eph 2:1-3; Rom 9:11), then in order to come to Christ there must be something that fundamentally changes in each individual who does respond to Christ. Peter describes it as obtaining faith (2 Peter 1:1) rather than making our own. Jesus said that the only way to come to Christ is through a grant from the Father (John 6:65). And Paul describes repentance as granted repentance (2 Tim 2:25) rather than self-actuated. So if we are granted faith and repentance, how could we not respond; how could we not exercise them? That's all "Irresistible Grace" is trying to convey; not coercion.

Glenn has no complaint about "Perseverance of the Saints" (although, personally, I don't like that phrase either). He rightly says that the truly saved person will persevere in that faith to the end. I think that's biblical.

Look, I'm not here to convince anyone to follow Calvin. I don't. Why would I ask anyone else to? And I'm not here to convince anyone that Glenn is wrong. What would be the point to that? Ultimately, I'm not even trying to persuade anyone to my way of thinking. That's between you and God and your Scriptures. I don't question in the least Glenn's character, sincerity, or salvation. All I'm saying here is that these beliefs are not "unbiblical" (since I clearly laid out Scripture for them here). You might say mine is a misunderstanding of the Scriptures and you'd be entitled to your view. I believe, for instance, that infant baptism is a misunderstanding of the Scriptures, but I have enough sense not to say, "It's not biblical," but, rather, "I think you're misunderstanding that Scripture." I would hope that we -- fellow believers, brothers in the faith, those who are supposed to be marked by love for one another -- wouldn't become adversarial in our examination of God's Word. That would surely be unbiblical.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Good News

We're all aware of the gospel ... the "good news." We know. We are saved by grace apart from works. Christ's death on the cross paid for all our sins and Christ's resurrection provides us with new life and it's all good. We have peace with God (Rom 5:1). Truly good news. Did you know that's just the start?

Peter wrote,
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Now, that's just a sample. To get the full story, you have to read the full New Testament. But look at that incredible "good news"! In verse 1 of that epistle Peter writes to "those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours." Our faith is "obtained" -- literally "allotted." It is granted, given. On the basis of that faith which is given, God has exercised His divine power to give/grant us further "all things that pertain to life and godliness." Not "most." Not "quite a bit." And what is that life of which he speaks? He called us "to His own glory and excellence." Wow! In that grant/gift of "all things," He further granted us "His precious and very great promises." Now, Peter doesn't enumerate those promises, but he hints at it when he gives us the outcome of these promises -- we "become partakers of the divine nature." Partakers of the divine nature??? Indeed! We know, for instance, that "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Christ in me. Christ living through me. We know that we work out our salvation by "God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Php 2:13). So, we don't become little gods, but we do partake of the divine nature by means of His active presence. Very, very good news.

Read the Bible. There is a lot more good news in there. It just gets better and better. We need to be careful to not take "the gospel" for granted because, frankly, it is far too massive to take that way. And since one of the chief failings of sinful humans is a failure to give thanks (Rom 1:21), we, the followers of Christ and the recipients of more "good news" than we know how to handle, ought to be making it our regular practice to serve Him out of a permanently grateful heart for all the good He has done, is doing, and will do for us, the undeserving.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Woken Dream

What is this thing called "woke"? We all know ... and I'm pretty sure we're all at least a little bit confused. The basic principle behind the whole "woke" thing is equality. Woke is about oppression. The notion is that this world is divided into two categories: the oppressed and the oppressor. Now, on the face of it that's not much of an issue. We certainly do have people who oppress other people and we certainly (obviously, given that first fact) have people who are oppressed. The problem comes when you view the two categories as complete. That is, everyone falls in one of the two categories. It gets worse. Parallel to this is the concept of power; those in power are the oppressors and those who are not in power are the oppressed. Parallel again, but drifting even farther away, we arrive at "White people are in power, so white people are the oppressors." (They spell that "CRT".) (No one has ever explained to me why, if "white = racist" based on power, that it's not so in countries where whites are not in power. And, of course, not all people of one "color" are in power. That's simply its own version of racism.)

Here's the "woke" complaint. "We are not being treated equally." (Thus, "oppression.") Some will respond, "But we have equal opportunity." To which the reply is now, "We don't want equal opportunity; we want equal outcome." Ah, see? Now we have a problem. "Equal outcome" requires that no one has more than or less than anyone else. It is, frankly, nonsense. Let's just do a thought exercise at your local McDonalds. The kid gets his first job. If "equal outcome" is in play, he will be paid the very same as everyone else who is there, from the seasoned veteran behind the cash register to the shift manager to the store manager all the way up to the owner. Equal outcome. And the kid is happy. But the kid won't go anywhere else. And no one will want the additional responsibility of shift manager or store manager. There will be no incentive to excel. Merit is irrelevant in an "equal outcome" system. If you tell the kid, "We will cut your pay if you don't produce," it will be deemed "oppression" and "unequal treatment" and it won't be good. Now, expand that exercise to doctors, lawyers, and the like -- jobs requiring special skills, talents, and/or training. Kurt Vonnegut wrote a short story -- "Harrison Bergeron." It's about a society where equality is mandated by constitutional amendments. Mr. and Mrs. Bergeron's teenage son, Harrison, has escaped from prison and is regarded as extremely dangerous. He's too smart and he's too athletic and he has to be stopped. The "Handicapper General" ends up killing the son for removing his imposed impediments. You see? Equal outcome.

We can all hunt about for standards against which to measure this thinking. I choose Scripture. From the beginning God assigned work to humans, not as a curse, but as a purpose (Gen 2:15). Paul wrote, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim 5:8). He told the Thessalonians, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat" (2 Thess 3:10). The Bible is littered with the idea of merit, where we earn what we have. (Indeed, if there is no merit, both grace and mercy are erased.) There are, absolutely, warnings against the love of money, greed, that sort of thing, but we're humans who can take any good thing from God and turn it into an idol. That doesn't negate the good thing from God. So work is good and earning is good even if coveting riches is not good. In fact, Scripture itself offers rewards to those who do certain things. There is a crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8) and a crown of life (Rev 2:10) and a crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4), for instance. They're not given to everyone. So Scripture does not favor today's version of "equal outcome" and reason offers no hope that it could work. Why, then, is it the current topic? Well, of course, that's because God's opinion is not the current topic.

Monday, May 08, 2023

Forgiven Little

Luke's Gospel carries the story of Jesus eating a meal at the house of a Pharisee named Simon (Luke 7:36-50). A sinful woman from the city came and washed Jesus's feet. Jesus asked Simon about two debtors, one who owed 500 denarii and the other 50, who were forgiven their debt and asked who would love the moneylender more. Obviously the one with the larger debt. Then Jesus compared Simon with the woman wiping His feet. He concluded, "Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven — for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little" (Luke 7:47). And He forgave the woman.

The logic was simple: we will love Jesus more if we are forgiven more. But it gets muddled so easily in our minds. On one hand, Scripture is clear. We are all guilty of much sin. We have all been enemies of God (Rom 5:10), hostile to God (Rom 8:7). Jesus said our sin would earn us eternal death if we didn't repent (Luke 13:3, 5 and much, much more). But we don't typically see it that way. Take, for instance, the guy who says, "Never been a sinner, I've never sinned; I've got a friend in Jesus" (a la Spirit in the Sky). What has he been forgiven? Well, apparently not much. Or, like Simon, "Well, sure, I've sinned, but it's not a big deal. Small potatoes. A transgression or two. Nothing much to forgive." Most of us, in fact, would think that way about ourselves. We're muddled. But Jesus said, "He who is forgiven little, loves little." And we're okay with that because we figure we love Jesus just fine. But as muddled as we are in our thinking about our sin (like Simon), we are equally as muddled about loving Jesus. We "love Him" by twisting His words and ignoring His commands and living our lives the way we want rather than the way He wants. We are not repentant and we are not weeping (like the woman at Jesus's feet). We're defiant. Most of us resemble Simon far more than we do the weeping woman.

Everyone sees Simon in that story as the bad guy, and we tend to identify with the woman when, in fact, we can't even see how little we actually love God. The standard is "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt 22:37) and we might fit Him in on Sunday or so. If love is defined as seeking the very best for the loved one, for most of us seeking the very best for God is not at the top of our list. It would appear, then, that we often fail to see the magnitude of what we are forgiven and, as a consequence, fail to love Christ as we ought. May God forgive us.