Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

One Sin More Serious?

In a previous post, I quoted a Southern Baptist leader who gave the following statement in explaining why he believes that a Christian should not be a single-issue voter (regarding the issue of abortion):

Personally, I think that sanctity of life issues only deal with one of ten areas of sin in the Decalogue, so they are not to be elevated above all of the other prohibitions and commandments.

I attempted to argue against this statement by means of example in my previous post; in this post I hope to demonstrate why "sanctity of life issues" are "to be elevated above all of the other prohibitions and commandments," especially in the voting booth. I believe that my position on this issue is derived from two biblical passage in particular. The first comes from God's covenant with Noah:

"And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." (Genesis 9:5-6 ESV)

In this covenant passage, God makes special note of a particular sin- the sin of murder. God relates this sin to His words in creating man and woman:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

As theologian Wayne Grudem notes, the idea of man and woman created "in the image of God" indicates that people are like God and represent God in creation [Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 442]. The sin of murder, then- this singular sin that receives special mention by God and merits the death penalty before God issues the Law to Moses- is taken personally by God. When one person kills another, that person is symbolically killing God and his or her own life becomes forfeit.

The second biblical passage that must be noted is Romans 13:4. In instructing Christians about why we are to be submissive to a person who possesses governmental authority, the apostle Paul writes:

for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. (ESV)

In the above verse "the sword" obviously refers to the power of capital punishment (the picture of "the sword" is not invoked for the purpose of having us imagine someone being slapped on the hand with the flat of the sword). Basic to the biblical presentation concerning God's purpose for government in this sinful world is the idea of government inflicting physical punishment on the wrongdoer, especially executing the death penalty on those who take human life. When we vote for government officials, we must keep this in mind. Issues of social justice are indeed present in God's commands to rulers (see, for example, the book of Isaiah in which leaders are severely rebuked for favoring the rich, ignoring the pleas of the poor), and those we elect should be held accountable for their treatment of the disadvantaged, but the role of "avenger" is primary to government- to the extent that Paul (and also Peter- see 1 Peter 2:14) can refer to this role as if it were the only consideration. When electing an individual to governmental office, therefore, this must be our most serious concern- will this person act as an avenger against those who would cause others harm? Will this person obey God's ancient command to execute capital punishment against those who take a person's life? Will this person instead allow murder to take place without doing everything within his authority to stop this injustice and to see those committing the murder brought to justice?

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Friday, July 25, 2008

"Andrew joined the group Reformed Blacks of America"!


Earlier this week, my friend Xavier Pickett invited me to join the Reformed Blacks of America group on Facebook. I am highly honored by this invitation. As the descendant of slave-owners who first attended church in a Wesleyan-Arminian setting, for me this invitation to join RBA is a great example of God's sovereign grace in advancing His gospel of reconciliation.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Human Needs Ministries

In my recent post on "Biblical Limits to Government," one part of the quote from David A. Noebel read as follows:

The church, as the institution of grace, should preach the gospel and be the chief vehicle of charitable aid to the needy.

Critics of Evangelicalism often criticize evangelicals for focusing on gospel proclamation to the exclusion of helping with people's physical needs. Evangelicals committed to the gospel and in agreement with Noebel's statement above concerning the two-fold role of the church cannot afford to ignore such criticism, nor can we afford to de-emphasize the gospel in an attempt to help with the physical needs of those who have been driven to poverty through death of a provider (i.e., orphans and widows), disease, famine, or oppression.

What we must do is utilize our resources in such a way as to glorify Christ through proclaiming who He is and what He has done, while following His example in serving others- particularly the needy.

One major way that Christians in an relatively affluent nation such as the United States must provide charitable aid is through financial donations. When considering options on donating to a charity, the wise Christian will consider who will distribute the money and resources given- will donations be directly distributed by missionaries, or will they be given to local government agencies that may hoard the donations, depriving the truly needy? The wise Christian will consider how donations are utilized within the charitable organization- are overhead costs for things such as advertisement for the organization higher than they should be? The wise Christian will care for the eternal welfare of the needy and consider how the good news of Jesus will be proclaimed to the indigent while they are being given food and clothing.

Thinking on the issues outlined above, Abby and I have decided that some of our money set aside for charitable giving will be donated to the Human Needs Ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board. [Learn more about the Human Needs Ministries of the IMB HERE.] I urge every Christian reading this now to think carefully through the issues raised in this post and to prayerfully consider how you might help the church (in terms of individual congregations as well as associations and conventions of churches pooling their resources) to re-assume her rightful position as "the chief vehicle of charitable aid to the needy" for the good of others and for the glory of God.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Luke 14:1-6 Sermon Notes

[The following are some notes taken during the sermon delivered by Pastor Tray Earnhart this past Lord's Day at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. Sermons from KBC can be heard HERE.]

Scripture

1 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not? 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, "Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?" 6 And they could not reply to these things. (Luke 14:1-6)

Exegesis

v. 1 Setting: In the house of a Pharisee, on the Sabbath, in an antagonistic situation. The religious leaders were watching Jesus closely to accuse Him is a theme in Luke (see, for example, Luke 6:7; 11:54).

v. 2 "Dropsy"= Painful swelling of the limbs, accompanied with an oozing discharge through the skin. It is possible that this afflicted person was invited to dinner specifically for the purpose of entrapping Jesus. A person with dropsy would have been unclean and would have made others unclean under Mosaic law (see Leviticus 15).

v. 3 "Answered." Jesus answered without being questioned, knowing the thoughts of His audience. Healing on the Sabbath was not prohibited under Mosaic law, but was forbidden according to tradition.

v. 4 Religious authorities take no part in the conversation.

v. 5 Jesus exposes the irrationality of the religious leaders' position.

v. 6 Again, the religious leaders take no part in the conversation.

Biblical Narrative

Sabbath controversies are a theme in the gospel accounts. (For example Luke 6:1-11; 13:10-17; John 5:8ff.; 9:16). In other passages, it is common to find the religious leaders questioning Jesus and responding in rage. In Luke 14:1-6, the religious leaders are silenced by Christ's authority.

Application

"God will have the last word... not His creation."
  • "In the issue of salvation" ("there is only one Savior")
  • In "everything concerning our lives"

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Monday, July 21, 2008

UPS Pre-Sort Prayer Meeting


Last Friday at 4:30 PM, an hour before our shift started, my friend Trent and I met at MacDonald's next to pray. This next Friday we plan to meet again, this time with my friend Matt as well. (Trent also plans to invite a couple of his friends from work.) The idea is to pray especially in regards to our evangelism- that we would have greater wisdom and boldness in telling our co-workers about who Jesus is and what He has done, lifting up specific co-workers in prayer.

I ask that Christians reading this post would remember us in prayer.

I close this post with the following statements I read from The Valley of Vision this morning, which relate to the reason we are meeting to pray:

Merciful Lord, pardon all my sins... of unfaithfulness to the souls of men, of want of bold decision in the cause of Christ, of deficiency in outspoken zeal for his glory... Good Lord, hear; and hearing, forgive.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Automatic Disqualification

In explaining why some Christians will choose to vote for Obama in the upcoming election (though he did seem personally wary of both major candidates), one blogger whom I respect made the following statement:

Personally, I think that sanctity of life issues only deal with one of ten areas of sin in the Decalogue, so they are not to be elevated above all of the other prohibitions and commandments.

I think that this statement is entirely wrong-headed.

Allow me to illustrate why.

Imagine that you are on a board of elders interviewing a man in view of his becoming a leader in your church. And say that previous to this interview, you had seen a story on the news about some parents who had molested their child, so you decided to ask the man how he would handle such a situation if he became aware of its occurrence within the church. Now imagine that the man responded, "Well, I'm not sure that child molestation is really wrong, and I think that those kind of decisions are best left up to the parents." Hopefully, such an outrageous response would immediately end consideration of his becoming a leader. There would be no further weighing of pros and cons; no matter what other good characteristics the man possessed, the fact that he would allow for child molestation to go unchecked under his leadership (even if this remained a hypothetical situation) would become an automatic disqualification. It would never enter one's mind to say, "Well, there are many sins, and this question only addresses one area of sin"- the grotesque and obviously heinous nature of this sin immediately offends all but the most depraved conscience.

In the United States, child molestation is illegal, but it is legal for parents to have a doctor dismember their baby prior to his or her birth. In response to this psychopathic legal situation, under which about 45 million babies have been killed since abortion has been legalized, Senator Obama has taken the position of studied ambiguity in regards to whether baby-murder is morally wrong, and he has repeatedly stated that this decision is best left up to the mother. But just as in the example above, it is ludicrous for a person to respond to a parent's desire to do serious (and in the case of abortion, fatal) harm to her child by asserting, "This decision should be left up to the parent."

The President of the United States, as one charged with leading our government to protect rights and prevent injustice for people in this nation, must have better moral discernment than that demonstrated by Senator Obama. The murder of millions of helpless children, unable to escape, is an obvious, heinous sin that should provoke a gut reaction- people should cry, "No! This must be stopped!" Any response milder than this should render an automatic disqualification.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Translation of Titus 2:6-8

[Completed as part of a paper for my "Ministry of Leadership" class.]

6 Urge the young men likewise to be sensible 7 about everything, presenting yourself as an example of good works, with purity in doctrine, dignity, 8 sound speech beyond reproach, so that the opponent shall be made ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us.

[Note: punctuation of vv. 6-7, without a sentence break after v.6, and with a comma after "everything" in v. 7, follows editors' suggestion in Greek texts NA27 and UBS4, MacArthur's note on the text, and is close to HCSB translation.]

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Christ: Our "Balance in Ministry"

In my Ministry of Leadership class this summer, one article I read was “The Apostolic Model for Christian Ministry: An Analysis of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5” by Fred G. Zaspel, pastor of Word of Life Baptist Church in Pottsville, PA. I found the following quote from that article especially insightful:

Preachers today often speak of “balance” in ministry, and by that so many mean to say they are careful to balance subjects out equally. Paul tells us that if Christ is not the whole of our message, then we are not balanced at all. We do not relegate Him to certain aspects of the Bible or to certain aspects of life only. No, He is our only theme. This, Paul is convinced, is the only message that works. That man who does not preach Christ to His people is little better than a secular moralist. “Christ crucified” is the distinctive of the Christian message. He is our only theme. Yes, He is the whole of it.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

When is a church not a church?


As many readers may be aware, this past June 27th, the Presbyterian Church USA made a series of decisions which have resulted in denominational approval for people who would identify as homosexual being allowed ordination into ministry. The decisions were as follows:
  1. A change in the ordination standards saying officers of the church must live by “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” (G-6.0106b) to vague language requiring fidelity to live in obedience to Christ, with the individual governing body overseeing the ordination determining whether the minister possesses such fidelity.
  2. A decision ruling that previous prohibitions against ordination of homosexual clergy are no longer in effect.
  3. A decision to allow for conscientious objection to ordination standards.
  4. A change in the translation of the Heidelberg Catechism so that it no longer speaks about how those given to "homosexual perversions" will not be granted access into the kingdom of heaven.
More information on this subject can be found on Dr. Albert Mohler's blog [HERE] and on the Calling for Truth radio broadcast [HERE].

The Calling for Truth radio broadcast is especially interesting because the host frames the discussion of this issue with the question, "Can those who do not turn to God from their ungrateful, impenitent life be saved?" In other words, is repentance necessary for salvation? The decision of the PC(USA), in allowing for the ordination of those engaged in activity clearly prohibited by God's Word have answered this question in the negative. If the gospel call is indeed a call to repentance (see, for example, Acts 2:38), then the PC(USA) has abandoned gospel ministry and thus the churches that are within the communion of the PC(USA) are really no churches at all.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Is rap music redeemable?


It may surprise some Christians to learn that rap music, known in the general culture for some of the most blatantly offensive lyrics and videos, is now being used by some artists to convey some of the deeper truths of the Christian faith to a younger audience. Listen to Dr. Russell Moore and Marcus T. Williams-Gray (aka. "FLAME") discuss rap and the gospel HERE.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Are prayers directed to saints biblically appropriate?


Recently on his Dividing Line webcast, Reformed Baptist apologist James White revisited a debate he had against Roman Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid on the topic of "The Veneration of Saints and Angels." Madrid's argument in the first part of the debate centered on the Roman Catholic practice of offering prayers to saints. In arguing for this practice, Madrid equates praying to saints with asking other Christians to pray on our behalf. A Christian person undergoing intense trial will regularly ask other Christians for prayer, and would be especially quick to ask for prayer from another Christian who demonstrates a particularly vigorous spiritual life. And, Madrid would ask, who has a more vigorous spiritual life than those who have been recognized by the church as saints?

Madrid also stresses that saints, along with all Christians, are within the body of Christ, that death does not separate us from the body of Christ, and that those within the body of Christ are commanded to pray for one another. Therefore, he asserts, the saints in heaven may still be called upon to pray for our needs.

James White points out the errors of Madrid's argument. Whereas the saints in heaven are, along with Christians on earth, within the body of Christ, it is obvious that the roles performed by saints in heaven differ from those of Christians on earth. White offers the counter-example of pastoral leadership. If one were to enter a church building and find the congregation facing the front, sitting silently for an hour with no-one ever ascending to the pulpit, one would think the congregation to be very odd. Concern for the congregation would exponentially increase, however, if the explanation offered was that, 'Well, the pastor died of pneumonia a couple of years back, but death doesn't separate us from the body of Christ- he's still our pastor!' Obviously, although the pastor is kept within Christ's body by God's grace, he is rendered unable to perform his previous role by [temporary] separation from his own physical body.

White also argues that certain commands that we must obey on earth are rendered unnecessary for saints in heaven. It is true that Christians are commanded to pray for one another in passages like James 5:16, but James 5:16 also commands Christians to confess their sins to one another. Obviously, the saints in heaven do not need to obey this command, being free from sin.

An additional consideration concerns the fact that physical death separates the living from the dead in terms of communication. Those who seek to communicate with the dead are called mediums or spiritists and consulting with such people is specifically prohibited in Bible passages such as Leviticus 19:31 and 20:6.

Again, how do those who pray to saints imagine that they hear our prayers? Does St. Peter hear every time a person throughout the world speaks a world that they intend him to hear? Wouldn't this mean that St. Peter- and all the other saints to whom prayer is directed- would have to be omniscient (an attribute belonging to God alone)?

In Scripture, there is no command to pray to saints; there is no example of such prayer; there is, in fact, a prohibition against communicating with the dead. Prayer directed to the saints treats men and women as if they were gods, and is thus biblically inappropriate; in fact, it is idolatry.

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