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, August 30, 2008

Welcome to the World, Trig Paxson Van Palin

Readers are encouraged to view the classic blogpost by Dr. Albert Mohler (found HERE) about the birth of Trig Paxson Van Palin, the son of Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who is now a VP candidate.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Separated At Birth? Chef Wolfgang Puck and Pastor Johnny Hunt



While walking past HalfPrice Books a couple of weeks ago, I saw a book in the window with a picture on the cover. At first, I thought that Dr. Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, had written a new book. Then I realized he was dressed as a chef in a kitchen. Then I realized I was looking at Wolfgang Puck.

Anyone else see a resemblance?

[Note: This post is not intended to be disrespectful to either Dr. Hunt or Chef Puck.]

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Translation of Romans 1:18-25. "God's Wrath Revealed"

[Completed for my Greek exegesis class this semester.]

18 For God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all impiety and unrighteousness of men– those suppressing the truth in unrighteousness– 19 because that which is known about God is manifest in them; for God manifested it to them. 20 For the invisible things of him– that is, his eternal power and deity– are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by what has been made, so that they are inexcusable. 21 For though they knew God, they didn’t glorify nor give thanks to him as God, but they became worthless in their reasoning and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they were made foolish 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal Man, birds, quadrupeds and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts into sexual impurity to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for the lie and they worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The kind of response Christians should strive to receive from those who disagree

After appearing for a live radio debate on Iron Sharpens Iron [Part 1 and Part 2], Muslim apologist Bassam Zawadi had the following to say about the experience:

Despite being a Muslim who strongly opposes the theological beliefs that IRON SHARPENS IRON adheres to and sometimes anti-Islamic stance that it takes, I would have to admit that I had a good experience appearing as a guest on the show. I felt very comfortable with the way Chris and his guests have questioned my beliefs. I appreciate the respect that I received and the courteous and considerate way questions have been put forth to me. Many Muslim speakers and apologists might possibly feel intimidated appearing on a Christian radio show, however I can say with confidence to any of these Muslims out there that they shouldn't be worried about doing so with IRON SHARPENS IRON."
This is remarkable as the Christian who Zawadi debated, David Wood (as well as the host of ISI, Chris Arnzen), was in no way unclear that according to the Bible, Zawadi must repent of his adherence to Islam and trust in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, or he would face the judgment of God. Wood and Arnzen were respectful of Zawadi, however, listening carefully to what he had to say without interrupting him, and well-reasoned responses to what he said. This is what Christians are commanded to do in 1 Peter 3:15, "...sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (NASB). We must strive to hold both things in balance; we must have the grace to speak to others with gentleness and reverence, but we must have the boldness to actually give a defense for what we believe.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Death Penalty and the Noahic Covenant

[In discussing the biblical basis for an assertion that human governments are required by God to execute the death penalty against murderers, the primary passage to which Christian thinkers turn is Genesis 9:5-6, a portion of the Noahic covenant. These verses read as follows in the NKJV: 5 “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man. 6 Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” Recently, I have read a suggestion from one scholar that verse 6 is to be understood as a proverb, and that this passage has no real bearing on the issue of the death penalty. But is this explanation plausible under a close examination of the biblical text? The following passage from O. Palmer Robertson in his classic The Christ of the Covenants helps to answer this question.]

Does God’s covenant with Noah sanction the taking of the life of a murderer under any circumstances? … Does the covenant with Noah in itself offer divine sanction to capital punishment?

Genesis 9:5,6 might be interpreted simply as stating a fact that shall occur. If a man sheds blood, his blood shall be shed. On the other hand, the verse might be understood as offering divine sanction for the taking of the life of a murderer.

The first consideration in deciding between these optional understandings relates to the precise meaning of the phrase which may be rendered literally “from the hand of (man or beast) I shall require it.” In this case, man would be the instrument by which God would bring the murderer to account. Thus the principle of capital punishment would be established.

However, this interpretation of this particular verse runs into immediate difficulty. For the verse says that “by the hand of beast” as well as “by the hand of man” God will require life. It would be rather difficult to imagine a wild beast serving as instrument of God’s judgment in the same sense in which a man would function in this regard.

The more likely interpretation of this phrase “by the hand of (man or beast) I shall demand an accounting” is: “From (man or beast) I shall demand an accounting.” That is, God will exact justice from either man or beast that murders.

This interpretation of the phrase “from the hand of (man or beast) I shall require” is supported elsewhere in Scripture. The prophet Ezekiel states that God shall “require from” the hand of the watchman the blood of the unwarned, using the identical phraseology found in Genesis 9:5,6 (Ezek. 33:6; 34:10).

Genesis 9:5 in itself would not appear to settle the question as to whether or not God intends man to be his instrument in the execution of justice on the murderer. Indeed, God shall require the life of the manslayer. But does he require it specifically from the hand of another man?

Genesis 9:6 answers the question in the affirmative. Both the parallelism in the structure of the verse and the indication of the instrument for executing justice point in this direction.

The parallelism of phraseology as found in the original text of Scripture may be represented as follows in English translation:
a. He who pours out
b. the blood of
c. man
c. by man
b. his blood
a. shall be poured out (Gen. 9:6)
... The one who sheds man’s blood shall have his blood shed by a man. More specifically, man is indicated as the agent by which the murderer’s blood shall be shed. When this though is combined with the affirmation in verse 5 that God shall “demand an accounting” of the murderer, it becomes clear that the intention of the passage is to designate man as God’s agent in the execution of judgment on the murderer.

This conclusion is supported by subsequent scriptural legislation. Exodus 21:28 indicates that the animal that takes the life of a man must have its life taken by man, In addition, Israel is charged explicitly with the responsibility of executing capital punishment on the murderer (Exod. 21:12; Num. 35:16-21).

In conclusion, this text indicates that man has a responsibility respecting the murderer given to him by God. The requirement is unmistakable. The person who takes the life of a man must have his life taken by man.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Death Penalty and the Cross of Christ

[The following contains some thoughts on the death penalty that came as a result of a recent conversation with my Dad. Both my Dad and I believe that the death penalty is a practice in keeping with biblical teaching; but, as will be clear from reading this post, I believe there are underlying issues that are of far greater importance than the conclusion a Christian may reach on this particular matter.]

A Christian's beliefs concerning the death penalty are, of course, no test of orthodoxy. This is, at most, a tertiary issue on which Christians may disagree according to conscience. Though important when electing candidates to office, this issue is crucial only to Christians who actually hold certain governmental positions. Christians who do believe that death for murderers is biblically mandated must also be willing to consider that the actual practice of the death penalty may be unjust. As of 2002, 12 death row inmates in the U.S. had been exonerated due to DNA testing, and this certainly points to a grave travesty of justice. Christians should be willing to examine principles laid down for sentencing someone to death in the OT- in which two independent, fairly impartial eyewitnesses had to witness the capital offense- against the way that someone may be sentenced to death in the U.S.- in which circumstantial evidence is allowed. Christians who believe that the death penalty in general is legitimate are no more obligated to support the current form of the death penalty in the U.S. than antebellum Christians who believed that the Bible allows for some form of slavery or servitude should have felt required to support the grossly unjust practice of chattel slavery that took place in the U.S. Christians in the U.S. should be open to the possibility that the death penalty is being unjustly administered on a routine basis, and if convinced that it is, we should be at the forefront of those calling for a moratorium on the death penalty until the systematic problems can be rectified.

Having indicated above that the issue of the death penalty is not a gospel issue, I must add that my concern for those who would deny the overall validity of the death penalty does relate to the gospel. For those who can envision no situation in which justice would demand an individual's life be required, it is hard to see how an orthodox view of God's just, eternal wrath against sinners can be sustained. The ultimate death penalty is delivered by God against the wicked, as seen in Revelation 20:14-15. The only way that a person may avoid this death penalty is if Christ has taken the penalty upon Himself on the Cross. To deny any valid death penalty- even the concept of a divine death penalty- is to deny the gospel and the Christian faith. To argue that the people of God at this time, due to a certain understanding of the commands of Christ, should oppose the death penalty is, as already mentioned, a much less serious issue.

A final consideration involves the hermeneutic one uses in determining his or her view of the death penalty and other ethical or moral issues. Many moderate or liberal scholars assert that, "The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ" (as in the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message), and proceed to judge the rest of Scripture based upon their understanding of certain words of Christ, usually statements taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Certainly, we should strive for a Christ-centered interpretation of Scripture, as Jesus Himself taught that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matt 5:17; Luke 24:44), He taught about Himself using "all the Scriptures" (Luke 24:27), and He asserted that the Scriptures testify about Himself (John 5:39). But why the constant appeal to the Sermon on the Mount that we find in moderate or liberal scholarship? Why don't these scholars focus on the Olivet Discourse, as end-times enthusiasts may be tempted to do? Why don't they focus on the "Keys of the Kingdom" passage in Matthew 16:18-19, as Roman Catholic apologists tend to do? Moreover, when moderate or liberal scholars speak of the Sermon on the Mount, they only focus on a few verses of the Sermon. The emphasis is certainly not on the verses that speak of being thrown into hell; the emphasis is not on Jesus' conclusion to the sermon, which speaks of the broad path to destruction, those false prophets who will be rejected at the final judgment, and those who don't follow Jesus and will be destroyed. These considerations lead to the conclusion that it is an outside philosophy, and not the teaching of Scripture itself, is providing the framework by which the Bible is interpreted.

A better method to arrive at a Christ-centered interpretation of Scripture is to look at the purpose for which Christ came, as revealed in His Words recorded in Scripture. Jesus said, "The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10) and "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). Jesus' work of seeking, saving service, giving His life as a ransom for many on the Cross is the focus of the four gospel accounts. The Cross is also the focus of the epistles to the extent that Paul can declare to the Corinthians, "I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). The Cross has everlasting significance as in Revelation, Jesus is depicted as the lamb that was slain (5:6) and is praised as the one who was slaughtered and redeemed people for God by His blood (5:9).

The Cross is the perfect demonstration of God's attributes: of His providence (Acts 4:27-28), of His justice (Rom 3:26), and of His love for sinners (Rom 5:8), to give but three examples. The Cross is determinative in our understanding of how the New Testament is related to the Old and why, for example, we no longer practice the sacrificial system, as we see in the book of Hebrews.

The work of Christ on the Cross provides the hermeneutic from which we derive our ethics and morals as well. The Cross teaches us to be self-sacrificial and humble in service to others (Phil 2:1-11); the Cross teaches us how to act toward one another in marriage (Eph 5:22-33); the Cross teaches us how to submit to those in authority (1 Pet 2:18-25).

In determining one's stance on the issue of the death penalty, as in all areas of life, the Christian must first and foremost consider how Christ's work on the Cross impacts this issue, whatever conclusion is eventually decided.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Luke 14:12-14 Sermon Notes

This past Lord's Day, Tray Earnhart, the pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, where I am a member, preached the best, most challenging sermon I've ever heard from him (or, at least since his sermon on the Great Commission back around New Year's).

The sermon was on Luke 14:12-14,
12 [Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. [ESV]
Here are a few notes I took from the sermon:
Luke 14:12. Jesus reproves the motive of only giving in order to receive.
Luke 14:13-14. Those mentioned by Jesus ("the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind") were despised and kept from temple ministry under the old covenant (see Leviticus 17:17-21). Jesus commands personal involvement with those considered despised. Jesus indicates repayment from God as a motive for doing good to others.

Application:
Jesus does not mention giving money or starting a new church especially for those despised by culture, but commands personal involvement with them. (In other words, we cannot simply pay others to care for "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind," nor can we segregate them into separate congregations.) As those radically corrupted by sin who have been born again by the preaching of the good news of reconciliation, we are not allowed any place for pride or for degrading others.

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