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.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Abby's Personal Testimony of God's Work In Her Life

[My wife wrote the following for a class she was taking here at the Seminary.]

I do not have authority over my own life. My parents took me to church every week while I was growing up. I learned many Bible stories and what the Bible states about the character of God and His relationship with mankind. I believed with childlike innocence that God created the world and was the only God and thus worthy of mankind’s worship. I believed He was holy and hated sin. I could tell you I was a sinner for I could recall many instances when I had disobeyed my parents and harbored completely unholy attitudes. I believed what the Bible says about sin separating mankind from God and that the penalty for sin is death and an eternity in hell. I also believed that God Himself provided a Savior from mankind’s pitiful destiny. That Savior is His only Son Jesus Christ, who came to earth, lived a perfectly holy life and then died in mankind’s place to take on Himself the punishment for our sins. I knew that after He had been dead three days He rose to life again, proving that He has power over death, and now is in heaven with His Father. I believed my pastor and Sunday School teachers when they said that belief in these facts could rescue a person from their eternal fate in hell and confirm them a place in heaven with God for eternity. I firmly believed all this, but as with most, the cares of childhood outweighed any thoughts about the future or my eternal destiny.

That changed when I was around ten years old. There was a guest preacher at our church for a week, and he went over and over those facts I already believed. However, he also emphasized that belief in those facts should result in a life submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ. He also taught that only God could bring about that kind of change in a person. I couldn’t let go of his words that week, and now I know that God was working in me to turn all my belief into life-changing belief. If someone had asked me to articulate all this at that time, I would have said something like, “I knew Jesus was not a part of my life and I needed Him.”

After that my life began to change. I began to feel guilty over wrong things I did or bad attitudes, and not just guilt in the fact that I could be punished or concern over what my parents thought, but deep concern over what God thought about my actions and attitudes. I had a desire to please Him and wanted to follow His instructions for living that are laid out in the Bible. I was driven to read the Bible, and I am sure God was allowing me to understand what it said.

All of these changes have only increased through the years. I still struggle with sin on a daily basis, but I am confident that God is working in me to make me more holy. The Bible also assures me that when I acknowledge my sins and turn from them I have God’s forgiveness because these sins were paid for in Jesus’ death. I now understand the meaning of the verse, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” I had always believed these things, but it wasn’t until Jesus became my Lord, meaning the authority over my life, that I was rescued from my fate as a sinner and guaranteed to spend eternity with Him in heaven. My motto for living has become another Bible verse, “He died so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” Of course, this kind of living can only begin and be carried out through God working in a person to change them.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

How Much Do You Have to Hate Somebody to Not Proselytize?

The video below is atheist Penn Jillette, of the magician duo, Penn & Teller, followed by a transcript of the video:

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

[HT:: Justin Taylor]

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From the Resurgence Blog: "How NOT To Be A Missional Church: Event-Driven"

I encourage every Christian to read the article HERE.

The main points of the article are:

1. Event-driven mission is works-based (building mission on works, rather than on grace).
2. Event-driven mission is very often consumerist (making appeals based on idolatry, not on grace).
3. Event-driven mission doesn't work very well (using 'bait-and-switch' tactics).

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Does God Really Want All People To Be Saved? (R.C. Sproul answers a question from Mark Driscoll)

I encourage all readers to view the video found HERE.

As you will see if you follow the link above, Driscoll actually reads the above question on behalf of someone else.

Due to the specificity of the question that Driscoll reads, I probably would have simply answered, "Yes, that's what the verse says!" But most people will probably find Sproul's answer more helpful.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

A Brief Meditation on the Goodness of God

God is good.

In a time of moral relativism, and when men like Richard Dawkins are publicly and repeatedly asserting that God, as presented in the Bible, is evil- tyrannical, egocentric, and arbitrary- the above statement, often rendered by Christians as a heartfelt praise, becomes a necessary, foundational statement of faith. This is the starting point of Christianity; as the Holy Spirit convicts a person of his or her sin under God's Law, changes the heart of a sinner, and grants the gift of faith: the Holy Spirit, in all these activities, convinces a person that God is good.

God created a good world.

This too is an article of faith. Sometimes the order of the universe and the beauty of nature are obvious and it is easy to see how 'the heavens declare the glory of God.' At other times this world, groaning under the weight of sin, does not appear to be very good. Tsunamis appear to be more in line with the Big Bang Theory than with the idea of a loving Creator; plagues spread by viruses seem to be consistent with Darwinistic evolution. Christians must be sympathetic to the turmoil in which this world often leaves the people to whom we minister, and we must be ready to give a defense- with gentleness and respect- for the idea that God created everything good, and that the presence of apparent chaos in the world is due to sin.

God alone is good.

Humans, created in the image of God, seek after something that they can consider 'good,' though this search is constantly frustrated by our own evil desires, present in our hearts due to sin. People will inevitably spend their lives pursuing and trusting in what they consider to be the greatest good. For some people, the greatest good may be merely a comfortable life; for others, it may be a thrilling romantic relationship; others look to find the greatest good in a political party or political figure (this, BTW, occurs on all ends of the 'liberal-conservative' spectrum). All of these things fall short of the true good, which is found only in God.

It is God whom we are meant to seek, it is God whom we have failed to seek, and it is God who sought us out in Christ to bring us to Himself for our own good and for His glory.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jesus: The Son of God (Part 2)

From the divine side: Jesus as the Son of God due to His unique eternal relationship to the Father.

That Jesus is called the Son of God from the human side due to His miraculous birth is not a very controversial concept among people who believe in an omnipotent God. Even my Muslim friend at work, when I explained the first reason Christians call Jesus the Son of God, had no theological objection (though he was still uncomfortable with the phrase "Son of God" due to his religious training).

A second reason that Christians call Jesus the Son of God is much more controversial: it is harder to explain, and it is impossible to fully understand.

From eternity, Jesus (called, before He took on human nature, the Word) existed as a Person who is with God the Father and is yet identical to God. This is the teaching of John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." That "Word" in this verse refers to Jesus before His birth is clear from John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." The Father created the world by the Son (Heb 1:2) sent the Son into the world (John 6:38) and puts all things in subjection to the Son (1 Cor 15:27). And so Jesus exists in a unique eternal relationship to God the Father, by virtue of which Jesus is rightly called the Son of God.

In teaching these things, Christians confess belief in only one God- as the Bible says, "the LORD your God, the LORD is one" (Deut 6:4). When we speak of God the Father and Jesus His Son (and the Holy Spirit), we are not speaking of multiple gods, but of one God, known as three Persons. This goes beyond human understanding in some ways, but we believe that God is greater than our understanding and that we are bound to believe what He tells us about Himself in the Scriptures.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Jesus: The Son of God (Part 1)

From the human side: Jesus as the Son of God due to His miraculous birth.

Jesus is called the "Son of God" because God directly created Jesus within the virgin Mary, with no human father involved. [Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:26-38 stress that Mary was a virgin at the conception of Jesus and remained a virgin- though she was betrothed to Joseph- until after He was born.] Because no human father was involved in Jesus' conception, Jesus is called the "Son of God." In a similar way, Adam- who had no human father (nor, in his case, a human mother, though fathers are primarily in view in the birth records listed in the Bible)- is called the "son of God" in Luke 3:38.

The similarity between the Adam's miraculous creation and Jesus' miraculous conception is important as we begin to ponder why God would make it so that Jesus was born of a virgin. In bringing about the virgin birth of Jesus, God was not exercising an arbitrary display of His power- He wasn't just saying, 'Here's another cool thing that I can do'- He was actually exalting Jesus as a new Adam: a new starting-point for humanity. This connection is made clear in Romans 5:12-21. Adam sinned, and through him sin came into the world and death spread to all people (Rom 5:12). But Jesus, the new Adam, never sinned- He was righteous, obedient to God at all points, even to the point of death on the cross, after which God demonstrated His approval of Jesus by raising Him from the dead- and through Jesus life has spread to all who trust in Him.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Jesus: The Son of God (Introduction)

Lately, the Lord has given me some opportunities to speak with a Muslim co-worker at UPS about the gospel. This co-worker [as usual when mentioning my co-workers, I'll refrain from using his name, in case he might be embarrassed to see his name published on the Internet] told me that he believes Jesus was a prophet and a miracle-worker, but that he does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God nor that He died on the cross.

My co-worker asked me why I believed that Jesus is the Son of God. Thankfully, we had recently studied Matthew 16:13-20 in one of my classes at Seminary, so I was able to quickly take out my pocket New Testament and show him where Peter says, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!" And how does Jesus respond to Peter's statement? Does He say, 'No, I'm only a prophet and miracle-worker, but you shouldn't call Me God's Son'? No, instead He says, "Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven." And so Jesus Himself testifies that God Himself reveals Jesus to be the Son of God. (I'm fairly certain that my co-worker, who said he'd only read a little of the New Testament, had never seen this passage before, and that he previously believed that the idea of Jesus being God's Son was developed by Christians sometime after the Gospels were written.)

My co-worker responded that Muslims believe Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born. I affirmed that Christians believe this as well. After a moment's reflection I realized that when my Muslim friend hears Christians use the term "Son of God," he automatically believes we are saying that Jesus is the product of sexual union between God the Father and Mary. Last week, I did not have the opportunity to address this misunderstanding, and over the weekend I have been thinking about how to respond based on the Truth revealed in the Bible.

I believe that there are at least two main reasons that Jesus is called the Son of God: 1. From the human side, Jesus is called the Son of God due to His miraculous birth, in which no human father was involved; 2. From the divine side, Jesus is called the Son of God due to His unique eternal relationship with the Father, in that He has always existed as one God with the Father, yet He has always been a distinct Person from the Father.

Over the next couple of days on this blog, I hope to explore more fully the two concepts just mentioned. I ask Christians reading this post to pray that I would have additional opportunities this week to speak with my Muslim co-worker, that my friendship with him would grow, and that God would use the Truth to draw him to faith in Jesus.

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