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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Reasons We Need the Doctrine of God's Wrath

Rob Bell is the founding "pastor" of "Mars Hill Bible Church" in Grand Rapids, MI [the reason for the quotation marks in that statement will become apparent below]. Bell has received national attention primarily due to his book Velvet Elvis and his series of NOOMA videos. Last week, Bell made the news (at least within evangelical circles) because some information was released about his upcoming book, Love Wins; if his publisher's description of the book is to be trusted at all, it seems that in this book, Bell promotes universalism.

In a video promoting Love Wins, Bell poses a series of questions that, unless he is just being extremely provocative, also seem designed to drive readers to universalist conclusions. Denny Burk, the Dean of Boyce College, provides a very helpful biblical response to Bell's questions on his blog.

Meanwhile, Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI, responds to Bell's seeming rejection of the doctrine of Hell with an excerpt from his book, Why We're Not Emergent. DeYoung lists a number of reasons why we need the teaching concerning God's wrath:
1. To keep us honest about evangelism;
2. To forgive our enemies;
3. To risk our lives for Jesus' sake;
4. To live holy lives;
5. To understand what mercy means;
6. To grasp how wonderful heaven will be;
7. To be motivated to care for our impoverished brothers and sisters;
8. To be ready for the Lord's return.

DeYoung mentions the above subcategories under the larger category: "Believing in God’s judgment actually helps us look more like Jesus."

I would like to submit two more reasons that we need the teaching concerning God's wrath. These two reasons may be implicit in the explanations that DeYoung gives for his list, but hopefully it will be beneficial to make these explicit under separate headings. I would place the following two reasons as subcategories under the larger category: 'Believing in God's judgment actually helps us to know Jesus.'

We need the teaching concerning God's wrath:

1. To make sense of Jesus' teaching.

Jesus was referred to as "Teacher" by His enemies (Matt 12:38; 22:16), His disciples (Mark 4:38; 9:38; 10:35), and Himself (John 13:13-14). To know the Teacher, we must seek to understand His teaching. In regards to Hell, DeYoung appropriately mentions Jesus' teaching in Matthew 10:28 and Matthew 25:31-46. Many more verses could be added to this list; to name a just two: Matthew 5:27-30, Matthew 11:20-24. In these verses Jesus teaches of a coming judgment in which all of humankind will be separated into two broad categories: some will be welcomed into eternal life, and others will be cast into eternal fire. Much of Jesus' teaching is nonsensical if we deny or disregard the teaching concerning God's wrath.

2. To drive us to faith in Christ.

Jesus famously said, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish , but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). He went on to say that His mission was not to bring condemnation into the world: "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned" (John 3:17-18a). Then Jesus added: "But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18b). This sobering word concerning the state of condemnation in which the unbelieving exist is meant to be a warning to those who may simply admire Jesus' teaching, while considering belief to be optional. The teaching concerning God's judgment against unbelievers drives us to seek to know Christ and trust in Him.

If the above statements concerning God's wrath are correct, then believing in God's judgment is crucial for knowing Christ and becoming more like Christ.
A Christian, by definition, seeks to know Christ and to become more like Christ. Those who seek to deny God's wrath/judgment should seek a name for their beliefs other than "Christian."

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Matthew 5:43-48 and God's Love for His Enemies (Part 2)

v. 44b, pray for those who persecute you,

Jesus Himself provided the most perfect example of prayer for one's persecutors as He was being tortured to death on the Cross, and He prayed for those tormenting Him: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (cf. Luke 23:34)

And in considering the relationship between Luke 23:34 and Matthew 5:43-48, and how these words from Jesus teach us about God's love, I began to write that on the Cross we see Jesus, who is God Incarnate, praying for His enemies. But while such an observation would serve my purpose here, upon further research I sincerely believe that the best way to understand Jesus' prayer from the Cross is in light of His human will: similar to the situation with His prayer offered in Luke 22:42.

On the other hand, I believe the command to pray for persecutors does have a direct relationship to God's character in this: when we pray on behalf of our persecutors (rather than ignoring them or calling down curses upon them), we are doing something good for them that is the opposite of what they deserve; likewise, God sends rain even on the unrighteous ("rain" is considered a blessing, rather than a nuisance, in an agricultural society, where rainwater helps the crops to grow): God grants His enemies air, water, and food. God gives innumerable such blessings to all his enemies, when all that they deserve from Him is wrath. And to all of His enemies who trust in Jesus alone for salvation, God grants eternal life.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Matthew 5:43-48 and God's Love for His Enemies (Part 1)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NIV)

In the above passage, Jesus corrects a common misconception about our duty to love, and He commands love for enemies. Taking the main point of this passage as the main point of one's teaching about the passage, the faithful Bible teacher/preacher will rightly emphasize the Lord's specific correction and command regarding our duty to love our enemies.

But the faithful theologian (and the faithful Bible teacher/preacher who is concerned with training his students/congregation to be theologians in the sense of knowing God better and loving God with all of their minds) will also observe what the above passage teaches about God Himself.

v. 43-44a,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies...

The command of love for enemies, like all other of God's commands, flows from His own holy character. There is no injustice in God (cf. Rom 9:14), and therefore He commands only those things that are just. Thus, we see that there is nothing unjust or unholy about loving even those who hate us. Likewise, God's love for His enemies in no way violates His attributes, or His settled disposition of wrath against all sin.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Matthew 18:10, Initial Observations

[Every Saturday morning in front of the abortion clinic on the corner of 2nd and Market in Louisville, Christians stand to pray, to preach the gospel, and to provide sidewalk counseling to anyone who will take a moment to listen. In thinking about texts from which to preach in this venue, I have been meditating on Matthew 18:10; in this post, I am simply making observations about the language of the verse.]


See that you don’t look down on one of these little ones; for I tell you that their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father in heaven.

  • “See:” this word speaks to the vigilance that we must have in obeying this command from the Lord, and may be translated “keep watch,” “look out,” or, “take care.”
  • “Look down on:” literally, “think against,” often translated, “despise,” or “disdain.”
  • "Little ones:" from the context, this refers to 'children' (see Matt 18:2).
  • “Angels” can sometimes be translated “messengers” speaking (so I’ve heard) of men who deliver a message, but “angels in heaven” certainly refers to “angels” in the usual sense of supernatural servants of God
  • "Behold:" the angels "see" or "look at" the face of the Father; this seems to indicate their continual audience with God, which ensures that they are always able to bring the case of the "little ones" before Him, to receive His judgment against those who would discriminate against them.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sermon Notes on "Why Am I Baptist?" by Tray Earnhart

[The following notes were taken at the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The audio is available to hear on-line HERE.]

I. Introductory Question/Observations:
A. Question: in 1 Cor 3:1-9 is Paul prohibiting labels like "Baptist?"
B. Observations:
1. Many people define "Baptist" by what we do (or what we do not do).
2. Our first allegiance is to be to Christ and His gospel.
3. Denominations can be good and can help a local church to avoid confusion in worship.
4. If we believe another denomination is more biblical, we should leave Baptist life and join with that other denomination.

II. 8 Reasons Why I'm Baptist:
[Tray noted that these reasons are not original to him, but are drawn from a variety of sources. The first reason is foundational, and the second is what most easily distinguishes Baptists, but otherwise Tray said these are not presented in any particular order.]
1. Our view of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
2. Believers' baptism by immersion: Acts 18:8, belief precedes baptism.
3. Regenerate church membership: because the purity of the church is at stake (Ephesians 5:25-27).
4. The priesthood of believers.
5. Local church autonomy.
6. Evangelism and missions.
7. Confessions.
8. Religious liberty.

III. Additional Notes:
A. The above reasons focus on who we are, not just what we do, though who we are impacts what we do.
B. It is important to note that you can be a Christian and not be a Baptist; likewise, you can be a Baptist and not be a Christian.

-Turn to Christ today.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Graeme Goldsworthy on the Authority of Scripture

[The following is quoted from Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 194.]

For the Reformers this [i.e. the teaching that Scripture is authoritative] meant that other authorities, notably the church and its tradition, must submit to the authority of the Bible. The church can only recognize the canon and the authority of Scripture; it does not donate them. The Roman argument that the church gave us the Bible and thus has the right to interpret it was seen for what it was: a confusion of the source and the effect. It is an idolatrous assertion that allows the church to displace God as the effective author of Scripture. The same Word who called the universe into existence calls the church into existence and rules it. That Word is known to us only through the word of Scripture.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

God's Love: Unconditional and Contraconditional

In a post titled, "Is God's Love Unconditional?" John Piper points out two ways that God's love is properly called "unconditional:"

1.He loves us with electing love unconditionally. “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world . . . for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ”(Ephesians 1:4-5).

He does not base this election on foreseeing our faith. On the contrary, our faith is the result of being chosen and appointed to believe, as Acts 13:48 says, “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”

2.He loves us with regenerating love before we meet any condition. The new birth is not God’s response to our meeting the condition of faith. On the contrary, the new birth enables us to believe.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been [already!] born of God,” (John 5:1). “[We] were born, not . . . of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).

As Justin Taylor points out on his blog today, David Powlison has a booklet titled God's Love: Better Than Unconditional in which Powlison suggests four good reasons why there is so much talk in our society concerning God's unconditional love:

1. “Conditional love” is bad—unconditional is shorthand for the opposite of manipulation, demand, judgmentalism.
2. God’s love is patient—unconditional is shorthand for hanging on for the long haul, rather than bailing out when the going gets rough.
3. True love is God’s gift—unconditional is shorthand for unearned blessings, rather than legalism.
4. God receives you just as you are: sinful, suffering, confused—unconditional is shorthand for God’s invitation to rough, dirty, broken people.
Powlison goes on to argue that God's love is more than unconditional; it is actually contraconditional:

God does not accept me just as I am;

He loves me despite how I am;

He loves me just as Jesus is;

He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus.

This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it “contraconditional” love.

Contrary to the conditions for knowing God’s blessing, He has blessed me because His Son fulfilled the conditions.

Contrary to my due, He loves me.

And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love.

. . . You need something better than unconditional love.

You need the crown of thorns.

You need the touch of life to the dead son of the widow of Nain.

You need the promise to the repentant thief.

You need to know, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

You need forgiveness.

You need a Vinedresser, a Shepherd, a Father, a Savior.

You need to become like the one who loves you.

You need the better love of Jesus.
Let us praise God for his great love for us in Christ: a love that is unconditional and even contraconditional!

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Turning Conversations to Christ

The following was recently posted by Michael McKinley on the 9Marks blog:

In his Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God (page 81), J.I. Packer tells us of the evangelitic rule of H.C. Trumbull:

Whenever I am justified in choosing my subject of conversation with another, the theme of themes (Christ) shall have prominence between us, so that I may learn of his need, and, if possible, meet it.

Packer then comments:

The key words here are: 'whenever I am justified in choosing my subject of conversation with another'. They remind us, first, that personal evangelism, like all our dealings with our fellow-men, should be courteous. And they remind us, second, that personal evangelism needs normally to be founded on friendship. You are not usually justified in choosing the subject of conversation with another till you have already begun to give yourself to him in friendship and established a relationship with him in which he feels that you respect him, and are interested in him, and are treating him as a human being, and not just as some kind of 'case'.

McKinley then observes that the above quotes are "both challenging and clarifying."

I have found the concepts discussed above (which I believe are in line with biblical wisdom) to be challeging and clarifying as well. I think that they are challenging for the exact reason McKinley mentions: that I often fail to turn conversations to Christ when I am justified in doing so.

I think that Trumbull and Packer's statements are clarifying in, perhaps, a slightly different way than what McKinley discusses. McKinley writes about earning the right to choose the subject of conversation. In his sentence about earning this right, McKinley mentions that one may just have a "quick providential 'connection'" with a person, which I think properly qualifies Packer's comments that may, taken alone, lead a person to believe that a relationship must be developed over a long time before the Good News of Jesus Christ is discussed/proclaimed. But I think that the concept of earning the right to evangelize can be in itself somewhat suspect. As a friend once explained to me, we are commanded by God to preach the gospel to everyone, and so we have the absolute right to speak the gospel at whatever opportunity we find. (For all I know McKinley may agree with this concept, but I'm seeking here to take away an opportunity for excuses regarding our failure to evangelize.)

On the other hand, I do think that Trumbull, Packer, and McKinley make a valid point about being justified in choosing the subject of conversation. There are times (for example: when I am teaching an assigned subject matter to my students, when I am in a work-related conversation with my boss, or when I am participating in a training exercise) when I am NOT justified in choosing the subject matter of the conversation. It would be inappropriate for me to stand up and preach the gospel in such situations. On the other hand, in private conversations (even with bosses, students, fellow employees, or people I have just met) I should sanctify Christ in my heart in such a way that if, in the natural ebb and flow of conversation, I am able to choose the subject, I may direct people to discuss the best, most important news they could hear: the message of who Jesus is and what He has done on behalf of sinners.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Homosexuals Have the Right to Marry

People who self-identify as homosexuals have the right to marry. In all 50 states. And they always have. And people who have homosexual tendencies SHOULD have the right to marry.

What people who self-identify as homosexuals should NOT have the right to do is change the definition of marriage.

Because in Matthew 19:4-6, speaking of marriage, the Lord Jesus Christ is recorded to have said,

4Haven’t you read,” he replied,that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”(NIV)

So marriage is, by definition, between "male and female." If a person who experiences homosexual attraction or who has even engaged in homosexual actions wants to get married, he or she should have the right to do so, and he or she actually does have the right to do so. But in order to get married, he or she must find a person of the opposite sex to marry.

Christians must keep these truths in mind as the issue of "homosexual marriage" becomes ever more prominent in public discourse.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

John 3:16 Valentine

[A lady at my church- Kosmosdale Baptist Church- placed the following on a Valentine given to Christian yesterday, and I thought it was kind of cool.]


For God so loVed the world,

that he gAve

his onLy

begottEn

SoN,

That whosoever

believeth In Him

should Not perish,

but have Everlasting life.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sermon Notes from Jude 24-25, "Glory to God" by Tray Earnhart

[The following notes were taken at the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The is available to hear on-line HERE.]

I. Introduction
A. What a beautiful, great ending.
B. Cross-reference: Rom 16:25-27, to which the end of Jude has been compared.

II. 2 Ways Jude Brings Our Focus and Attention on God, Which Focus is Meant to Bring Us Encouragement:
A. What God Will Do:
1. To Him Who is Able:
a. God has the absolute ability to execute His will.
b. Examples of God's ability are found throughout the Gospels.
2. To Keep You:
a. God preserves His people.
b. Cross-reference: John 6:35-40; John 10.
3. Without Fault;
4. With Great Joy.
B. Who God Is:
1. The Only God Our Savior:
a. Glorious;
b. Majestic;
c. Powerful;
d. Authoritative.
2. Eternal

III. How True Encouragement is Found:
only through Jesus Christ our Lord.

-Amen.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Re: Eve's First Response

Recently, Bob Gonzales, dean of Reformed Baptist Seminary, wrote an article titled "Did Eve's First Response to the Serpent Betray a Sinful Attitude?" I encourage anyone reading this post to read Dean Gonzales' article, which is found HERE.

In a recent post on sola Scriptura, I wrote the following on Eve's first response to the Serpent:
We see the project of adding to God's commands initiated during the first temptation. Whereas God had said, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it:" (Gen 2:17a), in relating God's command to the serpent, under pressure, Eve added to God's command and said, "Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it" (Gen 3:3b, emphasis added). By adding to God's words, the sufficiency of what God had said was called into question. The addition of "neither shall ye touch it" seemed to be a good idea (it is certainly hard to eat fruit off of a tree if you never touch the fruit), but such a prohibition added an extra burden to the conscience, and thus the woman had been placed in a position to do exactly what the tempter desired: namely, to question the goodness of God.
Now, obviously, my take on the text differs somewhat from what Dean Gonzales has written. Whereas Gonzales believes Eve's response to be (it seems) entirely appropriate, I would argue that the way Eve represented what God had said was inaccurate and that this inaccurate representation left Eve vulnerable to the Serpent's continuing temptation.

I agree with Dean Gonzales that Eve's response did not betray a sinful attitude. I think that Gonzales makes a good point in saying, "Eve does not experience shame and guilt until after eating the fruit (3:7)." So to speak of Eve's response as if it arose from a sinful heart is inaccurate; I do believe that some preachers have go too far in the inferences that they draw from this text concerning the reasons for Eve's statements.

On the other hand, Paul clearly writes, "the woman being deceived fell into transgression" (1 Tim 2:14b). So the woman was deceived before she fell into transgression. I believe that the way Eve spoke to the Serpent did not come from a sinful attitude, but it does seem to come from confusion, which was brought about by the Deceiver.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sermon Notes from Jude 17-23, "How To Keep Watch 2" by Tray Earnhart

[The following notes were taken at the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The is available to hear on-line HERE.]

I. Introduction
A. Opening Comment: Sometimes wrong solutions can be worse than the original problem.
B. Example of right solutions to problems: The Puritans, who were true physicians of the soul, experts at diagnosing and responding to issues biblically.
C. Example of a wrong solution to a problem: 2 Sam 6, David trying to transport the ark of the covenant back into Jerusalem without consulting God's Word.
D. Additional examples of right solutions to problems: Paul's gospel-centered solutions to problems in the churches.
E. Examples of the apostles' warnings re: apostasy:
1. Acts 20
2. 1 Tim 4.

II. The Second Solution to the Problem of Apostasy: "Keep yourselves in the love of God."
A. Our responsibility to 'keep ourselves' is based upon God's prior work.
1. Phil 2:12-13.
2. 2 Pet 1:10.
B. The genitive in Jude 21 is subjective; we are to keep ourselves in our love for God.
C. How? 3 participles in the text:
1. "Building yourselves up in your most holy faith:"
a. "Building" is a present tense participle, indicating a continual, daily action.
b. "Your most holy faith"= the Christian faith, as defined by the Word of God.
2. "Praying in the Holy Spirit:"
a. = Praying in the power of the Holy Spirit.
i. Rom 8:26-27.
ii. Gal 4:6.
b. No indication of private prayer languages.
3. "Waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life:" (this is an eschatological statement, referring to when the Lord returns)
D. Care for others:
1. "Have mercy on those who doubt"
2. "Save others by snatching them out of the fire"
3. "To others show mercy with fear"
a. Gal 6:1.
b. We must be sure that we are ourselves built up in faith before we can help others.

III. Why be concerned about apostasy? Without concern for this:
A. The gospel gets confused
B. The nature of the Church gets confused

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Import Factors re: Choosing a Church to Join

My friend Justin Brewer, after stepping down from a youth ministry position in his church and after counsel with the pastors of his church, is amicably leaving his fellowship to join a congregation "closer to home." As part of the process of looking for a new church home, Justin posted the following question on his blog:

Place in order from 1 to 5 (1 most important, 5 least important) the personal importance of these specific parts of a church experience( I know there are more, let's just focus here for now). If you would like to explain why that would be great...if you just want to list'em you can do that as well.

Your choices in no specific order:

  • Fellowship (Sunday school, small groups, events (although i am aware there is more than fellowship in these things... you get the idea))
  • Music (Style, Skill)
  • Message (Pastors presentation of the word, style, personal growth or conviction through preached word )
  • Denominational Ties (government and system of beliefs)
  • The Tots (children's, youth, nursery)
My response to what Justin wrote follows:

I believe that Almighty God has revealed all that is necessary to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) in the sixty-six books of the Holy Scripture (Rev 22:18). All Scripture was given by inspiration of God, is infallible and inerrant, and is the sufficient, final arbiter of all disputes and decisions concerning matters of life and godliness (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Due to these commitments about Scripture, I believe that "Denominational Ties" (as you have defined them) are the most important consideration.

Specifically, you mention "government and system of beliefs." The system of beliefs are of primary importance because they define key convictions of the congregation concerning what the Bible says; the system of beliefs, if revisited from time to time, will shape what the congregation teaches and does. Of course, there will be a great deal of similarity between the beliefs of various evangelical congregations, but the differences are important; inasmuch as you are willing that, at some point, God would use you as a minister within whatever congregation with which you join, you want to be sure that your teaching does not contradict points of that congregation's system of beliefs.

Church government is also very important. Many churches claim to believe in the authority of Scripture or claim to believe that Christ is Head of the Church, but then they disregard the teaching of Christ and His apostles concerning how the Church- the body and temple of Christ- is to be organized. It is all too common to see congregations aping the business practices of the world; this inevitably leads to strife within the church and/or a personality cult around a charismatic pastor.

Next in importance, also flowing from convictions concerning Scripture, is the category you have labeled "Message." How does the pastor handle God's Word? Does he preach through books of the Bible so that all of God's Word is brought to bear on the congregation, rather than just picking and choosing pet topics? Is the main point of the passage the main point of the sermon so that what the pastor is echoing and explaining what God says rather than using the text to make his own point? Without these considerations the true authority in the congregation is not God's Word, but the opinions of the pastor.

I would argue that the other categories you mention are subservient to these first two, and that a Christian would be well-advised to join with a congregation where these are strong, even if all the others are weak. Because how God's Word is handled is foundational and where the foundation is strong the other aspects can be built (or torn down and rebuilt) upon this strong foundation. But where the foundation is weak the other aspects become an empty, crumbling shack (though maybe a well-decorated shack) on sandy ground. Also, if the congregation fervently desires conformity to God's Word (which desire will be primarily expressed in the two categories I've argued as most important) they should be consistently seeking to improve in the other areas.


Now, it turns out that my response wasn't exactly what Justin was looking for. Specifically, it seems that when he wrote "Denominational Ties (government and system of beliefs)" he did not intend to have a response about "government and system of beliefs" that excluded comment about a particular denomination. But, overall, I stand by my answer.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

The Humanity of Christ

[I prepared, but never delivered, the following Bible study for the pre-work prayer meeting we used to have when I worked for UPS.]

I. Jesus was a man, suffering the same physical weaknesses of all people, such as:
A. Hunger (Matt 4:2)
B. Thirst (John 19:28)
C. Sleepiness (Mark 4:38)
[I've argued elsewhere that this does not extend to weaknesses, such as death or sickness, which are specifically related to Original Sin.]

II. As a man, Jesus also suffered emotional turmoil: "Then He said to them, 'My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death, remain here and keep watch with Me.'" (Matt 26:28)

III. Furthermore, Jesus suffered spiritually through temptation: "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." (Heb 4:15)
A. Because He was truly human, Jesus can sympathize with us in our weaknesses.
B. The one way in which Jesus differed from all other people is that He was without sin: 1 Pet 2:2; 1 John 3:5.

IV. Because Jesus was a human free from sin– not needing atonement for any sin on His part– He was uniquely qualified to take away the sin of humanity: Rom 5.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Jesus' Teaching re: Divorce

Text

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matt 5:31-32 NIV)


3 Some Pharisees came to [Jesus] to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matt 19:3-9 NIV)

Commentary


Both of the above passages were apparently addressed to people who believed God approves of divorce. Jesus teaches in both passages that divorce is not permitted, except in cases of marital unfaithfulness. (“Marital unfaithfulness” is translated from the Greek porneias, which clearly refers to sexual immorality.)


In Matt 5, the consequences for a man divorcing his wife apart from marital unfaithfulness are: first, his wife becomes an adulteress (it is assumed, apparently, that she will not be able to support herself, and her child[ren], without remarriage); second, the man marrying the divorced woman commits adultery. Notice that Jesus begins speaking about these consequences by saying that the person divorcing his wife CAUSES her to become an adulteress; the way Jesus presents the aforementioned consequences is not meant to shame the divorced woman or her future husband, but to place responsibility for the unjust situation resulting from divorce upon the husband. (It seems that in the culture Jesus was addressing, the idea of a woman initiating divorce would have been virtually non-existent, but the principle that the person who files for divorce in cases other than marital unfaithfulness bears the responsibility for the resulting unjust situation may be applied to wives as well.) Jesus’ words in Matt 5 assume that the man considering divorce will have enough personal sense of accountability under God to refrain from making his wife an adulteress.


In Matt 19, the consequence for a man divorcing his wife apart from marital unfaithfulness is more direct; the man is said to commit adultery.


These words from Matt 5 and Matt 19 concerning the divorced couple being liable to the charge of adultery only make sense if one understands Jesus to indicate that a divorce for reasons other than marital unfaithfulness is an illegitimate divorce. A person may get a “certificate of divorce”– he may get a court to say he is divorced– but in God’s sight he and his wife are still married, and thus they are not free to pursue other marital relations without the charge of adultery being properly applied.


According to Jesus’ teaching, the consequences for divorce are grounded in an understanding of the biblical account concerning the state of the first human couple as they were created, before their fall into sin. The Man and Woman were created as complementary. Their union, which Scripture declares to set forth a pattern for all marriages, brings forth a unique “one flesh” relationship.


Notice the high view of God’s providence that Jesus exemplifies in the passage from Matt 19. Looking back at the first couple, and applying their situation to other couples, Jesus declares that God has joined them together. We may think that a marriage comes about primarily due to the choices of a man and woman as they decide that they are “in love.” In other cultures, people may think that marriages come about primarily due to the choices of parents arranging for their children to take a certain spouse. Jesus teaches that a marriage comes about primarily due to an action of God. When a person initiates a divorce for reasons other than marital unfaithfulness, according to Jesus, he is acting in rebellion against the sovereignty of God.


Application


Again, according to the teaching of Jesus, divorce is forbidden in cases except for marital unfaithfulness (porneia). (Of course “marital unfaithfulness” is also proscribed by Jesus; in Matt 15:19-20 Jesus speaks of porneia– sexual immorality– as being on the same footing with evil thoughts, murders, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies, and moicheiai– a term more specifically referring to “adultery” than porneia– as things that defile a person.) Jesus presents divorce, for reasons other than sexual immorality, as a sin.


As we see in Matthew’s account, Jesus took the strictest view against sin. In Matt 5:29-30 and again in Matt 18:8-9 Jesus says that if a bodily member causes you to sin, it is better to cut off or gouge out that part of the body and throw it away rather than the alternative: namely, to be thrown into the fires of Hell (the Lord directly implies that sinning earns one a place in Hell). In Matt 18:6 Jesus says that a person should prefer to have a millstone hung around his neck and be thrown into the sea rather than to be a party to causing a believing child to sin. In Matt 18:7 Jesus pronounces a woe upon anyone who brings things into the world that cause people to sin. And in Matt 13:41-42 Jesus teaches that “at the end of the age” He will send His angels to “weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil,” to throw them into the fire.


When the above passages regarding the consequences of sin are considered in light of Jesus’ words about illicit divorce (that the person who engages in such a divorce makes a him responsible for causing his spouse to become an adulteress and also makes him guilty of adultery), the person considering divorce for reasons other than sexual immorality should see his desperate need for repentance.


A couple that has gone through a divorce in contradiction to the words of Jesus (a divorce that is invalid in the sight of God), if neither spouse has re-married, may also repent of their sin and seek reconciliation. (Of course, once another marriage has taken place, a spouse may not divorce his or her new spouse in order to re-marry his or her original spouse; a person may not commit a sin in order to repent of a previous sin.)


As shown above, Jesus taught that divorce for reasons other than sexual immorality is a sin, that such divorce causes others to sin, and that sinning and (especially) causing others to sin earns a person an expectation of Hell-fire.


The good news of the Christian faith is that Jesus gave His life “as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28). Jesus died on the Cross, taking the Hell that sinners deserve, crying out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46). Jesus was buried, and He rose again on the third day, showing that He is the champion over sin, death, and Hell. Jesus now is in heaven, at the right hand of the Father, and He offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who forsake their sin and turn to Him in faith.

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