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)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Election(s) and Judicial Hardening

Recently, in Sunday school at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, we studied 1 Samuel 11. The first part of that chapter records Saul leading the people of Israel and Judah to defeat the Ammonites. One unusual aspect concerning the account of this warfare is that when the Ammonites had the people of Jabesh-gilead woefully outnumbered and on the verge of defeat, they gave the people of Jabesh permission to go throughout the land seeking out reinforcements. Saul then brought reinforcements, and they utterly defeated the Ammonites. This was terrible military strategy on the part of the Ammonites; what accounts for their failure of judgment? The question cannot be answered by an explicit word from the text; as with so much of 1 Samuel, the author(s) give an account of the historical events, but do(es) not give much of an explanation of what motivates the various historical actors.

Comparing scripture with scripture, my Sunday school teacher (Tim Scott) noted other instances in which wicked kings or nations acted in irrational, self-destructive ways. We specifically examined Pharaoh in the Exodus story: how, even when his own people were begging him to let the Israelites go, even when it was obvious that trying to keep the Israelites as slaves was ruining his nation, Pharaoh acted counter to all sense and refused to God's people go. In this case, the Bible does tell us why Pharaoh remained obstinate: "the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart" (Ex 9:12; 10:20, 27). Why did the LORD harden Pharaoh's heart? Ultimately, it was for His own glory as He demonstrated His righteous judgment in the destruction of the Egyptians, and He demonstrated His covenant faithfulness in the salvation of the Israelites. But, in a very real sense, Pharaoh made his own grave. For, before the text says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex 8:15, 32). [I also take the verses that say "Pharaoh's heart was hardened"-- Ex 7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:7-- as reflexive, i.e., "Pharaoh hardened his own heart."] This is why God's work of hardening Pharaoh's heart is sometimes referred to as his "judicial hardening:" as a judgment against the wickedness of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God confirms Pharaoh in his hard-heartedness.

It is reasonable to assume that God does not engage in judicial hardening in the case of Pharaoh alone. It is reasonable to assume that when other wicked kings and nations act in irrational and self-destructive ways, then it may be due to God bringing judicial hardening upon those kings and nations. So that when, for example, the Ammonites have a clear victory over Jabesh-gilead, yet they allow the people of Jabesh time to gather reinforcements from Israel and Judah, then the actions of the Ammonites may be best explained in terms of the LORD hardening their hearts.

Two weeks ago, America re-elected President Obama, which defied historical indicators of how high an unemployment rate we can have and still re-affirm our government's Chief Executive Officer. President Obama himself had said "If I  don't have this [the economic recovery] done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition," and job numbers were consistently lower than his predictions. During the election, President Obama did not offer any new ideas concerning what he might do differently in a second term in order to better meet his predictions. Many of President Obama's ideas about economics seem to come from European models, though Europe's economy is currently in shambles.

President Obama backed "gay marriage" in his first term, and two weeks ago "gay marriage" was affirmed by ballot in four states. This would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, as such "marriage" was recognized to be obviously contrary to human flourishing, both due to the impossibility of homosexual procreation and the need for children to have both a mother and a father.

Additionally, on this past Election Day, two states legalized marijuana for recreational use. This too would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. The reality of the negative effects of marijuana upon the brain, the fact that marijuana is a gateway drug, and the negative impact that legalization will have on underage use have not changed.

I would argue that this past election helped reveal an irrational, self-destructive tendency pervasive in the nation as a whole. And this tendency is best explained in terms of God's judicial hardening. This should be a serious matter of prayer for all believers.

But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3 NKJV)


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sermon Notes from "Stand Firm in God's Grace: Final Greetings, Kisses, and Peace to All." Sermon by Mitch Chase.

[Sermon from this past Lord's Day morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church.]

1 Peter 5:12-14.

I. Introduction

A. How do we end our letters/emails?

B. Greco-Roman letters have somewhat standardized forms of endings.

C. The greetings at the end of NT epistles demonstrate the power of the gospel at work in many lives.

D. Commands at the end of NT epistles often summarize themes within the letter.

E. Sometimes, letters mention the letter-bearer.

F. Sometimes, letters mention scribes.

G. Parallels between the ending of 1 Peter and the introduction of 1 Peter:
1. Grace (5:12; 1:2);
2. Peace (5:14; 1:2);
3. Chosen Babylon/elect exiles (5:13; 1:1).

II. Summary Command

A. "Silvanus" is likely a form of "Silas."
1. Silas was imprisoned with Paul.
2. Silas was likely the scribe and letter-bearer of 1 Peter.

B. The true grace of God:
1. "Grace" has been important in 1 Peter as being that by which Christians are saved and sustained;
2. Peter's readers are to stand firm in grace.

III. Transmission of Greetings

A. "She who is in Babylon" = the church in Rome [or, perhaps, Jerusalem]

B. Peter himself identifies with his readers as exiles (1:1).

C. Mark, despite the tension in Acts 13, becomes significant and useful within the Church.

IV. Command to Greet One Another. The affection appropriate within a family is appropriate within the Church: the family of faith.

V. Prayer of Peace

VI. Conclusion. We must stand firm in the grace of God:

A. Rooted in the gospel;

B. Enduring fiery trials;

C. Keeping our minds on the hope to come.


Friday, November 09, 2012

re: "Born Gay"

[The first paragraph below is from a comment I posted on a friend's Facebook wall in response to that friend's stated support of "gay marriage." I'm reproducing this here-- along with some additional thoughts-- since the matter of "gay marriage" has recently become front-and-center once again in our society due-- for example-- to referenda regarding "gay marriage" on many state ballots in the recent election.]

It's strange how our culture is so hardcore 'free-will'/free choice, EXCEPT when it comes to sexuality; then people swing the other way and become entirely deterministic, speaking as if people are entirely enslaved to their hormones and desires. And while there may be some truth that some of us sinners are "born gay"-- in the same sense that a person may be genetically predisposed toward alcoholism, or men with an extra Y chromosome are genetically disposed toward violent crime-- this does not negate individual decision or responsibility.

The truth is, whether one agrees that people can be born with a predisposition toward homosexuality, it is certain that every person is born with a corrupted nature: a nature bent against God and His will. Because sin resides within our very nature, we need a supernatural work of God's Holy Spirit in order that our nature may be renewed into the image of Christ.

[See also: "Gay marriage" and the Gospel."]


Thursday, November 08, 2012

Study Notes over Proverbs 12:8-12

Last night I had the privilege of teaching Bible Study for the Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. These are the first set of notes that I took on the text. (The other notes that I took were hand-written, and so they do not appear here.)

Proverbs 12:8-12
English Standard Version (ESV)
A man is commended according to his good sense,

but one of twisted mind is despised.
Better to be lowly and have a servant
than to play the great man and lack bread.
10 Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
11 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
12 Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
but the root of the righteous bears fruit.

v. 8: 1 Cor 14:33 (God is not the author of confusion)
v. 10: Deut 25:4; 1 Cor 9:9.
v. 11: Prov 28:19 [“lacks sense” -> “plenty of poverty”]
v. 11: Prov 20:13, in which diligence is commended.

5 Ws
Who: “The righteous;” “the wicked.”
What: 1. commendation, abundance, kindness, provision, fruit-bearing; 2. a “twisted mind,” pretense, cruelty, “worthless pursuits,” coveteousness.
When: As wisdom literature, this teaching is timeless, providing a constant guide concerning the character of the righteous and the wicked.
Where: These proverbs seem to have particular application to a workplace environment.
Why: “A man is commended” because of “his good sense,” one who lives a “lowly” life is able to afford a “servant” because of his prudence, the righteous man possesses “plenty of bread” because of his diligence.
How: The wicked man’s lack of sense is demonstrated by his “worthless pursuits.”
So what: If one wishes to be commended, to have abundance, to demonstrate kindness, and to bear fruit, one must heed these words and must make sure to be counted among the righteous.


NET Bible: v. 8. “twisted mind” is literally “crooked of heart.” v. 9b. “This individual lives beyond his means in a vain show to impress other people and thus cannot afford to put food on the table.” v. 11. “sense” = “heart.”

Matthew Henry: v. 10. “mercy of the wicked” indicates that the wicked man’s natural compassion is lost, and “by the power of corruption, is turned into hardheartedness.”