Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Subtle Satanic Messengers of Our Day.

It is easy today to openly defy God and claim to live your life by your own standards.  That said many realize the lack of credibility inherent in the platform "Because I said so."  So, many who would live by their own standards and decrees do so but they make the claim "Thus says the Lord." Now they can still be god of their own little universe and reach into other peoples universe with some sort of credibility.  Many who claim Christ, wrap themselves in religious talk, and quote Bible verses but twist all of these things to say only what they want to be said.  To these people, what God actually said is less important than what they can make you believe He said."

Sometimes these people have good intentions and will be legitimately surprised by Christs condemnation.  This is an alarming thing.  Jesus is speaking in:  (Mat 7:21-24)  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  (22)  On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'  (23)  And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'  (24)  "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock..."

Scripture also records utter blasphemy on the lips of the religious leaders and teachers.  Good intentions or not, these teachers do a great deal of harm to the people they are supposed to be helping.  One of the grossest statements in the Bible is spoken by the Pharisees interviewing a man Jesus had healed of lifelong blindness and they say of Jesus (John 9:24)... "Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner."  To call Jesus a sinner is the furthest thing from giving glory to God, but talk is cheap.   Many today claim Christ as they utter falsehood on such a repulsive level.

Satan himself twisted Scripture when he was tempting the Lord Jesus.  (Mat 4:5-7)  Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple  (6)  and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "'He will command his angels concerning you,' and "'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'"  (7)  Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" It is so important for you to know the Scriptures and to test all things by them.  Oh how subtle are the Satanic messengers of our day!

Eze 13:2-8  "Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: 'Hear the word of the LORD!'  (3)  Thus says the Lord GOD, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!  (4)  Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel.  (5)  You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the LORD.  (6)  They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, 'Declares the LORD,' when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.  (7)  Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, 'Declares the LORD,' although I have not spoken?"  (8)  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord GOD.

These are prophets who "prophesy from their own hearts,"  "follow their own spirit," "have seen nothing," "see false visions," and "utter lying divination."  All the while they say "Thus says the Lord," and "declares the Lord."  They have done nothing to reconcile a people living rebelliously against the Lord "They have not built a wall" or "gone into the breaches."  When a true prophet of God gives the gospel of hope and reconciliation they are quick to smear it.  (Eze 13:10)  Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, 'Peace,' when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash..." We live in similar times.  For the sake of influence, popularity, wealth, or whatever else the lying prophets give the easy false message and lead the people to dismiss the hard but true gospel of the Lord. (Eze 13:22) "... you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life."

Hear the word of the Lord.  Be discerning.  That false teacher wants to be rich and well liked so much, he does not care if it costs you everything.  He will come under the wrath of God and if you will too.  Your preferences aside, what does the Bible say?  Don't murder!- don't hide behind words like fetus and choice to do what you want to do.  A man shall hold fast to his wife!- or any alternative partner of his choosing. Jesus is the way the truth and the life!- or is he a way, a truth, a life?  On and on  and on it goes.  

God give us ears that can hear.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Foolishness of Creation

Scripture is clear that the "wisdom of the world" frequently regards God's word as "foolishness."  Man proclaims themselves wise and in so doing act the fool!  The beginning of wisdom is of course the fear of the Lord.  One of the most ridiculed doctrines of the Christian church is the doctrine of creation.  A false dichotomy is proposed between science and faith.  Of course those who hold science forth as the banner to follow behind have to acknowledge that science has nothing to do with many of the assumptions made to describe how everything got here and the theories that proceed.  Rather than discuss the "science," often times the creationist is just made out to be some uneducated hillbilly who can't be taken seriously.  The "scientist" says "If we repeat this mantra long enough, we don't have to have the debate, everyone will be too embarrassed to consider any alternative to the fabrications we have made."

This does not surprise me.  We live in a world that does not want to acknowledge any accountability to God or to worship Him.  The doctrine of creation has to be done away with if I am going to be allowed to live my life worshiping myself, and setting my own rules for conduct and life.  The Bible agrees that God must be worshiped (Rev 4:11)  "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

In Isaiah 45 we read of God's call on the life of King Cyrus, approximately 150 years before he was to live.  God said he would raise up Cyrus as a powerful king and give him victory over his enemies so that he would be used to resettle the Israelite's back in the land they were exiled from.  He tells Cyrus he will not give him "price or reward" to do this, but he claims the authority over Cyrus' life by virtue of creating him.  The clay does not tell the potter what to be, it goes the other way around.

God is our creator.  When he says it is wrong to kill a baby in the is wrong.  When he says sex is to be enjoyed only in the marriage of a man and woman...that is how it is.  When God says heaven awaits those whom he has saved and everlasting torment in hell awaits the unrepentant sinner...our opinions about it fail to matter.  God does not ask you if it is culturally relevant when he says "I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man." He is who He is and you are what he created you to be.

As I reread this post I am left wondering if the reader will just dismiss the God I am suggesting as bossy and egotistical.  He is however a good God.  He doesn't appear good to the one who wants to reject him.  My children love to see a police officer on the street...a criminals children resent them.  At least consider for a moment if the problem really lies with a God who is creator and worthy of worship and obedience, or is the problem with the one who refuses to bow?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sitting at the Table With Jesus.

In Sunday School yesterday I was teaching on Mathew 26. I was amazed to consider these two verses for a while:  Mat 26:6-7  Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,  (7)  a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.

I am just in awe of this sweet moment near the end of Jesus earthly ministry.  The thing that arrests me most is the guest list.  The event is being hosted in the home of Simon the Leper.  Because of the stringent rules placed upon a leper (isolated outside the city) it is highly unlikely that this Simon could own a home within the city of Bethany if he was still a leper.  He probably had been healed, and that likely by the other man sitting at the table- Jesus.  Also there was this woman, identified to us elsewhere in the gospels as Mary the sister of Lazarus.  You might know him as Lazarus the dead.  Was Lazarus there as well?  Or was it just his sister there to praise the one who had spoken life into the tomb of her brother? 

In our lesson we made it as far as the institution of the Lords Supper.  As we discussed the forward looking implications of that meal and the Lords return when we can share that meal with him once again, it hit me. One day Jason the Proud (among other things...many other things) will sit at the table and share a meal with the Lord.  Other guests may include Simon the Leper, Lazarus the Dead, A Gadarene demoniac whose name is thus far unknown to me.  We and many others will all sit around that table and recollect the majesty and glory of Jesus...who changed all that about us.  

Then let our worship fall out and be poured over Jesus head and let us wipe that ointment with our hair as it drips to his feet.  Jesus has done so much.  So much!  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hey You! Come Forth!

If Christ has forgiven us and cleansed us why do we continue to struggle to do the thing that is good for us and it still seems easy to fall into the self destructive sinful behavior of the "old man?"  That is the promise Scripture makes: 1Jn 1:9  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." So why the struggle?

The answer is the process.  If you are in Christ you will spend eternity with God in an absence of sin.  If you are in Christ you are in the progressive work of being made righteous.  In fact scripture talks about our salvation in those terms.  Heb 10:14  "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."  Christ's sacrifice has perfected- past tense those who are being sanctified- present tense.  It is a process.

The process can feel brutal at times.  The apostle Paul says Rom 7:15  "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." He flows over into an exasperating question: Rom 7:24-25  "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  (25)  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."  Who will deliver me...Thanks be to God through Jesus..."

The Christian life is pictured in the story of Lazarus in John chapter 11.  Jesus calls into the tomb of a man four days dead and says "Lazarus, come forth."  The life he demands of a corpse he freely grants to the corpse.  The command is not resented, Lazarus doesn't complain that Jesus is so bossy, he obeys.  He gets up and comes forth.  This is life.  Jesus then instructs them to take off the grave clothes.  If Jesus has given you life, you know the joy of walking out of the tomb, and you know the stench of death garb that still hang on to your limbs.  Take them off.  But be warned they hold on tight.

Heb 12:1-2  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  (2)  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Don't Be Enslaved, Don't Be Bewitched

Many see Christianity as this serious attempt to stop doing all the bad things we do and start doing all the good things God expects. "Don't drink or smoke or chew and don't date girls that do." They see these demands to be limiting. They are burdensome. They become heavy chains that suck every ounce of joy out of life. This is not the Christian gospel. The good news of the gospel is described in previous posts. The only way we are made right before a holy God and reconciled to Him is through the death and resurrection of Jesus. So why do Christians spend so much time on all the do's and don'ts? The answer is this: Jesus sets us free from sin, not makes us free to sin.

Rom 6:4-8 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (6) We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (7) For one who has died has been set free from sin. (8) Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

This is life, not life sucking burden. This is freedom, not bondage. We were enslaved to sin, if you don't think so, stop sinning and lets talk about it in an hour. Freedom from sin is a progressive thing (more on that later) but know that God does not look upon us and say "I love you so much that I am freeing you from the penalty your sin deserves, but I am going to leave you to wallow in the misery of it the rest of your natural life." No, instead, he forgives us from the penalty and begins to wash us clean.

There is admittedly danger here. In fact Paul called it a bewitching doctrine to turn our eyes from faith in Jesus and return to a religion of works. Gal 3:1-3 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. (2) Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? (3) Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

So don't return to bondage, be free. Indeed! John 8:36 "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Who is saved?

In previous posts we have seen what God did to maintain his perfect justice and his perfect love. He sent Jesus to die. He raised Him again on the third day an acceptable offering. (More on the raising later) If Jesus died to cover sin, is all sin covered? We know God sent Jesus because he so loved "the world." We know it is "not his will that any should perish." And yet we also read of the judgement that awaits the wicked. Why have some been saved by Jesus sacrifice and others have not?

John 1:11-13 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (12) But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (13) who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Two answers: Those who receive him, those who believe in his name, those are the ones who enjoy the restored relationship and become children of God. When you hear the gospel you must receive it and believe it or it will do no good for your soul. I have a couch in my living room. It is soft and brown. It is made of various materials, some I know and others I don't. I know some things about that couch. I even know it's purpose. It is made to be sat in or laid down on. If you ask my five children they have some additional purposes that I have thus far been able to discourage them from. At any rate I receive no benefit from the couch by the information I have about it and its purpose. I will receive the comfort it has to offer when I sit in it. I actually have to rest in it to bear me up. This gospel is this way. Don't engage it only intellectually, engage it experientially.

Verse 13 quoted above points to a second and profound answer. If you are a child of God, if you have believed and received, you did not do this because of your genealogy or even your will, but you were born of God. The belief that is required of you is first a gift to you. 1Jn 4:19 We love because he first loved us. Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

I know that many in Christian circles often pit these Biblical truths against each other, but we have to see that Scripture clearly teaches both God's sovereign choice of election and mans responsibility to respond by faith and repentance. Don't get lost in the doctrinal discussion, come to Jesus and believe in Him. Any who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. As you are saved know that you can't even boast about the fact that you came to Jesus, even that was given to you by Jesus. Don't just talk about God and this in Him!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Long Word "Propitiation"

Heb 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Jesus; God the Son and Son of God became Son of Man so that he could put on mortality and die. Like the priest we read about in the last post he had to be pure himself so that propitiation for sins could be made. Propitiation looks past the legal ramifications to the wrath of God we began looking at. If I stole from you and we went to court and justice is served what is likely to happen? I will pay back the debt, with some added restitution and justice is satisfied. You may still leave the courtroom unable to stand being in the same room as me. The appeasing of justice doesn't necessarily restore our relationship.

The Bible is clear that Jesus not only met the demands of justice, but he turned away Gods wrath.

Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Rom 5:9-11 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

In Christ we are reconciled and brought near, even made to be children of God. Oh, what a magnificent truth!!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011


Heb 9:22-23 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (23) Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

That bloody sacrificial system of the Old Testament is a copy of the heavenly reality. Sin is so serious it could only be dealt with by the shedding of blood. But bulls and lambs blood was insufficient, they were the picture, they pointed to the reality that was the sacrifice of Jesus. His shed blood satisfied the righteous requirement of God's justice as he mercifully carried our sin away.

Consider the picture from the OT law: Lev 16:6-10 "Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. (7) Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting. (8) And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. (9) And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, (10) but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Special Victim Unit

One of the many crime tv shows, Law and Order, devoted one of its spin-offs to the Special Victims Unit. These are the cases that are considered special because of the person(s) who was hurt. This is the thing we need to consider when we talk about the penalty for sin. In the throne room of heaven guilt has already been declared: Rom 3:10-18 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; (11) no one understands; no one seeks for God. (12) All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (13) "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." (14) "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." (15) "Their feet are swift to shed blood; (16) in their paths are ruin and misery, (17) and the way of peace they have not known." (18) "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

We already read that God will not excuse or dismiss this guilt. His wrath is justly revealed: Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

We will look at the great news of the gospel in my next post but let us first consider the sentence looming over our guilty and condemned heads. Another mental exercise: If I were to become angry and lash out at the annoying fly that has been buzzing around? Probably none, the fly is insignificant. What if i were to hit my neighbors dog what would be the penalty? Maybe a fine. What if I didn't hit my neighbors dog but I struck my neighbor? Things are becoming more serious now; I am looking at assault. What if instead of hitting my neighbor I hit the police officer who showed up to settle our dispute? What if the governor? What if I hit the President? The penalty deserved has gone from nothing to federal crime.

Of course a sentencing judge considers the crime that was committed. You don't face the same penalty for shoplifting as you do murder. But the victim is also considered in the equation. This is where our sin against God brings us to an eternal punishment. We have rebelled not against a government official but the eternal God of the universe, who is worthy of all our worship and praise. Justice demands an eternal payment. Either you must pay it...or it must be payed by another. (more on that tomorrow).

I have heard many question the goodness of God at this point. Many people love themselves so much they can't imagine a God who would love them less. They think their own goodness is of highest value, so a God who would require them to humble themselves and seek Him or face eternal punishment is an evil God. This is the complaint of the person who does not understand either the exceeding goodness of God nor the exceeding sinfulness of man.

2Co 4:3-6 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. (4) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (5) For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. (6) For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

May God shine his light for you now, that you might see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

God and Cronyism.

How can a loving God send people to hell? The question is often asked and the answer is nearly never waited for. The presumption of this question is that God is so good that he is willing to overlook the sins of men. He loves me so much, that he will not hold my sin against me. Yes I am really, really bad...but it does not follow that God is really, really mad. The question might sound like this: Rom 3:5-6 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) (6) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?

Join me in an exercise of the imagination. Imagine that I stole your car. I am not a very gifted crook and you saw me commit teh crime. You even filmed me and can produce teh vehicle that clearly shows me stealing your car. You call the police and in teh course of time we sit before the judge in the courtroom. You make your case and it is a strong one. You give your testimony and show your video. I have no choice to admit to teh judge, yes I stole this car. The judge says "Jason, you are obviously guilty." The case gets weird at this point when he turns to you and says "You need to understand that me and Jason are good friends. I love Jason a great deal, even more than words can describe. So I am dismissing this case."

What will we be thinking when we leave the courtroom that day? I will love the judge and you will be, I assume, somewhat less enthusiastic about him, but both of us will know that he is a corrupt judge. We will know that he let his love for me get in the way of justice. He failed to do the right thing (give you back your car, penalty for me, so on) because it wasn't convenient for him.

The Bible assures us that God is not an unjust judge. He is righteous and Holy and Just. In fact Romans 3:26 says he is both "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." In his love he would justify, but not by sweeping it away or ignoring our sin. That would be unjust. He satisfies both his love and his justice in Jesus Christ.

I am eager to get to the cross and the payment made for us, but lets return to the courtroom for just a moment. Feel the dread of the moment. We have just been found guilty by a judge, and this time he is not dismissive but just. Our guilt goes beyond car theft an extends to treason. We are looking justly at death...eternal death. Lets exmine tomorrow the sentence of hell.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"You know I'm Bad, I'm Bad you know it"

"We are really, really bad and God is really, really mad." That is how one of my professors in college put it. The Bible says it like this:

"Rom 1:18-25 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (19) For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (20) For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (21) For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Claiming to be wise, they became fools, (23) and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (24) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, (25) because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."

We have this disease of sin that is killing us. No one likes to talk about it and it is of course unpleasant. Cancer is that way too. But if I went to the Dr. and he ran some tests discovering I had cancer, I would want to know. I would not consider it a kindness if he was more concerned about my feelings and wanting me to like him that he reported only a common cold. That would not be a kindness, because I would go home and die in my cancer. If he would tell me, of course I would hat the news but then I could start seeking help. Sin is this way. We must properly understand the disease in order to appreciate or seek its cure.

Sin is described in the above passage as ungodliness, unrighteousness, suppressing truth, refusing to honor or give thanks to God, though they consider themselves wise they have futile thinking with foolish and darkened hearts. The outpouring of that heart was to exchange God for that which he made in various ways. The Bible describes mans condition falling into sin in Gen 3 but for this discussion let this be about you and me...not just relegated to our anciant ancestors. When we leave God out of life, dismiss his righteous requirements, reject and twist truth, elevating ourselves not humbling ourselves we see foolish darkened hearts within. It is an important distinction to consider that "we sin because we are sinners" not the other way around. We don't become sinners at the point of our first sin, our first sin flows from a sinful heart.

This is why a life of reforming our behavioral will never deal with the disease accurately understood. God is not angry that we are doing bad things but that we are bad people. Tomorrow I want to examine the second part of the quote I started with. Does me being bad really make God mad?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Fire Lit.

I begin today to write because I can't be silent any longer. I am amazed by men and women who claim the name of Jesus Christ but refuse to acknowledge Him as he claims to be. In the past week I have spoken with those who say they are Christian who deny the existence of hell, the reliability of the Bible, the Deity of Jesus Christ, the life of infants should be protected, the sinfulness of homosexuality, or God ordained roles for the sexes.

Even as I write to engage in this war of ideas I acknowledge that the battle lines are not so easily identified. I want to begin humbly acknowledging as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wisely pointed out "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."

My desire is to come, through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and see this battle won for righteousness in my own heart and in yours. God bless you and thank you for reading.