Monday, February 28, 2011

Pro Life Ad

A few seconds well spent. Some things embody the weight of truth. This short ad does just that.

H/T Neil

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Legalism vs. Legalism, No One Wins

It has been my experience that there are two kinds of legalism. One kind earned the Pharisees Jesus's most scathing rebukes. The other has pushed many in the modern church to the precipice of heresy... and beyond.

The legalism that made the Pharisees infamous is a kind of pre-salvation legalism and is built on the notion that one can earn his way out of his condemned position before God. It is "pre" because salvation is received only after a completed obedient life of works. However, according to scripture, the law was never meant to make one righteous, nor was it meant to lay out a road map by which one could earn his own salvation. On the contrary, it was meant to show that man is a sinner and is hopelessly unable to live up to the letter of the law. [1](Rom 7:7-13)

The legalism of our day on the other hand is a kind of post-salvation legalism that results in what is known as antinomianism. Antinominanism is based on the idea that once one has entered into salvation there is no moral law, only grace. It qualifies as legalism only in that it outlaws law. Instead of salvation being the result of obedience to myriad laws, it is now predicated on obedience to one: do not put anyone under the law. Not surprisingly, as with all bad doctrines and heresies, both legalisms have similar effects on the people to which they are taught. They both can be proof texted. They both lead to pain and suffering. They both are a result of bad doctrine. They both cause those who preach them to become hypocritical. They are both man centered. They both give their ardent adherents a sense of pride that causes self-righteous anger when challenged.

But possibly the most important similarity between these two legalisms is that they are both issues of the heart. Following Paul's discussion on the matter of legalism vs. grace in Romans 7, we get this wonderful picture of the war that wages in the heart of the true seeker of God. [2](Rom 7:13-25) This act of war raises what I think is a very pertinent question: If we are not obliged to the law, then why bother joining with Paul in his warring against his own members? The answer to this question can only be found by an examination of our hearts.

One of the evidences that the believer enjoys that reassures him that he is in fact saved is the brokenness he feels in his heart when he inevitably breaks the law. But it is in times like this that we discover that the salve of grace is not cheap, as some might suppose, but rather is a genuine treasure. It is through this grace that we experience our greatest joy in the Lord and our greatest gratitude that on account of our lack of ability to follow God's law our eternal fate is not sealed. [3](Phil 4:4-7) The realization of this truth is what transforms our salvation from a free, as in cheap, insurance policy to a priceless gift. But all of this is cheapened when there is no law by which to abide which means there is no threat being leveled against our mind from the members of our own body. [4](Rom 7:23) But there is a cumulative effect that follows this scriptural error as consequence follows consequence. One such effect is the onset of confusion. Jesus lived a perfect life; a life without sin. This necessarily demands that there was a perfect standard by which he was required to live. The confusion comes when we confuse our attempts to live the perfect life Jesus commanded us to live with our salvation. One type of legalism puts our salvation at stake with each failure, the other outlaws the very standard by which Jesus was declared righteous. Further, as consequence continues to follow consequence, it shouldn't surprise anyone that this predominate scriptural error has created, among many things, an environment by which relativism thrives, both in and out of Christendom.

[1] Rom 7:7-13 7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

[2] Rom 7:13-25 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!

[3] Phil 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

[4] Rom 7:23-24 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Multi-Faceted Beauty

This was a post I put up in my beginning blogging days (5/21/07). I still see the world through this lens. I just tonight went back and re read it and thought I would repost it.

What one word describes you in the body of Christ? I think most people who are planted near streams of living water would be able to answer this question. I realized years ago what that one word is for me. My suspicions that we all have that one word that describes us came to me while listening to R. C. Sproul Jr. speak of his Father. He said that his Father's whole life could basically be reduced to one word,  "Holiness", and more specifically, "the Holiness of God". Sproul went on to add that his own life could be summed up by the word Kingdom. This led me to think of my own life in these terms, and so I think for me the one word would be "truth." For my wife, there's no doubt what it would be. "Worship".

I like to think of this as a beautiful kaleidoscope portraying the Body of Christ. When it's just my wife and I interacting together, the Body of Christ represented by that interaction is two colors, so to speak, constantly interacting with each other as our life intersects with circumstances. As I observe my wife, I am constantly challenged in the area of Worship, and she also in the area of Truth. The result of our oneness summed up as a total becomes Truthful Worship. Add to the kaleidoscope another person along with their unique color and giftings and everything changes. As more and more are added, the result is the beautiful and fully functioning Body of Christ.

In the same way that in marriage humility is required to meld two different people into one, so it is within the local church as the Body assembles itself into one. The absence of humility could cause me to become upset with my wife about what I perceive to be her focusing too much on worship as opposed to truth. The same could happen with other individuals within the local church as they interact. In a worse case scenario, one could become discontent, surround himself with similarly gifted people, move to Tulsa and start a whole ministry built on that one theme. As for me, it has been my experience that truth by itself doesn't function very well. It needs to be seasoned with mercy and grace. And in the same way, mercy and grace don't function very well without truth.

As we walk humbly before our God, these varying gifts become the Body of Christ. We are all interdependent on each other, and ultimately it is God who gets the glory as we not only participate, but also experience the beauty of the Body as it functions in a way that is wholly beyond man's ability to orchestrate.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Which Jesus Do They Worship?

Neil at Eternity Matters asked the question "do they really care what Jesus would do". The "they" here is the apostate teachers: Chuck Currey and Jim Wallis; which incidentally is not an exhaustive list.

Way back in the beginning of the second half of the last century Francis Schaeffer answered this question by showing how a wall had been constructed by man between man and God. He cautioned that the new way of looking at man was as machines. This morphing of man into machine was the result of a strictly material view of man; there is no consciousness aside from that created by the cells and electrical currents in our heads; no soul in need of salvation; only material. With this view man necessarily is only a very sophisticated machine whose actions and decisions are determined by the programming that is the result of millions of years of survival.

This materialistic view of the world found itself in opposition to religion. As a result of the deconstruction of all thinking to preprogrammed electrical currents religion, along with the thinking that life had some eternal meaning beyond surviving for the purposes of consuming copulating and excreting, was expected to subjugate itself to this new thinking. To the extent that Wallis and Currie have been successful, this subjugation has been successful. As the mind of man has effectively closed all knowledge except that gained from empirical evidence has been rejected as "unknowable". "unknowable" is key to understanding the new "post" modern view of religion. More on this latter.

So what is the fallout of this new expectation of religion? The embracing and acceptance of religions that subject themselves to this new view of religion in general proves that the idea of religion is too tenacious to be eradicated from the minds of modern man even in the most materialistic of societies. It appears that upwards of ninety percent of all people are not willing to embrace their own meaninglessness. This brought about two results.

First, a truce was effected between modernism and religion. Modernism set forth the boundaries within which religion had to function and religion agreed to be irrelevant in exchange. Beyond the Prozac effect that comes with the creating of ones own god willing to subject itself/herself/himself to modernism's terms and conditions, religion lost its impact on culture. All western churches are to some degree held captive to these terms and conditions as can be seen by the extreme focus on temporal material, comfort and inner-peace, and the diminished focus on things eternal. Western churches therefore, to the extent they have knowingly or unknowingly bought into this new way of thinking, have been reduced to a Prozac of sorts for the soul. A feminized version of God: He loves you very much, He knows what you're going through, and He cares deeply about you is the central theme it seems these days, a theme that is used as a salve for our deep sense of meaninglessness. Gone are concepts of man's depravity, Hell, God's wrath, and the so-great-of-a-Salvation accomplished on the cross; these are not salve; they are not Prozac, they rightly provide no inner peace for the soul, but they are just as true.

Secondly, religion in general has been used quite effectively in history as a means of accessing power. This is where Christianity stands apart and why Christianity, as opposed to other religions, is attacked daily, and attacked no less from a position of proclaimed ignorance, read we-can't-know. Assertions of truth are made against the unknowable from this position of we-can't-know. But the attacks are not against those that have set of house keeping this side of the we-can't-know Wall like Wallis and Currie. No, the attacks are directed against those who refuse to mind that Wall and thereby deny those who embrace religion for the purpose of access to power the power they desire. In short, it denies political hacks posing as "reverends" of control over the thought life of Christians and their vote. How funny it is that this seems to be the number one complaint against those who have been termed by those who lust for power beyond their grasp using the language of power: "the religious right".

So how do we use this narrative to answer the question posed by the Title: "Which Jesus do they worship?", and Neil's question: "Do they really care what Jesus would do?". In my mind the answer to the first question answers the second. Schaeffer points out in "How Then Should We Live" that since a Wall was erected by man between God and man, anything put on the other side of that wall is only a symbol representing what man desires of the god he has created. This changes our language into babble, for the word Jesus no longer means the same thing to all who use it. For some, like the Wallis/Currie camp who see religion as an access point for political power, the word is symbolic of their Marxist/socialist/communist/leftest/atheistic/material centered redistributive political aspirations. So by pointing out that the Jesus they worship is only a word: "Jesus", that symbolizes anything but the Jesus that was born of a virgin, raised people from the dead, died on the cross to save from the wrath of a Holy and Righteous God those who deserve that wrath--all of which are an anathema for the materialist--we know that it is a different Jesus. So by being a different Jesus; a Jesus conflated into a symbol representing the utopian desires of depraved men, we can truly answer Neil's question with "Yes", they do.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

To Believe Or Not To Believe, This Is Not The Question

Whether intentionally or not, our choice of words can be deceiving. Since words are the material out of which we construct our thinking, the wrong material can cause a wrong thought.  We can see how this is so in the words we use to discuss our belief, or "non-belief", in God. We tend to categorize ourselves like so:
"Some people believe in God, and some people do not believe in God."
But this statement is deceptive.  The choice of words persuades us to think in terms of beliefs and not facts.  some do believe, and some do not believe. Belief is the constant in both cases. Whether or not belief is happening is the variable. It subconsciously suggests that those who don't believe in God don't "believe" anything. But nothing could be further from the truth. To explain let's look at the same statement rearranged:
"Some people believe there is a God, and others believe there isn't a God."
As we can see, this is the more accurate way of expressing the truth.  

So why is this important? Well, for two reasons: First, to speak in terms of "believing or not" is, as I've mentioned deceptive. But it's not only deceptive for the hearer, it's also deceptive for the speaker because it frames our thoughts in a deceptive fashion. In the end, we are all ultimately "believers" and are distinguished only by what we believe.

Second, this statement secretly opens the door for special pleading. Special Pleading is the act of making a value judgment about the actions of others while allowing that the same action is fine for oneself.  To demand that society be conducted according to the belief that there is no God based on the assumption that His existence is unprovable, while at the same time ignoring that His non-existence is unprovable is Special Pleading.

This may seem like a small thing but it by no means is.  It puts one side of the cultural wars at an advantage by allowing that it is based solely on science, which it is not.  Science cannot prove the non-exitence of God, and since it cannot prove God's nonexistence it should not be allowed to claim "science" as its foundation for disallowing the existence of a creator.

Ephesians 6 admonishes us that we do not war against flesh and blood, but against the powers, the principalities, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Christians should not be mislead into believing that Christianity is not reasonable and is unable to stand the onslaught by those who hold to the weak faith that there is no God, and the just-as-religious belief systems posing as science that are being preached from the pulpits of the institutions of academia.