Sunday, September 21, 2014

I Have Started A New Blog

I'm not 100%, but I'm pretty sure that I'm done with this blog.  I've begun a new blog that is letters to my children.  It can be found by clicking here.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Jeffrey Dahmer

One of the most fascinating things about Christianity is its doctrine of grace; a terribly misunderstood doctrine in this day.  While perhaps the majority of those who call themselves Christian in this age see grace as liberty to sin without eternal consequence, real grace bears no resemblance to that mindset.

Every time I have the opportunity to teach the children of parents who attend our church, I will always ask an all important question.  How does a person get to Heaven?  With very little exception the answer involves the flesh, or works.  It looks inwardly at what man brings before God.  Now granted these are children, but we must also realize that this is a spiritual deception, a deception that most likely pervades the home from which these children reside.  That is man's natural inclination.  I am good, and because I am good I deserve good things.

The problem is that scripture states a clear case to the contrary.  Man is not good.  And even the best man that ever lived is still not good, but rather is as filthy rags.  The vast majority of people I encounter see themselves as basically good people who deserve a wonderful afterlife.  Christianity makes no promise that this is going to happen, and in fact warns that unless men repent of their sins it absolutely will not happen.  The Bible is clear, very few in existence are headed to eternal bliss.

Perhaps one of the most shocking and perplexing realities of this truth can be found by contrasting people who see themselves as good with a serial killer of the worst sort, Jeffrey Dahmer.  Dahmer visited gay clubs and bathhouses and put sleeping pills in the drinks of his victims.  He brought them home, chopped them up, had sex with them after they were dead, ate parts of them and kept other parts for souvenirs.  He was a walking nightmare.

One of the most fascinating aspects of grace is that Jeffrey Dahmer, by all indications, will be spending an eternity in Heaven while other otherwise good people will not.  For the average man this seems beyond the pale.  Here this one man is, he doesn't cheat on his wife, he provides for his household, he pays his taxes and is a pillar in the community, yet he is Hell bound while another, who is the worst sort of human being is headed for heaven.  To say that this appears to be unfair is an understatement.

The Christian however understands a key point.  It is not how well we live but rather does Jesus Christ live in us, and us in Him?  Are we depending on Jesus' righteousness before God, or our own righteousness?  This does not sit well with the man who does not understand the Gospel, as might well be imagined.




Dahmer was asked by his father "when did you first feel that everyone is accountable for their actions?"  Dahmer's answer is priceless, and it involves God's law.

video

Well thanks to you for sending ah, that ah, creation science ah material.  Because I always, I always believed the lie that ah, evolution is truth, the theory of evolution is truth, that we we all just came from ah, the slime and ah, when we, when we died, you know, that was it, there was nothing.  So, the whole theory cheapens life and ah, started reading books about how--that show how evolution is just a complete lie. There's no, there's no basis in science to it, to uphold it, and have since come to believe that  the lord Jesus Christ is the true creator of ah, the heavens and the earth, and this didn't just happen,    And I have accepted him as my lord and savior, and I believe that I will--as well as everyone else--will be accountable to Him.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Free In Christ Free To Sin


A look at law and grace

A favorite quote of mine by C. H. Spurgeon:
Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather, it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”

This kind of discernment, indeed, is the challenge.  Since early in my Christian walk I have many times looked at things and thought to myself, "I'm not sure that's entirely true". I recently ran across just such an article on FB that left me scratching my head.  Here it is:


We aren't free to just be who Christ has made us, if we think we must now do our part by working at living right, since God's done His part by giving us Jesus. The Judaizers pushed people to do their part after accepting Christ; the Devil pushed man into death by convincing him there was more he had to figure out and do; people today say, "Being a Christian isn't just about what Christ has done for us; there are good works that we must now do! There must be balance." 

There's no balance. There was no balance in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and no balance when God raised him from the dead. That all happened without our contribution. All we can do is humbly receive His gift of salvation and righteousness, and then His life becomes our life. We come to dinner at His house and are filled up with His life, which then naturally and spontaneously pours from us, and others are filled! He's the chef, it's all His food and we just get to eat and enjoy ourselves! 

Trying to balance what He's done with our good works will only lead to frustration and defeat. What He's done is so much more than sharing good works back and forth with us! He has done it all and has made us a completely new creation! We aren't workers, trying to match His work. He died and was raised to the right hand of the Father so that we can now just BE. Just BE! Just BE. What absolute FREEDOM!

It has enough truth in it to sound legitimate, but it is the lies, the confusion, and the fallacious arguments that bury the true statements. So I would  like to decipher it by first pointing out the strawman argument the author makes as well as the theologically sound statements.  Also, I will respond to her arguments, then after parsing the article, I will write a conclusion.  

The Strawman

To be sure, we are saved by grace and not works as these two scriptures, among many others, clearly proclaim:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-10)
...and also:
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Rom 11:6)  See also romans 3:19-28
So there is no disputing that we are saved by grace, and the believer rejoices in that fact.  So if we don't dispute that fact, then it stands to reason that we don't argue that we are saved by works. Indeed that would be a different Gospel and would deserve our being accursed. (Gal 1:6-9)  Works and our salvation are two entirely different things, and the two should never ever be confused lest we end up saying something confusing... like the article in question does, and thereby confuse the weak minded in the process.  But if we actually wanted to confuse, or worse, if we were confused ourselves, we, perhaps, could make strawman arguments as this article does.  That is to say, we could make the arguments of those with whom we disagree... if they existed,  in caricatured ways,  and thereby easy-to-refute ways, and then refute them. We might perhaps make a strawman argument like this:


"...people today say, "Being a Christian isn't just about what Christ has done for us; there are good works that we must now do! There must be balance." 
... and then we would refute this unbiblical and silly argument that "people" (none of which I've ever met and as far as I know do not exist beyond perhaps the Catholic Church) are making with something like this:
"There's no balance. There was no balance in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and no balance when God raised him from the dead."
Ahh, the ease of refuting an argument that no one is making.  See how easy that was?

The Truth

So lets get to the truth of the article.  Below are the statements that I think can be backed up easily with scripture:
  1. [Salvation] happened without our contribution. (this makes me wonder if the author would agree that man, dead in his sins, cannot even choose Christ, which would be a work in itself.  She does not reveal her stance on this.)
  2. All we can do is humbly receive His gift of salvation and righteousness, and then His life becomes our life. 
  3. We come to dinner at His house and are filled up with His life, which then naturally and spontaneously pours from us,
  4. Trying to balance what He's done with our good works will only lead to frustration and defeat.
  5.  What He's done is so much more than sharing good works back and forth with us! 
  6. He has done it all and has made us a completely new creation! 
  7. We aren't workers, trying to match His work.
  8. He died and was raised to the right hand of the Father...
The Response

With these statements there is no problem, and as I pointed out, I'm not sure who is arguing against them.  We must however keep the point of her article in the forefront, and these statements have nothing to do with that point.  They only lend their truth as cover for a lie that is the point.  That lie being that the Christian is NOT called to good works but rather to "just be".

This is a lie, for we are clearly called to good works, none of which will save us, nor gain us favor in the sight of God as far as I know.  Let us go to the Word and see some of what God has to say about post-redemption works:
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  (Matt 5:16)
...and:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  (Matt 28:19-20)
...and:
"So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —  13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live". (Rom 8:12-14)
...and:
If you love Me, (Jesus) you will keep My commandments. John 14:15
...and:
 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.(Phil 2:12-13)
...and:
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."  Eph 2:10
...and:
 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. (Col 1:29)
...and:
Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.  (1 Tim 2:9-11)
...and:
For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (1 Tim 4:10)
...and:
Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. (1 Tim 6:18-19)
...and here is perhaps the most terrifying one of all for me:
 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  22 "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'  23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' (Matt 7:21-23)
Did you catch that last word there?  It is "lawlessness".  Now given the context of that word, and what Jesus is saying, I think this deserves some somber reflection.

And finally the grandaddy wrench in the antinomian spokes of them all from James 2:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?... Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself... But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

So, admittedly this presents a problem, but only for the antinomian, or the one who is anti-law, or as Jesus put it, the lawless.  It would appear at first glance that the Bible contradicts itself, especially in light of this popular passage from Romans which, like James, also uses Abraham to make its point:
 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (Rom 4:1-3)
So this presents us with a predicament.  We could pick the verses we like, then run with those and pretend that the other ones are not there.  Or we could throw our Bibles in the trash, since it is safe to conclude that an all knowing God would never contradict Himself.  Or, we could reconcile the two passages, which, as it turns out, is easily done just so long as we don't confuse justification and sanctification, and we understand that our freedom is not freedom to live according to the flesh but rather freedom to live according to the Spirit, and if we haven't rejected God's law.  (Rom 8:6)

The article rightly points out that we are new creations, and according to scripture, we are! But if we are truly new creations, we are not the old dead creations any more.  We have been regenerated, made alive in Christ, and as such the work of casting off the old Adam, and renewing our minds, is not an act of earning salvation, but simply how those who are saved act.  We do it because we, as new creatures, now hate the fact that we have broken God's law and are still predisposed to breaking His law.  The spirit and the flesh go to war with one another, as Paul so beautifully demonstrates in Roman's 7.  We enter into a new relationship with sin, as it were.  We now hate it.  And every time we stumble, or the Spirit reveals some sin that we were previously unaware of, we fall into a state of worship because we realize that our salvation was no small thing, and that grace has covered that sin we just committed and now hate.  Yes, our salvation from God's wrath was a really big thing and our gratitude overflows because of it.

Parsing The Article:
We aren't free to just be who Christ has made us, if we think we must now do our part by working at living right, since God's done His part by giving us Jesus.
In living our lives, as Christians, there is a gratitude for our salvation.  We realize that we were dead, very dead, completely dead, in our sins... with no hope.  But God, rich in His mercy deigned, for reasons unfathomable to us, to love this world in such a way as to save some of us.  As with scripture, we must therefore always start with Jehovah and then work our way to man.  This sentence does just the opposite.  It starts with man, then works its way to Jehovah.  It raises man up and makes his existence paramount in the grand scheme of things.  If we are to take this statement to its logical conclusion, then since I was born in sin, and by sin was I conceived, Jesus therefore made sin, and he loves sin.  But Jesus' preaching ministry, in contrast, was a call to repentance, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.  We clothe ourselves in Christ, not because we are so beautiful to Jehovah, but rather because Jesus is so beautiful to Jehovah.

The author here inserts a conditional phrase: "...if we think we must now do our part by working at living right, since God has done his part by giving us Jesus"  This is a very confusing phrase.  What Christian wants to have idols, use God's name in vain, dishonor his parents, kill, steal and commit adultery?  Let me rephrase the sentence in light of God's law in a negative sense. "What Christian thinks he must not do these things?"("these things being breaking God's commandments) I raise my hand.  I, for one,  think that I must not do these things.  So here's the question.  Do I think I must not do these things because by my obedience I am doing my part to earn salvation?  Absolutely not praise be to God!  Further, as I've pointed out earlier, I don't know anyone who thinks this way or makes the case that we are saved by works.  So is this woman arguing with the zeitgeist, which is lawlessness, or is she arguing against nobody and no one?

I do however know lots of people who feel free to break God's law while appealing to God's grace.  So, I conclude that this author is making the case that since some want to do these things, that they ought to because Christ has made them to want to do them?  Oh the confusion that abounds!
The Judaizers pushed people to do their part after accepting Christ;
This statement is much like the previous one.  How it is interpreted will depend on the heart of the interpreter.  As I have said, and as it is said often, we do not obey the law in order to be justified, nor are we justified by obeying the law.  Indeed Paul, while speaking to the Judaizers in Galatians 2 says: " '16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.'"  Again, does this mean that I am free to lie, kill, steal, and commit adultery?  What kind of message does this kind of thinking present to this world?  "Hey, you worldly people out there who are condemned by God because of your sin, come to Jesus so you can live in absolute freedom to sin as you desire without having to worry about the wrath of God"!  I am not, for charity's sake, saying that the author is intentionally making this claim.  But what I want to know is, how is this not the ultimate message of this article?
"...the Devil pushed man into death by convincing him there was more he had to figure out and do;" 
This makes absolutely no sense.  God gave man one commandment in the Garden of Eden, "The Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,...".  The narrative of the discourse between Eve and the Devil clearly points to the Devils appeal to being, not doing.  The text says:  "The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will BE like God, knowing good and evil."  There was no appeal to do for the sake of doing something.  The appeal was to BE something, namely "like God".  There is absolutely no hint that Adam or Eve ate of the fruit in order to somehow justify themselves before God, which is supposed to support the author's point.  Furthermore, Adam and Eve were pre-covenant of grace.  They actually were under the law, one little law.  So to use them to support grace is misguided.  The author has clearly twisted this scripture to fit into her own narrative, and she really ought not do such things.
"...people today say, 'Being a Christian isn't just about what Christ has done for us; there are good works that we must now do! There must be balance.' " 
This is a logical fallacy known as a strawman and I have already dealt with it.
"There's no balance. There was no balance in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and no balance when God raised him from the dead. That all happened without our contribution. All we can do is humbly receive His gift of salvation and righteousness, and then His life becomes our life. We come to dinner at His house and are filled up with His life, which then naturally and spontaneously pours from us, and others are filled! He's the chef, it's all His food and we just get to eat and enjoy ourselves! "
This can easily be supported by scripture.
"Trying to balance what He's done with our good works will only lead to frustration and defeat."
Taking this sentence on face value I can give it a hearty amen.  But in the context of the rest of the article, my response is more reserved.  As I've said here, and for 2000 years so has orthodox Christianity said, and as church fathers and the Apostles have also proclaimed, we are saved by faith, nothing else.  The dilemma is with sin.  May I go on sinning because, after all, I am not justified by works?  Can I make peace with my flesh?  Does Roman's 7 matter?  Should the law of my mind be at war with the members of my flesh? Does God's law matter?  The answer is straight forward, we should sin no more.  (John 8:11)

What He's done is so much more than sharing good works back and forth with us! 

This is the context of which I spoke above.  And again, it is basically true, with a little charity, but very misleading. Good works here is reduced to a "sharing" with Jesus.  That what he has done is so much more, and to be sure it is much much more, seems to make good works child's play, a little back-and-forth game between Jesus and me, and such games ought to be stopped because they are worthless.  This does not bear out with scripture.

We live in an antinomian age.  Modern western Christianity is very uncomfortable with the law of God.  But somehow, when a husband or wife has an affair and abandons their partner in covenant, or their house is robbed, or their children dishonor them,  God's law suddenly seems to be a little bit more important.  Without law, you see, we have no way of knowing, except for the appeal to our own minds and flesh, what is sin, nor how we ought, as Christians, to live.  Modern Christianity bears this out in our culture.
He has done it all and has made us a completely new creation! We aren't workers, trying to match His work.
True, but what are the implications?  Can we, as new creatures still sin?  Does God's law still apply to the way we live?  Can I, because I am a new creature, now steal, kill, commit adultery, covet my neighbor, and dishonor my parents?  This article seems to imply yes, by all means do.  I am pretty sure the author does not mean this, but everything she says seems to shout the opposite.  We live in a lawless age, it seems to me that if we wanted to speak to the age we would be pointing people to God's law, and especially so with the world.  If there is no law, then there plain and simply is no need for repentance!  "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith."  (Gal 3:24)
He died and was raised to the right hand of the Father so that we can now just BE. Just BE! Just BE. What absolute FREEDOM!
And so here we have the concluding sentence that coincides with the first sentence; a call to "being", and more specifically to "just be".  This reminds me of an interview by Stone Phillips with the serial killer and cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer.  Dahmer admitted in the interview (at the 1:26:10 mark) that even though he had surrendered his life to Jesus, that he still felt some compulsions to commit these sins. Would we really want to tell him that the most important thing that Jesus wants for him is to,  "just be, just be, just be"?  To bring it home, I don't want to "just be".  I want to glorify God, a thing I repeatedly fail at without fear of losing my salvation.  I don't feel good when I do, I feel worshipful because I know that my salvation, like Jeffrey Dahmer's, was by no means a small thing.  I have one hope in this life, that is that I am clothed in Christ.  The last thing I want to be doing in my short time in this life is to "just be".

But, if I am a secular humanist, that is exactly what I would want, for there is nothing else.  All reference to all I know is located in the gray matter that evolved between my ears, and so that would be the center of my universe.  Just being, therefore, would be paramount among my concerns.

This is why we should consider that all such articles as the one examined here, and there are many, are not written in a vacuum.  There is always the zeitgeist, or the spirit of the age, that this sort of thing aligns itself with.  We live in an age of lawlessness.  For the most part the Western Church has rejected God's law and is now participating in lawlessness.  It is paralyzed to deal with a rotting culture because without law there is no sin, and without sin there is no need for salvation, and if there is no need for salvation Jesus becomes more of a tattooed environmentalist, or a social worker or some such thing, than the savior of the world.  Church leaders find it increasingly difficult to confront the age due to the fact that they have hamstrung themselves.  They have rejected God's law at the worst, or they are uncomfortable with it because of the controversy that the spirit of the age places against it.  No longer does the Western Church preach "Repent for the Kingdom of God is near" as Jesus did, but rather it preaches "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life".  The article of note here speaks not to, or of, God's salvation but of the secular humanist zeitgeist that blankets the land.  The secular humanist, while he might reject the notion of "repent or you too will perish" will have no problem with "...just BE. Just BE! Just BE. What absolute FREEDOM!"  Yes, it is safe to say that the secular humanist can make peace with this statement and his humanism; and just so long as the Jesus is as hip with freedom and wealth redistribution as he is, he might even be able to adopt as a "personal truth" the He-died-and-was-raised part too.   

No wonder the West is rotting with skyrocketing illegitimacy rates, abortion, teen pregnancies, and suicides.  And no wonder there is a mass exodus of the youth as soon as they can, from the faith, along with imploding birth rates, unfathomable government debt, apostate preachers and churches preaching the LGBT gospel, and basic lawlessness.  With Christendom as a whole being unable to discern the Satanic lies in this article so aptly intertwined with truth, it is no wonder.  This is very discouraging for me.  Very discouraging indeed.

Yet I know that these things must happen for it is written:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  ( 2 Tim 3:1-8)
In Conclusion

Jesus tells us to do two things that are of utmost importance.  He tells us first to choose the narrow gate.  That is the gate through which we leave the kingdom of the air, its thought processes, and its zeitgeist.  Second He tells us to walk along the narrow path.  This path is a different path than the one taken by the masses.  Walking down this path we will be walking along a very different way than everyone else, and by doing so we will look different than the path filled with the condemned by God, for we will be being conformed to the image of God's son, and we will not be "just being".  We will be being made into a spotless bride, free from wrinkle and blemish.  And I, for one, think that is much better than "just being" in a rotting and sinful world that hates Jehovah, and His Son, with all its might.