Tag Archives: Jesus

A Shattered Delusion

There was a time when my life was illusory and paradoxical.  I used to have a bleak outlook where I believed that my life was purposeless and I was wasting the years that had been given to me, yet I was certain that I was a pretty good guy purported by my strong character and perfect sense of right and wrong that would ultimately garner an exceedingly favorable afterlife.  On October 9, 2009, my life was completely upended.  I had a vasectomy, a relatively minor procedure that left me in crippling pain.  October 8, 2009 was probably the last pain-free day I’ll ever enjoy.  Interestingly enough, that fateful day was the most important day in my life.

I didn’t realize that one must be utterly broken to come to the Cross.  After all, I had already asked Jesus into my heart, was sprinkled as an infant, and was confirmed when I was thirteen.  I was in the system.  I was so saved that I didn’t even need Jesus.  At least I lived that way.

Deep in the hidden recesses of my heart I knew I was in big trouble but I told myself that I was a swell guy.  In comparison to everyone else, my flaws were so minute that God could easily overlook them.  My foibles were infinitesimal in comparison to the godless heathens running the streets.  I was a terrific catch for God.  It’s not like I murdered anyone, right?  Or have I?  In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus tells us that unrighteous anger is murder in the heart.  Oops.

Then there is the lying, the stealing, the dishonoring of my parents, even adultery of the heart.  That’s a tough one to swallow, but Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 5:28.  If we delve into the OT, Hosea illustrates that we are all adulterers to God.  The marriage of Hosea and Gomer is a picture of the marriage of Christ to his church.  His unfaithful bride. Our broken vows.  An ongoing affair where we turn to our success, our money, our vices, our hobbies; we turn our idols into cheap substitutes for our Redeemer.  Yet Christ made an unbreakable covenant with his people.  This was the God I rejected because I already had my ticket to heaven punched with all that I had done.  I created my own paradise in my mind where I was my own savior.  I lived in a world where I had broken all of the Commandments before breakfast, but in my eyes, I was a good person.  I was delusional.

I was blinded by my relativism, and my veil of perceived goodness had to be pierced.  Not just pierced, but utterly shattered by a curse that left me with a lifetime of pain.  This was much more than hurt feelings, but enduring physical pain that will forever remind me of what I once was.  This curse was perhaps the greatest gift that God could have given me because it afforded me the opportunity for saving grace.

I can clearly see that I once lived in a world of make-believe.  I persisted in a fictitious realm where I usurped God’s authority and redefined the qualifications for entrance to heaven much like people redefine gender and marriage today.  I am still a bad man, but I am a bad man who has been redeemed by a good God.

CC image courtesy of waferboard on Flickr.

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Twist Not Scripture Lest Ye Be Like Satan

How is it that many unbelievers (and some Christians as well) take the position that the God of the Old Testament was a bully and the God of the New Testament was some kind of hippy that wore Birkenstocks and preached about love?  We tend to ignore the fact that the Bible teaches of one God, and we let our presuppositions get the best of us.  Anybody can contort Scripture to fit into any context.  It reminds me of a quote I heard from Paul Washer, “Twist not Scripture lest ye be like Satan.”

Consider the story of Abraham and Isaac.  “[God] said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2 ESV)  Some impugn God’s character and attack him as some kind of monster.  Further, Abraham is demonized for obeying this tyrannical God, by going into the mountains to sacrifice his child.  When the text is read, we may assume that Isaac is a mere youth, but in reality, some scholars indicate that Isaac may have been as old as thirty-three.  If true, that would be an interesting detail as Jesus Christ died when he was thirty-three.

Why would Abraham even consider murdering his own son as an act of faith to a God with apparently dubious morals?  Genesis 12:7 states that God has set aside land for Abraham’s beloved son.  The New Testament explains Abraham’s actions:  “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said,’Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11:17-19) Abraham was acting in faith that God would keep His promise.  

The whole narrative of Abraham and Isaac is foreshadowing Christ’s crucifixion.  This picture that was recorded 2000 years before Christ’s birth is a promise from God of what is to come.  God’s only begotten son, Jesus, hung on the cross so that His blood may not merely cover our sins, but wash them away completely. (1 John 1:7)

This is only one example of Christ’s foreshadowing in the Old Testament and God’s love for His creation, yet some want to view God as a maniacal despot that wantonly kills to satisfy his blood lust.  If we read Genesis 22:2 out of context, a case could be made to depict God as a villainous horror.  We could look at Monet’s “Water Lilies” up close and only see blotches of paint, but when we behold the painting in the right perspective, we see an incredible work of art.  The same is true with the Bible.  With bad hermeneutics, we can see anything we want to see in the Bible.  With the proper context, we can see the entire text is about Jesus Christ.

CC image courtesy of snickclunk.

Is God A Tyrant?

Richard Dawkins is quite descriptive when he states, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”  Interesting.

It’s interesting when an atheist invariably paints God as some sort of cosmic bully, yet they are unable to see His goodness.  It’s not a matter of finding a balance between God’s niceness and meanness.  God is Love, yet God is Justice.  We, as fallen humans, have a tendency to frame the argument from a position of innocence.  Can we honestly say that we are innocent?

If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that we are covetous and murderous thieves. Those are strong words, but we must remember that Jesus upped the ante when he said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭21-22‬ ESV) We choose to indict God when we are guilty rather than to humble ourselves and repent.

Perhaps we want to blame God for our sinful nature. Why would a loving God make us broken, only to cast us into hell? That’s a good question, but God did not make us sinful. He created Adam and Eve without sin. The sin nature of Adam passed to his descendants. We are not direct creations of God like Adam and Eve. We are born of Adam. Sure, there is the Jehoiachin problem, but if it wasn’t for the virgin birth, Jesus would have inherited this sin nature.

We say that God is immoral for upholding His perfect and moral law. The Ten Commandments are so deceptively simple, yet impossible to maintain. Is God immoral because these rules are so hard? No. The Law doesn’t make us bad any more than it makes us good. The Law reveals our inability to be righteous on our own. The Law points us to our Savior. But we reject the Savior.

We say God is immoral when He upholds His impossible laws, yet we are upset when He extends grace to rescue us from our dire situation. We choose to remain dead in our trespasses and blame our Creator for our sins. God then offers us salvation and we have the audacity to call him a tyrant.

Can You Be A Member of the Church Without Attending Church?

The world has an incredible hold on many who consider themselves Christians. Americans have been conditioned by the “ask Jesus into your heart” mantra. But is it biblical? Is it biblical to say a short prayer and check it off your bucket list? Did Jesus hang on the cross so we can whisper a prayer only to continue with our lives as if nothing ever happened?

A common argument for Christians and non-Christians alike is that attendance at a church is unnecessary for worship. I don’t disagree there. A church is merely a building, but the intent behind the argument is typically, “I worship in my own way and corporate worship is unprofitable because all churchgoers are hypocrites.”

We are hypocrites. So what? Paul, the chief of all sinners could have easily named himself the chief of all hypocrites as well. He states, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (‭Romans‬ ‭7‬:‭15‬ ESV) If Paul was a hypocrite, should we be surprised that Christians today are hypocrites?

This is a good time to drag in the oft misquoted verse, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭1‬ ESV) Did Jesus really mean that we are not to judge? Or was this verse meant for nonbelievers to lampoon believers? What is the context of this verse?

Context. That is what determines the meaning of everything. A statement without context is useless. Before I mention logs in people’s eyes, take note that calling me a hypocrite or telling me not to judge is a judgment statement in itself. If we are never to judge and I am in error for judging, shouldn’t you lead by example by not judging? Would the mere fact of not judging in fact be judging? We could debate the matter, but that would definitely be judging.

Jesus goes on to explain, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭5‬ ESV) Jesus isn’t attacking people who judge, he is attacking those who judge with a hypocritical Pharisaical heart. If I am an alcoholic, who am I to tell others about temperance? We aren’t supposed to point out others’ sins when we are mired in those same sins. We are called to turn to Christ to overcome our sins.

The Church is the bride of Christ. If we despise the Church (the body of believers), how can we claim to love Christ? Similarly, John 15:23 is clear that if we hate the Son, we hate the Father as well. If a friend tells me that I am a swell guy but my wife is a shrew, is he really my friend? If someone hates my greatest treasure, my wife, then he hates me as well.

To hate the Church is to hate Christ.

I’ve also heard the tired retort, “Well, what about the Inquisition and the Crusades? The Church is evil!” I have had that same strawman tossed about by friends of mine. For good measure, they threw in some unintelligible redirect regarding the persecution of the Cathars and the Waldenses.

As far as I’m concerned, there are two points to address. One, if someone kills people in the name of Christ, they don’t know Christ. Secondly, the Inquisition is irrelevant to your salvation.

Jesus created the Church so that we can assemble with fellow believers and commune with Him. The Church with all of its human flaws is in place to glorify Christ. The Church is for the broken. The Church is for you and me.

Jesus died for our sins, yet some of us believe we can recite the Sinner’s Prayer and continue with our sinful lifestyles. I believe that is why so many reject the Church. Not because the Church is brimming with hypocrites, but because they are hypocrites themselves and refuse to turn from sin.

I’ve been there. I grew up in a “good Christian home.” I was raised Lutheran and was confirmed when I was thirteen. I had checked all the boxes. I was in the club. I had experimented with alcohol when I was a teenager, but that was only the beginning. When I was twenty-two, I could get in bars and I was a disc jockey at an active rock station. That was a terrible combination because I spent the next ten years or so in a boozy haze. I was saved. I could do what I wanted, right?

I never went to church because I didn’t want to be in the midst of hypocrites. I said I loved Jesus, but wanted nothing to do with Him. I wanted even less to do with his bride. While I was wallowing in my sin, Christ beckoned to me. Thanks to my wife and her incessant prayers, I was saved for real about five years ago.

I’m not the man I was five years ago. I eventually quit drinking and smoking and going to all bars. I’m even one of those hypocrites who goes to church every Sunday. I’m living proof that you cannot embrace Christ and remain unchanged.

Can you be a Christian without attending church? I believe the answer, at least on paper, is both. Jesus freed us from the chains of legalism so technically, I believe attendance is optional. I also believe Hebrews 10:25 commands the assembling of the saints. You can repudiate the church with all of your justifications, but Jesus’ response might be, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭23‬ ESV)

Catching Up With the Inevitable

CC image courtesy of hans van den berg on Flickr.
CC image courtesy of hans van den berg on Flickr.

A friend from the radio business died today. I always knew him as Danny Fox. It was many years later when I learned of his real name. At 59, years of chain-smoking had crippled him with emphysema, but in spite of his sickness, he always had a joke so we could share a good laugh.

I had only known him at the workplace, at least until about three months ago. He was hospitalized with little hope of leaving. I visited him a couple of times in the hospital because I had to share something before he passed. He claimed he was going to heaven after he died and affirmed he knew about Jesus. He answered my questions hesitantly and I wanted to be sure he knew about salvation.

I stumbled through the whole conversation but I think he understood. I know ultimately the Holy Spirit is tasked with softening hearts and saving souls, but I have my hope.

I’m staggered by the thinking of nonbelievers. I should be accustomed to it by now as heathens will act like heathens, but for someone to say Danny is working at the radio station in the sky is borderline ridiculous. Let me rephrase–IT IS RIDICULOUS.

Another friend’s response was equally as misguided–

Danny was a good guy…a good person…I know you and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of religious beliefs, but I think if there’s any Godly justice, Danny has a head start on most of us…

Just for the sake of discussion we will call this friend Hieronymus. Why use a common name like George when you can punch up the story with a name like Hieronymus?

As you can see, he thinks you can get to heaven by being “good.” Jesus says that no one is righteous, but by being a swell guy, many believe that they will gain entrance to heaven. Then he wants to hang merit on God’s justice? I told him that God’s justice warrants that everyone spend eternity in hell.

Post modern thoughts such as these are what make people believe that all roads lead to God. Jesus explicitly is exclusive of all other paths in John 14:6.

Hieronymus hasn’t responded since then, but I knew that the report of Danny’s death would bring another opportunity to share the Gospel with him. I could have gotten that information anywhere, but I thought that the finality of death would finally make him seriously consider his salvation.

Nevertheless, I still hope that Danny found the right path. I’ll find out soon enough.

Purpose is NOT the Gospel.

Jesus is not a product.  Many try to sell Christianity as something to make you feel better, or give you peace, or in the case of Joel Osteen (or anyone else who touts the prosperity gospel), to make you rich.  Don’t come to Jesus for stuff.  Come to Jesus for Jesus.

Wretched with Todd Friel

Episode 1356

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Will the Real Noah Please Stand Up?

I read The Matt Walsh Blog this afternoon and I think he had an accurate review of the new ‘Noah’ movie.  I’m not trying to rehash what he said regarding the movie.  By the way, I got the impression that he thought it was drek.  I just heard some arguments in favor of viewing of the movie and I thought it needed to be addressed.

I have heard this argument repackaged many times for other movies, pastors, car salesmen, levitation machines, and pig wrestlers.  Essentially, the argument should not be about whether the movie is biblical or not, or even if it completely misrepresents God.  Or not.  The Christian shouldn’t disparage the movie.  As a matter of fact, he should watch the movie so that he will have opportunities to share the Gospel with people who have seen the movie.

Really?  The Gospel is already a stumbling block for people.  People think that they don’t need saving.  People don’t want to repent of their sins.  I cannot see how a misrepresentation of the Bible can bring people to Christ.  Maybe I’m pessimistic, but if one believes he can use the movie, ‘Noah’ as a launching pad to share the Gospel, he should have even more success sharing the Gospel with people who have seen ‘Pulp Fiction.’  Afterall, Samuel L. Jackson quoted scripture.

In interviews, Russell Crowe reveals that he has no idea what the biblical story of Noah is about.  Noah, the taskmaster?  Is that why God chose to save him?  Genesis 6:9 states, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.  Noah walked with God.  John MacArthur’s commentary explains, “‘righteous’ is to live by God’s righteous standards;  ‘blameless’ sets him apart by a comparison with those of his day; and that he ‘walked with God’ puts him in a class with Enoch (p. 25).  That is a strong assertion comparing Noah with Enoch.  Remember, Enoch never tasted death.  God brought him straight to heaven.

Some people (usually people outside the faith) think righteous means perfect.  Does righteous and blameless mean Noah was perfect?  Does that mean he was a swell guy?  He certainly wasn’t perfect and some of his sins depicted in the Bible suggest he may not have been a swell guy.  MacArthur explains that “God makes it clear the Noah was a man who believed in God as Creator, Sovereign, and the only Savior from sin.”  That is what makes Noah righteous.

Most importantly, the story is a type, or illustration of Jesus.  Jesus said, “I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).  There was only one door in the ark.  That one door represents Jesus.  Did Noah shut that door?  No, God alone saves.  God shut that door (Genesis 7:16).

If you want to lead people to Christ, you use the Bible.  The Bible is truth.  It makes no sense to try to lead people with a counterfeit.  If you want to draw from unbiblical sources, good luck.  At least use something moderately entertaining, like Dr. Who.

Where is the Line?

How can one decide to walk the line if he doesn’t know the line?  Is the line merely of an external nature where one will be nice to others and tell the truth?  Perhaps, but that would be incomplete.

To even know what the line should be, one must know what truth is.  Without truth, our parameters are arbitrary.  Consider the spoon bender in the Matrix.  Fine.  There is no spoon.  We can say there is no ultimate truth.  If there is no ultimate truth, there is no truth at all.  Only the illusion of truth.

History can testify that this relativistic view of “what’s true for you is not necessarily true for me” is alive and well.  One view that can be adopted is the Machiavellian end justifying the means.

This is the fruit of postmodernism.  It should ALWAYS be illegal to murder.  It should ALWAYS be illegal to commit adultery.  It should ALWAYS be illegal to rape.  History’s relativism suggests otherwise.

Perhaps the most discussed question in history is, “What is truth?”  Pilate asked that very question in John 18:38.  I am no theologian, but I am a Christian and I believe that the Bible as a whole, answers that question quite nicely.

Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai.  These Commandments were a code given by God that we are to live by.  Even today, I would guess that most people agree with some of them.  Murder is bad. So are stealing and adultery.

Regardless of the code we choose to live by, even if your motto is, “To thine one self be true,” you betray yourself.  Are you always true to yourself in all cases?  Are there exceptions?  These exceptions, intentional or not, would betray the above maxim.

God’s law was meant to show our shortcomings.  Our sinful nature. Jesus really put the screws to us when he said he is most concerned with what’s inside.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27, 28 ESV)  Our thoughts condemn us in the eyes of God.  We thought we were keeping this commandment by not physically cheating on our spouses.

Jesus also stated, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21, 22 ESV)  Anger is equal to murder? I’m guilty of unrighteous anger.  According to Jesus, I’m guilty of murder perhaps tens of thousands of times in my life.

The law was never intended to measure our good deeds with.  The law crushes the lawbreaker under its weight.  This is why we need the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

So, what is the line?  I submit that it’s the Ten Commandments.  Do I walk the line?  At best, I stumble alongside the line.  Thanks to Jesus, I am not condemned by the line.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/prompt-walk-the-line/