Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

“Psalm 1”

Psalm 1
Blessed is the man who neither walks nor stands,
Amongst men with wicked and sinful hands.
Nor does he sit in the seat of scoffers,
He delights in God’s law and its offers.
He meditates on the Word day and night,
With heart, mind, soul, and strength; hearing and sight.

He is like a tree planted by a stream,
Its abundant fruit is sweet as a dream.
It acts as trees ought, yields fruit when it should.
Its leaf doesn’t wither, no rot in its wood.
His justice will lead to prosperity,
But wind drives the chaff of iniquity.

Judgment is sure, and the wicked won’t stand,
From the righteous, all sinners will be banned.
“for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.”
Not one is righteous, so condemned we stand,
Unless we’re forgiven by nail-scarred hands.

Do not let the serpent lie and decieve,
In love, obey and repent and believe.
Christ is the way and the truth and the life,
He will be there for your struggles and strife.
In these wondrous truths, let our hearts rejoice,
Let His sheep hear and know their Shepherd’s voice.

Cursed ’cause of our wicked and sinful ways,
Under the wrath of the Ancient of Days.
“Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”
Christ became a curse for you and for me.
By Jesus alone may we be set free,
Then Psalm 1 women and men we shall be.

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July 22, 2008 Posted by | Christ, Poetry | 3 Comments

More on Obadiah

I recently blogged a bit about Obadiah (here and here).

What I was unsatisfied with about both my paper that I did last semester on Obadiah and the two blogs was that I have proved inept at tying Obadiah together with the most important part of the Gospel, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

When I first read Obadiah, some things stuck out and reminded me of the crucifixion of Jesus.  Most notably the mention of “casting lots” in verse 11:

“On the day that you stood aloof,
   on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
   and cast lots for Jerusalem,
   you were like one of them.”

However, since the passage refers to Isreal, I did not attempt to relate it to Jesus.  Thankfully, Dr. Russell D. Moore ducked into a phone booth and came to save the day.  In “Beyond a Veggie Tales Gospel: Why We Must Preach Christ from Every Text,” Dr. Moore says that Jesus

“relives the story of Israel itself–exiled in Egypt, crossing the Jordan, being tempted with food and power in the wilderness during a forty-day sojourn there. Jesus applies to Himself language previously applied to Israel and its story–He is the vine of God, the temple, the tabernacle, the Spirit-anointed kingship, the wisdom of God Himself.”

 With this understanding of the Bible in mind, the Christological implications of the book of Obadiah practically jump off the page and slap you in the forehead!

 

Edom’s violence toward Israel was most astonishing because they were, nationally speaking, “brothers”- in the sense that the founding fathers of both nations, Esau/Edom and Jacob/Israel, were brothers.  Similarly, the violent obscenity that is the Cross is most astonishing when we realize that not only was Jesus the promised Messiah and Savior of the Jews, but He also was Himself a Jew.  So when verse 10 of Obadiah says, addressed to Edom, “because of violence done to your brother Jacob,” we can address Israel with a similar statement: “because of violence done to your brother Jesus.”  With some slight variations to make the analogy work (i.e. “wealth” to possibly “life,” since Jesus had no earthly wealth), verses 10-14 can be read as a typological prophecy of Jesus:

 

“10 Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
   shame shall cover you,
   and you shall be cut off forever.
11 On the day that you stood aloof,
   on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
   and cast lots for Jerusalem,
   you were like one of them.
12 But do not gloat over the day of your brother
   in the day of his misfortune;
 do not rejoice over the people of Judah
   in the day of their ruin;
 do not boast
   in the day of distress.
13 Do not enter the gate of my people
   in the day of their calamity;
 do not gloat over his disaster
   in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
   in the day of his calamity.
14 Do not stand at the crossroads
   to cut off his fugitives;
do not hand over his survivors
   in the day of distress.”

July 20, 2008 Posted by | Christ, Jesus, Obadiah, Typology | Leave a comment

If the Resurrection Happened, Then What?

This is part two of what, Lord willing, will be a three-parter about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In part one, “The Centrality of the Resurrection,” I argued that the Resurrection is central to Christian faith, and therefore should be central to any Christianity vs. Atheism debate.  This second part will be on the ramifications if the Resurrection did happen.  The third part will be my argument that the Resurrection really did take place.

If Jesus Christ were indeed resurrected from the dead, as I believe that He was, what does that mean for you and I?  The Bible is full of accounts of miracles, but there are arguably none as great and/or significant as the Resurrection.  If we are convinced that the Resurrection happened, then it lends great credibility to the Bible as a whole, and most imporantly to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here I would like to look at the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as what verses twelve and thirteen of Jeremiah chapter two have to tell us about sin.

The Bible tells us that God created all of us, and that He will one day judge all of us.  We have all sinned against God.  The Bible tells us that blood and death are the only means that effectively atone for sins and ransom sinners from the wrath of God.  In the Old Testament, God mercifully gave His people a way to have a substitute pay for their sins with its blood and its death in both the Passover and the sacrificial system.  In both of these cases, an animal was a “propitiation” for sins.  This simply means that God reckoned the sins of the sinner paid for by the blood and death of the sinless animal, while at the same time reckoning the sinner righteous by the sinner’s faith that God would be faithful to His promises.

The Bible tells us that the passover lamb, the animals without blemish that were sacrificed, and the scapegoat of the day of atonement all pointed forward to the Messiah that would be once and for all the passover Lamb and the Scapegoat, sacrificed to atone for the sins of all who would have faith in Him and faith that God will be faithful to His promises.  And this Messiah would ransom sinners from the wrath of God, by taking His wrath upon Himself, if the sinners would believe in Him.

This Messiah was and is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul tells us that, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).  The Bible teaches us that this “belief” that Paul mentions here is a belief that is obedient to the “law of the Lord” and the teachings of Jesus, and that perseveres until the end.  All who have obedient, persevering faith in Jesus and repent of their sins will be saved.

Let us now turn to the Word of God through Jeremiah the prophet in Jeremiah 2:12-13:

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

In the eyes of God, all sin is two evils.  All sin is both forsaking God and putting our faith in man-made “cisterns” that are “broken” and “can hold no water.”  Since the first sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, all mankind has been forsaking God and foolishly putting their trust in man-made, broken cisterns.  God calls this evil, and says that the only reconciliation is by blood and death.  By faith in Jesus Christ, we become His, and the punishment for our sins is credited to Him.  He paid this penalty on the Cross, once and for all.  If we are His, then our sins are paid for and we receive His perfect righteousness:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

If the Resurrection happened, then this is all true.  If it did not happen, then as the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:32, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'”

July 16, 2008 Posted by | apologetics, Atheism, Christ, Christianity, Religion | Leave a comment

The Centrality of the Resurrection.

I believe that the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is very much central to Christianity.  This comes from both experience and Scripture.  In my experience, I was converted to Christianity in March of 2007 on the basis of the evidence that Jesus Christ indeed rose from the dead.  The apostle Paul talks about the centrality of the Resurrection to Christianity in 1 Corinthians 15:

“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” -1 Corinthians 15:14

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” -1 Corinthians 15:17-19

In 1 Corinthians 15:14, Paul makes a direct connection between the Resurrection of Jesus and our faith.  If He has not been raised, then our faith is in vain.  And this is not some atheist saying that the absence of the Resurrection would prove our faith to be in vain.  This is the man who wrote much of the New Testament. 

Then, in verse 17, he says that our faith is futile, “if Christ has not been raised.”  And in verse 18, he says that if the Resurrection didn’t happen, then the atheists (and the Sadducees) are right- when you die, you die, period.  Then in verse 19, he makes quite an interesting argument.  Verse 19 is the second half of an “if, then, if, then.”  The first half goes like this:  If Christ has not been raised, then in Christ we have hope in this life only.”  Then, you get verse 19: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

So, in conclusion, “if Christ has not been raised,” then:
1) Preaching is in vain
2) Faith is in vain
3) Faith is futile
4) Dead people are dead, and not ‘in a better place’
and 5) Christians are, “of all people most to be pitied.”

Therefore, Christ having been raised is both central to Christianity and should be central to any Atheism/Christianity debate.

This is part one of what I see working out to be a three-parter, in response to a couple of comments to my recent posts.  This could change, but as I see it now, part two will be what the Bible teaches about the ramifications of whether or not Jesus was resurrected- namely what that means about God, what that means about our standing before God, what Jesus Christ did to reconcile us with and to God, and what we must do in response to these truths. And part three will be my argument that 1 Corinthians 15:4 is indeed true, namely that Jesus Christ, “was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

July 13, 2008 Posted by | apologetics, Atheism, Christ, Christianity, The Resurrection | 3 Comments

Abraham: The Father of 3 Religions?

Was Abraham the father of the three major religions in the world- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? I would say that he was the father of only one modern religion, on the basis of two reasons. First, the Jewish Tanakh, which is the Christian Old Testament and mentioned in the Qur’an as the “Holy Scriptures,” is an incomplete work. Even with the addition of the Talmud, the other collection of writings that are central to Judaism, Judaism is an incomplete religion because it both awaits its promised Messiah and does not explain how God can be quick to forgive without leaving the guilty unpunished. Christianity piggy-backs off of Judaism by acknowledging the writings of the Tanakh, the Old Testament, as holy writings. Islam attempts to similarly piggy-back off of Christianity by acknowledging both the Old Testament and the New Testament as holy writings- calling them the “Holy Scriptures” and the “Gospels”- and by relegating Jesus Christ, who the New Testament claims is the Tanakh/Old Testament’s promised Messiah, to the status of a prophet.

Secondly, according to the apostle Paul only one of the three religions is based on the faith of Abraham. So, although he may be the physical ancestor of all three religions, on the basis of faith he can and should only be seen as the father of one.

Our questions are these: Is the Christian claim to being the fulfillment of Judaism valid? Is Christianity complete, unlike Judaism? Is the Islamic claim to being the fulfillment of Christianity valid? Which of the three major religions has the faith of Abraham, and therefore is truly the heir of “father Abraham?” Last and most importantly, was Jesus the Christ, the Messiah that was promised in the Tanakh/Old Testament?

As I said before, Judaism is incomplete because at the close of their holy writings there is no Messiah. And because, without the Messiah, there is no explanation as to how God can forgive without letting the guilty go unpunished. That forgiveness is necessary assumes the guilt of those needing forgiveness. This mystery, which I am stealing from Mark Dever’s book “The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made,” is very clear in Exodus 34:6-7:

“The LORD passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.'”

As we see there, the LORD promises to forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin. However, He then says that He will “by no means clear the guilty.” I agree with Dever’s assessment that this can only be understood in connection with a Messiah who would take the guilt of God’s chosen people upon Himself. Just as the sacrificial system of the Old Testament allowed reconciliation between God’s chosen people who had faith in God, and by faith that God would forgive their sins on the basis of the animal without blemish that was sacrificed. The death and blood of the animal paid the debt that was brought on by the sin. Since animals and their blood can accomplish nothing without the willingness of the living God, who is loving, merciful, and gracious beyond measure, the sacrificial system was really about the faith of God’s people and His willingness to forgive. However, modern Jews no longer participate in the sacrificial system. And they believe that their Messiah has not yet come. This begs the question, whereby does reconciliation with God and forgiveness of their sins come, with no sacrifice and no Messiah? Just as the religious writings leave off incomplete, with no reconciliation or forgiveness the Jewish religion is similarly incomplete.

The Christian New Testament claims that Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of the Tanakh/Old Testament’s promised Messiah, and that through Jesus alone can the mysterious mercy without excluding justice be possible. He took upon Himself the sins of God’s chosen people on the Cross. Therefore, they are no longer guilty before God and He is able to forgive without letting the guilty go unpunished.

Christianity does leave off with a few mysteries, but they are mysteries that are promised to be understood when Jesus the Messiah returns. Therefore Christianity is not incomplete and does not need fulfillment the way that Judaism is incomplete and wanting fulfillment. We do not know when the Messiah will return, but we know who He is and that He will come. However, Islam attempts to piggy-back off of Christianity anyways. Islam does not deny the holy writings that are known as the Old Testament and the New Testament within Christianity. Neither do they deny that there was a man named Jesus who had supernatural abilities and was an extraordinary teacher. They accredit the Christian holy writings as the “Holy Scriptures and the Gospels” and Jesus as a prophet, who the Qur’an says lived flawlessly. However, there are two main ways in which Islam and Christianity cannot be reconciled. First there are things in the Qur’an that are irreconcilable with the Christian writings. For example, the Qur’an instructs its followers to kill “infidels” (unbelievers) if they will not convert to Islam. Secondly, they relegate Jesus from Messiah to prophet. Jesus taught that He was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man comes to the Father except by Him. Islam and this statement from the lips of Jesus cannot both be true. In order for Islam to be true, Jesus must be relegated, as they attempt to relegate Him, to merely a prophet. And the Cross, where Christians find the essence of meaning, must be relegated to a meaningless event. If Jesus is not the exclusive way to God, then the Cross was unnecessary.

Paul says that by his faith righteousness was credited to Abraham, and Christians are to similarly trust the God of Abraham, who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Judaism and Islam are both works-based religions, whereby righteousness is a reward for living righteously. However, neither religion accounts for unrighteousness. Christianity is the only religion that calls for faith, like that of Abraham, by which Christians will both receive the necessary righteousness to stand justified before God and their unrighteousness will be accounted for, as by their faith their sins were paid for by Jesus on the Cross. Therefore, only Christianity can claim to be an heir of Abraham because it is the only religion that is based on the faith of “father Abraham.”

I chose to address this question last, although this changes the order in which I introduced them, because I wanted to save it for last. The true test of which of the three religions contains Truth is the identity of one Man. If Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, then Christianity and not Judaism contains Truth. If Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, and not merely a prophet as Islam contends, then Christianity and not Islam contains Truth. If Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, then the Truth of the Tanakh/Old Testament continues to the Christian New Testament. If Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, then the Truth of the Old and New Testaments stops there, and does not continue to the Qur’an.

Although the Cross is arguably the most significant event for Christians- for by the Cross alone can we be forgiven of sins and reconciled with God- the Resurrection of Jesus is the most significant here. Many men died by Roman crucifixion. The Resurrection proves that only one of those men was the Son of God. I argue for the resurrection here.

I believe with every fiber of my being that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and that Jesus was the Tanakh’s promised Messiah. I believe that there is a God, and that He is holy and just. I believe that our sins against God have both angered Him and caused separation between mankind and God. I believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no man comes to the Father but by Jesus. Jesus’ substitutionary death satisfied the righteous anger of God and paid the death penalty warranted by our sins, and by that death alone can we have eternal life.

Trust in Jesus, He is the Lord of the universe He created. Confess with your mouth that He is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and you will be saved!

June 11, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Faith, God, Islam, Jesus, Judaism, Religion | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Compassion.

This is an email that I just sent to the website http://www.godhatesfags.com, website of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS. The church is known for picketing funerals with outrageous signs, such as the one for which they named their site: “God Hates Fags.”

First let me say that I think you guys are absolutely right.  God has a hatred for homosexuals.  A hatred that will end with them spending eternity in hell if they do not repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord, Savior, and Forgiver of sins.  1 Corinthians 6:9-10 would support us in this regard:  “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

So not only does God hate homosexuals, but He also hates all people who unrepentantly sin.  But keep reading:

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

From this it seems that some of those that Paul was writing to in the Corinthian church may have been homosexuals before coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Is this not the end that we hope for, brethren?  That they will turn from their homosexuality and be “sanctified” and “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God?”

You and I may not have ever engaged in homosexuality, but James tells us that if we are guilty of any sin, then we are transgressors of the law.  And he tells us to speak and act “as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.”  Why?  Because “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:8-13).

I admire that you guys speak boldly as you ought to about the truths of the Word of God.  However, I fear that the way that you do so may cause people to reject the Truth- not because of the Truth itself, but because of the offensively outspoken manner that you employ in proclaiming it.

The goal is not only to proclaim the Truth, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also to proclaim it in a way that will lead sinners to repent and believe. 

Where is the compassion of Moses in Exodus 32:32?  Where is the compassion of Paul in Romans 9:3?  We will all stand before God on the ultimate Day of the Lord.  James tells us that those who do not show mercy will not receive mercy.  When we stand before God, we will all be found wanting- but for the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

You who have received mercy and forgiveness by that blood begrudge the mercy of God by turning away from the God who has cancelled your debt and turning to whip your servant for not being able to pay his debt (Matthew 25:14-30).

One last point: Jesus told us that the world will know we are his disciples if we have love for one another (John 13:35).  He also told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).  Belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior should make us look different from the world- moreso than it does in most churches.  However, what sets us apart should be first our love for one another, and second that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these texts, and where picketing funerals with outrageous (albeit true) signs is encouraged by Jesus or His apostles.

Humbly,
David Hamilton

June 2, 2008 Posted by | Christ, Christian, Christianity, Life, Religion | , , , , , | 9 Comments

“Proudly, Guiltlessly, Confidently, Joyously Alive”

Is there a difference between “living” and “living.”  I think so.  A guy that I used to play basketball after church with when I was in high school used to ask me if I was going to “show up” or just “show up.”  The implication there was that everybody who goes to the gym “shows up,” but only a few actually “show up,” or make an impact, or dominate.  I think that is a subtle difference that can be translated into the difference between “living” and “living.”

One of Ayn Rand’s characters in her novel “Atlas Shrugged” described another character thusly:

“[You were] proudly, guiltlessly, confidently, joyously alive.”

Now, do you want to merely be “alive,” or do you want to be “alive” like that?  I think that the answer to that question is obvious, so we will move on to the next one: How do you get there?  There are several possibilities to ponder, but I have chosen three, those put forth by Ayn Rand, Joel Osteen, and the apostle Paul, and we will use the line from Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” as the litmus.

Rand believed that objective reason in the pursuit of one’s own happiness was the means to a full life.  She believed that the mind was the motive power of the world, and that purpose and reason and motivation fueled the world as the diesel fueled the trains on the tracks of her heroine Dagny Taggart’s Taggart Transcontinental Railroad.  However, I do not believe that Rand’s philosophy satisfies even her own standards.  I believe that a life driven by objective reason could very well lead a person to be proudly, confidently, and joyously alive, but what about guiltlessly?  What about the times when a person has faulty reasoning or forgoes reason altogether?  The short-term vs. long-term conundrum alone throws a wrench into her ethics.  If we are to, by means of objective reason, pursue our own happiness, what do we do when our short-term happiness comes at the sacrifice of our long-term happiness?  We all face that situation nearly every day, don’t we?  The happiness from eating something deliciously unhealthy vs. the happiness of physical fitness and/or appearance; the happiness of buying the temptor in front of us vs. saving for the big purchase in our sights six months from now; etc. 

So, as we contemplate the word “guiltlessly,” and how it fits into Rand’s recipe for life, we have a discrepancy.  With as many decisions as we all make every minute of every hour of every day, how can living a life driven by objective reason be “guiltless”?  In one of two ways, I believe:  either by never making a mistake, or by seperating mistakes from consciousness.  Sure, you could somewhat atone for a mistake by either repaying whatever loss your mistake caused to other people and/or learning from the mistake and not repeating it, but I do not believe that either of those options erase the guilt of a mistake.  So, in order to be guiltless, an objective reason-ist, assuming he or she has made at least one mistake, must seperate any and all mistakes from their conscious awareness.  But, I do not believe that anybody could, especially from an objective viewpoint, call such a person guiltless.  The only solution would be to turn to subjective measures, which I assume Rand would oppose, and feel “guiltless” because he or she is not as “guilty” as the next person.  None of those options provide true guiltlessness, so we must move on to other sources.

On to Mr. Osteen.  I might not know enough about Joel Osteen to be as critical as I am of him, but I am not very fond of what I do know of him.  He is a pastor who forsakes what the Bible instructs of pastors.  But, he has written two books that warrant him for consideration in pondering the pursuit of being alive.  The titles of his two books are “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential” and “Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day.”  With book titles like that, it would seem as though Joel Osteen knows how to be “proudly, guiltlessly, confidently, joyously alive,” right?  I haven’t read his books, but you can google “Joel Osteen” and preview them both.  There you can find both of his seven-step processes to “Your Best Life Now” and to becoming “A Better You.”  If Osteen had a road map to being alive, then I would think that his seven steps would not change as much as they did from ’04’s “Best Life” to ’07’s “Better You”:

“Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential”
1. Enlarge Your Vision
2. Develop a Healthy Self-Image
3. Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words
4. Let Go of the Past
5. Find Strength Through Adversity
6. Live to Give
7. Choose to Be Happy

“Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day”
1. Keep Pressing Forward
2. Be Positive Toward Yourself
3. Develop Better Relationships
4. For Better Habits
5. Embrace the Place Where You Are
6. Develop Your Inner Life
7. Stay Passionate About Life

Who knows whether or not his seven steps will change just as drastically in the next three years as they did from ’04 to ’07?  Regardless, I think we can use these fourteen steps to decide whether or not Osteen can lead us to being “proudly, guiltlessly, confidently, joyously alive.”  With all of the goodness that can be garnered from Osteen’s fix yourself, Dr. Phil-esque self-help books, I think that he, like Rand, fails to address the issue of guilt.  So regardless of whether or not Osteen can lead us to be “proudly, confidently, joyously alive,” he cannot lead us to be guiltless simply by ignoring guilt.  So, at least by Rand’s litmus line, Osteen cannot lead us to our full potential.

So what does the apostle Paul have to say about this matter?  We’ve taken a look at Osteen’s modern attempt and Rand’s attempt from her philosophy, which she put forward in the form of a novel in 1964 with “Atlas Shrugged.”  Now lets go back almost two-thousand years to the Jewish genius Paul, and see what he thought about living.

According to Paul, those who are justified in the eyes of God, by faith in Jesus Christ- faith that His perfection and His righteousness were imputed to us, in exchange for our sins which were imputed to Him; faith that His death on the Cross paid the penalty of our sins, so that we don’t have to pay that penalty with our death- are sons of God, fellow heirs with Christ, and will inherit the world.  What could bring more pride, confidence, and joy than knowing that you are a child of God and that you will inherit the world?  And what guilt can a person have when God, who is the ultimate victim of every sin we commit, declares us guiltless?  And the justification by faith that Paul taught provides both the eternal joys of being a child of God and being with God for eternity and the present joy and contentment and satisfaction of being a child of God and a citizen of heaven here on earth.  And although Christianity has become associated with the negative connotation of sacrificing one’s desires for the good of another, I agree with John Piper that true Christianity does not see anything as a sacrifice if it is in the name of Jesus Christ and for the benefit of His Kingdom.  And, any such sacrifice would be made in love and would be no sacrifice because the rewards dwarf any benefits or desires that are given up.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Matthew 13:44

January 5, 2008 Posted by | Ayn Rand, child of God, Christ, God, happiness, Jesus, Joel Osteen, joy, justification by faith, Life, living, perfection, potential, pure, righteous, Satisfaction, the apostle Paul | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Glory of God in Allowing Christians to Sin and in Allowing the Holocaust

I wrote a blog about evolution being taught in public schools and my belief that it should either be taught differently or not taught at all. An extremely intelligent atheist named Ron responded to my blog, and we began a discussion that has accounted for most of the 60 comments on that blog.

The discussion with Ron, along with my thoughts on why God allows Christians to sin, led me to contemplate both why a loving God would allow Christians to sin and why He would allow enormous tragedies such as the Holocaust, as well as how I could declare that God is just although He allows both sin and tragedies to happen.

The short answer to the “why?” on both issues is for the glory of God. I would have given that answer before the discussion with Ron, because I have been told that all things happen for the glory of God and I believe that to be true. But I could not have begun to answer how allowing those things to happen glorifies God. I believe that I can now answer the “how?” on both of those issues in a way that is at least satisfactory for me and hopefully will benefit others.

How does allowing Christians to sin glorify God? God hates sin. God would prefer for us not to sin. God could prevent us from sinning if He wanted to. But we do sin. Why? God can do all that He pleases, therefore it must be pleasing to God for some reason and in some way to allow Christians to sin. A better way to say that, I believe, is that there must be something that is more preferable to God, for the sake of which God allows Christians to sin. There must be another variable that comes into play, and for the sake of that variable, God prefers to allow us to sin. That variable, I believe, is God’s honor, or to say it in another way, His glory and His name.

For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him. –Romans 1:21

And because “they” did not honor God as God or give thanks to Him, God gave “them” over to all this. So when people do not honor God as God and give thanks to Him, God allows them to sin. This applies to Christians and non-Christians alike, and in all people this glorifies God. The question then is: “how does this glorify God?” This glorifies God because when we honor Him as God and give thanks to Him, He gets the glory; not us. When we do not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, we get the glory. Therefore, it is just and good and loving of God to allow people to sin when they do not honor Him as God and give thanks to Him, because He is worthy of honor and He is the giver of all. If we were able to abstain from sin apart from God, then we would do so at the expense of God’s name and God’s glory. If we were able to overcome sin apart from God, on the basis of some quality that we possessed, then we would not need God.

If I overcome sin on my own and apart from God, then my name and my glory are inflated, and God’s name and God’s glory are insignificant and unnecessary. Therefore, for the sake of His name and His glory, God must allow us to sin when we do not honor Him as God and do not give Him thanks. Although He hates sin, allowing us to sin is preferable to the defamation of His name and His glory. And that is why each and every strategy for overcoming sin that is not centered on honoring God as God and giving Him the thanks that He so greatly deserves will fail.

So we now move on to the Holocaust.

I believe that all evil in the world that is performed by the hands of men is an example of what I have just discussed. And, I believe that the rest of Romans 1:21 and verse 22 shed more light on this subject:

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. Claiming to be wise, they became fools

Futile thinking and foolish hearts. Does that sound like Hitler and the Nazis? Did they not claim to be wise? The blood of the victims of the Holocaust is unquestionably on the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. However, if there is a loving God, then He either refused to prevent the Holocaust from happening or He was unable to. This is the issue that Ron brings up, and it is a big one. I can very easily identify with Ron on this one. If He didn’t have the power to prevent it, then He’s not worthy. And if He had the power to prevent it but didn’t, then He’s not worthy. I believe that He is worthy, so I have some reconciling to do.

Some might try to “get God off the hook” here, so to speak, and say that God didn’t want the Holocaust to happen. That angle leads to what I just mentioned- if God didn’t want it to happen, then He was either unable or unwilling to prevent it from happening. Saying that God was unable to prevent it from happening, either based on evil in the world or the free will of man that God cannot interfere with, paints a picture of God that I really don’t like. That view of God implies that God is at the mercy of evil in the world or the free will of man, and if that is the case I might have to side with Ron and say that that God is unworthy.

However, I do not believe that to be the case. I do not believe that God was unable to prevent the Holocaust from happening. Which leads us to the question: “If God was able to prevent the Holocaust, why didn’t He?”

I believe that the answer to that question is the same as the answer to why God allows Christians to sin. Just as God allows us to sin, even though He hates sin, when we fail to honor Him as God and give Him thanks, He allowed the Holocaust, even though He hated the Holocaust, because Hitler and the Nazis failed to honor Him as God and give Him thanks. His name and His glory are so important to God, that He allows both sin and tragedy to take place when He is not given the honor and thanks that He deserves.

So, God allows us to sin when we fail to honor Him as God and give Him thanks, even when our sin will affect others who had nothing to do with the sin. And when governments and leaders fail to honor God as God and give thanks to Him, the results of their sins can affect a great number of people.

Just as Pharaoh did not honor God and let the Israelites go, until His refusal brought down plagues on His people that culminated in the death of the firstborn of every Egyptian, so Hitler and the Nazis’ failure to give honor and thanks to God resulted in the Holocaust. And just as Pharaoh and Hitler’s decisions resulted in an unfathomable amount of innocent bloodshed, so the failure of America to give honor and thanks to God has resulted in the murder of 40 million innocent babies in the name of Roe v. Wade. Pharaoh, Hitler, and any leader who believes that “the woman’s right to choose” supercedes the life of an innocent, defenseless, unborn baby may believe that they are wise, but they are fools, with futile thinking and darkened hearts.

Honor and thanks be to God, who is the Creator of all and the Giver of every good and perfect gift!

December 29, 2007 Posted by | Christ, Christian, Creator, Giver, glory, God, Hitler, holocaust, honor, Jews, Nazi, Religion, sin | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

“Without Excuse.”

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” -Romans 1:18-20

Looking back on the time in my life when I rejected God and Christianity, I see things that I didn’t really see then. I had reasons for suppressing the truth of Christianity and rejecting it. I thought that it was better to live as if there was no God and as if Jesus was not the Son of God and is not the King of the universe.

I think back to conversations with my brother, when he made perfect sense and I couldn’t come up with answers for his questions other than simply saying, “I don’t know.”

As I said, “I don’t know,” I had to fight to keep a sly grin from coming across my face, because I was thinking about the reasons I couldn’t buy into what he was saying. I didn’t think that he could provide evidence for what he told me, and even when he did provide evidence, I brushed it off. If he gave me anything from the Bible, my defense was that the Bible wasn’t credible. Those things happened too long ago. How could anybody live their life around something that happened 2000 years ago? But the reason that I rejected everything he said was that I had to reject those things to live the way that I wanted to live.

Then things started to change. God started pursuing me. Certain weird things started happening in my life- I was living farther away from my dad than I had ever been, and I started having this crazy longing to have a son and thinking about what it would take to raise him and all the things that I wanted to teach him. I had this longing for the closeness that I have with my dad, along with the longing to someday build a similar father-son relationship with a son of my own. I was very strangely emotional about father-son relationships in TV shows and movies.

I started thinking more about the Christian life, and decided that it would probably be good to somehow teach my children the values that I learned being brought up in a Christian home. I remember thinking that I would definitely rather live in a neighborhood full of Christians than a neighborhood full of atheists, because I thought Christians were more “virtuous” in general.

I realized that I was being an idiot pursuing the kind of girls that I was pursuing, and I thought about all the “good girls” that I passed over when I was in college because I was looking for girls that “wanted to have fun.”

I decided that I would like to marry a Christian girl, because Christian girls are likely to be more virtuous. And because I thought that would be a good way to arrange for my kids to be brought up with Christian virtues. I decided that if I married a Christian girl, then I would be okay with going to church with her and our kids if/when we had kids for the sake of their virtues.

All of these things came together to elevate the Christian life in my eyes. Then, I “happened” to move to Houston, TX.

My brother gave me the Biblical evidence for the resurrection, and the only think I had to cling to was that the Bible wasn’t credible.

Then I came to realize that there was an enormous difference in the way that I read things. I remembered reading “The Da Vinci Code,” and I couldn’t get enough of it. As ludicrous as the ideas that “The Da Vinci Code” puts forth were, just the idea that it provided an argument against Jesus and Christianity spurred me on and I finished it in 3 or 4 days.

So, when I “happened” to stumble across Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ,” I began reading it with a realization that I read things differently depending on whether they supported or rejected Christianity.

So, with an elevated view of the Christin life, with my brother’s arguments, and with Strobel’s evidence for the credibility of the Bible, I was convinced that Jesus really was resurrected from the dead, and that He really is the King of the universe.

I truly believe that if you do not believe, then you are in the same position that I was in. Just as I suppressed the truth so that I could live the way that I wanted to, as if there was no God, I believe that you are suppressing the truth as well.

God has made it evident to you, and you have decided to reject the evidence. The poetry of life screams that there was a Divine Poet who set it all in motion, and we will all come face to face with Him one day.

If you do not repent of your sins, and turn to Jesus and accept and treasure Him as the only way to be reconciled with God, then you will have no excuse on that day.

I hope and pray that God will pursue you in the same way that He pursued me, because I know that I do not deserve it any more than you do.

Whatever explanations or excuses you have cannot account for the perfection and righteousness that God requires of us. Jesus’ death on the cross bought you, whether you accept it or not. The God who created everything in this universe requires absolute perfection and absolute righteousness from us. None of us are anything close to absolutely perfect or absolutely righteous. But our infinitely just and loving Creator provides an absolute perfection and an absolute righteousness in the person of Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully man. And that perfection and that righteousness are extended to all who will accept it. It is an open invitation to all who are willing to give up the filth of this world for the treasures that God has to offer, lose the life that they want, and find the better life and the satisfaction that are only possible in Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Power that is in Heaven.

December 1, 2007 Posted by | Atheism, Atheist, children, Christ, Christianity, family, God, grace, Jesus, Life, love, mercy, Religion, Resurrection, righteousness, spouse, testimony, the Bible, virtue | 14 Comments

More Precious than Gold.

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children,’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and though of man.

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”  –Acts 17:24-31

December 1, 2007 Posted by | Acts 17:24-31, Christ, Christianity, God, Gospel, Jesus, Paul, Religion, Sermon on Mars Hill | 1 Comment