Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

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.”

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

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

Keep Your Eyes On Him. (Part I)

I just finished moving out of my apartment today.  Something that I realized is how quickly things lose value when you are moving.  I saw the decrease in my stuff’s value in two ways:  1) how easy it was to throw things away, and 2) how little I now like the things that I did not throw away.  After all of the time and effort that I put into the move, I thought that if Jesus showed up and told me to sell everything I had and to follow Him, then that would be easier than ever- not only because it’s Jesus, but also because I don’t like my stuff a whole lot right now.

The thought that followed that one was how much this stuff- that now had little or no value to me- had distracted me from Jesus in the past year.  So as I write this blog to you, dear reader, pray for me that I will greatly improve in the area of keeping my own eyes on Him.  I do not keep my eyes on Him as well as I ought, but I caught a mere glimpse of Him and it was enough to change my heart, my dreams, and my life. 

In this blog I would like to encourage you to keep your eyes on Christ Jesus our Lord, who has the power to forgive us of our sins because He died for them on the cross, God raised Him from the dead, and He will judge us all one day.  Believe in Him and repent of your sins and you will be saved.  The problem that we face in the struggle to keep our eyes on Him has nothing to do with Him.  He is the most glorious sight that our eyes could ever and will ever behold.  Therefore, what we need is merely to see Him more clearly.  My aim in this blog is to help you to see Christ more clearly by reading the Old Testament the way that Jesus and the authors of the New Testament read it: typologically.

I would like to briefly define typology, discuss why I think that Jesus and the authors of the New Testament read the Old Testament typologically, and end with my typological argument that Jesus is the Old Testament’s promised Messiah. 

According to my brother‘s definition, typology requires two things: 1) a divine pattern of events that is 2) fulfilled (with escalation) in Jesus.  So a typological understanding of an event would include both the divine pattern and how it was fulfilled, with greater significance, in Jesus.  I will give an example shortly when I show why I think the New Testament authors read the Old Testament typologically.

I believe that Jesus gave us all reason to look for more than just what is apparent on the surface of the Old Testament Scriptures in His conversation with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”  Luke 24:25-27

And when He spoke to His disciples later in Luke 24:

“Then he said to them,  ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'” Luke 24:44-47

This not only shows us that there is more to the Scriptures than what the disciples on the road to Emmaus saw (and I don’t think we should assume to be more intelligent than them), but it also gives credibility to the way that the New Testament authors interpreted the Old Testament.  The risen Christ “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”  And if the New Testament authors learned to interprit the Scriptures from Jesus, then the way that they interprited it is the way that He interpreted it.

So how did the New Testament authors understand the Scriptures?  Typologically.  I believe this is very apparent in Matthew 2:15, where the apostle Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1. 

“This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'” Matthew 2:15

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Hosea 11:1

In Matthew 2:13-15, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt.  They stayed there until King Herod died, at which time God called His Son, Jesus, out of Egypt.  Matthew then says this fulfills what the prophet had spoken.  The apparent problem is that the prophet, Hosea, was not speaking of the Messiah.  He was speaking of Israel.  So we have to explain why Matthew interprets Hosea’s looking back to the Exodus as pointing forward to the Messiah.  Matthew was either wrong here or he saw something deeper than the surface.

(To be continued…)

May 10, 2008 Posted by | Christianity, Jesus, Typology | , , | 1 Comment

“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

My “Case for Christ”

Four convincing pieces evidence for Christianity, in my opionion:  the spread of the early Christian church on the basis of eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection in the face of brutal persecution, the willingness of all twelve of Jesus’ disciples to die for the belief that He was resurrected, the conversion of Saul/Paul, and the change in the life of Jesus’ brother James.
 
The founder and foundation of Christianity, Jesus Christ, was brutally murdered on the cross.  He was beaten to near death, forced to carry the crossbeam of His cross through town, had nails driven through His feet and wrists, the distance between the nails through His wrists would have forced His shoulders to be dislocated by the weight of His body, and His body weight would have eventually caused Him to suffocate when He could no longer push Himself up on the nail through His feet to be able to breathe.  I say that not to necessarily focus on the Cross, but to direct your attention to the people of that time.  This man claimed to be the Messiah of God.  There is historical evidence that He really lived and that He really performed super-natural feats, but this had to look like the end of His claims to be the Son of God.  His disciples were discouraged.
 
Add to that the fact that early Christians were persecuted by the Roman empire and others.  They were hung, crucified both right-side-up and upside-down, beheaded, and burnt at the stake.  And yet Christianity spread like wild fire in those days.  And the simple fact that there are still Christian churches almost 2000 years later, in spite of numerous efforts to nip Christianity in the bud, says a lot.  Early Christians had to simply renounce Christianity to save their lives, but they wouldn’t do it.  People who witnessed the murder of Christians became Christians.  Does that not defy all logic?  The man who was leading one of Jesus’ disciples to his execution professed Christianity and was beheaded with him.
 
All twelve of the disciples were willing to die rather than renounce their belief that Jesus was the Messiah, based on His resurrected appearance to them three days after the Crucifixion.  If it was all a lie or a hoax, would you not expect at least one of them to renounce and tell the executioners what they wanted to hear in order to save his life?
 
Then you have the apostle Paul, who was previously called Saul.  Saul was a Pharisee, on the rise in the Jewish elite.  He had fame, status, and power, and he was on the rise in large part because of his relentless persecution of Christians.  Then on the road to Damascus, the Bible says that Jesus appeared to Saul, blinded him, and told him that he would go by the name Paul from then on.  So Saul/Paul is converted and goes from being the most prominent persecutor of Christians to becoming a Christian himself and suffering all kinds of persecution himself, and he wrote a large portion of the New Testament.
 
Then you have James, the brother of Jesus.  He did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah while Jesus was alive.  Then Jesus is brutally murdered, as I described already.  Then the Bible says that Jesus appeared to James, along with over 500 others including the twelve disciples.  Remember Jesus has just been brutally murdered, and a similar brutal murder is all but promised to anybody who is a follower of Jesus.  James then becomes a ‘pillar’ of the Christian church, and he was writing and teaching in Jerusalem, and he was responsible for the conversion of an enormous number of people. 
 
So the Jews, the Pharisees, and the Scribes who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah saw James as a problem.  They decided to put him on the top of the temple while there were a multitude of people in Jerusalem for the passover feast one year, so that they could persuade him to renounce Christianity with all those witnesses.  Instead of renouncing, James affirmed that Jesus was the Messiah and said that He ‘sits at the right hand of the Power that is in Heaven.’  They decided to throw him off the temple so that the people would be afraid to believe as he believed.  The fall did not kill him, and he rose to his knees and prayed for the men who had just thrown him off of a temple.  They proceeded to stone him, and he was finally killed when a man struck him over the head with a club.
 
We all have the idea of God, but we have also all sinned and our sin causes a seperation between us and God.  It is not a matter of living as good as we can and hoping that the good outweighs the bad, as other religions propose.  Jesus was and is God, and His death on the cross provides the only path to be reconciled with God.  Jesus taught that we had to be perfect and have perfect righteousness in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.  But none of us can attain perfection or perfect righteousness.  ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’
 
Thats where Jesus comes in.  He lived a perfect life and had perfect righteousness.  He knew no sin, but died the death for our sin.  We know no righteousness, but through His death on the Cross we can have forgiveness for our sins, His perfection, and His righteousness.  Our sin for His righteousness.  His death for our life.  That is the Gospel, and that is Christianity.

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Atheism, Atheist, Christ crucified, Faith, Jesus, Messiah, Resurrection | 1 Comment

“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

“Jesus vs religion”

This is a great video of Mark Driscoll, pastor at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church.

He says that religion and Jesus are not exactly the same thing.  He says that religion leads to either pride or despair, whereas Jesus leads to humble, confident joy.

I guess in a way you could say that Jesus leads to pride and despair, rather than either/or, and that leads to joy.

We despair in our position before Jesus in all His glory, knowing that He was and is fully God and fully man, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Alpha and the Omega, etc.  And we are selfish, prideful, impatient sinners.

Yet we take pride in the cross.  And we take pride in Jesus.  And we take pride in knowing that, through Jesus, we who are guilty have been and always will be proclaimed innocent before the One Lawgiver and Judge, who is righteous, holy, just, loving, and so much more!

John Piper and his Desiring God Ministries like to use the first part of 2 Corinthians 6:10, which says simply, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”

We are not to be either sorrowful or rejoicing.  We are to be sorrowful and rejoicing.

Sorrowful for our sins.  Sorrowful for souls that are perishing.  Sorrowful for the sorry state of our culture.  Sorrowful for those around us who do not know Jesus.  Sorrowful for ministries that are not Jesus-centered.  Sorrowful for people who read the Bible and don’t see Jesus in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Sorrowful for the pain that Jesus suffered on the cross, and the pain, suffering, and persecution that those who have fully served Jesus have endured.

And yet in the face of all of that sorrow, we are to rejoice! Rejoice in the fact that our sins, which are many, are washed away and gone!  Rejoice in the fact that God was merciful enough to give eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that understand to a bunch of undeserving sinners like us!  Rejoice that God is able to save souls in the midst of and in spite of a depraved culture such as ours!  Rejoice at the opportunities we are given to bring the joy that only Jesus can give to those around us in our daily lives!  Rejoice in the ministries that are Jesus-centered!  Rejoice that the Old Testament points forward to a coming Messiah!  Rejoice that the New Testament proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Seed of the woman sent to crush the serpant’s head!  Rejoice that Jesus endured the immense pain of the cross “for the joy that lay before Him”!  Rejoice that the cross was not the end of Jesus’ story! Rejoice that He conquered death to bring life to the dead!  Rejoice that those who have suffered, even unto death, for the name and glory of Jesus Christ have been blessed with the crown of life!

And rejoice and delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate on His law day and night!

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” -Hebrews 10:23

November 7, 2007 Posted by | Christ, Jesus, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church | Leave a comment