Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2 Timothy 2:15-A Workman Approved Not Ashamed part 2

This is part two of a sermon I preached at my church for AWANA awards night in June of 2008. You can see part one here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2 Timothy 2:15-A Workman Approved Not Ashamed part 1

This is part one of a sermon I preached in our church during the AWANA awards night in June of 2008. It was the first opportunity I'd had to preach in about 2 years. Hope the "rust" doesn't show. Haa haa

Friday, September 26, 2008

Matthew 5:12 Joy in spite of Persecution Part III

I am currently working on the largest audit that our office does during the year. Our team is putting in a lot of overtime and we’re all pretty exhausted. My wife says she feels sometimes like an Audit Widow. I mean, I’m home every evening but I’m still putting in a bunch of overtime which tends to continue to affect me even when I’m not at work because I am so tired. There is one thought that really helps me get through this time of year every year—it will eventually be over. We will eventually finish the audit work, our spring audits are much less stressful, and I can finally take some time off and relax. There will be a reward, someday, for my hard work. In much the same way, Jesus reminds us here in this verse that our hard word of proclaiming the gospel to the whole world and enduring persecution for His precious name will one day pay off.

Jesus tells us that when we face persecution as described in verse 10 and 11 of this chapter, our reaction should be to “Rejoice and be glad”. Observe that these are both present imperatives: they are not suggestions but commands. It seems logical that we would be commanded to do this because obviously our natural reaction to persecution is not going to be to jump up and down in celebration (be glad-agalliao [21] “jump, leap, spring up”) or loudly cheer (rejoice-chairo [5463] “full of cheer”). It would not be normal for someone under persecution to do an end zone dance and shout merrily. The joy that we should have in persecution is empowered by the Holy Spirit as are all the other beatitudes. We see in Acts 5:41 that the disciples were rejoicing to have been counted worthy to be persecuted for the cause of Christ. Our flesh does not enjoy persecution but our reaction to persecution demonstrates the genuineness of our faith in Christ. While we endure trials in our present condition, we can know that our future is truly secure, as Christ teaches us.

He says that those who are spiritually happy (blessed) during times where they are persecuted for their faith in Christ should rejoice “for your reward in heaven in great”. Here on earth, we are the butt of jokes. Our faith is mocked. We are rebuked for holding to biblical morality—and that’s just by people who name the name of Christ. Christians face physical persecution all over the world and many are killed. We may be treated as 2nd class citizens in this world but God will give us a “reward” (misthos-3408). Our faithfulness to the cause of Christ does not earn us a reward as an employee earns wages but rather is a reflection of the generosity and love of our heavenly Father. We may suffer lack here but in our future we can see that we are amply supplied. Jesus says not only are we rewarded but that our reward in heaven is “great” (polus-4183 many in number, large in quantity). While certainly there are Christians who are wealthy, the majority of believers, like the majority of people, are blessed by God but are not wealthy. However,” in heaven” after our lives of faithful service have ended here on earth we will receive this great reward and be able to sing praises to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. We can be encouraged and encourage one another as we meditate upon this truth. Our lives on earth are sometimes hard but our reward in heaven is worth it all.

Finally, as we suffer persecution in the present, we can be encouraged not only by the promise of our home in heaven but also because of the faithful example of past saints. I read things on the internet and hear people on the radio and TV who mock the word of God. The hatred this world has for the gospel is very discouraging. Sometimes, it seems like it would be easier to just give up an stay silent—just live out our lives in peace and quiet. However, we need to remember that we suffer persecution because we speak God’s truth and that this world has always persecuted those who speak the truth. Jesus Himself says that the world “persecuted the prophets who were before you”. The faithful prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke the word of God to the world without compromise. They were persecuted, stoned, beaten, and ignored. Still they faithfully proclaimed the truth. If you and I proclaim the truth of God’s word to this lost and dying world we should expect to be treated just as these faithful people were treated.

You know, I think that’s pretty good company to be in, don’t you?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Homosexuality and Romans 1: What is “Therefore” there for?

This is part two of a three part series of blog posts where I am examining the theological arguments, if you can call them that with a straight face, which some people use to try to excuse homosexual behavior. The saddest part of this is that there are people who name the name of Christ who suggest that either we shouldn’t proclaim that homosexuality is called sinful in the Bible (Now that’s not for me to judge. It’s between them and God, bless their hearts) or they take the stance that homosexuality is actually compatible with Christianity and that the suggestion that it is sinful behavior is just cultural prejudice. We will look today at another favorite twisting of scripture employed by the “Gay is ok” crowd and see if it makes sense as we look in the Bible.

Romans 1:18-23 is the absolute clearest explanation in the New Testament, and in my opinion in all of scripture, of the sinfulness of man. It reads, in the NASB, as follows:

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. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Pretty straight forward, right? I mean, the gist of what Paul is saying is that the history of mankind and society does not demonstrate that as society developed we became more moral. Quite the opposite, actually. We became, and are becoming, progressively more sinful and anti-God. We started out rejecting Him and then fashioned gods for ourselves and others to worship. This is a sweeping generalization of how man has progressed not a point by point exhaustive listing of all societies and people every where. The next verses are where the “Gay is ok” crowd make their mistake. Verses 24-27 read:

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

Both verse 24 and 26 have a Greek word dio or dia which is translated Therefore or For this reason. Homosexual revisionists claim that this indicates that God allowed those who were engaged in worship of idols to be given over to unnatural homosexual desires. They argue that the real sin being discussed here is idol worship and temple prostitution. However, this does not fit the context, unless of course you have an agenda that you want to promote. As we read these verses, one fact becomes very clear-the progression of sin. They suppress the truth, they reject God’s revelation of Himself in nature, and they refuse to worship Him but rather choose to worship something they themselves have made. It’s like a slippery, snow-covered hill. Mankind has progressed in wickedness. Then, you get to the point where you would even reject something as basic and fundamental to nature as the normal way for people to have sex. Clearly, Paul was not talking about homosexuality divorced from the contest of his argument.

Finally, if Paul meant that homosexuality was something God gave these idolaters over to as punishment for their sin, God was not very successful at punishing them. Quite obviously, not everyone who worshipped an idol also participated in homosexual relationships. In fact, there were male and female temple prostitutes. It is not reasonable to assume that everyone who worshipped idols all of a sudden had their wrists go limp and started speaking with a lisp.

While we should proclaim that homosexuality is a sin, we should also recognize that we are all sinners. If it were not for the grace of our Lord Jesus, we would all be condemned to hell forever. We should be humble enough to remember that even if we were not saved out of something like homosexuality, we were saved from our sin and our sin was an affront to a holy, righteous God. Let us give Him thanks for calling us to Himself and let’s live life as he has called us to live it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Further review of The Shack-because you asked for it

One time, while watching an NFL preview show on HBO, I saw a comedian named Wanda Sykes do a short monologue on one of the games for the upcoming weekend. She said, “I have never been to Cincinnati, and I don’t ever plan on going, so I can say this with complete boldness—the Bengal’s stink”. I suppose that I would have to say the same thing about the pile of tripe that is The Shack. I am never going to meet the author and I am never going to read the book. However, I feel totally comfortable saying that I regret calling The Shack garbage in my previous post where I reprinted a review of the book. That was not the right thing to call it. I was wrong to call it that.

Calling it garbage was being far too generous. If I have garbage in my house, I can wait until the next day or so to take it to the dump (we have no city trash collection service, go fig). If my children walked into the room where we keep the trash till we’re ready to take it to the dump I’d be like “Come on, now. Get out of there.” If I found a copy of The Shack in my home I would probably burn the place down. If my children got their hands on the wretched thing I’d get industrial strength hand cleaner to wash their hands with. You know, the kind mechanics use after they’ve worked in grease. I mean, the things this man writes in this book go so far beyond heresy that it’s hard to believe that he actually wrote them. I’m not saying he’s not a Christian, or that he’s a bad husband or father. Heck, as far as I know he may be the Michael Jordan of the bar-b-que grill and give 10 hours a day volunteering at the local charity. But his book makes the Purpose Drivel Life (that was not a misspelling, I meant for it to look like that) look like Matthew Henry’s Commentary. I am going to take just a few quotes from the book and give page numbers. If you can in good conscience read the book after you see what’s in it, well, just make sure you don’t leave your copy on my doorstep when you’re done. I’d rather not have to take a jackhammer to my front porch because it had been polluted with that filth.

On page 120, the character who is written to represent God, a woman called Papa, says “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” Huh? Do what? God doesn’t need to punish people for their sin? Ok, I must really need new glasses because the Bible I read says in Psalm 1 that the wicked will not be able to stand in the judgment of Almighty God but instead will be blown around like chaff. In Matthew 7, Jesus says that some people who thought they were all religious will be told to depart from Him because He never knew them. Time and time again He mentions that those folks will be in eternal punishment “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. The book of Revelation spells it out even clearer. In chapter 20 verse 15, it says anyone who is not found with their names written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire. This fire, it says in that chapter, brings torment forever and ever. While it is true that God provided the perfect cure for sin on Calvary in the vicarious substitutionary death of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is also true that God punishes sin. Therefore, what is written in The Shack contradicts clear biblical teaching. Regardless of any good anyone might find in there, reading the book is not worth it. I mean, who would look in a pile of cow manure to find a diamond. Boy, if I was going to do that, it would have to be a really big diamond.

Oh, but wait—there’s more. On page 182, the character meant to represent Jesus says “Those who love me come from every stream that exists. They were Buddhists or
Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions”. Mack asks for clarification. “Does that mean...that all roads will lead to you?” “'Not at all,' smiled Jesus...'Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you'”. Jesus then goes on to say “I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu (the character who plays the Holy Spirit).” Here is the problem with these two quotes. The first might not be something that would make you go “Eek” upon first reading. I believe God can save anyone anywhere. You don’t have to be a part of the right group to be saved. Could God save a Mormon? No doubt if that Mormon confessed with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in their heart God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). I mean, they’d need to get out of their LDS cult and all because you can’t be a Christian and stay there. That’s a rabbit trail for another sunny day. However, what the character doesn’t do is say that there is only one way to heaven. In fact, the next quote from the character playing Jesus says “I am the BEST way any human can relate” (emphasis mine) to God. “Best” isn’t exclusive folks. When I’m at work, I have quite a bit of control over how I do my work. There are times where, when I have finished an assignment, that my supervisor will review it and say “Let’s do this”. Sometimes I find that what I did was good but their way was better. There may be a way to do the task even better than what my supervisor had suggested and that way might be best. So, if Jesus is the BEST way that suggests by the very way that it was worded that there are other ways that are not as good but would still do the job. Saying Jesus is the BEST way is a far cry from saying He is the ONLY way, which is what the Bible teaches.

Oh, but lest you think I’m finished, check out this little nugget from the author. On page 99, the character who is supposed to be God says “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood”. Dear reader, God the Father did not take on flesh and dwell among us. That was God the Son-the Word of God (John 1:14). Nor did the third person of the Trinity take on flesh—I mean, He’s called the Holy Spirit, right? Further, Jesus says in John 4:24 that God is a Spirit. Again, what we see is the clear distinction between the heresy written in The Shack and the truth written in God’s word.

In the end, you and I have to make a choice. Where do we stand? Do we stand with what Scripture plainly teaches or do we allow ourselves to entertain thoughts that obviously contradict scripture. My prayer is that you will decide to fill your mind with things that edify you and build you up as a believer. The garbage that is between the covers of the Shack will do neither.

Homosexuality and the Words of Jesus-“If He was silent…”

People crack me up. They honestly do. One of the most amusing things that I see from time to time is someone who claims to be a Christian yet wants to hold to a false or heretical doctrine in spite of the clear teaching of the bible. I’m not talking about just minor issues either—I mean actual heresy. For instance, there are people who claim to be Christians who say that homosexuality is not a sin. God, in their view, accepts loving, committed homosexual relationships and that those relationships are not sinful. They use many methods to try to skirt around the clear teaching of the bible on this issue. We’re going to take a look over a series of 3 posts at 3 of the main arguments used by “Gay Christians” and their supporters.

One of the favorite defenses employed by the “Gay is OK” crowd is the claim that Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality and, therefore, it must not really be that big of a deal to God. They suggest that in fact cultural prejudice has lead to Christians calling homosexuality sin and that we should exhibit a more Christ-like spirit and accept the fact that since He didn’t preach against it, we shouldn’t preach against it.

There are a few facts that these individuals tend to forget. First of all, Jesus came primarily to minister to the Jews (Matthew 15:24). Jewish culture was quite strict regarding acceptable and unacceptable sexual behavior. There were few sins in the Old Testament that would earn someone the death penalty—homosexual behavior under any circumstances was one of them. Therefore, at least one reason that might explaion why we don’t have any records of Jesus teaching on homosexuality is that it wasn’t a problem for Jewish people. It was rarely found among them. This was not the case for the Roman culture of the day. In fact, it was considered quite normal for men to engage in homosexual relations. The culture even went so far as to suggest that the most compatible sexual partner for a man was another man. Jesus came to preach the gospel everywhere He went and certainly He ministered to Gentiles. However, as noted in the verse from Matthew above, Jesus’ primary ministry was first to the Jews. It was not the Jews who had a problem with homosexuality but rather it was the Hellenistic culture of the Romans.

Second of all, it is important to note that what we have recorded in the 4 gospels are the inerrant, inspired words of God. The church has always held to verbal plenary inspiration. In other words, every word that is in the original autographs is the exact word that God intended for the writer to write and there are no mistakes or errors at all in whole or in part in scripture. However, that does not mean that the 4 gospels record every word that Jesus ever spoke verbatim. We don’t have a transcript of His life, We have rather 4 complimentary views and records of His ministry. It would seem unlikely that Jesus taught about homosexuality. On the other hand, as John notes in his gospel (21:25), we have a written account of Jesus’ life and teachings for the purpose of leading us to repentance and faith not for the purpose of an exhaustive inventory of everything He ever said or did.

Finally, we should recognize that the gospels are not more authoritative than other scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is given by inspiration of God. Furthermore, as Peter notes in 2 Peter 1:20-21 that all scripture has the same origin—inspiration by the Holy Spirit of God. Therefore, we cannot simply choose to ignore clear teachings in Romans 1 concerning homosexuality simply because Christ is not recorded as having taught on the subject. In fact, Paul himself puts the teaching that he gives in scripture such as Romans as being equal to the teaching of Christ Himself (I Corinthians 7:12).

Therefore, because we have the sure, true word of God we can know that homosexuality is a sin and that, just like any sin, it must be repented of. Praise God who so graciously grants repentance and freedom from sin.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A review of The Shack

As any reader of this blog could attest, I love the word of God. I believe it is an amazing gift from our Father and we should treasure it and study its priceless truths. Recently, a book has been published called The Shack. I read a book review of this work of fiction and have reprinted part of that review below. Someone might ask “Have you read this book and if not, why would you reproduce a negative review of it? Shouldn’t you be open-minded enough to examine it for yourself?” No, I have not read it. I’m somewhat busy this time of year with the biggest audit our office performs. Furthermore, this is college football season. Finally, I have a 4 year old, a 21 month old, and my wife at home. I don’t have a lot of free time for frivolous reading. Also, if someone tells me a stove is hot I don’t have to touch it to confirm that it is hot. The decision to read this book or not isn’t like an audit where I have to obtain sufficient competent evidential matter to corroborate the reviewer’s assertion that the book stinks. In much the same way as I am sure you have decided not to see a movie base on a review of that movie, I have decided not to read this garbage (calling it garbage is kind). If that makes me an uneducated, narrow-minded, fundamentalist hick I will wear that title with pride. After all, I’ve been called much worse. I post below the excerpt from the review regarding how The Shack appears to regard the Bible. You can find the whole review here.

There are few doctrines more important to settle than the doctrine of revelation. It is this doctrine that teaches us how God has chosen to reveal Himself to human beings. While every theistic religion teaches that God chooses to communicate with humans, they vary radically in the ways He does so. Christians are known as being a people of the book, people who cling to the Scripture as the revealed will of God. The Bible, we believe, is a unique gift given to us as an expression of God's love—as an expression of Himself. Not surprisingly, revelation is central to The Shack.

Christians hold to the belief that the Bible is the only infallible source of God’s revelation to us. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. The best place to begin with understanding the Bible is to learn what it says about itself. The Bible testifies to its own uniqueness and sufficiency. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17). It testifies to its own perfection and power. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). It testifies to its own completeness. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18,19).

Clearly the Bible demands for itself a place of prominence and preeminence. It demands that it be held as God’s most important revelation to us, Some people believe, though, that the revelation given to us in the Bible needs to be supplemented or superseded by fresh revelation. This is especially a temptation in an age like ours where we tend to value what is new more than what is ancient. A question worth asking is this one: does The Shack point Christians to the unfailing standard of Scripture or does it point them to new and fresh revelation?

Ever since humans fell into sin, the history of God’s communication with people has been a history of mediation. Mediation is a concept we encounter often today. We hear of sports contracts being settled by mediation; we hear of lawyers becoming involved in mediation between divorcing couples. These (situations) hint at mediation as we understand it from the Bible. In rejecting God’s goodness and benevolence and in putting himself in place of God, our forefather Adam erected a barrier between himself and God. The close communion that had once existed was ruptured and destroyed. No longer would God come walking with humans in the cool of the day; no longer would He allow them to stay in His Garden. He forced them out and barred the way so they could not return. The very next passage of Scripture relates the first murder. Human history had taken a drastic, horrifying turn for the worse. The lines of communication had been shattered.

From that time, God no longer allowed people to commune with Him in the same way. From that point on, man could no longer approach God as he had in the Garden. He had to approach God through a mediator. When we think of mediators we may think first of Moses, a man to whom God revealed Himself and a man whose task it was to then make the will of God known to the Israelites. After Moses was Joshua, and after Joshua were judges and prophets. There were priests to stand between God and man, offering to God sacrifices on behalf of the people and bestowing God’s blessings and curses on His behalf. Always there were mediators, always there were people standing between God and man. Always people must have realized their inability to approach God as they were. Always they must have wondered, “How can we approach God directly?”

God's revelation to us is now mediated. We may long for im-mediate or unmediated communication, but today our sin stands between us and the Holy God. God has given his full and perfect and sufficient revelation in the Bible. It is in the Bible that God gives us the rule as to how we may know Him and how we may live in a way that honors Him. How will God reveal himself to us according to William Young? “You will learn to hear my thoughts in yours” (195), says Sarayu. “You might see me in a piece of art, or music, or silence, or through people, or in Creation, or in your joy and sorrow. My ability to communicate is limitless, living and transforming, and it will always be tuned to Papa’s goodness and love. And you will hear and see me in the Bible in fresh ways. Just don’t look for rules and principles; look for relationship—a way of coming to be with us” (198). He may reveal Himself savingly through stories that merely and loosely parallel the story of Jesus' sacrifice (185). Young consistently downplays Scripture at the expense of personal experience. What Young indicates in The Shack is that we must expect God to reveal Himself in unmediated ways. God will reveal Himself to us in the Scripture, but only as one way out of many. Nowhere is Scripture given the place of prominence or uniqueness that it demands of itself. But without the Scripture as our norm, as our rule, we are subject to every whim. Only when we maintain the superiority of the Bible can we measure all of our behavior and all of our beliefs against the perfect measure given to us by God.

Despite the Bible's testimony to its own unique qualities, the majority of The Shack's references to Scripture are negative in their tone. They do not affirm the Bible as God’s perfect revelation to us, but instead focus on its abuse at the hands of those who profess
Christ or on supposed old-fashioned notions about it. Early in the book, for example, the reader learns that Mack has a seminary education, but one that downplayed the means God uses to reveal Himself. “In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners’ access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges” (65-66)? Yet nowhere would the Bible indicate that it is God's voice “reduced” to paper. Nowhere would the Bible downplay its own importance as written revelation. There is nothing reductionistic about the Bible or the fact that it is written revelation! We must not downplay the beauty, the power or the sufficiency of the Bible.

Just reading the review makes me want to find the author of The Shack and challenge him to a 10 round bout of Rock “Em Sock “Em Robots just so I could knock his robot’s head off. It wouldn’t change anything but it sure would make me feel a whole lot better. As Worf said in Star Trek: Insurrection “Definitely feeling aggressive tendencies, sir.” I’m surprised the book doesn’t come with a forward by Oprah Winfrey, Rick Warren, or Joel Osteen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

II Peter 1:4b The Amazing Gift of God’s Word part 2

I went to a funeral for a dear lady from our church yesterday. She was fairly quiet and not in very good health for the 3 years that I knew her. However, if you knew her at all you could tell how much she loved the Lord. She didn’t talk about her faith, she lived it. My wife had been going to that church for about 3 months and the church offered to throw us a baby shower. Not only did Mrs. Martha give us a gift at that shower but several times both before and after the baby was born she gave us little things. As I read this section of scripture in preparation to write this bit of commentary, I couldn’t help but think of Mrs. Martha. She was living proof of the life changing power of God’s word. As we study this scripture today, we should be convicted of that same power and encouraged to disseminate that truth at every opportunity.

Peter says, in the first part of verse 4, that God has given us “precious and magnificent promises”. Of course, we find these promises in the word of God. It is important to note further that Peter begins here to tell us an important reason why God chose to reveal Himself in a book to us. The power of scripture is supernatural and can totally change our lives. As we are confronted with the supernatural truth in scripture our sin is revealed and God’s holiness is proclaimed. Peter says in the latter part of verse “so that by them [the scriptures] you may become partakers of the divine nature”. The bible, then, is an agent of spiritual transformation in the life of the believer. I struggle with my temper, my pride, and unforgiveness. So when I read in Matthew 5 about having pride, being gentle, and forgiving people I am not only convicted but I am challenged to live in a manner that is consistent with my profession of faith. I don’t see the word of God as some legalistic code but rather as a model of what God is conforming me into—a picture of what Jesus looked like. This is a daily source of encouragement to me.

Peter doesn’t just say that the bible is a tool God uses to transform us but also he tells us what that transformation involves. In other words, what is happening in our lives as we are being transformed? Peter says that “you [and I] may become partakers of the divine nature”. First of all, Peter tells us that this transformation is a process. We are not going to be conformed to the likeness of Christ completely until He comes to take us home as He did my friend Mrs. Martha this past week. However, as Christians, we will grow spiritually while living in this world. Peter uses a Greek word “ginomai” (1096) which is translated “may become”. The word, as it is used in the New Testament often has the idea of growth or process. You and I are always going to be works in progress while living in this world. The song our children sing “He’s still working on me” is applicable to us whether we’re 7 or 73. I think of my dear friend Mrs. Martha again as I meditate on this truth. She was 70 years old before she got saved. When she started going to our church she told her daughter “I’m not a sinner so I couldn’t need a savior, right?” She had a lived a good life by human standards—probably better than some Christians. However, when the Lord opened her eyes and began to draw her to Himself as she listened to the preaching of His word, she came to recognize her sin and to repent and truth Christ as her Savior. From that point, as she studied the word of God, she grew spiritually. She did not fully become everything God had saved her to be until the day He took her home to glory. However, she did mature as a Christian. In that sense, it could very well be said of her that she was in the process of becoming and that process was due in part to the precious word of God.

Peter further tells us what we’re going to look like when this transformation is finished. He writes that we will be “partakers of the divine nature”. This phrase was used in the pagan religions of that day and expressed the idea of man becoming divine. In other words, man could become not just like a god but could in fact himself become a god. Peter takes this Hellenistic concept and uses it to describe the spiritual growth of a Christian. Peter here does not teach that men can become god’s in their own right. There are attributes of God that are not communicable—we cannot posses them. He is the source or cause for His own existence and has life in Himself. As John Gill notes in his commentary on the bible:

“the nature, perfections, and glory of God, are incommunicable to creatures; nor, hypostatically and personally, so as the human nature of Christ, in union with the Son of God, is a partaker of the divine nature in him; but by way of resemblance and likeness, the new man or principle of grace, being formed in the heart in regeneration, after the image of God, and bearing a likeness to the image of his Son”

The word Peter uses for divine further evidences that there is a difference between God and man even though man is now a new creature in Christ if he is a Christian. Peter refers to the “divine nature”. The word “divine” translates a Greek word “theios” (2304) which does not refer to God’s essence in totality but rather an attribute of God such as, in this context, His holiness. No where does scripture teach that you and I are going to be gods ourselves but rather that you and I now have the Spirit of God living within us and we can become like God. Spiritually, we are transformed to be more like God as we submit to the truths found in His word. Because of the life changing truth of God’s word, we should give Him thanks and praise.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Matthew 5:11 Joy in spite of Persecution Part II

I have faced situations that have caused me great anxiety in my life. Probably one of the scariest was the birth of my first child. Kids scared me to death. The idea of changing a poop diaper was particularly frightening. But the thing that was the most terrifying to me was the prospect of seeing my wife go through labor. I wasn’t sure what to expect. We went to the usual child birth classes and I found those to be quite helpful. Once I heard about what sorts of things to expect, practiced the breathing exercises, and talked with other expectant parents I noticed I was much less nervous. It was still scary but I was prepared for what would happen. In much the same way, Jesus prepared us for how we are going to be treated by the world in verse 10 of this chapter. In verses 11 and 12, He provides divine commentary on His word that helps explain the sorts of things that we should expect as we live as redeemed children of the King in this world.

First of all, observe what Jesus says that people will say about us. Jesus says that people will “insult you”. The word insult is “oneidizo” (3679) and the literal meaning of the word is “to cast into the teeth”. It can mean to hurl a personal insult at someone but it also can mean to rebuke or reproach someone. For instance, in Matthew 11:20 the word is used when Matthew writes “20 Then He began to denounce (oneidizo) the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent”. The term is also used to describe insulting or making fun of someone in Matthew 27:44 “44 The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting (oneidizo) Him with the same words”. I have been called a right-wing, narrow minded, ignorant, Bible thumping fundamentalist—and that’s just by other people who claim to be Christians. It should come as no surprise when we proclaim the truth of God’s word and try to live out that truth in this world that the world not only doesn’t give us a standing ovation but calls us names. People call us all sorts of hateful names because of what we stand for and what we stand against. We will be the butt of public jokes. Our faith is now openly mocked on T.V. and in other media. In fact, it seems as though orthodox Christianity is the only truly safe target in all religions for the world to make fun of. We’re also not only insulted, but we’re also rebuked. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard “The bible says you shouldn’t judge others” I would probably be able to take a nice vacation somewhere with my family. We are told that we are hateful for holding to biblical morality. A law was introduced in this country that could potentially have made it criminal for a pastor to stand in the pulpit and call homosexuality a sin. However, we shouldn’t act surprised when we are scolded for our faith. We have been told here by our Lord to expect it and that we will be blessed for it.

Secondly, Jesus tells us how we will be treated. We will not only be spoken to in a rude, insulting manner, but we will also be “persecuted (dioko-1377). First of all, this word has the idea of chasing or pursuing someone or something. It is the same word Paul uses in Philippians 3:6 when he says that he persecuted the church. We all know how intensely he did that. He went out of his way to go after the followers of Christ and was passionate about it. It seemed as if he had the mindset of wanting to exterminate them like we would want to rid our homes of roaches. In the history of the church, Christians have in fact been treated as vermin in all parts of the world. In the first generation church, men and women were martyred in brutal, horrific ways—burned at the stake, crucified, fed to lions, and drowned. This kind of persecution is not common perhaps in my country but it nonetheless happens in other parts of the world. The fact is, it is not something that should take us by surprise or cause us to lose heart. We can be encouraged by the fact that even though we may face physical persecution our soul is safe and will be in heaven with our Lord when our body dies.

Finally, we see how people will talk about us to others. Jesus says that people “will falsely say all kinds of evil” against us. People will lie about us in order to defame our character and tarnish our witness. In the trial Jesus faced before the Jews, false witnesses were called but they couldn’t get their story straight. Finally, two of those knuckleheads finally were able to lie well enough to say the same thing. They claimed that Christ said He would destroy the temple. The implication was that He would insight rebellion against the Jewish religion. Of course, that had nothing to do with what He meant. In the early church, people falsely reported that Christians practiced cannibalism during the Lord’s Supper. Nero even suggested that it was Christians who burned Rome. Over and over again, people lie intentionally about us and our faith because our faith stands as a testament to the evil of the world system. They say and do all this things to us but in reality they mistreat us “because of Me [Christ}”. Those who want to live in rebellion against God and His word want not only to attack the bible but also those of us who stand for the truth of the bible. We can stand strong in the midst of persecution because we know it is coming and we know through the power of our Lord we can overcome the world in His name.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Canadian Doctors worry Palin's example will lower Down's abortion rate

I read this story here. I mean, this sort of thing really grinds my gears. How anyone could suggest abortion just because the child is retarded is beyond me.

TORONTO, September 10, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's loving and highly-publicized acceptance of her Down's syndrome child Trig has some Canadian doctors worried that her example may lead to mothers shunning abortion after diagnosis of Down's syndrome.

According to the Globe and Mail, Dr. Andre Lalonde, executive vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), is worried that Palin's decision to give birth to Trig, despite knowing about his condition, could influence other women in similar situations, but who lack the financial and emotional support that Palin had access to.

"The worry is that this will have an implication for abortion issues in Canada," he said.
Citing his concern for women's "freedom to choose", Lalonde said that popular examples about women like Palin, who choose not to kill their unborn children, could have negative effects on women and their families, reported the Globe.

However, Lalonde said that doctors in Canada give balanced information about the consequences of the condition to pregnant women with a Down's child, and that women are not necessarily encouraged to abort. "We offer the woman the choice. We try to be as unbiased as possible," Lalonde said. "We're coming down to a moral decision and we all know moral decisions are personal decisions."

Krista Flint, executive director of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, however, disagreed with Lalonde's claim that pregnant women are given balanced information about the condition: "Many of the country's medical professionals only give messages of fear to parents who learn their baby will be born with the genetic condition."

The statistics for abortion amongst Down's children in Canada are stark: according to some estimates 80-90% of Canadian children with Down's syndrome are aborted.

"It's very dark," Flint said in the Globe and Mail report. "They hear a lot about the medical conditions that are sometimes associated with Down syndrome. They hear about the burden . . . it places on children and a marriage."

"They hear about things like shortened life expectancy. They hear a lot about the challenges of a life with Down syndrome. That's why Mrs. Palin has become an example that could possibly stem the tide of families who abort fetuses after a positive determination for Down syndrome," Ms. Flint said.

"We know overwhelmingly the message families get is 'Don't have this baby, it will ruin your life,' and I don't think people would look at Sarah Palin and see a ruined life," Ms. Flint said.

"Regardless of politics, I think it's a good example."
According to Physicians for Life between 84 percent and 91 percent of babies with Down syndrome are aborted in the U.S. While this figure is similar in Canada, it is even higher in England and Spain where 94 percent and 95 percent of unborn babies with Down syndrome are aborted.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus...

...the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

I really, REALLY wish I was making this up.

The saddest part about it--there are some in the church (the organization not the actual body of Christ-people who claim to be Christians but are not true Christians) that will say this is ok and that it doesn't matter.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

100th post- A Prayer Request

One of my friends from church sent a prayer request. A little girl in my area has been diagnosed with cancerous tumors behind her eyes. From what the doctors are saying, at least one of the eyes may not be salvageable. She is only 3 years old.

I have been thinking what to post for this, my 100th post. At first, I thought doing anything special would be cheesy and pretentious. However, my wife has been subscribing to the notifications on this little girl's website. I have a 4 year old daughter and a 21 month old son. I know that I would be crushed if this was to happen to my babies.

I would ask that you please:
*Pray for this little girl, her parents, and the medical personnel.
*Visit her website and leave a note on her guestbook letting them know you are praying.
*If you have a website or a blog, please put up a post for this prayer request.

Thank you all for visiting my blog. God bless you. I'm looking forward to the next 100 posts with you all.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Leaving Christ(ianity)

A few months ago I recieved an email from Reclaiming the Mind minsitries. I came across it again while looking through my emails at work and have decided to share it with you here today. I believe that the point this gentleman makes is an excellent one--we simply cannot allow ourselves to fail to think about and think through our faith. Our faith is not a blind faith. Our faith is based on truth that can be known through the word of God. While certainly God is soverign in salvation and will save those whom He wills to save that does not absolve us of responsibility to study to show ourselves approved to God (2 Timothy 2:15).

Leaving Christ(ianity) - A Christian Epidemic

I sat down with a young lady a couple of weeks ago and had a conversation. This was a conversation about faith—her faith. Better put, this was a conversation about a faith that once was and is no more. She was a very interesting and bright lady—inquisitive, well-read, and suspicious. She began by telling me that she was a Christian (past tense) and had sense left the faith. Christ was once a part of her confession, but, as she recounted to me, after a long voyage of not finding sufficient answers for her doubts, she believes that she had no choice but to follow her own integrity and renounce Christ all together. I asked her what her problems were and she became very emotional. It was like I represented Christianity and she was ready to take it all out on me.

Ignorance. Pity. Shame. These are all good descriptions of what she thought of Christianity. But the primary description that I felt coming from here was “betrayal.” She had been betrayed by the Church because they duped her into a belief not unlike that of the tooth fairy. When she discovered this betrayal, no one had a valid answer or excuse. So she left. She is now an unbeliever—a soon-to-be evangelistic unbeliever.

One fascination, obsession, and focus (neurotic pulse?) I have in my life and ministry is with regard to those, like this young lady, who leave the faith. You may have noticed this. I have over a dozen books giving autobiographical sketches of those who once proclaimed to be Christian and are now evangelistic atheists, agnostics, or skeptics, with their goal to convert or, rather, unconvert others. I have been in contact with many people who either have already left or are on the verge of leaving. I get emails, phone calls, and visits from the same.

No, it is not a neurotic pulse. I believe that it is the recognition of an extremely serious issue that we are facing today. We are facing an epidemic in Christianity—an epidemic of unbelief among our own. Crowding our churches are those who are somewhere in the process of leaving. No, I am not talking about leaving a denomination. I am not talking about abandoning some institutionalized expression of Christianity. I am not talking about leaving the church (though related). And I am not even talking about renouncing religion. I am talking about those who are leaving Christ.

Over 31 million Americans are saying “check please” to the church, and are off to find answers elsewhere. Jeff Schadt, coordinator of Youth Transition Network, says thousands of youth fall away from the church when transitioning from high school to college. He and other youth leaders estimate that 65 to 94 percent of high school students stop attending church after graduating. From my studies and experience I find that leaving church is many times the first visible step in one’s pilgrimage away from Christ.

The question that we must ask is a very simple one: Why? Why are people leaving the faith at this epidemic and alarming rate? In my studies, I have found that the two primary reasons people leave the faith are 1) intellectual challenges and 2) bad theology or misplaced beliefs.

First, I want to explain this transition process, focusing on the first: intellectual challenges. You might even find yourself somewhere on this journey.
Step one: DoubtStep two: DiscouragementStep three: DisillusionmentStep four: ApathyStep five: Departure

Step One: Doubt
Here is where the person begins to examine his or her faith more critically by asking questions, expressing concerns, and becoming transparent with their doubt. This doubt is not wholesale, but expresses an inner longing to have questions answered and the intellect satisfied to some degree. Normally this person will inquire of mentors in the faith, requesting an audience for their doubt.

Step Two: Discouragement
This is where the person becomes frustrated because they are not finding the answers. They ask questions but the answer (or lack thereof) brings them to discouragement. Their church tells them that such questions are “unchristian.” Their Sunday school teachers say “I don’t know. You just have to believe.” Others simply say, “That’s a good questions; I have never thought of it before,” and then go on their way on their own leap-of-faith journey.

Step Three: Disillusionment
Now the person begins to become disillusioned with Christianity in general and proceeds to doubt much more deeply. They feel betrayed by those who made them believe the story about Christ. They feel that much of their former faith was naive since not even their most trusted mentors could (or would) answer the most basic questions about the Bible, history, or faith. In their thinking the intellect has become illegitimized and the church is therefore an illegitimate contender for their mind.

Step Four: Apathy
At this point in the journey, the disillusioned Christian becomes apathetic to finding the answers, believing that the answers don’t exist. They are firmly on their way to atheism, agnosticism, or pure skepticism but don’t have the courage to admit it to themselves or others. Many times those in this stage live as closet unbelievers, believing it is not worth it to come clean about their departure from the faith. They want a peaceful existence in their unbelief without creating controversy. Therefore, they are content to remain closet unbelievers.

Step Five: Departure
Here is where I meet this young lady I told you about. (Really, she was somewhere in-between apathy and departure.) At this stage the fact that they have left the faith has become real to them and they are willing to announce to the world. Because of their sense of betrayal, they feel as if it is their duty to become evangelists for the cause of unbelief. Their goal and mission becomes to unconvert the converted.
Of course, as one who believes that a true Christian cannot ever lose their salvation, I believe that one who leaves the faith was not truly ever of the faith (1 John 2:19).

“I don’t really even care what you have to say to me,” she told me that day. “I just don’t believe anymore and there is nothing anyone can do about it.” As I thought about this young lady over the last week, only one thing keeps coming to mind: how was she a part of the church for so long without the church engaging her on these issues. You see, her issues were numerous, but foundational. She doubted the resurrection of Christ, the inspiration, inerrancy, and canon of Scripture, and the historicity of the Christian faith in general. If the church had legitimized her questions during the doubting phase and truly engaged her from an intellectual front I can’t help but think, from a human point of view, things might have been different. But once she reaches the point of apathy, this seems to be a point of no return.

My life and my ministry is committed to one thing: rooting people theologically by presenting the intellectual viability of the Evangelical faith. While I understand this is not all there is to the Christian faith, it is an absolutely vital part of discipleship and foundational to everything else.

Everyone will go through the doubt phase. Everyone should ask questions about the faith. If you have not asked the “How do you know . . .” questions about the message of the Gospel, this is not a good thing. We should be challenged to think through these questions early in the faith. The Church needs to rethink its education program. Expositional preaching, while important, is not enough. Did you hear that? Expositional preaching is not enough. It does not provide the discipleship venue that is vital for us to prevent and overcome this epidemic. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that it does.

The church has been on an intellectual diet for the last century and we are suffering from theological atrophy. What else do you expect when we have replaced theological discipleship with a gluttonous promotion of entertainment, numbers, and fast-food Christianity that can produce nothing more than a veneer of faith seasoned for departure?

The solution: to reform our educational program in the church; to lay theological foundations through critical thinking; to understand that the great commission is to make disciples, not simply to make converts. And most importantly, we must pray that God will grant a revival of the mind knowing that without the power of the Holy Spirit, no amount of intellectual persuasion can change an antagonistic heart. Without this, the epidemic of leaving Christ(ianity) will only worsen.

“The heart will not accept what the mind rejects.” —Jonathan Edwards

Michael PattonPresident, Reclaiming the Mind Ministries

Monday, September 8, 2008

II Peter 1:4 The Amazing Gift of God’s Word

In II Kings chapter 22, Hezekiah, the king of Judah, made a horrible discovery. He found out that he and his people had not been living according to the word of God. They had sinned and were in a position where they had they been judged they would have all been completely guilty. What makes this situation all the more pitiful is that, for years, the book of the law had been lost in the temple. They didn’t have God’s word so they had to try to figure out for themselves what they should or shouldn’t do. Can you imagine how nerve wracking that would be? We, especially those of us in the United States, take for granted having our bibles. Many of us own more than one copy of the bible. We know what God says and what He wants. Can you imagine having to try to relate to God without His perfectly inspired word to guide you? Other religions have sacred books but none of them are as historically validated or completely consistent as our bible. People that worship gods of wood, rock, or natural phenomenon have to guess what they are supposed to do. God, in His love, has revealed Himself in the pages of scripture. As Peter writes in verse 4 of chapter 1 here in II Peter, we should be thankful and give reverence to the word of God.

God did not have to reveal Himself to us in a book. In doing so, He has blessed in ways that I don’t think we as Christians spend enough time contemplating. By revealing Himself in a book and providing the overwhelming evidence to the reliability of that text, God has made His message changeless and timeless. Truly, the bible is an amazing gift from God. Peter says here in this verse “For by these (His glory and virtue mentioned in the preceding verse) He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises.” God lavishly bestowed on us a tremendous gift in giving the bible to us. Peter reiterates that idea when he says that God “granted to us” His promises which we know are revealed in Holy Scripture. The word translated “granted” is the same word used in verse 3 for “granted”—the Greek word “doreomai” (1433). It has the idea of giving in a lavish sense. Truly, but giving us His word so that we can read and study it God has given us the gift of knowing Him in a powerful way. We now, through the Bible, have a roadmap to follow as we try to walk worthy of the calling to which we were called, as Paul writes in Ephesians.

We should note further that the bible is not just a collection of wise sayings and suggestions about how to live in this world. In fact, Peter says here that God’s declaration to us, the bible, reveals “His…promises”. What amazing assurance that should give us. The same God who created the universe out of His spoken word and prophesied things before they happened because He was sovereign in His control of the universe and would, therefore, bring them to pass has given us promises. Since He has demonstrated Himself to be completely faithful in everything He has ever said, we can trust these promises as completely reliable. The word translated “promises” is the Greek word “eppagelma” (1862) and refers to a promise voluntarily or spontaneously made in contrast to one made in response to a request. In other words, God took the initiative in revealing Himself to mankind and giving us His promises. Now that He has given His promises we know that He will keep them because, as the writer of Hebrews writes, it is impossible for God to lie.
Peter further explains to us the worth of the word of God. He calls these promises of God “precious”. The Greek word used here is “timios” (5093) and it means something that is valuable, highly prized, costly, or desirable. In my humble estimation, this word describes the word of God perfectly. It is an endless treasure of spiritual riches. I once heard a preacher say “You could dig the mine of the Bible all your life and never exhaust its spiritual riches”. Obviously, something as precious as God’s word should motivate us to invest ourselves in it—our time, our intellect, our passion.

Finally, we should observe that Peter describes the supremacy of the word of God. He calls these promises not only precious but also “magnificent” (Greek “megistos” [3176]). This word is the superlative of the Greek word “megas”. In other words, there is nothing higher than God’s precious promises in the bible. The false teachers who were troubling the church that Peter wrote to here said that there were levels of spiritual truth that only they could teach. This special knowledge would lead to a higher level of spirituality. Peter, here, says that the highest and most excellent spiritual knowledge available is in the bible. God revealed it and it is therefore backed by the holy, perfect, changeless character of the God of the universe. Because of this, it is highly valuable and is the highest revelation of truth in existence. Praise God for the glorious gift of His word.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Matthew 5:10 Joy in spite of persecution

When we do something wrong, we shouldn’t act surprised or wounded when we are punished. That is a lesson I am trying to teach my children—actions have consequences. However, when a person tries to punish us for something that we didn’t do wrong, when we’ve been falsely accused, it is easy to become defensive. The worst kind of situation, however, is when we’ve actually done the right thing and someone tries to give us grief about it. As we try to live the Christian life, we may in fact have to endure persecution. Depending on where we live in this world, we can not only guarantee persecution will happen but that it will often times be violent. Jesus, knowing this, gives this last pronouncement of blessing upon those who would prove themselves to be true by enduring persecution for standing up for the truth.

It is important to observe here that the other beatitudes that have been listed are the result of the believer being changed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Because Christ now dwells in our heart, we recognize our spiritual poverty, mourn over our sin, and desire to be God controlled rather than self controlled. We have a new spiritual appetite and forgive others because we have been forgiven of so much by our gracious God. Because of the Holy Sprit, we now are clean in the deepest part of ourselves. We also seek not only to live in peace with others but more importantly we seek to share with them how they can have peace with God. These changes in our character, due to the Holy Spirit, are positive and noble. We should be esteemed by the world as great citizens and neighbors because we are a blessing to others. We should be welcomed because we have been made into new creatures of the most pleasant kind who exhibit such admirable qualities.

This, as you and I know, is not the case. In fact, becoming a Christian and being conformed more to the likeness of our Savior is more likely to cause us to lose friends rather than gain them. Jesus foreshadows this when He says that those who are spiritually happy (Blessed) are “persecuted”. The word “persecuted” translates a Greek word “dioko” (1377) which means literally “to pursue”. The idea is that of being chased. As Paul says in Philippians 3:14 “I press on (dioko) toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” However, the persecution does not come for having done anything wrong but rather is the result of exhibiting godly character and actions. Jesus says this persecution comes “for the sake of righteousness”. Why would the world do this, we might ask. I mean, if we truly are living peacefully in this world and showing the love Jesus by sharing the gospel why would the world responds with such hate? I believe our answer is in John 3:19-20 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” The world hates us and will persecute us, then, because the truth that we speak and live is a testimony against the evil that is in their hearts. Our presence makes them uncomfortable because of the truth that we reflect.

How can we have hope in the midst of this persecution? When our lives, homes, families, or freedoms are threatened, what can we cling to that will give us peace? Jesus says here that the blessing for those who are persecuted, not for doing wrong but for righteousness, is that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Again, Matthew takes care not to offend his Jewish audience by referring to the kingdom of God although that is certainly what he means. Those whose rights are disregarded and are pursued by those who with to do them harm will find rest. While they are strangers in this world, they will have a permanent home in heaven where they will no longer be persecuted. It is all too easy for us to become discouraged when we hear about or experience persecution due to the name of Christ. However, as the apostle John says in Revelation, our example is “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” (1:5) The rulers of this world might imagine that they have power over us and can torment us because of our faith in Christ, but in the end the jokes on them because He is the one really in control. We may be persecuted here but our home in heaven is forever. We will notice more specifically in the next two verses how we are persecuted and how we will be truly blessed when we get to heaven. Until then, I pray God will use this truth to encourage you to remain faithful as you serve Him where you are.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Blog Link: You really ought to read this.

When I was a pastor, I served a church where a worship attendance of 30 on Sunday Morning was a large crowd. I had the local Director of Missions for the SBC assocation our church was in tell me that I should seek to use this church to move up to a larger one in a few years. I have seen many people talk about how ministers should be professionals. I have even heard some of these ministry professionals say "I would NEVER serve as a bi-vocational pastor". This blog post over at Les Puryear's blog really touched me. Check it out and be blessed.

Joining God in His Work: Letter To the Rural Church

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

II Peter 1:3 The Blessing of Knowing God Part II

On Saturday mornings when I was a child, there was a program that came on between cartoons called “School House Rock”. One of the lyrics in the theme song said something like “It’s great to learn ‘cause knowledge is power.” I believe Peter would agree with the people who wrote that. In fact in the first part of this verse, that “He [God] divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” The method God used in directing His divine power to give us these gifts was the “true knowledge of Him”. We observed how blessed we are that God chose to reveal Himself through us in His word and how that revelation gives us the power we need to live godly lives. However, that is not the only blessing that comes from knowing God. In fact, as we’ll see today, the blessing of knowing God extends to include everything involved in our salvation.

First of all, it is important for us to realize that God is sovereign regarding the offer of salvation. We are told throughout the bible that no person is seeking after God. For instance, as David writes in Psalm 53:1-3 “There is no one who does good.2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there is anyone who understands , Who seeks after God.3 Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.” Therefore, God has to take the initiative in saving us. Peter says here that it is not man who seeks God, but rather it was God “who called us”. Peter, since he is talking to fellow Christians, is referring to the call to salvation. The bible teaches us quite a bit about this call and, more importantly, that this call is not heeded by everybody. In John 10:27, Jesus says “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” The fact is that if we respond to the gospel message and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit it is not due to our figuring things out or being more spiritually sensitive than other people. We respond because we are His sheep. We were the lost sheep who had wandered astray and, as a friend of mine has observed, lost sheep don’t go looking for shepherds.

Some people argue that teaching the sovereignty of God in salvation isn’t fair. Since God is in control of everything, how is it fair for Him to condemn anyone since it is His call that draws His sheep to Him. Why doesn’t He just elect everyone to salvation? However, that is the wrong question. The question that should arise in our minds is, “Since salvation is solely due to God’s initiative in spite of our rebellion and sinfulness, why does God save any of us?” Peter here gives us the answer. He called us, Peter says, by “His own glory and excellence”. The Lord’s “glory” (Greek-doxa 1391) is the expression of how wonderful and glorious He is. His glory never fades, never changes, and reveals Him to be the perfect, holy, righteous God who alone is worthy of our praise. The Greek word “doxa” not only refers to splendor or brightness but, as noted in Thayer’s Greek Dictionary, includes how others perceive Him. Certainly, those of us who have been called to salvation would say that we have found Him to be as good as His word. We praise Him and worship Him as our Savior and Lord. It is to His own glory, therefore, that He saves us. It also reveals His inner character. Peter says He called us by not only His glory but also His “excellence”. The word translated “excellence” is “arĂȘte” (703) and in Greek that word refers to moral excellence or virtue. God, in saving us, demonstrates the highest moral excellence. As Paul observes in Romans 3:25-26 “This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Therefore, He remained completely just in requiring punishment for sin. By doing so, He justified us who were sinners by punishing His Son on our behalf.

As we have seen in this verse, knowing God not only blesses us in this world because we know Him through His word but also we are blessed in eternity by having been called to salvation. Why did He save us? To demonstrate to everyone that He is worthy to be praised and holy beyond compare. Praise God for His sovereignty in salvation.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.