Thursday, April 26, 2012

II Corinthians 5:21 The Gospel-It's not everything, it's the only thing.

I had posted links to download some of my sermons where I had them hosted on MediaFire.  Problem with that was you could only download them.  I've found a new audio hosting service that allows me to link to them directly so you can listen to them in your browser or download them.  Take a listen, if you can, to this sermon I preached about a year ago on II Corinthians 5:21.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Predestination or Free Will—What does “foreknew” mean in Romans 8:29? Part II

Continuing where we left off last time, we are trying to answer the question “What did Paul mean in Romans 8:29 with the word ‘foreknew’?”  In answering this question, I believe we should examine the Granville Sharp rule, which is a rule of Greek grammar recognized by all legitimate Greek scholars.  It comes from a book on Greek grammar written by Granville Sharp in 1798 regarding six principals  of the use of the article in the Greek New Testament.  Briefly, Granville Sharp's rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names, and the two nouns are connected by the word "and," and the first noun has the article ("the") while the second does not, both nouns refer to the same thing, and they refer to the thing the first word is referring to. 

So, taking that bit of scholarly insight, let’s look at Acts 2:23, which says “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. “  Now, we see 5 words here in English that I think we need to look at specifically—“the definite plan and foreknowledge”.  In Greek, the word “the” is a definite article (“te”-3588) comes before the noun (“plan”-Greek boule [1012]) which is joined by the conjunction “and” (“kai”-2532) with the noun “foreknowledge” (“prognosis”-4268).  Therefore, according to Granville Sharp’s rule, the two nouns (“plan” and “foreknowledge”) refer to the same thing and what they refer to is God’s plan.  In other words, God’s plan and and His foreknowing in Romans 8:29 are the same thing.  As noted by Greek scholar Kenneth Wurst in his textbook “Bypaths in the Greek New Testament 
In Acts 2:23, the statement concerning Jesus going to the Cross "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God", is another example of the first noun being articular and the second being anarthrous. "Counsel" is the Greek word "boule", meaning "decree", and "foreknowledge" is "prognosis", or "to know before". These two impersonal nouns are connected by the conjunction "kai", or "and". They are also in the same case, and "boule" has the article, and "prognosis" doesn't. This construction means that the "decree", or "determinate will" of God is not separate from the "foreknowledge" of God, but that the "foreknowledge" of God ARISES from His decree. The major significance of this passage is that it reminds us of the fact that nothing can be "foreknown", until it is first made certain by the "decree" of God! There is nothing to "foreknow" until the immutable decree of God makes it certain. 

Everywhere we see the "foreknowledge" of God mentioned in the New Testament, we must remember that God does not make any decisions according to His "foreknowledge", but that His "foreknowledge" is the RESULT of His decree.
Now, does this prove non-Calvinists are false teachers?  No.  Does this prove they have the gospel wrong?  Of course not.  My entire point was to demonstrate that, despite the assertions of some people, the doctrine known as Calvinism does have biblical support when one examines the grammatical evidence of scripture.

Predestination or Free Will—What does “foreknew” mean in Romans 8:29? Part I

There are points of doctrine that Christians can disagree on and both still be found faithful to the gospel and to God’s truth as revealed in scripture.  For instance, someone can believe in baptism by sprinkling and still be a Christian while someone could believe that immersion is the only biblical acceptable practice.  I personally believe that when the Bible talks about baptism, it means immersion and therefore sprinkling is not a valid baptism.  But I can’t say someone is not a Christian because they believing sprinkling is a valid baptism.  However, there are people who take tertiary doctrines such as Calvinism and Arminianism and turn those into salvific issues, usually due to their insecurity and biblical ignorance.  I have friends that are 5 point Calvinists that love the gospel and I have friends that are not 5 point Calvinists who love the gospel.  I should also point out I've been sitting on this and the next post since about October of last year.  So this isn’t a post to call non-Calvinists false teachers, because no one with sense on either side would do that--unless, of course, you’re talking about the kind of mental midgets that quote Wikipedia as an authoritative source. 

Romans 8:29 states “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  Now, the word translated “forknew” is the Greek word proginosko (4267) which is a compound of the words “pro” (4112-“before”) and “ginosko” (1091-“to know”).  Now, some non-Calvinists claim that this word only means that God knew things beforehand and that it does not mean He predestined them to come to pass.  Funny thing is, that’s not the case. 

Since I believe in actual research from authoritative sources when doing Bible study, I did some investigation as to the usage of the Greek word “proginosko”.  According to the Complete Biblical Library Greek Dictionary the word has three primary meanings. (1) It often refers to having insight of something yet future. For example, a writing of Xenophon contains this statement: “As I recognize this in advance, I think I need more money” (Cyropaedia 2.4.11). (2) It may also refer to prognosticating or foreshadowing something. Aristotle said that “the bees foreshadow winter” (Historia Animalium 6 27.b.10). (3) It can mean “coming to a decision beforehand” as in Demosthenes (Orations 29.58), “prejudged by his own friends.” In the Septuagint God knew beforehand the deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of the enemies and made that knowledge known to the fathers (Wisdom of Solomon 18:6).  Therefore, based on historical research, the word can mean “to know beforehand”.  It can also mean “to come to a decision beforehand”.  Therefore, a simple word study won’t answer the question for us as to what “foreknew” means.  Next time, we will examine further evidence in order to reach a conclusion.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Public Reading Of Scripture--Stephen Olford

I found the following passage in my reading of Stephen Olford's Anointed Expository Preaching.  I think there are some excellent observations as to how one reads the word of God publically.  I pray you are encouraged.--joe

To practice and perfect the reading of Scripture should constitute a strict discipline in the quiet of our studies. As often as possible, every preacher should stand and read aloud, at pulpit speed, the passage on which he will be preaching, while mentally visualizing an audience before him. It would be good to record the reading and then listen to it for self-criticism. The purpose of this exercise is to read distinctly—especially when it comes to complicated passages and difficult names, words, and punctuation. It is helpful to interpret the word distinctly in terms that have similar meaning but are, at the same time, quite distinct. To be precise, pulpit reading must be performed with composed articulation—the emphasis here is on speech; controlled pronunciation—the emphasis here is on sound; and convinced enunciation—the emphasis here is on sense.

On October 7, 1857, C. H. Spurgeon preached to his largest audience ever: 23,654 assembled in the mammoth Crystal Palace for a national day of fasting and prayer. "A few days previously he went to the hall to test the acoustics. Standing on the platform, he lifted up his voice like a silver trumpet and cried, 'Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.' A workman, busy painting high up in one of the galleries, heard the words which seemed to come to him from heaven. In deep conviction of sin he went home and did not rest until he was able to rejoice that Christ was his Savior." Something about Spurgeon's reverent tone and resonant voice, when quoting that text, arrested the attention of that man. Would to God that were true of all preachers!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Predestination Or Free Will?

The debate between Calvinists and Non-Calvinists is intensely emotional for some people.  I mean, most people feel strongly about their theology but are intelligent enough to recognize that this issue is one about which Christians can disagree and both still be Christians.  Maybe they wouldn't agree to plant churches together, but they could agree on some level of cooperation in gospel ministry.  Now, of course there is the lunatic fringe element on both sides that is boneheaded enough to call the other side "heretics", but they're easy enough to avoid and nobody really takes them seriously anyway.  I mean, who can take anyone seriously who quotes Wikipedia as a source (inside joke-LOL).

In all seriousness, one of the verses used by Non-Calvinists to prove that some of the points of Calvinism are wrong is II Peter 3:9.  They use this verse to make the point that Christ died for everyone and that God doesn't elect individuals to salvation, but rather He elected the means of salvation.  They make both of these assertions because of the word "all" in that verse.  Let's take a look at the verse, however, and see if perhaps there is another way that's just as biblical to interpret this verse and see what we can conclude about that.

The verse in question is

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

1) Who is “you”?
In the immediate context of the epistle, verse 8 says “But do not let this one fact escape your notice…” and verse 1 says “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.,,” In contrast, verse 3 talks about another group—“mockers”. Also, verse 5 uses a lot of 3rd person pronouns “…they maintain…their notice…” Also, in chapter two, Peter takes an entire chapter to describe this other group, consistently referring to them in the 3rd person and introducing the chapter by indicating that his audience is distinct from that group. v 1-“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” Further, the fact that Peter is writing to Christians and not just humanity in general is seen in chapter 1 and verse 1 of the epistle where he writes:” To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours,”
Therefore, the word “you” appears to be the Christians to whom Peter was writing.
2) Who is “any” and “all”?
If, as seems to be the case based on examination of II Peter, the “you” in this sentence is identified as the Christians to whom Peter wrote, it doesn’t make sense for “any” and “all” to refer to any human being and all human beings. Given the context and train of thought here, it doesn’t make sense for him to shift from the specific audience that he has addressed to a more general “all of mankind” audience. Mockers will come, and they will be destroyed (vs 3-7). In contrast, you are objects not of God’s wrath but His love and the delay in judgment is for your benefit (vs 8-9).

3) If “you”, “any”, and “all” are believers, what does it mean when Peter uses the word “wishing”? Doesn’t that mean that God’s desire is for everyone to be saved?

Short answer—no, that’s not what this means. While God certainly takes no pleasure in the death or punishment of sinners (Ezekiel 18:23), it would be very foolish for us to think that God does not demand justice for the sins commented that have offended Him so badly. Therefore, God’s will is to punish sinners who do not repent of their sins and trust Christ to save them. Further, God’s will is to save sinners who place their faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Therefore, it appears the most logical conclusion is that God’s patience is extended towards those whom He will save based on their repentance from sin and faith in Christ because He does not desire for them to perish but rather He desires to redeem them, all to the praise of His glory.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nebuchadnezzar—His Sinful Pride

We’ve been studying the book of Habakkuk and in my last post we examined the Habakkuk 2:4.  We noted that the sin of pride is the root of all sin in some way or another.  Pride refuses to submit and a prideful person refuses to submit to God.  Prideful people think they are a law unto themselves and therefore they mock God’s law.  You see it every day—a man cheats on his wife and blames his mistress when caught because his uncontrollable lust is more important that his marriage vows because of pride.  A woman falsifies an expense report that she turns in at work because she feels she deserves more compensation than she’s getting.  You see it in churches—a man believes he has the right to decide who will and will not be part of a Sunday school class/choir/etc because of pride, or insecurity, or both.  A woman believes that, due to her superior musical talents, she should always be the featured soloist.  All of these things are the result of pride, and as we read in Habakkuk, a prideful person’s heart is not upright.  A classic biblical example of that, and very relevant to our study of Habakkuk, is Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. 
Nebuchadnezzar was prideful and worshipped his military might.  In short, he was a bully.  Now, some bully’s stalk their targets for some time before preying on them.  Nebuchadnezzar was a different kind of bully.  He knew he had the power to crush his opponent and he made sure they knew it.  They knew it because when he decided to attack a city, his fierce army was relentless.  They had better weapons, more fierce warriors, and a larger army than anyone they went up against.   
I remember a kid in elementary school named Paul Kahauna who played a similar game.  Paul had taken karate lessons since he was very young—and he made sure you knew it.  He was constantly making little asides like “If that boy had messed with me, it would have been very bad for him” or “Maybe you ought to think about it before you confront someone with a black belt” (I'm not sure if he had a black belt or not).  Classic bully tactics.  Just like Nebuchadnezzar, he knew he could do what he wanted, say what he wanted, because no one could stand up to him.  His sinful pride led to him being a bully, just like the world conquering Nebuchadnezzar.  However, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was finally broken by God. 

We read in Daniel 4:28-33 how Nebuchadnezzar looked over his kingdom and said (loosely paraphrased) “Man, am I bad or what?  Check this stuff out.”  His sinful pride led him to take credit where no credit was due.  His sinful pride led to him self-worship.  When we sin, ultimately, it is self worship.  We are saying that our pleasures, passions, fears, or whatever else motivates us is more important than God.  Therefore, we are more important than God.  And God will not take second place to anyone.  Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson the hard way—he was driven mad and lived like a wild animal for a period of time.  The Lord graciously restored Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity, but what a way to have to learn that lesson. 

We should take seriously any pride in our lives and pray that God would root it out so that we don’t have to learn a lesson the hard way, like Nebuchadnezzar.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Matthew 9:23-25 Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life

I am an auditor which means I make my living as a professional skeptic.  When someone in an entity I am auditing brings me evidence supporting something they are telling me, my natural reaction (after years of doing this job) is “Yeah, right”.  I scrutinize their evidence and always try to independently verify its accuracy.  That’s just how I roll.  So, it’s not hard for me to imagine people who heard about Jesus performing miracles not believing what they heard.  He has, in Matthew’s gospel, healed a sick person from far away, healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, cast out demons, and healed the lame, in addition to His other healings.  However, while people heard about this, there were many of them that had not actually seen it with their own eyes, so they couldn’t verify it firsthand.  When you add to that what Jesus was going to do in this miracle, it’s not hard to imagine that some people doubted—dead people just don’t come back to life.  Of course, as we will see, there is a profound difference between someone who doesn’t believe something is possible until they see it and someone mocking our Lord as He went to heal Jairus’ daughter. 

The scene at Jairus’ home could best be described as bedlam.  Matthew 9:23 tells us that a large crowd of people had gathered—professional mourners and musicians who were called on to mourn for the dead.  In fact, if one goes over to the Middle East, you can still see this kind of funeral today.  Now, as Christ arrived on the scene to perform this miracle, He made an announcement.  In Matthew 9:24, He told them to leave because the girl wasn’t dead but rather she was sleeping. 

There are a few observations I’d like for us to make here.  First of all, notice that when Christ spoke, He spoke with authority.  He didn’t ask them to leave, he ordered them to leave.  When Christ speaks, He always speaks with authority since, not only is He the Son of God, He is God in human flesh.  Now, we don’t hear Christ’s voice audibly, we do hear the voice of Christ in with written word of God.  As Martin Luther said “Let the man who would hear God speak read holy scripture”.  Secondly, Christ isn’t speaking literally as if the child was just deep into a REM cycle, having a good dream, and didn’t want to wake up.  He was using a common euphemism where death was referred to as sleep.  Also, He likely meant that her death wasn’t a permanent condition.  She hadn’t died so as to remain dead.  Rather, she had died and now Christ, who is the Life, was there to raise her back to life. 

One final consideration as we come to this awesome miracle in verse 25—I can’t speak for everyone out there who read this blog, but for myself, until I started studying this passage, I don’t think I realized how spectacular an occurrence this was.  Really, the gospels only record three times where Christ raised someone from the dead—the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-17), the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-46—which was the miracle that made the Pharisees say “Ok, we’ve had about enough of this”), and this child being raised from the dead.  In other words, resurrection was rare.  When people died, they stayed dead and nothing could be done to change that.  So, when this happened, it was a totally unexpected, startling event.  Even for someone reading only this gospel for the first time, this is completely unusual. 

The crowd’s response is not altogether unexpected—the verse tells us they laughed.  Now, because the verb “laughed” is in the imperfect tense, we shouldn’t understand that they just had a good chuckle over Jesus’ statement.  “Oh, this guy can’t tell the difference between a dead person and someone who is asleep.  What a hoot!”  This was a mocking that went on and on, just like any crowd of people is likely to do.  You can almost hear a sing-song kind of “nanny, nanny, boo, boo” start up by the crowd—“She’s not dead, she’s sleeping.  She’s not dead, she’s sleeping.  Bwahahahahahah”.  They mocked the idea that Christ could save this girl.  They didn’t just doubt Him, they made fun of Him.  Therefore, He commanded them to leave, and then went in to see the child. 

As Christ went in to where the girl was laying, he took her hand in His and she came back to life.  The other gospel writers provide more detail (i.e. only James, John, Peter, and the girl’s parents were permitted to come with Him, He spoke to her in Aramaic) but the important point remains the same.  This little girl who I’m sure meant the world to her parents had died.  Now, because of the compassion of our Savior, she was restored to life.  As miraculous as this was, though, an even greater miracle can occur today.  Someone who rejected God and the gospel can place their faith in Christ and repent of their sins and God will save them—He will resurrect them from being spiritually dead and bound for eternal torment in hell to being spiritually alive and bound for eternity in heaven.  Praise God that He is still in the business of raising the dead.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tech Support Question

I thought perhaps some of my readers, or anyone that finds this post, might know the answer to this.

Hypothetically, if someone publishes a blog post in December of 2011, then later in 2012 changes the published date to August 2011, then deletes that post, will that  post still show up in the Google cache for that blog?

Thank you.  Sorry for the interruption.  :-)

Update 4/12/2012 8:45 am
According to a computer guy here in the building I work in, it would show up.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Habakkuk 2:4-5 You’re So Vain—You Probably Think This Post Is About You

Actually, the title of this post was supposed to be “Habakkuk 2:1-5 The Character of the Wicked and the Character of the Righteous Part 2”, but a blog post of someone’s that I read Friday made me think this title was pretty catchy.  Well, actually, “posts” is more correct.  So, thanks, Bugs Bunny, for the inspiration.  In all seriousness, though, considering the verses that we’ll be looking at, the title is pretty apropos.  God is in the beginning of explaining to Habakkuk that while the Babylonians are going to be used by God to punish Israel, that they will not escape God’s judgment for their wickedness.  In giving Habakkuk this prophetic vision, God also gives us one of the most important concepts in all of scripture.  It is a truth so simple that a child can understand it and it is so profound that it can (and has) confounded the wisest people throughout history. 

First of all, in Habakkuk 2:4, we see the character of the godly and the character of the ungodly contrasted in as simple of terms as you can get.  Speaking probably of the Babylonian king in particular, and also of the Babylonians in general, God tells Habakkuk that “…his soul is puffed up…”  Ultimately, the root of all sin is arrogance.  The idea that we don’t have to obey God or His word, that we can make our own decisions and define our own morality, is at the root of every sin that people commit.  When someone cheats on their taxes, timecard, or spouse, they are in effect saying “What I want is more important that what God commands”.  Therefore, they have set themselves up as a higher authority than God.  When you find sin in anyone’s life, you will find pride at the root of it.  Because of this pride, God declares that “[his soul] is not upright within him”.  The proud person who will not repent of sin whether he recognizes it or others love him enough to point it out to him is not right with God. 

Now, God tells us how a person can be right with him—how that person can live.  He tells us how that person can avoid judgment and eternal damnation.  If someone wants to be justified before God, there is one path that they can follow: faith.  God tells us that those who will be declared righteous are so declared because of their faith.  It is not because they kept the law or earned enough credits with God because of their good works.  Praise God!!!!  Nothing I’ve ever done or am capable of doing is anything more than filth in the sight of the Lord Almighty.  I don’t have the strength to faithfully follow God.  Even if I could keep some of the commandments, I can’t keep all of them.  I know what the end of my journey would be if it depended on me and my strength, on what I’ve done.  But because God is so good and so merciful, He chose before the foundation of the world to save people and those whom He would save He gave the faith that their heart lacked and couldn’t possibly produce.  Righteousness, therefore, comes not by works but by faith.  And that faith couldn’t come from a proud person who believes they’ve got this whole “right with God” thing covered.  The faith that saves a person can only come from a heart that says “Have mercy on me, God, a sinner!” 

Now, God gives us a glimpse inside the heart of the proud man—probably specifically with Nebecanezzer in mind.  However, the principals are timeless and apply no matter where you look.  That being said, let’s look at the first part of verse 5 in a few different translations. 

Habakkuk 2:5 (ESV) Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest.
Habakkuk 2:5 (NIV) indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest.
Habakkuk 2:5 (NLT) Wealth is treacherous, and the arrogant are never at rest.
Habakkuk 2:5 (KJV) Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man,  

So, as you can see in these verses, there seems to be some discrepancy as to what is being said here.  Is it wine or wealth, or for that matter the man himself, that is treacherous?  Is it because he drinks too much?  Again, I must remind the reader that while I  know enough Greek to make an educated guess here or there in expositing the New Testament, my Hebrew is limited to what little I picked up from the movie “Crossing Delancy”.  So, I can’t tell you exactly what God had in mind when He inspired this scripture.  However, we know of the Babylonian king’s pride (Daniel 4:28-33) and we know the Babylonians were not afraid to get drunk no matter what was going on, like say, an enemy invasion (Daniel 5).  Further, as we read the rest of the verse, I think we see the underlying principal.  There is an underlying restlessness for the proud, wicked, godless person.  Generally, people without God have a hole in their heart that they try to fill with everything.  They find all their pursuits empty and they never have enough.  Specifically, the Babylonians demonstrate this fact in their endless quest for conquest.  They seemingly could never have enough bloodshed, or conquer enough land, to satisfy them.  In fact, they became the first world power, quite literally conquering “all nations…all peoples”, of the Western world anyway.   

So, probably more than 200 years before the birth of Christ or before Paul would write Romans and Galatians, we see here that God revealed what makes a person right with Him, faith.  He had done so as far back as Genesis, and it is found elsewhere in the Old Testament.  The fact is, friends, that righteousness by faith has always been and always will be the only way a man or woman can be saved.  Praise God that it doesn’t depend on us.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Oh, Glorious Day

This song says it better than I ever could.  He is risen.  He is risen indeed.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Whatever your question, the cross is the answer.

Mk 15:22-24 (ESV) And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull).  And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.

Lk 23:33 (ESV) And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Mt 27:33 (ESV) And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.

Jn 19:16-18 (ESV) So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
When you or I hear that a new Friday the 13th movie is coming out, we don’t really need to know the plot to know what is going to happen.  There’s going to be a group of teenagers, the phone line is going to be cut (or nowadays they’d have no cell service), someone is going to act like a total and complete goober and separate themselves from the group (and end up getting killed), and one by one the members of the group are going to get picked off by this homicidal maniac.  The same could be said for a new reality TV show with a group of people playing potential suitors for some attractive person’s attention or a new romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan.  We don’t need all the details spelled out because in our heads we kinda know what to expect. 

That is one way to imagine the reaction to the very sparse description of what happened to Christ on the cross by the gospel writers.  They all report, in one fashion on another, that Christ was taken to Calvary and that “there they crucified Him”.  Those four words, to a reader in the 1st century AD, would have conjured up images so grotesque they’d make many people want to vomit.  I won’t bore you with a lengthy description of what went on since you could Google that.  I mean, we’ve all learned in Sunday School how the Romans had perfected crucifixion as the most cruel mean of execution by torture that the world has ever seen.  The gospel writers no more had to tell their audience what a crucifixion looked like than we would need someone to tell us what would happen in a new Friday the 13th film.  They could see it in their minds eye.  What they couldn’t know, and what we need to know, is that by the horrible, bloody death Christ suffered, He gave us the only thing in this world that could make everything in our lives finally, completely make sense. 

She had caught him.  He thought he’d covered his tracks well enough, but somehow she had found out that her husband had been cheating on her with an online mistress.  His heart raced—his mind was a blur.  If he’d ever needed an excuse, it was now and it needed to be good.  This could be the last straw with all the job problems he'd had lately.  As his wife cried and wailed, a mixture of anger and sadness, he tried to assure her that it was she who had pursued him—she had made the indecent proposal.  He never meant to hurt her.  He loved her and their son.  And it was in that moment, as he tried his best to spin the situation and do as much damage control as he could, that he realized what he had done.  He hadn’t sinned against his wife, or his mistress.  He’d sinned against God and nothing he could say or do would change that.  He felt the weight of his sin and as his wife sobbed his heart broke, not just for how he had wronged her, but for how he’d wronged God.  He began to weep, and it was then that in his mind, he could see Christ hanging on that cross and that his awful sin against these women, and against God, was paid for as Christ bled and died on that cross.  He saw his sin and what his sin cost.  He saw in the cross his only hope for peace with God—the only peace that matters. 

Her father was respected in the community.  Everyone loved him.  He was a deacon, chief of the volunteer firefighters, and he still held the record for most touchdowns in a single season at the local high school.  He’d also molested his from the time she was 7 years old.  Every day, in her heart, she carried the anger, the hurt, and more than anything in her life, she wanted to see him suffer.  She wanted to see him punished.  As she read in her Bible one day, she came across the passage in Isaiah 52 which said

Isa 53:4-5 (ESV) Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

And she realized that her father had been punished—that the awful abuse she had suffered for all those years had, in fact, been avenged.  God poured His vengeance, His wrath, out on Christ on the cross.  As this realization flooded her mind, tears streamed down her face.  God hadn’t turned His face away while her father humiliated and tormented her.  He turned His face away when He punished His Son for that sin. 

Every problem in our life makes sense only when we look at it through the lens of the cross.  God became the just and the justifier of all of us who would repent of our sins and trust Christ when He poured out His wrath on His innocent Son for our sins.  When we look for justice, we look to the cross.  When we look for redemption, we look to the cross.  The cross is our only hope.  Whatever your question, the cross is the answer.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible's Origin, Reliability, and Meaning

How do we know what sin is?  For example, how do we know that it’s wrong for someone to cheat on their spouse and then claim it was their lover’s fault (a kind of “indecent proposal”) rather than repenting?  Also, how do we know who God is?  In what way are His attributes (holiness, righteousness, love, faithfulness, etc) made known to mankind?  Finally, how do we know what the gospel is?  Where can we go to learn that God, before the foundation of the world, chose to save people—people He would enable through the Holy Spirit to recognize their sin and exercise saving faith in Christ’s death and resurrection so as to be saved? 

I submit to you that, while our conscience gives us knowledge of sin and the handiwork of God in nature is a testament to God’s existence, the only place from which we can learn the gospel (and the surest revelation of the other two) is from the Bible.  Therefore, for a Christian, there is no more important task than studying scripture.  Crossway has recently published a new book called Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible's Origin, Reliability,and Meaning edited by Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, and Thomas R. Schreiner which, in my opinion, would be a great help to any Christian seeking to learn more about the Bible.  The essays in the book, written by some of the most respected evangelical scholars in the church today (i.e. J.I. Packer and John Piper, to name a few), were originally published in the ESV Study Bible.  Collected in this one volume, they serve as an excellent resource for someone who wants to know more about the Bible. 

For instance, there are chapters covering how to interpret the Bible (i.e. recognizing the importance of the literary elements of scripture), and how to read the Bible comprehensively (i.e. reading the Bible theologically and prayerfully).  However, in my opinion, the strongest essays and probably the most helpful for the average Christian are the chapters that cover the history of Scripture (how it was put together and canonized) and the archeological support for Scripture.  In my mind, these are particularly important right now in the church with so many people questioning the truthfulness and reliability of scripture—and that’s just the people in the church not to mention the world outside the church that long ago relegated scripture to little more than fairy tales. 

In short, I would recommend this book to any Christian that is serious about their faith and wants to know more about scripture.  I could also see this making an excellent book to use for a group Bible study.