I'm not all that great at writing, but I enjoy "thinking out loud" in written form. Sometimes I even change my own mind after reading what I've written! Other times I like what I say. I hope that you find something here to inspire you, to encourage you, to make you smile, or to make you think.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Douglas Wilson and Pastor Mark Driscoll

So, this will make some people angry, but I admire both of these men. I love this interview. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

John Owen - Part 3 - Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers

Now, John Owen is a little hard to follow because of the language.  He was writing in the 1st half of the 17th Century.  That puts him before our American Revolution, and almost before the landing at Plymouth Rock by the Pilgirms in 1620.

Also, he is a little hard to follow because of his economy of words. Each sentence is full of meaning, so he should not be skimmed over like we can do with the vast majority of books written now in the 21st Century.

Besides, this is not a book that both Christian and non-Christian will appreciate or understand at all.  He is talking about the Biblical subject of killing sin, which even Christians have a hard time facing.  Owen deals with all of the ways that we as human beings have of hiding, rationalizing, excusing, justifying our sin, and so forth. Owen knew his own heart and tendencies very well, and he is really sharing from his own experience as well as from the experiences of his congregation.

It would do us all well to take time to read this little book - just over 100 pages.

Here is one quote about the work of the Holy Spirit in the mortification of sin in believers. It is from pg. 100 of the PDF file found here. 

 "And this is the first thing that the Spirit does in order to 
 the mortification of any lust whatever, -- it convinces the soul of all 
 the evil of it, cuts off all its pleas, discovers all its deceits, 
 stops all its evasions, answers its pretences, makes the soul own its 
 abomination, and lie down under the sense of it. Unless this be done 
 all that follows is in vain. "

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Killing Sin - Like a Change of Clothes - John Owen - part 2

Colossians 3
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

So, when we put off all the sinful "stuff" that Paul lists earlier in Colossians 3, then we are ready to put on Christ. We are not left uncovered. That is, we don't just remove the bad stuff, we put on the good stuff. 

Again, Paul reminds us that all of this putting off and putting on is in the context of a relationship with God. This is what God chose us for. This is what He wants to do in our lives, with our co-operation.  

He wants us to take off the sinful things so He can clothe us with beautiful things. We may think that we look just fine in the old clothes of our sin.  Actually, we don't. We don't even look good to others, let alone to God. 

If we are going around sinning sexually and being greedy, we don't look good.  Some are able to hide their sin better, but we all have it lurking in the deep recesses of our souls. 

Notice that we are holy and beloved if we know Christ.  That should give us both comfort and motivation.  Since we are holy and beloved, we are motivated to put on the beautiful clothing that God has for us. 

Compassionate hearts:
Since we know our own struggles with sin, we should be compassionate.  I know that we Christians don't always show this, but please remember. Whenever there is a tragedy anywhere in the world, Christians are the first responders.  We are a compassionate people. Even Christian groups that I do not agree with show compassion in many ways. This is a characteristic of Christianity.  

We have see it in the recent slide here in Western Washington in Oso.  All kinds of Christian groups and churches have responded with compassion. 

Yes, government agencies have done the biggest part of the work, and we are all grateful for their sacrifices.  It is not just Christians who have responded, but Christians have responded with compassionate hearts. 

13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 

14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This section is really, really clear.  This is the Christian's reward for putting off the old junk in our lives. 

Here's a list:
Love, peace, thankfulness, the word of Christ in you richly, part of a larger group in the body of Christ, you're not alone anymore, wisdom, admonishment in a loving community, music!, heartfelt gratitude to God, purpose in life as we do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.  We are part of a family that extends beyond the walls of our  own congregation. 

Killing Sin - Like a Change of Clothes - John Owen

Colossians 3

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

The Apostle Paul, here, is talking to Christians.  Being raised with Christ refers to the new birth, or regeneration, or the new life we have in Christ. There are a number of Biblical terms that are used to show how a person who believes in Christ from the heart is no longer the same person they were before.  They have entered into a new kind of living, so this new life should show on the outside in what a person does, says, and thinks. 

Regeneration is the new birth.  Conversion is the change of life that follows new birth. If there is no change, then there probably has been no new birth either.  

We tell children that God gives us a new "want to" after we are born again.  Where before we just wanted to do whatever we wanted to do, we now want to love, obey, and follow Jesus.  

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 

We still live on this earth, but our heart setting is now on heavenly things.  

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

We continue to live here, but our old way of life died.  This has to do with what is called  our identification with Christ. Christ died for our sins. Our sins were nailed to the cross as it were.  So, in a sense, we died with Christ on the cross.  Our new life is hidden with Christ in God. That is a very safe and secure place to be.  The things of this world come and go, but our safe place in Him stays the same throughout all eternity. 

Meanwhile, we are still on the earth. How are we supposed to live down here, then?

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

This is our hope, and it is a done deal, a sure thing.  Christ will return one day just as He promised.  You can read about that in Acts 1. At that point, we will enter into His presence.  Remember, the idea of glory has to do with His abiding presence.  We will be in His presence forever, then. 

It is common for people to say things like, "My husband is my life" or "My wife is my life" or "My children are my life."  That means that they are precious to us, the most important of relationships in our lives. 

For a believer, Christ is our life. He is the most precious person in our lives.  We could lose everything and everyone else, but we can never lose Christ. He is God's abiding presence in us through the Holy Spirit.  What a wonderful comfort and hope! 
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 

In light of the fact that Christ is our life and our life is hidden in Christ with God and we are raised to new life in Christ, we need to get rid of the things that used to fill up our days and thoughts.  Here are some of the things that we must put to death. 

Sexual immorality, impurity, passion:
This is a polite way of saying all kinds of sexual sin.  Paul did not have to spell it out for people. In fact, we probably don't need it spelled out in our day.  It especially has to do with satisfying sexual desires outside the bond of marriage. 

There are many good books written from a Christian perspective on the subject of marriage and sex within marriage.  Paul here is specifically addressing prohibited sexual activity. 

The Old Testament Law does go into more detail on that subject if you care to look into it more to see what the Bible prohibits and what the Bible allows.  Many Christians would prohibit things that are not prohibited in the Bible. Many Christians have been very uncomfortable with the Song of Solomon as well.  Anyway, sex is not sin in and of itself.  It is the improper use of this gift that Paul is talking about here. 

We might be okay in the area of sexual sin - though that is unlikely - , but what about wanting things you cannot have?  That hits close to home.  There are legitimate needs that we have.  This is a struggle that hits very close to home for all of us. 

Covetousness is especially bad when it makes people envious of what others have. The Bible talks a lot about trusting God to supply our needs and about being content with what we have.  It also talks about not being so content that we quit working or quit caring for our families.  There are legitimate needs.  There are also times that God gives us things that we don't really need, but that we just want. He is a good Father.  Balance in life is hard to achieve. 

So, be content, work for what you need, be grateful, and be generous?  I would think that those  things would go a long way to killing covetousness. 

On account of these the wrath of God is coming.

Strong warning, and motivation to quit sinning in these areas.  These things are especially a slap in the fact to God.  

 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 

Wow!  If we weren't shaken up by the other list, this one will get us for sure.  Remember, this passage begins with regeneration and the work of the Spirit in our lives.  We put these things off so we can put on Christ.  

It is like changing clothes, it seems to me. I'm sure I've heard that somewhere.  

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

this is pretty clear.  We were created originally in the image of God. 
(Genesis 1)   So, the new birth is the beginning of a renewal and restoration of that image in us.  I think of it like a painting that has been ruined. The Artist takes the painting and begins to restore it to what it was supposed to be in the first place.  

He is making something beautiful.  I am reminded of an old Gospel song by the Gaithers.  Something Beautiful. 

11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

In Christ, all the things that separate one believer from another are "fixed".  

I'll deal with the rest of the passage later.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Killing Sin - John Owen on the Work of the Holy Spirit

 Now on to John Owen.  He was a Puritan pastor and author of great theological works.  He was also a contemporary of John Bunyan.  His writings are kind of hard to understand since the English language has changed so much from his time to ours.

He wrote a little book called On the Mortification of Sin in Believers. Now, that is kind of a scary title, and the books is kind of scary as well.  In fact, since this is my blog and I'm not a scholar, nor do I write all that well, I will take the liberty of correcting John Owen!  Well, I know that's pretty cheeky, but he is not here to defend himself. My mind is not always very organized all the time, so please bear with me - or not.

Notice that this little treatise was written for Christians.  People who are not Christians may not understand.  I will probably post more about this book.  You see, we are told to kill sin in our lives.  There are many wrong ways to go about this, ways that lead to legalism and despair.  If done the right way, the killing of sin in our lives leads to peace and relief.  Even more important, it leads to a wonderful walk with God and a deep friendship with Him.  So, it is very important for believers to understand how to properly kill sin in our lives.

Sin is an enemy that will destroy us.  We either kill it, or it kills us. The old word for kill was "mortify", as in dealing it a mortal wound.  Here are two passages from the King James Version of the Bible that talk about this kind of mortification.  It basically means to quit doing sinful things.

Romans 8:13
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Colossians 3:5
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Okay, so here goes.  I think he wrote the book backwards. I mean, I think that the best part is at the end. If a person does not make it to the end of his little book because of despair over their sinfulness, then that is a shame. So if you read it, read the last chapter first, then the penultimate chapter, then go to the beginning and read the whole book.  I wish I'd done it that way.

Here is the outline of the last chapter. The idea of mortifying sin has to do with killing sin in our lives. That is, we quit sinning.  You may say that you are tired of people telling you what to do and what not to do. I have to say that I am, too.

So, killing sin is different from being told by people what you can and cannot do.  Often people are telling you to stop things that aren't even sinful. Often people prohibit things that in and of themselves are not sin.  Often people believe themselves to be the Holy Spirit in your life.

 Notice how the Spirit works.  He works from the inside out, convincing us not only of the evil and guilt of our sin, but of its dangers. Also, the Spirit leads us to the One that can give us relief - Jesus Christ.

So, read about the work of the Spirit in the heart of the believer. Avoid those who wish to play Holy Spirit in your life. Avoid those who promise that if you submit to them, then you will have relief.  There are a lot of people like that out there.

Run from them!

Also, avoid those  who would tell you that there is no such thing as sin, so do whatever you want to do. There are no consequences. It's all good.

Run from them as well!

Run to God and fine grace to help in time of need.

Here is the outline of chapter 14 of John Owen's work.  The book can be found online in several places. I own a hard copy of the book - it is only about 100 pages long.  I also own an iTunes download of it.

Here he shows, with Scriptural support, that a person does not have to do this all on his or her own.  The sweet Holy Spirit of God does this work in us as we co-operate with Him.  Of course we are not passive observers in the process that is called sanctification. God has given us means that we can use - such as prayer, church attendance, confession of sin, singing, worship, praise, making better choices, and even all kinds of positive activities to replace the old habits that lead to death.

Remember that this whole work of mortifying sin is effected, carried on, accomplished by the power of the Spirit, in all its parts and degrees. 

a. The Spirit alone convinces the heart of the evil and guilt and danger of the sin to be mortified. And this is the first thing the Spirit does in order to move us to mortification: convince our soul of the evil of it. 

b. The Spirit alone reveals to us the fullness of Christ for our relief (1 Cor 2:8). 

c. The Spirit alone establishes an expectation of relief from Christ (2 Cor 1:21). 

d. The Spirit alone brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power; for by the Spirit we are baptized into the death of Christ. 

e. The Spirit alone is the author and finisher of our sanctification; He gives us grace to strive for holiness. 

f. The Spirit supports and empowers our appeals to God (Romans 8:26). 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Glory - 4

Genesis 1:1-5

Genesis 1

The Creation of the World

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Technically I guess this is not the first manifestation of God's glory, but maybe it is the first. 

God's Spirit is present, hovering over the face of the waters.

The word "kabod" or "glory" when used of God has to do with His abiding presence.  His glory has to do with His great great and weighty reputation and importance.

Light is shiny, as is the Shekinah glory of God.  Hmm.

So, since this post contains my thinking on the subject of "glory", I 'm going to say that this is the Bible's first mention of God's glory.  The problem is that the word "glory" is not in the text, but the concept is certainly there.

God's Word begins with the light of His glory shown on the face of the deep.

No, light is not God, but it is used over and over again as a symbol of God's work and presence.  Since God is spirit, having no physical body, He both creates and then uses physical things to show us what He is like.

This statement is true.:

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

In the context of 1 John 1, the Apostle is talking about God's sinless moral character.  It is about His holiness in contrast to our sinfulness.  Darkness is used as a symbol of sin, and light as a symbol of sinlessness. 

Some are tempted to turn the phrase "God is light"  around, but that is not correct grammatically in the Greek.  

Some also try to turn around the phrase "God is love", saying that "Love is God" in the same way.  That was a popular interpretation of the Hippies, as you can well imagine.  One of God's attributes is love, as in He is loving.  We dare not deify love itself, as many pagan religions do.

1 John 4:8

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The first verses of the Bible found in Genesis 1  remind me of 2 Corinthians 4:6.  This verse supports the idea that the Bible begins with a manifestation of the glory of God.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

"We have here a further account of the first day’s work, in which observe, 1. That the first of all visible beings which God created was light; not that by it he himself might see to work (for the darkness and light are both alike to him), but that by it we might see his works and his glory in them, and might work our works while it is day. "

I love this Matthew Henry quote as well.:

"This was not only the first day of the world, but the first day of the week. I observe it to the honour of that day, because the new world began on the first day of the week likewise, in the resurrection of Christ, as the light of the world, early in the morning. In him the day-spring from on high has visited the world; and happy are we, for ever happy, if that day-star arise in our hearts."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Glory - 3

Okay, this is pretty complex, since God's glory has to do with His abiding presence as well as His fame, importance, and reputation. The word "Shekinah" is added to the word "glory" when it means God's presence, or God's manifest presence.  The term "Shekinah Glory" does not appear in the Bible, but the concept does.  I'll talk about that later.

There are some groups who want to see the Shekinah Glory as it appeared in Old Testament times.  They go through  weird rituals to try to get the Shekinah to appear.  I think that is very odd, and very occultic.  Nowhere in the Bible are we told to seek such an outward manifestation of God's presence.  We are to seek Him spiritually from the heart.

So, I am not trying to encourage people to look for strange manifestations.  My idea is to try to show, in my own inadequate way, how the Shekinah Glory of the Old Testament is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ, who is Emmanuel, God with us.  Also, Christians are the temple of the Holy Spirit.   Therefore, we should not destroy that temple, but should glorify God with our bodies. Here is the entry from the Reformation Study Bible about that.

"3:16 God’s temple. God signified His presence in the temple by filling it with the cloud of His glory (1 Kin. 8:10,11). Now He lives in His people by filling them with the Holy Spirit. Paul’s focus here is on God’s people as a corporate whole; in 6:19 the emphasis shifts to the individual Christian’s body."

That is generally understood to mean that all we do, say, and think should be governed by God.  We are supposed to live to glorify God and show His presence in our lives by how we conduct ourselves in the world.

More later, but here are some Scriptures I'm thinking about in relation to God's abiding presence.

Matthew 1

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[e] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[f] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwillingto put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
cf. Isaiah 7:14

I Corinthians 3:16-17
16 Do you not know that you[a] are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

English Standard Version (ESV)
18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin[a] a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Glory - 2

A couple of months ago I went to Bible Gateway to search for passages with the word "glory" in them. I was preparing some power points for a conference I was participating in.  It was pretty amazing, since there are hundreds of verses containing that word.

I am no scholar, of course, so it will be clear that I am not trying to write a treatise on the subject of "glory" in the Bible. This is for devotional purposes, please understand.  I try to stay within orthodox Evangelicalism in what I say, but please forgive any mistakes of grammar, interpretation, or anything else that might be not quite right.

So, I looked at different passages to get a feel for how the word "glory" was being used.  Then I looked at a couple of dictionaries in Hebrew and in Greek.  I have never studied Hebrew.  Greek is somewhat more familiar to me.

I found that the Hebrew word is transliterated into English as kabod or kavod.  That's pretty simple. So far, so good.  Here is some of what I found out about the usage of that word in the Old Testament.

It was used for shiny things.

It was used for weighty things.  Then, figuratively as people  who were weighty in their importance - either an individual or a nation that deserved honor.  "Heavy" or "weighty" is evidently the most basic meaning of the word.  I am not sure of the etymology of the word "kabod", but I read something - that I can't find now - that gave me the impression that the first part of the word was an actual measure of the weight of something.
 Not sure.

It was used for glory in battle.

So, I like this photo of some ancient Canaanite swords. If I understand the usage correctly, these things had kabod!

It was used for the glory of God, especially at specific times in Israel's history when God manifested His presence in a cloud of glory.  This was especially meaningful to the children of Israel after they escaped from Egypt and God used the glory cloud to guide them.  Thus, God's glory is associated with His abiding presence.

God's glory was manifested, too, as judgment against sin, as well as salvation.

"Kabod" was used in reference to human beings who were famous and important.

"Kabod" was used in reference to famous or important nations as well.

So, honor and fame are also meanings of the word, depending on the context of the passage.

Below you will find links to some reference material in case anyone would like to research the meaning of the word "kabod."

Great entry.:  Holman Bible Dictionary.
Not so great, but helpful, I guess.  The format is awkward. : Strong's Hebrew

Simple and sweet: Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings - The author emphasized that "kabod", as in God's glory,  was something that could be seen.  I guess that should go without saying.  

Do what I did and enter the word "glory" into the search feature at Bible Gateway

Monday, March 17, 2014


I took this photo in Honduras last November.  The lake is the famous Lago Yojoa.  It was a pretty amazing sunset we witnessed.

Recently I have been looking into the meaning of "glory" in the Bible.  Basically, God's glory as seen in Scripture carries the meaning of God's abiding presence.

No, the sunset is not God.   The Bible does not teach pantheism or panentheism.  God is not part of His creation nor is His creation divine.

However, His creation should inspire worship of the One who made it all.  So, my next blog topic is "glory."

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Gospel vs. Paganism - 14

Probably the main difference between Christianity and paganism is the idea of who God is.

First I'll say that paganism does have some correct ideas about God, but mixed in with idolatry - the worship of statues that represent false gods.  Idolatry generally includes immoral acts as part of worship.  Here is what Paul said.:

Acts 17

Paul Addresses the Areopagus

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[c] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

So, Paul took a couple of phrases that should have been familiar to them.  He then showed how it should have been obvious to them that idolatry was wrong.  They were being inconsistent in their worship. 

Some were willing to listen to more, but others mocked the idea of the resurrection. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Gospel vs. Paganism - 13

Paganism teaches that all of the universe is one.  We are all part of the circle of life.  There is nothing outside that circle, not even the Divine.  In fact, humans have a spark of divinity within them, and we need to look within to find truth and insight into life's mysteries.

There is a certain deceptive beauty in that way of thinking. It seems attractive.  However, paganism cannot really explain our existence. In fact, at the end of the day, a person is drawn deeper and deeper into darkness and confusion.

Christianity teaches that God is our transcendent Creator. That is, He exists outside and apart from His creation. Yes, He made everything, but He is not part of His own creation.  He exists whether or not the universe exists.  Our existence depends on Him, but His existence does not depend on us.  We did not create Him, and we are not ourselves divine.  The Bible teaches that there is a distinction between the Creator and the created.

The Bible also teaches that, even though we are not divine, we are created in God's image. That is, in some ways, we are like God, but not in His divine nature. We have the capacity to create, using elements from nature.  We have the capacity to plan and in a limited way, carry out our plans.  We have the capacity to love.  We have a human will.  We have language and the ability to communicate information and ideas to others.  We are self aware, and so forth.

The Bible also teaches that God is immanent. That is, even though He is not part of His own creation, He can be present everywhere in the universe, all at the same time.  In fact, He can enter into a relationship with people, even calling some His friends.  He can befriend us. He even wants to be our closest companion, inviting us into fellowship with Him.

I'll point to some passages from the Bible that support what I am saying.  Maybe the best passages to read are the Gospels.  In those books of the Bible, we see how God entered the world, taking on human flesh in order to be our Savior.  He proved His desire to befriend us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Gospel vs. Paganism - 12

Both Christians and pagans look at the human condition and see that mankind has problems.  It is evident that something is not right in our world.

Both Christians and pagans offer solutions to those problems.  Something needs to be done to make things right.

What Christians offer is the Gospel.  It is the Gospel that makes a person right, and that will make the world right again.  The problem is sin. Because of sin, all of creation is suffering.  The Bible says it this way.

Romans 8:18-24

English Standard Version (ESV)

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 
21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 
23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 
24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?

All suffering will end when the sons of God are revealed.  When will that happen?  The bible gives us another clue. 

Titus 2:13

English Standard Version (ESV)
13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

When Christ returns, all of creation will be renewed.  He is the hope for mankind and for all that God has made.  Note that in the Romans 8 passage, the suffering that all of creation is going through is compared to the pains of childbirth.  The idea is that something new is on its way.  Yes, there is pain and suffering now, but new life is at the end of the pain.  Joy is on its way.  

We do not know the exact time of His coming, but we do know that He will come. Just as surely as He came the first time, His second coming will happen in God's perfect timing. 

Acts 1

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Ascension

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 
But you will receive powerwhen the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 
10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 
11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The Gospel message is the Good News that Jesus Christ was born; He lived a perfectly righteous life; He died for our sins; He rose from the dead; He ascended into Heaven; He is there before the Father pleading the cause of those who believe in Him;  He will come again in glory to claim His Creation.  

Acts 3:21

English Standard Version (ESV)
21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 

Pagans offer different solutions.  Those generally have to do with mankind saving itself. Different rituals help to give a person power over his or her circumstances.  Many seek evil power, but many others seek what they believe to be good.  

One of the most notorious pagans of our time was Adolph Hitler.  He sought spiritual power in order to establish his super race and control the world.  He believed that he was forging a kind of utopia here on earth. In reality, he had created a nightmare world of death, war, and destruction.  

No, not all pagans give themselves over to evil as Hitler did.  In fact, I am sure that there are many pagans who try to do good, showing great concern for their fellow human beings.

Often paganism causes people to become too resigned to their fate.  For example, one of our colleagues in Nepal is a Christian who ministers to the poor and needy. He has a special burden for widows in some of the isolated villages in the mountains.  It is difficult work, since widows are considered to be especially cursed.  They are paying for their bad karma, and other villagers do not want to become contaminated by these outcasts.

The Bible teaches Christians that true religion has to do with helping the most vulnerable in society.  Because of that, Christians of all kinds have been well known for caring for the needy.  Examples of Christian charity abound.

This man, who is Nepali himself, has been moved by the Holy Spirit of God to reach out to those in need. At times he and his wife have ministered to victims of natural disasters as well.

He and his team regularly visit the widows I was talking about, taking them things like food and blankets as well as clothing for them and their children.  At times he faces opposition and even death threats.  However, the love of God keeps him reaching out, even risking his own life to fulfill the calling God has given him to minister to the poor.

James 1:27

English Standard Version (ESV)
27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

In this way, he preaches the Gospel to these women, children, and other villagers.  Some have come to Christ and have also begun to think about the needs of others.  Superstition and fear has kept them bound, but Christ sets them free to serve Him in love. 

This kind of thing is repeated all over the world, wherever Christians go.  

It is the power of the Gospel that changes lives because of Christ. He is a living Savior, and He reaches out to others through His servants.

Wherever I go, I see a growing concern on the part of Christians to reach out to those in need.  Our primary need is spiritual. We need to be reconciled to our Father through Jesus Christ. We need to power of His Holy Spirit working in and through us toward others. Then we are enabled to help others spiritually as well as materially.

This is the true Gospel, the one that brings hope.

Another result of the Gospel should be a greater care for all of God's creation.  It was the Christian president, Teddy Roosevelt who was instrumental in starting the conservation movement in the United States. Under his leadership, the first national parks were set up.  Government began to think about land management.  Some federal lands were set aside for development, and other lands set aside as parks.

The original idea of conservation had to do with the mandate in Genesis 1.  God put mankind in charge of caring for the earth and all that is in it. We are supposed to be good stewards of that creation.

Genesis 1

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 
29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 
30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.