Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Redeeming Words

My new blog project exists to redeem Christian terminology from misuse and misunderstanding.

Check it out: Redeeming Words

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I’ll Be Over Here:

So coming back to this particular blog doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. However, the other blogs to which I’ve been contributing have been revamped and that’s where I’ll be spending most of my blogging time. Hope to see you over there!

Re: Fundamentals KJV Only Debate Blog

Easy to Believe?

Easy to Believe?

The old rugged cross on which Jesus died
Is foolishness to those not made alive
Its bloody details cause them to grieve,
And you say it is easy to believe?

The Greek thinks it nonsense to accept the risen Christ,
The skeptic thinks the disciples pulled off the greatest heist
The New Atheist wishes all Christians would leave
And you say it is easy to believe?

To the Jews it is a block of stumbling,
It provokes the educated toward grumbling,
A story no one could ever conceive,
And you say it is easy to believe?

The Lord invited man to take up his cross,
To count the cost and consider all things loss –
Things the natural man cannot receive,
And you say it is easy to believe?

The scriptures say salvation is of the Lord,
A supernatural work man’s hands cannot afford
To think man can raise the dead is very naive,
The results of these methods can only deceive

Regeneration is the work of the Spirit,
Otherwise men would never hear it
You say that it is easy to believe?
Saving faith is only something God can achieve!

Darrell Bock on Paul’s Christianity

Jesus was a revolutionary leader of a Jewish reform movement against religious legalism and political oppression. Years later, Paul came around and elevated him to a god-like status. The latter is the Christianity we’ve inherited.

This is the argumentation of the day when it comes to refuting Christianity. And I believe it’s fueled by man’s hatred of the Church. This is why I detest the Emergent ideas of repainting the entire faith as if we’ve got it wrong for 2,000 years. Oh believe me, we’ve gotten many things wrong. Christians have done terrible things. And I stick by the motto “Reformed and Always Reforming.” But this doesn’t suggest we’ve been duped all along. The fundamentals have stayed the same. Jesus claimed he was Lord and exalted Himself. Paul wasn’t giving anything new, just elaborating on established truth given to him by Jesus Himself.

Continuing in the stream of a previous post, here’s what Darrell Bock recently said about the Jesus-Paul connection in a recent interview with John Dickson:

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Encouraged by the Ignorance of Others

doubtYou know that feeling you get when you realize your own shortcomings are not so much greater than others’? Like the fact that the great Apostle Paul struggled with sin is comforting to us who have to fight the flesh daily? It reminds us that we’re all part of this sin-cursed world and we all have a fallen nature.

So when it comes to ignorance, it ought to be no surprise that there are people out there that are just as dumb as I am at times. And while their ignorance is encouraging, it’s also very discouraging.

Last week, I had two different episodes involving atheists. Well, I think they are atheists of some sort. Maybe agnostic. But most certainly antagonistic – toward the Christian faith, that is. Both would describe themselves as intelligent, but I was taken back a bit by two specific things that were said.

The first one occurred at a coffee shop. It’s a privately owned cafe and coffee roastery that I’ve worked out since it opened. Though I don’t officially work there anymore, chances are you’ll see me there if you visit. Last Saturday, I was putting some finishing touches on my sermon preparation for the next morning.  I came to get away from distractions at home, but obviously this was no better.

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He is Risen!

Happy Resurrection Sunday to everyone! God bless you as you praise our Lord for the new life we have in Him! He is a Living, Risen, Powerful Savior! Glory to Jesus Christ!

Good Friday

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Job 9:30 If I wash myself with snow
and cleanse my hands with lye,
31 yet you will plunge me into a pit,
and my own clothes will abhor me.
32 For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him,
that we should come to trial together.
33 There is no arbiter between us,
who might lay his hand on us both. (ESV)

Because of the wretched sinfulness of man, Job knew that there was no bargaining with God. Man is so rebellious and tainted by sin that he cannot even argue with God. God is so holy and removed from sin that He will not come into contact with sin and compromise His holy majesty. So Job cried for an arbiter. Someone Who can lay hands on both God and man. Someone Who is holy like God yet lowly like man. Someone who can represent man without sinning, because sin would cancel any opportunity to reason with God. Truly, only a God-Man with sinless record can accomplish this task.

I Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (ESV)

On the cross of Calvary, Friday night, 2,000+ years ago, Jesus of Nazareth became the arbiter for which Job longed. He, being literally an incarnate man, paid for the sins of sinful human beings in His own body. He, being literally God Himself, satisfied the wrath of God for our sins. Though it took a brutal death and humiliation, for us, this truly was a “Good Friday.” May everyone have a blessed Good Friday.

 Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)

Christ and the Scriptures, Part III: Jesus’ Bibliology

biblecross31In the final post in this series, I want to consider what Jesus Christ personally taught about the scriptures. What our Lord said about and did with the scriptures are of utmost importance to all matters of bibliology because of the following argument, which I have tried to articulate in this series thus far:

1. The Christian faith is primarily and initially spiritual, not intellectual. The Christian is a believer because of a work that God has supernaturally performed in his heart, not because he intellectually “figured it out.”

2. Working in the person’s heart, the Holy Spirit testifies to Christ, while Christ draws men to Himself, given by the Father. This trinitarian phenomenon results in the believer’s first and foundational affirmation: that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God.

3. Since believers come to Christ first spiritually, they should come to Christ first theologically. That is, a Christocentric model logically follows the believer’s own conversion and spiritual growth.

4. To begin with the Bible, as noble as it seems, is backwards, because no one can hold the Bible in the esteem of a Christian without first being a Christian. We do not believe in Jesus because we first accept biblical authority, we accept biblical authority because we first believe in Jesus. The danger of reversing this causes us to try to squeeze Jesus into our pre-made biblical constructs. Rather, Jesus should have preeminence in our theology to the extent that, if Jesus said or did something contrary to our understanding or theological framework, we should abandon that framework to follow Christ.

So what exactly did Jesus teach about the scriptures?

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Christ and the Scriptures, Part II: Christology and Bibliology

biblecross41In my initial post on this subject, I took a step back from the answer, “The Bible tells me so” to “how do you know the Bible is the Word of God?” I hope to answer that question in this post. I also seek to expound on the relationship between Bibliology and Christology and how that relationship pertains to the Bible version debate.

We do not arrive at truth ourselves. No amount of intellect or scholarship can uncover the deep things of God. Truth must be revealed. It is revealed only by God. In order for a man, dead in his sins, to be awakened to truth, he must undergo a supernatural experience in which God quickens him to receive that truth. The prime thing to which he is awakened is the truth that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Only those with the Spirit of God can truly say Jesus is Lord (I Corinthians 12:3). If the basis of knowledge for embracing Christ is God Himself, then the basis of knowledge for learning about Christ must be God Himself.

Therefore, before issues of eschatology, before one understands the nature of the church, before one can engage in the Bible version debate, and even before one understands his role as a Christian, the regenerated one submits to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit has done a work in his heart, and the Holy Spirit’s role is to testify of Christ (John 15:26). The Christian starts with Christ.

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Christ and the Scriptures, Part I: the Basis of Knowledge

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“Because God told me so!” 

In contrast to a contemplative analysis of philosophical systems and the epistemic weighing of evidence, the above statement seems way too elementary to provide a basis for knowledge. However, I think it’s more accurate.

God is Truth. Jesus Christ is God. Jesus Christ is Truth. All Truth comes from Him. The basis of knowledge is God. That means truth exists outside of ourselves. It is not something we can conjure up from within, nor is it something we can attain by taking matters into our own hands. Only God can reveal truth to us.

Since man by nature is alienated from God, it is impossible that he can find truth apart from God. I think that’s pretty much Theology 101, yet sometimes we forget that when it comes to apologetics and our approach to doctrine in general.

In this next series of posts, I will attempt to highlight the relationship between Christology and Bibliology and how that relationship pertains to all other doctrine. I do not expect it to be a perfect foundation that provides the solution to every doctrinal problem. I do, however, think that having the right order in this regard will be pivotal in understanding some current issues. In particular, this will play out significantly in how I approach the Bible version issue.

I want to be very clear at the onset: this is my thinking. That should be obvious seeing how this is my personal blog. But I know the tendency for some is to look at what’s being said and declare, “well, that doesn’t represent  my perspective.” I know that. I’m using this to explain what constituted a shift in my thinking. I do believe that some out there can relate. I hope it is a benefit.

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Encouraging Holiday Video, Christmas 2008

The Real Meaning of Christmas by John MacArhur

The Significance of Hanukkah

chanukiah

John 10:22 And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. 
23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. 

December 21, 2008 marks the start of Hanukkah this year. The Jewish people will be celebrating what many non Jews consider to be their version of Christmas. After all, you’ve got beautiful lights, gift giving, singing, and religious significance. It’s interesting to note, however, that while the holiday known as Christmas doesn’t appear in the Bible, Hanukkah does.

Where? Not the Old Testament, but the New. Hanukkah was instituted between the Testaments, during the time of the Maccabees. So the only time Hanukkah appears in the Bible is found in the Christian part of it, specifically in John 10.

The One about Whom Christmas is about celebrated Hanukkah. John 10:22 says there was a feast of dedication during the winter. This was about the 15th day of December (or 25th day of Chisleu). The word for dedication used here literally means “renewal”, or “re-dedication”. The Hebrew word for rededication is “hanaka”. Interestingly, the Greek word is “anakaino”, which sounds like Hanukkah if you think about it. Anyway, John 10:22 is the only time is appears in the scriptures, and the Lord Christ was involved.

The meaning of Hanukkah is something we all can apply to our lives.

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Keeping Christ in Christmas: Another Worldly Distraction

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A couple of years ago, I went to K-Mart during the Christmas season to see for myself just how anti-Christian things have become. As I stood back looking at the Christmas trees, I was amazed. I was angry. Every single box that contained a tree that would be used for nothing other than celebrating Christmas was labelled a “holiday tree.”

How dare K-Mart refuse to acknowledge my faith! How dare other secular companies change “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings!” This is all an example of secular society being so. . .so. . .so. . secular! And we Christians must stand up and do something about it. We must “Keep Christ in Christmas!” Right?

well. . .

That’s what I used to think. And that’s what many Christians seem to be devoting their time and energy to this time of year. Just recently I was invited to join a Facebook group called “Keep Christ in Christmas.” On the opposing side, groups like the ACLU somehow seemed concerned with not giving Christ the preeminence during this holiday or any other time. 

It’s obvious there’s a war going on. In particular, some have called this the War on Christmas. At large, we can classify this under the Culture Wars. But as with Proposition 8, I am prone to wonder: is this a battle in which Christians ought to fight? Or is this a worldly distraction? A soldier of Jesus Christ is not to be entangled with the affairs of this world (II Timothy 2:4). I’m afraid that’s exactly what the “Keeping Christ in Christmas” outrage is all about.

Before we choose to exhaust our God-given time and energy to any cause, we must consider if it is worthy. I pray that you would consider the following questions concerning this particular case.

Questions about Keeping Christ in Christmas:

1. Is there any biblical warrant for Christians to demand that society pay homage to Christianity?

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God Loves Singing!

mus-noteHere’s a cool thought: God loves singing! When we understand that, it hopefully helps our worship toward Him. Too many times, we enter flippantly into His presence. Or we think that singing is a mere human expression of His commanded worship. The truth is, however, that singing is a God-given privilege to be used to glorify Him!

The Bible says that God sings:

Zephaniah 3:14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.
15 The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.
16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.
17 The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. 

I think it’s pretty awesome to know that God sings! He did so when He was walking this earth as well:

Mark 14:25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. 

Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, the Inventor of singing, sang songs with His disciples while on earth! How amazing would that be to sing along with God? Well, we’re going to do that someday:

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

As God is saving people, He is amassing a heavenly choir from every tribe and tongue to be part of the best song service in all of eternity. While on earth, it’s thought provoking to realize that, as different church services go on at the same time around the world, God is listening to our singing praises to His name. Remember this as you sing!

Authentic Boldness

Acts 4:17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

If you haven’t, check out the news lately – people are afraid. We’re facing all kinds of crises, it seems. And aside from the looming threats of financial insecutiry and political unrest, American Christians today face the menaces of increasing opposition. This threat comes from many different angles. New Athesists and Muslims are on the offensive. Liberals and skeptics are subtely undermining absolute truth in this postmodern world. And many who call themselves Christians are growing increasingly apathetic. No matter who it is, let’s face it – they don’t want us to preach Christ.

And yet, we must. And we must preach Him with boldness. It’s time we take off the shelf our most valuable tool and put it to use. Let us pray with boldness so we may preach with boldness. This is what the early church did in the face of opposition:

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Evangelistic Fraud

The general consensus from conversation on this blog about Election’08 seems to be looking more towards hope for 2012 than towards next month. And now, the issue of voter fraud recently surfacing is just one more item on the long list of things that make this year’s presidential race uniquely complex. It only makes us hold tight to the passage suggested by our brother:

(Proverbs 16:33) “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.”

Recently, I was thinking about the ramifications of fraudulent voter registration in the election, when I stumbled across a thought. Persuading people to commit to something by pretense – sounds a lot like some fundamentalists’ idea of evangelism. I realize that it’s not a perfect comparison, but hear me out.

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The Substitutionary Incarnation

The substitutionary atonement is the most essential part of the gospel and the Christian faith. But when we say the phrase, “substitutionary atonement”, we often limit the substitution of Jesus Christ on our behalf to His death alone. Although the death of Christ is a climactic part of our salvation, it is also beneficial for us to understand that the substitutionary aspect of Jesus’ purpose began at His birth. 

Just as minimizing the importance of the resurrection to the crucifixion would create a tragic misunderstanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so would belittling the role of His life and ministry. The Lord Jesus’ entire life was a Substitute for us, and it began at the Incarnation.

This is manifest in a number of aspects.

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Self-defeating Ministries & Self-defeating Christians

During the missions conference at my church last week, I heard an interesting illustration. It came from a personal experience of the preacher who used it. Having visited a country in central Africa, the preacher had taken a tour of one of the deepest gold mines in the entire world. It reached nearly three miles below sea level. In order to reach the lowest point of the mine, the preacher and the tour guide had to use a series of elevators.

As they were transferring from one elevator to another, the preacher asked the tour guide why they had to use so many elevators. The tour guide explained that the mine shaft was far too long for only one elevator. After a certain distance, the weight of the elevator cables become too heavy for any elevator system. It becomes a self-defeating mechanism.

The preacher had a different application for his story, but before he proceeded to it, he threw in the comment, “I know a few ministries like that – so big, they’re self-defeating.”

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Doubting Hearts Trusting God

Matthew 11:2-4
“Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them….”

After all that had been said and done by the Lord up to this point, the scene was not so victorious from the perspective of John the Baptist. Being imprisoned by Herod, the voice of one crying in the wilderness was now swarmed by discouragement and loneliness. We don’t know his actual thoughts, but as John received word of all the miracles and wondrous works preformed by Jesus, it is no stretch to assume that John wondered why he remained in prison. So, he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus a simple question. “Are you the Messiah, or should we look for someone else?”

By many, this question is said to be a “lapse of faith” on the part of John. However, there is no reprimanding in Jesus’ response. In His loving grace, He answers. What a comfort this is for all of us hard headed, high minded children of God. When we have questions our Lord answers.

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Counting the Cost

In one of His sermons on discipleship, Jesus tells those who would follow Him that they must count the cost of making such a decision:

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him

This is a missing principle today. Too often, modern evangelism has produced many “converts” who were “not able to finish.” We have to ask, was it a result of not counting the cost?

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Finishing the Work

There are few things that are less attractive than an unfinished job site. Whether it is construction on a building or the landscaping around it, nothing ruins a scene like torn up ground, loud heavy machinery, and a crew of big sweaty workers standing around watching one guy do all the work. With road work, add to that scene the inconvenience of obstructing the ride to work, as if traffic wasn’t bad enough!

However, the truth is, without construction things never improve. Buildings never get bigger. Roads never get wider. Things never get better unless someone breaks things down in order to rebuild. We know this, but knowing it doesn’t make the job site easier to look at.

There is little difference between this and the Christian life. If we were honest with ourselves would have to recognize that we are nothing more than unfinished job sites. There may not be any heavy machinery, but the scene can be just as ugly.

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Encouraging Sunday Video, 7.20.08

If you have yet to be acquainted with Blair Wingo’s poetry, allow me to introduce you to one of her gems: “Don’t Add On”

The Scarlet Hope

Another one of the Bible’s marks of Divine inspiration is its tremendous unity. Within the subject of the unity of the Bible, several other interesting characteristics emerge: the absence of contradictions, typology, numerology, and the law of first mention.

The law, or principle, of first mention is a hermeneutic device that can be employed on many (but not all) occasions of an important biblical word’s first appearance in scripture. Henry Morris, in Many Infallible Proofs, explains:

The very first time an important word or concept of scripture is mentioned in the Bible, its usage in that passage provides the foundation for its full development in later parts of the Bible.

Such is the case with words like “light”, “blood”, and “faith.” What is really amazing, though, is the first appearance of the word “hope.”

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Doubting the Gospel of Thomas

Based upon the comments from a previous post about the Gnostic gospels, and Judas in particular, I’d like to consider the validity of the Gospel of Thomas.

One thing that I find fascinating about the product of Jesusanity studies is how quick people are to discount scores and years of evidence in support of traditional Christian views in order to accept new theories based on flaky and minute evidence. This is something that is addressed in Gary Habermas’ debate with Kenneth Humphreys on the resurrection, as in other debates.

I have found the same in conversing with friends. One such friend of mine actually teaches Sunday School at his Catholic parish, yet doesn’t believe the Bible at all. In fact, he denies the traditional Christian view of Jesus. When we talked about this, I could sense an influence of Ehrman, Crosson, Borg, and other Jesusanity scholars. Now, it’s not that their information is to be completely discounted either. But the sad fact is that even those within the realm of Christendom seem more energetic to believe one side of the story and take for granted that what the Church has told them for centuries is simply fable. To be fair, we must examine both sides.The side of Jesusanity uses the Gospel of Thomas as a key in understanding an alternative view of Christianity. Is it a credible source on which a new theory could be based? I doubt it.

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Who Says Jesus Existed? (follow up)

Emperor Trajan

The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the primary sources for information about the life of Christ. However, as we saw in the previous post, there is a significant amount of evidence for the existence of Jesus from sources outside the Bible that confirm the Biblical record. Included in these sources are the witness of historians, government officials, and Jewish and Gentile documents that are all dated within 150 years of the life of Christ. Their testimonies are valuable because they were actually hostile witnesses which had no incentive to falsify their account.

As a follow up post, I would like to take a look at what these sources actually have to say.

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