Archive for the ‘sin’ Category
I nipped this from another blog: Always Ready:
“The reason why many fail in battle is because they wait until the hour of battle. The reason why others succeed is because they have gained their victory on their knees long before the battle came…Anticipate your battles; fight them on your knees before temptation comes, and you will always have victory.”–R. A. Torrey
Then there is this from the same blog, the same post:
“Hell is larger today than it was yesterday, because many of us have failed to pray.”–David Smithers
I thought they were worth reproducing here, but you should visit the other blog too.
I have posted many thoughts about evolution and its impact on the general population of the world. I’d like to share someone else’s thoughts tonight. These thoughts concern how replacing the Creator with evolution has destroyed our understanding of sin. Consider:
The basic reason why our modern Western culture has lost the concept of sin is that the reality of the true Creator-God has been abandoned. The basic reason why all nonbiblical philosophies and religions lack a true concept of sin is that none includes the concept of a Creator-God whose will is law. The doctrine of ex nihilo creation and the doctrine of sin are thus inseparable; sin is a meaningful concept only in the light of the fact of creation. (Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once For All, 168)
. . .
Why is the denial of personal guilt such a widespread phenomenon today? As we have noted, the very idea of sin presupposes the existence of law, which presupposes the existence of a transcendent Creator-God; it also presupposes the reality of human free will. But these are among the very things that are most frequently attacked and denied in our modern world. The Creator-God is replaced by chance evolution, and various forms of secular determinism are constantly used to cancel man’s responsibility for his antisocial behavior. For example, son say that such behavior is due to childhood trauma and other forms of negative environmental conditioning. People are not sinners; they are victims. Others attribute it all to quirks in one’s genes or chromosomes or brain structure; thus we have ‘natural-born’ killers, alcoholics, homosexuals, and adulterers. (Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once for All, 193)
What’s worse is that this is how we train children from day one. Then we act shocked when they live out the realities of a life of no accountability to anyone other than themselves. But we should probably continue teaching children that they are nothing more than the chance configuration of randomly mutated selfish genes (uh, sarcasm alert.)
What I wonder is, how can children be taught accountability (to something higher than the pathetic standards of mere humanity) when they are deliberately not taught about God and are deliberately taught atheism (either by omission or commission.)
One wonders. Or not.
I have had my debates here with Darwinists and atheists. There is a great debate taking place at Uncommon Descent where BarryA has noted the Darwinian tendencies of two incidents of students shooting up their schools and killing their fellow human beings. The essay Darwin At Columbine is not a casual reading of the incident at Columbine and the recent incident of a student in Finland who killed 8 students.
Well, the internet is all abuzz with stories and blog postings concerning this horrible event. The posts at Uncommon and Post-Darwinist make many important statements and raise some very serious concerns about the nature of ‘social-Darwinism.’ Consider this from Uncommon:
I am not suggesting that Auvinen’s and Harris’ actions are the inevitable consequences of believing in Darwinism. It is, however, clear that at least some of Darwin’s followers understand “survival of the fittest” and the attendant amorality at the bottom of Darwinism as a license to kill those whom they consider “inferior.” Nothing could be more obvious.
I don’t know if such statements are typical or not of what bloggers are saying about this latest link in the concatenation of human tragedies. Something bugs me though about the whole thing. I am no friend of Darwinism. In fact, I detest all that it stands for, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. Here I’m not defending Darwin, but I’d like to suggest something that perhaps is being overlooked and that is this: Sin.
Cain was no Social-Darwinist when he killed Abel. The Lord said to him, “Sin is crouching at your door, waiting to overtake you,” not ”Darwinism is crouching at your door.” Darwinism may be a necessary (convenient?) catalyst, but it is not sufficient to explain the troubles of this planet. I have been, I confess, blinded by this very fact. Have we, in our efforts to undo Darwin and place the blame for the world’s ills at his doorstep, overlooked the troubling, pervasive, and completely debilitating nature of unchecked sin and rebellion? When God destroyed the earth with the flood, the Bible says, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart were only evil all the time…Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.” (Genesis 6:5, 11-12, NIV).
My point is this: Is blame the point? I think we are all guilty (“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”) I understand completely what BarryA is saying (I didn’t fully read Denyse O’Leary’s post), and for the most part I agree. To be sure, I don’t think he is necessarily excluding sin. I fully understand that at some level this sort of natural selection becomes a catalyst of action. Ideas have consequences. But, and we all need to know this, natural selection is not a sufficient cause nor should it, however wrong it is, shoulder the blame. The blame should be shouldered by the only thing that can shoulder it: Sin. Darwinism is a natural outgrowth of sin. Darwinism necessarily happens when God is rejected. Darwinism, at its core, is a form of rebellion against the Holy and Righteous God.
No matter how much Darwinism is in the world, no matter how much natural selection is taught in schools, and no matter how many people sport t-shirts espousing the joys of natural selection, we must not allow ourselves to shift the blame from where it belongs (sin) to where it cannot be sustained (natural selection.) Natural selection is not sufficient to sustain the blame for all the world’s ills–even I have made that mistake. The problem is sin from first to last. Jesus did not come to earth to rid the world of some vague 20th century atheistic, biological philosophy called natural selection. He came to rid the world of sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
There are many people who oppose Darwinism–I am included among them. It is absurd and ridiculous and explains absolutely nothing about the world in which we live: not the ills and wickedness, nor the evil and suffering. What explains all of this is sin: A real, thriving, living presence of rebellion and unrighteousness among humans. I believe some day it is sin that will finally and forever be eradicated because Christ Jesus, the Propitiation for our sins, has done it.
The question we have to ask is this: What are we opposed to? Is it sin or some thoroughly uninteresting, inadequate, explanation of life and sin? What will Christ ultimately do away with? Is it death or the mere philosophies that try to explain death? What is the solution to these problems? The eradication of Darwinism or the Exaltation of Christ? “But I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people unto myself.” We must exalt the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I’m asking you Christian: What are you fighting for?
I have been discussing how one properly uses the Bible with my friend Jeff at atheocracy. He has this happy little post concerning the recent lawsuit filed by a father against the Westboro ‘Baptist’ ‘Church’ who protested his son’s funeral. Jeff seems to think that all Christians who elevate the Bible to the place of infallible will end up with a message similar to those at the WBC. He wrote:
A couple of days ago, one Christian commenter didn’t agree with my assertion that all Christians who elevate the Bible to “unquestionable” status bear some responsibility for people like the ones at this church, but I’m holding to that statement unless someone can explain why I’m wrong.
You can read his entire post and the numerous responses by clicking: If there’s a God, He Hates these people.
Well, I wondered why Jeff would come up with such lousy logic. Then I stopped by A Little Leaven and read this post: You are a Hero… This post is about a church in Corona, California where a new sermon series is about to begin (or has already). Some topics include:
• How courage can help YOU conquer a storm (Noah)
• How faithfulness can keep YOU from quitting (Abraham)
• How generosity can multiply YOUR impact (Rebekkah)
• How commitment can take YOU beyond YOUR limitations (David)
The Curator at Leaven wrote:
Reducing these Biblical stories down to morals or virtues (like Aesops fables) that we can somehow apply to our lives so that we can be heroic completely misses the point. The thing that we all have in common with Noah, Abraham, Rebekah, and David is that we are all wicked sinners. We are not virtuous, courageous and faithful. Instead we are faithless, heartless and ruthless. We are not heroes we are all villians (sic). The Bible tells us that all of us are sinners in need of a savior. In other words, NONE of us ‘has what it takes’. We, like Noah, Abraham, Rebekah and David NEED a hero and a savior to redeem us and save us. That’s why those Biblical stories are NOT about Noah, Abraham, Rebekah or David, they are ultimately about Jesus Christ.
I don’t think I could possible agree more with that statement. And the truth is, if this is the sort of slop that Christians are being fed by preachers on Sunday mornings, is it any wonder Jeff thinks that all Christians are of the same pattern as those at the WBC? Is it any wonder he thinks the Bible only creates people who do the things that WBC does? You may not see the connection, but it is this: What happens when the message of Scripture (viz., Jesus Christ) is ignored? What happens when theology goes unchecked? What happens is the WBC, and sermon series like that at the Corona church: Stupidity.
I don’t agree with Jeff’s assessment of Christianity, but, even though I argue with him, I do think perhaps there is a point: What is the Church preaching? It is horrifying the things I read at Leaven that are being preached on Sundays at churches around this country. WBC has been saying that God is judging America because of things like homosexuality. I want to correct that: I think God is judging the Church because we have dumbed down Scripture, we have inoculated people against the Gospel, because we have assumed favored people status, because we (the church) are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have settled for some sort of pseudo-relevance (see 4 Weeks of Sex) instead of the faith once delivered. We are more interested in numbers than we are in truth.
God is not judging the United States because of homosexuality any more than he is judging the United States because of global warming. God is judging the Church because of her failure to preach the whole council of God, the truth without compromise; for her failure to be One as He is One; for her failure to love one another and thus demonstrate our allegiance to His Son; and for her failure, her utter failure, to be the Church, the Body of Christ. (And don’t even get me started on pedophile priests, adulterers, thieves, Ted Haggard, The Inspiration Network, Benny Hinn, Brian McClaren and Joel Osteen.) Let me remind you of what Peter wrote to the Church:
“For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
WBC has it very, very wrong. In their arrogance, they have neglected the Word of God, they have failed to love their neighbor, they have forgotten to take the log out of their own eye before they presumed to remove the speck from that of others. But so also has the Eastlake Community Church and the South Hills Church. And, lest I forget: So have I. So, to the Church, if you really think we are being judged because of sin, I suggest that you examine the sin in your own backyard before you presume to dump the entire load of s*** on the doorstep of your neighbor: Christians are without excuse!
I don’t agree with Jeff’s assessment of the Church because I don’t think he understands theology, I’m certain he knows nothing of grace (and I might also question his logic ), and because I don’t think someone outside the church has a right to make judgments about what goes on inside the church, but I do agree that Christians and ‘christians’ have thoroughly misrepresented the Word of God and that to that end, I agree with Jeff that the Church needs to examine why it preaches, what it preaches, and how it preaches the Gospel–that might mean that we need to know what the Gospel is in the first place. In short, we need to examine ourselves and see if we are in the faith we profess because I have a suspicion that it is folk like the WBC who are keeping folk like Jeff from the Gospel, the true Gospel of Christ Crucified.
And I think more Christians ought to condemn the actions and theology of WBC so that Jeff won’t have to take up valuable blogging space doing so.
And I think more Christians ought to ‘examine themselves’ before they ‘eat of the bread and drink of the cup.’
This is a must watch. D A Carson discusses sin, grace, the Cross and how misunderstanding of these can be threats faced by the church.
In the Gospel of John, we read this story:
1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11″No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
I have no doubt whatsoever that Jesus loves people. He loves people of all stripes. He loves ‘the church and gave himself up for her’:
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Yes, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ loved sinners and ate with them: tax collectors, ‘sinners’, prostitutes, Pharisees, fishermen, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Peter and Paul. I fully accept the notion that Jesus accepts us for who we are, but I add this caveat in the form of a question: Does Jesus, in accepting us for who we are, permit us to stay as we are or does he demand change?
It is this question that most struggle with, and many in the evangelical church refuse to answer the question. Instead evangelicals allow their theology to be dictated and determined by cultural phenomenons, icons, or superstars: What Mel Gibson says must be the Gospel! But is this right? Is this true? Are the superstars of myspace, youtube, megachurches, hollywood, washington, D.C. the prophets who determine the boundaries of evangelical biblical theology? When Tila Tequila speaks, should we listen?
This is a significant problem in the evangelical world just now. I don’t happen to think that MTV stars and myspace celebrities are reliable sources for Biblical theology or for ecclesiastical practice. In fact, I’m not even sure why it is news when one of them says something about God or Jesus or the Bible because normally it is absolutely, unequivocally, wrong. Such is the case with the supposed phenom of myspace, Tila Tequila whose story is being partially reported at Christian Post as some sort of eye opening, Jeremiah type prophetic revelation concerning God and His Word. I’ll will note but a couple of the more significant problems with Tila’s theology of ‘Love is just love.’
First, my disclaimer, that I have never met Tila, I’ve only heard of her just today, I don’t watch MTV because I only have basic cable, I’m not one of her ‘friends’ at her myspace (of which it is reported she has 2 million!), and I only visited her myspace (which I won’t link to) twice (reading her blog). Second, it should be stated up front that Tila is a self acknowledged bi-sexual who will begin hosting a show on MTV called ‘A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila’ in which 32 straight men and lesbians will compete for her affections (I guess). OK, here’s some thoughts.
Although acknowledging that the show would raise controversy, she wrote, “I just want to say that I am truly blessed to have had an opportunity to share with the world and teach the world that it is OK to be who you are! Gay or not! So thank you MTV for giving me this opportunity.”
Well, this is patently wrong. It is not OK to be who we are otherwise God would have found no offense, would not have declared his coming wrath against all ungodliness, and there would have been no place for the cross. Fact is, there is no sin apart from sinners and there is no room for sin in this world that belongs to God. This is, then, false doctrine. The story above from John 8 declares: I do not condemn you, but leave your life of sin. We are not free to remain in the stranglehold of sin that Jesus died to set us free from. No doubt we are loved; no doubt it is that we might be set free from sin and set free to serve God in holiness. Part of the reason He gives the Spirit is to sanctify us, that is, make us holy. If God were satisfied with who we are, why would he demand that we change? Strike one against Tila’s theology.
Second, she says:
“Growing up, I felt like I had no one to turn to in times of need, who would be there for me with open arms without judgment when I felt hopeless,” Tequila wrote. “I lived in a lonely shattered world and tried to commit suicide quite a few times from a very young and tender age starting at 11 [years] to 22 years of age.
“That is until I made amends with God,” she added.
Tequila said she didn’t meet God in a church, which she had avoided going to with her “‘gay’ problems.” And she didn’t meet the God worshipped by churches that preached condemnation. Instead, she said she made amends with “the God that I can feel and hear in my own heart.”
Well, I certainly feel for the girl who, according to the story, “built her celebrity status online with racy photos and videos, Tila merchandise and album singles.” OK. I wonder, then, if God accepts those who are interested in pornography, those who flaunt their sexuality in order to turn a profit, those who engage in activities that the Scripture clearly condemns? Still, there is sympathy. I feel for her that she was so lonely that she attempted suicide ‘quite a few times.’ Who wouldn’t? I’m sorry she met churches that only condemned and didn’t attempt to teach about forgiveness in the Name of Jesus. Sadly, I don’t think Tila made amends with the God of the Scripture, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. No, I’m afraid she did not.
Sadly, she says that she ‘didn’t meet God in a church.’ Where else is she going to meet God? God has appointed the church to be a kingdom of priests. So writes Peter:
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Where else is one to meet this God? Who else has such a privilege? Who else has God appointed for such a task of declaring his good news, of having ‘beautiful feet’, of preaching? (Romans 10) No one. That’s the whole point. For better or worse, God had chosen the Church to be the repository of His grace and good news. It is in the Church, which is made up of people, that God has hidden treasures in jars of clay. The Church has its flaws–no one can dispute that. But in spite of its flaws God continues to accomplish his Gospel work through that Church, the Body of Christ. Strike two against Tila’s theology.
Third, she said:
“I stopped feeling bad about myself because I was told that I was a ‘bad’ person for whatever reasons and opinions,” Tequila explained. “That’s when I turned my life around. I accepted me for who I am in all my glory. I accepted the fact that God would love me as long as my heart is good.”
I agree that God judges the heart. There’s another problem though. It is this:
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
10 “I the LORD search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward everyone according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”
There’s another problem: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The problem, clearly, is that we don’t have good hearts. Our intentions are never right. We are like those in the days of Noah whose hearts were only evil all the time. We can’t trust our hearts. Strike three.
Fourth, she said (all of these quotes are in the Christian Post story as written by Tila at her myspace site):
“The church should understand that they have a higher responsibility to teach the youth about unconditional love, and how we can spread the love, not why being gay is a bad thing,” she wrote.
This is simply not true at any level and it is quite presumptuous for a 25 year old soft-core porn star, mtv starlet, and myspace celeb to presume to tell the church what its responsibility is in this world. In fact, the only person who has a right to tell the church what the church should do, what the church should understand, and what the church’s responsibility is in this world is Jesus Christ–and He has in the Scripture. The church has no such responsibility to to teach the youth about unconditional love, spreading love. Nor does the church have a right to teach the youth things that are contrary to Scripture–especially when it comes to homosexuality. Sin is sin and Tila Tequila does not get to dictate the parameters of what is and is not: Scripture does.
The church has a responsibility to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and in that respect love is not necessarily unconditional. Love carries with it responsibilities. One, for example, is to submit to the Lordship of Jesus. It demands repentance. The sort of love God calls us to is a ‘believing’ love, that is, we must believe in Jesus–and all that he teaches. We don’t have a right to leave anything out of the Gospel. The sort of love we are called to is a ‘love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind’ love ‘and your neighbor as yourself.’ It is not a free-for-all-do-whatever-you-want sort of love. Strike four. (See I was kind, I gave her an extra strike!)
Something else that is missing from this report is any mention of Jesus. She said:
“[N]ow that I’ve endured all of that pain, maybe God put me on this path so that I would be able to share with everyone else who may be going through the same things?”
Or, perhaps God ‘put’ her on this path so that others might not go down the same path. Tila Tequila is a porn star (I don’t know if she makes movies or not, but her pictures are certainly on that track). And she is not someone anyone should be signing up to take theology classes from. She is not, and I don’t think she is claiming to be, in any way a Christian: not an evangelical, not a biblical, not a Catholic, Baptist, or anything else. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised that CP even did the story. There is no mention of Jesus. A lot of talk about God, a lot of criticism of the church, a lot of criticism of Christians; no mention of Jesus. Strike Five! It is impossible to avoid what Jesus says about the God who sent Him to earth, about the God who loves, about the God who demands our perfection, and about the God who, through His Spirit, makes us perfect. It is impossible to mention God’s love without mentioning the sort of love that God demonstrates for people: sacrificial, holy love.
But this goes to show what can happen to a person’s theology when it is not in any way grounded in the Word of God. Our path, our direction, our theology, must come from Scripture. I feel badly for all those who have heard her mention ‘God’ who will now think it is OK to participate in her television and internet shows. My friend Jason Goroncy posted this from PT Forsyth at his blog the other day. It captures beautifully my point:
‘The great Word of Gospel is not God is love. That is too stationary, too little energetic. It produces a religion unable to cope with crises. But the Word is this—Love is omnipotent for ever because it is holy. That is the voice of Christ-raised from the midst of time, and its chaos, and its convulsions, yet coming from the depths of eternity, where the Son dwells in the bosom of the Father, the Son to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth because He overcame the world in a Cross holier than love itself, more tragic, more solemn, more dynamic than all earth’s wars. The key to history is the historic Christ above history and in command of it, and there is no other’. Peter T. Forsyth, The Justification of God: Lectures for War-Time on a Christian Theodicy (London: Independent Press, 1957), 217
We need to be well aware of the false gospels that are making the rounds. Tila Tequila is another example of someone who talks a lot about God, but knows nothing about theology–or Scripture. We do well to ignore her.
I have no doubt that God accepts sinners because if he didn’t, no one could be saved. However, I do also believe that God does not intend for us to stay that way or else he would not have sent Jesus to earth to die on the Cross. The Cross is proof enough of that. Go now, and leave your life of sin. Love is not ‘just love.’ Love is holy and it is clearly defined in Scripture by pointing us to the cross of Christ. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Love devoid of truth is meaningless. Tia Tequilas love, just from looking at her myspace, is anything but godly, and nothing remotely close to biblical. Again, we do well to avoid her definitions of ’god’, ‘love’, and ‘church.’
Soli Deo Gloria!
I think there is actually something to this. If you think about it, this has its roots in the very sin that pervades our existence. Remember, in the beginning, the Lord said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (I fully realize there is a difference between being ‘alone’ and being ‘lonely.’)
Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but some people have it much worse. These individuals consistently feel lonely for years, often despite having friends and family. Researchers have long known that such chronically lonely people are less healthy. They suspected cortisol, a hormone that regulates the body’s response to stressful or threatening situations, was to blame, because it’s found in higher levels in people who feel isolated. But the mechanism remained a mystery, and one nagging question persisted: If inflammation drives most loneliness-linked diseases, how can cortisol, with its anti-inflammatory properties, be the culprit?
I agree that research should be done into this field, but I disagree with the conclusion that researcher Steve Cole comes to:
Cole hopes doctors will someday be able to use the genetic markers his team discovered to identify at-risk patients and keep them healthier with anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin. “We can’t change them into the happy, laughing life of the party,” he says, “but we can keep them out of the coffin.”
I confess that I don’t really know what he means by this. Is he saying, “Out of the coffin at an early age,’ or ‘Out of the coffin forever’? I hope what he means is the former because the latter is just hubris.
Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:26-28, NIV).
I’m not disagreeing with the article. I’m just saying that I think our lonliness is deep seated precisely because of sin. I agree that over the course of time sin has so warped us that it probably has disrupted and corrupted the genetic structure of our lives.
Finally, and I don’t mean this is a sarcastic way, but it has been argued that the environment affects our gentics. I wonder if the research indicates how the environment has affected the genese they are concerned about in this particular study. Finally, I wonder if perhaps there is any evolutionary advantage to these lonliness genes? I’m being serious because for all the joking around I do, I think lonliness is a serious problem in our increasingly solitary world.
If you are interested in the full study, Science has made it available in .pdf form here. If I get time, I’ll read it too. My thoughts above are only on the article reporting the study itself.
I came across this while tag surfing. I think it is helpful. From www.extremetheology.com
Here we must be clear that the main point of Christianity is not our morality and goodness. This is, to be sure, the thing driving every other world religion from Judaism to Hinduism, Islam to Mormonism and even Atheism! All of these “ism’s” are pointing mankind to achieve more and be better, to climb the ladder of moral success and be a good person. But Christianity is different, it begins not with man’s goodness or potential goodness but rather with man’s wickedness. From the first chapters of Genesis until the Revelation given to St John the Bible is a record of mankind’s failure; it is a testimony of his sin.
You can read the rest here: Christian Hypocrites. This is certainly not to deny that along with Christian faith comes the progress in holiness (what we call sanctification), but even that, we must acknowledge, is a work of the Holy Spirit. Enjoy the essay.
22Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”
I’d like to take this text in a direction that perhaps is not entirely obvious or necessitated by the context. Jesus made these statements to opponents (which in itself is revealing!), but he also made them to the Church which reads this Gospel according to John. We do well to pay close attention to the manner in which he speaks to his opponents, but we do much better to pay attention to the words he spoke to them. So, I may not be entirely within the scope of context, but I don’t think I have abused the text to make my point.
Isn’t that the problem with most people: You tell them plainly who Jesus is and they simply refuse to believe. There are a lot of reasons why people say they don’t believe, but it still boils down to unbelief. But there is no other way. They asked; he answered. He is the Christ, the Messiah. The onus, thus, is on them: they are the ones who don’t believe. Those who do believe hear his voice and listen to him. The benefits are great: Eternal life, no perishing, no one can take us from Him and wreck our salvation. We cannot be taken from Him because we are protected by the Father. Then: I and the Father are one. Right there is the single most plainly spoken statement about Jesus’ self-understanding, about His complete identity: He is God.
The implications of this statement are astounding, nearly incomprehensible. It is staggering, astonishing, and yet absolutely comforting and reassuring. The implications are quite revealing, not least because we are told that Jesus is the head of the Church (which necessarily means he is the head of every Christian). This means that the church, if the church functions (I realize that is a rather simplistic choice of words) with Christ at the Center, as the Center, defining the Center. We do not operate apart from His sovereignty or His governance. It also means that Jesus’ interest in the church is not some mere passing acquaintance. It means that his association with the church is the Father’s association with the Church. It means that His intentions for the Church are the Father’s intentions for the Church. It means that He and the Father are in complete accord when it comes to Church and those who belong to the Church. It means that we are answerable to Him, to Him alone, in our conduct as Christians and our membership in His Body. There is no other way but Jesus.
Well this is, frankly, astonishing because there are many nowadays who are quite convinced that, in fact, they run the church. So important people convene a meeting and begin discussing this subject or that subject. I suppose they pray and listen to position papers too. They do so gather in the Name of Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of the Holy God. So how do they come up with the idea that Jesus Christ, who is One with the Father and the Head of the Church, would tolerate sin in His body? To what God are they praying when they conclude that sin is A-OK in the Church and those practicing shall not be punished? Don Carson rightly asks how we think God ‘feels’ about the sin that cost the life of His Son. “How does rebellion appear to One so incomparably transcendent that even the superpowers appear to his eyes like the fine dust in a balance? How does rebellion appear to One who measures our sin by the death of His Son?” (How Long O Lord?, 86). I wonder: Christ died to make a people unto himself, pure and holy, a Kingdom of priests who will declare his praises and many in the church have turned the church into a place where any and every kind of sin is validated, justified, practiced, and applauded.
Jesus’ intentions for the church are no different than God’s because Jesus is, indeed, God. There is no difference of opinion on how things ought to be done: Jesus’ Way. There is no other way for them to be done: Jesus’ Way. There are no two ways about it: Jesus’ Way. Well, how do we know this? David Wells, in that lecture I mentioned in another post (The Disappearance of Evangelical Theology, pt 2) makes this point clear: For us to be Christ centered is to be begin by understanding the Scripture. Our Center, he says, is Christ: Understood theologically: Biblically Mediated, Biblically defined. In other words, we don’t have a right to redefine Jesus, or His Scripture in the way we wish that it looked. We have no right to challenge the Biblical Witness. We have no right to ‘re-imagine’ Jesus, or ‘re-imagine’ the Church. We have the Scripture: Our sole Rule of Faith and Practice. This is what Jesus said: My sheep listen to My Voice.
So we must understand His Voice. We must listen to His Voice. We must be careful to discern His Voice. We must be cautious not to stray from what is written. Again, Wells, “The Christian life is Christian only to the extent to which it is constituted and defined by the Word of God.” I submit to you that the Church, in her efforts to be ‘relevant’, has altered this and we thus have a disjunction between Scripture and practice. The Church has decided that it can do away with certain doctrines as antiquated, or irrelevant. The Church has decided that one must not be hastily or harshly judged for heretical teachings (on which see Albert Mohler http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=987). The Church must be tolerant, even of those who are openly practicing sin because we don’t want to offend them or drive them away from God’s love (with their wallets firmly squeezed between the material on their slacks!). After all, we are told, God loves the sinner and hates the sin. And who are Christians to judge! (But in the Church we are to judge!)
But at what expense? What is the cost of listening to man centered theological extracts, heresy at best, and diminishing the Word of Christ? What is the cost to the Church, to the Gospel, of such a tolerance for sin and such an intolerance for the faith once delivered? What price will the church pay for it’s incomprehensible tolerance and justification of sin and heresy? Funny thing is, and I don’t know where I heard this, but the Word of God includes all the Scripture, not just the words in Red. In other words, it’s all binding on the Christian, on the Church. What has taken place in the Church is that people figure they can meddle, correct for culture, make adjustments on the fly as if God’s Word were not sufficient. Even the popularization of the Gospel in the form of ‘Christian fiction’ or ‘Christian psychology’ or ‘Christian (insert popular ism here)’ is a bastardization of the Gospel which was given to us that we might believe in Jesus and have life in His Name alone.
Much of what goes on in the church is shameful and embarrassing. It is disgraceful and an abomination to a Holy God. David Wells makes an important statement at the end of his lecture concerning the Gospel in the Church. He perceptively says, “Where would we be if there had not been men and women down through the ages who insisted on handing down the teachings of the Apostles in tact to the next generation? We wouldn’t be here!”
But he doesn’t leave it there. “Where,” he asks, “will the next generation be as we hand this truth on to them?” One wonders. What will be the theological legacy this generation will leave to the next generation? We have only one choice: We must, as His sheep, listen to His voice. I think it is safe to say that we can ignore the cacophony of voices we hear clamoring about the rights of this group and that group. There is only One Body. But which voice will we listen to? Which voice will we hear? Whose sheep are we, anyhow?
Soli Deo Gloria!
I listened to a lecture by David Wells today, “The Disappearance of Evangelical Theology, pt 2″. It was an amazing lecture touching on many key points that have led to the demise in Evangelical Christians being taken seriously.
At one point he comments about how ‘worldliness’ has managed to find a home in, of all places, the church: “Our world has made normal the values of our fallenness. Worldliness in any culture is the centering of man and the exiling of God and His Truth. It makes sin look normal, and righteousness strange.” (A bit of that is paraphrase, but it captures the heart of his comments.)
This is, I think, what is going on in the church when it comes to homosexuality. Homosexuals began by wanting to have the freedom to ‘come out of the closet’ (much like Richard Dawkins is now encouraging atheists to do). Once they are ‘out’, they want radical normalization to take place. This includes, special rights, insistance on not be discriminated against simply because they are homosexuals, and they want to ‘educate’ which means ‘evangelize.’ (Seinfeld made a joke about this one time. He said something like, “I’ll bet that’s one of the selling points when they’re recruiting” (He was talking about clothing. But even he, tongue in cheek to be sure, recognized an underlying current.)
Well, in our culture, homosexuality has been rather successfully normalized and now their is a popular trend of indoctrination. I seriously doubt anyone is going to stop this, but this one thing I must say. It must stop in the church. Here’s what we read:
A day after the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination voted to encourage its bishops to practice “restraint” in disciplining gay ministers who are in “faithful” same-sex relationships, St. John’s Lutheran Church – Atlanta’s oldest Lutheran church – celebrated Sunday the continuing pastorship of the Rev. Bradley Schmeling.
Earlier this year, Schmeling, who announced that he found a lifelong gay companion, was ordered to be removed immediately from the clergy roster. The order by the Committee on Appeals overruled an earlier decision by a disciplinary committee which said Schmeling should be allowed to remain on the clergy roster until after ELCA’s biennial churchwide assembly, Aug. 6-12. The committee also suggested that ELCA reinstate gay clergy who were removed or resigned because they were in a same-sex “lifelong partnership.”
Despite the removal, Schmeling refused to leave St. John’s and said he planned to continue to follow his call in ministry there.
Furthermore, although the gay clergy debate was expected to come up in 2009, Schmeling was a major part of the push at this year’s assembly to lift the ban on non-celibate homosexual clergy. By
Christian Post Reporter
Tue, Aug. 14 2007 01:00 PM ET
The homosexuals in the church are becoming more and more militant. Lest I be construed as a bigot, allow me to say that culturally there is not much anyone can do, but the church is not defined culturally. It is defined by Jesus Christ. Homosexuality has been far to rationalized, normalized, and too many have been evangelized and indoctrinated for the culture to turn back. However, in the church, this has got to stop. Who is going to take a stand? When will the church realize that this is damnation in the house of God, judgment from God? When will people realize that just because the culture normalizes sin doesn’t mean that it is no longer sin? In Wells’ words, quoting Yeats, we have lost the center. This is man-centered doctrines advancing forcefully, and the church is welcoming it in with a smile and the right hand of fellowship.
If Islam doesn’t do it first, homosexuality will be the undoing of the evangelical church in the United States.
8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers. And it is for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:8-11, TNIV)
Lord have mercy on your people! Lord forgive! Forgive! And yet, Lord, purify your church! There is no compatibility between homosexuality and the Church of Jesus Christ.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3″Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7″Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. 8His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” 10″How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.11He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” 12″Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.
Whatever else may be true about this particular story we can say this much: This man was not the same after he met Jesus. He will repeat it time and time again in the following verses: I was blind, but now I see. He did not deny that Jesus had changed his life. He did not fail to confess that Jesus did something for him that no one else could: Opened his eyes. Therein we see exemplified Jesus’ words: I am the Light of the World. As Carson writes, “This chapter portrays what happens when the light shines: some are made to see, like this man born blind, while others, who think they see, turn away, blinded, as it were, by the light” (The Gospel According to John, 359).
The irony of this chapter is that it begins with a man born blind that Jesus could and did heal and ends with a group of people whom Jesus could not heal. The point is clear enough: you have to be blind in order to be healed of blindness and the folks at the end of the chapter would not admit to being blind. Someone who is already healed does not need a doctor.
How many blind people are there in the world? That depends. I have been accused over and over again, by certain ‘types’ of folks who visit here, that I am the one who needs to open my eyes, that I am the one who is ignorant because I don’t understand someone else’s point of view. I am blind because I refuse, so they say, to acknowledge that this world only needs some peace, empathy, sympathy, compassion and tolerance and all will be well. But that is not what Jesus says the world needs. Jesus says the world needs something more: They need to recognize their own lostness: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind…If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” Jesus says this world needs light because it is overrun with darkness. Jesus says this world needs a Savior because it is overwhelmed with sin. Jesus says this world needs someone to open it’s eyes because it is blind to the truth.
That is rather harsh, I think. But let me see if I can’t show some examples of people who refuse to open their eyes or, rather, better, allow Jesus to open their eyes. Understanding a person’s point of view has nothing to do with whether or not they have heard the Gospel and obeyed. I understand this: There is Christ or nothing, blind or seeing, saved or lost. That’s not my take; that’s Jesus’ verdict. So for example…
Those who are far superior intellectually in this world have taken it upon themselves to tell us that certain things God has said were sin are, in fact, no longer sin. A prime example of this is the ongoing attempt by practicing, fornicating homosexuals to declare themselves ‘in-line’ with the will of God, that is, not in defiance of His command, not His enemy. A major proponent of this is (parts of) the Episcopal church and a certain openly homosexual bishop named Eugene Robinson who continues his assault on the word of God by promoting an active-blessed-by-god-and-approved-by-the-church life of sin. Eyes are wide shut on this one. Here is a man who must contort Scripture to justify his sin. (I’m using his example, but there are other denominations struggling too.)
Then there is this story from Christian Post, which tackles the same subject from a similar angle:
It’s unfortunate that, in the Christian context, homosexuals are the modern day lepers, said a former lesbian.
Beyond the advancement of the homosexual agenda in the nation’s school systems and popular culture, the greater tragedy is that Christians have misrepresented God’s character to the gay community and have alienated them from the Gospel, said Christine Sneeringer, director of Worthy Creations, an Exodus International ministry.
Sneeringer was walking out of homosexuality for two years when during one Sunday school session on abortion and homosexuality, she was met by harsh comments from Christians that were not unfamiliar to the gay community, she said in a testimony featured in a recent Coral Ridge Ministries broadcast.
One fellow believer said she doesn’t have any compassion toward homosexuals while another agreed and added that AIDS is God’s judgment against them. Both were unaware of Sneeringer’s sexual history.
“It’s no wonder that the average homosexual expects rejection from Christians,” said Sneeringer, who was speaking to hundreds of Christians in Fort Lauderdale last month.
“There’s not a homosexual in North America who doesn’t know the evangelical viewpoint on homosexuality,” she said. “But do they know there’s a God in Heaven who loves them and who sent a Savior to die for them too?”
Not all gays want to be gay, she noted. But in a society that says it’s okay to be gay, many don’t know there’s a way out.
* * * * *
Sneeringer grew up in a home where her father verbally and physically abused her mother and was addicted to pornography. At 12 years old, she was sexually molested by her older cousin and later her brother.
* * * * *
In this new century, there are only two kinds of churches – the relevant and the irrelevant – she stated. Relevant churches uphold the biblical standard of morality in a culture that has lost morals and is bold to show God’s love to those trapped in their sin.
Today, Sneeringer is no longer a lesbian. She’s thankful for the relevant church that looked beyond her sin.
Now, Sneeringer is telling Christians to be that relevant church.
“What have we done to offer the gay community an alternative?” she posed to Christians. Just railing against gays hasn’t helped them to know the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, the ministry leader stressed.
“Often Christians think that to love a homosexual is a compromise of their Christianity, that somehow their love would be misconstrued as condoning homosexuality.”
But the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor, Sneeringer highlighted.
A Christian’s message must balance truth and love. Jesus, she said, accepted and loved sinners. And he loved them enough not to leave them in their sinful state but to challenge them to a live a life beyond it, Sneeringer explained.
* * * * *
“If we can’t embrace and support the repentant homosexual, how much more will we struggle with showing God’s redemptive love to the active homosexual?” she asked the Christian crowd, adding that many gays are doing their best to walk right with God and crucify their fleshly desires.
Sneeringer challenged Christians to spread Christ’s redeeming love to the homosexual community. (Ex-Lesbian Urges Christian Love, Not Rejection for Homosexuals; By Lillian Kwon Christian Post Reporter Wed, Apr. 25 2007 12:50 PM ET;
First, let me say that I applaud this person for the work they do in Christ’s Name and for their passion to reach the lost; more should follow her example. This story is so filled with generalizations and half-truths that it is hardly worth commenting on, but I will take a stab at the part that I think matters. The ‘former-lesbian’ says that there are only two churches: the relevant and the irrelevant. But tell me how can a church be relevant if in fact the church has to be quiet about the truth of a Holy God? To whom are we to be relevant: The world or God? If, in fact, the Christians’ message must ‘balance truth and love’ how are we to do that if we are not allowed to point out the truth? Truth without love is arrogance; love without truth is meaningless. If the second greatest commandment is to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ then let us not forget that the first greatest commandment is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.’ We love God first which necessarily means that our love is defined by his character, and shaped by His Holiness. (Jesus said elsewhere, ‘If you love me you will obey me.’) After that, we are free to love people in the manner which God loved us: in the Holiness of God, in fellowship with the Spirit, and in Submission to Christ.
Second, homosexuals are not, in fact, the modern lepers. Lepers don’t choose to be lepers. With very few exceptions, sinners are welcomed in any church they go to. Mine included. I’ll even welcome practicing homosexuals to worship at the church I serve (but also murderers, rapists, thieves and the like). But I will not compromise the message of the Gospel simply so they can feel validated and welcome, so that they will think I am tolerant and compassionate. So they will as quickly leave when they realize that the Scripture declares them to be lost (I know, a dirty word) and provoking the Holiness of God, and that I, as a Christian, have no authority to compromise that message of truth—regardless of how much I love someone. They will also leave when they realize that they have no fellowship in the church so long as they persist in un-repentance and sin. You see, one can’t have it both ways. You cannot claim to have your eyes open and then live with your eyes shut. If the Son sets you free, you cannot live like a slave. And they will also leave when they hear the Gospel preached because the Gospel declares, not me, that the unrepentant are lost. Believe it or not, there is a difference between the repentant and the unrepentant sinner. Sin is sin; but, if I am prohibited from declaring it as such, people will remain blind, in their sin, and ultimately lost.
Third, let’s be honest, it’s not just the Christians who are ignorant now is it? The homosexual agenda is that they want to be accepted into the church free of charge, free of change, just as they are, with no repentance, and no accountability before a Holy God whose Son died on a Cross. That’s like a heterosexual declaring she is a homosexual without actually becoming a homosexual, and practicing homosexuality, or even having the tendencies of a homosexual. It doesn’t make sense. The church only establishes guidelines for membership in the Body of Christ based on what the Head (Jesus) has himself established in His Word. There is no issue for the homosexual who repents of their sin. But to say that it is not a sin is like saying: “I’d rather remain blind.” Jesus declares those who are still blind to be sinners without grace. Being in church on Sundays does not necessarily make one a Christian.
It is truly only those ‘visionaries’ in the church who claim otherwise. So I’m not talking about those who truly want to change, which means repent, and live a life submitted to Christ. The subject of the story above said: “There’s not a homosexual in North America who doesn’t know the evangelical viewpoint on homosexuality,” she said. “But do they know there’s a God in Heaven who loves them and who sent a Savior to die for them too?” I wonder if they do? But how can they know the evangelical viewpoint on homosexuality and not know of the Holy God in heaven who loves them and sent a Savior to die for them? (The word ‘too’ at the end of her statement is superfluous; no one says that Christ didn’t die for any sinners when Scripture says he died for the sins of everyone.) And I further wonder if they realize that it was for their sin he died? And I further wonder if they realize that persistence in sin is a rejection of Christ? Then, we might also say the same thing to murderers, thieves, adulterers, idolaters, pedophiles, the covetous, the greedy, the slothful, and so on and so forth. The only people who have put homosexuals in a different category are, in fact, homosexuals. Their sin is not greater or lesser than the sin of anyone else; and Christ died for all sin.
She also said that many homosexuals don’t know the way out of their homosexuality. I defy that notion. If they want out, there are plenty of ministries available to them, but how can they know the way out if, in fact, Christians are prohibited (even by other Christians!) from telling them they are trapped in sin and that the only way to escape sin is through Jesus Christ? How can Christians do so when there are ‘Christians’ claiming that they don’t have to repent (see Robinson, Out of Context, etc.) of sin? I’m not saying that there are no ignorant Christians among us. I am saying, be realistic about what is expected from both sides. If a Christian is to love a sinner, as Jesus did, the sinner is no less expected to repent of sin and ‘be holy as [God] is holy’. It can’t be both ways. That is spiritual blindness at its utmost worst.
But the way out is simple, if not difficult. If Jesus opened the eyes of a man born blind, what more can he do for someone trapped in homosexuality? “A Broken and contrite heart he will not despise” (Psalm 51). Jesus is the way for closed eyes to be opened, and for the homosexual to leave homosexuality, and for the murderer to stop murdering, and for the rapist to stop raping, and on and on and on…
Soli Deo Gloria!
Chapter 8 of John’s Gospel
John chapter 8 is an incredible chapter. What’s more, what we learn about Jesus is that he was, actually, quite intolerant. As I see it, too few people want to actually listen to and read about the Jesus of the Scripture. The mantra going around nowadays is that Christians have to behave like the world: We must be accepting of all religions, and all people regardless of their persistence in sinful activities, and all forms of belief and unbelief, and all teachings about Scripture, and all ‘scripture.’ The mantra supposes one thing (falsely): That Christians are claiming to be perfect. So, built on that premise the logic goes like this: Christians assume they are perfect and claim that they alone know the way to salvation, it can be adequately demonstrated that they are not, in fact, perfect; therefore, Christians are not in sole possession of the way to salvation. But that’s not what Christians are saying at all.
What Christians are saying is that, in fact, we are all guilty before a Holy God. We don’t begin with ourselves and work outward from there. We begin with a Holy God and work down. We don’t compare ourselves to ourselves or even others in the vain hope that we might be a little better than our neighbor and therefore merit God’s attention. We begin with the premise that God is Holy, that He has revealed Himself to us in Jesus, and that, because He has done so, we are accountable to Him and His standard. Furthermore, Christians do not claim to be ‘in sole possession of the way to salvation.’ What we claim, rather, is that in Christ, and Christ alone, there is salvation—regardless of whether we happen to ‘possess’ it or not. Salvation belongs to Christ. He is the beginning and the end of all things.
In John 8, the people said: “We are Abraham’s descendants!” They thought that by a mere horizontal relationship they were guaranteed some special consideration. (Maybe they were before Jesus came.) When Jesus came to earth, all that went out the window: “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus makes the claim that until we have been set free by the Son, we are still slaves of sin. That means everyone. This means that until a person comes under the Sovereign emancipation of Jesus Christ they are, essentially, little more than an atheist, or, Jesus’ words: Children of their father, the devil. And those who belong to their father the devil are happy to do his desires (8:44). I think to state it any other way is to tell a lie and those who lie cannot possibly belong to anyone other than the father of lies.
Now I know all this sounds rather harsh, mean, intolerant, angry, and judgmental. But there is something to bear in mind: I’m not the one saying it! These aren’t my words. I didn’t invent them. I didn’t create them. I didn’t write them down for someone and ask that person to go and preach them. These words, in fact, belong to God: “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me…If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:28, 51). This is what God said! If I reject what Jesus said, or change it, or lie about it, I am rejecting the very Word of God and inviting all sorts of judgment on myself. I don’t have any right to say something other than what Scripture says. Jesus could not say anything other than what He had heard in the Father’s presence. I don’t see how a Christian, thus informed, can fail to do any less.
So here’s what happened. At the beginning of John 8 Jesus met a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. When it was all said and done, Jesus said: Neither do I condemn you; however, that was not all he said: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” There was sin involved, but Jesus demonstrates in those verses the sort of, what I call, intolerant compassion that does, at times, fail the church. In other words, he was merciful to a sinful person, but he demanded her allegiance by calling her out of her life of sin. There is sin and it is not tolerated at all.
That’s a lot of heavy stuff but Jesus warns us. There will come a time when people will look for him and no longer find him and they will die in their sins. If you desire to be set free from the bonds and shackles of sin, this can only happen in Jesus. That’s all that the Christian is saying. And, sadly, for those who refuse Jesus there remains little but his judgment; not mine. And according to this passage of John: His judgment is always right.
Soli Deo Gloria!
21Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” 22This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” 23But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” 25″Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. 26″I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” 27They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.
Let’s take a look at these words of Jesus and read them at face value.
There was a time when the people Jesus taught tried to seize him. They wanted to cling to him—but not for any reasons resembling righteousness. They had other designs on him that precluded accepting him at face value—that he was who he claimed to be. He gave them a lifeline (I wish I had a better metaphor here) and they rejected it. What was the only other option: You will die in your sin, Jesus said. This is the option? Acceptance of Jesus, belief that He is the One God sent, and there will be life outside of our sin. But rejection of Jesus is sheer stupidity because our last resting place will be our sin soaked lives.
Would there be a time when Jesus was gone and they would look for him? Jesus seems to believe so and at that time they would no longer be able to find him. They can’t seize him to arrest him; they won’t seize him to escape sin. Jesus indicates here that sin is a nasty little secret that man is simply unable and unwilling to come to terms with. Perhaps we are content to ignore it or avoid it or revel in it. But he makes it abundantly clear that they would die in their sin and the place where he was going would be inaccessible to those who did. Does there come a point in the time of some folk’s lives when Jesus simply become inaccessible to them any longer? When it is impossible to repent of sin? When their only ambition is to sin? I kind of gather that if they would ‘die in their sin’ that means they persisted in their sin as well. They would be unable to get out of it.
This is a major, major problem we face in the world today. I’ll take Dr. Phil as an example of the problem He invites all sorts of people onto his television program—and, frankly, the only difference between Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer is that Phil doesn’t spend as much time mocking the people as Springer does. I’ll admit, Phil’s arguments and solutions are well reasoned, articulate, and, as far as they go, probably scientifically sound. In some cases, I’ll bet they work. The problem is that we never hear about the root of the problem. We hear people say ‘the problem is that my brother stole my identity and I hate him for it.’ Phil might say, ‘why did you steal his identity? Were you trying to get even? Was it revenge?’ What we don’t hear Phil say is this: At the core of this problem between two brothers is sin, a deeply entrenched, living, breathing, fallen-ness that has not too quietly taken over their lives. He may get confessions and he may do some reconciling, but he has not dealt with the core; he’s killed the weeds and planted flowers, but he’s done so in the same exact soil.
Jesus says it again: “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you would die in your sins. If you don’t believe that I am the one claim to be you will indeed die in your sins.” They will look for him and die in their sins. They will refuse to believe in him and die in their sins. Again I say it: We cannot get out of the dilemma we are in by ourselves. I don’t care how many feel good gurus PBS runs across a stage, I don’t care how many people stay in the Dr Phil House, I don’t care how many feel good stories are turned into After School/Hallmark Hall of Fame movies: Sin is in deep and it is not willing to let go just because we ‘get our house in order.’ Sin is relentless, pursuing with baited breath, hunting down the weak and the strong alike, the poor and the rich alike, the sinner and the saint alike. Sin is tireless, fearless and ambitious. It doesn’t care who the victim: Its aim is to devour.
And Jesus says that if we refuse to believe that he is I Am (this is what that nebulous phrase ‘the one I claim to be’ means) we are simply, utterly, beyond hope. There is only one Name given by which men (and women) might be saved: Jesus. If we are not clinging to Him what hope have we? So I do not think the answer is to send people some sentimental story of how someone with a lot of courage overcame the monsters hiding under their bed, or some inspirational story of how someone’s faith helped them get through a particularly nasty bout of splattergoit (a particularly nasty ailment non-muggles can get; certain readers will get it). I don’t think that such inspiration, however inspirational it may be, will get us through sin. It will not erase sin. It will not cure sin. PT Forsyth well makes this point when he writes,
“Even a loving God is really God not because He loves, but because He has the power to subdue all things to the holiness of his love, and even sin itself to His love as redeeming grace. A sympathetic God is really God because He is a holy, saving, redeeming God; because in Him already the great world-transaction is done, and the kingdom of his Holy love already set up on His foregone conquest of all evil. The great and crucial thing is done in God and not before Him, in His will and not in His presence, by Him and not for Him by any servants, not even by a son. It is an act of His own being, a victory in His own immutable and invincible being. And to be saved, in any non-egoistical sense of the word, means that God gains His own victory over again in me, and that I have lost in life’s great issue unless He do. God’s participation in man’s affairs is much more than that of fellow-sufferer on a divine scale, whose love can rise to a painless sympathy with pain. He not only perfectly understands our case and our problem, but He has morally, actively, and finally solved it. The solution is for ever present with Him.” (The Cruciality of the Cross, 60-61).
Forsyth is convinced that this happened at Calvary: “And our faith is not merely that God is with us, nor that one day He will clear all things up and triumph; but that for Him all things are already triumphant, clear, and sure. All things are working together for good, as good is in the cross of Christ and it’s saving effect.” (62)
So when they ask him, “Who are you?” Jesus’ response is understandable: “Just what I have been claiming all along.” What has he been claiming about himself? Well, re-read chapters 1-6 to get the gist. And besides, why should he continue to repeat his answer to the question they ask? They haven’t believed him up to this point, why should one more repetition all of a sudden change their minds? And just like happens with the disciples in chapter 16: They did not understand what he was telling them about his Father (16:17-18). So he nails them one more time: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM I AM (the meaning of that innocuous phrase ‘the one I claim to be’). This is a declaration that He is God, YHWH. This is his open avowal that He is God in the Flesh, God among us, God come down, God tabernacled among us. This is Forsyth’s point, echoing Paul: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the World to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NIV). Jesus is saying that will fully understand when we see Him crucified. It is in the cross that all of what Jesus said makes sense because it is there that we see how God dealt with the problem of this world. It is in the cross that God makes his open declaration of who Jesus, what His purpose is, and How God means to conquer us. It was not in any other way but the cross.
Jesus says, “…I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me…I always do what pleases him.” Jesus did not even invent this stuff any more than Christians did or Paul in particular. Jesus spoke the Word of God—It was God who ‘told’ him what to say. It was God who sent his message to earth through Christ. It was God who revealed this plan. It was God who said: “Jesus is the I AM I AM.” This is no mere invention or parable of men—and God did not send the Christ here so that he could help us get over all the stuff that the gurus and doctors of this world tell us we need to get over. God sent His Christ to this world to deal with sin.
Another major problem we have in this world is this conception of sin so that even in some of the major denominations in this world right now there is no such thing as sin. Sin is being eradicated as a problem: The church has effectively dealt with sin in this world by declaring sin to no longer be sin. Take homosexuality for example. Many preachers claiming to be Christians have thrown all their eggs into one basket and claimed that they can be practicing, fornicating homosexuals and Christians and still get clear of God’s wrath. And they invite many others to participate with them in their delinquency. But it is not just homosexuals and their apologists.
Well if this is true—that what the Bible calls sin is no longer sin because man has declared it to not be sin—then of what need or use is there for Jesus? If Sin is allowed in then Jesus may as well leave because the two are incompatible. The price of sin cost Christ his life. I don’t see how people can do it. I don’t see how the blood of Christ can be trampled on, I don’t see how Christ can be publicly humiliated all over again, I don’t see how the cross can be turned upside down and sin welcomed with open arms. Truly what the book of Hebrews says is true: There is no sacrifice left. The author of Hebrews wrote in the tenth chapter:
26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31).
Thus Jesus says: You will look for me and you will die in your sins. Why? Because there will come a time when he will not be found. Find Him while He may be found.
Soli Deo Gloria!
PS–nothing I wrote should be considered a criticism of Dr Phil per se. I’m sure he is excellent in his field. My point is that however well he does his work as a Psychiatrist he still does not deal with the core of the problem. He treats symptoms, and many times resolves them, but he does not treat causes.
53Then each went to his own home. 1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11″No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
You know, as well as I do, that people are mean. People have very little conscience most of the time. It has been seared, corrupted, abused, and conquered by ourselves in complete cooperation with the Enemy. People will use any means at their disposal to attack and vilify Christ—or His church. I have always wondered about the man in this story. I’d like to know how it is that a woman was ‘caught in the act of adultery’ but a man was not. This alone shows that they have no real regard for the law. Sadly, we see a lot of this in our own culture. You might say it is a double-standard. Really, it’s a blatant disregard for the law, a thumbing of the nose at righteousness, an unmitigated scoffing at true justice.
That said, this particular pericope does not revolve around these mean, arrogant scofflaws. If they had read the law they would have seen this: “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death’” (Leviticus 20:10). They also would have read in the 10 Commandments that the command ‘do not commit adultery’ has no particular sexual identity attached to it. In other words, it does not say ‘a man shall not commit adultery’ or ‘a woman shall not commit adultery.’ It says, pardon the archaic KJV language, ‘thou shall not commit adultery.’ They were quite wrong that day to bring only the woman before Jesus. (Sort of makes one wonder if the very man she was caught with was among those wanting to stone her.)
They understood the Law: They were, in fact, required to stone the woman and the man. Jesus doesn’t deny that the woman should have been stoned. On the contrary, he issues the command: Stone her. Jesus was not going to abrogate the Law just because they were trying to trap him. However, neither was he going to allow them to abridge the Law just because they were trying to trap him. The Law is the Law—the Law cannot be done away with. ‘Go ahead. Stone her. Who will be the first? Don’t hesitate.’ Jesus has no qualms about the punishment of the guilty: ‘Go on. Stone her.’
So, why does Jesus do what he does? Why does he say what he says? Why does he allow this woman to escape unscathed by the smooth stones and jagged rocks they were about to hurl in her direction? (Can you imagine this woman laying there in the dirt: ashamed, dishevelled, hair matted and gnarly, tears cutting wadis across her skin, eyes bloodshot, afraid to look up, afraid to take her hands away from her face? Perhaps she had heard of Jesus—there was whispering and rumors of him all around (see chapter 7). Can you imagine how she felt when she heard Jesus say, ‘Go ahead. Stone her.’ I well imagine that a chill went up her spine.) But I think that is not entirely what she heard. Maybe it was more like: thud, thud, thud, thud, thud. One by one. One after another. Then some murmuring. Then some shuffling. Then some rustling of garments. What does forgiveness sound like? How do we hear it? What sound echoes through our ears when that water washes us clean? Annie Dillard wrote that man catches grace like filling a cup under a waterfall. It’s an overwhelming thing. A torrent of mercy. A waterfall of grace. A tsunami of forgiveness. It’s more than we can handle; it’s more than enough.
What does grace sound like? Can we hear it? Can we see it? Can we taste it? Can we feel it? Can we smell it? Thud. Thud. Shuffle. Murmur. Shuffle. Thud. Thud…
Amidst her crying and sniveling, amidst her weeping and whimpering, the sound of rocks and stones was heard. Those boulders hauled on carts to Jesus had miraculously turned to tiny pebbles when they hit the ground and yet their thud was heard—not least by those who had gathered around Jesus that morning to listen to him teach. Those stones carried in their hands and pockets had become giant boulders these men could no longer hold on to under the weight of their own perjury. I don’t suppose for a minute those men who accused her actually forgave her. I don’t suppose they were willing to extend grace because they did not want to experience grace themselves. They walked away because they had no choice: Jesus had vanquished them. Theirs was a grace not given freely but begrudgingly. My point is that they didn’t walk away because they were forgiving her but because the Bird had caught the fowler in his own snare.
If the LORD had not been on our side—let Israel say-
2 if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us,
3 when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive;
4 the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters would have swept us away.
6 Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 124)
Man catches grace like filling a cup under a waterfall.
But the story did not end just there either. There’s one more scene that takes place after the accusers had gone and Jesus was left alone with the sinful woman and those who had gathered that morning to listen to him teach. Jesus again acknowledges that this woman was guilty although he does not condemn her. Maybe this goes back to John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Yes. The mistake, however, is in thinking that Jesus did not judge this woman. He did, in fact, judge her. What he didn’t do was act in accordance with the judgment he leveled. He was perfectly ready to allow her to be stoned—on a certain condition. In this act, he also judged those men who wanted to stone her. Jesus did judge, but he did not condemn. This in no way means, however, that he approved her actions or condoned her indiscretion or applauded her sin. No. She was guilty.
Here’s what he did: He showed her grace and forgiveness. Still it did not end there because he also said: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” I take this mean this: Forgiveness and grace sets us free to a new life. Once forgiven, we can no longer remain in our old way of doing things. We can longer continue in the decrepit filth of sin. Once set free, we are no longer slaves. Free to live a new life, free to take on a new character, free to to pursue righteousness and holiness. There is no longer a sin life for the one forgiven. “Release from a life contrary to the will of God is always with a view to life according to the will of God” (Beasley-Murray, John, 147).
PT Forsyth has said this same thing rather beautifully in his book The Cruciality of the Cross.
“The feeble gospel preaches, ‘God is ready to forgive’; the mighty gospel preaches ‘God has redeemed.’ It works not with forgiveness alone, which would be mere futile amnesty, but with forgiveness in a moral way, with holy forgiveness, a forgiveness which not only restores the soul, but restores it in the only final and eternal way, by restoring in the same act the infinite moral order, and reconstructing mankind from the foundation of a moral revolution. God reconciles by making Christ to be sin, and not imputing it (2 Cor. v. 21). The Christian act of forgiveness at once regards the whole wide moral order of things, and goes deep to the springs of the human will for entire repentance and a new order of obedience.” (51-52)
Here is a beautiful thing: Set free. Go and leave your life of sin. If you have been set free by the Son, you have been set free indeed. From what do you need to be set free?
Just what does grace sound like to you?
Soli Deo Gloria!
(I’m sorry this is so late. This is Sunday’s meditation. Number 11 soon!)
9″How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10″You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
There is a book I have enjoyed by a man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was a Lutheran preacher in Germany during the tulmultuous times of the 1940’s. He was hanged in April 1945 after vigorously opposing the regime set up by the Nazis. The book is called The Cost of Discipleship. This is no book for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. In it Bonhoeffer makes perfectly clear that there is no room in the disciples’ life for what he calls ‘cheap grace.’ Cheap grace is, in Bonhoeffer’s words, ‘the deadly enemy of our Church,’ (page 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1!). “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate” (Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 45). In Bonhoeffer’s writing, discipleship is directly linked to the cross of Christ. In fact he writes, “Here the call to follow is closely connected with Jesus’ prediction of his passion” (86). He then goes on to describe this Passion for his readers:
“There is a distinction here between suffering and rejection. Had he only suffered, Jesus might still have been applauded as the Messiah. All the sympathy and admiration of the world might have been focused on his passion. It could have been viewed as a tragedy with its own intrinsic value, dignity and honor. But in the passion Jesus is a rejected Messiah. His rejection robs the passion of its halo of glory. It must be a passion without honour. Suffering and rejection sum up the whole cross of Jesus. To die on the cross means to die despised and rejected of men. Suffering and rejection are laid upon Jesus as a divine necessity, and every attempt to prevent it is the work of the devil, especially when it comes from his own disciples; for it is in fact an attempt to prevent Christ from being Christ. It is Peter, the Rock of the Church, who commits that sin, immediately after he has confesed Jesus as the Messiah and has been appointed to the primacy. That shows how the very notion of a suffering Messiah was a scandal to the Church, even in its earliest days. That is not the kind of Lord it wants, and as the Church of Christ it does not like to have the law of suffering imposed upon it by its Lord” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 86-87).
In John’s Gospel scarcely a conversation goes by where Jesus does not allude to or flat-out say he is going to be crucified. This conversation with Nicodemus is certainly no different. Nicodemus, however, just did not understand all this talk of being born again, being born of water and Spirit, being born from above; none of it made any sense to Nicodemus and the last words we hear from him are: “How can this be?” He’s incredulous. I sense him saying something like, “Jesus, what are you saying? You are talking about things that no one is going to believe. You are making demands that no one can meet. Who then can be saved?” Or, maybe he understood it and was saying, “You mean to tell me that being a good Israelite is not enough? If what you are saying about the Spirit is true, then anyone can get into this Kingdom! They won’t even have to be Jewish! How can this be!?” Of course he did not say all that, but he came close. How can this be? And after a good ribbing from Jesus about his inability to understand simple things like birth and water and wind, Jesus lays it all out for Nicodemus. Jesus says it boils down to belief in the Crucified One: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” Belief, thus, is tied to the crucified Lord; salvation is tied to the cross; eternal life is fixed in His death.
I think what this means, then, is that it matters what we believe about Jesus. It matters whether or not we serve a crucified Lord or not. It matters whether or not we believe he came from God and was sent by God. It doesn’t change the fact of it being true if we believe or not, but John seems to be making a connection between who Jesus is (and why he came, and what he did) and our salvation, our eternal life. Everyone who believes in the Son of Man who must be lifted up will have eternal life. Whoever believes in him, the one God gave—God’s one and only Son—will not perish but have eternal life. Note this: Whoever does not believe in him stands condemned already because he has not believe in the name of God’s One and Only Son. It is impossible to not make a decision for Christ. You either actively decide for Him or you passively choose against Him. Those who refuse to actively believe in Jesus—the One from God, God’s Only Son, God’s Crucified Son—already stand condemned. There’s no waiting until the end; they are already over and done. I wonder if they can be rescued? Do you realize that there are people who are walking around this earth right now and for all intents and purposes have this giant sign flashing above their heads that says, “Condemned! Condemned! Condemned!”? And, I wonder, will they be rescued? Can anyone help these condemned folks? Yet they refuse to come to Christ to be healed.
This is the message of the Gospel. There is only one hope: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. These last few verses teach us essentially one thing: You are either walking in the light or you are not. You either hope to conceal your evil deeds by hating the light or you come out into the full blaze of his glory that your deeds may be seen—that they have been done through God. Sadly, many in this world still cling to evil. It’s hard to fathom; difficult to comprehend. Men revel in their evil deeds and love darkness. All the while darkness enslaves men, holds them hostage, makes them mere puppets and here’s what’s worse: Evil does not take men and women captive because evil has an agenda for evil’s sake. No, evil takes hold of men and women in order that men and women will continue to reject God and be condemned. Evil is just a means to an end not an end itself. The end is to have people reject light, hate light, reject God’s One and Only Son. The ultimate evil is the ongoing rejection of Jesus Christ.
Here’s what we know. God sent his Son, His one and only Son, into the world to save people who, despite God’s demonstration of love for them, choose to perish, choose to do evil, choose to be condemned, and choose to hate the light. This is our argument: We’d rather live in utter and complete misery than to submit to the Crucified Lord. And here’s the irony, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world. But not humans, we are far too content with our misery, with the darkness, with our condemnation. Bohoeffer’s words are ever true: He was a rejected Lord. Folks think Jesus is here to make life difficult and complicated. Jesus came to make life simpler by removing the burden of our slavery to the flesh. This is exactly why the cross must be at the center of our proclamation. Until people see in the cross their utter failure, their utter lostness, their utter condemnation, all their sin, they will never be united to God. The cross must be preached, and this is why Jesus preached it (in verses 14-15). People must be confronted by the cross because only in the cross are people confronted with the darkness and suffocating nature of their sin and their slavery to it. If people do not see the crucified Jesus they will never recognize themselves for who they truly are apart from him.
What’s ironic here is that Jesus says this: For God so loved the World that He sent His One and Only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. The irony? God knew all about man: His rejection of the Light, his condemnation, his persistence in loving darkness, his hatred of the light—indeed, God knew all this about man, and sent His One and Only anyhow. He sent His Son despite what He knew about man; He sent His Son precisely because of what He knew about Man. Even more ironic is tha tall He asks from us is Belief.
I hope your 10th Day of 90 was Blessed!
Soli Deo Gloria!