Happy Reformation Day

The far, far lesser known holiday celebrated on October 31st is Reformation Day.  It is the remembrance of the day when Martin Luther, then a monk in a Roman Catholic church, protested the sale of indulgences to be made righteous before God.  His letter of complaint and essay of his position on man’s justification was nailed to the door of the Schlosskirche cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany which became known as the “95 Theses”.  The year was 1517 and the Roman Catholic Church was moving throughout Europe selling indulgences to raise money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  The Roman Catholic theology stated that man was not justified and made righteous by faith alone, but that faith must be active in charity and good works to be saving faith.  So by extension, donating money to the church could contribute to one’s good works and thereby his salvation.  Luther asserted that since forgiveness is God’s alone to grant, the Catholic church was in error claiming that indulgences had the power to forgive sins.  Although Luther never intended to confront the church, the protest against Roman indulgences sparked a European shockwave that spread to all reached of the continent.  The new movement called the Reformation was fueled by such people as Luther, William Tyndale, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox and quickly spread like wildfire.  The Reformation liberated thousands of parishes from the chains of the Roman Catholic Theocracy and lead a restoration back to God’s Word as the only source of divine revelation.  The key points of the Reformation were established as the Five Solas: Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, by grace alone, faith alone, Sola Scriptura, scripture alone, Solus Christus, in Christ alone, and Sola Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.  These five “solas” became the battle cry of the reformation leaders and they were held dearly, even to the death.

From the Reformation sparked many new denominations of churches that we categorize as Protestantism.  These denominations developed from various Reformation leader such as Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, John Calvin, and others.  The Reformation forever changed the way the world views God and reads the Bible and we have so much to be thankful for from the brave men who stepped out of line to ask tough questions and challenge the daunting status quo.  Today, while the rest of the world is celebrating Halloween and dressing up as zombies or whores, maybe spend the evening reflecting on God’s power to awake the dead from the bondage of slavery and give new life, both to the soul and to the Church.  The Reformation was certainly one of the most important events in human history so let’s not easily forget it or take it for granted.  Peace.

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What Did He Just Say?

Rev. Jonathan Edwards, a leader of the Great A...

Jonathan Edwards: America's greatest theologian Image via Wikipedia

I just started reading the book Think:  The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper and so far, as is to be expected when one reads a Piper book, is pretty academic and mind-exploding!  In chapter 2 Piper is extolling his love of Jonathan Edwards and his musings on the Trinitarian God.  This quote from Edwards comes from his paper “An Essay on the Trinity” and it is simply too good to not share.  I had to read it a couple times before I totally understood it, but it seems to me the most complete and robust explanation of the Trinity and how each Person relates to the Other.

This I suppose to be the blessed Trinity that we read of in the Holy Scriptures.  The Father is the deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the deity in its direct existence.  The Son is the deity generated by God’s understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea.  The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God’s infinite love to delight in Himself.  And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are properly distinct persons.

That totally blew my mind!  And it gets even crazier because on the next page Piper includes another excerpt from Edwards’ paper on how the Trinity glorifies itself and delights in itself.

God is glorified withing Himself these two ways: (1) By appearing…to Himself in His own perfect idea [of Himself], or in His Son, who is the brightness of His glory. (2) By enjoying and delighting in Himself, by flowing forth in infinite…delight towards Himself, or in his Holy Spirit.

…So God glorifies Himself toward the creatures also in two ways: (1) By appearing to…their understanding. (2) In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying, the manifestations which He makes of Himself…God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.  When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified  than if they only see it.  His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.

God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might [be] received both by the mind and heart.  He that testifies his idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.

So there it is.  A rather complete and robust exegesis on the doctrine of the Trinity in less than 200 words!  I didn’t think that existed!  Just some food for thought since I don’t have time to write any more.

Peace.

“Misguided Christian Outrage”

I just stumbled across this article while browsing the Resurgence website a minute ago and thought I’d pass it along to you readers.  I was specifically thinking of the attitude Christians take when dealing with political issues, such as gay marriage, school prayer, or whatever moral or ethical issues we generally get upset over.  This article by Russell Moore is short but thought-provoking.

http://theresurgence.com/2010/03/02/misguided-christian-outrage

From Inside These Walls…

Last week at Bible study I heard something truly amazing and faith-stirring!  We are

Who is your mentor?

going through the book of Acts and we’re almost to the end.  At this point in the narrative Paul has been on house arrest for two years awaiting a trial for his alleged crime against the Jewish nation for not obeying the Jewish laws and teaching other not to obey.  Paul was falsely accused and given no chance to defend himself until he requested an audience with Caesar.  Paul was later granted his request and sent to Rome.  We know from history that Paul was again jailed in Rome and spent the rest of his life in prison before he was martyred for his faith.

From prison, Paul wrote a vast majority of the New Testament, including the epistles of Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon, and 1 & 2 Timothy, which were written just before his execution.  Paul knows that he will never again be able to visit or preach at the churches he planted throughout his ministry and poured so much blood, sweat, and tears into so he uses his time in prison to impart vital words of wisdom, correction, and encouragement before he departs from this life.  People do the same now days also.  Often times, when someone knows their time is coming to an end they will do such things as write a last will and testament, give special directions on what to do with property and inheritances, to imparting last words of wisdom.  Much like Yoda tells Luke just before he dies that “When gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be…pass on what you have learned” and “there is another Skywalker”, so too do we do in this world.

Paul’s letters from prison were delivered to the intended person or church where tradition tells us the letter was read aloud to the whole congregation.  How sweet a treasure that must have been to receive a letter from their most beloved Apostle, mentor, and friend!  Like receiving words of wisdom from beyond this life, it must have been a most joyful moment, yet somber and educational.  Paul, writing under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is weaving together the different parts of his ministry to create one giant tapestry of theology and doxology.  Later cannonized in the 4th Century, these letters would become the foundation of Christian life and world view.

The amazing experience I was referring to earlier was a Pauline experience my friend Mike had when he was in high school.  He shared with us how when he was a sophomore in high school he began writing to a man who was in prison.  A member of his church gave him his name and address in the prison and they began to correspond regularly.  The prisoner, John, was a man who was on his second sentence for a repeated crime.  Since his first stint in the can he had been converted by God and was made a believer.  Over the course of about a year and dozens of letters John poured out his heart to Mike and offered countless words of encouragement to a young high school student.

In his letters to Mike were countless scripture references, words of encouragement, exhortations, prayer requests, and godly advice.  This man, though locked up and separated from mainstream Christianity certainly knew his Bible and treasured it more than life itself!  John describes himself as a hearer of the Word, but not a doer before his conversion; and much like Paul, considered himself a Pharisee zealous for the wrong things that he thought were right.  But when faced with the overwhelming conviction of his sins fell to his knees and believed on Christ for his salvation.  He recounts his conversion in his letters just like Paul.  He offers exhortations to continue the work God has begun in Mike’s life, and gives the hope for why we do the things we do and why we suffer, the glory of the name of God.  By far the most enlightening part of the letter was when John revealed to Mike that although he is physically in bondage, he is freer that any of his fellow prisoners because he has been set free from the spiritual bondage that held his soul captive for years.  Though he was confined to the walls of the prison, he has access to the throne of God in heaven!  He also recalls all the blessing of the outside world and how he no longer takes for granted those blessings now that he no longer enjoys them.  The Word of God has also become precious to him.  He eagerly looks forward to the church service on his tier and the weekly Bible studies he and the 4 other Christian prisoners have.  He is a true embodiment of a man who loves the Lord with all his heart, mind, and soul despite the fact that he is a sinner.  He looks to God for help in every aspect of his life because he knows what he was like without God and never wants to go back to his former self.  This man’s life resembled Paul’s in so many ways and I was in awe of the heart he has for the things of God and his passion to pass them on to others!

It was amazing sitting there in Bible study listening to Mike read one of those letters to the group.  I felt like I was pastor Timothy in Ephesus reading Paul’s letter to fight the good fight of faith.  Much like Timothy was receiving priceless words of advice from his mentor and good friend, so too was Mike receiving advice from a mentor, even one whom until then he had never met.  I couldn’t help but think about what an awesome experience that must have been for Mike at such a young age to hear words like that coming from a man who had lived a life of decadence and sin and reaped its consequences, but was full of joy in the Lord for his salvation!  The letter he read to the group was dated September 22, 1999, and even though it is 12 years old it seems as though John was reaching out to me personally in the present moment and I was suddenly Timothy receiving a cherished letter from my mentor.

That got me thinking, who is my Paul?  Who do I look to as an example of godly living and selfless servanthood?  To be honest, I’m not sure.  I believe we all need to find our “Paul” and like the disciples, sit at the feet of their mentor as soak in as much as possible.  Men and women who have gone before us and experienced things we know nothing of are our most valuable resource apart from Scripture and God has sovereignly placed these people in our lives for our benefit.  We should earnestly seek them out and learn from them all that we can to train our lives for godliness.  As Paul writes, “we must always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in us”, “have this mind that was also in Christ Jesus”, and “run with perseverance the race that is set before us”.  God has unique and surprising ways of teaching us and molding us into the image of His Son Jesus, and if we keep our eyes of faith open and focused we will be able to see all that He intends for us and we will one day receive the reward for our faith and hard work when we meet our Redeemer in heaven.

What really is the fate of every person who ever lived?

I’m not prepared for this at all, I just felt like saying what I’m about to say is necessary.  I’m sure that if you’re a Christian, or even if you’re not, you’ve heard about the recent controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s new book called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven and Hell and Every Person Who Ever Lived.  Bell’s recently published volume of words is more declaration of independence than it is book.  It is his own announced and widely distributed declaration that he is splitting from traditional Christianity and the beliefs Christians have held for the 1,978 years since Christ’s resurrection.  I may take a harsh tone from here on out but  in Scripture we are told to deal harshly with people who preach a false gospel and lead people astray.  People have been called heretics for less than Bell’s claims in Love Wins.

I want to make it clear that I have not read Love Wins in it’s entirety and I am basing this post off of reviews from authors, teachers, and pastors from both sides and Bell’s publicly accessed material.  While I am not qualified scholarly or theologically to make any informed judgements on the book I do feel it is necessary to point out the main arguing points from the book and to let the Christian community know what it’s up against.  I will warn you, this post will be LONG!  Brevity is  not one of my strengths.

First of all, Bell in Love Wins is arguing that God is love.  Can anyone refute that?  No, because it is in the Bible.  Just as is the case with almost every other heresy the church has ever faced, well-meaning people trying to be nice to everyone and not offend anybody over-emphasize one point made in the Bible and subsequently overlook all other related aspects of that one point.  Such is the case in Bell’s theological treatise.  God most definitely is love as 1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love“.  You can go to so many places in the Bible to prove God is love and that He loves people, this has never been a disputed fact in Christianity.  Some of the most famous verses in the Bible are directly related to love and God’s love (John 3:16, 1 Cor. 13:4, 1 John 4:10, John 15:12, Ephesians 2:4, etc…).  In 2 Peter 3:9, Paul tells us that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance“.  This represents God’s heart for humanity as His creation and the love He has for us as Creator.  Unfortunately, God cannot love each of us with saving love because if He did bestow upon every single person who ever lived saving love, God would cease to own one of His other attributes, His holiness.

God’s holiness is arguably one of the most important attributes of God that has been revealed to us by Scripture.  Without God’s holiness there is no need of a gospel to begin with.  If God is not holy and our sin does not offend Him and separate us from Him then we don’t need a savior because there is nothing to be saved from.  The reason we are all on the brink of eternal conscious torment in hell is because of God’s holiness.  Our sin is an act of treason against the ruler of the universe.  God is perfect in every imaginable way and as supreme sovereign over everything, it is not unfitting that He require His creatures to be perfect as He is perfect (1 Peter 1:15).  This command is not burdensome to those who are living without as sin nature as our parents Adam and Eve were originally.  God was very pleased with his first two humans made in His image and loved them and fellowshipped with them.  That all changed when they disobeyed God and sinned.  After that the human race fell into sin and the sin nature was passed down through the human DNA.  It is literally engrained in our genes to be sinful.  The Bible tells us that God hates sin because it is so ugly and offensive to Him.  God cannot be around sin because it is a disgusting stench to Him.  Sin is the exact opposite of God who is good and righteous in every way.  Because God is a holy ruler He does not withstand sin and He deals with it severely.  Sin is so egregious before God that He punishes it with separation from Him and wrath.  God is compelled by His own character and moral perfection to punish sin which is completely amoral and devoid of any semblance of god-like goodness.  Simply put, sin hates God and God hates sin.  God is greater than sin so God always gives sin a beat down!

The nature of the punishment of God for sin is eternal just as God is eternal Himself.  Sin is so wicked and offensive to God that just one is enough to condemn a man to an eternity of torment in hell.  The bottom line is that hell is real and it is full of people!  Everyone who has ever lived is a sinner by nature and by choice.  The Bible says that there is no one who does good, we have all turned aside of out own choice.  We have consciously neglected God with our thoughts, words, deeds, and motives.  We sin by commission (doing things we ought not to do) and omission (not doing things God has commanded us and created us to do).  There is no one who is righteous before God.  Even our best deeds are as filthy rags before a holy God because sin is so pervasive in our lives that everything we do is stained with the crimson dye of sin.  This is the Calvinistic doctrine of “total depravity”.  Not that everyone is as completely depraved as sinfully possible, but that we are completely unable to produce anything righteous or pleasing to God because sin has complete and undisputed control over our lives.  Not everyone is a mass murderer, a rapist, and a Capone-like thug, however, we all exhibit these sins in varying degrees in all of our actions, thoughts, words, and motives.

So that’s the bad news.  God is holy and people are sinful.  God hates sin so He punishes those who practice it.

In all that it seems like I have completely forgotten about the love of God.  Many people say that doesn’t sound like a loving God at all and that a god like that quite simply cannot exist because it sounds so unpleasant.  But the good news is that Christianity and God is not based on what we think or feel!  And the even better good news is that God IS love!  You know how it goes, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life“.  The less quoted and oft forgotten next verse is even sweeter!  “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”  The whole point of the Old Testament is to show us our need for a savior.  This savior is Jesus Christ!  Jesus is the Son of God who shares all the same attributes of God because He is God.  Jesus is God made man who shares our flesh and lives the perfect life pleasing to God and obedient in every way that we were meant to live.  Jesus lived the life we couldn’t and died the death we should have died.  Jesus died in our place on the cross and when He died God treated Him as if He was the sinner instead of us in order that the wrath being stored up for me and you could be exhausted upon Jesus leaving none for us.  Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”.  Jesus became our sin on the cross and bore the full penalty of it from His Father and because of this great act of love we inherit Jesus’ righteousness that He earned during His life!  We are viewed as completely righteous before God, our crimson stain of sin is washed away and we wear robes of purest white!  There is no wrath for us to fear because Jesus’ immortal soul endured the eternal wrath of God on the cross.  Not even a drop of wrath is left for those who trust in this great exchange!

That is the good news, the best news!  God is love so He gave us His own Son as our savior.  We are forgiven and are counted as righteous before God because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  As John Piper said, “It’s all about the superiority of the work of Christ for those who are in Him over against what happened to all who are in Adam”.

By over-emphasizing the love of God as the all-triumphant force of God and minimizing, and almost negating God’s holiness, Bell has completely undermined the importance and glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ to which the church has held precious for two millennia.  As I touched on early, if God is not holy and not angry at creation for its sin, there is no need for a savior we are all lovey-dovey with God right now.  But that is not the case.  That’s why the gospel is such good news because our sin problem is the major defect of the human race and God has given us a solution!

Because of the gospel we now have access to God where we were previously cut off.  Through faith in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus we receive the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life in heaven with God.  In Love Wins Bell suggests that how we respond to the gospel in our lives is not important because God’s love will eventually win over our hearts.  This is incredibly discouraging because if Bell is correct that means that the most wicked of people will eventually come to faith in Jesus and will be with God in heaven.  Yes, according to Bell’s theory Adolf Hitler will be won by God’s love and be in heaven, Saddam Hussein will be in heaven, Joseph Stalin will be in heaven, the Roman emperor Nero will be in heaven, every Frederic Nietzsche will be in heaven, Immanuel Kant will be in heaven, Osama bin Laden will be in heaven, every mass murderer and rapist will be in heaven, every godless person who ever lived will eventually join those who lived holy, faith-filled lives and strived, suffered, and toiled for the faith of Jesus.  This seems a terrible injustice on God’s part.  Bell claims that the injustice lies in the sending of people to hell.  Traditional Christianity claims that the injustice would be in sending faithless people to heaven where those who were martyred for their faith will abide forever.  People deserve hell.  Period.  People don’t deserve heaven.  That’s why it’s called grace.  Grace is the most important word in the whole Bible because it is the world that sums up God’s disposition towards us if we put our faith and trust in Jesus.

An inadequate understanding of grace is the source of heresies like Bell’s.  Grace is unmerited favor shown to us by God.  Nobody deserves to go to heaven, while everyone who has ever lived deserves to go to hell.

To conclude this lengthy exposition, Love Wins is a serious threat to biblical Christianity and the Christian community must be educated to the threat it poses and what is at stake.  What we are fighting for is the maintaining of the true gospel because the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.  We contend for the truth because we represent the one true living God and we desire the world to rightly understand His nature and character so that He receives that maximum amount of glory and that more people come to faith in Jesus to receive salvation and forgiveness of their sins.  That’s all I’ll say because my fingers hurt now!  If you want to read Love Wins for yourself I would recommend it just for the purpose of being able to defend your own faith.  Grace and peace.

Do you appreciate the Holy Spirit?

Let me just begin by saying how thankful I am for the sermon series we are in at church!  I’m really enjoying the series on the Holy Spirit.  It’s remarkable how much I didn’t know about this particular member of the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit is definitely overlooked in my life and, I might venture to guess many Christian’s lives as well.  The Holy Spirit is amazing because He does so much of the work that leads to our salvation.  He is the one whom makes us aware of our sins and leads us to repentance and gives us faith.  The Spirit opens our eyes to our spiritual deadness and causes us to cry out for a savior.  Once that Jesus has been revealed (by the Spirit’s gift of faith), the Spirit then regenerates our dead heart and gives us a new heart that is alive and sensitive to God.  From that point on, this person is considered a Christian.  But no it doesn’t stop there for the Holy Spirit.  His work is just beginning!

From the first work of salvation the Spirit then comes to reside in us and makes His dwelling in us as we participate in the life of the body of Christ on Earth.  By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to resist sin, live holy lives, and continue walking in the path of righteousness commanded by the Lord Jesus.  The Spirit is always encouraging us with God’s grace and love even when we have lost sight of Him or are struggling against a certain sin.  Long story short, the Holy Spirit is the visible manifestation of God in our lives!  We call it “fruit”, the ways that the Spirit works in us.  What it also is, is visible proof that God rules over our lives and that He loves us and that we live to serve Him and His kingdom.  That is why Jesus was called “Immanuel”, because it literally means “God with us”.  God is surely with us through the presence of His Holy Spirit.  Though the Father and Son are enthroned in heaven, the Spirit humbly lives among us every day to strengthen, encourage, and exhort us to live for God’s glory, which is the ultimate purpose of mankind.

I could get into the specific ways in which the Holy Spirit works in our lives such as the gifts He gives to us, but that would be more of a book than a blog entry :0.  But that’s just a brief little blurb of the work of the Spirit and I hope that if you read this you would be thankful of the work of the Spirit in your life as well.  The Holy Spirit is equally God just as the Father and the Son are and yet so many times we don’t give Him the praise that He’s due.  May we all recognize the amazing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives today and give God (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) all the glory for the awesome gift of salvation and forgiveness!

coffee, bagels, prophecy, and LeBron James

Ah, I remembered that I have a blog again! lol.  I gotta stop taking three month breaks without announcing it first.  But anyway, that’s over and today is July 9, 2010.  I’m starting the day off right with two cups of coffee and a bagel.  Working from home is the shiznatt!  I know it’s going to be tough to stay focused and concentrated at home but it’s definitely a  lot better than driving to Severna Park or Marriottsville every day.  That’s the beauty of Aflac, you work for yourself and you make your own schedule.  But of course common sense comes in to play, if I don’t work, I make less money.  So working hard is definitely important, especially when I’m just getting my business off the ground.  But enough of that.

Last night was the first night of my 416 class.  I’m taking the “No greater love” class with Pastor Matt.  The class is focusing on the love of God towards us.  As P. Matt so truthfully said last night, “The love of God is the least doubted attribute of God, but it is also the least understood.”  I find that true in my life too because since I was a kid in Sunday school I’ve been told that God loves me and all the red, black, yellow, green, and white people (affirmative action much?).  But WHY?  Why does God love me and all these other crazy people?  Since becoming a Christian, I’ve learned that all people are incredibly wicked and sinful.  If God is so irreproachably holy and must punish sinners, than how on His good green earth can He possible love anyone of us?  Again, P. Matt wisely answered that question, “God loves us to glorify His Name, for His Name’s sake.”  The Westminster Confession of Faith says the following about man, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (just ask John Piper to expound on that a little).  The whole universe’s existence is to glorify God and magnify His Name.  Humans are not created to make much of each other, but to make much of God who created them.  The whole of creation is meant to give glory to God and magnify His Name.  So following suit, God loves us because He is saying something marvelous about Himself that He wants us to remember so we can glorify Him and magnify His Name.

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that “God loves you just the way you are”.  Well that’s not exactly true.  God hates sin and thus He hates sinners.  While the previous quote usually has good intentions, what it really should read is, “God loves you better than you are!”  God knows that you’re a wicked sinner who consciously rebells against Him everyday, but He sent His own Son to die and atone for your sins in order that you might experientially know the love He has for you, so that you will glorify Him and magnify His Name.  The answer to the question of WHY?, is BECAUSE God is so passionate about His own glory that He gives to us His most prized and precious gift, Himself, so that we might know that He is God and understand all of His attributes and understand the pleasure of the worship of a good and holy god.  It’s all about giving God the glory that He is due!

Now I’ll put my two cents in on the latest news in the sports world.  LeBron James is now a member of the Miami Heat.  Let me just be the first, or maybe the 1,849,562,359,000th , to say that the Heat will NOT win the NBA championship this year!  The Washington Wizards will!  John Wall…that is all.  And also, the Netherlands will beat Spain in the World Cup final on Sunday.  What does a stupid octopus know anyway?!