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An Effective Ministry, A Guest-post by Randal Amos

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Paul’s ministry in 1 Thessalonians 2

2:1 – Paul taught his entrance among the Thessalonians was a positive thing.

What qualified the ministry to be counted as positive?

13-16“Ye received it [the word preached] not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God”.  Therefore the Word effectually changed their hearts.  They became followers, not of Jewish religion and its legal practices, but of the other churches of God in Christ Jesus.  And they suffered for this culturally and religiously but kept going on.

Why were the results effective?  Following are 8 things that characterized his ministry. 

#1.   2:2The Right Mentality  (mental toughness)

Paul was jailed and shamed in Philippi.  Yet he and the others did not quit.  They then went on to Thessalonica and “were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention”.  They had the heart of a lamb but the hide of a rhinoceros.

Negative happenings did not change their faithfulness.   

#2.   2:3-4The Right Message

Their message was not religious law, political reform, financial prosperity, a better health-diet or a self-help program but “the gospel of God”.  Their “exhortation was not of deceit” with twisted error or trickery.  It was a message that did not try to please men but only God.  He opened God’s Scriptures and proved the gospel – that Christ suffered fully for our sins to save from our due judgment.  And that this Jesus rose from the dead showing He is that Christ (God’s anointed Lord and Savior), Acts 17:1-3.

Many speakers dynamically motivate but with the wrong message.

#3.   2:5-6The Right Motive

Paul did not wear a “cloke of covetousness”, i.e. pretending on the outside to care and represent God which would mask from them his real reason – being after their money through guilt, greed and gimmicks.  He did not make “merchandise of you” (2Pet. 2:3).

Neither did he flatter their egos to make them feel ok and special the way they were so they would like him.  “Nor of men sought we glory” that would make him a spiritual hero to them thus making it easy for him to take advantage of them.  They, as saved souls, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ were his only glory and joy, 2:19, 20.

He was not in it for self but for God – Who tries the heart, and is a witness of it.  

#4.   2:7, 11The Right Match  (balance)

When Paul was among them he was neither a tyrant nor a wimp.  He had both father and mother qualities to him.  He was “gentle among you” (not harsh) as a nursing mother is with her dear children.  But he also “exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father” does his to children.   He was kind but firm in the things of God.

He had grace and truth like his Lord. 

#5.   2:8, 17-20The Right Moving  (what moved his heart was love, not self)

He had heart affection for the people themselves.  He just didn’t give them the gospel and ‘hit and run’. “Ye were dear unto us”. With desire he tried to return – then wrote them.

He loved the Lord and His people also.  He knew a head has a body – both are cherished.

#6.   2:9The Right Method

It was more than just bringing the saving gospel word to them but he used methods that were strategically meant to reveal God’s character and ways – thus aiding their knowledge of God.  Because they needed the example to work for a living, he, rather than depend on them for financial help (which was his due, 1 Cor. 9), “labouring night and day” with his own hands in hardship to help meet his needs. (Acts 18:3, 20:34).  Thus they would learn not to covet.  Later he could compellingly and un-hypocritically charge from God to the idle busy bodies; “if any would not work, neither should he eat”, (2 Thess. 3:10).

The method in telling the message of God should compliment the God of the message, (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

#7.   2:10The Right Manner of Life

Paul not only told them what was right, he lived what was right.  “How holily, and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.”  Holy is piety toward God.  Justly is righteous fairness toward man.  Blameless is public reputation.  Paul was a living example of his message – written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.

Paul not only talked the walk but he also walked the talk. 

#8.   2:12The Right Mark  (aim of ministry to hit – goal)

Paul was not after money or fame.  He was not after stunning numbers but after their walk“That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory”.  As he would further write in 4:1; “ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more”.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth”, 3John: 4.

May we seek these 8 qualities by His grace in our ministries for the Lord Jesus.

Book review: The Miracles of Jesus: How the Savior’s Mighty Acts Serve as Signs of Redemption

Monday, March 28th, 2016

[Note: I received a complimentary review copy of the book in kindle format from the publisher.]

Vern Poythress, The Miracles of Jesus: How the Savior’s Mighty Acts Serve as Signs of Redemption. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016.

  Given brother Poythress’ occupation and credentials – he teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA and possesses doctorates in mathematics and theology respectively – I expected this book to be somewhat highbrow. I could not have been more wrong! He writes in a lucid, everyday style that avoids technical jargon and sticks to analogies that any reader can understand. I also anticipated a philosophical discussion of miracles, somewhat on the order of a more modern version of C.S. Lewis’ classic Miracles. Once again I was mistaken. Brother Poythress focuses on direct exegesis of the text of the Bible, paying particular attention to the Lord’s miracles in the Gospels of John and Matthew. Along the way he gives a practical tutorial in using Edmund Clowney’s chart of interpreting miracles in their context, as well as looking at greater things pertaining to the gospel that are typologically shadowed in the different types of signs that Christ performed.

  Of course, I don’t subscribe to every bit of interpretation that brother Poythress puts forth. As one would expect from a brother of Presbyterian affiliation, his soteriology and eschatology are thoroughly Reformed (I’m premillennial, dispensational, so some of our future chronology differs, as well as our approach to Israel and the Church!) Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it as a good primer for studying the gospel miracles in their context. As always, be good Bereans (Acts 17:11) and prayerfully compare everything with the Scriptures themselves!

Recycling Rubbish Into A Masterpiece

Thursday, January 28th, 2016
"Strange Fruit" by Thornton Dial (Public Domain - https://www.flickr.com/photos/cwphobia/8476343758)

“Strange Fruit” by Thornton Dial (Public Domain – https://www.flickr.com/photos/cwphobia/8476343758)

The New York Times recently printed an obituary for the artist Thornton Dial. He became an artist in midlife and employed a variety of innovative materials such as bones, scrap metal, and other discarded items to create sculptures and paintings that are featured in the collections of the Whitney, the Smithsonian, and other prominent museums of contemporary art. Mr. Dial’s propensity for turning discarded items into works of beauty is in fact a time-honored tactic of the greatest artist of all: God Himself.  As the Scriptures say: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Reclaiming The Worst

It is astonishing to think of the sin-wrecked, perverted, and defiled people that the Lord completely transforms into works of art. As another verse expresses it: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10, emphasis mine.) People who were previously dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) are now recreated after a perfect template: the very image of the glorified Son of God Himself. Although the work is not yet finished, the Bible affirms that “. . . He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6.) At His coming, believers will be perfectly conformed to Christ’s glorious image (1 John 3:1-3; Phil. 3:21.) Romans 8:28-30 concisely pictures the saints’ transformation into glorious masterpieces:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Transformed Into A Multitude Of Masterpieces

God’s saving work will culminate in believers’ glorification with the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet someone might say: “Oh no, I’m too bad to be glorified. My life is so messed up, God can never make anything of me.” The Bible flatly contradicts this line of thinking. Truly, we must be born again through faith in Christ (John 3:1-21.) I will give a veteran preacher from a previous generation the last word on this matter:

Furthermore, you will say to me, ‘I desire to lead a new life.’ To do this you must be new yourself; for as the man is, so his life will be. If you leave the fountain foul the streams cannot be pure. Renewal must begin with the heart. Dear friend, the Lord Jesus Christ is able to make your life entirely new. We have seen many transformed into new parents and new children. Friends have said in wonder, ‘What a change in John! What an alteration in Ellen!’ We have seen men become new husbands, and women become new wives. They are the same persons, and yet not the same. Grace works a very deep, striking, and lasting change. Ask those that have had to live with converted people whether the transformation has not been marvellous. Christ makes new servants, new masters, new friends, new brothers, new sisters. The Lord can so change us that we shall scarcely know ourselves: I mean he can thus change you who now despair of yourselves. O dear hearts, there is no absolute necessity that you should always go downward in evil till you descend to hell. There is a hand that can give you a gravitation in the opposite direction. It would be a wonderful thing if Niagara when it is in its full descent should be made to leap upwards, and the St. Lawrence and the sea should begin to climb backward to the lakes. Yet God could do even that; and so he can reverse the course of your fallen nature, and make you act as a new man. He can stay the tide of your raging passion; he can make you, who were like a devil, become as an angel of God; for thus he speaks from the throne of his eternal majesty, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ Come and lay yourself down at his feet, and ask him to make you new. I beseech you, do this at once![1]

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, “Sermon for New Year’s Day,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 31. Originally preached on January 1, 1885. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1885), 8–9. [Italics original.]

The Desperate Need For “Heart Control”

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
Photo by KRK

Photo by KRK

 

The San Bernardino mass shooting touched off the usual debates about gun control, law enforcement, intelligence-gathering, and so on; nonetheless, the real issue lies unmentioned: something must be done about the wicked human heart. “Heart control” is more essential than gun control. No legislation, education, or other societal means of influence can cleanse man’s inner being from the lusts and hatred that afflict all of us to one degree or another. While it is true that few people become murderers, all of us repeatedly demonstrate unrighteous thought-lives and frequent manifestations of sinful words and actions. As the Lord Jesus Christ said: “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.[1]

Spiritual Cardiology

Only the Lord Jesus can heal such a dreadful heart condition. His word diagnoses us all with the same condition, declaring: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[2] We must be legally justified from God’s righteous sentence of judgment against us, as well as liberated from the tyranny of sin at work within us. By His sacrificial death and resurrection, Christ provides justification – the declaration of one’s righteous standing before God – and sanctification – a new holy position and lifestyle that separates us from this world, empowering us to love what God loves and hate what He hates.[3]

C.H. Spurgeon, one of the most eloquent Bible teachers of the nineteenth century, described it this way:

The saved may well adore their Lord for his conquests in them, since the arrows of their natural hatred are snapped, and the weapons of their rebellion broken. What victories has grace won in our evil hearts! How glorious is Jesus when the will is subdued, and sin dethroned! As for our remaining corruptions, they shall sustain an equally sure defeat, and every temptation, and doubt, and fear, shall be utterly destroyed. In the Salem of our peaceful hearts, the name of Jesus is great beyond compare: he has won our love, and he shall wear it.[4]

A Fresh Start For The Heart

The Lord Jesus taught a fundamental lesson to one of the most notable first-century Israelite theologians when He said: “You must be born again.”[5] Years of religious observance could not wash Nicodemus’ heart – or that of anyone else for that matter. Only by experiencing spiritual new birth through faith in the Son of God may one be cleansed from their sin. People do not need minor adjustments or incremental improvements. Only a complete reboot resulting in a new spiritual condition can solve the dilemma of our evil hearts. He makes this new start a reality, but it is only available to those who turn from their old lives of wickedness and receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.[6]

Short of this, sins large and small will continue to proliferate in the world and dominate the headlines, and individuals will be slaves to personal and public sins.[7] Someday it will end, of course. The Lord has fixed a day when He will return to put down evil and physically establish His kingdom on earth.[8] So the choice is clear for every one of us: receive Christ by faith and reign with Him; or reject His offer of the free gift of salvation and suffer the eternal punishment that our sins deserve in the Lake of Fire.[9]

 

[1] Mark 7:20-23.

[2] Romans 3:23.

[3] Romans 1:18-5:11 emphasizes the truth of justification from God’s just judgment; while Romans chapters 6-8 detail the believer’s positional and practical sanctification, as well as his eventual glorification with Christ (Rom. 8:17-39.)

[4] C.H. Spurgeon, “Dec. 3 p.m.,” in Morning and Evening: Daily Readings. New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.) [Italics original.]

[5] John 3:7.

[6] Read John 3 and Romans 3. These passages in The Bible may be read online here & here.

[7] John 8:34.

[8] Acts 17:30-31.

[9] Revelation 20:11-15.

Guest-post by R.P. Amos: Inclusive Diversity Or Exclusive Singularity – Which is of God?

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

The Bible answer would be both. But it depends on the setting. For example, most are inclusive of a diversity of food from potatoes to potluck but they are exclusive of eating garbage. Most include a variety of friends for their children but would exclude criminals.

There are three major areas in which God operates: the world of nations, the church of Christians and the kingdom of heaven (to come). Let’s consider the strategy of all three.

1 The World “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”

God’s agenda to the world is salvation and His tool is the gospel of Christ. The gospel (good news) of forgiveness, pardon from judgment and acceptance with God through the Lord Jesus Christ is open to all nations. Salvation is inclusive of all continents, classes, cultures, conduct and color. One’s religious upbringing, politics, gender, morality, finances, or sin does not exclude them from repenting and trusting the Lord Jesus. When saved they are equally forgiven, given the Spirit of God, and have His everlasting life.

The Corinthian church was taught about fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners, and told, “such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Yes, the gospel invitation is the most inclusive, pluralistic and diverse offer in the world.

 2 The Church “the church of God at Corinth … for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are”

God’s agenda with the church is edification in holiness. His tool is the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s goal in salvation is to have a separated people for Him. The saved church, unlike the condemned world, is to be an exclusive place from sin and error so God alone is glorified. While believers can befriend the world and aren’t to punish it (God will), yet in the church there is to be discipline of those practicing sin to maintain holiness unto God.

All believers are given the Holy Spirit. A transforming work begins to conform them alone into the image (likeness) of His only Son, Jesus Christ. The church has a single head – the Lord Jesus. It has a single power – the Holy Spirit. It has a single body of truth – one faith. It has a single authority on morals and truth – the Holy Scriptures. It is to have unanimity of mind, message and judgment under one Lord – Jesus Christ. It has one God and Father. And it has one hope for the future – the coming kingdom of heaven. Rather than staying a pluralistic diversity the church is to become a singular similarity.

3 The Kingdom the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD

God’s agenda with the kingdom is peace on earth with justice for all. His tool is the return of Jesus as King. Only the righteous inherit the kingdom (God’s church is to be a microcosm of this coming kingdom). It’s where Christ alone will be the world king. It’s where all nations shall come to the Lord Jesus alone for teaching and worship. The unrepentant, the unbeliever and the unrighteous are excluded from it. And it is because of this exclusion that there will be peace at last and glory unto God as the whole earth will be at rest. Like having peace in a marriage, all other wooers must be excluded.

{Some Scriptures: #1. The World. Mark 16:15 / Gal. 3:28 / Col. 3:11 / Rev. 5:9 / 1Cor. 6:9-11.

#2. The Church. 1Cor. 1:2, 3:17 / Acts 15:14 / Eph. 3:21 / 1Cor. 5:9-13 / Gal. 4:6 / Rom. 8:29 / Eph. 1:22, 23, 4:3-6,13 / 1Cor. 1:10.   #3. The Kingdom. Zech. 14:9 / Rev. 19:11-21 / Isa. 2:1-4, 11:1-9 / Gal. 5:19-21 / Eph. 5:5-6.}

 Practical Application From Above: Same Sex Marriage

 This is the teaching of Scripture concerning the sins of the Gentiles (nations).  Their depraved sins are a result of God in wrath giving them up to a depraved mind. This is because they intentionally pushed God from their minds. Their impaired mind will cause them to self-destruct morally, physically, and spiritually without knowing it. (Romans 1)

Therefore, God has a day that He will judge the world. (Rom. 2:5 / Acts 17:31).  But until that day the church is to take them the merciful gospel of salvation.  We are not to punish the world or disassociate from them – yet we are not to be partakers of their sin. For if they repent and believe on the Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, they too are called out of this world for His Name, Acts 15:14. They will be forgiven, saved from wrath and given a new mind. We must not be sidetracked in fighting for political issues of social change. A straight married couple without Christ will go to the same hell as a same sex married couple. The answer is the gospel conveyed by our good works and word, Philp. 2:15, 16. The solution is not a better world now but the coming kingdom tomorrow, Rev. 11:15.

However, in the church we are called to judge within.  We must obey God rather than man, Acts 5:29.  If the church is commanded to perform sinful marriages, or allow such in fellowship, or if we must personally marry the same sex, or change the truth of His Word – then we must be prepared to suffer persecution by His grace.  The church is the pillar and ground of the truth as God’s holy house, 1Tim. 3:15.  The 7 churches were exhorted by our Lord not to judge the corrupt world they were in but to judge themselves and repent of certain things so that they might please Him as His house and lamp stand.

1Cor. 5:9-13 puts it concisely:

:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

:12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

:13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

In the world we are to be a pacifist but in God’s holy church we are to be an activist. In the church, Titus was told to exhort and rebuke with all authority. But in the world he was told not to fight or speak evil of men but be gentle unto all – for we used to live in sin too, and are only what we are because the Lord’s kindness came to us, Titus 2:15, 3:1-8.

Guest post from R.P. Amos: “The Tyranny of Choice”

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

America is known as the land of the free with liberty for all. Its very government was built on choice to escape religious oppression and political tyranny. There was the choice to pick one’s leaders, not a royal dynasty. There was the choice to own property, as you were able. There was the choice to choose your education or profession. And as it grew richer the opportunity was there to fulfill that dream of choice. There was the choice to choose your religion (or no religion). There was freedom of speech to express oneself religiously or politically. And government had no power to suppress that personal choice.

Governmentally speaking, Choice was a delightful baby in a world of oppression. It allowed for mutual respect of all citizens and coexistence in peace. It provided the incentive to be all that you could be. And in the free market system America became the richest and most powerful country in the world. The gospel and the church flourished here because of this very freedom and became a beacon of light to darker nations.

Choice, however, did not have a birth certificate (its legal documents) stamped with the gospel of Christ (His cleansing blood) or the Word of God. Choice was birthed in the womb of assumption that its citizens would be grounded in morality and virtue.

 “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”     John Adams

 “Unless virtue guide us our choice must be wrong.”     William Penn

 “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”      An old adage

 “Righteousness exalteth a nation.”    Proverbs 14:34

  Now Choice has grown up and has become a king not a servant. Choice gives a woman the permission to have legal freedom to kill a baby in her womb. Choice grants one the freedom, without being judged, to choose their sexual lifestyle when and with whomever they choose. Choice permits one the liberty to marry the same sex. Choice gives one the right to be a witch or wizard and worship Satan or a plate of spaghetti.

Choice is not a preacher. It does not instruct in absolute morals, ethics or virtue. Choice is conscienceless and sterile. Choice is non judgmental. Choice is not biased. Choice is tolerant. Choice is accepting of all. Choice is kind. Choice is fun. Choice is love.

And now Choice as a master is tyrannical. Choice demands that it be submitted to as the only way and truth. To criticize another’s choice as sin is sin against Choice. To claim there is only ‘one way’ is to deny Choice’s one way – blasphemy. To choose to refuse another’s choice (no matter how void of morals or truth) in your business or school or even a church’s legal functions such as marriage is becoming a criminal act and could be called a felony – worthy of punishment. To not make your restrooms open to Choice is discrimination. To not grant Choice every area of your life and government is looked at as insubjection and insurrection. Choice now wields the sword – bow or be punished. Choice judges those who judge her.

Choice decrees the judging of evil is more wrong than the doing of evil. Choice will not tolerate what doesn’t tolerate her.   Choice will not accept what doesn’t accept her. Choice will absolutely censure what absolutely claims absolutes. Choice will not be kind to those who are not kind to her. Choice will not love those who don’t love her. Choice will not let others choose who don’t choose her. Choice denies only “one God” – but her. Choice is now god. Therefore, Choice will wage war against her atheists. Choice will choose what you’re free to say. Choice has chosen to enslave her subjects.

The Gospel and the Church.

1 Peter 2:4 says of the Lord Jesus, He is disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God”.

The gospel of God in His Son Jesus Christ the Lord is offered equally to all sinners. It doesn’t consider color, sexual gender, age, class, country, lifestyle or religious pedigree. Any sinner who repents of his or her sin (wrong choices) and confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (who fully bore our sins in death and rose again as eternal Priest) is equally blessed. They are saved from sin, self, and Satan (deceptions via choice). They will never see hell-judgment but have eternal life being equally in the body of Christ.

A sinner is not forced to do this. He has a choice. But if he chooses to freely come to Jesus as Lord, then Christ and not Choice will be his Lord. “Not my will, but thine, be done”, like his Savior, will be his new thinking. This is because he is born again of the Spirit with a new heart that now desires and is able to understand God’s choices. The gospel teaches and provides that true virtue and morality must come from within. The believer is to show he agrees with God’s choice that Jesus is Lord by public baptism.

But beware of Master Choice trying to regain control of the mind and God’s church. Choice will tell you that “grace” still allows you to choose. Choice will tell you that choosing to obey the Lord Jesus’ commands is legalism, not love. Choice will tell you that your choices are more logical than God’s choices. Choice won’t tell you that God’s choices free you from sin to be all that you can be for His glory. Choice won’t tell you that in being a slave to God you will be free from master sin that frees you from true joy and spiritual heart satisfaction.

Choice will tell you to go to the church of your choice. Choice will let you choose what you like: your style of “worship”, music or church government. Choice will promise you liberty. And in time, Choice will liberate you and your children – from the wisdom of God and a spirituality that emits from the church functioning by the Lord’s choices. (A plurality of gifted men involved in a church meeting, the man’s headship over the woman, the centrality of the Lord’s Supper in keeping us focused on Christ, and holiness by the purging of sin and bad doctrine that can spread like yeast in the Christian church).

Choice will free you – from God’s growth, joy and rewards. Christ will bless you.

{Some Scriptures for The Gospel and the Church section. 1. Paragraph #2 – Acts 17:30, 31 / Romans 5:9, 10 & 10:9-13 / Gal. 3:28. 2. Paragraph #3 – Rev. 22:17 / Luke 22:42 / Rom. 8:4 / Acts 10:48 / John 3:3-7. 3. Paragraph #4 – Rom. 6 / John 14:15 4. Paragraph #5 – 1Cor. 5 & 11-14   5. Paragraph #6 – Rev. 3:10 / Eph. 1:3 / Psalm 1.}

No Sympathy For The Devil

Monday, May 12th, 2014

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And they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Tim. 4:4

Today’s headlines sensationally announce a planned “Satanic Black Mass” to be held tonight at Harvard University. It is being co-sponsored by the Satanic Temple (of New York) and Harvard’s own Extension School’s Cultural Studies Club.[1] Predictably, an outcry has arisen from the surrounding community with the Roman Catholic Church being especially vocal in their opposition. The University President Drew Faust struck a modern mealy-mouthed tone by first pronouncing it “deeply regrettable” that the organizers are proceeding with the nefarious ceremony, and subsequently affirming the organizer’s right to hold it on campus in this statement: “Nevertheless, consistent with the university’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs. At the same time, we will vigorously protect the right of others to respond — and to address offensive expression with expression of their own.”[2] One wonders if it were a group opposing cherished liberal causes like homosexual rights if Harvard would take such a hands-off approach. But the incident touches on a deeper issue: it demonstrates what happens when the truth of Christ’s gospel is rejected in favor of lies.

Bible Schools Gone Wild

America’s oldest college, Harvard was founded to train Christian ministers and was named in honor of a local pastor and benefactor, John Harvard.[3] A pamphlet of that era details the student rules; two will suffice to give the Christian origins of the college:

“2. Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him Prov. 2, 3.

3. Every one shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of the language, and logic, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple, Psalm. 119. 130.

4. That they eschewing all profanation of God’s name, attributes, word, ordinance, and times of worship, do study with good conscience, carefully to retain God, and the love of his truth in their minds else let them know, that (notwithstanding their learning) God may give them up to strong delusions, and in the end to a reprobate mind, 2 Thes. 2. 11, 12. Rom. 1. 28.”[4]

After confessing his excessive love of learning in his youth, Harvard’s second President Henry Dunster advised the students: “Take heed of this lest desiring to be as gods ye become devils.”[5] All of this demonstrates the early spiritual climate at Harvard in the seventeenth century, and is a marked contrast from the contemporary secular attitude that thrives there.

Sadly, successive administrations gradually abandoned biblical truth under the influence of Unitarianism, Rationalism, and other false man-made theories. The true Gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone was jettisoned long ago, and with it the belief in the Bible as God’s Word. Ironically, the school’s original motto was “Veritas pro Christo et ecclesia” (“Truth for Christ & the Church.”)[6] Today it is just “Veritas” in the mistaken belief that truth is lastingly attainable outside of the One who is “the Truth” (Jn. 14:6.) Therefore, it is not surprising that the campus would currently be the site of the celebration of a demonic sacrament.[7]

Enter The Father Of Lies

The Scriptures at the beginning of this post reveal the folly of rejecting the truth, for it always leads to deception. In 2 Timothy 4:4 Paul details the coming time when people would incessantly shop for preachers who appealed to their fancies and predilections rather than proclaiming the truth. In turning from the genuine article, they inevitably are turned to “fables.” People do not exist in a vacuum; if they reject God’s Word, they throw themselves open to multitudinous errors of all types. Satan is always ready to blind human minds (2 Cor. 4:4.) The Lord Jesus rightly called him “a liar, and the father of it” (Jn. 8:44.)

One day the devil’s deceit will culminate in a global humanistic empire, headed by the Man of Sin – who shares the ignominious moniker “son of perdition” with the arch-traitor Judas Iscariot (cf. Jn. 17:12 & 2 Thes. 2:3.) The Bible explains the climate of deception that surrounds his regime: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes. 2:9-12.) By intentionally rejecting the truth and preferring error, people will be deluded by Satan. Having chosen his wicked pseudo-Messiah – a true “Anti-Christ” – God confirms them in their decision by sending them “strong delusion”; this results in their eternal rejection and punishment in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15.)

Truth Must Be Learned And Obeyed

Of course, no one needs to be deceived. Proverbs 8:7-13, 35-36 personifies “Wisdom” and has her say: “For my mouth will speak truth; Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; Nothing crooked or perverse is in them. They are all plain to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge. Receive my instruction, and not silver, And knowledge rather than choice gold; For wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. ‘I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And find out knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.…For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the Lord; But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death.’” Colossians 2:3 reminds us that the Lord Jesus is the repository of all wisdom. As He said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6.)

If one turns from their sins and receives Christ as their Lord and Savior, trusting that His death paid the penalty for their sinful being and actions and knowing that He rose to freely give them eternal life, they will be saved (read these chapters: John 3; Rom. 3-4.) The Lord transforms them through His Holy Spirit coming to live inside them. The transformation is so radical, the Bible calls it “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17, ESV.) As the Lord said: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32.) Free from delusion; free from an empty life of sin; free to serve God and enjoy Him in the age to come; free to begin a relationship with God through His Son that never ends (Jn. 17:3.)[8]

*Image: http://scienceblogs.com/webeasties/wp-content/blogs.dir/368/files/2012/04/i-df02b342033198fb027c2376798aaf6c-Harvard-Seal-Nice.jpg

[1] Daniel Halper, “’Satanic Black Mass’ will take place tonight at Harvard,” Weekly Standard Blog, electronic ed. accessed on 5/12/14 here: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/satanic-black-mass-take-place-tonight-harvard_791269.html

[2] Quoted in Joshua Rhett Miller, “Harvard’s satanic black mass to be held despite growing outrage,” electronic ed. accessed on 5/12/14 here: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/05/12/harvard-satanic-black-mass-remains-scheduled-despite-growing-outrage/

[3] Likewise, other early universities were founded with religious intentions, e.g. Yale, Princeton, Brown, & Oberlin.

[4]“Rules, and precepts that are observed in the college” in New England’s First Fruits. (London: 1643), 26; modern English version accessed on 5/12/14 here: http://education.byu.edu/edlf/archives/prophets/founding_fathers.html ; the original is here: https://archive.org/stream/NewEnglandsFirstFruitsInRespectFirstOfTheCounversionOfSome/New_Englands_First_Fruits#page/n0/mode/2up

[5] Henry Dunster, quoted in Samuel Eliot Morison, The Founding of Harvard College, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935),  251; electronic ed. accessed on 5/12/14 here: http://books.google.com/books?id=PQMdzhnfaSwC&pg=PA193&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

[6] Anna K. Kendrick, “Harvard’s Secularization: How a college lost its faith,” The Harvard Crimson, 3/8/06; electronic ed. accessed on 5/12/14 here: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2006/3/8/harvards-secularization-harvard-has-never-been/

[7] For a better event held at Harvard, see this talk by Dr. John Lennox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Kz4OgXsN1w

[8] The Bible teaches that there is only one God and that He exists as a triunity of three persons (“Trinity” is the traditional term describing this doctrine.) Mt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14.

Here Comes The Son

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Antarctic sunrise

  The Atlantic magazine’s website recently ran a story on the return of the sun to Antarctica after 90 days of night.[i] Antonio Litterio, a researcher at the Concordia Research Station, eloquently described this event, personifying the sun in this way:

I knew that today you’d come looking for me. Over these past few nights, I’ve looked out of the window, captivated by the beautiful starry sky. But in my mind I was thinking of you and how I would soon see you again. Human beings need light to feel calm and to live: light really is life. Wanting to see you again was not about wanting to feel closer to the end of my time here; it was about recharging my batteries. Over the past few days, even that warm glow has given me so much energy. Seeing you now, entering my bedroom in the morning, is a beautiful awakening…Today, seeing the light after so long, for those few minutes the Sun lingered above the horizon, I felt something that was a mixture of a mother’s caress, the warmth of a hug, and the peace and energy radiating from someone important to you. At the precise moment when the Sun reached the end of its arc, settling on the horizon, we looked at each other and there was nothing left to say. I’ve missed you…[ii]

On the basic level of human emotion these are beautiful and understandable sentiments. If one has been bereft of sunlight for three months, it is bound to depress one’s mood. Conversely, that bright orb’s return would naturally be greeted with joy by any right thinking person. Having said that, Litterio’s comments echoed other famous words that speak of a higher light than the burning mass of hydrogen that naturally illuminates planet earth and the surrounding solar system. As John the beloved apostle wrote: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4.)

Trees, Life, & Light

Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, John makes frequent use of images from the Pentateuch[iii] – especially the Tabernacle of Exodus (e.g. Rev. 1:12; Rev. 6:9; Rev. 8:3; the symbolism of the table of showbread underlies Jn. 6:32-33, etc.) The lampstand, the only light-source for the Holy place, evokes arboreal imagery. Like a tree it has branches, fruit, buds, and flowers (Ex. 25:31-40.) The imagery hearkens back to the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Eden (Gen. 2:9, 17.) It unites life and light in one object. John draws on this to describe the role of Christ as both life-giver and light-giver. But what do life and light really mean?

The Light Of The World

Life and light are vitally connected. Life in the Bible transcends mere existence. The goal of life is relational. One commentator makes the essential connection in Christ that John 1:4 speaks of:

He was the well-spring of life, from which every form of life—physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, eternal,—flows.…Creation leads on to life, and life leads on to light. Without life creation would be unintelligible; without light all but the lowest forms of life would be impossible…the one true Light, absolute Truth both intellectual and moral, free from ignorance and free from stain. The Source of Life is the Source of Light: He gives the power to know what is morally good.[iv]

The real meaning of life entails knowing one’s creator. As Christ says: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3.) Likewise, light connotes both truth and purity in the Bible (Ps. 119:130.) “…In your light we see light,” says the Psalmist (Ps. 36:9.) The true God wants people to know Him; therefore, He has revealed Himself in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14-18.)

He wants His creatures to walk with Him in pure and true fellowship (1 Jn. 1:5-7.) Elsewhere John writes: “The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 Jn. 1:2-4.) Knowing truth depends upon knowing God and sharing in His life.

Wandering In The Dark

Life is to be lived in the light of God’s truth and holiness. He is the One who reveals how the world actually is, and what mankind ought to live for. Until one knows Christ by faith, spiritual darkness is one’s inevitable lot (Mt. 6:23; Jn. 1:5.) In fact, people love darkness (Jn. 3:19.) Apart from Christ’s saving work, the human mind is darkened (Rom. 1:21) and alienated from the righteous thought patterns of its Maker (Eph. 4:18.) Spurgeon powerfully depicts the lost man’s darkness:

Now, the power of sin is just like that. It hides from the human mind what that mind ought to see. The man is lost, but he does not know it; he cannot see the rocks that are just ahead. The man has soon to stand before the bar of God and receive his sentence, but he does not know it; I mean his heart does not know it. He trifles on, caring for none of these things…No matter how rich may be the mercy, nor how pure the consolation, he knows nothing at all about them, for he is in the dark. It is all dark, dark, dark with him, amid the blaze of noon.[v]

But after trusting Christ as Lord and Savior, the believer is delivered from “the power of darkness and conveyed [them] into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13.) Conder poetically puts it thus:

Brightness of uncreated light;

The heart of God revealed:

Divine, O Son of God, art Thou,

In Thee God’s fulness find we now.[vi]

The Lord directly states it this way: “…I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12, boldface mine.) As McGee explains: “This world today is in spiritual darkness, and the Lord Jesus Christ has brought the only light there is in the world. He is the light.”[vii] Ryle agrees in these words: “There has never been any spiritual life or light enjoyed by men, excepting from Christ.”[viii]

Out Of The Darkness Into The Light

Mr. Litterio was correct in connecting life and light, but he failed to note that this principle works on a higher level as well. The sun was created by the Creator of all life. He providentially uses it for mankind’s good (Mt. 5:45.) Until one knows the Son of God, however, life is unremitting night. It involves unceasingly groping in the darkness, perpetually wondering what is behind the dim unknown.[ix] To die without the Lord is to enter the eternal night of outer darkness (Mt. 25:30.) Thankfully, the Lord Jesus offers Himself as “the light of the world” to whoever will believe. As a classic hymn urges us:

Come to the Light,

‘Tis shining for thee;

Sweetly the Light has dawned upon me.

Once I was blind, but now I can see –

The Light of the world is Jesus.[x]

 


[i] Rebecca J. Rosen, “The Sun rises again over Antarctica,” The Atlantic, published 13 August, 2013; found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/08/the-sun-rises-again-over-antarctica/278620/ Accessed on 13 August 2013.

[ii] Antonio Literrio, “Return to sunlight,” blog post, 12 August, 2013; Found here: http://blogs.esa.int/concordia/2013/08/12/return-to-sunlight/ Accessed on 8/13/13. [Boldface mine.]

[iii] The first 5 books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy.

[iv] A. Plummer, The Gospel According to S. John, Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1896), 65-66.

[v] C. H. Spurgeon, “Deliverance from the power of darkness,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. LIX. Originally preached on November 29, 1866. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1913), 376–377.

[vi] Josiah Conder, “Thou art the everlasting word”; located here: http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn.php/h/59#ixzz2bxfSfR1c Accessed on 8/14/13.

[vii] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, comment on Jn. 1:4, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 373.

[viii] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 1. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 12.

[ix]

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ’twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

James Russell Lowell, “The Present Crisis,” located here: http://www.bartleby.com/42/805.html Accessed on 8/14/13. [Boldface mine.]

[x] P.P. Bliss, “The Light of the world is Jesus,” located here: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/w/lworldij.htm Accessed on 8/14/13.

*Photo found here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/u/TvyamNb-BivtNwcoxtkc5xGBuGkIMh_nj4UJHQKupC5SSBpr5b0RJGiewoNVqo45CZ4QLkuljpza/ Accessed on 8/15/13.

Treating The King Like A Pawn

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him” Luke 23:8.

Rather than seeking Christ to inquire concerning the truth about the world, humanity, and the Creator God, Herod merely wanted to satisfy his idle curiosity. To him the Lord Jesus’ miracles were not signs authenticating His deity and Messiahship; instead they were magic tricks meant for his royal amusement. He wanted to manipulate his notable prisoner into performing instead of preaching; of course, that is exactly what the Lord would not do. Jesus Christ is not a pawn and life is not a game. In order to accomplish the purpose for which they were created, human beings must bow to the King of kings and Lord of lords who alone gives eternal life.

tissot-jesus-before-herod-513x743*Image: James Tissot, “Jesus before Herod”; found here: http://www.joyfulheart.com/easter/images-tissot/tissot-jesus-before-herod-513×743.jpg Accessed on 6/3/13.

Trivializing The Ultimate Truth

Many moderns reenact Herod’s tragic mistake by thinking that they have heard about Christ and therefore know all about Him. But hearsay is notoriously unreliable. One may hear that Christ was a good teacher or a moral man, and the gospels bear this out – yet it is not the whole truth. Jesus was “God manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16.) He was a real, sinless man; yet He was also God walking in our midst (1 Tim. 2:5; Jn. 1:14; Phil. 2:5-8.)

As God incarnate the Lord Jesus is incapable of being maneuvered by humans into doing what they want. During His earthly ministry, He steadfastly held to God the Father’s will and timetable. Thus, He was born, died, rose again, and ascended back to heaven all according to the schedule preordained from before the foundation of the world (e.g. 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Titus 1:2-3.) For a puny would-be potentate – in reality a dissipated, vacillating puppet of the Roman overlords – to suppose that he could make Christ perform on demand was ludicrous. The Lord Jesus is not malleable to men’s perverted notions.

Checkmating Ourselves

Far too many moderns reduplicate the same mistake in different forms. They suppose that Jesus is there to be reinterpreted according to their thinking. Rather than a holy God who “…commands all men everywhere to repent,” they suppose that He is a grandfatherly type of being who would never dream of separating anyone from Himself for an eternity of punishment. Or they simplistically think that He indulgently turns a blind eye to our sinful desires and thought-life. To others, the Lord is little better than a life-ring to desperately grasp when they get into trouble, or a miracle-working genie whom we may call upon to gratify our desires for the sensational or the supernatural.

The Lord Jesus Christ will not submit to a chess game of our own devising. He is not a pawn, but a king. Bearing this in mind, our legitimate response must be to bow to Him and say “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk. 18:13); and “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28)!  Afterwards we say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:10) and “Lord, what do you want me to do” (Acts 9:6)? This is the best kind of life: one lived in obedience to our Lord and King.

Finding The Love Of Your Life

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

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Image found: http://visaodemenina.blogspot.com (via google images)

In much of the western hemisphere, today, 14th of February, is Valentine’s Day – a commercially-driven, overly-sentimental excuse to give flowers, candy, greeting cards, and special dinners to one’s spouse/boy-friend/girl-friend, etc. Many people will experience disappointment today as they have no one to lavish these dainties upon them. Others will be disillusioned by lackluster “dates” with sub-par would-be wooers. Like so many things in this world, this pseudo-holiday will fail to live up to many people’s expectations. Therefore, I offer an encouraging portrait of the perfect lover: one who exhibits sacrificial care by meeting his beloved’s deepest needs, resolute faithfulness amidst all of life’s seasons, and unparalleled generosity in lavishing gifts on them.

 1. His Sacrificial Care

This “glorious bridegroom of our hearts”[1] went to a garbage heap to win His bride. In a true tale far beyond Cinderella’s mythical rise from rags to riches, He left a place of security and beauty to traverse a slum. To prepare His beloved for her new life, He paid her crushing load of debt, and then ushered her into a new life with new values, desires, and blessings. As Romans 5:8-10 describes His self-sacrificing care: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

2. His Resolute Faithfulness

This lover will never leave or forsake those who are in a relationship with Him (Heb. 13:5.) In adversity He is there to comfort and strengthen (2 Cor. 1:3-4.) In times of blessing, He gives joy and rejoices with His loved ones (Zeph. 3:17; Eph. 1:3.) When we are tired, He is unwearied, and watches over us (Psa. 120.) He provides, protects, guides, loves, and assures us that we are completely fulfilled in Him (Col. 2:20.) As the Bible speaks of Him: “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Dt. 7:9.) He promises: “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20.)

3. His Unparalleled Generosity

As a gift of love the Taj Mahal[2] pales in comparison to this one’s generosity: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16.) “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32.) “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9.) There is no gift comparable to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was poured out as a sacrifice for our sin. Three days later He put the finishing touches on the gift by rising from the dead; now He offers us eternal life and love in Himself. As Bonar rightly called it “the gift of gifts all other gifts in one!”[3]

Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ through faith? Eternal life is a relationship; like other relationships it is personal (Jn. 17:3.) It is no use saying: “I know about Jesus. I know who He was, what He did, and what He taught.” Do you know Him personally? Have you repented of your sins, telling Him that you want salvation from the judgment that you justly deserve? (Rom. 10:9.) Have you left off trying to earn His love and salvation – something that He says we can never do (Eph. 2:8-9)? Tell the Lord that you do not want to live for this world anymore; rather you want Him, and you want Him to change you and take you to glory with Himself (1 Jn. 3:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:17.) If you do so sincerely, you will find the perfect Lover, who will save you and love you for this life and the one to come.

 


[1] C.H. Spurgeon, “Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands,” accessed here: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/a/m/i/amidstus.htm on 2/14/13.

[2] The seventeenth century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built this famous monument as a testament to his love for his wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal see these links: http://tajmahal.gov.in/shah_jahan.html & http://tajmahal.gov.in/mumtaz.html

[3] Horatius Bonar, “Blessed be God Our God,” accessed here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/89 on 2/14/13.