Sunday, May 1, 2016

That's Your Opinion!

This phrase is often encountered as one gives an apologetic for the Good News of Jesus Christ. We all have opinions about many matters, but this phrase is instead thrown out as a quick defense against unnerving statements of fact. They do not like your “truth”, so they seek to disengage from thinking further about it by implying that what is “true” for one does not necessarily mean it is “true” for all. This is called Relativism:
“The idea that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, ‘relative’, that is, their validity depends on the time, persons, & circumstances in which they are applied.”

Relativism is not new, but dates back to the “sophist” line of Greek philosophy (c. 500 B.C.).

Apparently, Pilate was a devotee…

John 18:37-38a Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. (John 14:6) Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"

Pilate’s response reflects the attitude of many academics, who expend great energy gaining knowledge either in a vain attempt to find meaning outside of submission to a supreme God; or (worse yet) to simply lord their intellect over others. This irony is supreme, for such are “always learning but never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).

“Pilate's exclamation is neither the expression of an ardent thirst for truth, nor that of the despair of a soul which has long sought it in vain; it is the profession of a frivolous skepticism, such as is frequently seen in the overly philosophical man of the world.” Frédéric Louis Godet (1886)

But Christ instead relates truth that is universal to all…

John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Many Bible cherry-pickers will often stop here to teach “truth” which is often utterly out of context with
Christ’s teaching, with the implication that Jesus promises that believing such will cause you to be “set free”.

But, as with any good textual analysis, context is king.

Reading on, we see God’s Son precisely defining His emancipating truth…

8:33-36,45 They answered him, "We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.

How is it that you say, 'You will become free'?"

Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

The slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed… But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

So the ugly truth that Jesus desires to free us from is clearly revealed as the universal sinful nature.

This beast enslaves all who push away their only Savior, Advocate, & Friend Jesus Christ.

John 1:14,17 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


We all have seen the this bumper sticker lately. Superficially, the idea is to peacefully exist with others regardless of their creed, an idea put forward by the Bible (e.g. Rom. 12:17-18, 2Cor. 13:11, Heb. 12:14, 1Pet. 3:15b).

But below the surface it intimates something much more than that- the idea that all religions finds their own pathway to the God(s) of the universe, & therefore they are coequal as well… 
  for the letter "c," -a crescent moon representing Islam
for the letter "o," -the peace symbol
for the letter "e," -a male/female symbol or a scientific equation
for the letter "x," -the Star of David representing Judaism
for the letter "i," -a pagan/Wicca symbol
for the letter "s," -a Chinese yin-yang symbol
for the letter "t," -a cross representing Christianity

But Christ’s entire ministry speaks in direct contradiction. His is a message of one, exclusive path to God. Many before have referenced the great “trilemma” of Christ’s ministry, but none more famously than C.S. Lewis…  
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ...

Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” -Mere Christianity

To exemplify this, in one half of one Gospel alone, note just some of the times Jesus Christ Himself claims that He alone has absolute power over our eternal destiny…

John 3:15-18 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (17) 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. (18) 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.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 4:13-14 Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

John 5:37-40 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

John 6:28-29 Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
John 6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 7:37-38 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.
John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

John 10:1-2,9 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. (2) But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep… (9) I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
John 10:28-30 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (29) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
(30) I and the Father are one."

John 11:23-26 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

John 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
John 12:44-46 And Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

John 13:8 Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me."
John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

John 14:1-6 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
4 And you know the way to where I am going."
5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Faced with these verses, we have a choice- either say that Jesus Christ is the greatest narcissist & megalomaniac the world has ever seen (for the measure which His autocracy has influenced world history)- or embrace His words as true & turn to follow Him with all that is within us (Matt. 22:37).

The words of Jesus Christ are a pure polemic, they leave us no other intervening option…

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Having Assurance in Christ

John 15:1-8 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. (2) Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (3) Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. (4) Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (5) I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (6) If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (7) If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (8) By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

As Christians we so often desire to please God by bearing fruit with the life He has given us. We respond to Christ’s imperative to lead a spiritually fruitful life with a search for easily quantifiable indicatives. “One-hundred & twenty were packed into our little church this morning” or “twenty-two decisions for Christ last week” are examples of what is often heard in church circles as evidence of fruit.

I’m not saying that the calculable fruit of ministry is not important, but I will say it is not the most important fruit of & for Christ that we are called to bear.

A dear older saint recently came to me with concern that she may be “losing” her salvation due to the fact that she currently feels she is not as active in prayer & ministry as she has been in the past. I related to her that she cannot lose, of herself, what she never gained, of herself. If God working through Christ was truly the cause of her salvation in those earlier years, how could she, through herself, lose what the Almighty has gained for her?

In 1st Corinthians 3, Paul takes a rebellious church to task for their lack of good works. He warns of the day in which God will judge all the work of the elect. If there was ever a perfect place for Paul to speak on a danger of losing one’s salvation, to warn of the supposed impending doom of Hell for these rebels, this would be it. That would seem to be great knockout blow to stop their rebellion.

But that is not what he says to these self-absorbed blowhards, these empty boasters, who nevertheless belong to Christ. He, in fact, makes precisely the opposite point…

1Co 3:15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Paul confirms here what he also expounds elsewhere, that we enter into this grace in which we stand entirely by faith, & never by works, so that none will have claim to boast that we were able to finish what God started. No, one of the ways that God reveals His power is by His ability to finish what He started in us.

But, you may say, is not faith itself a work of our own due diligence? There again, Scripture declares that Christ is not only the founder, but also the perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). It is a work, but, once again, a work of Christ, with all corresponding glory due Him alone.

So He is all of our salvation, the Alpha & Omega, the Beginning & the End, for He is both our perfection in regards to righteousness & our perfecter in regards to our faith.

Paul sums this little treatise on how God deals with our works, or lack thereof, thusly:

1Cor. 3:21-23 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.

If you are Christ’s possession, through no power of your own, how do you become not Christ’s possession, by any power of yourself? Paul is saying here that die has been cast; indeed, even that the elect are as bonded to Christ as Christ is to God. And that is as much an unbreakable bond as can be found in all of creation.

Once again, perhaps no one communicates the specific indicatives of the true fruit of the Vine better than the prince of preachers himself, Charles Haddon Spurgeon…

“Among my early hearers at Waterbeach was one good old woman whom I called “Mrs. Much-afraid.” I feel quite sure she has been many years in Heaven, but she was always fearing that she should never enter the gates of glory. She was very regular in her attendance at the house of God, and was a wonderfully good listener. She used to drink in the gospel; but, nevertheless, she was always doubting, and fearing, and trembling about her own spiritual condition.

She had been a believer in Christ, I should think, for fifty years, yet she had always remained in that timid, fearful, anxious state. She was a kind old soul, ever ready to help her neighbours, or to speak a word to the unconverted; she seemed to me to have enough grace for two people, yet, in her own opinion, she had not half enough grace for one.

One day, when I was talking with her, she told me that she had not any hope at all, she had no faith; she believed that she was a hypocrite.

I said, ‘Then don’t come to the chapel any more; we don’t want hypocrites there. Why do you come?’

She answered, ‘I come because I can’t stop away. I love the people of God; I love the house of God; and I love to worship God.’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘you are an odd sort of hypocrite; you are a queer kind of unconverted woman.’

‘Ah!‘ she sighed, ‘you may say what you please, but I have not any hope of being saved.’

So I said to her, ‘Well, next Sunday, I will let you go into the pulpit, that you may tell the people that Jesus Christ is a liar, and that you cannot trust Him.’

‘Oh!’ she cried, ‘I would be torn in pieces before I would say such a thing as that. Why, He cannot lie! Every word He says is true.’

‘Then,’ I asked, ‘why do you not believe it?

She replied, ‘I do believe it; but, somehow, I do not believe it for myself; I am afraid whether it is for me.’

‘Have you not any hope at all?’ I asked.

‘No,’ she answered; so I pulled out my purse, and I said to her, ‘Now, I have got £5 here, it is all the money I have; but I will give you that £5 for your hope if you will sell it.’

She looked at me, wondering what I meant. ‘Why!’ she exclaimed, ‘I would not sell it for a thousand worlds.’ She had just told me that she had not any hope of salvation, yet she would not sell it for a thousand worlds!

I fully expect to see that good old soul when I get to Heaven, and I am certain she will say to me, ‘Oh, dear sir, how foolish I was when I lived down there at Waterbeach! I went groaning all the way to glory when I might just as well have gone there singing. I was always troubled and afraid; but my dear Lord kept me by His grace, and brought me safely here.’

She died very sweetly; it was with her as John Bunyan said it was with Miss Much-afraid, Mr. Despondency’s daughter. Mr. Great-heart had much trouble with those poor pilgrims on the road to the Celestial City; for, if there, was only a straw in the way, they were fearful that they would stumble over it. Yet Bunyan says, ‘When the time was come for them to depart, they went to the brink of the river. The last words of Mr. Despondency were, Farewell night, welcome day. His daughter went through the river singing.’

Our Lord often makes it calm and peaceful, or even joyous and triumphant, for His departing timid ones. He puts some of His greatest saints to bed in the dark, and they wake up in the eternal light; but He frequently keeps the candle burning for Mr. Little-faith, Mr. Feeble-mind, Mr. Ready-to-halt, Mr. Despondency, and Miss Much-afraid. They go to sleep in the light, and they also wake up in the land where the Lamb is all the glory for ever and ever.

[C. H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary: Volume 1, 1834-1854, 239-40 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009). A bit of editing (shape, not content) to enhance readability.]

Yes, Spurgeon wisely exposed within her a deep, long abiding, & sincere love for both Christ & His Church. This woman’s love I’m sure was not perfect, & I’m equally sure that was the source of her fears. But Scripture informs that it is not our perfection that sustains us, but His. Just like the like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, He exhibits His glory by His faithfulness even in the midst of his beloved son’s faithlessness. In that parable, the father never disowns his son; he instead looks forward with joy to his return.

Therefore, the truest characteristic of spiritual fruit is not the so easily quantitative aspects of ministry, but the qualitative aspect of the abiding presence of the Spirit of Christ.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Philippians 1:9-11 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.