Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Star Wars

One thing I hate about movie reviews is when the reviewer spends half the review detailing the plot of the movie he or she is reviewing. I just skip right over it. I don't know if it's because I hate hearing the same thing twice (foreshadowing of what's to come) or because it comes across as patronizing or because I'm prideful or because it is genuinely unnecessary. No matter the case I'm going to assume you've already seen the movie and will not bore you by retelling a story you already know (more foreshadowing).

I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I really liked it. It's clearly better than episodes I-III. It is not better than episodes IV-VI though it certainly edges in on Return of the Jedi. The new actors were good. I liked Rae and Finn and Poe. The rapport between Rae and Finn was excellent. I liked watching them work together and it was a refreshing break from the "we are polar opposites and unable to get along" trope that so often plagues movies today.

I liked the special effects. They were solid.

I liked the new spin on Stormtroopers. I liked the villains. I thought they were pretty cool.

I liked that the guys from The Raid got cameos. 

The movie was very good and a solid reclamation of what was once a top-notch series.

I liked that the movie wasn't as PC as I thought it might be. I thought it was going to be all about girl power and overcompensating in regards to diversity but it was all rather organic and never interfered with the flow of the story. 

But there are major issues I must take with the movie as an objective observer of cinema.

The first issue is the most obvious and most obnoxious.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is basically Star Wars: A New Hope. I've seen the movie twice (again, it's very good) and both times I was struck by how unabashedly familiar the plot was. An oblivious Jedi on Jakku finds a droid that has secret information about a legendary Jedi. Then we have the operation to destroy not the Deathstar but the Deathplanet. We have the father/son betrayal story. We've got an inevitable twist about who Rae's father is. We just had a bunch of stuff that was all too familiar.

This isn't the first time this has happened. All James Bond movies are essentially made from the same formula with slight variations in tone, villain and ethnicity of Bond-girl. I love the Bond movies and I understand the need for that formula and it doesn't bother me but it did bother me in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This exact dilemma is exactly what kept Jurassic World from being as good as it could be but I still think Jurassic World strayed from Jurassic Park more than The Force Awakens strayed from A New Hope. 

My second issue was with Han Solo playing a major part. It seemed to me that Ford mailed in his performance. He was the worst actor on the screen and, at least for me, drug the movie down. I was ready for him to go and kept thinking the whole time "golly, I really hope he's not this heavily featured in the next 2!" And now he's dead! So I got my wish and I won't apologize for it because you should be thanking me because deep in your heart you know his acting was bad in this episode. Search your heart, you know it's true. 

My third issue is based on a projection of what might happen. If Rae is Han and Leia's daughter then it's a dishonest twist. There's no clues the audience could have picked up on to figure this out. This type of cheap trick is exactly why I hated the twist ending to Fight Club. You couldn't figure out the ending. It's like if Say Anything ended with Lloyd Dobbler being an alien and then people acted like it was a great twist! Sure it was completely unexpected but that's because it made no sense and there were no indications he was an alien. 

Rae has to be either a Kinobi (granddaughter or niece or something) or Luke's daughter whom he trained and then erased her memory. That's the best theory I've heard. But if that's not the case then her suddenly being able to tap into all the Force's energy is absurd. It annoyed me that she bested Kylo Ren. That really makes him less intimidating. If he's getting bested by an untrained teenage girl, then exactly how tough is this guy? He was a great villain until he took off his mask and then a below average villain when Rae beat him. Hopefully her instant abilities are cleared up in the next episode. 

Superficial side note: Rae is the worst onscreen runner I can remember and she ran in like every other scene. It drove me nuts. 

There is a good and bad side to Disney purchasing Star Wars. The movies will never be awful. They will always be very good. That's the good side. The dark side is that they'll max out at a very good level (8/10). Disney won't take risks and won't do anything to jeopardize a cash cow. They'll make a good movie with a big budget and please the audience enough that they'll return. Disney is incapable of making The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, Mad Max: Fury Road or any other truly great addition to a franchise. Disney is also not going to make anything as bad as any Fantastic 4 movie. But Disney can't rise above an 8. None of the Marvel movies rise above an 8. Disney is Tony Romo; very good, but you know the ceiling.

I'm happy to see this movie again. I'll be happy to watch the next 2. I'll gladly buy the ticket like I do with most Marvel movies. Until Disney breaks away from its own grasp it cannot rise above the very high ceiling above its head. 

Again I give this movie an 8/10. That's a really high score! Don't stone me! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Biblical Case Against Weed

If God made the cannabis plant, then isn't it good? After all, Genesis 1:31 says, "God saw all that He made, and behold, it was very good..." The NIV says "it was good" while the NAS, which I quoted, uses a significantly stronger interpretation. All things were very good, right? Of course! Even the cannabis plant!

So why is it bad today

I was trying to think of a good parallel to weed (the term I'll be using from now on as opposed to "marijuana" or "cannabis plant"). I needed something that was natural (found in nature and not conjured up in lab like heroine or crack) and good for humanity. I ultimately settled on sexual intercourse as the appropriate comparison.

As with all analogies this will have its imperfections so don't spend hours dissecting those. Just follow along with the general principles. 

Sex was given to us by God as a natural way to reproduce and to enjoy another human being of the opposite sex in a very intimate way. Yet today we don't consider all sex to be good. Sex in the context of adultery is not good. Sex in any context where it's not between two married people of the opposite sex is not good. It has a limited context to retain its goodness. It's only within the parameters of God's design that sex is good. 

So what happened? The fall. The bible didn't end at Genesis 1:31, right? Sin entered the world and in so doing it changed everything. We invented ways to make good things evil. Human beings are exceptionally skilled at finding new and creative ways to sin in even the most innocent of settings. 

We have to look at weed in a post-fall world because we live in a post-fall world. I think there's probably a time and place for weed today but it's not on your front porch. It's not to be used to get high. It's not a recreational activity to be pursued by Christians. 

What was its original intent? I have no idea! I'd say healing but there would have been no need for healing in Genesis 1, so I haven't any idea what it was for prior to the fall. 

But why is it wrong for a Christian to get high?
Because it effects the mind. It changes how our mind works (if only for a short while). The key to Christian sanctification is the renewing of our minds (Romans 12). We are to have the mind of Christ. How does getting high help in any way conform our minds to Christ's mind? It doesn't. Our minds are the gateway to what our bodies do. When our mind's aren't functioning properly is when we find ourselves in trouble. It's already hard enough to not sin when our minds are functioning at their peak, am I right? 

"But Tim! You're a hypocrite! You're not trying make alcohol illegal!"
Correct. I am not trying to make alcohol illegal but I would support a law that made getting drunk illegal. The difference between weed and booze is that one can intake booze without getting drunk. Some people just like a good beer or a glass of their favorite wine. They have self-control and will stop consuming the beverage long before it begins dulling their senses. Marijuana isn't designed or intended to tickle the taste buds. Its intention is exclusively to dull the senses and alter the mind. The tow aren't actually comparable when you factor in the undeniable reality that people can and do consume alcohol without altering their mind. People don't smoke weed the same way they smoke cigarettes or cigars

Galatians 5:19-21
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [a]immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger,disputes, dissensions, [b]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The key words to look at are sorcery and drunkenness.  The word for sorcery is where we get our word for pharmaceuticals. This doesn't mean medicine is evil but it does suggest these were mad-made chemical-like creations. Weed in its natural state is fairly harmless. What you're buying from the local dealer is not weed in its natural state. It's intentionally manipulated to have a concentrated dose of THC so the user gets a maximum high. In either case, drunkenness is undeniably a sin and a particularly dangerous sin. Drunkenness leads to all sorts of bad decisions. Drunkenness and "being high" are not much different in terms of their ability to help believers make discerning choices. The principle we're after is that a believer must have a sober mind. Anything that interferes with our ability to think clearly and biblically is not good for us. And again, just think about how incredibly hard it is to not sin when we are sober. 

The role of government is to punish evildoers and to enact just laws. This amendment to Ohio's constitution would be a stamp of approval on behavior we know is offensive to God. Since this would be offensive to God, we know it's not right for us to say otherwise, thus we say "NO" to drugs. All laws are the legislation of morality. Never let anyone tell you differently. This law in essence makes smoking weed perfectly fine for persons 21 and over. 

That's my biblical case for opposing weed. There are also several other reasons to vote "no" on Issue 3. One is that is is an amendment to create a monopoly on weed sales. Another reason is that it will make the cost of weed significantly higher than it already is. You can seek out better resources than my blog for those and I encourage you to do so. I think this is a bad law whether you smoke weed or not. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Imputation: Credit Where Credit Isn't Due

The 21st century has been a bastion for imprecise and sloppy language. It's been a safe harbor for people who stake their worldview on corrupted language. People boast in their refusal to define words. As our culture trends more and more toward this deadly error it becomes all the more important for born again, bible believing, evangelical, protestant Christians who serve the Lord Jesus and worship Him as Savior to accurately give a defense for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 

If doctrine divides (and it does) then so do definitions. Definitions demand precise language. Precision carries with it the idea of dogmatism. No one likes that, right? I love it. Even when I disagree with it, I love hearing someone being bold enough to say what they believe. I don't like the content of their message, but I do like their willingness to say it. To be clear, to be black and white and to be bold is a rarity these days. I encourage you to learn from teachers who let you know where they stand. 

This brings us to the word imputation. It's a glorious word. It's powerful. It bears the weight of the cross. It, along with propitiation and grace, is among the most important words you'll ever learn in your entire life. 

Let's first examine some verses from God's holy, infallible and inerrant word. We'll take a chronological look at how this doctrine has developed so, obviously, we'll begin in the Old Testament: 
Leviticus 9 
Moses then said to Aaron, “Come near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, that you may make atonement for yourself and for the people; then make the offering for the people, that you may make atonement for them, just as the Lord has commanded.”So Aaron came near to the altar and slaughtered the calf of the sin offering which was for himself.
Aaron, the first high priest, needed forgiveness for his sins before he could present atoning sacrifices for anyone else's. This is why Aaron offered up a sin offering on the altar to YHWH. Remember this: Aaron, as high priest, needed to first provide an atoning sacrifice for his own sins. This doctrine gloriously and beautifully fits together at the end. It's a gorgeous tapestry of divine, soul-saving truth. 

There are other types of offerings detailed in Leviticus and each had a particular purpose (e.g. Passover) but the general purpose of each, as detailed in the case above, was to offer up something to take the place of something else. The animal represents sin and bears the due punishment for that sin in place of the sinner. 

If you want an illustration of how seriously God took this practice, then go check out 1 Samuel and read what happened to Eli's sons when they abused the altar. 

Let's jump ahead to the New Testament because if I don't do it now then this post will be like a 4 hour read and I'm told by my wife that my posts are already long enough. 
Matthew 26 
57 Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together.
Interesting that the high priest offers up Jesus on behalf of the Jews. Also interesting that the crucifixion took place on Passover; the day when God passes over His chosen people and doesn't punish them along with everyone else. The day when God freed His chosen people from bondage and slavery. Very interesting. 
Romans 8 
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh
Galatians 3 
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—
Clear enough yet? 
Hebrews 7 
26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.
Remember how Aaron and the other high priests had to first offer up sacrifices for their own sins? Christ, because He lived a perfect life, had no sins of His own to atone for. He just went immediately to the altar, the cross, and became the atoning sacrifice for all who would believe. Is this not fascinating? Is this not awesome???

Do you understand the imputation yet? Here it is in its clearest terms:
2 Corinthians 5 
21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
This glorious truth is woven throughout Scripture. And it's so important because no sacrifice we ever made or could make could adequately atone for our sins. The sacrifice needed to be commensurate with the offense. The sacrifice needed to be as good as the offense was evil. The sacrifice needed to be done by someone who didn't need his own sacrifice. Jesus Christ, serving as high priest AND atoning sacrifice, was the only possible answer to this dilemma. 

God imputed our sin to Jesus.
God imputed Jesus' righteousness to us.  

That's why the imputation is God giving credit where credit is not due. We, wretched and hell-bound sinners, are credited with the righteousness of Christ for no other reason than God's kind will. That's it. That's the imputation. It's a doctrine we cannot, we absolutely cannot compromise on. It's the lifeblood of Christianity. Without it we have no hope and no chance of setting foot in heaven. For how can that which is unholy be with that which is holy, holy, holy? We need the righteousness of Christ and those of us who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit do indeed have the righteousness of Christ. 

If you're a believer you have to say "amen!" 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Planned Parenthood: A Heart Check for Myself

There was a man in history who was a wretch and a slave trader. He did all the unspeakable things a man can do and he kidnapped men and women and sold them like pieces of cattle. This was a man who had no regard for the sanctity of life. All he cared about was what other people could do for him. He saw people as capital. He truly was a wretch. 
Some time after his career in slave trading began he was taken as a slave. He was taken as a slave because he was so miserable of a shipmate that his former crew left him behind with another slave trader who then sold this wretch of a man into slavery. 
Eventually he was reclaimed by a ship his father sent. He would certainly cease being a slave trader after being a slave, right? Nope! He stayed in the business! He's a lost cause. There's no hope for this man. 

Do you know who I'm talking about? Do you realize that if it were up to me, based on that story, we wouldn't have the song Amazing Grace? John Newton, the man in the story, wrote one of the most beautiful songs ever written. He eventually became an abolitionist but if it had been up to me, he'd not have made it that far! 

Here's the question I have to ask myself:
Would I have prayed for John Newton's salvation? 
I would now, of course, since I know who he turned out to be. But would I have then? 

When it comes to Planned Parenthood I'm more like Jonah refusing to go to Nineveh. Not because I'm scared but because I know God can save the worst sinners working for Planned Parenthood. Don't get me wrong - I'm actively praying for Planned Parenthood to be shut down, but am I praying for lives to be saved from hell? Am I praying that Cecile Richards' life is regenerated and she's reconciled to God? Do I even want to pray that? I'll be honest with you, I have not once prayed for the salvation of anyone working for Planned Parenthood.

This is where the Christian life gets messy. This is where I'm tested and stretched in unimaginable ways. Were any of the 1st century believers praying for Saul to be saved? Would you have been? 

God works in ways that are so beyond us and so unpredictable that we have no excuse not to pray for the salvation of every wretched soul. God brought glory to Himself through Saul of Tarsus. A man who persecuted the church! God brought glory to Himself through John Newton! A slave trader! 

Praying for Planned Parenthood to be shut down is the right thing to pray for. I don't care how God does it. It just needs to get done. This doesn't give any of us license to go outside the law (violence against abortion doctors) or to go beyond civil disobedience (riots). This means we pray. We need to be active protesters. We need to do our part in making sure our nation gets rid of such a despicable act. Yet we also need to remember that Planned Parenthood is full of lost people who will spend an eternity in hell being punished according to their deeds, if they are not brought to saving faith by the grace of God. And faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. 

I have much to say about this issue. I'll hopefully write more. I just had to first spill this out before I get lost in anger and forget that these people will be on the wrong side of eternity. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

What Does Hypocrisy Prove?

We are gearing up for another long and exhausting political race. We are still more than a year out from electing the next President of the United States. We will be inundated and overwhelmed with rhetoric, attack ads, debates and the always influential yard signs. I mean not to debate the worthiness of our potential candidates here. I don't want to reduce this blog to the discussion of some matters of temporal significance. I can tell you that one of the two primary political parties is explicitly opposed to the morality clearly laid out in Scripture and I find it impossible to reconcile being a Christian and voting for that party. *Hint: it's the Democrats.*

What we will see and hear are ongoing accusations of Candidate A being a hypocrite for doing Y while claiming that Y is wrong. 
  • Al Gore is an environmentalist
    • Al Gore flies around on a private jet and travels with a motorcade
This makes Al Gore a hypocrite. Agreed? Of course you agree! Environmentalists don't leave massive carbon footprints! That's antithetical to their stated values. Al Gore is a hypocrite for violating the beliefs he claims to cherish. He can rationalize it all he wants but he's still a hypocrite. But he's also something else....

An environmentalist! 

What are you talking about, Tim? He's causing lots of damage to the environment!
That he is, but he's still a professing environmentalist. He's still claiming to be an environmentalist, right? Certainly he's not a true environmentalist. He's not living off solar power, riding a bicycle and doing speeches via Skype. He's a phony environmentalist who contradicts everything he believes but he's still trying to enforce a worldview. 

Does Al Gore's hypocrisy disprove his environmental beliefs? 

Let's tackle this from another angle. 

  • Conservative Candidate A is a believer in traditional values
    • Conservative Candidate A cheats on his wife with a male prostitute 
This makes Conservative Candidate A a hypocrite. Agreed? Of course you agree! Traditional values candidates don't cheat on their wives! That's antithetical to their stated values. Conservative Candidate A is a hypocrite for violating the beliefs he claims to cherish. He can rationalize it all he wants but he's still a hypocrite. But he's also something else...

A traditional values candidate!
What are you talking about, Tim? He's causing lots of damage to traditional values!
That he is, but he's still a professing conservative! He's still claiming to be one, right? Certainly he's not a true traditional values candidate. He's not in a loving, monogamous, opposite sex marriage. He's a phony traditional values candidate who contradicts everything he believes but he's still trying to enforce a worldview. 

Does Conservative Candidate A's hypocrisy disprove his traditional values? 

The answer to both of those questions is a resounding 'NO.' The efficacy of their worldview isn't dependent upon the faithfulness of its adherents. The efficacy of any worldview is wholly dependent upon the truthfulness of its object. 

Do you see where I'm going? 
Jesus Christ is the object of our faith. Whether the Christian worldview is right or not isn't dependent upon my effort or your effort (Romans 3). In fact, that's antithetical to the basis of our faith. Right? Our faith is a faith placed in the achievements of Christ. We have zero faith in our works. We have zero faith in our accomplishments. Our faith rests on Christ's satisfactory death on the cross. Our faith rests in Christ serving as the substitutionary atonement for our sins. Our faith is that Christ is the propitiation for our sins; that He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect and sinless life, died because of our sins and for our sins and was raised on the 3rd day to prove He is the ruler over life and death.

"All Christians are hypocrites!"
Yea, yea we are! I tell people not to lust and then I lust. I tell people not to be greedy and then I keep things to myself. I tell people to read the Bible and then I don't read it. The list goes on. That's why we don't put faith in our works (Ephesians 2). That's why we don't put faith in the works of our pastors and friends and our favorite famous Christians. If Famous Christian Athlete fails in a disastrous way, does that disprove Christ's work? No! Not at all. It really serves to fortify the necessity of Christ's work. No one can earn salvation. It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. 

Let me clarify something. Just because someone claims to be a Christian or an environmentalist doesn't mean said person is either of those things. Lots of people claim to be lots of things they are not. Bruce Jenner claims to be a woman. Benny Hinn and Ernest Angley claim to be heralds of God's word. My dog thinks he's a human. Environmentalism isn't true or false because of Al Gore's actions. I'm more inclined to listen to someone who is consistent with his beliefs but those beliefs don't attain their veracity from persons. If that worldview is genuinely true, then it will remain true whether anyone follows it or not. So we then examine the efficacy or veracity of such a truth claim based upon its claims and not upon its followers. 

Is murder suddenly ok because someone who is anti-murder ends up murdering someone? 
No! You can see where this type of thinking breaks down. Murder is always wrong. We don't disprove the immorality of murder because someone who is opposed to murder ends up murdering someone. The morality of murder was never dependent upon human beings never doing it. A murderer can still say "murder is wrong" and be right! He'd be a hypocrite, but he'd also be correct. Just like a Christian can say "loving money is wrong" while also being greedy and still be correct. It just makes the person a hypocrite.

Our hope is in Christ and in Christ alone. Always point to Him as the example of Christianity. I mean He is the Christ in Christianity. isn't He? 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

If Your Will is Free, Then Words are Cheap

The reduction of precise language in American culture has given way to a vast quantity of problems. The fact that we must issue disclaimers and caveats before and after words like Christian, truth, life, male/female and marriage is indicative of how we've blended the real with the unreal. The most commonly used words are the words most likely to be corrupted from their original definitions.

Think about how often we refer to something as awesome or epic. Those words have lost weight and meaning because people refer to a piece of gum as "awesome" or to a trip to the store to purchase said piece of gum as "epic." Speaking in theological terms think about how easily terms like heretic and false teacher are thrown around. I'm not opposed to saying any of those words. God is awesome. His works are awesome. Lord of the Rings was an epic story. Most of the people on TBN are heretics and false teachers. See, I'm willing to use them; but I want to be sure to use them appropriately.
C'mon! You know you're not. 

This anti-precision mentality propagated by post-modernists has oozed its way into the church. The first two books the post-modernist would burn are the Bible and the dictionary. While I don't think people in the church despise the Bible (though we all are prone to hide from it when we know we're wrong) we are trying hard to remove the dictionary from our shelves to alleviate the burden of punctilious and definite language.

What is free will and do we have it?
"Tim! How dare you! I'm American! It's almost Independence Day! Of course I have free will! USA! USA! USA!"

I wonder how much our American mindset has corrupted our ability to understand the reality of our flesh. We love freedom used to love freedom in this country. We loved making our own way. We loved working hard and doing what we want and we were happy to keep the government out of our lives. That's clearly changed but we still maintain a sense of personal autonomy. We're still convinced that manifest destiny is an individual mantra.

Yet each of us still has a fleshly body to deal with. If we're going to honestly evaluate the notion of free will, then we need to look at what the Bible says. Philosophical musings are nice and all but what does the Bible actually say about free will?
Romans 6:17
17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed

John 8:34
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.
Non-Christians are slaves to their sin. What they do always has their sin in mind or, to be put it another way, all they do is done in rebellion to God. In what sense do they have free will if everything they do is influenced by their fleshly desire to rebel? In what sense do they have free will if they cannot please God? It's not that they will not please God, it's that they cannot.
Romans 8:5-8
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Just like Charlton Heston couldn't escape playing the leading
man in movie epics, neither can pagans escape their slavery
Do non-Christians make choices? Absolutely. In fact, they will be judged according to their choices. But do they truly have free will? Can they do whatever they want? Are their choices completely without any external influence? No. We know that their sin controls them. Sin keeps them enslaved to their flesh. They are in bondage. They do not have free will.

But what about Christians? Surely we have free will. Surely we can do whatever we wish. Surely we aren't slaves to anything...

Romans 6:16
16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
We are now slaves to Christ. We are slaves to obedience to Christ. But we all know we still choose to sin. We should live as though we are slaves to Christ but we all still sin and sin is disobedience and thus fractures the slave metaphor. So maybe we do have free will. Right?

Let's go back to what free will truly is. It's absolute autonomy. It's living in such a way that there's nothing you can't do. It's living without restrictions. It's making choices without any influence. Do any of us do that? How did you work out your free will when you got married? Did you have any man or woman you wanted? No. Did anyone (parents, friends, ex's) influence you on the type of man or woman you should pursue? Yes. Did our culture have any impact on how you determined what's important in a spouse?

Think about this example:
Let's say you grew up in a religious home. Your parents were devout Christians and really exemplary role models.
If you went to a Christian school, then wouldn't it be fair to say that your parents heavily influenced your decision?
But what if you went to a really liberal college just to tick them off? Wouldn't it be fair to say that your parents heavily influenced your decision?

Some might be saying, "But I'd still be making a choice! I'm using my free will to follow the desires of my heart!"
I agree. In some sense you have a modicum of free will. But as a Christian are there some choices that are impossible to make?
A Christian cannot lose his or her salvation. A believer does not have free will in any sense to stop having eternal life. You are Christ's possession and He will not and cannot release you. Aren't you glad you don't have free will in regards to that*?

Are any of the following characteristics true about you? Since the answer is no, then isn't it a bit hazardous for us to put our free will on the same level as God's?

Ultimately only God truly has free will. He's not influenced by external factors. He does as He pleases. He's the only autonomous being. He doesn't battle His own sin nature. He's not surprised by anything. He accomplishes everything He sets out to accomplish. His sovereignty doesn't end where our free will begins. His sovereignty overrides any semblance of free will we have. His free will overrides our choices. We can't change His plans. His course isn't dependent upon human cooperation. His holiness is internal. His plans are unchangeable. He is unchangeable and unshakable. Only God has free will and that is an awesome truth.

*I would add that if you don't have free will in every area, then you don't have free will at all.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Disturbing Transition

"God created them male and female."
These are Jesus' words in Mark 10. He's repeating what His Father said in the first book of the Bible. This is all Jesus needed to say about Gender Identity Disorder. It's all I need to say about it, too. If you don't already understand the simplicity of biological sex (male/female), then I absolutely cannot convince you to think otherwise.

The transition I want to talk about and the one that is far more troubling to me is how rapidly our culture changed its opinion about the Kardashian/Jenner family. It wasn't very long ago when we, almost collectively, referred to the family as self-absorbed, shallow and desperate to do anything to maintain their popularity.

Even the most avid fans of the show saw through the family's behavior. No one, at least to my knowledge, considered "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" to be anything less than the fulfillment of Newton Minow's "vast wasteland" quote more than a half century ago. Consider the context of his speech; he said that about TV more than 50 years ago! Imagine what he'd say today. He didn't even know how correct he was!

And now we get to the present. The now consensus opinion on this family is that they are loving, deeply compassionate and willing to do the right thing at any cost. I don't know this family. I've never watched the show. I'm only going off of every conversation I'd ever heard, read or seen about the family prior to Bruce Jenner mutilating his flesh. No one thought anything of these people until the father lost his mind and obeyed the voices in his head that were telling him to do something insane. Do you see why I'm a bit confused as to how the consensus changed? How did a family who was almost universally despised become universally adored?

We know the answer. We all know the answer. It's because Bruce Jenner decided to deny biological facts. But there's something deeper and something more sinful going on than that. What's at work here isn't the work of one man acting out on delusional fantasies.We're witnessing a massive deception orchestrated by Satan through post-modern thinking.

Think about the hypocrisy of this whole situation. Our country hated (I'm using hate and love very loosely) the Kardashians and Jenners because they were shallow and famous for no good reason. We hated them for their superficial approach to life. Yet now we love them because the father changed his physical appearance. We couldn't stand the family because all they cared about were appearances and now we love the family because the father changed his appearance. Do you see the irony? Do you see the hypocrisy?

Our country is so fickle. We're a people easily deceived because we have no foundation for truth. We think truth (if it even exists at all) is internal and something that harbors itself within our bodies. But we're all different and we're all prone to change. Our wills drive our thinking. Our thinking doesn't drive our wills. People adapt their thinking and their consciences to meet the desires of their wills (Romans 1-2).

Post-modernism is moronic. It's vapid. It's increasingly shocking in its stupidity. It plays by no rules. It has no boundaries. It's just a pile of vomit oozing its way into every crevice of our culture. Its biggest proponents don't even believe in it but they're apparently eager to mutilate their flesh to defend it. In its aim to offer hope to everyone it has in turn offered hope to no one. It can't answer simple questions. It, like a pile of vomit, is a collection of discarded stuff that our stomach didn't want. It's whats left over from centuries of people denying what the Bible teaches.

That's why this country needs Biblical truth poured into its stomach. This is not the time to deny the authority of Scripture. This is not the time to back away from God's word and to instead speak to people's felt needs. This is the worst time ever to focus on people's self-esteem. We need to focus on the one who created us. He should be magnified now more than ever. People have to understand there is universal truth. They have to understand there is only 1 way to heaven.

And people really need to understand that Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins - all sins. He is how we can be fulfilled. Sex change operations, fulfilling lustful urges, making lots of money or getting high are temporary fixes to sin. What we need is a permanent solution. That's why Christ died! Offer that to people. Sin is the problem. The cross is the answer.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

All Sins are Equal....Right?

In the spirit of accuracy and truth I have an irresistible need to make sure everything aligns with the Bible. It's a deep conviction. I literally lie awake having internal debates where I weigh the sides of any given issue. I cannot suppress it. My hearts yearns for accuracy and precision. I do not expect everyone to understand it except to say you may have a similar predicament with something else. Perhaps you lose sleep over a friend who needs mercy and you do everything you can to help him or her. Maybe you have friends and family who aren't saved and you lie awake contemplating ways to work the Gospel message into them in every conceivable scenario. You might be someone who thinks for hours and hours or spends hours and hours preparing meals, opening your home or planning events for the body of believers. To some degree and in some way you can relate to having a burning passion for something that edifies the body and, on the flip side, you can also relate to not understanding how other people can't have the same passion. 

That lengthy and Pauline paragraph brings us to today's topic:
Are all sins equal?

The short answer: no.

Now, the long answer:

Before the intricate dissection begins I must concede that when most people say this I think they often are saying, "just because you haven't murdered someone, doesn't mean you are sinless." I would heartily agree with that statement as it's taken directly from Scripture
 Romans 3
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
And then Psalm 53
 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice;There is no one who does good. 2         God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of menTo see if there is anyone who understands,Who seeks after God.  3 Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt;There is no one who does good, not even one.
There's that. That leaves us understanding that every single person on the planet is guilty of sin. I'm guilty. You're guilty. The best person you know is guilty. All guilty. 
Godwin's Law

What those verses don't prove is that all sin is equally as heinous. What other verses can we look at? 

James 2
10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
That's it, right? This proves it. All sins are equally as bad! Bada-bing! I can just end this post right now! Except this verse is in the same context as the other verses! You think your works are going to save you? It ain't gonna happen. To be saved by works you have to live a perfect life and no one has except for One. James is reminding his audience of the same things Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Which leads us to...

Matthew 5
27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 
Uh oh. EVERY married man has done this. No exceptions. We've all lusted after a woman who wasn't our wife and that means we're all guilty of adultery. This proves it! This proves all sin is equal! Looking at a woman with lust for a moment is as bad as having sex with her!  

But is that what Jesus was proving?  He was getting to the....heart...of the matter. The root of all sin is the corruption of man's heart. No one commits adultery without first lusting after a woman. No one commits murder without first being angry with a person. Jesus clears up what was falsely being taught: namely, that keeping the Law externally was what one needed to do to be saved. Jesus comes along and rebukes their man-made laws and twisting of God's Law to tell them that "God looks at the heart." Just because you haven't killed someone doesn't mean you don't harbor the same root causes that lead someone to murder. 

Let's step back and consider whether you even believe it or whether anyone even believes this for a second. Do you really think that losing your cool after being on hold with the cable company for an hour after dealing with a bratty kid, after getting home from work on 4 hours of sleep is as bad as murdering 100 people? Do you really think that? Honestly? If yes, keep reading. If no, you can stop here. 

What verses can we look at? Maybe we should think about this from the positive side. Are there some good works we can do which are better than others? 
We can definitively say "yes" to that. Is preaching the Gospel to someone better than holding the door for them? YES! Absolutely yes! Is actively praying and giving of your time and money to help a friend in need better than texting them "thinkin' of ya"? YES! Is obedience better than sacrifice? YES! 

So if some things are better, then some things have to be worse, right? 

Mark 12
38 In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, 39 and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”
Luke 12
 47 And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but fewFrom everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
Revelation 20
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 
James 3
 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
False teaching is for sure a worse sin than other sins. False teaching leads people from Christ and into hell. It makes sense that false teaching incurs a harsher penalty. It also makes sense that we'll be held accountable to the knowledge we have; the greater the knowledge, the greater the punishment. 

What about other specific sins? We'd all agree that any sin done in God's name (e.g. false teaching) makes the sin worse, right? If you have an affair and say it's what God wanted, you've made the thing worse because you've invoked the name of God (3rd commandment) to justify doing the work of Satan. You're blaming God for your wickedness. That's worse than just having an affair. 

Are you still with me? 

If we traverse all the way back to the Old Testament, do we see all laws punished equally? Does every violation get punished with death? Did the Law God ordained prescribe the same punishment for every crime? No. Not at all. 

Is trading Jesus for 30 pieces of silver as bad as oversleeping?
ALL sin separates us from God. Let there be no mistake. Any single sin is enough to keep us out of heaven. God's holiness can't tolerate sin to be in His presence. The point isn't to categorize sin and thus minimize our own sinfulness because we haven't committed the big ones. The point is to rightly divide the word. 

Personally, I've been on both sides of this argument. Most everything I write about on this blog is something I've had to work through at some point. Here's what I realized after being on both sides: people on both sides are guilty of using their argument to feel better about their sins. 

The person who says all sins are equal can often be saying that to feel better about all the awful things they've done. Perhaps they're guilty of adultery and so they really, really want to believe that a fleeting moment of lust is as bad as a planned out affair. Or the other person might think sins have degrees of heinousness so that they can feel better. "Ha! That guy is in prison for assaulting his wife's lover when he caught her with another man! I'm better than him! All I did was steal people's retirement and frame them for federal crimes over the course of a decade!" 

Or maybe it's something a little tamer: "I heard him cuss the other day! That's awful! I also heard..."
Uh oh! Is gossiping less offensive than cussing? I have no idea! But apparently this person thinks so! 

I don't think there's a clear cut ranking system for sin. You can look up the sins that were punishable by death for yourself. You can research the sins which we might call "lifestyle" sins that are listed throughout the New Testament but even those aren't categorized from best to worst. They're all bad. I think it might be best to look at each sin within its own drawer.

Are there degrees of anger? Yes.
Are there degrees of lust? Yes.
Are there degrees of lying? Yes. 

Is all anger, lust and lying a sin? Yes. Do each have equal consequences? No. 

We have to look at the attitude of the heart with any given sin. Do mature Christians get angry? Sure. Do mature Christians murder? No. Is there a difference in the heart of someone who carries out a premeditated murder than someone who loses their temper once a decade? Obviously. 

The thing is that if it were not for the grace of God, then I do not know what kind of sinner I'd be. It is only by the grace of God that I am not as bad as I could be. It is only by the grace of God that I'm not in prison. It is only by the grace of God that I'm forgiven of all my sins - the big ones and the small ones. Christ HAD to die for all my sins so that I could be reconciled to God. I wrote all I just wrote to end with this: 
The smallest offense to God was still enough to put Christ on the cross. Now let's see how lightly we take any sin.