Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why Did Christ Have to Live as a Man?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus Christ didn't descend out of Heaven Friday afternoon and get crucified Friday night? God certainly could have worked that out providentially or even miraculously if He so chose, so why did Christ live as a man for 33+ years? Why not just spare Himself the agony of humanity? What benefit to Him was there to condescend and take on flesh?

The Christmas season gives us a great opportunity to deeply reflect upon Christ's humanity. Our tendency, if we ever surpass the shallowness of Christmas, is to stop at the incarnation of God's Son. We leave Jesus in the manger asleep on the hay and then maybe think about salvation and the Cross. We maybe recognize the counter-intuitiveness of the King of Kings being born in such a humble way. Perhaps we also think about the hypostatic union and that Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. But why did Jesus begin His earthly existence at birth instead of closer to the time of His crucifixion and effective atonement?

First, let's acknowledge that He had to live the whole time that He did. How do I know this? Because that's what He did. It's quite simple. If Jesus did not have to live a full life as a human being, then He wouldn't have. If He could have just come to Earth on Friday and died and accomplished His mission to "seek and save the lost," then He would have done it that way. So clearly and irrefutably He must have needed to live a life as a man.

Let's examine some Bible passages that indicate Christ's mission to see why He needed to live as long as He did. 

Luke 19:10 - For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  
Matthew 20:28 - ...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
How much of that could He have accomplished on that Friday? Only the parts pertaining to the crucifixion and the atonement of sins, right? Jesus would have still been perfect and without sin. So, theoretically, He would have still cleansed us from our sins. 

The problem we're having, though, is the issue of righteousness. Where does our righteousness come from? On what basis does God look at anyone who is redeemed and call them righteous without God Himself being a liar? Jesus. He looks at the believer and sees Jesus. He looks at the human believer and credits the human believer with the righteousness of the only human who ever was truly good and righteous. 

God imputes the righteous LIFE lived by Jesus - from the time He was born til the time of his death- to the believer. If Christ merely came on Friday and died, then the righteousness we would be credited with would be a divine righteousness, not a human righteousness. Or perhaps better stated we would not be credited with a lifetime of obedience and perfect righteousness but a moments worth. 
Philippians 2:5-8 - 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Were there things Jesus needed to do to obtain salvation for us? 
Matthew 3:14-16 - 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,
He didn't just exist as a righteous man but He fulfilled all righteousness. He identified with man in a profound way and in many ways. He was tempted. He suffered. He didn't do these things just for fun but to fulfill all righteousness and the scriptures. He lived a perfect life under the law so that that perfect life would be credited to our account, so that He would be the spotless lamb, so that He could show us how to live and break us free from the weight of the law (1 John 2:7-8) and so that the prophecies beginning in Genesis of a savior would be fulfilled! 

Succinctly stated:
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.
Every aspect of Christ on this planet was extremely important. Without His death there is no forgiveness of sins. Without His life there is no basis on which we could be considered righteous. If His death only atoned for our sins, then we'd be left in the same state Adam and Eve were in Eden. If Jesus only lived and never died an atoning death then God would be unjust as all of our sins would have gone unpunished and yet we'd be in Heaven and at peace with God!

This completely eliminates any possibility of us boasting about our own works. For if Christ is imputed with our sin and then we, by our own merits, earn our way to Heaven, then do we not have much to boast about? If it's our own righteous life that God looks at, then Christ did only need to come on that Friday and die. But that's not what happened and for that we should all sing:

Joy to the world

The Lord is come

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Trump or Hillary and the Role of Conscience

Who should we vote for? More specifically, who should Christians vote for?
Trump or Hillary
Hillary or Trump
As a Christian I can't even half-heartedly entertain the notion of voting for Hillary for ANY reason (unlike a certain member of The Gospel Coalition who says we should vote for her). There is no circumstance in which I would ever vote for Hillary to be the most powerful person on the planet. And no serious Christian thinker is really considering Hillary as an option. There is serious concern as to the genuineness of your salvation if you want to vote for Hillary and legitimate concern if you are willing to vote for her. 

The real question at hand is whether or not a Christian -a genuinely regenerate man or woman striving for personal holiness in the image of Christ who has a worldview grounded in the Bible- can vote for Donald Trump. That's the question we're asking, right? 

Let's first examine what the role of government is according to the Bible and then we'll examine the type of leader God blesses and see how Donald Trump measures up to these standards. Finally, I'll explain where I currently stand and why. 

Romans 13:1-4
13 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

1 Peter 2:13-14
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
We see here that the preeminent purpose of any and every government is the punishment of evildoers and the praising of excellent citizens.  A ruler must punish evil behavior and reward good behavior. Simple, right? Quite simple indeed. Do you think Donald Trump knows the difference between good and evil? How has he displayed this? What evidence do you have that he can be relied upon to faithfully (not perfectly) punish evil and reward good?

I could vote for Mitt Romney with a clear conscience because by all indications he was a very moral man. He's trapped in a religious cult and without the divine grace of God he will die and go to hell because he, as a devout Mormon, insults the person of Christ (rejects the divinity of Jesus) and insults the work of Christ (by trying to earn his way to heaven, Romney spits upon Christ's accomplished work). But he remains a moral man in spite of his aberrant beliefs. I didn't vote for him to be my pastor; I just voted for him to uphold a standard or morality that facilitates civility and to sustain the principles established in the Constitution.

So can Donald Trump consistently and faithfully distinguish between good and evil?

In 1 Kings 3 we read that Solomon was granted whatever he wished from God. Solomon, as we all know, asked God for wisdom. 
So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?
Indeed! Who can govern without being able to discern right from wrong? Solomon's request pleased God. 

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.
The basic component of a any truly great leader (in the eyes of God) is someone who can distinguish between good and evil; right and wrong. This case is firmly established. 

So what about Trump? I'm not going to tell you to vote for him or to not vote for him. That's between you and God. If you feel it's a sin to vote for him, then do not vote for him. Your sanctification and sensitivity to sin is more important than voting for the lesser of 2 evils. I would hope we all agree with that. I find it to be selfish and unChristian to guilt a person to violate their conscience just to prolong the desecration of a once great nation. Maybe that's just me. 

For those of us, like me, living in swings states like Ohio the idea of voting for the best candidate or abstaining from voting for a president is significantly more difficult. Because I live in Ohio my vote is more valuable than if I lived in California or Oregon or New York. I would probably always vote 3rd party if I lived there.  So if you're on the outside looking in and you wonder why some aren't as #NeverTrump as you are, that may have something to do with it. 

There's also the Romans 1 theology in play. If you are convinced that God has turned over America to its sin, then not voting for Trump is a lot easier for you. I'm of the mindset that we probably have been turned over but if there's like a 2% chance we can have some sort of national revival I could see myself voting Trump *gag* in hopes that he slows down our spiral enough for us to see the error of our ways. But until we make it illegal to kill babies, dismember them and sell their body parts I'm not holding out much hope. 

Maybe because of God's sovereignty you won't vote Trump. You see voting for Trump as a bad thing and no one who trusts in God's sovereignty over all things wants to consciously do something bad as that displays a lack of faith and trust in God's perfect plan or redemption. 
Or maybe, because of God's sovereignty, you will vote for Trump. You see voting for Trump as a small thing. You understand that God reigns and saves and will reign over Trump and save him if He wishes. Ultimately, your vote is one of countless "lesser of 2 evils" choices you make in a given day. Solomon wasn't perfect. He made many bad decisions but he still was a good king. The founding fathers were very imperfect. They weren't all moral men but they still governed well*. Trump isn't nearly as bad as Hillary and a 3rd party vote is a waste so I might as well do what I can to prevent the worst possible person from obtaining more power. 

Final Thoughts

Monday, July 18, 2016

Personal Racism and Systemic Racism

I know that racism is a sin, that it's immoral and that it's wrong because I interpret the Bible, specifically Genesis 1-3, literally. I don't believe theistic evolution is compatible with Scripture. I don't believe Genesis is an allegory or that it's poetry. It's Moses describing the creation of the world and everything in it. And in this description he clearly states that it began with one man and one woman. And because Moses said that and because I interpret the Bible literally I have an extremely firm foundation on which to say: "No! There is no race but the human race. There is ethnicity and culture but there is, technically speaking, no distinction of race."

The secular humanist cannot argue from such an authoritative position. Even the intellectual Christian types who turn their nose to the idea of a young Earth will struggle mightily to oppose racism without leaving major holes in their logic. 

Yet racism still exists. There are still racists in America and racists in Canada and in Mexico and in Europe and Australia and Japan and in Kenya and in Madagascar. But here's the thing people are unwilling to admit: it's not just white people who are racists. 

Whaaat?? Tim! What did you just say??? How dare you, sir! How. Dare. You. 

If we accept what the Bible says about sin nature. If we accept the fact that we are dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13) and that the heart is unceasingly wicked (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 1:21 & 2:5; Ephesians 4:18, etc) then it follows that no people group is exempt from being racist. It would seem that many evangelical leaders, both black and white, think that only white people can be racist. Interestingly enough that idea itself is actually pretty racist. ONLY white people can be racist? ONLY white people are capable of such a heinous sin? 

Intellectual discussion and debate in the 21st century is so mortified and so ignominious that the now acceptable de facto argument heaved at any dissenter is "you're a racist!" Whether the topic at hand is at all related to race is entirely irrelevant. I don't even need to cite any examples because if you've disagreed with anyone in the last 5 years about anything, then you've been called a racist. 

Racism is just the exaltation of self. You believe your race is the elite race just as you believe you are the elite person. Sin nature is self-centered. We pursue our interests first. We think of ourselves first. We think the best of ourselves. Racism makes sense to the man enslaved to his flesh. This means that black people can be racist. This means white people can be racist. This means all people, without distinction, can be racist. 

But the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ rejects that. One of the mysteries of the Gospel is that Jesus' blood paid for the sins of an indistinct group of people:

Revelation 5:9-10
And they *sang a new song, saying,Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
This is why Paul tells the Galatians, "there is neither Jew nor Greek..." And to the Ephesians he writes:

 Ephesians 2:14-1614 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

Racism is incompatible with the Bible. I reject racism because I accept that the Bible is true. And the Bible is true whether or not anyone accepts it as such, thus racism is wrong regardless of how many people think it's right and the Bible is wrong. 

But is there systemic racism? Are the police involved in a systemic plot to oppress a certain group of people, namely African-Americans? 

Systemic: of or relating to an entire system

This is where I really, really, really lose my cool. To suggest that there's systemic racism in the criminal justice system is to suggest that EVERY police officer is involved. Unless words don't mean anything, then that is exactly what people are saying when they say there's systemic racism in the criminal justice system. It's a bit insolent to just flippantly toss that word around. If racism is tossed around too loosely, then it's increasingly wicked to add systemic to it. That's just compounding the error and heaping condemnation and judgment upon yourself. 

You can't just say there's systemic racism without facts any more than you can say "you're a racist." What laws exist today that distinguish between races? What laws give rights to one race but not to another? What laws are illegal for some but not for others? 

The only thing I can think of that treats people differently based on race is Affirmative Action. It grants preferential treatment to people based on their race. It also implies that only white people can get jobs and get into schools on their own merits. It implies that non-whites need help simply because they're not white. They can't do it on their own. People laugh when I say this but I oppose Affirmative Action because I strongly believe that it is racist. It's like patting another adult on the head. Maybe it's just my sinful pride but I'd be ticked if I got a job just because of my skin color or ethnicity. That's pretty condescending. 

What's true, whether right or wrong, is that people get treated differently based on their appearance; not their skin color. A black man smiling in a suit is going to get treated differently than a white man covered in tattoos with saggy pants and an indifferent countenance. Seriously, which guy are you going to avoid? 

The police chief in Dallas is black. He's been an incredible leader during their whole situation. He disproves the notion of systemic racism by virtue of his position. I think he's great because he speaks hard truths. I would be racist if I rejected what he said because of his skin color even though what he said was true. What's annoying is if you agree with what he says after you rejected what white officers said....because they were saying the same things! 

Any of us can be racist. I don't for a second think anyone is immune or incapable of being racist. I fully accept that there are still racist people and some of them may be cops. But do you accept that some of these racist people are involved with the Black Lives Matter movement? Do you accept that the poor relationship between the police and the black community is not at all entirely the fault of the police? Do you accept that emotional anecdotes aren't the proper basis on which to condemn an entire system of justice ordained by God? Do you accept that you look like an incorrigible idiot when you say the police are all racists as they defend and protect the protests targeted at them? Do you even know how stupid you sound? Do you care? 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Racism, Police and the Bible

You know all the news stories. You know of them all so well.
Police Shoot Unarmed Black Man

Every few months we get one of these stories that take over the news. I expect liberal non-Christians to take the side that stands in rebellion to God. What else would I expect from non-Christians? I even expect some Christians to call out the police. What I never expected was for so many reputable Christian leaders (Russell Moore, Albert Mohler and The Gospel Coalition) to be so quick to condemn those in law enforcement. 

We ALL have questions about what happened. Any reasonable person would. We don't look at a dead man and say,"ok, that's that." We all want to make certain justice is served. What reasonable and clear thinking Christians do is wait. We simply wait for the proper procedures. We wait for evidence, corroborating witnesses and we wait to make sure the officer involved followed protocol. After a reasonable amount of time we can start making some conclusions based on established facts.

Certainly, and I mean this to be condescending and harsh, a decent Christian wouldn't immediately conclude that a police officer committed a racially motivated murder. Think about that!

When you see that a police officer killed an unarmed black man and you, before the officer is even given a chance to tell his side, assume that he killed the man out of racial prejudice you are making an incredibly serious accusation. Keep in mind that many police officers are fellow believers. Do you really want to risk slandering a potential brother to score political points with the left? Really? 

Police shoot white people. A man just a mile or two from me was killed by police last year. He was white. This didn't make the news (the mainstream, big time news) because of his skin color. Blacks kill one another all the time and Russell Moore doesn't call that system out. 

There are 27 references to slander in the Bible (NASB). Some are about Christians being slandered by the world and some are about our need to cease slandering. In either case slander is a worldly virtue. Let's just look at this one verse:
2 Corinthians 12:20
20 For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slandersgossip, arrogance, disturbances;

Imagine the heartbreak Paul would feel to see Christians accusing other Christians of murder before any type of legitimate trial had taken place. What a devastating idea to even contemplate. We're not talking about me accusing you of hurting my feelings because of a misunderstanding. We're talking about me accusing you of singling out  a black man, abusing your authority as a God ordained enforcer of the law and taking a man's life in cold blood. And it's not that I just harbor that idea in my heart. No, I go ahead and publish it for the world to see. 

You can disagree with the protocol police use. You can disagree with the crimes people are arrested for. You can disagree with a lot of things and I'll hear you out. But I cannot tolerate Christian leaders slandering men who put their lives on the line for you and I. 

Again, no one is saying these men deserved to die. No one thinks that stealing some money, selling illegal cigarettes or CD's are crimes deserving of capital punishment. What people are saying, and it's not to be cold, is that when you do illegal things and then don't cooperate with police you take the risk of losing your life. If I broke into your house to steal a movie and had no intention of harming you, I'm not really doing anything deserving of death, right? But when I do that I'm taking the risk of you owning a firearm and shooting me because you have no idea what I'm doing at your home. 

That's not at all contingent upon anyone's ethnicity. That's all about someone reaping what they sow. You can't be surprised if you end up in trouble if you're committing a crime. 

Also, this doesn't dismiss the possibility that police officers can be guilty of abusing their power. There are corrupt teachers, businessmen, pastors, construction workers and people of all walks of life. I don't for a second believe that police officers are any more or less prone to the effects of sin and thus I'm as skeptical of them as I am of anyone else I don't really know. So of course there are bad cops. There are bad waiters, too but I don't condemn the entire food service industry as being systemically opposed to people like me. 

This is what's so troubling and concerning about the men I listed earlier. They have to know better. They have to know that in a world as sinful and depraved as ours that there are going to be serious problems at every level. There are going to be ugly messes where 2 sinful people met and the solution is neither pretty nor clear. And they really should understand that the biggest problem facing the black community isn't systemic racism. I can think of several verifiable bigger problems: 

  1. Liberal politics 
  2. Fatherlessness
  3. Lack of Godly leaders
The last one is the most important one and also the exact same reason why white communities fall into sin and why Israel fell into sin and why churches fall into sin. All 3 are connected and feed off one another but number's 1 and 2 would be less common if number 3 didn't exist. 

The way Moore and others talk about police is shockingly similar to how racist people talk about minorities. They lump all police together. They are making no efforts to hear from the police. Just last year there was a shameful conference led by many reformed Christian leaders where they talked about white privilege and systemic racism in law enforcement. Pretty serious charges to bring against the police, right? Yet they didn't have one person from law enforcement on their panels. Isn't that weird and also really irresponsible? 

The Christian community should be a clear voice here and willing to call sin what it is. If the police officers are guilty, they're guilty. If they're not, they're not. Let's please, please, please, please wait to hear both sides before we accuse men of killing a man because of his race. Why do I need to tell men with doctorates this? 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Anxiety and Lust

I saw Batman v Superman a few months back and really enjoyed it. It was a fun popcorn flick. It's wasn't Nolan's Batman, but it was pretty good. I also saw Captain America: Civil War and really enjoyed it. It was a fun popcorn flick. It also was not Nolan's Batman, but it was pretty good. 

Both movies were overloaded with heroes. There were superheroes in every scene. Both were the sort of movie we'd expect for our ADHD society. I don't look at either as significantly better than the other. I liked BvS more, simply because I like those characters more than any Marvel characters and because the Black Widow and Iron Man are pretty insufferable and I wish they'd write off those characters. DC is also a lot darker and willing to take more risks than Marvel. #Spoiler Alert# Marvel couldn't even kill off whoever Iron Man's sidekick is and DC is putting Superman in the grave (for now). 

But critics hated BvS and have loved every Marvel movie ever made. I do not understand this. Anyone who looked favorably at Avengers 2, Ant-Man or Iron Man 2 & 3 should have no trouble giving BvS a favorable review. They're all the same type of movie made to the same quality. Why people judged BvS more harshly than any Marvel movie is beyond me....though I have a sneaking suspicion it's tied to Disney and their fascist control of reviews and people's brains (just a joke). 

The church criticizes and judges lust far more severely and actively than it does anxiety. 

You know how I know this? Because people get upset whenever I say this and I've heard and read more about the sin of lust (porn, gazing too long, masturbation, etc) than I've ever heard or read about anxiety. When's the last time you heard someone say that anxiety is a sin? 

Maybe right now you're rationalizing anxiety. You're trying to figure out how it's not a sin to be anxious even though our Lord says,
Matthew 6:25-34The Cure for Anxiety 
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
How much worry is ok? I don't know. How much lust is ok? 
"But Tim, you don't understand. I can't help it. It's not like I want to worry."
Oh trust me. I understand. Any man understands what it's like to feel like you have no control over your mind. 

And this is undeniably a male/female issue. Males struggle with lust. Females with anxiety. Yes, there are exceptions and yes some struggle with both or perhaps neither. Blah blah blah. If you don't struggle with either, then stop reading. I'm not talking to you. Stop getting hung up on exceptions and let's move on.*

Let's play out some scenarios:
Guy tells a friend he's struggling with lust. He's out of control. It's affecting his daily life and his walk with God. 

Guy's friend rightly tells him to stop lusting. 
Guy who is lusting asks friend for accountability, prayer and patience.
That's good. Real good. 
My hands suggest I'm saying something profound

Girl tells a friend she's struggling with anxiety. She's out of control. It's affecting her daily life and her walk with God. 
Girl's friend rightly tells her to stop worrying.
Girl who is worrying tells her friend she's offended, that she can't help it and she didn't come to her to be judged! 

That's bad. Real bad. 
'Dat right! I'd rather
die from an overdose than be
told I should stop by a
caring friend!

Let's try flipping those:

Guy tells a friend he's struggling with lust...
Guy's friend rightly tells him to stop lusting.
Guy who is lusting tells his friend he's offended, that he can't help it and he didn't come to him to be judged! 

Girl tells a friend she's struggling with anxiety...
Girl's friendly rightly tells her to stop worrying.
Girl who is worrying asks friend for accountability, prayer and patience. 

Are we seeing how the church treats these problems differently? One is completely unacceptable to struggle with (lust) and the other is very much tolerated and often times treated as not really a sin at all. Think about how unlikely it would be for a man to publicly confess he struggles with lust but how perfectly fine it is for a woman to publicly confess she struggles with anxiety. 

I understand there's a perverted element attached to lust. We all get that. None of us should be proud to publicly admit any of our sins. Publicly admit that I am a sinner in need of forgiveness from the one true and holy God? Absolutely. Publicly admit I struggle with lust? Not a chance! And I'm not even saying we should be broadcasting which sins we struggle with (certain denominations won't agree with me on that!). But we have to acknowledge that anxiety is a sin which is very much tolerated in the church. 

I'm not saying this to be hard on anxious women or to alleviate any justified guilt a lustful man may have. Both are sins and all sins are a reproach against God and deserving of damnation. Christ died both for the man who lusts and the woman who worries. My lustful thoughts and your worrying thoughts both brought the wrath of God onto Christ. 

If you want to get bogged down in medically diagnosed anxiety and all that stuff, go ahead. Whatever. That's a whole different issue, sort of. But I don't think most people who worry are medically diagnosed as having some verifiable medical condition that affects how their body reacts. Could some men have some medically diagnosed condition where they lust an insane amount? Sure. Blah blah blah. Another disclaimer. You happy now? Ok, good. 

You know what I tell myself when I feel the incredible urge to lust?
"Stop! Stop it! Just stop! Control your body! Control your mind! Christ died for this despicable sin! You don't have to lust! You're not a slave to sin!"

And either I stop lusting and give thanks to God or I lust anyway and then ask God for forgiveness for sinning against Him. 

What if instead of that I said to myself:
"Stop if you can. Ok you can't. Just go ahead and lust. It's just how you are. Woe is me. I'm lustful. Poor me. I'm just an innocent victim of my selfish desires. Poor me. I'll never conquer this sin for which Christ died and told me I could overcome." 

I want people to stop lusting and I want them to stop worrying! I don't want any Christian to feel enslaved to sin, especially a specific sin. Of course you'll still lust or worry from time to time. You still have your flesh. The point is that you don't have to! That's what it means to be free! We are free to obey Christ! We are freed from the bondage of sin! 

To act as if we can't conquer worry and actively kill that sin is to, by implication, take a low view of salvation. And taking a low view of salvation means we're taking the cross too lightly We're taking the work of the Holy Spirit too lightly. We're saying that God can regenerate Saul and turn him into Paul but He can't take me from a worrier and turn me into a warrior; He can't take me from a pervert and turn me into a purveyor of purity. 

Worrying stems from a lack of faith in God.
"Tim, that's sooo mean! You're so mean! That's too harsh!"
I know, I know. It sounds harsh but it's true. ALL sin stems from a lack of faith in God. If a man lusts he's lacking faith in God. He's saying that God doesn't know what He's talking about when He says not to commit adultery. That's a lack of faith in God's judgment of right and wrong and good and evil. Anxiety is a lack of faith in God's sovereignty and holy dominion over your life. 

Hit hard against lust. Tell it like it is. It's a sin and it's ruining lives. But also hit hard against anxiety. The 21st century church has gotten awfully soft in its treatment of women. They aren't given rich theology. They are typically given gobs and gobs of junk about how wonderful and lovely and beautiful they are and how important a healthy self-esteem is. They are given every indication that God is going to give them private revelation **coughjesuscallingcough** or have some romantic encounter with them **coughannvoskampcough**. And we're doing a great disservice to women by covering up God's view of anxiety.
Worrying is a sin.
God forgives that sin.
Jesus also gives us the power to overcome that sin.
What good is the Helper, the Holy Spirit, if we're unable to defeat sin even after we've been born again and freed from the bondage of our sinful wills? 

*That we can't ever make any general statements without issuing these detailed and inordinately precise exceptions is a big reason why we can't have fruitful discussions. General statements and labels aren't evil. They're just economical. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Orlando in Light of the Cross

What is the single worst event in the history of mankind? What stands out as the nadir of human depravity? 

Was it 9/11? Was it Orlando? Was it the Holocaust? Armenian genocide? Slavery across the globe? The sex trade? 

Each of these odious examples are immensely evil and the product of deeply corrupted and hardened hearts. 

So which one is the worst? Given the theological bent of this blog I think you probably already have an idea. The crucifixion of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the worst event in the history of the world. This isn't my opinion. It's historical fact. He's the only innocent person to ever live and He was tortured and killed. 
Consider   Isaiah 53:3-5:
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
Take a moment to ruminate how Jesus was the recipient here; how He is the object to the verbs. These are things being actively done against Him and to Him. 

 Truly heinous acts made infinitely worse because He was infinitely good and wholly innocent as is stated in verse 9:

His grave was assigned with wicked men,Yet He was with a rich man in His death,Because He had done no violence,Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
So what? So this was the worst act ever, now what? Where was God in all this? What answer can Christianity give when such terrible and awful things happen? 

What is the secular left saying? Their hope is in man-made legislation. Their hope is that evil, wicked people will solve the problem of evil, wicked people. 
What is the secular right saying? Their hope is in guns, bombs and aggressive military strategy.
What is the religious left saying? They have a low view of God. Their god is impotent, reactionary and unconcerned with justice or even his own holiness. Their god isn't God. 

But what are we saying? The answer is actually quite profound and it's found in Isaiah 53. Read through it again and see where God was in the midst of the worst event in human history. God was sovereign over the worst act in human history. In fact, He ordained it. God was pleased to crush His own Son. 

Was God evil for doing this? May it never be! God's design to save sinners required blood and only a perfect, sinless Lamb could do. Hebrews 9 clearly states that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." Jesus, the one who rules all things and by Him and through Him all things were made, offered Himself up as this sacrifice. He was both the priest and the offering. 

What happened in Orlando was not outside of God's sovereign design. Did God Himself act in Orlando? No. But He did allow it to happen. And this shouldn't cause us to distress but to have hope.

Acts 2:22-24“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of Godyou nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
When Christ died the disciples were distressed because they failed to recognize God's sovereignty. They thought things were falling apart and everything was pointless. But it wasn't! They had too low of a view of God. They failed to see Him as sovereign and couldn't understand how the death of His Son could possibly be a good thing. 

Luke 22:21-22But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
(Side note: Though Jesus' death was prophesied and foreknown we also see that God still holds those who carry out the act responsible for the act. How do we reconcile these things? We don't! That's not our job!) 

When was it determined? When did the Trinity decide Christ would have to die for sins He never committed? 
1 Corinthians 2:6-8
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory
This was all decided before the ages. The first prophecy of Christ's substitutionary death was known to this world in Genesis 3:15 but it was known to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit prior to the creation of this very world. 

Unfortunately (at least to our carnal minds) we'll likely never know why God allowed Orlando to happen. But there is something we do know without a doubt and it's that the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was simultaneously the worst event in human history and the greatest event in human history. 

That's what makes Christianity so compelling. It offers a message that is truly good news. The Gospel isn't based on feelings but on fact. And that fact is the fulfillment of promises God made long ago. Promises, dear friends, that remain true today. Whoever believes on the name of the Lord will be saved. This whoever without distinction means that slaves, prostitutes, homosexuals, straights, murderers, thieves, blacks, whites, criminals, police officers, straight 'A' students and drop outs can all be granted forgiveness if they repent of their sins and trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation.

It's not enough for God to just be merciful and gracious. He HAS to be sovereign for anyone to have any hope of salvation. If He's not sovereign over the fall, the cross or Orlando, then we have no basis in which to hope. There cannot be hope. Our hope would go from "God keeps His promises and in this I have my hope and this is why I go on" to "I hope God can keep this promise He made to me." What a contrast! What a demoralizing difference! 

If God is sovereign over the death of His Son, then He's certainly sovereign over everything else.