Who is God? This neglected question is more important than any other. Why? Because the answer to the question of who God is (or who you think he is and even including whether you think he is not) is the foundation for how you live your whole life. If you believe God is unimportant or does not even exist, then something else takes the place of God so that all of your priorities will reflect this belief. But if you believe God is the God of the Bible, then all of your priorities will reflect that belief. Now, I am not suggesting that we are all so very consistent as to live perfectly in line with our beliefs all the time, rather I am pointing out how the logical priority of our beliefs about God affect our driving passions. That is why it is vitally important that we not neglect this question, because neglecting it is actually an admission of guilt.
A question which goes unanswered is a question answered implicitly. If I asked you a “yes or no” question, such as “Do you want to take this job?” but you refused to answer or even to think about an answer, then your answer implicitly becomes a “no” answer. The same is true about the question of who is God. If we fail to consider it deeply, or cling to a never-ending agnosticism, then we have answered the question with a wrong answer and have shown by our lives that we don’t think the “God who is” (who is the answer to the question) matters very much. If we have believed an answer which is false, then our lives are lived for a false god who truly is unimportant since it does not, in fact, exist. Now, we may never know God exhaustively, but we can know him by what he has revealed about himself. Yet, if we never put prayer in our schedule to ask the questions which he has graciously answered in his Word, then what hope do we have left? A false one.
(John 6:56-69; Luke 11:9-13)
Posted in Finding Purpose, Relating with God, Seeking Truth | Tagged a living hope, ethics, God, idolatry, Jesus | 1 Comment »
Many people still believe that some kind of hell after death is reserved for the most cruel among us, but almost nobody thinks that they will end up there themselves. Consequently, any talk of a hero who saves sinners from hellish punishments falls on deaf ears. Many people don’t believe that they need forgiveness. “I’m not perfect, but I’m no murderer” is the common self-examination. Their assumed expectation is that God should have the same easy-going standard as they have. They depend on the kindness of God to let them into heaven (Rom 2:4-5), but they never truly seek him. The trouble is, their standard isn’t God’s standard.
We all need the sort of big forgiveness which only Jesus offered through the cross, because by God’s standard the ugliness of the cross displays the ugliness of our sins. By Jesus’ standard, simply hating someone is not unlike the thought of murdering them. The thought of having sex with someone to whom you’re not married, nearly as bad as having actually done it. It is fantasizing about and admiring what God calls evil.
If we only looked to God’s pure standard of good and evil, we’d see our own disgraceful condition much clearer. This is not a pessimistic self-loathing, but simply acknowledging an objective standard which exposes the gravity of our true condition. God’s idea of good is that we love him with all our body and soul, and by extention that we love our neighbors. But none of us have loved him that much for a single day of our lives. Our God-hatred, sometimes expressed by neglect, coupled with pride of assessing ourselves by our own standards in place of God’s, is great sin in need of great forgiveness. The good news is, there is a savior who offers just that to just such a person as you or I.
Posted in Relating with God, Seeking Truth | Tagged forgiveness, God, Jesus, salvation, sin, Why do I need saving? | 2 Comments »
Yes and No. Not the answer you expected? Jesus frequently surprised his hearers by his view of reality, but it was always a better view than what his hearers had in mind. Jesus knew that the world did not originate as a place of suffering and death and meant to fix it. Some spoke to Jesus about a tragic news event, that the Roman governor had brutally murdered a group of people. The popular view among the crowd was that perhaps the victims had been judged by God for hidden sins. Jesus defended the victims with the same words which condemned the hidden sins of those speaking to him.
And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5 ESV)
Jesus knew that all humanity had fallen into sin. He alone was without sin because he was God incarnate, and he was warning them that the only reasonable way to deal with their sins was to ask him for forgiveness. However, Jesus did not only use suffering as a warning. He said suffering can be good for us and glorify God. When speaking about the suffering of a man born blind he gave suffering objective meaning. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)
Christians can actually rejoice in sufferings (Rom 5:3) because we know that it is only temporary and not as meaningless as it seems. God promises that suffering is somehow shaping us to be more like Jesus (Rom 8:28-29).
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Posted in Fighting for Peace, Relating with God, Seeking Truth | Tagged God, Jesus, problem of evil, salvation, sin, suffering | Leave a Comment »
In Genesis 22, we find a very strange and famous account of a moral dilemma: God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. For millennia it has been retold as an example of virtue and faith that Abraham would value God above even his own son whom he loved as he loved himself, but understandably many modern readers are shocked and think the story serves just the opposite lesson, that of foolish leaps of faith in an evil, contrary God. Why the discrepancy of reactions? Because some understand the God of the story while others don’t and, perhaps, try not to.
First of all, God does not advocate human sacrifice. In fact, he’s quite against it. When Israelites later begin to sacrifice their children to Molech, it is not simply a misplaced loyalty in a rival god that provokes God to wholeheartedly reject such a practice, it is the very idea of human sacrifice itself, whether to pursue personal ambition or religious sincerity (Jer 19:3-5). Also, God stops Abraham before it can happen. From the beginning of the story, we are told that God was testing Abraham by giving such a command. We may complain that the Judge of all the Earth ought not test in such a way, yet Abraham aces this final exam. It is not graded on how mindlessly obedient Abraham can be, but on actions based on informed trust in the God whom had been leading him. It’s graded on his love for God being properly greater than his love for his own life itself (Matt 10:37-39). God, likewise, shows his love for us in that he does not withhold his son, his only son, from us (Rom 8:3-4, 32). Isaac’s own trusting obedience foreshadows Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice.
God did not suddenly give Abraham this test of faith in a vacuum (Heb 11:17-19). It is also written that God had appeared and spoken with Abraham several times before. Each time, God makes promises and reassures him. He is told not to be afraid but to trust in God who will be his shield and provide for him, and that God will give him a land for his descendants. These descendants were promised to come through Isaac himself. So by obeying God, Abraham honored him as Lord and acknowledged God’s superiority of wisdom, faithfulness, and power—power even over death itself.
Posted in Relating with God, Seeking Truth | Tagged Abraham and Isaac, God, Jesus, the binding of Isaac | Leave a Comment »
Let’s say there’s a human rights violation.
Who is objective enough to point the finger?
Moral Relativism doesn’t point the finger.
Moral Relativism can’t.
Moral Relativism is live and let live
as well as live and let die.
Real Relativists let you act on your conscience.
If relativists begin to affirm real moral obligations,
like Human Rights,
then in what are those objective obligations grounded?
It cannot, by definition, depend on
human feelings or opinions,
but is above what any human or group thinks
(else moral relativism).
The grounding cannot be in morally imperfect
human judges (that’s relativism).
The grounds must be in a morally perfect judge who
is superior to humanity: God.
If there is a real moral right or wrong to a situation,
then the right decision is . . .
that which reflects the perfect moral standard, God.
Sometimes people call themselves relativists meaning something like, “We cannot all agree on what is moral or immoral so let’s agree to morality that allows the most people to decide for themselves what is moral.” This makes Man the measure of morality, so we’re back to the top: Moral Relativism. We would find ourselves denying basic moral absolutes in order to affirm man-made freedoms and rights. God is the only one big enough to declare what is a Human Right and the only authority big enough to appeal to when Human Rights, such as the right to life, are violated by governments. But then the truth about what God thinks matters, but that is exactly whom the relativist would rather not acknowledge (Rom 1:28).
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The Good News and the Law of Moses was the center of the very first controversy within the church, so don’t be caught unawares by people claiming that you don’t follow the Bible consistently if you follow Jesus and not the old laws of Israel about stonings and food restrictions.
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the [church], “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question…. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders…
And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
(Acts 15:1-11 ESV)
In short, we’re saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ Jesus alone. It is therefore consistent that we are not under the jurisdiction of laws pertaining to a particular region and time. Rather Jesus said he fulfilled those laws. The laws that remain for all to follow are the same laws that were always meant to be followed, namely the moral laws related to living as God designed humanity to live, to love Him and love others (as well as what love should look like).
Jesus is considered the new “High Priest” that will live forever as such, never to be replaced by a new comer. He was not a Levite, but rather his priesthood is superior to the Levite line of priests. And, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews reasons, “when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” (Hebrews 7:12)
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Is purposeful “chance” even a reasonable alternative to purposeful design? “Chance,” by definition, “never purposes anything. If it did, it would not be chance.” Chance is just a synonym for non-purposed “accident”. When we say “by chance I happened to be going to the store at the same time as you,” we don’t mean that chance arranged or planned or otherwise caused the meeting. On the other hand, if you were to look at my schedule book and see the time and place and purpose to meet you at the store written there, then we’d have evidence for a purpose in that “chance” meeting so we should reject that chance had anything to do with it even if we could imagine a scenario where the notes in my schedule book were the result of a pencil dropping on it. Explaining that which has a purpose as caused by chance is self-refuting because chance is the non-purposeful. Can it be that “without purposing to do so, the non-purposive produces the purposive”? Perhaps “chance” is a more confident sounding way of saying, “I don’t know how this purposeful event came to be.” But “if it has a purpose in it, it is no longer chance.”*
Do you agree? Chance is thrown about like a god-force substitute so often that’s it is hard not to speak of it as a cause, but it isn’t, properly speaking, a cause of anything. The intent of this line of argument is to show that the universe’s design is not merely “highly probable” but actually “compellingly certain.”
*(Quotations from: R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, Arthur Lindsey in “Classical Apologetics: A rational defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics,” 1984, p133.)
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