Contend Earnestly: October 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Exposition of Cain and Abel: Part II

The Angry Sinner

God gives Cain a warning the same way He warns all of us, Christian and non-Christian alike.

Look at the events here: Verses 5-7

but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at your door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.
Genesis 4:5-7

First, Cain gets angry. Why does he get angry? Does he have any right to be angry? How many of us gets angry when we are punished? Why? Makes no sense. Its our fault! Yet we get angry. So Cain sins, and he gets angry. But notice the passage seems to indicate that he is not angry with himself for his actions but he is angry at God.

Even the Lord asks, “Why are you angry? You’re the one who sinned!”

God then shows quickly that even though Cain sinned that God is a forgiving God. By telling Cain “…if you do well” God is telling Cain that He will forgive Cain, even though Cain has sinned on his own, and is angry at God.

Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity
And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in unchanging love.
Micah 7:18

Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say,
‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD;
‘I will not look upon you in anger.
For I am gracious,’ declares the LORD;
‘I will not be angry forever.
Jeremiah 3:12

This idea of “if you do well” is the same as we would think of the word “repent.” The word repent means to turn from evil and to turn to Christ, to turn to good. That is what God is telling Cain. But He also gives Cain a very stern warning. That, if he continues to sin, it will master him.
It is the same that we see in Romans 6:12.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,
Romans 6:12

God is telling Cain what is happening in the world that Cain cannot see. God tells him what is later revealed in 1 Peter 5:8 and that is Satan is like a roaming lion, looking for someone to devour. God gives Cain a warning so that he will not fall into the temptation of his sin of anger. Christ tells us if you have anger in your heart what is that to God? It is murder.

Here, like Christ, God is telling this seemingly face to face with Cain. Think about our lives that we lead. 1 John 2:15-17 tells us not to love the things of the world, specifically John is speaking of lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. Why do you think John tells us this?

What in your life adds to your sin? What in your life makes you dwell on the things not of God that are not moral? Some of these things might not even be bad things, but are you putting them above God? Have you made them an idol in your life? You know what it is in your life. This is what God is specifically telling Cain, put this anger behind you or it will devour you and you will die in your sin. This is the reason for this post. If you have made an idol out of anything, you will not be able to live a life in complete joy for Christ but your focus will be on that one thing or things.

For me, the most dangerous things for my idols are my family and my business. I have to constantly check myself to make sure that if I truly lost those things, that I would still have joy in Christ. Take what you love, if it was gone for the rest of your life tomorrow, would you have joy? If not, this thing has mastered you.

Let’s read the end here and you will see that this anger mastered Cain.

Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Genesis 4:8

Cain didn’t heed God’s words, didn’t think they were important, and everyday that you and I allow an idol in our life to continue, or a sin to continue, we do the same thing, and it will one day master us.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Exposition of Cain and Abel: Part I

As we come to this passage, many have heard of Cain murdering his brother Abel, yet many do not really understand the significance of the passage. Yes, it was the first murder in the Bible, but more so it gives us great insight to what the Lord truly wants from all of us: heart worship.

When we understand what God is crying out to us for, we can better understand that it is not our works that we are saved but by Christ’s work. I have heard many uses of this chapter. Some speak about how murder is wrong and some speak about anger, but we are going to look from a Christological showing.

We are not going to focus on the act of the actual murder but we will look at the sin of Cain and then the blood of Abel and the blood of Christ. We are going to look at the calling of God’s love of the heart, the ignorant sin of man, punishment for sin and lastly the perfect calling of Christ’s blood. Look at our text:

Genesis 4:1-16

God’s Calling for Heart Worship

Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the LORD is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed.
1 Samuel 2:3

If there is one thing that I want to accomplish with these posts, and further posts, is to beat the religion out of you. Think of things that religious people do. What are some things that those who are seen as religious do? Reading their Bibles, memorizing Scripture, praying, helping others, going to church, etc.

What are some things that real, blood bought Christians do? Reading their Bibles, memorizing Scripture, praying, helping others, going to church, etc.

Notice a theme? They both do the same thing. So what is the difference between a religious person and a genuine blood bought Christian?

A religious person believes that those works makes God happy and appeases Him, a Christian does those works because he understands what Christ did for him on the cross. One is works the other is of a loving faith relationship with the Saviour.

Here we have two brothers, Cain and Abel. Notice that Cain is the start of what Eve probably thought was the promise declared in the curses of Satan when God said, “the woman’s seed will crush your head…” What we of course know, is that this not the case with Cain, but would have been the case with Abel, but in God’s perfect plan He allowed Cain to murder him and the promised seed ended up coming through the third son, Seth.

But, notice these two brothers. Cain was a tiller of the ground. Who was now a tiller of the ground? His father, Adam. Cain is representing here the curse of Adam. What was Abel? A keeper of flocks. What is our Christ called? The Great Shepherd

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,
Hebrews 13:20

So we can see through this, that even though Cain was born first he was not going to be the one loved by God. We also see this with some other firstborns as well. Ishmael was born first, but Isaac was the son of promise. Esau was born first, but Jacob was the one whom God loved. So much that it is said in Romans 9:13 and Malachi 1:2 that before the boys did any right or wrong that it was Jacob whom God loved and Esau whom God hated; showing us the understanding of election and the Christian. That God places His love on a certain people before they are even born.

So, Cain and Abel we see are both keepers of something and Cain brings God a sacrifice. Some say that his sacrifice was just a plain sacrifice and others say that it was in equal value to Abel’s. It really doesn’t say, but what it does say is that God showed regard, or looked favorably to Abel’s and not Cain’s. Back to our thoughts on religion vs Chirstianity.

What is the difference between a religious person giving $100 and a Christian giving $100? What is the difference between a religious person feeding the homeless and a Christian feeding the homeless?

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7

Notice that it is said of God that He loves a cheerful giver. This word “love” is the Greek term “agape” which is the same term when Christ is said to love His sheep, same as when God says that He loves His Son. So, in my estimation this is speaking of a genuine Christian, because they are the only ones who can truly give cheerfully to God. We asked what the difference in a religious $100 and a Christian’s? This verse clears it up. A religious person does it for gain, because they are under compulsion to do so, because if they don’t God will hate them or they won’t get what they want from God. The Christian gives cheerfully because the Christian’s joy is found in God, not in money. So, if they can do anything to promote the Gospel and God’s people they cheerfully and lovingly do so.

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.
Hebrews 11:4

So, when we look at these two brothers offering their sacrifices to God, we can see what the difference was to God. Since God looks at the heart, one was doing so out of obligation, the other was doing so out of love for his God, by faith.

Was it God’s fault that Cain didn’t offer out of love? No, it was Cain’s sin.

So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
Isaiah 1:15

God tells Israel that He will not listen to their unrepentant hearts. He says earlier that He wishes that they wouldn’t even bother sacrificing to Him and then ends with this verse. He basically is telling them that all you are doing is standing their speaking to no one, cause God isn’t listening, and you aren’t even sacrificing, but you are just standing there with blood on your hands, meaning it hasn’t accomplished anything.

Same with us. God desires nothing from us, besides our hearts. I have heard one preacher put it, don’t make church a hobby for yourself. I will tell you the same thing. Don’t make church your hobby, it is the stupidest hobby you could have, go play video games or snow board, do something fun with your life, but don’t go to church acting as though you desire to be one of God’s own, when all you do is lip service. If you are doing all these things because God says so, or because you are “supposed to”, such as: reading your Bible, memorizing Scripture, praying, helping others, going to church, etc., you are just doing what the Israelites did…you are just standing there with blood on your hands, speaking to the walls, cause God isn’t listening to you.

You don’t care, and guess what, neither does God.

This is what Cain was. He was just a dude doing what God told him to do. No love or devotion in his heart towards his maker, but a religious man with no knowledge of what God truly desired from him. Therefore, God didn’t regard his sacrifice, but we will get into that in our next post.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Imputation: When does it occur?

I had a “conversation” today about when Christ’s righteousness was imputed to His elect. The one I was speaking to said that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us happened at the cross. Just so that there is no confusion in this matter, let’s define imputation:

The act of God declaring that our sins belong to Christ (another word is “reckon”) and Christ’s righteousness belonging to us. Although in this instance neither is deserving of the other, it is made so by God’s declaration.

The most famous verse that states this truth is 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.
2 Corinthians 5:21

So that, as our sins were imputed to Christ, God imputed Christ's righteousness to us. This fact is traditional in orthodoxy but much disputed as when this actually takes place. There is another instance of where we find something being imputed to another in the Bible and it comes when speaking of Adam’s sin being imputed to the entire human race:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
Romans 5:12

So, when does this happen? When does Christ’s righteousness get imputed, or reckoned to us? It happens at the time of our faith. It is in essence the entire reasoning and understanding of the great reformation dogma, Sola Fide. The first we see of this happens in the Old Testament when speaking of Abram:

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:6

Notice when righteousness was reckoned, or imputed, or judged to be in force: it happened at faith. In belief of God.

Paul’s whole disputation on the gift of faith and reckoning comes in Galatians 3 and is proved in respect of this by proving it through the Old Testament man, Abraham:

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Galatians 3:2-6

And another point to the time of faith being when we are reckoned, or imputed Christ’s righteousness:

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;
Romans 3:21-22

This is also why we can say that you are saved by grace THROUGH faith. So we are saved by the blood of Christ, and his righteousness is then imputed to the elect, when they have been regenerated, given faith, and then believe.

The question might be asked, “Why can’t Christ’s righteousness just be given by God to the elect at the cross?” Besides the many Scriptures spoken of the imputation happening at faith, the other reason happens when we see such Scriptures that say that we were once “children of wrath (Eph 2:3)” “hated by God (Psalm 5:5)” “sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2)” and “sons of the devil (John 8:44).” If this is the case, how can we be deemed righteous and still have God’s wrath against us? This cannot be. Therefore there is a time where Christ died, and the elect CAN still be seen as under HIS wrath. So what happens to change our position before God? Faith.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Romans 5:1

If Christ’s righteousness was imputed at his death to his people, the elect could have never been under the wrath of God. But, Paul makes this clear as he says in Ephesians 2:3 that WE were by nature children of wrath. Paul includes himself so to say that there was a time that we were without Christ’s righteousness even though Christ had already died.

In my view this is an “already not yet” scenario. Christ’s death has conquered death already, but not yet imputed to us who will, 100% believe.

The verse from the one that I was conversing to kept pointing to Romans 5:10 where it says:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Romans 5:10

What needs to be understood is to be seen before this, which happens to be the thesis of this passage, and then also a verse later down that gives us this reality. We already saw the thesis, which is, Romans 5:1

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

Paul then goes through what we have this faith in, and that is in the death of Christ for us. It is to remove our sins from Adam to our own personal sin, to impute those sins to Christ, and then for Christ to eventually impute to us His righteousness which is shown to happen in the future through verse 19:

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:19

Notice that it says that the many WILL BE made righteous. This in effect is speaking of something that has not happened yet, even though the death of Christ our mediator has already taken place. This, in essence, is the defintion of an "already, not yet" scenario.

So, what we see from this extremely short post on the subject is the fact that faith plays an intricate part to understanding imputation. If we have been imputed Christ’s righteousness literally at the cross then there is no chance that we can ever be under the wrath of God, which Ephesians 2 speaks directly against. If you would like more info on the understanding of the faith that is only given by God look to the posts on Sola Fide here, here and here.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Book Review Friday

I entered into reading this book with a lot of opinions thrown to me from those who have read it. What I learned before I even opened the book is it seemed as though people either loved it or hated it. I have some really close friends who loved the book and thought it was a breath of fresh air, and I also knew some of my friends thought that it's only good was to start a fire with it.

So, because I trusted on both sides, I felt like I could come with no preconceived notions. It was like I heard each debater by themselves but couldn't make a decision until I heard them both at the same time. So, the only way to do this was to read the book. What kind of irritates me is that I landed right in the middle. I can see why people love the book, but I can also see why people hate the book. There are some great discussions in the book but some very bad views on some theology that I feel could hurt those not driven by the word of God for discernment.
Donald Miller is a writer and a poet first, you can see that from the title of the book and in the opening pages. I like poetry when I am reading a poem but find poetry to be distracting when I am trying to read a book. What Mr. Miller does in this writing, in my estimation (although I am no expert) is try and use his poetry skills too much at times as one navigates through his story of redemption. It just isn't for me, that is, his way of writing. But I can get through that, not enough for me to put it down.

The book is really Donald Miller's testimony. It is his writings of how he came to know Christ and how he has grown in Christ, for this it is hard to say, "it is good" or "it is bad." At times, Mr. Miller seems to be scattered in thought and goes from one topic to another without leading the reader to where he is going. But, it is a testimony of what Christ has done for him, and that is much to sing praises about. Miller's book also punches some evangelicals right in the face with some realities of what is going on in today's conservative circles and it sickens not only Mr. Miller, but also myself. I have to say I felt it was worth the read to get a fresh perspective of contemporary Christendom. Mr. Miller brings up a lot of good points, like feeding the homeless, caring for the homosexual and liberals, and loving people yet still telling them the truth of the Gospel. This love, Mr. Miller finds to be happening more in the "pagan" circles than inside the church of the living God and I have to agree. Mr. Miller though does not point fingers but he actually comes to the conclusion that it is HIS fault for this not happening and then asks all who read to understand that it is also their fault for this contemporary slide of hate instead of love for those outside of the body of Christ. I have to say, I like that perspective. Mr. Miller is very honest with his afflictions as a non-believer and a new-believer and I know this makes many people very uncomfortable. But for me, I enjoy when I can be honest with someone and they can be honest with me. It actually helps in prayer to know specifics of someone so that you can be praying for them. This is what Mr. Miller gives us in this novel of his life: An honest testimony of what Christ has done.

What I found to be dangerous are his thoughts on depravity and the atonement of Jesus Christ. He simply says that since he sees people doing good, then he doesn't believe that people are completely evil like some (one of them being me) say. I would have to ask Mr. Miller to trust in the Living Word instead of his eyes. I would ask him to interpret many Scriptures that would point him in the opposite direction, such as: Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Genesis 6:5;8:21; Romans 3:10-18; Psalm 14; Jeremiah 13:23; Psalm 58:3.

He carries this thought though and it becomes disconnected as he then states the issues of us, including himself, being evil. So his description throughout the book of Christ's atonement and death on the cross becomes one that is to make evil people good. It is a moralistic redemption. This is not the reason Jesus died for our sins, He died to make dead people alive to God. He died to bring His children to His side for God's glory not ours. One of the fruits of a Christian is definitely to do good works and so this is definitely one of the benefits, but is not the primary reason for the atonement. So, this, in my estimation, is a very large error that Mr. Miller makes.
It seems as though Mr. Miller also relies much more on his experience than the unchanging word of God. I don't know this to be true, but this is the way it comes off in my reading of his book. This can be very dangerous, especially in light of knowing our heart is desperately sick, who can discern it...Jeremiah 17:9.
Also, his last chapter on "How to Love Yourself" is a little strong in parts. I do understand that his intent is to understand that God loves us and we need to accept that. I will be careful to say that this is probably a very good chapter, in parts, for those who have had terrible parents or disastrous intamacy issues for whatever horrific reasons, that I cannot empathize with since I myself have never had these kinds of experiences. But there are times in this chapter that go too far in my estimation. The Bible tells us to "die to self" "to deny self" and for what reason? So that we can "live to Christ" and to "follow Christ." So the author would have done better, in my estimation, to balance these understandings.

My recommendation to any who are thinking of picking up this book is to be discerning. I compare it with someone telling their testimony before they are baptized. The story of conversion is wonderful to hear. But, they say those two or three things that make you wince and say, "oohhh...wouldn't have said it that way..." But, that does not ruin the testimony of Christ in their life, and I don't think the errors in this book will ruin Mr. Miller's testimony either. I would recommend it for church leaders needing to understand what errors are creaping in the church as Mr. Miller points out. For the others, if you do read it, please be sure to be discerning when Mr. Miller brings theology and his experiences into the discussion, because I find it to be lacking in many ways. But, be challenged by his words when he calls us to be more loving to those who aren't like us and to understand that the issue is US not THEM. Link to buy

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Biblical Miracles: Part III

Aspects of Miracles

Biblical miracles always, understand this, always accompany God’s message. Now think of the televangelist. No gospel is ever presented, nothing about sin, repentance or surrendering to Christ. What you see with the televangelist is simply the “healing” but for what purpose? It seems to be for the purpose of the individual being healed or the glory of the healer and his/her ministry, not the pursuit of the glory of the gospel.

Look to Elijah.

1 Kings 17

Verse 2: The word of the LORD came to him, saying
Verse 8: Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying
Verse 16: The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke through Elijah

All to authenticate the word of the Lord.

And to clear it all up, look at verse 24. This is my favorite part of this entire understanding of biblical miracles. It is so clear.

Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth."

This is three fold: The man of God is authenticated and the word of the Lord is truth. This is the reason for the miracle. To convert the woman by truth. In verse 12 she says "your God," there is no personal possession of God, but the Lord is Elijah's God not the woman's. Now, in verse 24 she calls the Lord, "THE Lord" showing more of a personal thought to God. Giving God His rightful place. He is no longer "a" god of Elijah, but THE God of all, including herself.

Think about the Paralytic being put through the roof. His sins were forgiven and, oh yeah, he got up and walked. The main emphasis is not on the miracle. The main emphasis is clearly on the forgiveness of sins. It is the thesis, it is the climax. The miracle is just to prove that Christ had the authority to forgive sins, but was not the importance.

We are also shown the same in John 9 where we have the blind man. Why was he healed? Christ tells exactly why… to show the power of God. Notice where man puts the emphasis throughout the entirety of the chapter…on the healing, not on God’s glory being shown.

Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

Romans 15:17-19

Why was there miracles? For the Gospel to be preached. All past tense, once again.

So, if miracles were being toned down, and that is how the prophets were authenticated, how do we authenticate someone now? The perfect and complete word of God.

Moses even tells us that there will be some who do miracles and signs and are not from the Lord, how do we test these people?

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.
Deut 13:1-4

Know also that the antichrist will come as well, with signs and wonders and deceiving if possible even the elect. (Matthew 24:24)

The last aspect of miracles is how they are performed and what happens when they are completed. You need to know something very important about the miracles in the Bible and how they are portrayed on TV. In the Bible when a miracle happened, everyone could see it and knew about the person. Everyone knew about the paralyzed and the blind because they had been this way for years. They sat at the city gates of these towns, begged for years, so all knew their hideous plight in life.

Not only were the people known to the region who had these deficiencies, but the healings that took place were obvious to all who stood in amazement. Hands stretching into place, leprous people being healed of their wounds, blind to see, lame to walk. It was NOT like what you see on TV. Where they say I have this small tumor in my back that no one can see. Or my back hurts and then they are fine. I believe most of this to be adrenaline, not the true working of a miracle man.

Do you know that there has never been an instance where a televangelist can give doctoral proof that someone was healed…never! Actually when skeptics have done follow ups with these who were healed on the stage, they are back to their pain once again three weeks later, but the evangelist is long gone with the person’s donation to their ministry in their back pocket.

The most amazing question is simply this: Did Jesus wait for the sick or did he go to them? Look at John 5:1-9

Let me ask you this. Why don’t these televangelists ever go to the hospitals and heal these people and then share the Gospel? Would this not be the most amazing revival we have ever seen? There is only one conclusion: they can’t really heal anyone.


First, I am not denying that God still uses miracles. I believe that He does many times, in many ways. My denial are those who purport that they have the gift of miracle healing power that the Christ and His apostles possessed. Know that when you understand biblical miracles, you are not putting God in a box, you are not saying God has changed, it is actually just the opposite. Really think of the word miracle and how you use the word. We say that if we find a good parking spot that it’s a miracle. But what it meant in the Bible was for:

Paralytics to walk; the blind to see; dead to life.

Instead of using the word miracle know that it is God’s provision in your life. Your parents, your church, your friends, you living another day is not a miracle, but God’s provision.

I am not saying that miracles do not happen anymore, but I am saying that this is not a gift that is given to people these days.

The most amazing and unrecognized miracle that happens today is the miracle of rebirth. The miracle of a dead man awakening to the miracle of knowing Christ. Think of the biblical miracles. What did Christ have to do in order to heal the sick, make the blind to see, lame to walk? It was a simple word.

What did Christ have to do to bring the spiritually dead men to spiritual newness of life? He had to come, live a perfect life, die on the cross and rise again. You tell me which was a bigger miracle. We can see that the miracle of rebirth was, by far, the biggest, and continues to be, the biggest and greatest miracle for God’s glory ever known.

Do you know Christ? Do you know that you have sinned, if you have ever lied, even once, that is a sin and has separated you from God. You need a Saviour to pay for that sin or you will have to in hell forever. 2000 years ago, amidst all these miracles, the one that sticks out the most is the miracle of our God coming down from heaven, living amongst us, dying for us and then rising again on the third day.

I hope you are asking, “What must I do to be saved from my punishment of sin?”

Repent, or turn from your sin and run to Christ, and call on His name to save you. That is what He calls us to do: repent and believe.

If you are a Christian, think of the miracle of your rebirth. Do you take it for granted? Do you understand that we stand just as Lazarus did, being brought from death to life? Where is our thankfulness?

Don’t be like those in Christ’s time who were constantly looking for signs and wonders, but be like Stephen and be ready to die for the one who bought you.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Biblical Miracles: Part II

Purpose of Miracles

The purpose of miracles was two fold: To indicate new revelation was coming and to authenticate the messenger.

God did this, each time as the three parts of the Bible were spoken. The overflow of miracles, if you look in the Bible, happened only three times. At the time that the Law, the Prophets and the New Testament was about to be written.

Miracles were set up to really be for God to say, “Here I come to speak!”

Miracles were the opening act, so to speak, on the night for the headlining band to play.

Look to 2 Corinthians 12:12 and we’ll start to see this play out.

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.

Notice, also that when Paul says this he is speaking in past tense. Indicating here that the miracles TOOK place and were not taking place or were at least dying down.

To continue look to Hebrews 2:2-4

For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

Notice again, that this is past tense. Also, if you know when the actual books took place you’ll notice that the miracles that are reported, only happen in the early books. It was in the Gospels, Acts and 1 Corinthians.

Later books = No indication of miracles but just the opposite

Look to 2 Timothy 4:19,20 and also Phil 2:25-28

Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.
2 Timothy 4:19-20

But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.
Philippians 2:25-28

As we can see from these two verses Paul speaks about leaving people sick, even to the point of death. It would seem that the reason is plain and simple. Unlike those who choose to teach that your sickness is by the lack of your faith, Paul is showing us that these people were not healed for the mere fact that the reason miracles existed was for the glory of the Gospel, not to make men merely healthy for the sake of themselves and “their faith.”

I would contend that the power of miracles were being faded because they were not needed anymore. The Gospels and early epistles were written and there was sufficient evidence of the miraculous power of God through the miracles that were already shown throughout the lands.

What these “miracle” people need to realize is the reason for miracles. It is NOT for the sake of the Christian nor the miracle worker. There is only one reason that any miracle ever takes place: for the glory of God. Specifically, God uses miracles for the sign of His coming word. Does God still do miracles today? Yes, of course. But not in the way that Benny Hinn would make us think. But we will get to that in our last installment.

So as we take a look at miracles, we need to understand that their purpose was to authenticate the message and the messenger. As the New Testament was written, the miracles started to fade away.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Biblical Miracles: Part I

One of my favorite sayings is this:

We should be constantly conforming to the Word and not expect the Word to be conforming to us.

Paul puts it even more plainly in 1 Thess 5:21: examine everything carefully

Do you know what a biblical miracle is? Do you believe they still happen? Can you support your views with Scripture?

We have really all kinds of views of miracles in the world today. We have those pagan skeptics who say there is no such thing as miracles, all the way to the televangelists who believe that they see Jesus everyday healing someone from an ingrown toe nail. Yet, we must be able to decipher this through the word.

Ernest Renan who wrote “The Life of Jesus” back in the 1800’s denied the existence of miracles.
He said that Christ only aided the sick people by his gentleness to make them feel better, and that is how Jesus healed people

When Jesus walked on the water on the Sea of Galilee he was only walking on a thick amount of lily pads.

When Christ fed the 5000 there was really a hidden stash of food that the apostles secretly went to, to feed the people. Making the illusion of a miracle

We have this, and then we have people like Jan Crouch, who is the wife of Paul Crouch, who started TBN, who said that God answered two 12 year old girls prayers when he raised their pet chicken from the dead.

I have also heard, from a close friend of mine, where his music pastor stood up and said that he raised his son’s dead gerbil from the dead.

I have also seen on TV, many lies being spread; from no evil oil, so that when you spread it on your aches, God heals you, to prayer cloths that will heal your wallet from being sick and without money. I have also heard direct reports that Oral Roberts, being in the front of his school, baptized wallets so that they would have the miracle of money placed in them.

With these posts, I would like to answer, biblically, the thoughts on everyone one of these instances, so we can have a better understanding of why we believe what we believe, and then to challenge you and aid you in what you believe about the topic of miracles.

The Timing of Miracles

The hard thing sometimes when reading the Bible, is how long periods of time relate to each other. You can go from one verse to another and years have passed. So when thinking of miracles it can seem as though, also because of the order of the Bible, that miracles have always been around throughout the entire narrative of the Bible. That is not the case.

There are three distinct times of miracles and they are not continuous. The other amazing thing is that they are never more than 100 years in length.

Three periods:
Moses and Joshua

Elijah and Elisha

Jesus and the Apostles

First take a look at Exodus 4 to see why miracles came.

Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’ ” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.” Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”

Exodus 4:1-5

Notice verse 5: that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.

This is a key to understanding what the purpose of miracles are, but we will cover this more in detail in part II of this discussion.

Second distinct period is in the time of Elijah and Elisha. One example comes from
1 Kings 18:20-39. Notice again the reason behind this miracle on the Mount. For the glory of God and His word being proclaimed. The response of the people in verse 39 really shows the reasoning of the miracle in the first place:

When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God"

As we continue to look at this division notice that Christ Himself speaks about the Old Testament in what way? He says :

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.
Luke 16:16

The two time periods that Jesus continues to point to is the division of the Old Testament is the Law and the Prophets. Think of also Matthew 17, who did Jesus show himself with on the mount of transfiguration?

Moses and Elijah. Moses being the representation of the Law and Elijah the representation of the prophets. This is not just by coincidence. This was for a purpose. These represented distinct, historical times of God that were important for the laying of God's word, confirmed by miracles.

Then, Christ came to fulfill the Law and the prophets and with Him he brought the most miracles showing that He was more powerful and greater than all before and more powerful over sickness, death and even nature.

Wayne Grudem

So as we see this introduction to the time period of miracles, it was definitely for a purpose divided into three specific times. In the next couple of posts we will deal with the purpose and aspects of miracles. Before that comes do know that I am, what is called a concentric cessationist, which is defined as:

Miraculous gifts have indeed ceased in the mainstream church and evangelized areas, but appear in unreached areas as an aid to spreading the Gospel

So, you will notice in the upcoming posts that I don't deny miracles happen today, but I will deny those who are rampantly purporting the happenings of miracles "...who suppose that godliness is a means of gain."

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

James White vs Shabir Ally Debate

This last Friday night I had the pleasure of going to an intellectual, yet faithful and passionate debate on the topic of, "Was Jesus Christ Crucified as a Willing Sacrifice For the Sins of God's People?" The participants were James White presenting the affirmative and Shabir Ally the negative.

As we came to the debate the first thing that struck me was the fact that it was like going to the airport where we could not have bags, my wife had to take her purse back to the car and we also had to check our coats at the door. What Dr. White and the crew forgot is where they were...Seattle. No one really cares (except for a few) up here what is going on, so no one's life was going to be in danger. I had heard that Mr. Ally was a "big shot" in the Muslim circles so I was thinking that we would have a pretty big turn out from the Islamic faith to hear this man demean everything that the Christian faith is all about, but the opposite came about as only 5, from my count, were devout Muslims in the crowd.

I really didn't know what to expect from this debate or from Shabir Ally. I guess I have to be honest, I expected a more forceful and angry Muslim than we got from Mr. Ally, and for that I commend this gentleman. He was very calm, presented his arguments with care, and never once showed that he was irritated in any way.

I knew that coming into the debate that I was going to be writing a post on the subject so I tried to come in with an open mind about things, even though we know that my Christian presuppositions will always take over.

Dr. White presented, as usual, very good evidence from the New Testament, early Christian writings and then the historical record of the truth of affirming the statement that indeed, Christ died willingly as a sacrifice. Not only did White purport the evidence in the opening but also tried to debunk some arguments that he knew his opponent would try and bring into play in his opening. Very well done in my view.

What we then found from Shabir Ally was more of an attack using other heretics, such as some open theists, for the arguments in the opposition when it came to the negative viewpoint of the atonement and sacrifice. This actually came to me as a surprise. It seemed as though Shabir was very unprepared for the debate and this really started to show during the cross examination.

Dr. White pleaded with Mr. Ally to use the same examination with the New Testament that he would with the Koran. Because the arguments that were presented by Mr. Ally were no more than unevolved, undocumented theories and fictions against the New Testament, instead of trying to just simply prove or exegete the Scriptures differently than Dr. White was presenting.

Mr. Ally sure knew his stuff when it came to the Koran and the historical ramifications of the Bible, but knew very little (this is no understatement) about the atonement of Christ and its portrayal when dealing with the Old Testament affirmations of the crucifixion to come.

So, instead of crossing Dr. White about the topic at hand, he started to bring up old topics from their past debates. He tried to bring suspicion to the biblical record by trying to accuse it of different supposed contradictions, but Dr. White showed each one to be found wanting. Dr. White even exclaimed at one point: I don't know what this has to do with the topic at hand.

In the end, the debate was very one sided and the side presented by Mr. Ally continued to be very circular in reasoning and doubt, and was pointed out so by Dr. White numerous times without a clear response. Mr. Ally continued put up smoke screens by long dissertations on the Koran so the original question would be lost.

For me, this wasn't a debate on the topic at hand. Very little time was spent on what I found to be the key of the debate and that was, "Did Christ WILLINGLY die?" Dr. White was so busy chasing the trails that Mr. Ally threw him down, he didn't get to spend a whole lot of time on this intricate part of the debate. I didn't feel as though this was Dr. White's fault but was in actuality the goal of Mr. Ally. The strongest parts of the debate came when Dr. White presented his two prepared statements as they were on target and on topic.

The climax, in my mind, happened in the end, when Dr. White was having to defend Paul as a true disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. It came about when Dr. White was bringing forth his concluding argument and quoted this verse:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me

Galatians 2:20

I don't know if Dr. White knows this, but in my view this is when the Spirit spoke. His voice inflection was perfect, his countenance seemed to be in the presence of the Holy One, and it seemed with a tear in his eye, spoke with authority and followed up with: this was the very personal reflection of a true disciple of Christ, not a tyrant. (very loose quote)

I am happy to say that Dr. White is one that I continue to enjoy listening to and learning from. He seemed to have the right heart for this debate. It was not an empty attempt to bring forth wisdom, but true strife to say as Paul did:

Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.
For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.
Romans 10:1,2

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Friday, October 19, 2007

The Case for Faith: Lee Strobel

I want to show some grace here in this review so that I am not coming across as attacking the author or the participants that the author interviewed. I read The Case for Christ and very much enjoyed that book and thought it was done in a very tasteful manner, but this book left me shaking my head.

Lee Strobel unpacks this book just as he did with the Case for Christ, in that, he has 8 different questions that he would like answered and then goes and interviews 8 experts in those fields to answer those questions. The one thing I wish that he would have done is read some of the reviews and thoughts from readers and taken them to heart. The main complaint is that he just interviewed those who agreed with the Christian position and chose not to interact with those who were on the opposed side of the debate.
Although Strobel starts the book off on interviewing an atheist, Charles Templeton, this was the last time that he interviews anyone on the opposing side. Although, I do really like the way the book is set up with the interviewing process.

The questions that were to be raised in the book are the following:

1) If there's a loving God, why does this pain-wracked world groan under so much suffering and evil?

2) If the miracles of God contradict science, then how can any rational person believe that they're true?

3) If God is morally pure, how can he sanction the slaughter of innocent children as the Old Testament says he did?

4) If God cares about the people he created, how could he consign so many of them to an eternity of torture in hell just because they didn't believe the right things about him?

5) If Jesus is the only way to heaven, then what about the millions of people who have never heard of him?

6) If God really created the universe, why does the evidence of science compel so many to conclude that the unguided process of evolution accounts for life?

7) If God is the ultimate overseer of the church, why has it been rife with hypocrisy and brutality throughout the ages?

8) If I'm still plagued by doubts, then is it still possible to be a Christian?

Strobel, to answer these questions, goes to eight different men to help him answer these tough questions posed to the Christian faith. Some of those interviewed were Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, Peter Kreeft, Ravi Zacharias, John Woodbridge and others.

We could always discuss the theological differences that I have between myself and the contributors, such as their views on libertarian free will, the views that hell is not a literal place with flames, the view that the big bang is true and God was the originator just 'tweaked' it to make it work, that God reacted to man and created hell, but it wasn't in His original plan, and so on. These are all things that contributed to a very poor discussion on the reason for faith. But, even above all these problems, Strobel forgets the biggest reason for faith in God and Jesus Christ: our sin.
Sin was completely left out of the discussion. This topic of us needing a Creator and Saviour to take our place of our sin was not in any of the discussions. The route that Strobel takes is more of a route in putting us in a court room. The atheists and agnostics as the prosecutors, God as the defendant and we are the jurors. We sit, listen, weigh the evidence and then choose who to follow. The problem is that this leaves God as a powerless being, ringing His hands, hoping we choose him. This is not faith! This is just choosing the lesser of the two evils, or the better of the two goods, depending on how you see it.

This book is really a bad attempt at presenting the true God. It really leans more towards Aristotlianism, where "reason governs us" instead of what we are told it should be: God and His word governs us. I am afraid that the bad theology presented here is not going to strengthen anyone's faith but in actuality, will make them rely on their intellect and thoughts on the issue. This is actually the reason that Strobel is able to bring in a Roman Catholic theologian (Peter Kreeft) and no have no issue with his thoughts on issues. Strobel really doesn't differentiate between the Catholics and Protestants but just merely continues to call them both "Christians." Ignoring the reformation or the Pope calling the Catholic church, "the only true church." (sidenote: I know this book was written before this declaration, but it was not a new declaration or something Protestants and Catholics didn't already know was the foundational thoughts of the Roman Catholic church)

Anyone who takes a long look at themselves will know that they change their minds on things all the time. They change their views on things all the time, so what is going to be different this time? The main proponent of faith was left out: Jesus Christ died for the sins of the people, the Holy Spirit gives them faith, calls them to His side, God justifies them with the blood of Christ, and perfects them until the day Christ returns. It is God's power that holds us, not our "weighing of evidence."
This is the reason I cannot recommend this book to anyone. It seems as though Strobel has placed God on the side of the road trying to "sell" His religion to people and hoping some will just choose Him. God is not a beggar.

One contributor said this: "God sends no one to heaven and He sends no one to hell" Although I agree that sin is what sends people to hell, it is not true that God doesn't send anyone to heaven. He is the only power that is able to send people to heaven.

It seems as though this book missed some key verses in the Bible:

For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.
2 Corinthians 13:4

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:44

Most important Paul lays out the importance of the Gospel, not secular reasoning or secular evidence for the case for faith:

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:2-5

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Theological Implications of a Theological Lived Life

I know this is a tough title to get through and then try and understand what this post will be about. My thoughts on this is the simple fact of studying the word of God as much as pastors do and those of us who have decided that God has called us to teach it to others. This also spills to another part of the world that Augustine, Calvin, Bunyan, Edwards and even someone like Machen never thought would be possible: blogging.

I spend a lot of time reading other posts, books, articles and even listening to sermons on the subject of God and the implications of His commands. The danger that comes through this is the fact of me thinking I am holy merely by studying holiness. This is like me thinking I am going to lose weight by merely reading diet books, thinking I can fix a car because I read mechanical engineering books, thinking I am a gardener because I read "Home and Garden."

Will these readings aid and help me in my application of these skills? Yes, but only in the head knowledge and the teaching of others about the methodology, but not in the transforming of my own life into becoming slimmer, becoming an auto mechanic or a gardener.

The only possibility of me becoming these things is the actual outpouring of my knowledge into the work of those skills and that knowledge.

Same can be said of our theology. We must all continue to ask ourselves, "Why am I continuing to study, read and listen to theological issues?" Is it for personal gain...a knowledge that puffs up? Is it to merely teach others? Is it so I can defend my position? Or is it so that I can grow in a loving relationship with my Father who sent His Son in my stead? I am not saying that our works make us a Christian, but our works prove that we are truly a theologian to be imitated.

I find this an interesting discussion as we see the words of a very popular verse, one that you have heard if you are a pastor:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.

Ezra 7:10

Notice that as pastors and teachers it is natural for us to do the first and the last of these practices of Ezra: studying and teaching. But the most important is the glue that holds these two together. If the study of the law in Ezra 7:10 is its introduction and teaching the statutes are its conclusion, then the practice of the law is its thesis. It is the meat, it is the central reason for doing the other two.

We must make sure that we imitate Ezra in all his ways, not just in the introduction and the conclusion.

We must practice our theologies, be shepherds, loving the sheep, instead of being the pious theologians from the tower shouting down to the poor downtrodden simple minded milk drinkers.

for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

1 Thessalonians 1:5

You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;

1 Thessalonians 2:10

For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.

2 Corinthians 1:12

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Any readers left?

It has been a while since I have come to the blog to write and have missed it in part but also have enjoyed taking a hiatus for a bit. I have really been focusing my time on what it is God is calling me to do as a leader in my church and what reforms must I take in my own life. Through this process it has brought me in understanding some of my weaknesses that need to work on but also has driven me, once again, back to the main thing: the Cross of our Christ.

I was reading a short biography on the biography of William Wilberforce the other night and Wilberforce said something that I have heard before but once again struck at the heart of understanding the gospel and our lives in Christ.

My grand objection to the religious system still held by many who declare
themselves orthodox, that it tends to render Christianity so much
a system of prohibitions rather than of privilege and hopes, and thus the
injunction to rejoice, so strongly enforced in the New Testament, is practically
neglected, and Religion is made to wear a forbidding and gloomy air and not one
of peace and hope and joy.

Is this not an indictment to us today? Is this not an indictment to myself? Instead of focusing what God provides to us for our joy and peace we tend to bring gloom on those areas that we are convicted to be wrong and sin, when taking a closer look have more to do with our upbringing than the actual Scriptural mandate against such things.

One of the main things that bothers me within any church is the perception of how one dresses is a look into their holiness. How is this biblical? I believe it was Mark Driscoll who stated that the only time dress is mentioned in the New Testament is always speaking against dressing up in a formal manner and focuses it's time on merely dressing modestly. Yet, if some do not dress in a shirt and tie, some ask, "Why don't they love God more?" This is not the only instance but it is a root of many problems. Meaning, our convictions become from what we tend to like or dislike NOT what is biblically mandated.

I had the opportunity to participate in a mock interview for an aspiring pastor and one asked what his thought was of dancing in the aisles and other forms of worship. He responded by saying, "I don't agree with it, I don't know if I have a biblical reason for all things, but I am pretty sure that if I see something that I don't agree with I will just know it." Now my indictment is not on his thoughts on dancing in the aisles, but in the answer. I told him this and he agreed and this gentleman is a great man of God, but his answer was more wide spread than I think he knew.

This seems to be the answer by most in the Christian culture these days. "If I don't like it, it is wrong." Hmmm...seems Pharisaical to me.

Anyway...I don't want to rant all night on this subject, but this hiatus has been a good opportunity to root my answers to the only thing I need to defend and that is the Scriptures, not my likes or dislikes. And in the end, the only thing I want to be known for defending is the cross of Christ. We need to be a church of joy and peace and not one of prohibitions, unless they are biblically warranted.

May God bless you and your ministry, where ever you are and whatever capacity He has called you to.

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