Tuesday, May 26, 2015

To Live Quietly...

My other blog is called The Quiet Life. It refers literally to the fact that I do not like noise. I like to live where there will not be loud noises, sustained interrupting noises, or any other wise unpleasant noises. I do not like them.

More philosophically the blog title refers to this verse from 1 Thessalonians 4:11 which is an important verse to me,

and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,

I like the word 'aspire' and then the surprise of what comes next- 'live quietly'. Usually aspirations include lofty things like winning the Pulitzer or becoming President of the US. Or at least, getting that raise or becoming a homeowner. One does not aspire to be quiet. Not unless you're a Christian and you're used to the Bible illustrating an upside down lifestyle. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Meek shall inherit the earth. Do not expect to be served but to serve. Now we see that a holy aspiration is to live quietly. Why?



Excerpt:
First, his readers should lead a restful life. The word translated quiet (hēsychazein) means quiet in the sense of restfulness (cf. Acts 22:2; 2 Thes. 3:12; 1 Tim. 2:2, 11), rather than quiet as opposed to talkativeness (sigaō; cf. Acts 21:40; 1 Cor. 14:34). The former means “undisturbed, settled, not noisy,” while the latter means “silent.” Paul was telling the Thessalonians to be less frantic, not less exuberant. A person who is constantly on the move is frequently a bother to other people as well as somewhat distracted from his own walk with God. The latter can lead to the former. But a Christian who strives to be at peace with himself and God will be a source of peace to his brethren. Such quietude constitutes a practical demonstration of love for others.

Second, Paul recommended minding one’s own business. The connection with love for the brethren is obvious (cf. Prov. 25:17).

Third, working with one’s own hands demonstrates love for the brethren because a self-supporting person is not a burden to others. Paul himself set the example by working with his hands when he was in Thessalonica (1 Thes. 2:9). Too restful a life can be a problem also, and Paul guarded against that with this instruction. This verse dignifies manual labor. The reference also suggests that many, perhaps most, in the church came out of the working class. The Greeks deplored manual labor and relegated it to slaves as much as possible. But the Jews held it in esteem; every Jewish boy was taught a trade regardless of his family’s wealth. Work itself is a blessing, and working with one’s hands should never be despised by Christians. A man who is willing to work with his hands demonstrates his love for his brethren by being willing to humble himself to provide for his own needs so that he does not depend on others but provides for himself.

Constable, T. L. (1985). 1 Thessalonians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 703). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Monday, May 25, 2015

We are not orphans

I was thinking of how wonderful God is. The Trinity, Three-In-One, Father, Son, Spirit are intimately involved in our lives. The Father's Providence, bringing all things to pass at the good will and pleasure of Himself. The Spirit, dwelling inside us as a deposit of the guarantee to come. The Son, Priest, interceding for us on our behalf in heaven. Each Person of the Godhead intimately knowledgeable of each one of us and loving us and leading us and providing for us. It is amazing.

The Bible's treasures are limitless. Each time we open it to read more of what God will reveal to us about Himself is a journey into love, wonder, and awe. I was reading and listening to a sermon on Saturday. John MacArthur's "What the Cross Meant to Christ." It was a terrific sermon as usual. In my reading and thinking about that section of John there is this verse:

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18).

The word orphan here means fatherless, bereft, desolate. In the context of the entire passage, Jesus is comforting the disciples, because He is going to leave them. They are lost, confused, heartbroken. They don't quite understand but they sense something bad is about to happen and they are upset. Jesus is reassuring them. He is explaining that He is going to prepare a place for them and will return. He says He will not leave them as orphans, He will come to them.

Alexander McLaren's commentary is excellent in explaining this beautiful moment. Imagine, the God of the Universe, softly and reassuringly comforting His little children. That was how Jesus began the conversation in chapter 13:33- "Little children." he IS our Father, and He will not leave us Fatherless as orphans. See McLaren on the unification of the Christ and the Spirit. One says He is leaving, but One is actually present.
Then, note, further, that this coming of our Lord is identified with that of His divine Spirit. He has been speaking of sending that ‘other Comforter,’ but though He be Another, He is yet so indissolubly united with Him who sends as that the coming of the Spirit is the coming of Jesus. He is no gift wafted to us as from the other side of a gulf, but by reason of the unity of the Godhead and the divinity of the sent Spirit, Jesus Christ and the Spirit whom He sends are inseparable though separate, and so indissolubly united that where the Spirit is, there is Christ, and where Christ is, there is the Spirit. These are amongst the deep things which the disciples were ‘not able to carry’ at that stage of their development, and which waited for a further explanation. Enough for them and enough for us, to know that we have Christ in the Spirit and the Spirit in Christ; and to remember ‘that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.’
"Christ is the only Remedy for the orphanhood of the world" ~McLaren
What a mystery the Trinity is! How tremendous His care of us in sending the Spirit! I can hardly contain myself. McLaren again-
Then, note, further, that this present Christ is the only Remedy for the orphanhood of the world. The words had a tender and pathetic reference to that little, bewildered group of followers, deprived of their Guide, their Teacher, and their Companion. He who had been as eyes to their weak vision, and Counsellor and Inspirer and everything for three blessed years, was going away to leave them unsheltered to the storm, and we can understand how forlorn and terrified they were, when they looked forward to fronting the things that must come to them, without His presence. Therefore He cheers them with the assurance that they will not be left without Him, but that, present still, just because He is absent, He will be all that He ever had been to them.
Wonder of wonders! He is good. He is so good!
And the promise was fulfilled. How did that dis-spirited group of cowardly men ever pluck up courage to hold together at all after the Crucifixion? Why was it that they did not follow the example of John’s disciples, and dissolve and disappear; and say, ‘The game is up. It is no use holding together any longer’? The process of separation began on the very day of the Crucifixion. Only one thing could have stopped it, and that is the Resurrection and the presence with His Church of the risen Christ in His power and in all the fullness of His gifts. If it had not been that He came to them, they would have disappeared, and Christianity would have been one more of the abortive sects forgotten in Judaism. But, as it is, the whole of the New Testament after Pentecost is aflame with the consciousness of a present Christ, working amongst His people. And although it be true that, in one aspect, we are absent from the Lord when we are present with the body, in another aspect, and an infinitely higher one, it is true that the strength of the Christian life of Apostles and martyrs was this, the assurance that Christ Himself-no mere rhetorical metaphor for His influence or His example, or His memory lingering in their imaginations, but the veritable Christ Himself-was present with them, to strengthen and to bless.

Please know dear brethren, no matter what you are going through, no matter how trying the hardship, no matter how difficult the circumstances, your Comforter is here. He has not left us as orphans.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Forgotten God: His wrath

EPrata photo

I'm big on God's wrath. It is rarely taught from the pulpit, even rarer is the new book on it, children aren't taught it, today's theologians ignore it. I love God's wrath because it is an expression of one of His holy attributes: justice, and because I love Jesus I love ALL of Him.

I am in awe of His wrath, and if I think on it longer than a moment or two, I will cry over it. God's wrath is already being revealed (Romans 1:18) and it is a mind-bending, majestic thing. This attribute is still a necessary portion of who God is and we must understand it to proclaim it. To that end, this is the latest edition of Credo Magazine, the topic is "The Forgotten God: Divine Attributes We Are Ashamed of and Why We Shouldn't Be". I especially enjoyed the article "Should We Teach Our Children about the Wrath of God?" Check it out. It is free online.

The Forgotten God: Divine Attributes We Are Ashamed of and Why We Shouldn't Be

HT Do Not Be Surprised

--------------------------

Further Reading/Listening:

The Fury of God, sermon series by Pastor Jeremy Lundmark

"Sissified Needy Jesus?" Sermon Jam by Voddie Baucham

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ireland popular vote legalizes same-sex 'marriage'

HT to Entreating Favor on Facebook for putting this together. I had seen the headline from The Guardian- "Ireland becomes first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote" and I had been saddened to see this, but not surprised. Here is what the Bible says about the matter.

source NPR

Romans 1:26-32 "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."

"Spirituality involves more than the mind, but it never excludes the mind"

The title of this blog essay is a quote from John MacArthur in the New Testament Commentary, First Corinthians. It refers to the verse below.

Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. (1 Corinthians 14: 13-19)

Even in Corinth during the early church, believers had a tendency to lust after the more showy Spiritual gifts, particularly tongues. Tongues were actual languages believers could spontaneously utter, not having studied or having any knowledge of the language at all, yet could speak it perfectly. This was a sign to unbelievers, a fulfillment of a prophecy given in the Old Testament. (Isaiah 28:11).

However today, tongues are seen to be a babbling gibberish that comes directly from heaven and falls out of the mouth, (to the edification of no one) thereby bypassing the mind. However this is not correct.

"Spirituality involves more than the mind, but it never excludes the mind."

There are many spiritual activities today that directly exclude the mind. Contemplative prayer (or centering prayer) excludes the mind. How can this be? We are told to contemplate the Lord, (2 Corinthians 3:18, Psalm 48:9), so contemplation is good. We are told to pray, (Matthew 6:9-13), so prayer is good. How can both terms together not be doubly good? In the words of the inimitable Inigo Montoya,

THIS is how the unstable twist truth to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16). Putting together two commonly understood words but using them in a different way than is commonly understood is a bible twist. For example, praying mindlessly. Putting words together that are commonly understood but creating a different context for them through continued spiritual activity is another way that the truth is twisted. For example, babbling mindlessly.

So the "modern version" of tongues bypasses the mind, and contemplative prayer bypasses the mind, and neither are valid spiritual activities grounded in biblical truth. Another activity where the mind is bypassed is what the Southern Baptist Convention calls a 'private prayer language' AKA modern gibberish tongues uttered in the closet while praying. The notion is that when a person prays, God will sometimes utter gibberish that the speaker knows not the meaning of but is a direct communication between the Spirit indwelling the person and Jesus up above. Private prayer languages were explained (or attempted to be explained) back in 2006 when the SBC originally banned potential applicant missionaries if they confessed to speaking in glossolalia either public or private:
IMB board of trustees chairman Tom Hatley said that during candidate interviews, those who practiced a private prayer language gave differing explanations of it, varying from an angelic language to a "revelatory" gift of the Holy Spirit.
Thinking is what
clicks ON the Light
So, they don't really know what it is, only that they do it. All the more reason to refuse to accept it. Unfortunately last week the SBC re-accepted the applications of potential missionaries who pray in gibberish. Sad. Tongues being gibberish isn't supported by the Bible, the transformation of the biblical gift of tongues from a known language to today's gibberish in modern times isn't supported by the Bible, either. Possessing a Spiritual Gift and only using it for personal use isn't supported by the Bible. Employing a Spiritual gift through the heart or body only and not the mind also, isn't supported by the Bible. A Christian's walk uses the mind AND the heart.

Let's see what the Bible says about the mind.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2).

and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, (Ephesians 4:23).

Gill's Exposition explains that after salvation/justification, the "progress and carrying on the work of renovation, the renewing of them day by day in the spirit of their minds," i.e renewing the mind obviously includes the mind.

but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans 7:23)

Gill's again, says that "the new nature in us, the principle of grace wrought in his mind, is called the law of it, because it was the governing principle there;" Our transformation begins in the mind.

The heart is transformed, surely, but the governing principle is the mind. The new mind is equivalent to the new inner self. We have the mind of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Whenever you encounter an activity that exults in the fact that the mind is emptied, bypassed, marginalized, or in any way not fully engaged, it is a wrong activity. Because God's transformation of us begins in the mind, bypassing the mind is actually choosing to bypass His sanctifying efforts in us. Not only will we not increase in sanctification through contemplative prayer, speaking in gibbering tongues, uttering private prayer languages, walking prayer circles or labyrinths, chanting mantras, barking holy laughter, doing "holy" yoga, seeking visions in trances, any of that which denies the mind is actually denying the mind of Christ. These activities exalt the self because you are indulging the fleshly mind. (Colossians 2:18).

Back to the title, which is a quote from John MacArthur. The Bible shows us that sanctification involves more than the mind, but it never excludes the mind. Beware of activities that sound spiritual, but aren't. You will know they aren't healthy for you if they exclude the mind.

His mind is too precious to waste.



Friday, May 22, 2015

The reality of the first century church

We're often reminded that the early church was powerful, pure, and to be emulated. And certainly, the following verse is weighty on our consciences, and it's truly to be emulated. This was the church in its earliest days:

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (Acts 2:42)

This was the church in its early weeks.

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. (Acts 4:32)

But that purity was fleeting if it ever truly existed. In its earliest days, remember, Ananias and Sapphira were killed for lying to the Holy Spirit in front of the church. Though sin had always been present, because people were present, Ananias and Sapphira's act was the first overt, discoverable perfidy. Yet the myth of the pure church persists.

Now we look at the Church at Corinth. Paul had strongly admonished them, he'd used sarcasm, and he soundly chided the members who had gotten drunk at the Lord's Table, had divided into factions, had sought the 'better' spiritual gifts, had done all manner of things unbecoming to a believing church. And now the worst of all:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:12).


Some Christians were even denying the resurrection! The book of First Corinthians was written in about 55 AD, a mere twenty years after Our Lord's death and resurrection. Paul even mentioned in verse 6 many brethren who were still alive at the time that Jesus appeared to the 500! Yet some in "the early church" denied the verifiable fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! A "pure" church? Hardly.

When we read that the earliest church in its earliest days were all "of one mind" I think we would be startled to see how fleeting that was. From almost the very the beginning, sin and falsity lurked.

A parallel to this picture of sin crouching at the door can be seen in the Millennium Kingdom. After the Tribulation and Jesus' Second Coming, He sets up a kingdom in fulfillment of His promises to His people Israel. He personally rules on earth, with a rod of iron. The Temple is cleansed and sacrifices are ongoing. People come from all quarters of the earth, finally funneled down the Kings Highway to worship Jesus in person. The Church Saints are given tasks to perform, ruling and reigning with Jesus. Satan and his demons are locked up in the abyss. Ahhh, perfection.

Not so fast.

When satan is let out of the abyss at the end of the 1000 years, he gathers sinful people to his side in a rebellion that starts so fast it makes the head spin. All that while, when it seemed that people were at peace with Jesus, they weren't. They were sinning greatly in their hearts. All it took is the serpent to draw that poison out of them and he uses it to foment a revolution.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, (Revelation 20:7-19).

Sin!
So the point is that man's sin, even with satan's influence a total unknown to the people born people in the 1000-year kingdom, thus with satan's temptations completely absent from their lives, sin still lurks strongly in the heart of man- hiding. It's there, just as it was in the earliest church. Ananias and Sapphira tell us this, the believers at Corinth questioning the resurrection tell us this.

Here is Pulpit Commentary on 1 Cor:12-19. Bold & italics are mine.
The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our faith in the general resurrection. Verse 12. - Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead. St. Paul sees that if One has risen from the dead, the fact of that miracle, taken in connection with the rest of the gospel, furnishes Christians with a sufficient proof that they shall rise. "For," he had already said to the Thessalonians, "if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (see the same argument in Romans 8:11).

"That there is no resurrection of the dead". These deniers of the resurrection are usually called "the Corinthian Sadducees." After the state of social and moral laxity of which we have been reading, we can scarcely be surprised at the existence of any disorder or anomaly in the Church of Corinth. Yet it comes with something of a shock on our paralyzed sense of astonishment to read that some of these Christians actually denied a resurrection! The fact at once proves remarkable truths, namely,

(1) that the early Christian Church had none of the ideal purity of doctrine which is sometimes ecclesiastically attributed to it;
What does this tell us for today? Well, if your church is in disarray, as the church at Corinth was, you're in good company. Secondly, if we stop comparing our church with an idealized first century church we might be a little more content with our own. Third, being disaffected by or leaving our church for shallow reasons is really bad. No church is perfect, not even the first century church. It still astounds me that there were resurrection-deniers in the same generation witnesses as when Jesus was actually resurrected!

The pure church to emulate is the one where people sometimes sin, sometimes waver on foundational doctrines, love the word, love each other, forgive where necessary, repenting always, submitting to their elders, and worshiping together in in Spirit and in truth. Like the first century church did. 



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Is God a gentleman? The illusion of a Gentleman God



Facebook, blogs, and Twitter are interesting to me as a Christian. They are forums where I can read which doctrines fellow believers are thinking, saying, accepting and promoting. These forums afford me greater exposure to the believing, professing church than I ever would be exposed to otherwise. And it works in reverse too, anything I post will also be transparently exposed for other professing, believing church members to see and either accept or reject.

In one way it's great to see and experience the wider church, and in another sense it's sad. It is great for the obvious reasons. We tend to become myopic in our local assemblies. Visibly experiencing the wider church keeps us linked. It's a pure comfort to share the victories and Godly successes of others, even at a virtual distance.

On the sad side, I read abominable things. Many people believe and profess in "another Jesus", an altogether different Savior than the One revealed to us in scripture. Other people say ridiculous things on social media. That is the focus of this essay. People say the strangest things with a straight face. One of the ridiculous things I'm reading more and more often now is the following:

"God is a gentleman. He would never interfere with our free will."

People who say this obviously never read their bible much. On the face of it, this wrong-headed statement is easy to refute. God is certainly not a gentleman. He is God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:5). He drowned the entire world for sin. (Genesis 7:21). He killed Uzzah for touching the ark. (2 Samuel 6:7) He Threw Jonah into a fish. (Jonah 1:17). He killed Ananias and Sapphira on the spot in front of the church, for lying. (Acts 5:5, 10).

In the less visible example, it is still easy to refute. Our minds are blinded.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Worse, we are dead in our trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13).

We cannot freely "choose God". We should be grateful that He doesn't politely stand aside, never interfering with our free will, otherwise no one ever would be saved!

I searched for a credible and doctrinal essay to make the point about God not being a gentleman. I found a great one in Robert Bernecker's wonderful book, "Who's Your Father: Returning to the Love of the Biblical God." His Chapter 2 especially makes the point, gracefully, biblically, and firmly. PLEASE read the entire essay!!

For now, here are a few excerpts.

The Illusion of a Gentleman God
by Robert Bernecker
We sing songs such as the popular “Our God Reigns” with great enthusiasm and joy, and then we turn right around and teach that God does not in fact reign over the wills of humans, perhaps even in the very same church service. Do we believe he reigns or do we not?

From Genesis to Revelation, God freely interferes with human will to accomplish his own eternal purpose. Even the great sinful rebellion seen in Revelation 17 is said “to carry out God’s purpose” (v. 17). In regards to the choices and actions of the ten sinful, rebellious kings described in this passage, we are told explicitly that “God put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose” (v. 17), which in this case will be his inevitable conquering of these rebellious kings and people (v. 14).

The collective preponderance of these many Scriptures thoroughly dispels the notion that God is somehow a “gentleman” that is either unable or unwilling to turn the hearts and wills of humans (and thereby their choices) to accomplish his own purpose. In fact, Psalm 33:10 (NASB) teaches us the exact opposite: “The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.” We do not read that the Lord honors the counsel of the nations and carefully respects the plans of the people. Instead, we are told, “The Lord reigns, let the people tremble!” (Psalm 99:1). We should learn from Jeremiah, who declared his awareness of this glorious truth in Jeremiah 10:23: “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.”

Contrary to much popular teaching of our day, our Father clearly can and regularly does interfere with human free will. To our great loss, we have drifted far from the historic confession of God’s sovereign involvement in every facet of his creation. In fact, Augustine made no effort to conceal his disdain for any such suggestions that would artificially limit God’s ascendancy, and he wrote bluntly that it was “blasphemous” and “foolish” to assert that God does not change the wills of men whenever and however he chooses.4 We must repent of such foolishness, and we should instead praise our God that he does change our will! Many who profess that “God is a gentleman” have probably never considered the consequences of a world where God, for whatever reason they may assert, did not actually influence, change, and interfere with humanity’s fallen will. How horrible indeed that would be!