Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Moving to Wordpress

Well, I am moving on from Blogspot.  It's free, but not so easy to work with sometimes.  Impressed with Wordpress, so I'm moving there.  Here's my new lite address: http://thoughtsfrommyreformedself.com/

Saturday, June 25, 2011

It Takes No Faith to Believe a Loving God Will Save Lovable People

I haven't been working on my blogging lately.  I've been planning for the next homeschool year.  Both blogging and homeschool planning take the same creative level of my brain, a level with room for only one occupant.

But something has been on my mind to the point that the thoughts on the subject were starting to invade that part of my brain, and in order to get on with my educational pursuits, I had to empty my brain onto my blog.

When the bible talks about "storms", does it mean the "storms of life"?

I hear this a lot: "Jesus will give you the faith to face the 'storms of life'", as if faith is something primarily to help us through the hard times in this world.  And often when  you hear teachers teach on the passages of the bible concerning storms and floods, those teachers relate storms to the hardships in our life.  But is the faith God calls us simply faith to be saved from life's trials?  Is this what it means to be "saved"?

Lately, I've been paying close attention to all the passages containing tempestuous terminology.  Storms, floods, tempests, etc. seem usually (if not exclusively) to God's coming judgment--whether earthly or eternal.

There are too many passages to quote, but the first one that ought to come to everyone's mind is the flood that destroyed all life on earth except that life protected by the Ark.  But there are also numerous verses, through the Psalms and the Prophets, like this one:

"Behold the Storm of the Lord!
Wrath has gone forth
A whirling tempest;
it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back
until he has executed and accomplished
the plans of his mind.
In the latter days, you will understand this."
-Jeremiah 30:23,24
and also:

"Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. (Psalm 32:6)
And I suppose the most notorious is in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7, when Jesus preaches about the different ends to the house built on the rock and the one on built on the sand.  The test of these houses where when the rains fell and the floods came.  There is no biblical basis for believing Jesus was speaking of anything other than the last judgment.  In fact, he had just preached before that parable that not everyone who says to him "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven.  The context of the story points to the Last Day.

Our God is a Holy Terror

I recently saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, "On Stranger Tides".  There is this scene early in the movie where the pirate Blackbeard punishes a man by sending him off in a dinghy into the sea.  Blackbeard then turns the ship to follow the man and the dinghy somehow causes the ship to throw forward, out onto the water, tremendous flames of fire to consume the poor sailor and his little boat.

It was a truly horrifying scene--a scene designed to set up Blackbeard as a truly evil villain and bring us to a point where we would long for his demise at the end of the movie, but will our situation after death be much better than that sailor's unless we are saved by God's mercy through Jesus and his atonement on the cross?  But ever since I saw that movie, I can't get the verse out of my mind from Psalms, "Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around." (Psalm 97:3)  Judging from this and many similar passages of scripture that there would certainly be justification for us to be quite as terrified in his presence, filled with horror you would expect from any victim in the worst slasher movie you could imagine, multiplied times a thousand.  I'm quite sure I could easily fill a few pages of blog space writing about the modern euphemistic treatment of the term "fear-of-God".   Along with Hell, "fear of God" is a doctrine of which we've become ashamed and become compelled to explain it away.

God - A Schizophrenic Fellow?

Am I the only one that has noticed that, throughout scripture, God appears to go through some serious mood swings?  One minute God speaks with the voice of a husband enraged at his unfaithful wife, and the next minute he's writing love sonnets.  Well, not really love sonnets, but he speaks with eagerness for his people to turn back to him and shows that he longs for reconciliation.

Now any parent, if they consider carefully, would not find this schizophrenic but completely understandable.  Little stirs anger in the heart of parent as your kids become stubborn after being bad and act like they haven't done anything wrong and have no idea why you are so angry.  This is just a fraction of how God must feel when we've wronged him and we've rebelled in so many more ways than one--breaking his law daily, hourly even--and have a bent to love sin and hate righteousness.  And usually we're clueless to our fault, but like the child who remains stubbornly confused, this does not make us innocent in the matter.  Our clueless attitude only adds to God's rage.

Now you might comfort yourself saying, "But parents always long to be reconciled to our children!  We get angry, but long to give mercy."  I would say to you that you must consider that those who remain dead in their sins are not children of God, but children of the Devil. (John 8:44).  And we must examine the words of God carefully and not be too easily confident that we know which group we belong to.  Jesus spoke these words in John 8 to Jews who were quite confident that they were in God's favor simply because they were Jews.  What is your reasoning, and is it found in God's word?  I may be accused by some of encouraging people to "doubt their salvation", but surely the Apostles exhort us, as do I, to be "sure of our salvation".  There are many warnings throughout God's Word to those who have false assurance.

God has every right to be enraged with every one of us.  And we have every reason to be afraid of him.  Again, I ask those who are parents, is there anything that rings true in the repentance of a child who seems to have no true fear of what might happen if he does not repent? Fear of God is appropriate for everyone, including his children.  Perhaps especially his children.  Scripture speaks of the "God-fearing" as synonymous to the "righteous".

Does it Take Any Faith to Embrace a God who has no Wrath Towards Us?

Most consider themselves to be pretty good people, with good intentions.  We think that we fall short, not terribly short, but enough to need our bill paid.  And some think that God is just so in love with us that he had no problem dying on the cross for us.  I myself, for years, I considered myself a very likable person, lovable in fact.  If others didn't see that than they just needed to wake up, smell the coffee and realize what they've overlooked all these years.  This view has nothing to do with reality and ignores both the biblical view of the disgusting, wretched nature of our sin and the righteous wrath of God against that sin.

Some think that viewing God as wrathful went out of fashion after Jesus came.  Many, if only subconsciously, do not connect the God of the Old Testament with Jesus of the New Testament.  But God never changes.  The God of the Old Testament, when he speaks, is the same thing as Jesus speaking.  (Jesus is the Word, right?)  A God of Wrath is not just confined to the Old Testament.  Has anyone forgotten the God who turned over the money changer's tables or who cursed the fig tree (a symbol for the Temple in Jerusalem) because it bore no fruit?  Are we forgetting the Jesus who used terms like "brood of vipers" and "children of the Devil" to refer to some of his listeners?

"That is Not Huggable!"

I used to watch the TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond".  In one episode, Raymond is desperately taking every suggestion given him to tame the monthly mood swings of his outrageously hormonal wife.  In one scene, Debra delivers a furious raging speech about Raymond's insensitivity, that he's going about helping her in the wrong way.  She yells, "Have you ever considered giving me a hug!?"  He is speechless, slack-jawed in disbelief at her suggestion.  "A hug!!??  This... this is not huggable!!"

The scene is funny, because the suggestion is not only outrageous to Raymond but to most who are watching the show.  But is our call to faith in Jesus for our salvation any more outrageous?  Imagine being covered in sewage and you're told, "Go into that pristine room with white carpet and designer furniture, and they'll get you cleaned up in there."  Or even closer to home, you're responsible for the death of someone's child, and you're told that the father of that child hold's your only hope for escaping the death penalty.  And the father says that your only hope of forgiveness is to be covered in their child's blood.

This outrageous faith is the faith that will save us.  God grants us to see that it is as impossible for us to be saved as for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (or for the dead to be raised), and then through his word we receive faith that with God, all things are possible.

Is this the way the Gospel is presented today?  I seem to hear more about our need to have faith in a loving God to save lovable people. Do we need regeneration for such faith?  Can the spiritually dead among us have this kind of faith?  And does this kind of faith reflect, in any way whatsoever, the kind of faith the bible presents that we must have to please God?

Is this the kind of faith that can bring the spiritually dead to life:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8)

The kind of miraculous faith that is given only by God is the kind that will fortify us at Jesus' second coming.  When others are asking the rocks to fall on them so they can hide themselves and are casting their idols into the fire in a last-ditch effort to receive God's favor, we will amazingly raise our arms and expect to be lifted up, eager to be received by him, confident, through faith, that we will indeed be saved.

"'...but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.'  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls."  (Hebrews 10:38-39)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Modern Myth of the Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

I used to have a very skewed idea of God’s holiness and our lack of holiness.  I was taught that just one sin would be enough to fall short of God’s glory and be condemned to Hell.  This might be so, but will we ever know?  No one has ever lived in all of history who is qualified to test this theory.  But when I viewed in my mind's eye this poor, hypothetical sinner who snuck a cookie and was condemned to Hell, it seems to present a view of God as a deity with a cosmic case of OCD.  So it seemed to me that in this world existed a spectrum of sinners, from the most wicked to the I-tried-my-best-but-it-just-wasn’t-good-enough that would all be doomed to fail to please an unappeasable God. 

When it Comes to Poison, What You Can’t See Can Hurt You

Now true, God does have high standards (“be holy as I am holy”), but even were he to lower them by quite a bit, we wouldn’t make the cut.  When he said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees”, he wasn’t saying, “They’re doing great, but you need to do even better.”  He actually described the religious leaders as white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. 1  Gross…

Would Jesus give me a better assessment?  Some of what comes out, in word and deed, doesn’t seem that bad.  It’s sort of a mixed bag, right?  But the bible doesn’t describe “mixed bags”.  There are good trees that bear good fruit, and bad trees that bear bad fruit.  There are fresh-water springs and salt-water springs.  We have this contaminated water coming out, and the reason that it’s contaminated is the sewage beneath the surface that we can’t see that’s coming in contact with the water.  So what everyone else sees is just the tip of the iceberg.  God sees the heart, so he can see the rottenness at the root, the sewage at the source, the rest of the iceberg. 

God’s Portrait of the Average Sinner

Some of the imagery God uses to describe us and our “lovers” (our idols) and all our works (including what we consider good works) without his cleansing work (by no means whatsoever an exhaustive list, and I provide references for at least one instance of each, but some of these are used multiple times throughout the Bible):
  •            Prostitution (Entire Book of Hosea)
  •          Cannibalism (Isaiah 9:19-21)
  •         Bruises, sores and raw wounds from head to toe, with not one sound spot. (Isaiah 1:6)
  •        Menstrual cloths (euphemistically translated “unclean things” (Isaiah 30:22)
  •        Dung (euphemistically translated “rubbish”) (Philippians 3:8)
  •        White washed tombs full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27-28)
  •         Desert wasteland (Isaiah 51:3)
  •         A Donkey in heat (Jeremiah 2:24)
  •         A horse that will not come without bit or bridle (Psalm 32:9)
  •         Fuel for the fire (Isaiah 9:19)

Are we to believe God is guilty of exaggeration?  Or do we believe by faith that God is describing the reality to which our pride blinds us.  Consider this. Jesus said anger is murder. 2  He did not mean that, though anger is a relatively small sin, it still falls short of his perfectionistic standards.  He is saying that God, who sees the heart, sees actual murderous thoughts in our heart and is disgusted, just as we are disgusted by the acts of those who murder a person physically.  And if we could see them as clearly as God, we should certainly agree. 

Jesus Was Not Teaching Anything New in the Sermon on the Mount

Some teach that through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-8), Jesus innovated a new way to teach God’s law, insisting we see beyond the letter of the law and consider the spirit of the law.  But when you search the Old Testament, you will see that God has always measured the heart:

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit.” (Proverbs 16:2)

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the LORD sees not as a man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

Some teach this as if it were good news.  They deceive their hearers.  Do we really think God is going to be impressed with what he finds in any of our hearts?  The villain who, deep down, is “just an old softy” may exist in the world of the Saturday morning ABC special or the Hallmark movie of the week, but if you believe that anyone has something better going on inside than what they present on the outside, then you reject God’s Word.   Our heart is compared to a spring and our words and actions are what flow out of it.  Also our words and actions are compared fruit that come from a correlating tree. Nowhere does scripture ever describe anyone as having a better heart than they outwardly appear.  He only warns of those that seem to have it the other way around, bad heart, but keeping up outward appearances.

“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs?  Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”  (James 3:10-12)

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.”  (Matthew 7:15-17)

As the second passage implies, we can cover up our uncleanness, fool others (and ourselves) about our sin.  We can cover our “wolfishness” with innocent clothing.  Isn’t it funny that we never get warned about sheep’s in wolf’s clothing?  They’re prolific in television and film, but they are as mythic a creature as unicorns and fairies. 

Jeremiah vs. The Prosperity Preachers

Jeremiah 29:11 is used all the time as a verse to prove that God’s plans for us are always to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future.  But if this was a promise to be universally applied, then can someone tell me why the 28 preceding chapters are chock full of God’s threats of famine, destruction, and harm of every sort?

Jeremiah was not the only preacher in Israel, but he was the only one warning of the coming judgment.  Jeremiah 8 describes that Jeremiah opposed the great number of teachers in Israel who “heal the wound of my people lightly, saying ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace.”  He said people had forgotten how to blush (8:12).  They were acting like a prostitute in God’s eyes, but they preferred teachers who told them they would not be judged.  “You’re God’s chosen.  He only has good plans for you!”   But God said about his “chosen” in Jeremiah 8:13 “When I would gather them, declares the Lord, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered and what I gave them has passed away from them.”  (This is a warning fulfilled in the siege on Jerusalem soon to come, and Jesus later echoes this prophecy by cursing the fruitless fig tree (the Temple in Jerusalem) predicting the destruction of the temple and sacking of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.)

Preachers Who Say You are Without Sin Deceive You, and the Truth is Not in Them

The Religious leaders brought Jeremiah up on charges of treason for speaking doom on his own countrymen and on his king.  But he was only saying what the Lord had already said.  According to Jeremiah 8:8, these people really believed they were doing okay and that they were pleasing to God.  They said, “We are wise and the law of the Lord is with us,” which they had been taught by the “lying pen of the scribes”.  Their teachers flattered their hearers and twisted God’s word, highlighting their status as God’s chosen, but never preaching against their sin, never teaching that God should be feared.  Israel thought they were safe and it was those sinners out there that had to fear God’s judgment.  In other words, they had great self-esteem, but were on the broad road to destruction.

Are the words of Jeremiah against the prophets who deceived and refused to give warning any different from Paul’s warning to Timothy? 

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

How do you know God has made your blind eyes see?  You’ll finally see your sin for what it is

Paul explains in Romans 2 that we see sin clearly in others but are blind to our own sin.  We are prone to judge others for the very same sin we ourselves practice.  If we were aware of our own sin, we would not be quickly judging others.  The fact that we judge others proves that we are blind to our own sin.  This same thing is also addressed by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount2.  We clearly see our brother’s eye, but are blind to the log in our own eye.

David recognized this truth, as he penned under the inspiration of God’s Spirit:

“Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his yes.  For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.” (Psalm 36:1,2)

When you read in His Word how God sees the sin in our heart, you must believe in faith the picture God has given of our sin, accept that we are unable to perceive the weight of it unless he grants it to us. For instance, scripture constantly compares idolatry (a sin that could never be committed against us since we do not deserve to be worshiped) to adultery (a sin that we humanly can grasp, as far as how offensive it is).  There is extremely descriptive language throughout the writings of the Old Testament prophets.  The imagery used to describe our faithless, wandering hearts would disgust any person of average sensibilities.   We must believe by faith that friendship the World is enmity towards God and the same as committing adultery. (James 4:4)

Also consider this passage.  God compares Israel’s infighting to cannibalism:

“Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts the land is scorched, and the people are like fuel for the fire; no one spares another.  They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours the flesh of his own arm, Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh; together they are against Judah.  For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 9:19-21)

Actually, this goes beyond cannibalism.  God sees Israel as a person devouring his own flesh.  Doesn’t this remind us the apostolic teaching that believers are all individual members of one body and should treat each other with the same consideration that we would our own flesh?  And indeed, Paul warned “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:15)  We have to simply have faith in his word that if we backbite and gossip, we are no better than cannibals.

Who shall rescue me from this body of death?

Our darkened sinful mind is not able to see our own heart as it is, nor see our sin for what it is.  James says the word of God is a mirror.  It’s the only truthful mirror available for seeing our own heart.   

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:23-25)

The law gives liberty?  Really?  Yes!  As we read God’s law and “receive with meekness  the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (James 1:21)  It will slay the old nature, as we feel the weight of God’s judgment on that sin, and accept in faith the death of that sin on the cross.  We consider how Christ has already borne that sin.  As we abide in his Word, we see the truth and the truth sets us free (John 8:31-32), as we see the horror of the honest picture of our sin as it is brought into God’s light.  And, God willing, we gradually grasp, in our limited ability, and that granted by God, the misery our sin brought upon our Savior as he suffered the cross. 

As we humbly accept God’s view of our sin, we come into agreement with He who hates our sin.  We cease our striving against the judge and seek redemption through our Savior.  He is gracious and merciful and abounding in steadfast love.

“”Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah1:18)

By God’s message, by the Gospel, we are saved (justification), are being saved (sanctification), and will be saved from the final judgment (our final redemption).  But God’s perfect law prepares us to receive his promise of Salvation.  Can we receive God’s salvation, can we truly say we are believing in him to save us if we’ve never seen we’re lost?

Will your Doctrine stand up to the fires of Judgment Day? 

God’s Word is replete with warnings to those who are self-deceived, who treat the Day of Judgment lightly, who hope his judgment will come speedily, but do not consider what this day might be like for them.  Remember Jesus warns (Matthew 7:21-23) that many in that day will say “Lord, Lord,” and he will say “I never knew you.”   Consider those in Israel who continued with the temple sacrifice and kept on sinning, who made light of their sin because they figured the sacrifices would cover them, God said, “What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds?  Can even sacrificial flesh avert your doom?” (Jeremiah 11:15)

But you might say, “Well, that was the blood of bulls and goats.  The blood of Christ is more powerful.  It covers more than the temple sacrifices did.”  Does it really?  We only are covered by faith in the blood.  I do not pour the physical blood of Christ over me.  Our faith looks backward to the cross.  Their faith looks forward to the cross.  Their faith was not in the blood of the lambs, bulls and goats.  Their faith was to be in God as their salvation, who provided this salvation through Christ.

When Israel ceased to fear God and just go through the motions of what they were told would cover their sin, God responded in this way:

“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls or of lambs, or of goats.  When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?  Bring no more fain offerings; incense is an abomination to me… they (the sacrifices and feats appointed by God, of which they went through the motions devoid of faith) have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.  When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.  Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good.”  (Isaiah 1:12-17a)

The Bible makes it clear, we are saved by faith alone, but saving faith is never alone.  The fruit of repentance are good works.  We cannot purpose or will these good works.  But if we do not see the fruit, we need to cry out to God for a new and living root, for new life.

Many claim to follow Christ but have never had their eyes opened to the vile nature of our sin.  Why is this important?  If Christ paid the debt, how does it matter how big the debt was, as long as it was paid off?  There are so many reasons, but there’s only one I’ll address right now.  Jesus said of the woman who anointed him with expensive perfume that she loved much because she was forgiven much.  He said that he who is forgiven little, loves little.  (Luke 7:36-50)  Now that is not to say that this woman sinned more than Simon, who Jesus rebuked.  

Simon had already performed the equivalent of “accepting Jesus” of “asking him in” and then expecting to be blessed for it.  But did he see he was a sinner? It was the woman’s sins that were more overt. She could not hide the fact that she sinned much.  The peril is so much greater for those whose greatest sins are easily hidden.  Those who do not see the gravity of what Jesus carried for them will not love Jesus as they ought.  And they also will hate sin as God does, because it “crucifies again the Son of God” (Hebrews 6:5-6)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Does Psalm 119 Teach Salvation Comes By Keeping the Law? | The Resurgence

Does Psalm 119 Teach Salvation Comes By Keeping the Law? | The Resurgence

Came across this article. This addresses much that had confused me for years about this particular psalm. I don't think I've ever heard anybody address this seeming discrepancy in the Bible, but it's one that had bothered me for years.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jesus Drank from the Cup of a Prostitute

First of all, I apologize to any readers of mine that go to a church that follow the liturgical calendar.  I know that the subject matter lately has been much more appropriate for Lent, not finishing up the Easter season.

That being said...remember in the Garden of Gethsemene when Jesus prayed, "Father take this cup from me"?  I suppose I've always thought of the cup as the cup of suffering, as in the physical suffering of the cross.  And certainly that was horrible enough and was part of it.  But Jesus was about to take the sin of the World upon him, and along with it, God's judgment.

I came across a passage in Ezekiel describing God's judgment on Jerusalem and Samaria for turning to Egypt for help and loving Egypt's ways more than they loved God and his ways.  This could be seen as the judgment that would be on any of us for loving the world more than God, so justly, the description of this judgment could apply to any sinner.
"'You have gone the way of your sister, therefore I will give her cup into your hand.'  Thus says the Lord God: 'You shall drink your sister's cup that is deep and large; you shall be laughed at and held in derision, for it contains much; you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow.  A cup of horror and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria; you shall drink it and drain it out.'"  (Ezekiel 23:31-34)
To imagine this being said to Jesus, to imagine the tone of the Father, the disgust in his voice.  He should be disgusted with us, not the spotless lamb.  To think of Jesus bearing the turning away of the Father is one thing.  To imagine that the Father turned away in disgust... I can hardly bear the thought.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fighting for the Faith: Special Edition: The Cult-Like Hostile Takeover Tactics of the Purpose-Driven Church Transitioning Seminar

Fighting for the Faith: Special Edition: The Cult-Like Hostile Takeover Tactics of the Purpose-Driven Church Transitioning Seminar

This is very, very interesting. This is not directly related to my recent blogs. Just something I came across recently that I wanted to share. I hope everyone who is able will listen to this. This describes several business-school, non-biblical philosophies that are taking over churches, not just mega-churches. The church needs to be aware of these threads of thought so they can recognize them when they appear in their own congregation's philosophies of "doing church".

Self-Loathing Pt. 2 -- How to Enjoy Bible Spinach

I just finished watching Julie and Julia.  I’ve seen it twice.  The first time I saw it, I went through a wanting-to-cook-like-a-gourmet phase.  It didn't last long.  My obsessions are usually short-lived, but there are exceptions.
For instance, I love to write.  I rattle off a thousand words without missing a beat (much to the chagrin of some readers; I try to edit many back out).  My notebook is filled with idea jots for more articles than I have time to write.  I have enough material to fill a book, but not the inclination to be published I suppose.  Blogs are just about the right length for the modern attention span anyway, including my own.  And sometimes I wish I could blog like normal people do, like Julie did in the movie I just watched.  She would just write about her life.  She keeps it light, amusing and fluffy… I never do.
I just don’t have it in me.  I have about enough fluff capacity to sustain me through a decent Facebook post, but not enough to fill a blog.  I think it’s because of my other obsession.  I have had an approximately 35-year obsession with God’s Word.  I really don’t ever get tired of it and it’s becoming strangely addictive.   The Bible has become incredibly fascinating as I’m starting to learn that it says so many things completely different than what many have claimed.  Every time I find out it teaches something different from what I've heard half my life, I become intrigued.  I want to dig further to find out how else it’s been misquoted and misused.
Is Repentance Only for the Outwardly Wicked?

Here’s an example of something I've heard but can't find in the Bible.  Can anyone tell me where it says in the Bible that you need to pray and ask Jesus into your heart?  Is that step to our salvation written anywhere in God’s word?  Jesus commanded the Apostles to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name and this pattern of preaching they faithfully followed.  The call to repentance always preceded forgiveness.  

The rich young ruler asked how he may inherit eternal life and Jesus went straight to the law.  Why the law?  Why didn’t Jesus say, “Believe in me and be saved”?  But can someone be “saved” if he is ignorant of his peril?

Look at the average “personal testimony” offered to show that Christianity “works” (think product testimonial).  The convert on display is usually someone who was “living like the devil”--hooked on drugs, or promiscuous, or prodigal in some other way.  And the proof that Jesus “worked” is their cleaned-up life.  But isn’t that just the outside of the cup?  Where is the call to repentance to the Pharisee who’s always done his best and lived a clean life? 

What’s the Use of All those Angry Passages of the Bible?

I have a confession to make about how I used to read the Bible.  I used to skip past all the parts of about God’s wrath and threats of judgment because, of course, that didn’t apply to me because I was not under judgment, being a Christian.  I would read some parts of the law because those showed me sometimes how I should live.  I would mine it for life tips and good advice.  Then I would proceed to soak in passages describing God’s mercy and love and all the promises of blessing. 

But how could this be correct handling of God’s word?  Do I just give lip service to the idea that all God’s word is useful for correcting, reproving, etc.? I recently have learned things that make me see how very useful these uncomfortable passages are, and how relevant to me, if I let God's Spirit do his work.  God brings us to knowledge of our sin and our need of salvation, we repent, then he speaks his comfort and his salvation to us.  This is the pattern through all of scripture. 

An Exhortation to Self-Loathing

Consider this gem I found in Ezekiel 20:

For on my Holy Mountain (meaning Jerusalem but can also be read as Jesus, the mountain of God’s salvation, the little rock from Daniel’s dream that smashed all kingdoms and filled the earth as a great mountain)…There I will accept you… as a pleasing aroma I will accept you.  (And how could they have a pleasing aroma?  God has just listed before this passage a litany of their rebellion.  To be accepted, they must be covered by the propitiation of Christ’s blood through faith, looking forward to the Cross.)… And there you shall remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves, and you shall loathe yourselves for all the evils you have committed.  And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you (here it comes , he’s going to let them have it, right?  I mean nothing good can possibly come from them viewing themselves so negatively!  How is he going to deal with them?) I will deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways nor according to your corrupt deeds.” 

So the Word of God came to the Israelites, who were still doing all the “right things” as far as sacrifices, but expecting the sacrifices to be in payment for sin that they were making light of, expecting forgiveness with no repentance.  He prophesied their repentance, their eventual response to his judgment, his chastisement--repentance being a proper attitude regarding themselves and their sin, loathing themselves, loathing their sin) and he would receive them for his name’s sake.

The Use of the Word in Crucifying the Flesh

Don't get me wrong.  This is not a formula.  This is just how God works, both in saving and sanctifying us.  The Spirit brings low the pride of man through His word.  He also grants repentance.  You cannot simply decide to repent.  But humbly receive his Word because “the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.”  Paul did not write this to caution us against reading God's Law.  But we do need the letter to kill, to crucify the flesh, to kill the old man, to slay sin.  It is the Sword of the Spirit to slay the flesh.  And this is why Jesus gave the answer he did to the rich young ruler.

This is the mortification of the flesh of which Paul speaks, the only God-ordained way to make headway in our struggle with our sinful nature, to lay the ax to the root of our sin.  This is not the monkish mortification of “do not taste, do not touch” which, according to Paul, are destined to perish with use.  This mortification of our old nature comes by the Spirit through the Word.  Humbly receive the Word implanted in you, including his law, his judgment.  Take it upon yourself and feel its weight.  There’s a wonderful spinach-like quality to reading it, to cleanse the system which has only feasted on dessert but skipped its vegetables.

Jesus spent most of his teaching in such a way to bring on repentance.  He wanted people scared. He wanted to put the fear of God into us, to shake those who were confident in their own righteousness.  Look at the Sermon on the Mount!  I can’t believe that I memorized this whole thing at one point and managed to not be scared to death by it!  He spoke about human anger and it’s propensity to get you thrown into Hell.  He spoke about God’s judgment and that we will be shown as much mercy as we’ve shown others.  (Yikes!!)  He spoke about a broad road to destruction and plucking out eyes to avoid Hell.  He spoke of those who would be swept away in the flood of judgment because we got everything right but the foundation.
Please Lord, give me more fear.  How dare I not fear your judgment?  Let your Word make me tremble.  And you said in your word that we would look on you whom we have pierced and would mourn as for a firstborn.  Lord I do not do that!  I cry for Disney cartoon movies, but I am embarrassed to admit that I can read the story of you dying for my sins and remain dry-eyed.  I look at you on the cross and see it as your role in my life.  It’s what you did to save me.  But I do not comprehend it, how it’s an abomination for you to have been nailed to it, how it’s an abomination for me to have been pardoned.  Show it to me Lord.  Let me hate sin like I ought and not love the World. 

“…the choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin… Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.  Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with him, will not excuse you from this work.” - From Mortification of Sin, by John Owen