Monthly Archives: November 2013

Surviving the Passion

Christ's PassionTruly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me, the works that I do he shall do also, and greater works than these he shall do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12)

I remember walking out of the theatre after seeing “The Passion of the Christ” and hearing one man say, “No man could survive that.” My thought was, “Was he saying, as many believe, that it didn’t happen?” Or did he mean that Jesus was not a man and that He survived by His supernatural power? The answers to those questions have important implications for all of us.
Surviving

To the first point, the idea that Christ’s passion did not happen contradicts the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts and classical Christian orthodoxy as revealed in the scriptures. It did happen. The veracity of the gospels has never been successfully challenged. In accord with standard literary tests of historical accuracy for ancient documents, the gospels are unparalleled both in terms of the volume of manuscript evidence and the proximity in time of the manuscripts to the actual events. Christ’s crucifixion is also verified by a number of extra biblical contemporary historians, most notably Josephus. Additionally, we must consider the cost paid by the gospel writers as evidence of the reliability of their work. Would all of them suffer torture and martyrdom for a lie, when all that they had to do was recant? Not a single one changed their account. We should reject the notion that Christ’s scourging and crucifixion did not happen. The scourging is recorded in Mt. 27:26-30. It was a fulfillment of what was prophesied and recorded by Isaiah in chapter 53 of the Old Testament book of Isaiah, written almost 700 years before Christ.

To believe that Jesus endured the cross simply because He is God is to believe a half truth. We must not forget that Jesus came as God in the flesh. Christian orthodoxy teaches that Jesus endured the limitations of a man. He was and is completely God and completely man. The Genesis prophecy of His birth was that Christ would be of the “seed of the woman.”(Gen. 3:15) John’s testimony was that Jesus is the “Word made flesh.”(John. 1:14) (Note that the original text is “the Word” not “a word” from the Greek “Logos”, meaning universal or unifying principle, being a reference to deity.) Jesus claimed that He only accomplished His miracles by the power of His Father, that is, not by His own power. (John 5:19) He referred to Himself as the Son of Man to emphasize his humanity. The book of Hebrews reminds us that He was “tempted as we are.” (He. 4:15)

We need to understand, theologically speaking, that in order to satisfying the sacrificial requirements of the second Adam (He. 2:14-18), Christ had to come as a man and lay aside the privileges of deity, as explained in Philippians 2:6-8: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” His humbling was illustrated in washing His disciple’s feet at the last supper. In forfeiting the privileges of deity, He refused temptations to use supernatural power for His own selfish needs. He rejected Satan’s invitation to use supernatural power to legitimize His identity. He rejected the mocker’s plea to remove Himself from the cross.

Jesus had no sin nature to battle with. But His ability to survive the passion as a man is attributed to the indwelling Spirit of God. Thus, the second option is really a half truth. He did overcome by supernatural power, but not His own. What is important to us is that Jesus promised that same supernatural power to those who would believe in Him. By cleansing the filthy temple of our mortal bodies by His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus made a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God. Other men did survive similar torture. History is full of miraculous accounts of Christian martyrs.  Jesus told His disciples they would drink of His cup of suffering.  (Mt. 20:23) All were martyred but one. Paul survived being stoned and had been given up for dead.  (Acts 14:19)

The Bible references the empowering, indwelling Holy Spirit as Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) Jesus promised His followers that, “you will do greater things.” (John. 14:12) Jesus did many miraculous things and he promised that we would do greater things! Those great things can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible promises that we can “do all things through Christ.” (Phil 4:13) That requires surrender to God’s will and death to self interest. Jesus said, “Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:3)

Kiss feet

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What’s Wrong With Pre-marital Sex?

We have reaped the results of the sexual revolution that was encouraged by easy birth control, including elective abortion. The fruit of this revolution has been marriage and family breakdown, to the point that roughly half of all marriages end in divorce and 42% of children have no father in the home. This breakdown has and will have devastating consequences for society. As in a typical downward spiral, this bad experience with marriage has resulted in an increasing unwillingness to marry, further encouraging people to be sexually active outside marriage.

What does God say about sex outside marriage? How should Christians respond to non-Christians who ask the common question, “What’s wrong with sex before marriage?” We have to make it clear from the start that God, in love, has given us a good plan to enjoy sex. Unfortunately, some Christians have given the impression that all sex or any physical enjoyment is evil. We have to belay that notion, which really has more to do with early Greek pagan dualism than what God reveals in his Word, the Bible. The physical body is not evil. In fact, God says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Ps. 139:14) God created a physical universe, including sex, and He said it was all good. Adam and Eve were naked and felt no shame. They had no guilt attached to their sexuality. Jesus took upon Himself a physical body, thus revealing God’s plan to redeem the physical universe. The “kingdom to come” is not in heaven, but will be here on earth! The sexual urge is God-given. Pleasure is God’s idea, not the devil’s. One writer has likened sex to fire: it’s a very pleasing thing in the fireplace, but if you start a fire in the middle of the living room, you may burn the house down.

The Bible teaches that sexual intimacy should take place within the bounds of a covenant marriage.  In fact, in the Bible, sexual intimacy is revealed as a form of communication. When referring to married people having sex, it will often say that so and so “knew” their spouse. The Bible teaches that sex is much more than just a physical act.

Being equipped to answer someone about this question requires an understanding of what sex really is. Sex is not just a bodily function as with animals. Do you know what is wrong with most public school sex education programs? They start in science class by teaching that we are just animals that evolved, that we are not specially created in the image of God, with a spirit and that we are intended to be a reflection of our Creator. Once they have the children convinced that they are just animals whose lives have no special purpose, then they teach them all about sex as just another “natural” bodily function. So, why not indulge?

We are not like the animals. We are made in the image of God. We are spiritual creatures.  We have a soul. Sex is not just a physical act, but a life uniting act. 1Cor 6:16 says, “Do you not know that he who is joined to an harlot is one with her? For the two shall become one flesh, says the Lord.” God knows that sex must involve commitment to work properly. Therefore, His plan is that sex take place only in marriage.

That leads to the question of what is a marriage in God’s eyes. As described in God’s word, marriage is intended to be a life long covenant. A true biblical covenant is witnessed and confirmed in submission to God ordained authority, that is, the church and the state. A wedding is a public expression of commitment. Marriage is intended to be a reflection of God’s relationship with His people. It should be public and permanent. When Jesus spoke on marriage, He referred back to the creation account: “A man will leave his father and mother, cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) This creation account reveals an intended progression. Leaving comes first. It implies a public act of commitment first. Then there is uniting. This is more than just sex. It involves communion. Only then do the two become one. Marriage is God’s plan for commitment. It is not just a piece of paper as some so glibly state in seeking to dodge commitment. Life uniting intent is evidenced by marriage, not engagement.

God warns against distortions of His plan. God’s plan was distorted by sin, which affects every area of our lives, including sex. Adultery includes all rebellion against God. Spiritual adultery is the root of all sin. As the heart wanders from God, it will surely wander from the mate. Sinful sex is just a symptom of an adulteress heart. As the heart grows cold towards God, there remains a void which leads the sinner to start looking for something to replace God. This cycle leads to compulsions, addictions, and even demonic control.

What’s wrong with premarital sex between singles? The answer requires an understanding of what sex really is. Sex is a life uniting act. It unites body, soul and spirit. Without life uniting commitment, both parties get injured. Any dissociation of the physical from the spiritual aspects of sexual activity invariably leads to dissociation of sex and commitment. Sex outside of God’s plan in marriage brings physical and spiritual death. God is not a kill joy. He warns against premarital sex because it hurts people. People hurt themselves. Premarital sex destroys a person’s understanding of who they are. 1Cor. 6:18 says that a person who commits sexual immorality sins against their own body. Illicit sex destroys one’s understanding of what we are created for, to be the temple of God.

Unfortunately, many people have already made the mistake of not following God’s plan and have been hurt. As believers, we need to make sure that people understand that the good news is that God has sent Jesus to restore us. He came to save us from sin. He didn’t come to condemn the world, but He brought forgiveness and healing, and the power to resist temptation.

We are not called as Christians to go about condemning pagans for their sins. As unbelievers come to know us and desire to have the spiritual peace that we know, they will ask about these difficult topics, such as pre-marital sex. When they ask, speak the truth in love. You must present both the law and the gospel. The good news is not good news until people know the truth and recognize their sinful condition. Only then can we offer forgiveness and grace.

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True Worship

“And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire. And those who had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are Your ways, O King of saints. Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You only are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your righteousnesses were made known. And after these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony was opened in Heaven.” (Revelation 15:2-5 MKJV)

This is true worship. Worship opens the way into the holy of holies, the place where we meet God. Worship begins with praise, thanks and adoration. To be passionate for God, one must be able to express emotion. We should worship because it comes from the heart. It must be more than just an act of the will. Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Mt. 15:8) David was passionate. He danced before God. His wife, Michal mocked him and was judged for it; she remained barren as a sign of her spiritual barrenness. The symbolism is obvious; there will be no fruit without passion. The Holy Spirit is restoring intimacy to our worship; there is a God orchestrated shift to songs like the Psalms directed to God as opposed to songs about Him as though He were not in our midst.  Real passion for God should create new songs. New expressions of love and adoration are fresh bread to our spirits. We glorify God by enjoying Him. We should seek Him hedonistically like a thirsty deer seeks a stream, for the joy of knowing Him. Selfish interest for this kind of pleasure is a gift from God.Bow down

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Thy Kingdom Come

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Mat 6:10)

The idea of God’s kingdom on earth is a classical Christian belief. Christians affirm this belief in the Apostles Creed: He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”. In modern western Christian thinking the concept of salvation is usually confined to the spiritual realm. We usually think of salvation in terms of a personal relationship with Christ by faith. We rarely discuss the idea of a progressive fulfillment of the concept to the physical earthly realm. We tend to think of heaven as the goal. But, biblically speaking, salvation is the restoration of the entire creation. That restoration starts with the individual spirit, but it will progress to the entire physical creation. Biblical salvation ends with the physical realm; the restoration of Eden.

Restoration is not accomplished in a single moment.  Quoting George Ladd, “The Kingdom of God belongs to the age to come. Yet the age to come has overlapped with this present age. We may taste its powers [Lazarus] and thereby be delivered from this age and no longer live in conformity to it.” The focus of the modern western Church has changed. The common message is usually about how to escape hell and get to heaven. It shows up in how we evangelize.  We ask questions such as, “Are you going to heaven?” or  we invite people to come to Jesus and get healing, peace, prosperity or some other personal benefit. You don’t very often hear an evangelist say, “Come to Jesus and die to yourself.”  Most Christians are not expecting His imminent return and the establishment of an earthly Kingdom.

The hope of the early church was, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live discreetly, righteously and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,….” (Tit 2:11-13) Jesus will rule on earth with His church. (Rev. 20:4-5; Zech 14:16) God created the earth for a dwelling place with man. His plans are not frustrated; He is not a loser; He doesn’t have a plan B.

God’s church will not be raptured away from this world in defeat.  God saves the best for last. The wedding in Cana was a type of the wedding of the bride to come. Just when we think that the wine is all gone, Jesus will perform His great miracle. He is the Creator and He is always doing something better. (Hag. 2:6-9)

But God’s people perish for lack of or a wrong vision. Our focus should be preparing for the Kingdom. Jesus will return when the gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the whole earth. (Mt. 24:14) Heaven will hold Him until He has made His enemies His footstool. (He. 10:12-13) Our part is to hasten the day of His coming. (2Peter 3:12)

How do we prepare the way? Do what Jesus told us to do. Make disciples, not converts, teaching them to obey the things that Jesus taught. (Mt. 28:19-20) Preach that the Kingdom is at hand and serve.  (Mt. 10:7-8) That requires being a preserving influence, being salt and light. We must be involved. It is disheartening to see so many Christians not involved in the battle. We are in a struggle for the culture and too many are silent. God has granted us a gift of having a voice in our civil government, but too many believe it is unspiritual to be involved in the fight. The kind of government we have will influence the kind of soil that we sow our seed in. The scriptures teach that God has prepared good works for you in advance. We are to expose darkness by turning on the light.

We must walk in true holiness, not phony legalism, loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbor as our self. The task is attainable in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:16)

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