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Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos
Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead
There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
| Thoughts on Hebrews 6 as I prepare to preach on verses 4-8
|The author of Hebrews tells us that the things God commanded Israel on Mt. Sinai were ,"only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things." (Hebrews 10:1b).
In other words the temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices symbolized the good things to come. Whatever else may be included in the good things to come, we can be sure that the arrival of the Messiah, and the New Covenant are chief amongst them.
Looking back, we can see how the Mosaic Covenant prepared Israel (and the rest of the world for that matter) for both the New Covenant and the coming Messiah. The Law revealed to Israel who was a sinner, and also who was not. All of Israel sinned, but Jesus did not. By the Law we can disqualify every false Messiah, and identify the true Messiah, for only He was (or could be) without sin.
We don't often think of the Mosaic Covenant in terms of that which would eventually identify the Messiah - yet, that is one of the things that the Law did - it revealed Jesus as the only one able to keep the law, and thus qualified Him as the Messiah. The imagery of the Messiah's work in the reconciliation of God's people to God was displayed in the temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices. These pictured what the Messiah would eventually do to reconcile God's people to Himself.
In the opening verses of Romans 8 we read:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [NASB]
The law identified you as a sinner, and condemned you to death. It did not make anyone righteous, because no one could keep it. Drill this thought into your understanding - even if you could keep the Law, doing so would not make you righteous. The Law cannot do that. You had to already be righteous in order to keep the law. Jesus kept the law because He was righteous.
The Law identified Jesus as the Messiah, and as the Messiah Jesus fulfilled all the things in the Law (including all that the Law pictured). The Law was waiting to be fulfilled by the Messiah, and once the Law was kept, God became obligated to keep His covenant with the one who kept the law: Jesus.
In that sense, once Christ kept the Law, God's covenant with Israel was "spent" - it had done all that it was meant to do, and could do: It identified the Messiah, foreshadowed His ministry, paved the way for the new/final/eternal covenant, and obligated God to bless Jesus with all the promised blessings of all previous covenants between man and God.
It is important to note that at the time this epistle was written many Jews and Gentiles understood Christianity to be another form of Judaism. You were a Pharisee was a Jew as was a Sadducee. In the same way the sect of the Nazarenes was considered just another Jewish sect.
In Acts 24, where the lawyer Tertullus is making a case before the Roman Governor Felix against the Apostle Paul, he refers to Paul as a ringleader of the sect of Nazarenes. In Acts 28, Paul arrives in Rome to discover that the Jews there have heard nothing bad about him, but wanted to hear what he had to say, "concerning this sect..."
Make no mistake, the Jews in Rome were not idly curious to hear to hear about the latest Jewish sect that was being spoken against everywhere. What they would have understood was that Paul, a Jew, was being put on trial in Rome - for being a Jew - who happened to be a leader in this new sect. Remember that these Jews in Rome were living in a pagan culture where political whim could and sometimes did lead to sudden ethnic cleansings. These Jews would have felt a very vested interest in everything Paul, as a "ringleader" of this new sect, had to say.
What I want us to understand here is how Christianity was being seen at the time that the epistle to the Hebrews was written. Christianity was seen the latest patch being sewn into the fabric of the Mosaic Covenant. It was new wine being poured into the worn out wine skin of the old covenant. Those outside the church did not understand that Christianity was never an amendment to the Mosaic Covenant, but rather the promised New Covenant for which the previous covenant had only been a placeholder. When the New Covenant came into being, the Mosaic Covenant ended - because it had served it's purpose. When what was perfect came (the New Covenant), what was in part (the Mosaic Covenant) was done away with.
It shouldn't surprise us to learn that Christianity was being misunderstood and misrepresented at the time. That still happens today. Most people are ignorant of what the bible actually says, but they have heard from various sources what the bible has to say - and a great deal of what they've heard is either not in the bible, or is nothing like what they have heard.
The Judaizers insisted that Gentile believers be circumcised. They rightly understood that no male proselyte could enter into the Mosaic covenant apart from the Covenant God made with Abraham. The Mosaic covenant was for Jews only. To enter that covenant, you had to become a Jew - that is, you had to be circumcised in accord with God's covenant with Abraham. The Judaizers main error was not that they believed Gentiles should be circumcised, it was -why- they believed Gentiles should be circumcised. The erred in thinking that Christianity was a form of Judaism.
In general, we understand that the Judaizers considered themselves to be Christians, but their theology was messed up. They apparently got the gospel right, but otherwise, were content to remain Jews.
Remember how the Apostle Peter - the very man God chose to bring the Gentiles into the New Covenant - behaved at Antioch when certain Jews came there? How Peter used to freely eat with the Gentiles, but when the Jews came, he separated himself from the gentiles? Paul had to rebuke Peter to his face in front of all of them, because there is no mixing of the Old and New Covenants, the old is obsolete, and the New is in effect. To set aside what is true, to embrace again what has already passed away was a great sin. Thank God that Peter repented of that.
I mention Peter's folly because it shows how difficult it was for a Jew to fully embrace the New Covenant. How much more so would it be for the Jewish believer to sort out how the Messiah put an end to the Mosaic Covenant, and replaced it with a new and better one?
I want to understand what the author of Hebrews is up against as he writes his letter to them. I want to understand what his specific concerns are as he pens verses 4-8 of chapter six.
Many who read verse 4-6 see in these dire warnings, the suggestion that they could possibly lose their salvation. But that isn't what the author is suggesting or concerned about. I think his concern is that unless the Jewish followers of Christ embrace the entire New Covenant, they will eventually revert back to a kind of Judaism - continuing to regard Jesus as their Messiah - but looking to the blood of bulls and goats to deal with their sins, because they don't understand how Jesus replaces all that.
His readers have already been taught (and likely convinced) that Jesus is the Christ. They have been instructed to repent of vain/dead works as a means of justification, and shown from the scriptures how justification is by faith through God's grace. They've been made aware that certain Jewish traditions are bogus (hand washings) and that commonly held Jewish notions about the resurrection and eternal judgment are false (The Sadducees, who were the most common, believed there was not judgment or resurrection). But some of His readers (at least) didn't seem to know how the Messiah fit into the New Covenant, or put an end to the Old Covenant.
No one enters into the New Covenant through the Mosaic Covenant. That is not, and has never been how it works. The Old Covenant not only prepared Israel for her Messiah, but, along with the prophets, it identified the Messiah when He appeared - while disqualifying every false Messiah at the same time. When the Messiah came, the Old Covenant had done what it was created to do. Point people to the One who actually would take away their sins.
Jesus was an Israelite who lived every day in perfect obedience to what God had commanded in the Mosaic Covenant. He was misunderstood by the religionists of his day, because unlike them, He fully understood what the Law of God called him to do. They interpreted the law in ways that allowed them to sidestep what the law expected of them - having convinced themselves not only that a sinner could keep the Law of God, but that they were in fact keeping it. In essence they interpreted the law in a way that allowed them to believe they were keeping it, but Jesus followed both the letter (which He rightly understood) and the spirit of the Law.
In living perfectly, Jesus earned everything promised in all of God's covenants.
Do you understand what that truly means? It means that Jesus secured God's promised blessings for Himself.
No other person has ever earned God's blessings - no one has ever, by their obedience to God's covenant, obligated God to keep His word and bless them - until Christ.
But the blessings and promises were only promised to the one who kept the covenant. So even though Jesus perfectly did all that God required of mankind - doing so only obligated God to bless Jesus - it did nothing for anyone else. That was why a new covenant was needed, because the Mosaic Covenant could only benefit those who kept it - and only the Christ could keep it.
Said another way: The Mosaic Covenant had no power bless anyone who failed to keep it. That was why a New Covenant was needed. That was also why in keeping the Old Covenant Christ made the Old Covenant obsolete. Seriously: no one else would ever keep it. It had fulfilled the purpose for which it had long waited.
So God was obligated to bless Jesus, but only Jesus. The New Covenant was made to allow a righteous God to bless guilty sinners.
Remember that God is obligated (by His own word) to punish every sinner who has ever sinned. We obligate God to damn us the moment we first sin. Paul tells us that the wages of sin is death (c.f. Romans 6:23). So God is obligated to damn sinners like Abraham, and David, Isaac and Israel, Moses, and you and me. How then can the blessings God is obligated to pour out on Christ, come to any of these?
That is where the new Covenant comes in. It obligates God to bless those sinners who are in Christ. To understand who is (and who is not) in Christ, we look to the New Covenant.
Our Lord Himself links His sacrificial death to the New Covenant in Luke 22:20 we read, "And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood."
The Apostle Paul refers to this same cup as the cup of blessing in 1 Corinthians 10:16 (c.f. Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ?). Consider also how the cup mentioned by the psalmist in Psalm 116:12-13, "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord."
It is safe to say that the New Covenant - God's way of justly justifying a condemned sinner - i.e. God's way of salvation - involved the death of Christ.
Those who believe the bible is true and without error, recognize that the death of Christ was necessary for our salvation - but some (if not many) Christians are unclear about how that really works. They know that Jesus died "in our place" but they don't really understand (or care to understand) how his death makes us righteous or why it obligates God to bless us.
In Romans 6, Paul describes the believer's union with Christ as having been baptized into Christ Himself. This is what our water baptism pictures: our union with Christ. We are put into Him in the same sense as we are "united together with Him" - our condemned and sinful life becomes His life, and His perfect life - the life that God is obligated to bless becomes our life.
Recall how God is obligated to pay out the wages of sin (death) to all sinners. Everyone who has ever, or will ever call upon the name of God is immediately united with Christ. This union is the basis of our justification. Through this union we die with Christ (suffering as it were the wages of our sins). Through this union we are then raised with Christ. Not that our old life is raised - our old life (the life that currently animates our flesh) dies there on Calvary with Christ. What is raised is not our old lives, but the life of Christ - which we are joined to. It is this life that God is obligated to bless, not our sinful lives which died in Christ on Calvary - but the life of Christ that we have been united to through being baptized (not water baptism, but a spiritual baptism - being born from above) into Christ.
All of that old Covenant symbolism tells this story. The old covenant held the story of the New Covenant beforehand in its symbolism, such that Christ was able, on the road to Emmaus (c.f. Luke 24:13-32) Jesus explained to those walking with him the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures - starting with Moses and all the prophets.
These are the things the author of Hebrews is talking about when he mentions pressing onto maturity. The author regards this knowledge - the knowledge of Christ as a High Priest according to the Order of Melchizedek, the knowledge of how the New Covenant replaces the old covenant, etc. as a necessary foundation for our growth in the faith. The author believes that in order to persevere in what God calls us to do, we need to understand these things.
The word we use to describe a Christian who fails to persevere is apostasy. We are told to persevere in “subjecting ourselves to the Father of Spirits” (Hebrews 12:9b), and the author believes that growing deeper in our knowledge of what Christ has done for us - will helps us get to where we need to be.
But practical sanctification does not fall out of the sky -- it is a work that God does in us - that He works into us. We hear His word (or recall it) and are provoked by it, because the life of Christ acts upon our conscience through the Holy Spirit. We either resist/grieve the Holy Spirit, or submit ourselves to doing what we know we ought to do - setting aside our own desires, and subjecting ourselves instead to doing what we know to be God’s will. As we do this more and more, we draw nearer to God. In fact that is our motive - not to please an angry God, but to draw near to the living God.
At first we're all over the map. We are provoked to obedience, and our response is fear. What if I don't do this? Am I still saved? So we obey as much as we can, and we dread every act of disobedience because we believe that our obedience was something we were doing to satisfy God instead of something God was doing in us to make us desire to please Him. We have no fellowship with God in this sanctifying work until we understand that God is the one supplying us with the desire to please Him. We have no joy in obedience when we foolishly imagine that our obedience is what makes God favorable towards us.
But little by little, as we come to know God's word, and find our place with God in prayer - we grow. Somewhere along the way we stop thinking that God is trying (and failing) to make us stop desiring sin - and realize that the desire to sin is resident in the flesh, and that God is not trying to make our flesh any better - but working in us a desire to please him rather than to please ourselves (i.e. our flesh).
Once we realize that we're never going to live a day without having a desire to sin - we stop trying to change what can't be changed, and instead begin what Paul tells us is the meat and potatoes of our sanctification - putting to death the deeds of the body rather than trying to make the body not desire wickedness. We learn that we are not slaves of our own desires, but that alongside our sinful desires, we also have godly desires - and that we are called to obey those above our own. We learn that it is the Holy Spirit that gives us these new desires, and we learn not to grieve the Holy Spirit by giving into the flesh.
It is a struggle, but we must persevere. The knowledge that God's love towards us is not diminished by the fact that we continue to have sinful desires, strengthens us in that we come to understand that we do not stand before God in our own (failed attempts at) righteousness - but rather are the recipients of all of God's blessings because we are in Christ whom God is obligated to bless with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
Immature Christians do not live there.
They do not count on God's love and sure blessings, because they either aren't aware of all God has done for them and is doing for them, or they simply can't believe it. They can't see past their own unworthiness - and the idea that God is obligated to bless them is something that sounds arrogant or crazy. They don't understand what Christ's keeping of the Mosaic Covenant did for them - they only know that they are saved - and even this is something they often doubt.
Here is where the author of Hebrews begins to address those people who have come to Christ, but are burdened by their own ignorance into trying to be Christians in their own strength. There is a danger however, because some of them might not yet be Christians - they believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but they are still Jews who haven't entered into the New Covenant.
This (in part) is who the author of Hebrews is addressing in Hebrews 6:4-8. These Jews would have been convinced on some level that Jesus was the Messiah, and even this much they could never have achieved apart from the Holy Spirit revealing that truth to them; but it is possible that some of these were not yet saved. They had been enlightened and had tasted of the heavenly gift and had been made partakers of the Holy Spirit. They had been exposed to the good word of God and experienced (through the church itself) the powers of the age to come - but while these things always accompany salvation, they can be experienced apart from salvation. Judas is a prime example of someone who experienced all these things - and more, yet Jesus says plainly (c.f. John 6:64), "'But there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him." Only six verses after our Lord makes is clear that Judas did not believe, and had never believed, but, goes on to day, "Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?" (c.f. John 6:70). Judas did not lose his salvation - he never believed in the first place, according to our Lord. He was in fact an adversary (devil) to the gospel from the very beginning - even though he had experienced all of Hebrews 6:4-6 and more.
The warning the author gives in verse 6 is illustrated in verse 7 and 8:
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. [NASB]
The soil pictures the heart, and the rain and the tilling picture the enlightening/enabling work of the Holy Spirit. But if instead of producing vegetation (i.e. salvation) that work produces thistles (a false faith that ends in apostasy), the soil (the heart, or more accurately the person with that heart) is cursed and ends up being burned (that is they condemn themselves to hell).
Salvation is not yet apprehended when you assent to the facts necessary for your salvation. You certainly must assent to the facts in order to be saved - but assenting to the facts is not enough. You must also stop rebelling against God's right and expectation to rule over you - that is you must repent of your formerly settled rebellion against God's rule, and begin to subject yourself to God willingly.
We are saved when we believe (assent to the facts) and repent (turn away from doing our own thing, and instead willingly subject ourselves to doing what God commands us to do in the scriptures). You won't be saved just by assenting to the facts, nor will you be saved by doing the good works God expects of His children, if you reject the facts while doing them. You need both. Repent and believe - salvation requires both.
So we see in this little passage the author's consideration of those Jews who may have still been thinking of Christianity as a Jewish sect which recognized Christ as the Messiah, but continued to look to the trappings of the Mosaic Covenant for their deliverance from sin - either out of ignorance or unbelief. The author gives the warning in case the problem is unbelief, and he gives instruction in the chapters to follow in case of ignorance.
One of the reasons people flub up on Hebrews 6:6 is because they have a wonky understanding of sin. Sin, in a nutshell, is pursuing your own will instead of pursuing God's will. God as your Creator has the right to command your obedience, and you sin when you ignore God's rule, and pursue your own desires. That is what sin is - a rejection of God's rule. Repentance means that you turn away from this rebellion against God, and accept His right to rule over you by obeying His commands. His will is not something we intuit - His will is revealed in the scriptures. There is no mystery or secret to doing God's will - for the scriptures describe clearly enough how we ought to live, and what we should and should not do.
Consider the Jew who has been exposed to Christian doctrine, and has been made aware of who Christ is, what He has done, and what He expects from each of His followers. Consider that Jew rejecting this teaching and returning to Judaism. It is impossible for the Jew who knows of Christ to obey God (i.e. repent) by clinging to the Old Covenant. To reject the blood of Christ, and embrace the blood of bulls and goats, is to put Christ to an open shame.
I think this is (in part) what is being described in Hebrews 6:6 - the impossibility of "choosing to do God's will" (i.e. repenting) in returning to Judaism once you've come to believe that Christ is the Messiah.
In general, this verse tells us that once a person knows and understands who Jesus is, if he or she thereafter develops a settled opinion that these truths are not true - that person effectively makes it impossible for himself or herself to thereafter repent.
We could say this another way: as long as you deny the Christ, you can never repent.
I think the author was concerned about Jews who knew enough to commit to Christ, but were remaining on the fence, as it were, with regards to committing themselves fully to Christianity. They didn't want to join themselves to something that would cost them dearly in this world - and so they hedged their bets, just to be safe. But in fact they were becoming thistles and thorns as their indifference was hardening them just as surely as outright denial would.
So if you're one of those people who doesn't go to church, doesn't read your bible, but you (more or less) believe yourself to be a Christian - even though you sin daily (giving into lust, greed, and slaking every desire you can get away with), but have been putting off "getting right with God" - let me pass along some wisdom - if you can begin to deny your own will today, and start obeying God's will (i.e. repent) - then do it. The longer you're indifferent, the more likely you will find it impossible to repent in the future. Here's a hint too. If you read this, and thought I should do that, then immediately found an excuse to put it off until another day? Then you're probably not going to ever repent if you don't repent today.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
posted by Daniel @
| Mysticism vs. Christianity (How to do God's will).
"Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it." - Genesis 2:15 [NASB]
Recently I made a post about how I understand God's sovereignty. The main focus of that post was to show that God's sovereignty does not require micromanaging the universe - that when an apple falls to the ground on earth, or a moon orbits a planet on the other side of the universe - both are obeying a natural law (gravity) that God designed into the fabric of this universe. The only way one of these natural laws can be broken is if God Himself intervenes to break it.
After the fall, Adam's body still obeyed the law of gravity - even though Adam Himself had rebelled against God's command. The fact that Adam's sin was volitional tells us that his rebellion did not come from his flesh (which continued to obey the natural laws of God even after the fall) but from his spirit.
A lot of people make no distinction between the soul and the spirit. But there is a difference. As I understand it, the soul is the breath of life that God breathed into Adam after creating him from the dust of the earth. Adam possessed the breath of life from God, but Adam wasn't the breath of life itself. Adam possessed a body, but Adam was not the body itself. The part of Adam that was Adam is what I understand to be the spirit. The spirit directs the life that animates the body, even as Christ created all creation according to the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are made in the triune image of God.
Just as we are free to do whatever we are able, we are not free to do what we are not able to do. I can jump up and down, but I can't read minds or turn invisible. I can speak, or stay silent, but I cannot leap over a tall building in a single bound. I am free to do only what I am capable of doing, just as I am free to "not" do it.
Thus even though we have free will - we are not free to do things that we are incapable of doing.
Why did Jesus act in a righteous way? Was it in order to become righteous, or was it because He was righteous to begin with? He was righteous to begin with. A well produces either fresh water or salt - not both. A well does not produce fresh water one day, and salt water the next. The well produces what it produces because that is the kind of well it is. James describes it this way in James 3:11-12:
Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. [NASB]
produced fresh water (i.e. righteousness), because in him was
a the fountain that produced fresh water (i.e. righteousness). He didn't become righteous by doing things that were righteous, he did things that were righteous, because He was righteous.
A sinner only has in himself a salt-water well. It cannot produce righteousness, it can only produce unrighteousness.
Thus a sinner is free to do whatever he or she desires to do, but he or she will never desire to do righteousness, because there is no righteousness in the sinner whatsoever. When an unsaved person does something that seems righteous - it isn't. It may seem righteous, but it is still a filthy rag (c.f. Isaiah 64:6). It may look like fresh water, but it smells and tastes different, because it comes from a place that isn't righteous.
When a sinner becomes a Christian - they are joined to Christ, such that His life becomes theirs - even as they are still living their old sinful life in the flesh. Romans 7 describes this new state. The life of Christ in them is producing in the desire and ability to do righteousness, while the flesh and the old sinful life that will be put to death in Christ continues to provoke them to sin, or to shallow/false righteousness.
The point is, even when we become a Christian, our righteousness is not our own. Any righteous thing we do, we do in spite of and contrary to our old self - the life that we are living.
So in the believer there are two springs - one salt and one fresh, and we are called to draw our water from the one and not from the other. To walk in the one, and not in the other, to obey the one and not the other, etc.
The question is How?
A great many Christians embark on this question without a very firm understanding of who they are in Christ, and what they are and are not capable of. They come to this thinking of themselves as a "new creation" entirely different from the old one - and wonder why they still sin, since that contradicts their own theology. They struggle and fret, and try harder, and fail, and many just give up trying. They don't know how to obey Christ when they are still struggling with sin in their life. It all seems wrong or patchy at best.
Well one solution people come to is pretty weird. It is the mystical approach. The idea that God is constantly trying to speak to you and direct you in this life, but you are too immature to hear it, let alone obey it.
This is as destructive to a faith as it is misleading.
Did God micro-manage Adam's cultivation/keeping of the garden of Eden? Did God tell Adam how many breaths he was to take each day or how many times he should chew before swallowing each bite? No matter where we stand on this, we have to draw the line somewhere. At some point God gives Adam some autonomy. Surely Adam was allowed to breath as often as seemed right to him. To chew his food as many or as few times as seemed right to him. Adam wasn't a sinner, so what seemed right to him would have seemed right to God also. God very likely gave Adam instruction (just like He gave Adam instruction about which plants could be eaten and which could not) and left Adam to function independently thereafter.
Yet in the last century or so, some have begun to teach that God has so specific a plan for your life, that He is leading you moment by moment into it, and that you will be sinning if you don't follow that plan.
The trouble is that you're spiritual antenna is too short, so you're not getting God's message very clearly. This is where mysticism takes over - and you're taught to interpret your own intuition as being a message from God.
Now I believe that God works through providence, and that He will use His word to remind you of what is expect of His children - and that as you live your life conformed to the expectations of God outlined in the bible and in the New Testament in particular, you will know when you're doing something you shouldn't be doing, and you will know when something you're doing is "right". It won't be an airy-fairy feeling, it'll be a conviction that you are being obedient to an objective expectation made clear in the scriptures. You may have some false hits, because we're fallible, but the more you conform yourself to the word of God - the more this will become natural and obvious.
But I do not believe that God is whispering constantly in our sin-deaf ears and that it is our job to interpret our own intuition into commands and expectations from God. That is a road doesn't bring anyone closer to God - it only makes us being to trust our own intuition, over and eventually against the word of God. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. When we use our hearts to interpret what we think God wants us to do - we eventually and inevitably end up satisfying our hearts, and convincing ourselves that we are holier for having done so.
I know too many Christians - genuine, sincere Christians who follow every waft in the wind thinking they are being obedient to God, when they are in fact contradicting the clear expectations of a Christian as laid out in the scriptures.
Listen to what Paul tells Timothy, and ask yourself if Paul missed the boat:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
- 2 Timothy 3:15-17 [NASB]
Do you want to be equipped for every good work?
You shouldn't be looking for liver-shivers and special feelings. You should be studying the word of God so that you know it, and knowing it you are familiar with both the character of God and what God expects from you. He expects you to be able to function autonomously having been given clear instruction from his word. There is no mention of intuition or feelings, or visions, or whisperings, premonitions or any such nonsense. You will be equipped to do the good work you're called to do, because what God has called you to do can be found in the scriptures.
Know them, and you will not only know the Lord who inspired them, you will know what is expected of you as a believer.
Throw the mysticism in the trash where it belongs.
posted by Daniel @
| How a Fender/CRL Style 5-Way Switch Works
|Although I post mostly theological articles, today I want to discuss something practical for anyone who is trying to figure out how exactly a Stratocaster style 5-way switch works. I'll try and keep it short and simple.
There are different ways to wire a five-way switch, and depending upon what brand you get, the pin-outs can be a little different - but the theory is the same, and this will help you to understand what is going on in that switch.
More often than not, the only time you bother to read about how a five-way switch works, is when your looking at a wiring diagram for an electric guitar, and feel a little flabbergasted by all the wires going in and out of that five-way switch. You've told yourself that perhaps if you understood how it worked a little more - the rest of the diagram would make a little more sense.
Well the first thing you need to understand is that your five-way switch is really two three way switches sandwiched together - take a look at this fancy graphic I made just for this post:
It took me all day thank you.
On the left you see my rendition of one side of the five-way switch (labeled Pickup connections). Don't mind the rest of it for a moment - what I want you to look at is the four connections or terminals (the things you would solder wires to) on that side. One of the four terminals is longer than the others. This allows it to always contact that white part you see in the diagram. Basically when you rotate the switch, the white part connects blue part to one (or two) of these terminals.
The same thing happens on the other side (see the other switch graphic - the one with the purple and orange terminals). Think of one side of the 5-way switch as it's own switch, and the other as a separate switch - moving the switch rotates wipers on both sides of the 5-way, so that in each position a similar connection is made on each side of the switch.
If you physically have such a switch with you - you don't need a multi-meter to tell you which posts/terminals are connecting - in any of the 5 positions - you just need to look at the wiper blade and see which terminals it touches (on each side) - those that are touching are the ones which close the circuit in that position.
The reason we say that a 5-way switch is actually two 3-way switches is because there are three terminals on each side that can connect to the longer terminal. But the blade is just the right width that in two of the five positions - it actually connects the longer terminal to two of the shorter ones at the same time. I'm not surprising anyone here, but that is how the physical connection is made to play through two pickups at the same time.
You can see that in this (rather similar, but slightly different) graphic:
Note the color changes?
You've probably noticed also that I've labeled one side of the switch "pickups" and the other "tone pots". That's because that is how we use the switch - one side turns on the pickups - the other side selects which tone circuit will be used. The standard way to wire a Strat is to have the tone control closest to the neck pickup, adjust the neck, and the other tone adjusts the middle pickup. The Strat was designed when surf music was popular, so the bridge pickup typically doesn't have a tone control - but you can (if you want) just wire a jumper between the neck and bridge terminals on the "pickup" side of the 5-way, so that the same tone settings for your neck pickup affect your bridge pickup up - easy-peasy - and since you don't normally play the bridge and neck pickups at the same time - you don't really lose anything - you just gain more versatility in your tone control.
But I digress.
The point is that whatever pickups you turn on (on the pickup side of the switch), you should be turning on the appropriate tone control on the other side.
Most wiring diagrams have something like the third graphic from the left - representing the "top" of the switch (really it's the bottom, but when your soldering it, everything is upside down, and that looks to be the top, as it were. I included the colors so that you could see which side is what. The top half is for the pickups, the bottom, for the tone controls. When you wire up your Stratocaster, you typically put the side that connects to the tone pots, facing the tone pots, and the side for the pickups facing away from the tone pots.
The last item in my graphic is the schematic representation of the switch. I call them "two 3-way switches" but what we're really talking about is a two "pole" switch - that is a single switch that closes two circuits at the same time. In this case the circuits that are closed are each 3-way circuits. Don't let the five positions fool you. You have five positions because two of the positions purposely combine two pickups.
You may read about 5-way "super" switches - they have four poles instead of two - which means twice as many terminals, and four circuits being set by the same switch. It follows the same principles as are laid out here. I personally think you get more useful mileage out of a DPDT push/pull pot (dpdt = double pole, double throw) - unless you're doing something really fancy with split coiled humbuckers, you probably won't use these - but you'll understand them, because they follow the same basic principles.
In these diagrams, I have the posts labeled as follows:
- C: Common
- N: Neck
- M: Middle
- B: Bridge
But that is just because 5 way switches are typically used where there are three pickups (usually single coil) - so rather than call them something generic like 0, 1, 2, & 3 - I went with how these switches are typically used in a Strat.
In the graphics, the blue and red posts correspond to the pickup side of the switch, and the purple and orange are for the tone controls and by the way, ...yes, I have noticed that the red and orange are sadly similar to one another - I should have used green instead of orange...
Using the colors, you can see how the switch is portrayed in various circuits. It really helps when you're trying to think your way through the circuit (I like to design my own circuit mods) and you're trying to understand the path the current takes through the switch.
That's the last of the pics. The pictures are actually a little bigger than they appear in this post. You can open one or more of them up in another browser tab if you want to make them bigger.
I hope that helped you understand this clever little switch a bit better. I've found bits and pieces of this over the years, but I hadn't seen anyone put it all in one place - so I thought I'd do that and maybe save someone a few hours of searching, and a few more of trying to make heads or tails of it.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or thoughts.
posted by Daniel @
| A poem I wrote just now...
|Inspired by this puritan's prayer: Need Of Grace...
Lord I confess that in my heart,
I've welcomed every fiery dart,
Abusing Your abounding grace
I've turned away from Your embrace
I've grieved Your Spirit from the start,
Lord I confess it from my heart
My life is like the leopard's spots
I've chained my heart to sinful thoughts
In shame and fear I've fled from grace
Ashamed to stand before Your face
My heart can't bear sin's hardened clots,
O free this leopard from his spots,
I've suffered in my rigid sin,
Afraid to let my Savior in,
Who'll free me from this miry place,
And teach my heart to walk in grace?
Lord, only You can draw me in,
I want to rest in you, not sin.
Who called me to my knees in prayer?
Who's sovereign in my soul's despair?
Who drew me to His throne of grace,
To find my rest in His embrace?
He's sovereign over my despair,
He draws my heart to Him in prayer.
Now shall I rise up from my knees,
To go on sinning as I please?
Will not my Lord grant me the grace,
To finish well and run the race?
Lord let me not rise from my knees,
Until my heart, with yours agrees.
posted by Daniel @
| How I understand the Sovereignty of God
Note: All bible references noted in this post are taken from the New American Standard Bible.
You're probably familiar with Psalm 115:3? It reads, But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
That's a good description of God's sovereignty. He does whatever pleases Him. We could say that God has the power and authority to do whatever He pleases - but that is implied in, "He does whatever He pleases." So that'll be our working definition: God's sovereignty means that He has the power and authority to do whatever He pleases.
In Genesis 2:19 we read:
Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.
Adam was obeying God in naming the animals - his obedience, and presumably his creativity - were both pleasing God. Adam was given the authority to name the animals, but it was God who gave him that authority. God did not become less sovereign for delegating his authority to Adam.
I really can't imagine anyone having an honest nit to pick with anything I have said so far.
The point is that God's sovereignty doesn't lose anything when He delegates a task to someone (or something) that obeys Him.
I say, "or something" in that last sentence because I think of natural laws, such as gravity as obeying the function for which God created them. That is, when an apple falls to the ground, it is obeying the law of gravity - it follows that God intends for apples to fall to the ground (how else will their seeds find purchase in the earth?). I don't believe that God needs to personally intervene in creation to cause each apple that falls from a tree to fall.
I am not saying that God is unaware of a falling apple. I am saying that when an apple falls, it falls in accord with God's created order. As the season continues the apple grows, and eventually the stem is no longer able to bear the weight of the apple, and it falls, where it eventually breaks down so that its fruit can nurture the soil in the very spot where the seeds have fallen. Gravity is part of that design, and we who look at creation and see its design, see in that design the will of the Creator.
That is, incidentally why we are all without an excuse before God - anyone who sees a tree knows that the seed that formed that tree would not have formed that tree unless the natural laws at work in the world were in place. These laws are what keep the earth producing fruit.
What about where it says that God ...causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous...? (c.f. Matthew 5:45) Doesn't that imply that God is especially making the sun to shine and the rain to fall on everyone?
Yeah - it means that, but not in the "Divine Intevention" kind of way. It just means that God does not have one set of natural laws for saints, and another for sinners.
In Luke 13, our Lord addresses some of the bad theology that was present in the crowd who were questioning Him. From the context we conclude that they believed that people became righteous by obeying the law, and that some people were righteous, and others were not - based (presumably) on their level of obedience - either to the word of God, or to the oral traditions of the Pharisees (or both). But righteousness is not produced by keeping the law, much less by observing traditions that God did not ordain.
The scriptures tell us plainly that the law does not make anyone righteous, it just teaches us that we are not righteous - and thus that we need a savior.
James, the brother of our Lord, writes an answer for anyone who imagines that in "keeping the law" you became "righteous". Because even if you do manage to keep some portion of the law - it counts for nothing ( cf. James 2:10, For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all). So even if you manage to do some of the law, it doesn't count for anything, unless you keep it all.
Paul likewise (quoting from ) Psalm 53), writes in Romans 3:10 that ...there is none righteous, not even one. There really isn't anyone who is righteous, which is why we need the righteousness of Christ as our own if we are to pass through the judgment unscathed.
With this theology in place, we find the crowd in the opening verses of Luke 13 asking the Lord questions about those Galileans that Pilate had put to death. From the context we imagine that these Galileans were involved in offering sacrifices to God at the time they were slaughtered by some Roman soldiers who were under Pilate's command.
It seems (given our Lord's replay) that the crowd was trying to figure why God allowed this to happen. What did they do to deserve this?
Our Lord's answers them as follows in Luke 13:2-5:
And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
When our Lord rhetorically asks, "Do you suppose that those 18 were worse sinners?" the implied answer is, that no - these 18 were no worse sinners than anyone else.
Sin is in the world, and death through sin (c.f. Romans 5:12) - it all goes back to Adam's sin. He brought death into this world, and people die because death is with us. Creation itself was cursed, mankind in particular was cursed. I will one day die of some malady or other, unless violence finds me sooner, be it accidental or otherwise. So will you. God has put those laws in effect, and so we suffer the curse, and God is the one who put it there.
Let me say that another way - it is God's will that everyone who dies, ... dies. If it wasn't God's will, it wouldn't happen that way.
But that isn't the same as saying that God personally comes down and murders each one of us when it's our time to go.
God can be sovereign, without having to order everything in creation by an ongoing, all encompassing act of Divine Intervention.
So I don't view the sovereignty of God as God directing the path of every elementary particle in the universe - knowing where it is, and moving it to where it will go, so that every electron that orbits it's atom in my body is being micro-managed by God, and so that I, along with all of creation, am truly just a puppet in an ongoing play that God is directing.
It is clear from the scriptures that God does intervene. No one in this sinful world can be saved apart from God's direct intervention in their sinful lives. No, not even one.
If God did not intervene, none of us would be saved. None of us would seek after God, not even one of us! (so says the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write Romans 3).
So when we talk about "free will" vs. the "sovereignty of God" - I believe that we are only "free" to do those things we are actually capable of doing. Even as the leopard cannot change its spots, so those who have inherited death from Adam cannot produce any act of righteousness because there is no righteousness within them that would produce it.
Let me unwrap that a bit.
Jesus didn't "become" righteous by obeying the law. He was able to obey the law because he was already righteous. In fact the law served two purposes - it showed everyone but Christ that they were not righteous, and it showed Christ that He was righteous. He didn't start off neutral and become righteous - he was righteous, and his life testified to that - even as your life testifies to you that in you, just as in the Apostle Paul, no (morally) good thing dwells.
When Adam brought death into the world, he brought a separation from God, who is life. Being cut off from God, is to be cut off from life - and from God's righteousness. Make no mistake, we sin because there is no middle ground between righteousness and unrighteousness. We are either the one or the other - and whichever we are, that is the source of all that we do, and it saturates all that we do.
That is why no one can come to Christ, apart from God drawing them - because coming to Christ is something that only a righteous person can do, and no one is righteous. That is why salvation is an act of God from beginning to end. It begins while we are yet sinners, with God drawing us to Himself, and culminates in our salvation when we receive the life of Christ, and become able - through that life - to live righteously (genuinely so) insofar as we obey the life of Christ within us, rather than our old sinful life which continues to remain with us - though we are no longer slaves to its desires.
The point is, that this cursed world obeys a set of natural laws that we cannot escape. We all die, and that is something God has sovereignly ordained on account of the fall. The truth is we will not come to God unless God draws us, so that the only reason anyone is saved is because they were given the ability to call upon the name of the Lord in earnest - an ability that cannot spring from anyone who is born dead in their sin and trespasses. It is only through divine intervention that any of us come to know our Lord. It is only through divine intervention that any prayer is answered by God. It is only through divine intervention that any (saved) sinner is able to obey the Spirit of Christ within him. God is sovereign - but he isn't micromanaging the sinful world.
He still brings judgment against nations, and the like - and he, being the one who has cursed the earth, is the cause of any calamity that comes from it - since no calamity befalls us apart from the natural laws that God has set in place to govern us. But in the case of those whom God has chosen to redeem? These live lives sprinkled generously with moments of intervention.
By that I don't mean lives filled with miracles like walking on water, etc. I mean lives wherein God's children are chastised, for their greater good, where they are taught through the emptiness of their sinful choices to repent of what gives them no rest, and cling to the life of Christ that was put into them the moment God granted them the ability to repent and believe the gospel.
In summary: We live in a sinful world where no one is seeking the Lord or can seek him apart from Divine Intervention. We live in a world wherein God is sovereign without having to control the minutia of reality through an ongoing act of divine intervention. God rather has set in place laws that obey him, and contains creation within these laws, so that all of creation is subject to these laws. For the believer, God transcends these laws, first in saving them, then in keeping them, and eventually in bringing them to glory.
I reject the notion that God is controlling all things in a way that suggests that God causes one person to believe, while "causing" another to not believe. The fall and the curse "cause" people not to seek God, and make it impossible for anyone to be saved. But God will do all that he pleases, and it has pleased God to elect some of us sinners, to salvation - and it pleased God to draw those sinners to himself such that not a single one will be lost. And it pleased God to do this through the life of Christ, which is imparted when God grants one of his elect the ability to receive the gospel as true, and grants that believer the grace to repent and receive the life of Christ.
posted by Daniel @
| Hebrews 6:4-8
|The author of the book of Hebrews didn't write the title is his epistle (that was added around 100 AD). I mention that because when we say that the author is writing to a group of Jewish Christians, we aren't pulling that information (or we shouldn't be) from the title. We are pulling that information from the contents of the epistle.
Throughout the epistle the author assumes that his readers have extensive working knowledge of things a Gentile would need to have explained - the Mosaic covenant, the Temple, the Levitical Priesthood in general and the office and function of the High Priest in particular, etc. Were the author writing to a group of Gentiles, these concepts would not be assumed, but would need to be explained in detail.
When I teach on the book of Hebrews, I make these kinds of observations known, because they are foundational to understanding what the author is trying to convey to his readers.
Consider the first few chapters of this book. Here the writer labors to demonstrate from the OT scriptures how Jesus is superior to angels. Why does that matter? It matters because the author is encouraging his readers, by way of a dire and sober warning: If the punishment for setting aside the message given to men through the agency of the angels meant damnation - how much worse will it be for his readers if they set aside the message Christ preached?
Our culture is far more comfortable with positive encouragement rather than negative encouragement, but the writer of Hebrews seems adept at both, encouraging believers to stay the course, both for the rewards of doing so, and again to avoid the consequences of not doing so.
That brings us to something we need to consider: if you cannot lose your salvation, does it make any sense to threaten a believer with dire consequences of failing to stay the course? If you're going to heaven "for sure" - can the threat of damnation be taken seriously?
Some would say that unless you can lose your salvation these kinds of "threats" don't make any sense. So lets explore that before we move on.
First we need to understand what we mean when we say that a person cannot lose his or her salvation, but to get there we should be clear about what we don't mean by saying that.
In Matthew 7:22-23 (Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’) our Lord describes the last day in pretty sobering terms. People who died, believing themselves to have been servants of our Lord, will find that they not only died without being saved, but died without having ever been saved.
If these people had been saved at one time, the Lord could not say, "I never knew you" - He'd have to say something like, "I no longer know you" - but the fact that they must depart tells us they weren't saved, and the fact that the Lord says that he never knew them in the first place, tells us they didn't "lose" their salvation - the never had it in the first place. They were deceived into thinking that they were saved when they were not.
If people can go to their graves so utterly deceived about their own faith, that they believe themselves to have been Christians, when in fact they weren't. People who believe themselves to be Christians, then "fall away" from their faith can be deceived as well.
In fact the Apostle John tells us that is exactly what happens when someone claims to be a believer, but then falls away from their "faith" at a later time. Consider the text of 1 John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." - in straight forward language John declares that people who fall away from their faith were not really in the faith to begin with. He sights the fact that they "could" fall away from their faith as the very evidence that their faith was illegitimate. Had it been real - they wouldn't have fallen away.
Thus anyone who falls away from their faith is not falling away from salvation - they are falling away from a faith that wasn't going to save them in the first place.
Jesus Himself said (in John 6:44) that that no one is able to come to Him (i.e. Jesus) unless God Himself draws that person to Him (i.e. Jesus). God alone draws those who come to Christ, we all lack the ability to come otherwise. Later Jesus says (c.f. John 10:27-28) that He knows His own sheep (a reference to genuine believers) to whom he grants eternal life, such that they will never perish, since no one has the power to take any of Christ's sheep, away from Him.
Some imagine that no one "else" can take them out of Christ's hand, but they themselves can take themselves out of Christ's hand. The main (but not only) problem with that is that it doesn't fit the narrative nor does it fit with the apostolic teaching. Recall what John said in 1 John 2:19 (see above). The jumped out of Christ's hand because He wasn't the one holding them in His hand. The fact that they were able to jump out demonstrates that He wasn't holding them in the first place. They placed themselves into the fold, but they did not come into the fold through the gate, but rather by leaping in over the fence. They thought they were Christians because they hung out with Christians, but they did not come through Christ who never knew them.
A genuine believer cannot lose his or her salvation. That's about as plain as it gets.
This notion is opposed by (and generally upsets) those Christians whose theology lacks a sound understanding of what is meant by a having a false assurance. The Apostle John writes in 1 John 5:13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."
The trouble is that not everyone who believes themselves to be in possession of eternal life actually possesses eternal life. When Paul writes in Romans 9:6, "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;", he is arguing against those Jews who believed that because they were the genetic descendants of Abraham, they were automatically going to inherit the promises given to Abraham. Paul was showing that the promise was not given to the physical descendants of Abraham but to his spiritual descendants - to those whose faith was of the same sort as Abraham's.
The moment you become a (genuine) Christian, you pass from death into life (c.f. John 5:24, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.") The life that you pass into is eternal life. In the epistle of the Hebrews, the author describes it as entering into the Sabbath rest of God.
If the life that you pass into is eternal, you cannot lose it because it -is- eternal. If you can lose it after gaining it, then you haven't really gained it at all, since you can lose it again. Using a sports analogy, once you've won a game, you are no longer able to lose it. You may be winning, but you haven't won the game until there is no opportunity to lose it. It isn't over until it is over, and when it is over, it is a done deal.
Said another way, if you "lose" eternal life, you never had "eternal" life in the first place, for eternal life cannot be lost.
In the same way, Our Lord, as I have illustrated above made a distinction between those who were actually of His flock, and those who had come into the sheepfold but were not a part of His flock. Not everyone who calls themselves (or believes themselves to be) a Christian is a Christian.
I don't really know any Christians (genuine or otherwise) who would have any trouble with that notion. It isn't like this is some gospel secret! All Christians come to know (or should come to know) what it means to have tares amongst the wheat.
We understand that not everyone who names the name of Christ has actually come to Christ. Many come superficially - which our Lord expounds in the parable of the soils.
Some hear the gospel, but can't understand it and so cannot receive Christ at all because their hearts are hardened against the truth (hard packed soil).
Some hear the gospel, but their response to it remains superficial. Jesus describes this in terms what the seed produces and fails to produce. It fails to produce what is needed to sustain growth - an adequate root system. In Christianity the roots are a reliance upon God (faith) and a genuine and ongoing repentance (submission to God's will, and especially an ongoing intentional effort to deny our own will). These never run in the power of God, but in their own power - having failed to repent and trust God - and eventually they run out of steam. Unfortunately in our culture - even though the bible clearly describes these as having never been Christian in the first place - yet these sorts (even after they stop attending church) consider themselves to be "Christians".
Others hear the gospel but they receive it into the same soil in which they also receive other (contrary) worldly philosophies. The two grow up together, such that genuine Christianity never emerges, but rather is choked out by a kind of Christianity that embraces/incorporates worldly philosophies. Such Christians do not worship the God of the scriptures, nor do they practice what the bible describes as Christianity. They consider themselves to be Christian, but what they call Christianity cannot be found in the scriptures. They never come to genuine faith or ongoing repentance because their worldly philosophies have replaced these tenets of genuine faith.
Just as every doctrine is (and ever will be) twisted by our enemy (and those who unwittingly serve him) so also the doctrine of eternal security has been greatly used by the devil in his efforts to hinder the work of Christ in this world.
Many teachers today are misinterpreting the parable of the soils in order to coddle those unsaved Stony/Thorny ground hearers on their way to hell. This they do, more often than not, because they themselves are Stony/Thorny ground hearers, unwilling to surrender their life to Christ in a settled course of obedience, or because their version of Christianity has surgically removed the requirement ongoing repentance from their version of Christianity, such that repentance would be nice, but either way, you're going to heaven even if you don't repent, because God only requires you to believe you're going to heaven, for you to go there.
The truth is if you continue to live your life without intentionally turning away from what God forbids, and intentionally humbling yourself to obey what God commands you - on a daily basis - you have no reason to believe that you are a genuine Christian, or that you have eternal life.
How many of you reading know that you are saved? How do you know that? I bet a good many readers "know" this because they believe that once you are saved, you are always saved, and so because they had an experience once upon a day, when they heard the gospel - it means they were saved that day - therefore they must still be saved, because you can't lose your salvation.
To that I say, "Well, whoop-dee-do!"
Who told you that assurance comes from being certain you believe the truth, or that because you had some sort of spiritual experience you must be a genuine Christian?
It certainly isn't a biblical idea. Judas Iscariot believed that Jesus was the Christ with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. I mean Judas was given authority to heal the sick and raise the dead, he himself did miracles in Christ's name - he certainly understood and believed that Jesus was the one and only Christ. In his earthly ministry, Judas was sent out to personally lead Jews to Christ - and we have no reason to believe he didn't. I don't doubt that Judas will have led more people to Christ in his earthly ministry than 95% of those reading this post.
Yet he wasn't saved, and he never was saved.
Didn't he do miracles? Didn't he believe Jesus was the Christ - but yet our Lord tells us plainly that he was not only a devil, but had been so from the beginning. He wasn't saved then unsaved, he was never saved in the first place.
Many are on that same, broad road. They believe that Jesus is the Christ, but they reject Him as the Lord of their life, and in order to do that and still believe themselves to be right with God - they have to reject the bible's teaching on repentance - either by ignore it altogether, or by choking it out with false teachings.
People in this category get their (false) assurance from the fact that they said a prayer and really believed it. They get their (false) assurance from the fact that they go to church most Sundays. They get their assurance because they have been called to be elders, or because they are convinced that God has saved them, so they don't (really) need to root out the sin in their life and live a holy life dedicated to God. They ultimately believe that as long as they believe the right things, they can do the minimum, and still get into heaven when they die - and because having eternal life is the only reason they became a Christian - the moment they truly believe themselves to be in possession of it, they really don't care about such things as holy living, repentance, church attendance, fellowship, sound doctrine or anything else.
They get religious only when they are afraid they might not have eternal life yet, and fall out of their religion the more certain they are that they have eternal life already.
Maybe you see the church differently, but I see the church as a collection of genuine and false converts, most of the genuine converts are so spiritually immature, it would be impossible to really distinguish them from false converts (people who are convinced they are saved in a way that runs contrary to how the bible tells us we can know we are saved).
The truth is that even the angels of heaven cannot know for sure whether a person who calls themselves a Christian (but gives little evidence of a genuine faith) is a real Christian (wheat) or a false one (tare). If the angels, who are superior to us in power and insight - and who are not encumbered as we are by sin, are incapable of determining who is saved and who is not - we must not imagine that we can do better.
We are not called to determine whether another person who calls themselves a Christian is a real Christian or not - we are told only that any believer who justifies themselves in their sin, and refuses to repent is to be put out of the church (delivered over to the devil, as it were) in order that they (if they be genuine) learn to repent, or (if they be false) be removed as a hindrance to the growth of those genuine believers that ousted him or her.
So these truths I share, not to encourage us to start looking at others and deciding whether or not they are real Christians - it is rather to say that there are false Christians in the world today who believe themselves to be the genuine article because they are fortified by bad doctrine.
Our assurance, is best illustrated in 2 Peter 1:5-11 [NASB]:
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
In other word, we have assurance when our faith is the kind that inescapably produces in us an ongoing repentance. If our faith does not cause us to examine ourselves daily and often, and to provoke us again and again to submit ourselves to the will of God, and to turn away again, the hundredth and thousandth time from some besetting sin, we have no reason to believe it is saving faith. In Matthew 1:21, the angel speaking in a dream to Joseph, instructs Joseph to name the child in Mary's womb, "Jesus" because, the angels expounds, "He shall save his people from their sins". If we do not see any evidence in our lives that Jesus is saving us right now from our rebellion against God's rule in our lives - any assurance we have is baseless.
Make no mistake, the Buddhist who chooses not to lie or steal in order to secure a better reincarnation, is not repenting. Nor is the Muslim who deals honestly because he believes that increases his chances of a better afterlife. So also, a person who believes themselves to be a Christian is by no means "repenting" if the reason they obey God is to secure a better afterlife. That isn't repentance, it is self-preservation. What animal will not gnaw it's own limb off to get out of a trap? So the false convert will suppress his own sinfulness if he imagines that doing so will increase the likelihood of a better afterlife. All of it is sinful because it is selfishness - and you don't earn your way into heaven by pursuing selfish things.
I mention that because if you don't see these things in your so-called Christian life, the solution isn't to start doing these things in order to produce a real salvation for yourself.
If your repentance is this superficial and self-serving like this - then thank God you've finally seen it! Now you will have some perspective when you examine the foundation of your belief system. Why on earth would you think you're saved (from sin) if the only salvation you experience is that which you yourselves are (sinfully) producing in an effort to earn a better afterlife?
Listen: the life of Christ expressed through the outworking of the Holy Spirit in the believer is described as living water (c.f. John 4:10-11; John 7:38). Our Lord in these passages likens the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer to an artesian well - one that brings forth water without someone having to pump it out.
Our Lord describes the work of the Holy Spirit in this way, so that we will know the difference between our own works and the works of the Spirit within us. We are not the originator of that work which the Holy Spirit produces in us. We desire to do it because through the life of Christ within us, we "know" it is the right(eous) thing to do. We likewise know that we would rather follow our own self-serving pleasure than do this - yet find ourselves constrained to do what is right rather than what would please our own selfish desires.
The more we obey the Holy Spirit within us (or said another way, the more we 'draw near to God'), the more assurance we have that we are the real deal.
A Proper Understanding of Eternal Security
Thus it is the obedience that Christ is producing in us - our ongoing repentance - which testifies to the validity of our faith. It should come as no surprise therefore that we are told to excommunicate those who justify themselves in their sins, and refuse to repent (c.f Matthew 18), because more than anything else, genuine repentance (obeying God rather than our own desires) is the primary evidence (and assurance) of our salvation.
We do not say, "because I am saved, I cannot be lost, therefore it doesn't matter if I sin" - rather we say, "because I find in myself the willingness to surrender to the will of God, and practice that very same thing, I have good reason to trust that I am truly on the narrow road. Again, we say, because as I stay this course, I find my repentance increasing, and not failing or stagnating - I am assured that my salvation is proving to be genuine.
What we do not do is content ourselves by the growing evidence of the genuineness of our salvation to set aside this sanctifying work within us, and pursue the things in this life anew, with the assurance that we can enjoy these now, having attained a level of certainty that we already apprehended the better afterlife we wanted.
If the only reason we repent is because we are afraid we'll go to hell if we don't, then our repentance isn't really repentance, because we are not doing what we do to draw near to God - we are doing what we do to pacify Him. If you do that you're essentially throwing all that Christ did satisfy the wrath of God and to make you acceptable into the toilet. Listen if that describes you - stop. doing. that.
Any act of obedience that includes in itself the notion of pacifying God by and through the act - is an act of sacrilege. If the life of Christ was spilled out on God's altar - an altar not formed by men's hands, but by God Himself - and you imagine yourself adding something to that when you take your tool to it - you are not adding to it, but profaning the work of Christ. (c.f. Exodus 20:25, If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.)
So if you find yourself lacking security - don't just what you're already doing harder. Re-think not only what it means to repent, but why you're repenting. You should be humbling yourself before God because you believe he has the right to rule over you, and that it is fitting and proper for you to obey Him. You should see anything else as an offense against God and all creation (since it was on account of sin that creation itself was cursed). You should be experiencing a desire to repent because -that is the right thing to do- and if you don't experience that in your soul, you need to talk to God about why that is - and thank God, dear reader, that you've come to hear this, because if that is you, you're either a false Christian in need of salvation, or a baby Christian in need of sanctification. Either way, knowing for sure that something isn't right, is itself a gift of God - how else would God show you that you're doing it wrong?
Now That We're Done The Pre-amble...
By Hebrews 5:12, the author has mentioned Christ as our priest or high priest, seven times in six places:
- Hebrews 2:17 - Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
- Hebrews 3:1 - Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;
- Hebrews 4:14 - Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
- Hebrews 4:15 - For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
- Hebrews 5:5-6 - So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”; just as He says also in another passage, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”
- Hebrews 5:10- being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
But it isn't until Chapter 5 that the author begins to describe Jesus as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
The author chooses to introduce the teaching concerning Christ as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek with a cautionary prelude beginning in Hebrews 5:11 and including all of Hebrews 6. Our text therefore falls within this prelude, and serves a function within that prelude, which must be understood in order to follow the author's teaching properly.
The prelude can be divided into five parts:
- Hebrews 5:11-14: He explains that some of his intended readers lack the maturity to understand the teaching he is about to give them, and explains to them why they have remained immature.
- Hebrews 6:1-3: He begins to explain that they do not need a new foundation at this point, but must build upon the one they already have - pressing on to maturity. He intends to lead them in that way if God permits.
- Hebrews 6:4-8: The reason a new foundation is not going to help them is because faith and repentance are part of the foundation. The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us, and in that revelation is the seed of our repentance: the knowledge that Jesus is our Lord (the One who has the right to command our obedience). Without this knowledge we cannot repent, and unless we repent we cannot build upon our repentance. When the Holy Spirit reveals this truth to a person, if it does not produce repentance, it is necessarily producing rebellion.
- Hebrews 6:9-12: In explaining this, he doesn't mean to imply that he is convinced that this is the problem with them - he rather wants them to have a full assurance of their hope, knowing that the greater their assurance is, the less sluggish they will likely be.
- Hebrews 6:13-20: He encourages his immature readers to persevere with a patience that waits for the fulfilling of God's promises even as Abraham did. Showing that Abraham took refuge in the promises of God, as we ought to also, as we wait for their fulfillment. Thus the coming teaching that Christ is our high priest according to the Order of Melchizedek serves this purpose: to give us something to hold onto as we persevere in the faith.
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, â€†since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. - Hebrews 6:4-8 [NASB]
In Matthew 16:15-18 we read the following, He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Let's be real with this text. I don't think it is suggesting that Peter suddenly was possessed by the Spirit of God, and began pronouncing this truth with the glassy-eyed stare of someone who had just been used by God to say something that had never occurred to him before. I think Peter, from his own perspective, believed that he had "figured out" who Jesus was. He saw the signs, reasoned within himself that this must be the Christ, and spoke what he believed to be true.
Jesus wanted Peter, and everyone else that was there - and certainly all Christians throughout the ages to know - was that Peter could not have come to know this apart from God revealing it to him.
Let that sink in.
If you are a Christian, you certainly came to understand that Jesus is the Christ, but just as it was for Peter, so it is for you, and I. We could neither understand nor believe this truth unless God Himself opened that truth to our understanding. You probably heard the gospel more than once in your life, why didn't you believe it the first time you heard it? It is because God hadn't revealed it to you at that time as being true.
But don't imagine that because God Himself revealed that truth to you, you were saved. You weren't saved until that truth provoked you to repent, and accept Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
Judas was one of the twelve. Judas came to know that Jesus was indeed the Christ, and as such had the right to command his obedience, but unlike the other Apostles, Judas did not humble himself in obedience to Christ. Even as he knew that Jesus was his Lord, nevertheless, he rejected Christ's rule, and was lost.
Remember again, John 6:64, But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. [NASB], and again, John 6:70-71 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. [NASB]
These texts together tell us that Judas was not a "believer", and had never been a believer. Yet Judas preached the gospel, and was given authority by Christ to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, etc. (c.f. Matthew 10:5-8. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. [NASB]
Some imagine that Judas went out and kind of faked it when everyone else was doing real miracles, but that isn't what happened. Jesus gave the 12 (including Judas) authority to preach the kingdom, and to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons. But this is silly. None of the Apostles, for all their piety, could perform a miracle apart from this authority. This authority was given apart from their faith, and apart from the repentance - it was given according to the office they had received, and not according to any merit in them.
Jesus makes it plain in Matthew 12:28 that when he was casting out demons he was doing so by the Holy Spirit (c.f. "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." [NASB]). If Christ did the miraculous by the power of the Holy Spirit (and not as some suppose, by the innate power of his own deity), it follows that when the Apostles were given power to cast out demons - that this power was likewise the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thus whatever miracles Judas performed, he did in the power of the Holy Spirit.
More than anyone, Judas abundantly fits the description given in Hebrews 6:4-6, and we know that Judas was never a believer in the first place.
So we conclude that the experiences mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-6, while certainly true of every believer, isn't necessarily describing someone who has put his or her trust in Christ for salivation. It is only describing someone who has come to know, through personal experience that Jesus is indeed the Christ.
Thus the text is telling us that when a person comes to know (through the Holy Spirit) that Jesus is the Christ - that knowledge will either produce repentance, and thus salvation, or the same knowledge will damn those who reject or ignore it.
Make not mistake, This isn't talking about hearing the gospel and rejecting something that wasn't "believed" - it is talking about those who hear and believe the gospel, but nevertheless refuse to come to Christ for salvation.
While that certainly would be a reason for someone "not" to mature in the Christian faith - the author isn't suggesting this is the case with some of them. He rather mentions it because he wants to explain that the solution to immaturity is not to "get saved again" - because that is impossible, the solution is to build upon that foundation rather than to let it sit unkept.
He intends to press on - to build upon that foundation - if the Lord permits which he trusts the Lord to do if in fact they have a real foundation. Those who have never believed do not.
This passage does not teach that you can lose and regain your salvation. It teaches that there will be folks in the church who have been given all that they need to be saved, but they will still reject the Lord. Thus we are encouraged to make our call and election sure - lest we be found on that day of judgment wanting.
What a great mercy it is that the Lord continues to minister to those who join themselves to a church, but are only joined superficially - here is meat for such as these to chew upon, that they may accept Christ as their Lord and Savior "for real".
posted by Daniel @
| Celebrating childlessness? Not really.
|The last item up for discussion on Albert Mohler's podcast (The Briefing) this morning, was about celebrating childlessness.
Calum Marsh, writing for the Toronto National Post, is put off by a friend's decision to have children. Marsh doesn't have (and doesn't intend to produce) any children. In the article he expresses his annoyance at how there is an expectation in our culture that once you're married, you ought to have children. He doesn't want children because they would destroy the kind of life he wants to live: a life with fewer responsibilities, and more disposable income. Though he doesn't use the word narcissism to describe what drives him to "celebrate" childlessness - it ought to be clear to anyone with a Christian world view that Marsh (in celebrating childlessness) is really just trying to destigmatize a kind of narcissistic world view that celebrates the pursuit of personal pleasure above such things as responsibility and growing up.
One thing I share with most men who have become fathers, is the knowledge that becoming a father made me grow as a person. Grow isn't the right word in this context, it made me mature as a person. When I became a father, I put away childish things - not the least of which was the kind of self-seeking lifestyle that modern journalists like Marsh would have us celebrate.
That isn't to suggest that once you become a parent you're forever free from fits of selfishness. You're not. But having this kind of responsibility - the kind one ought not to shirk - will drive you to stick with something you would otherwise have given up on. The same man who would flee an attacker for his own safety, will face that same attacker to protect his wife or children. Being responsible for your own children causes you to be someone better and bigger than you were ever going to be.
Of course some people when faced with the sudden expectation of parenthood, refuse to mature. They flee from responsibility into a kind of arrested childhood - determining to prolong and nurture their arrested adolescence by ignoring the responsibilities their actions have placed upon them. They suffer for this, as do their children. So we see that narcissism doesn't always produce childlessness, it sometimes produces parents who choose to live as though they had no children - and we all suffer for it (eventually), as nothing provokes a broken home quite as fully, as an absentee parent.
We shouldn't be surprised to find this narcissistic generation is embracing a kind of Emperor's New Gender mentality. Not only does this generation embrace the notion that you are whatever you think you are - but it goes that extra, irrational step past that, to the place where others have to believe the same things that I have convinced myself are "true" about me. Well - only when it comes to moral distinction. If I put on blackface and claim to be a "black" man when I am not, this is rightly considered offensive. Even if the reason I choose to identify as a black man is not racist, people would still be offended - and no one in their right mind would every start referring to me as a black man - no matter how convinced I am that I've always known I was really black. Yet if instead of blackface, I adorn myself in makeup and women's clothing, and claim that I am now a woman - anyone who denies me this delusion is a hate filled bigot who deserves to be shamed and ostracized for having the audacity to proclaim what is painfully obvious to all - that I am a man, and not a woman.
I will tell you why that is, by way of an example. The law tells us that if we destroy the unhatched eggs of an endangered bird, we will be responsible for taking the life of an animal on the endangered species list - requiring us to face fines and prison. No one questions the fact that by destroying the egg of an endangered bird, I am in fact destroying an endangered bird - everyone can see the truth of that because it doesn't impose upon anyone's life choices. But destroying an unborn human child? That is okay, because we are willing to pretend that the unborn child isn't human in order to justify the mother's choice to remain childless. It's not murder, because the unborn human child isn't legally recognized as human ...yet. What is plain and simple when it comes to endangered species (animals!), is suddenly obscured by the "right" of the mother to shirk her biological (and dare I say divine) responsibility.
So we should not be surprised that there is a blindness afoot with respect to gender identity. The fact that we can claim to be what we are not, such that everyone must accept our delusion, only affirms that this blindness is moral in nature. It is as the Apostle Paul writes - "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." (c.f. Romans 1:18 [ESV]). That is exactly what is going on with regards to gender identity. People are themselves suppressing the truth - and expecting others to do the same - going so far as to describe the failure to do so in terms of hatred, bigotry so as to shame them into calling what is patently false, true.
The celebration of childlessness is just another expression of the same ball of wax. A celebration of perpetual, arrested immaturity - a celebration of immorality, and self exaltation. It is the celebration of the moral decay and compromise. It is a time of ignorance - what the bible would describe as every man doing what seemed right in his own eyes; in other words, a time where judgment is mounting.
posted by Daniel @