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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
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.
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The Buzz


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.
- C-Train

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
 
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Friday, November 28, 2008
Thanks Giving Weekend
Our thanks giving was back in October. But to all my 'merican friends, Have a safe, happy, and especially thankful, Thanksgiving.
posted by Daniel @ 1:29 PM   0 comment(s)
Thursday, November 27, 2008
My Less Than Titled Post.
31So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' - John 8:31-32 [NASB]

1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; - Isaiah 61:1 [NASB]

20But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.' - Matthew 1:20-21 [NASB]

Three cherry picked verses.

Enjoy.
posted by Daniel @ 9:09 AM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
A Nation at Rock Bottom, starts drilling...
I read on CNN today that an abortion clinic in Indiana is giving out gift certificates that can be used to subsidize abortions.

I am trying to picture the giving of such a gift:

Guy: Hey Marcia, I hear you are suffering financially but I know that hasn't stopped you from engaging in activities that produce children; and I likewise know that you have no moral hang-ups about killing your own children, so long as they aren't "born" yet, so I thought to myself - hey, your next murder is on me!

Marcia: Thank you so much! What a thoughtful gift, and I didn't even tell you that I voted for Obama, how did you know?

Guy: I just thought, hey, that Marcia sleeps around, but I never see her pregnant. I put two and two together. Good luck with the job search!

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posted by Daniel @ 10:14 AM   6 comment(s)
Monday, November 24, 2008
Profiting By Diligence....
The winter months are upon us up here in Canada Cold-ada, consequently I have stopped riding my bike to work. In lieu of said ride, I am now, once again, a patron of the municipal transit system. <shudder>

Transit patrons are an interesting consumer group by the way. A mad mix loosely made up of [1] those who (because of poverty or circumstance) are "forced" to ride the community limousine; [2] tree-huggers; and people who could afford to drive, but choose not to just because it would be more of an inconvenience to them to do so. That is, transit patrons are by nature, poor, cheap, or wackos, and there is a surprising amount of overlap between these groups.

Which is to say that if you want to join a bike gang, but cannot afford a Harley, there is room for you on the bus. Buy yourself a leather jacket, some jeans, a belt made out of motor-cycle chain, and snake skin boots with buckles, and then you can ride the bus with some like minded (and equally poor) friends and set about trying to intimidate old people on their way to shopping, and commuters on their way to work. Likewise, if you like rap, you can buy yourself a "hoodie", an ipod, and a baseball cap - let your over-sized pants hang loosely around your hips with the label of your designer underwear hinting to all that your bus riding poverty is merely a ruse, and that secretly you are a well to do, but "bad" momba-jumba, who likes to offend people on the bus with your profound grasp of the local scatological cant.

I don't really care for the bus, but this post isn't really about the bus, it is about one particular ride, that I purposely extended on Friday.

My good wife has been informing me well in advance of the weather, that a good and prudent husband ought to find the long extension cord by which we normally, and annually, plug in the block heater for our van. A block heater, for you southern folk, is a heater in your engine that when plugged in heats up your oil pan. Frozen oil is thicker than warm oil, so that starting your engine in cold weather is like trying to stir a bowl full of molasses. It drains the battery quickly, and the likelihood of starting your vehicle once it is frozen is almost nothing. Like a madman, I put off performing the dutiful duty of retrieving said extension cord, only to wake up one morning weeks later, to a very cold, but apparently predictable, surprise.

I realized it was "that" cold when I went out to help my son put out the recycling. I thought to myself, "Man, it's cold out. I wonder if the van will start?" - and since I prefer to test such things empirically, I went in and got the van keys, only to learn once again how like the proverbial grasshopper I am, and (subsequently) like the ant my wife is.

Like most men, at this point - the point where you realize your wife has been telling you to do something to avoid the very thing that has just happened, and you know that she was right, and that you really are as lazy as you said you weren't when making all sorts of excuses for not doing "as soon as she mentioned it" - that is, you know that you smug putting it off has backfired in spades - I say, as a consequence of the sudden crashing reality of this - I, like most men, entered into a state of controlled desperation - not unlike a body that shuts down non-essential organs as it goes into shock. I was suddenly an emotionless machine - cold and calculating in retrieving the extension cord and plugging the van in - as though I had done so the previous night... Somewhere deep down, I had hoped that by plugging in the van it would start later it, I mean, if I left it plugged in all day, it may warm up enough to hide my oversight, and thwart my wife having been right once again about my procrastinating ways...

But that wasn't to be. My wife contacted me earlier in the morning, after I was already at work with the less than cryptic message: too little, too late.

Grace, thy name is "Eve" - not that my wife's name is Eve, it isn't, but rather that sounds more poetic that "thy name is wife". Anyway - she was disappointed (of course!) in that the van hadn't started, but she resisted the that internal ache that was no doubt telling her to gloat over having been right. Yet I say, she refrained from saying: "I told you so".

I thank the Lord for that work in her life.

So it was that prior to leaving my office on Friday, I checked the website of a local hardware store - one that was on my way home - and found a battery booster - the a rechargeable, portable battery used specifically to jump start vehicles with deceased batteries. The item was $89.99 for a seven-hundred-cranking-amp battery.

Now, again, if you are from the south, you might not care for the distinction between, say, 300 and 700 cranking amps, but up here the distinction is crucial - the more cranking amps, the more power you have drive your icy cam-shaft through the frozen syrup of engine oil. Speed makes all the difference here - and the higher the cranking amps, the faster the "churning" - and thus, the more likely the "cold" start.

So I am on the bus, ignoring the poor young gansters who are trying to out "tough" one another with their foul language and body odor, and I am thinking, it's Friday, I just want to go home - and the last thing I want to do is get off this bus cross a windswept parking lot, buy a booster, then come back here and wait in the cold for another 20 minutes to catch the next bus that goes to my house. Nope, I was thinking - I will just go home, call someone for a boost, start my van that way, then drive over here and pick one up - or not? I mean, once the van starts, I won't need a boost, for surely I will have learned my lesson.

Just a reality check here. I have never learned that lesson. About three or four times a winter we have to boost our van, for all it takes is forgetting to plug it in just once - and it will freeze up over night.

Anyway, so I go through this little struggle - a pity party really. Why should I have to get off this nice warm bus that has been generously peopled with such colorful personalities? Surely it is a sort of delirium that drives people to do now what can be put off till a more convenient moment? Of course, it was this mentality in the first place that put me in the second place. Had I obeyed, er, ah, taken the advice of my spouse, I probably wouldn't be buying this item since the van would have started,... yada, yada, yada.

So I get off the bus, cross the long, icy lot, scour the enormous store for said item, check the part number to be sure I got the right one, and realize that the price on the shelf is $40.00 more than the price on the web page.

Great.

Like most men, I would rather pay $40.00 more for a product that have to talk to anyone about the discrepancy. Maybe it makes me feel more manly if I can do a thing without having to interact with other people - maybe it is a fight or flight thing, you know, I would rather flee from confrontation than fight for a bargain - I can't say, but a big part of me is tuned to the idea that if this is going to be a hassle, I am just going to pay the shelf price.

So I stop a one of the people in the store uniform as she and another are racing past me on some official store business. I know their business is official because they are grossly engaged in discussing some store matter as they whisk past me. My inquiry might have gone unnoticed had I not physically stepped in the path of the one and asked directly, "Excuse me,..." even having only said that much, I read the annoyance in her face, and decided to ask my question in a way that allowed her to continue pursuing her hasty objective, "Excuse me, this item is priced differently on your website than it is on your shelf, who would I talk to to sort that out?" - you see the way I asked it allowed her to give me some direction without putting her out to much. The agitation on her face became less clear (a promising sign), and she directed me to a parts counter behind which no one was standing.

Immediately she was off, and I cautiously approached said counter - heaving this booster with me. The thing is basically a car battery with a handle, so you can guess at the weight. I place it up on the counter, look around for about... ten seconds or so ... then give up on that whole line of action. One thing I have learned about standing in a store during holiday season, is that the over-worked staff are not going to be looking for people who look to be lost ducklings. They will be avoiding them like the plague. No, the only way I am going to get any help is if I tackle someone.

So I decide to take it too the nearest till. I mean, perhaps the price on the shelf says one thing, but the price will be different at the till. Right? So I stand in line at a till, finally see a cashier and ask her, what I expect is a rational question, "Can you please tell me the price of this item?" She looks at me like I have special needs. The price being clearly marked, I suppose, on the box.
"Why it is $129.99".
"Yes, thank you, but what does it scan to?"
"I am not sure I..."
"okay, on your web site the price is $89.99, yet here it is marked $129.99, and I ..."
"--Oh, we don't have the Internet here at the till,"
"Yes, thank you ma'am, I am sorry that I gave you the impression that I thought you did. What I would like you to do is to scan the bar code of this item and see if the price in your system is the one from the web page or the one on the sticker..."
"Okay...."
BEEP
"$129.99."
"Sigh, okay, who would I talk to about a discrepancy between the web page and the shelf price?"

At this point the cashier looks imploringly, and uncertainly to another cashier as though I had just asked her something inappropriately intimate. They sort of co-agree that "customer service" ought to be the people I present my dilemma to, and then she turns back to me, as though I hadn't heard the conversation that just took place two feet away from me, and says, "You should talk with 'customer service'"

"Where is that?" I ask.
"Do you see that large sign over there?" (She points to some vague point behind her)
"Um, no I ..."
"The one that says in large letters, 'CUSTOMER SERVICE'?"

Okay, in my own defense here, the sign may have been twenty feet across and six feet tall, but it was truly camouflaged. Never, in the history of mankind, has a sign that large ever no perfectly matched the background immediately behind it.

"No, I still don't...."
"Right over there, it's a pretty big sign,..."

At that point, I had something of a revelation. There it was, slowly taking shape - a sign the size of a mack truck, hanging almost invisibly in the distance - the writing upon it so small, I openly wondered at the marketing genius of making a sign that big seem so small.

So I haul the battery booster to the customer service desk, only to find a group for sad and forlorn than the public transportation crowd. Here we see sitting to my life a man who looks to have been here for an hour - agitated, and cranky, a man driven to the edge by being made to stand in a line that doesn't move. I see in his hand the yellow stub of a ticket, and inside me something dies.

You know, I look up, and there on the wall is that dumb LED sign with the number "44" showing. This guy's ticket is is like, 150 or something, and I realize that I have to go get a ticket, because if I dare approach the counter without a ticket in my hand - no matter how long I have suffered in line - I will surely offend anyone who is legitimately waiting with their ticket. So I get my ticket and commence the long wait.

In the time it takes to grow a small beard, I finally approach the counter.

Guess who is there? Miss - go over to that other (empty) counter.

She doesn't recognize me, as apparently she has the short term memory of a gold fish. So I heave the battery booster onto her counter, and with care and attention to detail, I reiterate my exact words, in exactly the same tone and inflection, as I had previously. My hope was that in doing so she would realize who I was, and that the guilt of knowingly sending me astray would crush her psyche like a bug, ... with love of course. She was clearly oblivious to my mental assault however, so after checking myself spiritually (Spirit to Daniel: don't give in to the flesh and its desires - it wants to use this to convince you that God is not in control. Whose hands hold your days and times? Be content that the Lord is with you even in this - he is aware, and you have grace untold to deal with this if you are willing to receive it.) In a heartbeat I set aside my gnawing desire for vengeance, and instead, explain my dilemma.

It causes quite a stir, as no one seems to know what to do. She calls over a co-worker (a committee is more likely to corrupt justice than an individual for this one reason - shared responsibility means that if I am wrong, so what? I am not the only one!), and together they try to ferret out why the price is different. The first line of defense it seems is to ascertain whether or not I am a lying, thieving, con artist...

"Do you have a flyer or anything with the price on it?"
"No, as I told your friend here, I was on your web-site, and there noted the price and part number prior to coming here to make a purchase."
"Did you bring anything with you?"
"If you are asking me whether or not I keep the Internet in my pocket, the answer is no, my pockets are not that deep..."

I could sense the flesh creeping into my manners again, as it revels in making other people feel small and stupid by being snide, witty, and caustic. So I back off.. a bit.

"I am pretty sure a large outfit like this has an Internet connection (there were at least 100 employees in the store at that time), you could just check the Internet and see for yourself if I am making this up."

It saddens me that I alone am the only one I know of to document the next ten minutes, for surely no other ten minute span in all of history has ever so perfectly portrayed in action the entire concept of ineptness. It is something of a crime against history and humanity that this display was only witnessed by myself, for I cannot hope to frame it well enough to capture the moment, it is suffice to say I lived through it, and will carry the scars in my heart until I leave this world.

Finally, I called out from memory the part number - "one one one five five one one six."

"um? eleven fifty-one fifty one?"

"eleven-fifteen-fifty-one-six."

"fifty-one, fifty-one?"

Deep breath.

"eleven-fifteen-fifty-one-six. that's eleven... dash... fifteen ... fifty-one ...dash ...six."

"OH! Here it is!"

In my mind the hallelujah chorus spontaneously erupted as new found joy came once again into flower after the dark storms of my dispair.

I paid for the booster, and raced out of there to try and catch the next bus (since they run half an hour apart).

I missed it, of course. And that meant riding the bus with a worse crowd.

You see, the "home commute" crowd has a better ratio of gainfully employed people than the latter crowd. The latter crowd is made up of mostly young, angry urbanites who so society that when they ride the bus that try to out do one another in making the experience as hair raising and terrible for the next person as possible. Lot himself would have folded like a leaf if he had to ride the bus after dark in my town. Well, maybe not Lot - but some lesser man for sure.

Anyway, so I get home late, but victorious - having overcome personal laziness and exercising diligence for a change. Of course, I was making up for my own error, which sort of tarnished my personal celebration - but my wife was gracious enough to over look that.

Bottom line. I checked their website today and the booster thing was now marked at $129.99. It may be that there was a mistake on the web site, and that my $40.00 savings was a hole that they quickly plugged up. But more likely it was a random offer set up by the larger corporation that hadn't found its way into the local pricing, and was a limited time offer. Had I not acted when I did, I would have had to pay an extra $40.00.

Anyway. I wanted to post something, so now I have.
posted by Daniel @ 1:26 PM   6 comment(s)
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Daniel's quick Grammar test
Without using the internet to find the answers, see how well you do:

[1] What is the difference between a phrase and a clause?

[2] What is a predicate?

[3] Adjective is to noun as ___________ is to verb?

[4] What is the definite article?

[5] A conjunction is to a clause what a __________ is to a phrase?

[6] What kind of word is the indefinite article? (noun? verb? etc.)

[7] In English, what is the difference between an active and a passive sentence?

[8] What is the difference between a conjugation and a declension?

[9] What is the second person plural form of "I"?

There, that should be enough for today. An uneven nine. I have written the answers below in white, so after you have taken a stab at them you can highlight the "invisible" answers below to see how well you did.


[1] A clause is a group of related words that includes a verb, a phrase is a group of related words that does not contain a verb.

[2] In a sentence, the predicate tells us what the subject is or is doing. In the sentence, to use a classic, "Mr. Morton walked down the street" - the predicate is "walked down the street" - it describes what the subject is or what the subject is doing, including any verbs, objects, or phrases that are governed by the verb. (thanks David for the correction).

[3] an adverb

[4] "the"

[5] "preposition". This isn't a hard and fast rule by the way.

[6] The indefinite article "a" as well as the definite article "the" are both adjectives.

[7] In an active sentence the subject "verbs" the object, in a passive sentence the subject is being "verbed by" the object. Active: Dan throws the ball. Passive: The ball is thrown by Dan.

[8] A conjunction tells us how a verb's form changes depending on the person (first, second, or third) and the number (singular or plural). The irregular verb "I am" in English becomes "you are" in the second person singular, "he/she/it was" in the third person, etc. That would be the conjugation of the irregular verb "I am". Declension tells us how a noun changes form according to its case. In English, most nouns, when used in the plural, simply add an "s" but some words, such as child and mouse, change their form entirely in the plural (children, mice). The various forms of the same noun are called its declension.

[9] you (all).


There. I hope that gave you five minutes of distraction.

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posted by Daniel @ 6:26 AM   7 comment(s)
Monday, November 17, 2008
The Body of Sin, distilled...
How one understands Romans 6:6 will either turn the closing remark of Romans 7 into a jarring and confusing statement by Paul, or it will be an underscore to which one can heartily add their own AMEN to. The last part of verse 25 reads: "I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."

A poor understanding of Romans 6:6 will cause Romans 7:25 to be, as I said a moment past: jarring (at best) - it will leave one going huh? I don't follow you an hundred percent here... I mean, how can you say that with your flesh you serve the law of sin?

Remember from my previous post that I made a distinction between the body that sin owns, and the old self? Well, I think I made the distinction, I should really read it again to be sure. The point was that sin owns the body; hence: the body of sin (i.e. sin's body). If sin owns the body, and the "I" that I truly am (to borrow Paul's metaphor) is "married" to my body, then what my body does and what I do are one and the same. I am, bound to a body that sin owns. I call it my body, but it is just as much sin's body as it is my own - perhaps more so.

But if the "I" that is truly me really did die in Christ, then the union between me and this body that sin owns - this body that I reside in - has been severed.

That is, the "I" that makes all the decisions for my body is no longer bound to a body that sin owns. Sin still owns the body, but having been set free from that union, sin no longer owns me - it used to own me through my body, but no longer has any claim on me.

Sin still owns the body - that is why no matter what I do I can't stop myself from desiring sin - because it is my body that desires to sin, and always will. It cannot help itself, it is entirely corrupted by - owned by - sin. But when I died with Christ on Calvary, I was set free from the law of sin and death - the law that was akin to a marriage between myself and the body of sin. I died and though my consciousness continues to reside in a condemned body ; though it continues to reside in a body that is owned by sin - yet I am owned by sin no longer, for I am owned now by Christ - connected to, married to another.

The picture is this: The believer is saved from sin directly through death in Christ; this death severs the former union between the believer and "the body of sin" - so that the believer, no longer bound by the dictates of that marriage, is free to marry another: Christ.

The OT is rife with the imagery of these very things. The point is that if you are in Christ, you really have been set free from sin's power through your crucifixion with Christ so that you no longer have to obey sin, and having been set free, you can now obey God.

Yes, the "flesh that sin owns" will continue to demand your obedience, but frankly, you are not its servant anymore, and though long standing habit inclines you to obey it, you don't have to obey the flesh - you are free to obey Christ. Obeying the flesh will only produce what sin produces: death; but obeying the spirit that you have been set free to obey - this will sanctify and lead to life and righteousness.

That is why Paul says, "with my flesh I serve the law of sin" - because that is whom his flesh serves, the law of sin. He doesn't obey the flesh however, and teaches the Christian to deny the flesh as well. This is what putting to death the deeds of the flesh is all about - denying that thing that sin owns, but you are no longer wed to. Denying it is the same as taking up your cross daily - recognizing that you are no longer wed to it, but to another, recognizing that it's power over you is broken.

The problem here is that you have to be real with these things. If the flesh no longer has power over you (and if you are in Christ this is true), then you must understand that the reason you go on sinning is not because "you can't help it" - rather it is because you have hardened yourself into someone who always obeys the flesh. There is no cure for it but real repentance. Stop doing whatever it is that you shouldn't be doing. Just stop it. You can, if you are Christ's - you must. The Israelites had to use their swords in Canaan for a reason - God could have killed every Canaanite in the land the moment the first Israelite two touched the other side of the Jordon - but he didn't. Their victory was assured, for it was God who was fighting for them - but they still had to go in and do it. So too, Christian, strap on your armor and get at it. Victory is there, but you have to be serious about repenting, and you can't let yourself be crippled by telling yourself that sin owns you - it doesn't Not'neemore.

Grace to you.
posted by Daniel @ 12:01 PM   10 comment(s)
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sin, Repentance, The Flesh, The Spirit, and The Soul.
How is that for a title?

This week I have failed to live up to many of the responsibilities in my life. I will be preaching in a few hours, and I haven't written the sermon yet. I have only just rose from a very productive time of prayer however, and I am writing more to organize my thoughts than for any other reason.

I say, my week, and perhaps I ought not to limit that to the past seven days, for surely I have been neglecting many things for longer than a week, but it is enough to say that I have allowed my Christian walk to coast for longer than I am comfortable with, and coasting in the Christian life has this one side effect, the longer you do it, the more inclined you are to continue in it.

For me, one of the difficulties in breaking out of a time of coasting is that I cannot deny that the person willfully coasting here is the real me. It is as though all my religion is mere whitewash - a clean coat that hides the junk beneath, but a whitewash that fades with time and eventually what is underneath begins to bleed through again. When I see that my old self is still there, that the real me is bleeding through; I begin to feel that perhaps my whole Christian endeavor is a facade, since the real me continues to bleed through as soon as I slacken the pace.

In this I can see how false religions perpetuate. If being holy indicates that I am justified, then failing to be holy must indicate that I am not not justified, so it naturally follows that I should pursue holiness in order to be sure that I am really justified, and having failed to pursue it with gusto, perhaps that indicates a backwards slide that must be compensated for lest I prove my faith invalid by allowing it to slide into worldliness.

Do you see the (faulty) reasoning that underlies all that? It says that I am only justified if I act justified, and if I stop acting justified, that means I am not justified, etc. etc. The link, if unstated, is undeniably there - works produce justification.

The problem with that sort of reasoning is that it isn't biblical. It is very deceptive in that if one doesn't bother to examine it closely, one doesn't note that it is entirely carnal and worldly. It is worldly wisdom - it is the way that seems right to a man, but leads only to death.

In Romans chapter six, the Apostle Paul begins his defense against an anticipated objection to his teaching on salvation by faith. I find this passage quite helpful in identifying this particular struggle.

Paul knew that many of his original readers were persuaded that a person had to keep the law in order to become righteous, and that once a person was righteous, it was that same righteousness that justified them. If we are not justified by our own righteousness there is no point in keeping the law, that is, if we are not justified by our own works of righteousness through keeping the law, then what is to stop us from continuing in sin after we are justified? I mean, that is a good question if you are convinced that you get justified by keeping the law, isn't it?

Paul knew that unlearned men would say that justification by grace through faith means that it is "okay" to sin, and that is why Paul pulls the teeth out of that argument from the beginning of chapter six. Grace doesn't mean you continue in sin - it cannot mean that because the grace that you receive comes through a union with Christ. The nature of the grace itself (Paul will argue) dismisses the notion that salvation by grace leads to debauchery.

Paul speaks of the reality of our union with Christ in terms of striking down the notion that we will continue in sin. Paul dismisses this anticipated accusation by showing the absurdity of it. How can anyone who is united with Christ continue in sin???

Unlike the theological position of those whom Paul anticipates our justification is not self produced, but God induced. The foundation of our hope is not in what we can do for ourselves, but what God in Christ has graciously done for us already.

In Romans 6:1-12, Paul is teaching that Christians will not continue to live in sin once they are saved by grace, and he teaches why that is, and how it happens. It is one of the most fruitful passages in scripture, and perhaps one of the most difficult passages to interpret correctly. Not that what is being said is difficult or even complex - but rather that every one of us wants to read that passage so that it lines up with our own experience - we want an interpretation that matches our condition - and that usually means explaining away, or dismissing as wrong-headed those parts of the text that do not agree with our present experience.

One of my first mentors led me to memorize this whole chapter because, as he said, I was to use it as a weapon against temptation. His formula was simple, whatever a person was being tempted to do, they just had to plug a description of it into this passage then recite it until the desire to sin went away: "What shall I say then, shall I continue in greed that grace may abound? May it never be! How shall I, who died to greed, continue in it?"

The mentality, of course, was that since this was true, all I had to do was brainwash myself until it worked. The passage was to be used like a tool to produce an effect - in this case, the desired effect was to overcome some temptation, and the process was only about as effect as the buy-in. I mean, if you could be convinced that this would work - then you were more likely to have success with it.

The problem I knew instinctively, was that for all the seeming piety in dealing with temptation thus, it was to me a carnal effort. I know that when Christ was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, he quoted scripture that is, he rebuked the lies of the devil by speaking truth from scripture. But Christ was not reciting scripture as a tool or a means by which He was delivering Himself from sin and temptation! Can you imagine? No, Christ was resisting the devil in the same way that we are told to - by surrendering Himself to God - you cannot be the serve one man when you are surrendered to another.

The point is that people who are making the same mistake as Paul's hypothetical objector, when they read Romans 6, they have to interpret it in a way that has them making themselves righteous through some means. I could have used the other end of the scale and spoke of those who are convinced that justification has nothing whatsoever to do with sanctification, and showed how these would interpret Romans six according to their presumption as well. It isn't that the text is difficult I say, it is that more than any other place in scripture - we bring our baggage to this text, and like a smith applying gold plating, we hammer the text around our baggage until it looks good as gold in our own eyes.

I have struggled therefore, with the text - and made every effort to understand it plainly, and to know myself and what I bring to it, and to set those aside and read the text a'right, as it were. I probably fail in many ways, and yet what light I have gleaned, if any, has helped me immensely in times such as my prayer time this morning.

You see, as I read it, Paul in speaking of our union with Christ as the foundation from which our deliverance comes, contends that it is through this union we are set free from sin's power, and having been set free from sin's power, we are free to obey God. If someone asks me what Romans six is about, I can say it tells us that believers are set free from sin's power so that we they can obey God.

Our old man was crucified with Christ in order that the body that belongs to sin might be henceforth set free from slavery. That is the teaching in Romans 6:6.

As I was grounding myself in prayer this morning, I was struggling with grace. How my heart yearned to merit an audience with my Maker. Oh, come now, it is so ridiculous we say - have you ever lived even one day on this earth - even your best day - what that day sufficient to merit you favor? Would you be willing to take your most holy pious day, and come before the Lord on the day of judgment and claim as Job did that you hold fast to your integrity? I have no day in my life that I would dare stand upon, and yet I am trained by the sliding scale of righteousness that, since there are days when I am more obedient than others - it stands to reason that I am accepted more on those days where I merit it more. As vile and obviously corrupt as that kind of thinking is, I found it there in my breast with clarity this morning.

I mean I knew, I knew that what my heart yearned to do was clean itself perfectly and present to God a vessel fit for his Spirit, and unless I could do that I felt I had no business at the throne of grace. I contemplated how it was that I could know this to be a carnal, worldly, and utterly invalid claim to God's presence, and yet I found that having the truth in no way settled the ulcerous demand from within; I wanted to be acceptable to God by "being acceptable" and not by accepting that I am accepted in the beloved.

It was yet another glimpse for me, at the depth of my own depravity, and by extension, the whole depravity of sin in general. My mind understood that I could not make myself acceptable to God - yet the "body that sin owns" continued to as it always has, you see, it isn't the body that sin owns that is set free - it is we who are set free from that body. Christ set me free from the dominion of sin's body.

Did you get that?

He set me free from the dominion of the flesh with belongs to sin. You don't believe that the flesh belongs to sin? Sin and death go hand in hand (read Romans 3-5!) - the fact that the flesh will die is proof enough that the flesh is still is owned by sin. The genitive in the Greek is the possessive case, when your translation says, "the body of sin" in Romans 6:6 - that is a formal translation, we would say, informally, "sin's body" - but in the context we are talking about our own body - the body in which we live. The same body that Paul ends Chapter seven with by saying - who will save me from this body of death??

So it was that this morning I was struggling with this body that sin still owns, struggling because it seemed to me either I have never understood Christianity or Christianity is an exercise in contradiction - for how can I be free from sin, if I still sin??

Then I understood, and not spuriously either, I was begging for clarity on this point, and waiting for it in prayer - I think my question distilled, for it was half prayed in words, and the other half in the meditation of my heart: Lord, how can it be that I am a sinner and saved from sin? How am I saved from sin? If I sin still, am I saved from sin? How can I have peace if I am always concerned that I am misunderstanding a fundamental and defining principle in my faith? How should I respond to the flesh Lord? HOW?

Then I began to see as the scripture came to mind, that God loved me before I loved Him - while I was yet in my sins. If His love and attention were brokered by my effort or obedience, then I should never have received his love - and if I were willing to be honest about my ability - I would never warrant it even now - for all that I do is tainted, I have no illusions about that. If therefore I did nothing, and can do nothing, and will never do a thing to earn, purchase, or merit God's love or favor - if His love for me depends on something outside of me, then I cannot - nay, must never look within for some way to broker it. Indeed, what is within me but sin's body - sold out eternally to sin, I am no bound to the body that is bound to sin, but bound to God in Christ. I have a new master even if I reside in a house that is bound to another. It may be enslaved, but I am not.

The difference is perhaps too subtle for my poor words, and yet there it is. There is the body that is bound to sin, there is me who was crucified with Christ so that I am no longer bound to sin's body - even if I reside in it - and there is now only a moment by moment choice as to whom I will obey - sin leading to death, or obedience leading to righteousness. Oh, it is like night and day as I right it, but I worry that time may fade the thought, so I wanted to get it out of me.

As the truth of it poured into me, I wondered if this ought to be what I preach on today. Conventional wisdom (that's what they teach you in seminar) is that you ought not to teach a thing you are just coming to grips with yourself, and there is a good reason why we call that conventional wisdom - because you don't want a doctor operating on you who is still working out the kinks, as it were, and wrong-headed preaching is far more serious and more deadly than medical malpractice. Yet the truth is that God provides, and I didn't give Him the opportunity to do so all week, and as I was asking Him if I ought to teach this, some scripture came to mind - certainly the verse that speaks of those whose faith is persecuted who stand before a judge or tribunal to give testimony of that faith - that they should not prepare before hand what they should say, etc. - but really, I wasn't satisfied with that as being applicable, since the context is very specific. So I waited, and another verse presented itself which was clearer, followed by several supporting verses after the thought, at least enough to satisfy me in the certainty that God is the speaker, and I am the messenger, and that the messenger speaks what God gives him to speak, or he is not God's messenger.

So I plan to put all that together into a sermon to be preached in two hours and twenty minutes. If you read this post before that time is up - pray for me and for the congregation I will stand before.

Sorry about any typos. I am a little rushed. What I hope is evidenced in this post is not merely the teaching, though I hope that clears up stuff for one or more of my readers, but also that prayer is not something dead, but living.

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posted by Daniel @ 4:24 AM   2 comment(s)
Monday, November 10, 2008
Perversion.
The Latin verb pervertere, was made up of two smaller words: per (meaning "away") and vertere (meaning "to turn"). In Latin, to pervertere something meant to cause a thing to deviate from its proper purpose or activity. The noun, of course would describe the one who was deviating from a right purpose or activity.

The word perversion therefore, winds its way into English (indirectly) through the French language which borrowed the word from Latin originally. Setting aside all cultural taboos for a second, that is, for this discussion at least, restricting our discussion to what certain words actually means, as opposed to how our culture is commonly (mis)using, I hope to briefly point out, not so much that that our culture is blindly embracing perversion, since that much ought to be obvious, but rather to discuss the likely outcome of that embrace.

First, when I speak of perversion, I am simply referring to any deviation from a proper purpose, activity, or true meaning. The word perversion was originally used by the church to describe doctrine that contradicted scripture. If your theology was perverse, it meant that it ran contrary to what scripture plainly teaches. If a manuscript was perverted, it typically meant that whoever copied it (by hand) introduced a copying error into the text. These deviations from the original design were rightly called perversion.

It was only in the late 1800's that the term began to be widely used to describe aberrant sexual behavior, yet since then, that has become the common association - if you call someone a "pervert" today, you are probably not referring to his theology, but to some sexual practice.

The interconnectivity of Lego™ building bricks is no coincidence. These bricks are designed to fit precisely and purposely together. The person who glues a variety of Lego™ pieces into an artsy, mosaic so that each piece is not connected according to the intention of its design, but is instead used contrary to its design, is (formally) perverting the Lego™ for his or her own purpose. We don't stop our children from perverting their use of Lego™, unless their doing so would harm themselves or someone else (for example: Johnny! Don't let your little brother put that Lego™ in his mouth! He could choke on it!)

We recognize therefore that there is a "right" way to use Lego™, and a "wrong" way - and because it is only Lego™, we typically do not attach negative social stigma's to improper use of Lego™. Perhaps there are some Lego™ purists out there who might, but by and large, the common weal are satisfied to live and let live when it comes to Lego™ use - so long as no one gets hurt.

When we speak in an informed way about sexual perversion, we want to be careful to set aside all negative social stigma for the moment, and simply speak in terms of design and function.

However the male and female genitalia came to be compatible, the fact is that they are compatible only with one another. We would call this the "natural function" since it takes place (without prior instruction) in pretty much every species on earth. Animals "naturally" distinguish between inanimate and animate partners - that is given the choice of a rock or a living animal as a sexual partner, animals normally are able to make a natural distinction between living and non-living. Likewise, given a choice of like species, or alien species, and animal is inclined first to attempt to mate with its own species, and given a choice, animals by and large make gender distinctions too - attempting to mate with the most compatible gender available - and further, distinguishing between mature and immature partners - even dogs do not attempt copulation with new born puppies.

Thus when we speak of going against "nature" we are speaking about a natural order that clearly exists, and the word perversion, when applied properly to sexuality is describing any sexual act that transcends the natural order.

When I describe our culture as embracing perversion, I mean only that it is rejecting as a rule the natural order, and exalting "choice" above the natural order. This society reasons that while a natural order may exist, that order must not be used to restrict the actions of intelligent, emotional beings. The culture is embracing the idea that personal choice is trumps natural order - for if two consenting adults decide to transgress the natural order - and if the natural order is just a coincidence anyway - what is the harm?

There is a religion at work behind this view of tolerance, and that religion believes that the universe either has no cause, or has an impersonal cause. If no cause, then the faith of the believer in that religion is this: I believe that reality, (or the potential for the existence of reality), in one form or another, has always existed, and it is from this reality that all things flow.

The idea there is to explain where all the matter in the universe came from without requiring there to be a Creator. If everything has always existed, then No one was the creator. That isn't a "scientific" position either, in fact it is anti-scientific since it embraces a position without evidence to support it, and denies a creation without having evidence to support that denial. It truly is a leap of "faith" - the one who says that all the matter in the universe has always existed, believes that because he chooses to, and not because there is any evidence to suggest it. It is convenient to his world view to do so, but his faith adds nothing to it.

Likewise, the idea that everything created itself is equally unscientific - since there is no evidence that anything can spontaneously create itself. This too, therefore, is nothing more than a convenient belief intended to bolster a particular world view. There is nothing especially intellectual or scientific about it, except that like the previous example, it is primarily held by those who reject the idea of a Creator.

I suppose, to be thorough, we should mention that some hold to an intentionally vague denial of a Creator, and instead suggest that all things happened by "chance". This is, perhaps the most obviously ignorant of all systems since there is no such thing as "chance". If I flip a standard coin, I don't know if it is going to come up heads, tails, or even land on its end and roll. Because I don't know these things, I say that it has a 50/50 chance of being heads or tails, and next to no chance of landing on its edge. But in truth, if I possessed the math, and could accurately measure all the forces involved, I could "solve" the flip mathematically - in fact, If I had the math I could make a machine that could flip a coin however many times you would like, and always give heads, or always tails, or always landing on its edge. All we lack is the knowledge - there is no extra power in the universe called "chance" that influences the coin toss - all that stops us from knowing one way or the other is our own ignorance. Even in a system as simple as a coin toss there is so much going on (the density of the coin, the surface area, the elasticity of the metal, the air resistance, abrasions on the surface, etc. So many tiny factors that it is unlikely we will develop the mastery required in mathematics, physics, and chemistry to build such a machine - but we can reason from it that there is no special power at work that makes the coin fall heads one time, and tails another - it is simply a matter of the forces acting upon the coin. If we could measure and compute with the we could eliminate all chance from the toss. The same is true of every system we can invent that doesn't involve intelligent intervention. How can we measure how someone's mood, for instance, will affect their ability to purchase cheese at such and such a price in a street market in Bangkok?

Thus the person who reasons that the universe started by "chance" is being a willful idiot, for it ought to be clear that chance is another way of saying, "I don't know" - and not a power by which things can be created or happen. Evolution cannot simply happen by "chance" (for instance), if macro evolutionary changes have ever taken place, they have not taken place by "chance" - something made them take place, some interaction from an external system - but not chance. The universe therefore could not have begun by "chance" since the very notion of chance depends upon some external system affecting another system in a way that is presently not understood. Rather than say that the universe began by chance, one ought to say, it began in a way that is not understood.

Agnostics are another wily lot, since they accept the possibility of a Creator, but at the same time refuse any definition of the same. Agnostic scientists are by far more intellectually honest that atheistic scientific, since these are willing to accept that they don't know where it all came from. That is far superior, intellectually, than saying, I don't know where it all came from - but it certainly wasn't created!

Getting back to the main idea however: our culture's embracing of perversion. Typically, this embrace is most pronounced in those who not only reject the patterns seen in nature, but especially those who reject the possibility that there is a Creator who intended creation to adhere to a set of natural rules. Their premise is that nature itself (or any Creator associated with the "natural order") has no authority to direct their conduct. If they decide to behave in a way that is contrary to nature - so what? As long as no one "gets hurt" - it is fine!

We have been trained to think like that haven't we? As long as no one is hurt it is okay? But here is where world views collide.

In Judaism and especially in Christianity, rejecting "God's design" is tantamount to rejecting God, and rejecting God as a nation hurts that nation because God begins to judge that nation. So the world view that says, hey, if two consenting adults want to interact with one another in a way that could be described as a perversion of the natural order - then that is okay because no one is getting hurt - that view is premised upon the assumption that the God of the bible is a liar, or does not exist.

Plainly stated, the very idea that "no one gets hurt" when a nation embraces perversion, presumes that there is no God, and no judgment to attend the transgressing of his purpose as evidenced by the natural order designed into creation itself.

Yet we ought not to stop here.

One hundred years ago, homosexuality was recognized as a perversion - but our culture has redefined perversion to mean something "that society finds revolting" - rather than something that demonstrates a corruption of natural use.

It cannot be long now when someone will ask if homosexuality, why not bestiality? Pedophilia? Why are these "bad"? The same ignoring of God's design will produce the same reasoning - it is only immoral to mate with animals because people say it is immoral - if we all agreed that it was okay, it would be fine - as long as no one gets hurt. What of polygamy? Who is to say that it is moral to have one wife, and immoral to have two? Why is it okay to mate with a sixteen year old, but not a fifteen year old - or how about a physically mature nine year old? What's the harm?

Or what of abortion? There are people in our culture who support the murder of unborn children, do we consider them to be morally upright? On what basis? Popular opinion? If life exists and we artificially end it, we are working against the created order.

You see, our culture has already slid three quarters of the way down a very slippery slope. We no longer recognize any authority in the natural order - and the nations that set aside the design of God as something dismissible, the same stand this day in jeopardy of being set aside by God, if they haven't already done so.

I invite you to read the first chapter of Romans, and see what the God of scripture thinks.

It is ironic that those who regard tolerance as the greatest virtue, regard Christianity as (one of) the greatest evils simply because (biblically informed) Christians recognize the offered opiate for what it is - a license to embrace that which brings judgment.

Love constrains me to say "no" when my little ones want to do something that I know is dangerous and/or harmful. They cry and carry on because they cannot see beyond their own selfish desires. In their immaturity they imagine that to deny them something that they want is to do them some injury.

Those who reject God imagine that Christian intolerance of their perversion is unloving, but this only shows that they cannot see beyond their own selfish desires - they don't see a loving concern for this society, they only see someone who would reign in their freedom, or worse, someone who is deluded and trying to spoil the party for everyone else.

God help this nation.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:24 AM   3 comment(s)
The morning prayer...
Lord, as I prepare myself for this day at work,
Please deliver me from habitual temptations,
Not that I might feel better about myself,
but that I may draw near to you in my day,
Even this I have no strength to desire,
But your word has shown me a right path,
Now I ask your Spirit to quicken me to it,
For I know that in my own strength
I might even keep myself from my sinful habit
For a time...
But I will not have drawn near to you,
I will only have put off the guilt of sin,
And worse, whatever joy I feel for my victory,
Is an empty one, for it was not a victory over sin,
Nor a victory over self,
But a victory for the sake of avoiding guilt,
Let me draw near therefore with a pure heart,
Cleanse my heart for this, draw me to yourself Lord,
in love,
  in the Spirit, and
    in truth, for I come before your throne of grace
      in Christ alone,
        Amen.

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posted by Daniel @ 6:39 AM   2 comment(s)
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Canada and the US
Oholah and Oholibah.

Thus ends my post on the US election.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:34 AM   9 comment(s)
Was Judas one of the elect?
Here's a hint: 70Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil." -John 6:70 [ESV]

Okay, some may misconstrue the hint, so I will add another: 12While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. - John 17:12 [ESV]

Still confused? Perhaps this will help: 7So he asked them again, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." 8Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go." 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: "Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one." - John 18:7-9 [ESV]

I will walk you through it starting with the last verse and working backwards. Judas was not elect, we see this in John 18 where Judas leads the procession to arrest Jesus. John writes that when Christ says, "If you seek me, let these men go" it was to fulfill the word that he had spoken. "Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one." Judas was not one of the people the procession was considering arresting, and therefore he was not one of the people whom Christ was saying "let these go" about.

Since this was said to fulfill what Christ had said about not losing any whom God had given him - we should ask ourselves, "When did Christ say that?" Christ said it back in chapter 17 When He was praying, (that's the second verse I quoted) there He states that He hadn't lost one, except the son of perdition (Judas).

If we read the verse from chapter seventeen in isolation, it sort of sounds like maybe Judas was elect, but Christ could not have said what he said in John 18 if that were so. If Judas was elect Christ would have lost one whom the Father had given Him. It is evident therefore, that Judas was not given to Christ because that Judas was not one of the people that Christ was referring to when He said to those arresting Him, "let these go".

Judas was "chosen" by Christ to be one of the twelve - that was always the plan. But being called to be an apostle by Christ is not the same as being chosen by God. Clearly, the intention all along was to call a non-elect son of the devil to be amongst the elect apostles. Judas was called, as it were, but not chosen in the sense of election.

Why would God orchestrate it this way? To call someone who isn't chosen? One reason (I suppose) would be to illustrate and underscore a very profound truth about just how sinful and irredeemable sinners truly are. Judas, as a representative of all fallen men, was called by Christ personally, lived under the personal ministry of God Incarnate for years... consider that this unregenerate man was given all that could be given, short of election, to a man - and all these things could not produce a change in his fallen heart. He began as, and remained a son of the devil, and the best ministry the world has ever, or will ever see, could not change that. As Christ himself said, no one can come to the Son unless the Father drags him.


We ought to shudder at our fallenness, and shiver at the magnitude of God's bending down to redeem us.

Judas was one of the twelve, called to be a fallen apostle amongst the chosen saints - not called in the sense of election; he was not chosen by God in that sense - called nonetheless by Christ, but not chosen by God. All twelve Apostles were called to the office of Apostle, but only eleven chosen, only eleven were elect. It is as Matthew writes, many are called, but few are chosen (c.f. Matthew 20:16, 22:14).

The short answer therefore is that Judas was not elect, even though he was called as an apostle.

The lesson here is more than making an intellectual distinction between those who respond outwardly to the gospel call but inwardly are sons of the devil, and those who are genuinely elect.

The lesson is more, I say, than recognizing that, yes indeed there are tares amongst the wheat. Nor is the lesson confined to answering the simple question about whether Judas was elect. Really, that should be pretty straight forward.

The lesson for us is that all our cleverness and gifting, all our spiffy gospel presentations cannot penetrate the unconquerable heart of one of the devil's children. Listen: if Christ couldn't do it, you won't either. It is not by might (i.e. effort, skill, perseverance, etc. etc. etc.) that a child of God is made, it is by God's sovereign choice to regenerate a lost sinner.

Think it through if you are a child of God. The sooner you comprehend your utter inability to affect even the smallest spiritual change in another (and might I add, even in yourself) - the sooner you will begin to throw yourself upon Christ for all your spiritual endeavors. Without Christ you can do nothing. It isn't that you will be weak, it is that you will be entirely incapable.

We must learn, and relearn this lesson. Chew on it daily, even after it becomes clear to us - we must continue to learn from men like Judas - not only the difference between being chosen to do play a role here on earth, and being the elect of God, but more specifically, the lesson that no amount of teaching - even perfect teaching can penetrate a heart that God hasn't chosen.

We remind ourselves of these truths, not to encourage ourselves in a defeatist attitude: If I can do nothing, why should I try?. Instead, we remind ourselves of these truths to encourage us to rely utterly and entirely on God for all things. If it is true that we cannot do anything without Christ - that only God can affect spiritual change - that means we must do all in God's strength and not our own.

If in God's strength, then we needn't feel impotent in our ministry - we should rather feel joy, confidence, and assurance because God works even when we feel like a deflated balloon (and perhaps especially so).

When I encourage you not look to yourself for strength, I mean that you shouldn't be waiting for the springtime of your joy to cast seed on the ground - you should be ready in season and out.

Perhaps that is too poetic? Let me try it plainly, I mean don't wait for the perfect day of Christian purity and divine fellowship before you are willing to trust that God is working.

God is not sitting in heaven waiting for you to have a perfect day so that He can minister through you on that day only. Do you think the person who led you to the Lord was having a perfect day on the day you were saved? Get real. If our strength is in the Lord and not ourselves, then we must act on that truth, and not wait for strength from within to empower our ministry. You have been given some currency - don't bury it in the ground while waiting for the perfect day to invest it - use it now.

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posted by Daniel @ 6:15 AM   2 comment(s)
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I liked this...
It's been making the rounds, but it is right on the money...

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posted by Daniel @ 9:40 AM   3 comment(s)
Monday, November 03, 2008
Scripture Interprets Scripture.
The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:2, "2He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

Most of us understand that when the bible uses the word "world" it doesn't necessarily mean every last person that was ever born.

We typically recognize the broad semantic range of the word in the original language (and even in our own) and how it was commonly used (and is commonly used), and for this reason (and also because we would be hard pressed to find -any- verse in the whole of scripture where the word "world" means every last person), I say: for this reason we want to be careful as we examine the phrase in this text. We must note therefore, in the course of our examination, how often we see this word used as hyperbole; is it not easier for Caiaphas to say that the whole world has gone after Christ, than to say (more accurately) that some percentage of the population was being (and coming to be) influenced by Christ? Of course it is easier. That's why we have hyperbole - to say in a fewer words what ought to be obvious by our usage.

When we read 1 John 2:2, we see the adjective "whole" is modifying the noun "world" and some of us are emboldened to conclude because of this that the adjective modifying the noun must be indicating an all inclusiveness state. When we say "whole world" some conclude therefore that it must mean every last person.

However, that conclusion loses a great deal of luster if we actually do a word search in scripture to see how the phrase "whole world" is used. More often than not, the NT used the phrase just like any five year old would, that is, to describe an unspecific but large number, that is, the word is used in hyperbole.

Furthermore, the word is often speaking more about geography than people. In fact, it is interesting to note that while the word "kosmos" can be extended to mean "humankind" - it typically speaks of the globe itself as a source of population - and often, if we translated kosmos as "earth" we would not lose any meaning in doing so - for God so (i.e. in this way) loved the earth (i.e. people on the earth) that... etc. When we see this word used to describe people, we must be on guard against inflating the meaning to match a predetermined interpretation.

That's the grammar of it, but in the same way we want our interpretation to be rational; I mean, at least I do.

I have a presupposition that I take with me to scripture - I am convinced that truth is not self defeating, that is, I am convicted that a right understanding of scripture will not contradict reason nor will it contradict any other truth whether in or out of scripture. My firm conviction is that scripture is going to support both reason and truth, and will contradict neither.

I am likewise persuaded that truth is objective and knowable, for we shall know the truth, says the Son, and the truth shall set us free. Yes, Christ also said that He was the Truth - and we can mesh those verses together so that we understand that it is also saying that we shall know the Son and the Son shall make us free - but that juxtaposition does not replace the original meaning (you shall know the truth), it adds more meaning to it (when you know the truth, you know Christ).

Thus if Jesus is the propitiation for every last person - that makes Jesus the propitiation for everyone in hell also - which would renders propitiation pretty much "worthless" in every practical sense - since if Christ "covered" the sins of all men (the word translated as propitiate means to "cover over"), and yet some of these people still go to hell, then the propitiation doesn't do what it says it is doing.

I want to drill down here a bit. Propitiation is something that happens between Christ and God. Christ covers our sin, it isn't that he gives us the ability to cover our own sin in Him, so that we (ourselves) can uncover it someday by something we do or fail to do... propitiation is done on our behalf and once it is done it cannot be undone for it is an eternal thing.

I want to be clear as glass here - propitiation is not merely a possibility that our sins may be covered, nor is it merely a provision that if we do such and such our sins will be covered nor is it some offer that our sins can be covered etc. etc. It is the actual covering of our sins - and it is the means by which God declares a guilty sinner to be righteous. Make no mistake, if propitiation is made, it means, and can only mean - justification for the one who is propitiated (covered).

Think this through: the transaction is a heavenly, spiritual one, not a worldly carnal one. -Christ- appeases -God's- wrath. That is what propitiation means - it isn't satisfying a parking ticket.

I want to explain why we shouldn't think of our sin debt in terms of a monetary debt. First monetary debts are impersonal. The creditor is owed some currency from the debtor, and so long as the creditor receives the required currency, the debt is legally canceled. That's because monetary debt can be satisfied by money, anyone's money. The debt isn't personal.

The convicted murderer cannot appeal to someone else to serve his sentence because the sentence is not like a monetary debt - it must be satisfied by the offender - the debt is personal, in that only the offender can rightly satisfy justice in being punished for his crime.

Propitiation is not required for a parking ticket - all that is required for the parking ticket is that the debt be satisfied by someone paying it. Thus when we talk of propitiation, we are immediately speaking, not in terms of some debt that anyone can pay - as though Christ by his death, provided enough "divine currency" to souse all of sin's debt - rather we are talking about Christ's death "covering over" the sin - not satisfying a debt, but satisfying wrath.

When we reduce Christ's sacrifice to the notion that the giving over of his life produced some kind of impersonal, but glorious currency by which God was paid off, we demonstrate that we haven't understood what propitiation is all about.

Christ "covered" our sin by placing us within Himself so that God could pour out His wrath upon us. That union with Christ is the foundation of our propitiation - the foundation of our atonement. We who are in Christ, died with Christ - in fact, that is why we were put into Christ in the first place - so that God could reward our sin with death - and we =did= die, in Christ, so that God's wrath was rightly satisfied. It was this union that allowed God to kill His Son Jesus - because our sin demanded the just wrath it received on Calvary - and Christ was made to partake of it because He voluntarily united Himself to us, so that when we were dead on account of our sin, He could raise us up on account of how unrighteous it would have been to allow Christ who never sinned to remain in the grave. The same strong, union by which His life was forfeit - this union was the bond that caused us to be raised with Christ and in Christ when God raised Him from the dead.

God poured His wrath out on the sin of those who were in Christ on Calvary, and only those who were in Christ on Calvary. Only those who were in Christ on Calvary were "covered by the blood" if you will, that is, Christ only covered those who were in Him on Calvary -- said in theological language, Christ made propitiation only for the elect.

Just in case someone is missing the point...

Propitiation is -NOT- Jesus dying for every last person's sin, and taking all the sins committed by everyone for all time into Himself to provide the "means by which" those who come to God can be saved. That idea misrepresents propitiation because it is theologically charged (beforehand) with the notion that in order for God to give everyone a "chance" at salvation, He must provide the means beforehand for everyone to be saved.

There are so many wrong-headed notions in that thought, I doubt I can untangle the knots all at once, but let me address a few major points.

Problem One: God isn't trying to save anyone; that is, God is not involved in some attempt to save people as though the outcome were uncertain. God -is- relentlessly, and without fail, saving those whom He has chosen beforehand to "cover" (i.e. make propitiation for). The notion that God is trying to save everyone, but only succeeding in saving some suggests that God is not sovereign when it comes to salvation, but that man (in fact) is sovereign.

Problem Two: The idea that God must make propitiation for everyone or else he is "not fair" is not divine wisdom, but carnal corruption. When my siblings receive a gift from my father the carnal part of me demands that I too receive a like gift. Shouldn't I? I mean, they didn't deserve the gift, and neither do I, so shouldn't it be split up between us? Wouldn't that be the most fair? You see how the carnal heart works. It doesn't deserve a gift, but the moment someone else receives one, the greed within demands that we receive the same gift as a matter of obligation from the giver - that they would be unjust unless their act of grace attends to all equally. It is not justice that demands we be compensated the moment another receives something they do not deserve - it is greed. We don't deserve things just because others receive them freely. Until a person can grasp that truth, they will never understand that God doesn't have to make propitiation for everyone.

Problem Three: Is an inescapable conclusion we draw from Problem One - if God has to provide the means by which all men can be saved, and all men are not saved, that means that God is either [1] failing to save everyone (God is not omnipotent) or [2]God does not actually save anyone, but men save themselves through God's provision.

If God is trying (and therefore failing) to save all people, then God is not in complete control, and if not in complete control. In reality, either God is in complete control, or He is not in control at all. He either ordains all things, or He lets things run wild. If we say that God "allows" this or that and by that we mean God relinquishes control of reality - we are saying that God either cannot exercise perfect stewardship, or we are saying that perfect stewardship requires the perfect God to keep his nose out of it. Either way, we are painting God in colors that are less than true. God is either perfect or not. There is no way that a perfect God could "allow" corrupt men any sovereignty in any act for to do so would either be imperfect, or prove that something was more perfect that God.

If God doesn't save people, but merely provides the means by which men save themselves - then God is just a tool by which men bring their own will about. Those who desire to be saved exercise their will, and will be able to boast on that last day against those who failed to exercise their will - in choosing the right religion, and choosing to believe etc. God and Christ are reduced in this scenario to holy tools by which these men bring their own will about, and anyone who doesn't will to save themselves, only has themselves to blame!

There is a part of us that harmonizes with the thought that whatever we think of propitiation, we want this as our end result: we want those who reject God to not only get what they deserve, but we want to be convinced that they have only themselves to blame for their punishment.

Yet one needn't do injury to their understanding of propitiation, or maintain a blind eye to the truth in order to continue to grasp that final just thought. One need only understand propitiation right, and one will conclude that those who receive God's wrath have only themselves to blame for it.

But the main problem with the notion that propitiation is a provision God makes for everyone, is that it depends upon man and not God as the author of faith. If propitiation is simply a provision, what of the people who die every year who have never heard the name of Christ? What of the peoples in North and South America prior to Columbus? What of the ancient Orient? etc. If God made provision for all these people and yet failed to give them the gospel, or some instruction - what does that say about God? He provided the means but failed to provide the opportunity?

Do you see the problem with that? If propitiation means that God has made provision for every man, then that same principle ought to apply to opportunity - or God's provision is flawed.

When we understand propitiation as being inescapably linked to justification; as being the means by which God justifies a sinner; as being the very person of Christ covering the sinner who is united to Him by faith not only on Calvary, but in the grave, and again at the right hand of the Power on high - when we see that propitiation is not a possibility, but a certainty - that only those who are in Christ are covered, and that no one else is covered - it straightens out the whole mess.

What of the people who do not have the opportunity to hear the gospel? Is it fair that they should receive wrath? The answer is, "Only if they are sinners." Did you catch that. Sinners deserve wrath. Why do all those people who haven't heard about Jesus receive wrath? Because they deserve wrath. Anyone who doesn't really believe that he or she deserves God's wrath, is going to have a hard time swallowing that. They will squirm under it because they believe that God is obligated to save everyone - that is, they believe that everyone deserves to be saved - Do you not see it?

They believe that God is unjust in condemning everyone, so that in order for God to be "good" he must trying to save everyone, because His "justice" is so unjust even He is trying to help men escape from it.

No, a right understanding of propitiation leaves no room for the idea of a universal covering. Only those who are in Christ are in Christ, the rest are not. Only those who are in Christ are atoned for - the word atonement is just another word for covering - only those who were in Christ on Calvary are atoned for. Period. If anyone is in Christ, there is no longer any condemnation for them, because every last ounce of it was poured out on them already when they were in Christ on Calvary; there is no more condemnation for that person - it was -all- spent there.

For this reason I say, (i.e. for the reason of maintaining a consistent and rational understanding of the atonement) we ought to outright reject the notion that Jesus made propitiation for every last person - if that were the case, there could be no such thing as election, or even sovereignty - in fact, much of scripture would have to be held together in the sort of vague mists of "I don't know how it works together, but I believe it does".

We see that from time to time, even in well meaning men - they hide behind these kinds of phrases because they don't know their own hearts as they ought. If they could articulate what was true of themselves they might say something like, "I know that it is utterly inconsistent to hold contrary 'truths' as both being true - and yet, because I am unwilling to let go of either, I will regard my hedging theology as a most pious act of faith - since I can write off my inconsistencies as humility"

Don't laugh. People do that. They consider there to be something humble about celebrating their decision to remain in ignorance. It is not humble but arrogant and prideful to reason that because we lack wisdom we are excused from pursuing a rational faith. If we find something irrational about what we believe, we cannot imagine it a humble thing to allow it to continue. Lazy, sloppy, indifferent - sure, but not humble.

Likewise, confusing a willful ignorance with pious faith is intellectually dishonest in the least, and simply confused at best. There really is no room in a right faith for holding mutually exclusive 'truths', or excusing the practice as humble or pious. If we don't "get it", there is nothing pious about that.

I want to add a final note to that string of thought - this is not to say that an enlarged intellectual capacity is more godly than a diminished one. God forbid! I am not talking about one's ability to understand the truth, for the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God -- they are spiritually discerned, and if spiritually discerned then we conclude that we are not the ones who open our understanding, but that God does so. What I am on about is not ignorance, but rather the heart that is satisfied in holding contrary thoughts as both being true - and imagines there to be something pious about doing so. There is nothing pious about a sloppy theology. Truth exalts God, and sloppy theology benefits no one, and can hinder many. Do the math.

I know that some consider it inappropriate to mix religion with reason - as they have some figment in their thinking that causes them to imagine that the one must by necessity be pitted against the other. Some conclude therefore, with holy zeal, that irrational faith is therefore of a superior cut if they can maintain in spite of their God given ability to reason.

So, carrying on; even if the grammar in 1 John 2:2 doesn't actually say that Jesus is the propitiation for every last person who was ever born - Some conclude that it is (more or less) linguistically "okay" to read that inference into the phrase "whole world". We therefore have the duty to answer the question: Is this a fair inference?

I personally think the inference is not a fair one, I would consider it a strained one given just the grammar, and I would consider it quite strained given the grammar coupled with reason; but we have more to consider than just the grammar and reason.

Our best tool is, by far, scripture itself. We should always check scripture when a verse is in dispute. Is the thought echoed elsewhere in scripture? How clear is it stated there? In this case, we want to look and see if scripture elsewhere speaks of Christ making propitiation using the same "not just for X... but for Y" formula, so that we can understand if the "but for Y" means "but for every last person who was ever born".

Thankfully, and fittingly, the same apostle (John) also wrote in John 11:51-52 the prophesy spoken by Caiaphas, "51He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad."

This is the same thought.

I mean read it a few times if you don't see it, but I see that the same thought in both passages being expressed by the same author (John). That suggests to me that either [1] John was schizophrenic, or [2] that John changed his doctrine at some point in life, or [3] that John isn't talking about the same thing, and we are comparing apples and oranges, or [4] that John means the same thing in both passages.

I outright dismiss the idea that John was schizophrenic or flip-flopping doctrinally, which leaves only that I am mistaken in equating the two passages, or that John is discussing the same thoughts in both passages. Examining both passages I see John explaining how Christ is dying not only for one group, but for another. That Christ (at the very least) is doing something for one group, and to be more precise, for some other group of which the first group is obviously a subset.

In the latter the high priest Caiaphas, even while seeking to unjustly put Christ to death, spoke prophetically of who Christ would die for: [1] the nation (of Israel), and more poignantly, [2] the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Remember John is commenting on what Caiaphas said - explaining how what Caiaphas said was prophetic. John shows that it was prophetic because (according to John's doctrine) that Jesus was not only going to die for the nation of Israel, but also for those children of God scattered abroad. John could have rightly said that Christ was going to die "for the nation and for the whole world" - but had he said that, we would have nothing more illuminating than we have in 1 John 2:2, that is, we would still be wondering whether Christ died for everyone inclusive or not. But here in this verse (Thank God) we have some light to shine back on 1 John 2:2. John is more precise here (John 11:51-52) than he was there (1 John 2:2) - Jesus died not only for Israel, but also for His people who were scattered abroad. John is not all inclusive here, and he is not schizophrenic or changing his doctrine - and he -is- discussing the same matter - which leaves us to conclude that in 1 John 2:2, when John writes that Christ is the propitiation for "our sins" he is referring to some group, and when he says, "and not only ours but for the sins of the whole world" he means to emphasize that the propitiation is not limited to this group, and is using hyperbole to stress that.

This agrees with what Matthew said of Christ (Matthew 1:21) - He will save His people from their sin, not He will save "all people" from their sin.

We want to remember also that Christ's death atoned for sin. That is, His death covered over sin. When we say that Christ atoned for someone, we are saying that Christ died for someone. One cannot divest the one thought from the other. Christ cannot, for instance, die for someone he is not making atonement for. The atonement is either in the death, or it is not - it is not a possibility, it is a transaction that either happens or it does not happen - it is not a pending operation. Either Christ makes atonement or he does not - his death cannot be divided into the atoning and non-atoning parts, nor can be applied after the fact as though it simply a well from which atonement could be drawn - such a picture, I reiterate - misrepresents and misunderstand what atonement is. The covering over of sin. Either one's sin is covered or it is not covered - and the cover is the death of Christ - so that when we speak of Christ making propitiation or Christ "dying for" someone we are speaking of the exact same thing.

Thus, we conclude that if the grammar in 1 John 2:2 allows suggests hyperbole, and if reason demands hyperbole, and if clearer passages in scripture demonstrate that the "whole world" reference in 1 John 2:2 must be hyperbole - we are not straining when we conclude that 1 John 2:2 does not teach universal atonement.

When we read 1 John 2:2, we are not reading that Jesus died for everyone in the whole world, what we are seeing is the author use hyperbole to stress the notion that Jesus didn't just die for this one little group. That is the point of the hyperbole in the verse. We are not reading something that contradicts John 11:51-52 - as though Jesus died for everyone that ever lived in the one verse, but only died for the elect in another. We understand that Jesus died for people from all over the whole world, and not just from the group being addressed in 1 John 2:2. This is a perfectly reasonable way of interpreting the grammar - that is, we are not putting a strain on the interpretation of 1 John 2:2 by [1] recognizing hyperbole when we see it, and [2] interpreting the force of the verse ("not just us") through the lens of the hyperbole, rather than squeezing a universal inclusiveness by ignoring the hyperbole and stressing an inference that can be derived from the text by ignoring all else.

It is important to me that my interpretation of scripture begins and remains reasonable, I want my understanding to make sense grammatically, and I want it to do no injury to the remainder of scripture. If 1 John 2:2 is teaching us that Jesus atoned for everyone that ever lived, but John 11:51-52 tells us that Jesus died only for those who were His - I either conclude that my understanding of one of these verses is incorrect, or that scripture has real and deep contradictions.

I personally am inclined to the former: these texts describe the same thing, and as such I am convinced that in spite of the apparent ambiguity of 1 John 2:2, it is not teaching that Jesus made propitiation for everyone. It -is- merely stressing that the propitiation Christ achieved was by no means restricted to the group John was writing to.

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posted by Daniel @ 6:49 AM   4 comment(s)
 
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