H  O  M  E          
Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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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.
My complete profile...
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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Tuesday, May 30, 2006
"Free Grace" debunked... again.
If you have been following my blog for any amount of time, you will recall that I am no fan of "free grace" theology.

Matt Waymeyer writes a simple exposition about Romans 8:28 here, comparing scripture with Free Grace Theology - and scripture wins.
posted by Daniel @ 10:49 AM   23 comment(s)
Fort McMurray Alberta...
I had the privilege recently of talking to an interim pastor out in Fort McMurray Alberta.

He and his wife are presently ministering to a small group of conservative believers who have been meeting together for the past seven years or so and are in need of a more permanent shepherd. The group do not have a building, nor does their congregation have any formal structure that I am aware of (elders, deacons, constitution, etc.)

Pray that these believers will be sensitive to God's leading as they wait on the Lord for a shepherd; Pray of course, that anyone they approach for consideration will also wait on the Lord.

God's will is acceptable, that is, everyone can accept it. It is good, that is, there is nothing evil or selfish about it. And it is perfect - that is, it cannot be improved by adding to it, or leaving something out.

Pray with me for this group of believers.

posted by Daniel @ 10:06 AM   5 comment(s)
Friday, May 26, 2006
The "Subjectivity" Cop Out.
A while ago I posted my thoughts on the current "worldly" trend infecting the university Christian crowd - that being the potty mouth trend. I suggested that idea that foul language was actually just grown up language was in fact false.

I certainly wasn't the first on the scene, and I won't be the last. But as it happens, Phil Johnson happened to remark about "how recalcitrant some Christians these days can be in defending their indefensible use of bad language" in response to the meta from one of my posts. It happens that the fellow Phil was likely referring to as "recalcitrant" is one of the founders and administrators of a message board that I moderate. He started a new topic in the "Christian walk" forum called "thoughts on profanity" - wherein he basically agreed with some of what Phil had to say (but remained convinced that swearing was okay) and thereafter mused openly as to whether or not the meta at my blog was indeed volatile, and further whether he himself had come across as volatile (Phil had actually said that it was the "issues" that were volatile).

I suppose I stirred it up a bit when I reaffirmed my own opinions on the matter - pointing out that while it is true that one can be profane without using X-rated words - that is, that if the intent of the heart is to be profane - one can do so using an unpolluted vernacular - yet we cannot say that because the intent of the heart can turn unpolluted words foul - that profanity is entirely a question of the heart.

I also cautioned that "No one who is fleeing from sin will play games in the name of "liberty" to see how close they can get to sinning without actually stepping over the line." - that is, I wanted this to be understood - Christian liberty is never liberty to offend others.

In particular one user took umbridge at my saying, "While it is true that the intent of the heart can allow you to say something profane without using profane 'language' - that doesn't prove that there is no such thing as 'profane language' " - and suggested that because words are culturally defined and can change in definition they cannot have an objective meaning.

My answer to that was, and I quote, "Hogwash - if that were true there wouldn't be any dictionaries."

The trouble with saying that words have no objective meaning is that faster than you can say "Post modernism is infecting the church" you set self up as the authority on what is and what isn't moral, instead of God.

I am hopelessly leery of any philosophy which (when argued sufficiently) allows us to set aside some part of scripture so that we can embrace the way of the world and do so telling ourselves that we haven't compromised.

If we don't cuss around children, or cuss when we pray - can we sincerely hold a view that words themselves are not vulgar? I have no respect for anyone who argues in the stratosphere what out to be rubber on the road. Christianity is not an intellectual exercise, and I absolutely detest it when people reason away scripture so that they can be like the world - then in a baffling display of self-delusion - act like you are the one that doesn't know right from wrong. The "liberty train" was never meant to run on rails of offense to others.

posted by Daniel @ 9:44 AM   15 comment(s)
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The Tough Choices...
If you have been at my blog for a while, you will remember my "This is what I look like now" post. It was a funny post (according to my own opinion) - regarding how people like to put their best face out there, and how I might proceed if I were so inclined.

I was going to call this - the "This is what I look like right now - Take II", but I think the tough choices works.

If you have been following the meta at all, you will know that my wife saw my precision sculpted beard on Saturday evening and politely called me "Earl" (as a derogatory) - demanded (only half playfully) that I shave it off immediately.

Now I love to fiddle with my beard and mustache - not the vain fiddling of the mid-life crisis, where I suddenly try and look "hip and happening" in a failed attempt to show that I am still quite young - hardly. Nope, my fiddling is an extension of my quirky sense of humor - If only I could grow mutton chops - you would see some serious funny pics (My wife is eternally thankful to the Lord for my inability to produce mutton-choppy-ness.) I just now asked my wife if I could desribe her as being "eternally thankful" thus, and she said that that was pretty accurate.

Anyway, I am no real fan of the sappy smile one I put up - it is sappy, but it doesn't capture the real me.

I therefore submit to you, gentle reader, a few candid pics from today, that I think really work.

I call this one: "Morning Squint" - it captures the "me" that I am, the moment I walk out of the dark bedroom and into the ultra bright kitchen. Note the carefully arranged hair - it takes hours to make it look like that.

This next one, closly related to the first, I call: "The Grapefruit Offer" - it happens while I am still in squint mode, and my wife offers me some "yummy" grapefruit for breakfast. Note the subtle change in demeanor, as I consider how tasty it will be - that sort of involuntary "cringe" reflex is typically an indicator of some form of abuse.

After a generous helping of grapefruit I am ready to wait in line for the bathroom. I call this photo: "Get out of the bathroom now, daddy needs it!" - it is subtle, but you might catch a hint of desperation in my left eye. With practice, you can plainly see the love pouring out of my inner most being.

Finally there is "The Re-Entry" - that post-morning shower shot where you throw on a standard "baseball cap" so that you don't have to worry about combing your hair. I wish Michael Moore hadn't ruined baseball cap wearing by being who he is, and wearing one all the time.

You see my dilemma. I thought about using the baseball cap shot - you know, sort of a "take back the night" kind of thing. But it was subtle you know, people might not know what I was doing, and they would just assume I was trying to look like Michael Moore or something. So I went with the sappy one.

Yet I am still pliant in the matter. What do you guys think? I am partial to "the grapefruit offer" myself.
posted by Daniel @ 7:01 PM   14 comment(s)
Restful rest.
I took a few days off, and I must say, I have forgotten how restful rest can be. It seems to take about a week to get used to resting, and then when you get used to it, you stress over having to go back to not resting.

Life is funny that way.
posted by Daniel @ 4:00 PM   8 comment(s)
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Book Contest!
I was over at Adrian Warnock's blog, and it seems that he is drumming up some links with a contest he is sponsoring to give away five books (God is the Gospel - John Piper). Rules and details can be found at his site.

I can always use a free book - so I am linking to the site with high hopes.
posted by Daniel @ 12:35 PM   18 comment(s)
Monday, May 15, 2006
Juicy Gossip!
I don't know about you, but I hate gossip.

I was emailed something the other day that basically said, "I can't believe so and so said such and such to me in the past considering how so and so has recently done such and such!

That is all fine and dandy when "so and so" is one of the people conversing, and when the "such and such" that was said is verifiable, and when the "such and such" that was done is equally verifiable.

The problem starts when so and so is not a part of the conversation (or email recipient) - and when former conversations cannot be verified, and when the current behavior is either speculative or rumor.

How does one reply to such an email? Recently, in my case, I replied to the purveyor of gossip identifying that these were unsubstantiated claims, and that the person ought to substantiate them instead of circulate them. Furthermore, I copied the target of the gossip in on my reply.

While I am sure that just copying in the target of the gossip was sufficient - I went the extra mile, and sent a further email to qualify the other. That is - the person who was the target of the gossip received a copy of my reply to the purveyor of gossip, and also a quick email to accompany it.

Here is where it sort of gets ugly.

Unknown to the "gossip-er", I was already familiar (first hand) with other information seemingly pertinent to this strain of gossip - information that this gossip-er wasn't aware of - information that knit itself seamlessly into the very fabric of this particular gossip. I like to think that I am aware enough to know that even if this fits perfectly with "insider information" - it is still gossip, and must be handled as such - which was why I chose to rebuke it in the way I did - by making the person aware that the buck stops here - that is, that I do not tolerate gossip, and being given some, I will not only check out the source, but expose the gossip as gossip simultaneously. I don't think this sort of a public rebuke is out of place when we are talking about libel or slander - that goes for all publicly committed sin in my books.

Knowing what I knew, I contacted the person being gossiped about asking them to confirm or deny the gossip - ostensibly to correct the gossip-er, but also (though I was unaware of my own heart on the matter) I think because I was deeply concerned that there might be a modicum of truth to the gossip given my "insider info."

Now because I imagined there may be some truth in it - I approached it with a bit of a chip on my shoulder beam in my eye - you know the one: the I-know-you-better-than-that chip beam? The one whereby your tone does nothing to veil your deep dismay over this person's "obvious" rebellion - and where your letter reads on the surface, in formal script that you are getting to the heart of the matter, but underneath it is clearly condemnational. Nothing as plain as, "I am so glad that you are not practicing that sort of horrible rebellion which you are portrayed as having practiced - Thank God you are not so utterly deceived and thoroughly sold out to your own carnality" - but pretty close to it.

So the reply came in the email, and what do you know? The tone was more than a little chilly - though continually polite - yet the person made it quite plain that I hadn't earned the right to pen a letter such as I had - and that if I suspected such things as I mentioned, I should have called the person personally, and not (as I had) dealt with it through email.


The person was entirely correct on that point - I should've handled it by going to the target of the gossip, and saying that someone had passed on information to me that was unsubstantiated, but by its nature troubled me - and then having heard one way or the other, I could go back to the first person and correct it. Instead my email drove a wedge between me and the person whom the gossip had first targeted.

The trouble is the person didn't deny the gossip outright - but said that it wasn't an entirely accurate rendering of the situation - and that the person spreading the gossip was not qualified to speculate. I should have loved to hear "I deny this" or "It is true - pray for me" - those I can deal with. But to hear "It isn't entirely accurate" followed by a polite but cold rebuke for having handled it poorly - well - that leaves me questioning myself.

Surely I was in the wrong in "doing the math" before I emailed this person. Yeah, I saw a picture in the dots, and taking my pencil I connected them - but sometimes we are wrong, even when it seems impossible that we could be - I accept that, and in the strength of that understanding, I ought not to have acted presumptuously. I admit that to myself and to God - I was wrong to presume, even if my presumptions turn out correct - it is wrong to make that call.

The fall out from having handled it the way I did is that I am no longer in the position I once was, where if there really is something here (even if it was "inaccurate" in some of the specifics) I no longer carry that same "clout to address it" that I once enjoyed.

My advice? Well, pray for me and for this situation - but also learn from it as well - no sense repeating someone else's folly. In this case, even though I was resisting the urge to gossip on the one hand - yet I didn't hesitate to presume upon my own interpolation of that gossip - that is, I believed it to some extent before I rebuked it. Try not to do that. When you come to someone with an attitude that says, I heard you were guilty, and I think it is true, but I am going to give you this opportunity to deny it if you want - well, you are not doing it as well as you could. Better to get your heart in order first - make sure you are clean before the Lord before you go nosing around someone else's garbage.

Grace and Peace,

posted by Daniel @ 2:00 PM   7 comment(s)
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Delivery Room Tools
Having had our fourth child about three and a half months ago, I am familiar with a certain tray in the delivery room. It is usually covered by a clean, hospital green sheet so that the tray itself seems harmless enough. Yet beneath the hospital greens everyone knows is a gleaming set of stainless steel surgical instruments at hand to assist the delivery should the need arise.

Most of us are not doctors, though we probably know a couple personally. When we interact with the medical system, it is usually in the capacity of a patient, or the friend or family member of another patient. That is, we are either spectators, or the subject of medical attention our selves. Even from our limited perspective most of us appreciate the necessity of such a tray.

Not many of us would shun or refuse their presence or use, should a medical professional deem that use appropriate - we accept that we are simply not qualified to make a decision, and therefore submit ourselves or our loved ones to trust in the hands of someone who actually is qualified to make such decisions.

Hold that thought.

Whenever we think the right thing to do is "X" yet we willfully do "Y" (or alternately we simply fail to do "X") - our action transgresses our conscience; whenever we transgress our conscience we experience a sensation known as "guilt" or "remorse."

Conscience, and subsequently Guilt, are tools God has given to every one of us. Just as our nerves tell us when something is going wrong physically, so too, our conscience produces a sense of guilt whenever we do something wrong spiritually.

In 1 Timothy 4:1-2 we read, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,..."

While guilt/remorse is produced by the conscience, shame and dishonor are produced by the ego (pride). We don't want to confuse or commingle the outcome from a transgressed conscience with the outcome from a shamed ego. The adulterous man who has long since seared his conscience so that his adultery no longer bothers him, may still remain discreet to protect his reputation - that is he wants to be thought of as upright.

The distinction between the two is minor, but I want to touch on it before I go on - the fear of being ashamed or dishonored comes from an inflated opinion of our selves - it diagnoses a sin problem - pride. Unless a man is proud, he cannot feel ashamed or dishonored. Such feelings are always and ever symptoms of self exaltation - pride. Guilt (remorse) on the other hand has nothing to do with our reputation, but rather has to do with a certain internal awareness that whatever we have done or failed to do was in fact a moral failure. Although we can't truly articulate it - we intuitively understand that our moral failure has "depreciated" us in some way.

Instinctively we desire to restore our selves to our previous state - that is, we want to "appease" our guilty conscience by "making it right."

Okay - back to the delivery room. The conscience is one of God's "delivery room tools."

Christ died to save us from our sins - not just sin's penalty, but sin's power to rule over us. When we were saved Christ quickened our conscience so that we became "sensitive" to sin - that is, we gained an acute sense of sinfulness when we transgress our conscience.

This "sin guilt" is, in a word, awful it tells us that we have done something that is not pleasing to God. Immature Christianity is entirely focused on dealing with sin guilt.

Since we are in the delivery room, let me use an appropriate example: My wife, in giving birth to our four children, did so without any drugs. No epidural, no Demerol - nothing. For the benefit of those of you have have not been in a delivery room, I will inform you that "labor" generally has two stages. The first is the contractions and whatnot - cramping pains as the body prepares itself to deliver the child. The second state is called "the transition" - it is the actual child birth part - when the mother is told to "push." Contractions and whatnot hurt, but the real pain comes in the transition - when the baby is being pushed through the birth canal. Every time my wife has gone through the transition phase - she is entirely "zoned" - If you want to say something to her you have to scream it in her ear, because nothing in the world exists for her at that moment except pain - nothing else has her attention, nor can it get her attention - she is in her own world, and no one can reach her because the pain has her full attention.

Immature Christianity is like that - laboring in birth, the new believer isn't focused on evangelism, or ministry, or anything else - the main focus of the new believer is sin guilt, and trying get out from under it. New believers will try to articulate this saying, "All I know is that I want to live a life that is entirely pleasing to God" - meaning, "All I know is that I am mortified by my sin - it is always before me, and I want to be free from it in a desperate way."

The desire to be out from under the guilt of sin is enough to motivate new believers to stop sinning as much as is within their power to do. For some, the change is profound - for others less pronounced - but the end result is that the believer deals with sin by suppressing it as much as they are able. They aren't really interested in ministry or evangelism - because although they are genuinely saved from hell (justified) they are only just beginning the process of sanctification. Christ hasn't been fully formed in them yet (that is, they are not fully sanctified/mature/perfected/complete or however you wish to describe it - Christ hasn't yet been "formed" in them - that is, they are not like Christ yet, they are simply justified - and as such they still presently labor to enter into genuine rest.

Prior to the cross a repentant Gentile could join himself to Israel by exercising faith in Jehovah God (not unlike Abraham). In doing so, the individual was saved from God's wrath (justified). Thereafter the "convert" would observe the sacrificial laws to deal with his or her personal sins. So too the immature believer has joined himself to Israel, through Christ, and is justified by his faith on account of that. The immature Christian no longer looks to the OT sacrificial laws to deal with his sin guilt - but identifies the true sacrifice - Christ Jesus, as having borne his sins on the cross where God Himself has punished them one and all - that is, there is no more condemnation to anyone who was in Christ, because God punished the sins already of anyone who was/is in Christ - demonstrating the completeness of our forgiveness by raising Christ from the dead since we were in Christ at the time He was raised - we are therefore accepted by God being in the beloved.

But that is only dealing with our justification - our sanctification is not like it was before the cross. Prior to the cross there was no balm for sin - the law pointed out what sin was, and it was up to the believer to suppress it as best as he or she could - and trust in the sacrifice for everything that he or she could not. The new covenant God made with Israel was not like the old covenant - it actually did something the old covenant did not - it provided a way for the believer to have genuine, practical victory over sin's power. The heart of stone (the law) that was in Israel was replaced by a heart of flesh (the Spirit) in the new covenant.

That is why it is so important to understand that everything Jesus did in His earthly ministry He did through the power of the Holy Spirit - that is, if we fail to comprehend the genuine humanity of Christ - we will naturally reason that when Jesus walked on water, healed the sick, and lived without sin it was only on account of His being God - and had nothing to do with his being utterly reliant on the Holy Spirit. When we think like that are we not blaspheming the Holy Spirit that enabled Christ to do these things? I tremble at the thought!

I don't think for one second that Christ read minds "because He was God", or that Christ healed the sick and raised the dead "because He was God" - and I certainly don't think he lived without sinning "because He was God" - rather I think He lived without sinning because He walked in the Spirit and didn't fulfill the lusts of the flesh - just as we are instructed to do. To write off what Christ did as though it were a consequence of His own divinity is to deny that the Holy Spirit was doing it - something the Pharisees did when they charged Christ with casting out demons by Beelzebub. Christ explained that they weren't speaking against Him - they were speaking against the Holy Spirit - the same eternal Spirit through whom Christ offered Himself without spot to God.

If you are still of the opinion that Christ exercised His divinity during His humiliation - you need to go back to the book - big time.

Notwithstanding - the immature believer is identified in this way - they still labor against sin. Can I be so bold? Until they enter into rest, their ministry will remain carnal - since they are still carnal Christians. That isn't to say that their ministry will not have some effect - but it is to say that it will not motivated by love, but by guilt.

You see, Guilt is one tool that the Lord uses to bring about the formation of Christ in us. I am not talking about justification here - that is, when I say the "formation of Christ" I am not using that as a metaphor for justification - I am using it quite practically - the person of Christ cannot be formed in person who is living carnally - that is, Light cannot have fellowship with darkness, and anyone who thinks that they are in fellowship with God when they are still struggling against sin is lying and is not practicing the truth. The way is actually narrow and few even see it, and even amongst those few who can see it, fewer still enter into that rest.

God uses our conscience to make us guilty - and our sense of guilt burdens us so that we try to get out from under the burden. It is a surgical tool in the hand of the Lord - we need our guilt to bring us to the end of our selves - to the place where we are willing to stop trying to fix our selves, to accept our state as "unfixable" - to see the only solution is death on the cross - and to be willing to go there because there is no other way.

But our enemy is crafty - and a false religion has sprung up within the true church. It teaches that we are justified, but never truly sanctified (at least here and now). It teaches us that Christian sanctification works exactly like Islamic, Buddhistic, or even humanistic sanctification - that is, you simply learn to suppress your sin, except you give God the hat tip when you do.

The problem with suppressing your sin, is that suppression doesn't do anything except thwart the commission of sin - that is, it makes the outside of your cup clean. You haven't gotten rid of sin - you are just developing habits that help you sin less. You are trying to make yourself stop sinning, by sinning less - and that doesn't work. While it is true that the outward expression of sin can be momentarily thwarted by good habits - the desire to sin within you cannot be starved to death - if you suppress it, it will find expression in some other way until such time as you wear yourself out trying to suppress it, then in the same moment you relax your strangle hold on it - it rises again - very much alive for all your suppressionism.

You have to understand, you don't need Jesus to fight sin that way - all you need is discipline and devotion - and a firm conviction that there is no other way to deal with sin.

If this to you is "sanctification" - you need to understand that all you are really doing is using the law to identify sin, then motivated by your own guilt at sinning you are trying to stop sin with all the power you have - and let me tell you - you may stop a lot of the external stuff - swearing, getting drunk, sexual sin, etc. But no matter how determined you are to put a lid on sin - you have no power whatsoever to change your spots -- you cannot even get past the first commandment; you cannot make yourself love God with all your heart through a regiment of disciplined but ultimately flawed obedience. This sort of "victory" is entirely superficial. It does however serve one "good" purpose: it can bring you, if you are genuinely seeking God - it can bring you to the cross where Christ won the victory for you.

It may seem crazy, but victory over sin is achieved through faith and not effort.

Not that you sit down one day and determine to "believe" - as though it were simply a matter of making a personal affirmation and believing it. You may have all the facts, but you can't put faith in them until God gives you that grace, and this same grace is only given to the humble.

Humble yourself beneath the mighty hand of God, and He -will- lift you up.

God knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust. He has even invited us to "reason together" with Him, having opened the way to Himself (by Himself). This "way" isn't fancy and new - it is spoken of in scripture - Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart! What does the brother of our Lord encourage us to do - cleanse our hands and purify our hearts - so that we no longer are double minded - that is, carnal on the one hand, and spiritual on the other. If we want to be in fellowship with light, we have to purge out all the darkness, not simply suppressing the darkness - but purging that bitter stream so that it no longer brings forth bitter and sweet water both - but only sweet water.

How do we get to the place where we are able to see ourselves on the cross in Christ? How do we get to the place where we can have faith for cleansing - so that we no longer flop about in Romans seven - but enter into Romans eight? - through Romans six - we need to go to the cross - and it isn't something we do through discipline, it is something we do through faith as opposed to through effort. Rest is entered into through death on the cross - and not through anything else. Not a mind game, not some Gnostic knowledge that once we possess it we have power to do what those who do not possess it cannot - no. It is humility and trust - a humble walk with God.

We must stop trying to please God through obedience and rather we must trust that God is already placated towards us solely because we were in Christ when God poured His (entire) wrath out on our sins - that is, we must understand that the reason there is now no condemnation for our sins is because they have all been condemned already. Whatever obedience we can muster will add NOTHING to this picture. Let that sink in for a long, long time - nothing we do can alter our standing before God.

If we don't "have" to obey God - why should we obey God? This was the objection that the apostle Paul anticipated in presenting the truths of Romans eight - that is, if you tell someone they are no longer under condemnation - they are going to sin like crazy - something that Paul addressed by writing Romans six and seven. No, he says, they won't sin like crazy just because they are not under condemnation - they can't sin like because the Spirit of Christ is in them - and Christ's ministry in them is to save them from their sin - something He does by sending the Holy Spirit into their lives to bring them to the cross where sin was rendered powerless. They will obey God because the law will continue to condemn them until they enter into rest - either way, they will either resemble a pious Jew by trying to keep the law in their own strength - or they will resemble Christ Himself by obeying the Holy Spirit within them.

Why do we obey? In first John we see three levels of Christian maturity, little children, young men, and fathers.

Why do little children obey? If you are immature (spiritually) you obey because the Spirit within you is pressing you (through your conscience) to towards the cross - you want to be out from under the guilt of your sin - so you do all you know how to do to avoid it - that is, you teach yourself to sin less so as to avoid the guilt. You are not motivated by a love for God rather you are motivated by an all consuming desire to be free from the guilt of sin.

Why do young men obey? At some point, if you are both genuine, and earnest - you will come to the place where you have gone as far as you can go in the flesh. When you get there, you will either: [1] meander back and forth at the wall - trying desperately to "break through" and surrender all - but never really getting there. Eventually after continual defeat you will become discouraged and stop trying, and satisfy yourself to "do your best" - these remain carnal all their walk - and never grow from infancy into "young men." Alternately however, [2] when you come to the end of your own efforts against sin - you understand that all your "victory" up to this point has actually been worthless. You will see for the first time that all your good habits and discipline have done absolutely nothing to change your sinfulness - but have only revealed with greater and greater clarity that you are in fact, still in your sins. Depending on your theological bent, you will either understand that you are a carnal believer, or you will suspect that you were never saved in the first place. One thing is for sure - you will know with some degree of certainty - that suppressionism cannot cure your carnality - and you will begin to seek God, not to be saved from hell - but to be saved from sin.

The young man (spiritually speaking) begins to obey God because he starts to understand that Christ can truly set him free from the root problem - the internal desire to sin. The young man has been set free from the law, because he understands that his personal righteousness is garbage, neither commending him to God, nor providing any freedom from sin's dominion - so he turns to in obedience to God for the sole purpose of being free from sin's power. No longer is he obedient to "The Law" - because he no longer needs to be convinced that he is hopeless and helpless - now he turns to the Holy Spirit whom Christ sent in His own stead to help the believer. He trusts the Holy Spirit to change Him from within - and understands the purpose of obedience is not "in order to be pleasing to God" - but in order to let God cleanse him. He obeys because God cannot cleanse a man who is not humbled before Him - he obeys because he realizes that the grace he needs to be truly free from sin's power is only given to the humble - so, while he is like the "little child" spiritually in that he still wants to be free from the guilt of sin - yet his obedience itself he no longer imagines to be the means to that ends - now he sees his obedience in terms of humbling himself before God - he begins to "sell everything" in order to purchase the "pearl of great value."

Why do Fathers obey? When the "young man" allows the Holy Spirit to trim the vine - and the Holy Spirit begins to show the young man everything that stands between himself and God - and the young man begins to give up these things - one by one, so that eventually there is nothing left that the believer isn't willing to set aside for God - at that point grace comes into the believer's life, and his heart is cleansed; that is, the bitter stream within is "cleansed" so that the believer is no longer tempted from wickedness within (though he is still tempted from without) - there is no longer any internal compromise - the believer is holy - "sanctified" At this point he has opened the door to God and God in turn comes in to him, and sups with him, and he with God. The believer has "entered into rest." Having nothing to be guilty of, this believer's obedience is entirely an expression of love. He obeys because the love of God drowns out every temptation to the contrary - he loves God, knowing Him intimately, and he obeys because there is no longer a desire within him to do his own will. He is still tempted as all men are - and like Adam who was sinless and living in a perfect environment could sin - so too can a mature believer sin -- but it isn't like it was before - before sin wasn't severing his fellowship with God - He wasn't really in fellowship - sin just maintained the status quo of being out of fellowship. Now sin can sever him from God - and he is not ignorant as he was in his youth - he knows whom he forsakes - and it would take much temptation, and a good measure of beguiling to wrest him from his stay in grace. Not impossible (Adam is our example) - yet not likely under normal circumstances. Such a believer isn't seeking sin, but stumbles into it - and immediately deals with it when things go wrong.

Guilt therefore is not a bad thing - it is a fantastic thing. It is God Himself working tirelessly to bring us into fellowship with Himself. If we understand these things, we will not flounder about in our immaturity - but will move on to maturity ("perfection" - "completeness").

My suspicion is that in the last hundred years, the enemy has somehow managed to keep most Christians as "little children" - such that the vast majority of believers today pay lip service to the idea that sin will no longer have dominion over them - but will defend their sinfulness from the rooftops claiming that none can be free from sin in this lifetime - as though the bible even hinted at such an abominable thought.
posted by Daniel @ 3:23 PM   6 comment(s)
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
A matter of perspective...

Here is a picture of a famous U.S. President - only someting is wrong. We look at it and in one dismissive glance we determine not only who the president is (Lincoln) - but also we are certain we know what is wrong with the picture (it is upside down).

Unless someone insisted that there was more there, we would likely never bother to check - convinced as we are in our own competency - surely, we have identified the who (Lincoln) and the what (is upside down) to our own satisfaction - and considering ourselves to be "wise enough to see the obvious" - we close the matter in our own understanding.

Yet I invite you to copy this image into paint brush (or whatever) and turn it upside down. Having been given this instruction, you may suspect now that there is more to this simple picture than meets the eye, and let me tell you, if you turn it upside down you will see what I am talking about.

I can think of no better illustration to demonstrate why otherwise Godly people disagree so quickly on matters of doctrine. We, as humans, have the unfortunate habit of being sure of ourselves when we ought not to be. We take for granted things that we ought not to take for granted - and the end result is that we miss something that someone else hasn't - only we presume that we see all - and it is that arrogance that divides otherwise godly people.
posted by Daniel @ 4:19 PM   4 comment(s)
Momentary Fluctuations...
You might note that last year I won an award for having the most TTLB impaired blog.

TTLB is a blog rating "system" whereby your "evolve" from lesser beings (microbes etc.) into higher state beings (such as fish, amphibians, birds, etc.)

I have been meandering around the "Crawly Amphibian" mark for a while, but today it seems I have jumped momentarily into the "Flappy Bird" category.

TTLB is fickle though - so I expect to plummet again into the primordial blogolution soup.

posted by Daniel @ 3:13 PM   3 comment(s)
Friday, May 05, 2006
You might not be familiar with the word, it is falling out of common use, but it is an older synonym for prestidigitation (sleight of hand).

The word legerdemain however has a more deceitful sound than prestidigitate or sleight of hand, more... a more cloak-and-dagger appeal if you will.

There is just something about the word that seems less like a card trick and more like something sinster - I think it is just the way it rolls off the tongue, I sort of like to say it with a parisian accent "Lay-jare-de-Magnne." It isn't pronounced like that, but I am willing to overlook the mispronounciation since most people arn't familiar with the word in the first place - and if they are, well, I don't mind looking like I don't know how to pronounce it, seeings as it sounds indie-cool the way I say it. I don't think of it as a mispronunciation, so much as a trend that hasn't been set yet.

I mention it because some preachers practice legerdemain. They may be great orators, motivational speakers, and even considered profound expositors of the word - but they do not live out what they preach - that is, they know the truth, and tell others to obey it, when they themselves are not doing the same.

Authenticity is difficult to approximate - though some have done well at it. Yet I have noticed that ears seem to be more open to a genuine doer than to an genuine poser. They might say the same thing, and even live the same public life - but the one whose life has integrity - he is able to preach clean - and your soul knows the difference.

A man may bend a blade of grass or shake a small tree; a great man might be able to bend much grass, and shake more than a few trees - but to move a forest, or cause an open and endless field to bow down in waves - only the wind can do that. A preacher who isn't living clean - is like the noise of the wind, without the wind itself. He has no power even if he sounds like the real deal.

Let not many of you be teachers.
posted by Daniel @ 12:00 PM   1 comment(s)
Thursday, May 04, 2006
The Punishment Angle
I know I hit this one a lot, but it is important, and cannot be over stressed.

Who/What does Jesus save us from?

Frank "Centuri0n" Turk recently posted some follow up to his debate with an atheist named Brian Flemming. Something Frank said underscored one weakness I find in the preaching of the gospel today:
"So the choice we are offering is that there is danger, that Christ can deliver you from the danger, but that if you reject His help He will be the judge who makes sure that you do not escape the danger – the punishment of your sin."

Now I am as fire and brimstone as the next Baptist. Don’t get me wrong. Frank is a stalwart defender of the faith, and while I am jumping off of something he said, I am certainly not suggesting that he said it wrong, or that he was wrong for saying it. This isn’t that kind of post.

But the biblical formula runs like this:

[1] Everyone is a sinner
[2] The penalty for sin is death
[3] Everyone is condemned already
[4] Christ died to save condemned sinners from sin

Yet the gospel we preach looks like this:

[1] Everyone is a sinner
[2] The penalty for sin is death
[3] Everyone is condemned already
[4] Christ died to save condemned sinners from the penalty for sin (God’s wrath; i.e.: Hell).

The difference is very subtle, but the end consequences to our Christian walk and our daily witness can be quite profound.

Let’s affirm up front that we shall be saved from [God’s] wrath through Christ (Romans 5:9) - Amen? Of course we say amen, we have the verse right there. With this verse we can answer “Who” it is that Christ is saving us from – God. Christ will judge on God’s behalf – but let us not be unsure here – we are saved from God’s wrath through Christ.

I don’t think that will come as some big surprise to anyone who attends a modern evangelical church. We know that ultimately God’s wrath is hell – and typically we prefer to present that aspect of the gospel as being saved from “hell” as opposed to being saved from the righteous wrath of our just God.

I think Cent captured that well enough in the quote above – Christ is the judge that we cannot escape, and His judgment is going to be righteous and final – and we ought to tremble at thought.

Yet (and I don’t suggest that I differ from Frank on this at all) oft times the emphasis of our salvation is stacked almost entirely upon our “punishment” – that we forget that scripture says that we are saved from (as opposed to “in”) our sins.

Here is where the modern gospel looses some of its original strength – not that “The Gospel” is weak, but that we are typically preaching it “half-strength.”

In Matthew 1:21 we read why Gabriel instructed Mary to name the Messiah “Jesus” – because “He will save His people from their sins” – the Anointed One was coming to “take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) by “granting repentance to Israel” (Acts 5:31). Certainly forgiveness of sins came through Chirst (Acts 13:38), but more than this, “through [Christ] everyone who believes is freed from all things from which [they] could not be freed through the law of Moses.” Christ being the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).

I think the most profound message in the gospel is not that Christ saved me from sin's penalty, but that Christ saved me from sin itself. Nevertheless any "over," or "under" emphasis placed on the gospel is going to produce Christians who reflect the emphasis, or lack thereof.

Truly, the modern gospel typically produces saints who could care less about sanctification - because the gospel that saved them didn't mention being saved from sin, it mentioned being saved from sin's penalty - hell. Once they are "saved" that internal impetus we all have to obey God lacks something - a train without rails, it blows a lot of steam, makes a lot of noise, and runs as far as it can until it gets mired in muck - and there it stays.

We must be careful therefore to preach the whole gospel.
posted by Daniel @ 11:41 AM   8 comment(s)
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Crypto Greek...
During the time that we know as the “intertestamental period” – that is, the time between the close of the OT canon and the writing of the NT canon, the son of Phillip II of Mecedon (“Macedonia” or Northern Greece) Alexander the Great conquered the known world. One effect of this profound conquest was the Hellenizing of the known world – that is, the conquests of Alexander the Great ushered in centuries of Greecian rule and influence – such that by the time of Christ, Koine Greek was the “lingua franca” (a language commonly spoken between people of different native languages) of the Roman Empire.

Those of us who believe that God is sovereign, will see that this as no coincidence. The Messiah was about to come, and the world was being made ready to receive both Him and the New Covenant He was about to usher in. Part of that readiness was the introduction of a highly inflected “lingua franca” – a language that could be (and was) translated into all manner of native dialects with precision and ease.

Koine was practically designed to be translated. I stand in awe of the providence of God.

Notwithstanding, one of the great strengths of the language is its uncomplicated, yet highly inflected grammar. It is almost difficult for anyone with a solid understanding of the basics to translate a passage poorly.

Yet we do not lack people in this day and age who will readily admit that they themselves are not schooled in Koine Greek - never-the-less they feel entirely confident and even justified when their own theological twist is unsupported and even contrary to a common reading of scripture – such that they give heed to obscure and even bizarre and cryptic “translations” of a passage, such that they can say (without any genuine authority) that they believe the text says “Y” when it clearly says “X.”

The idea that the bible is sometimes so cryptic, that the only correct interpretation is both novel, and far-fetched – to me at least – demonstrates a very, very poor hermeneutic (translation philosophy).

If in every ten thousand Greek scholars, you can only find one who agrees with a bizarre, twisted translation – guess what? It is probably wrong.

Biblical Greek is one of the easiest languages to learn, and there is enough (credible) information on line (even pronunciation guides!) that no one who is genuinely interested need suffer for lack of instruction. Yet there are so few believers today who bother to learn the language – thinking it only for pastors or scholars; and having no real use otherwise.

I don’t mind the believer who is satisfied with a good, literal, English translation (or whatever translation their native language happens to be) – who uses it for personal devotions, study and whatnot. But I do have trouble when someone who doesn’t know the language cites some “quack” who has twisted the Greek around some pet theology – such that the person who agrees with that (errant) theology is encouraged to remain in error because they have taken as an authority someone in whom such authority is an abomination.

Granted, it might be difficult to know the wolf from the sheep sometimes, a good rule of thumb is this – if translation from the Greek requires a great deal of controversial and cryptic rule bending – such that the crypto-translation says the very opposite of what a plain and ordinary translation says – and especially if that same translation caters to some particular theological bent – well, you can be almost certain that the cart is driving the horse in that translation.

posted by Daniel @ 10:51 AM   8 comment(s)
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
"I Hate You!"
Let's pretend for a minute that our churches are not perfect; that there are some of us who prefer the company of some to the company of others, and forming clics we tend to fellowship with those whom we have similar interests or whatnot with. Pretend if you will that the older people tend to fellowship with the other older people, the younger people with the younger, and the young families with the other young families.

To continue our pretending - lets further pretend that while these groups typically get along with one another, yet between these groups there can (from time to time) spring some animosity. The older group are pressing for a wheelchair ramp, the younger for band instruments (drums and electic guitars) to be used in "worship."

Along such lines, it happens, that the external Christian sheen fractures a little, and something of the selfish, and entirely carnal beast within begins to show. Allowed to fester, what begins as a disagreement about what to do with church resources turns into an opportunity for hate to infect the church.

How can it happen that people who claim to have the perfect and pure Spirit of God living within them - hate other Christians?

Well, the first cut we all know - they cannot do so while being in fellowship with God. Some might immediately question the validity of their salvaiton - but lets no go there today. Instead lets presume that everyone in our pretending example is saved. How is it that they can suddenly hate another believer?

I will tell you. They can only hate another because of one thing - they themselves do not believe that God loves them personally.

Now, that probably sounds pretty simplistic, but bear me out. I am not saying that they don't have the knowledge that God loves them personally - surely they know what the facts are - they just do not believe them.

I often wonder if this isn't the first tier of "unbelief" or "doubt." They know the rules, and keep them as best they can, solely in the strength of a head-knowledge that God loves them, but entirely unconvinced of it personally.

Do you remember the first time you knew the intimate love of God? The love that brought you to your knees in heaving, uncontrollable sobs? Do you not remember how when the love of God was poured into you, how you broke - shattered into a million pieces so that you could say, Lord, there isn't enough of me to worship You as You deserve? That love that was so complete, and so free - and so compelling?

The ability to hate another comes at the expense of that love. Either the believer has never experienced God's love personally, or has not "kept himself in the love of God." Whatever the case, when we consider how much God loves another Christian, we can not (if we know the love of God) help but to love that person as God loves them.

It isn't a theological decision we make, but a sharing of God's Spirit within us that makes it impossible to continue in hating those whom God loves.

In our pretending story, the problem with these people who walk the path of hate, is that they are religious and not spiritual - love to them is an academic fact, and not an experiential reality. They have never humbled themselves enough to know God's love.

That may well be the key - it isn't that God only loves the humble, it is that only the humble are willing to accept that God loves them unconditionally.

So when we see division in a church, we are seeing a group of people in which are some who don't believe that God loves them. The first ministry to such a group is to explain to them that the the love of God only constrains those who believe that God loves them. Unbelief must be dealt with as sin - that is, identified and repented of.

Sometimes what we try and do instead is to solve the problem with worldly wisdom. "Let's just get everyone in a room together and put it all on the table, and it'll all work out." Well, guess what. That doesn't work. People need to understand the root problem, and not the symptoms. Even if you do manage to squash something by laying it on the table - so what? Unless the hatred is drowned in love, it will rise again.

posted by Daniel @ 10:18 AM   6 comment(s)
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