- - Endorsed
- - Indifferent
- - Contested
|The Nashville Statement
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos
Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead
There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
|I have gone camping with my family for the long weekend (I get the Monday off for Canada Day!)
I hope to have some quiet time to sit down and read a few books, but I expect I will instead be sweating in the sun somewhere watching children play. Either way, it will be fun.
posted by Daniel @
| Children --will-- play.
|I recall hearing the phrase "children will play" used as a "dismissive" when I was a young man - that is, it was used to dismiss my behavior which was inappropriate for my age at the time.
The fellow who dismissed me thus lacked the authority to correct me, and had he tried he would have failed, as I was more than a little rebellious at the time. So this fellow opted to psychologically manipulate my behavior - that is, to shame me into acting more mature.
Psychological manipulation has been around since anyone can remember and finds its root and core strength in our own pride. We want others to recognize us as being everything that we consider ourselves to be, and when they don't we are offended by them for failing to see what we imagine is so patently obvious to everyone else. Some go so far as to secretly despise anyone who doesn't share their own opinion of themselves.
If someone suggests that something we do is childish, our ego wants to rise to that challenge by either justifying our behavior before them as being "justifiably childish," or perhaps our ego will argue that what seems to be childish is in fact decidedly not childish, but merely a misunderstood but entirely mature response which the other person apparently isn't sophisticated enough to recognize. Alternately our ego may have us "cave in" - sensing that the most horrible thing in the world would be for someone else to regard us as childish, so motivated by a desire to keep our reputation top flight - we edit our behavior, that is, we allow ourselves to be socially programmed by another, just so that their praise might rest on us rather than their derision.
Truly, our ego/pride demands that we be admired in proportion to our imagined worth - and when anyone fails to worship us, we are inclined to hate them.
But enough psychology, the adage, "Children will play" also happens to be "true." Children do play, and we ought to expect it from them. We typically say it another way - "A tree is known by its fruit."
I bring it up today, not to sift out the chaff, but to remind the wheat that God is in control, and as such, they need not be discouraged when the children are at play.
posted by Daniel @
| The Way of Salvation
| OK. The post title -sounds- a little sensational, but it really isn't.
I was over at Brad William's blog a few days ago, and I noticed that in describing the gospel he didn't once mention repentance.
For simplicity's sake, Brad distilled the gospel (as outlined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) into two points:
1. Jesus Christ died for our sins.
2. Jesus was raised from the dead.
I took umbrage at this particular distillation - recalling elsewhere how Christ Himself preached for men to repent and believe in the gospel, which is precisely what Paul was preaching, as Luke records in Acts 20:21, that men should exercise repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus Christ.
Brad's distillation, as I say, gave me some concern, because he seemed to be teaching a different gospel than the one our Lord preached, and was preached by the apostles.
I expressed my concern in the meta, and was relieved that Brad was not off the deep end, but was merely defining what the "good news" was.
In thinking about it, the parable of the sower came to mind, and in the light of that parable I began to agree with Brad's summation:
Recall that the parable of the sower explains that there are three effects of the seed landing in good soil - it produces thirty, sixty, or an hundred fold. Recall as well, that there are three sorts of bad soil - the beaten path, the rocky soil, and the thorny/weedy soil. The seed, Christ explains, is the word of God, and the various soils represent the heart condition of the hearer.
In this formula salvation equal the word of God plus a penitent heart, that is,
The way of salvation = Repentance + The Gospel
In my own life, whenever I think of "sharing the gospel" I generally describe the way of salvation, as opposed to simply stating that Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification. But technically, that information by itself -is- the gospel. If I fail to mention repentance and say only this much, I have, "technically" shared the gospel - even though I have fallen short of teaching everything that Christ and the apostles taught about the way of salvation.
I agree that the "word of God" (the seed) saves a person, but I also recognize that this seed will not produce salvation unless/until it finds purchase in good soil. So when I preach the "way of salvation" it is repentance plus the gospel.
But we typically do not make that distinction - if you're like me, you regard "the gospel" and "the way of salvation" as being synonymous; even perhaps going so far as to frown upon any distinction between the two.
In the book of Acts, at Pentecost we see the Jews hearing the gospel, and after hearing (and believing) it they ask, "What must we do to be saved?" They had the gospel, they believed it, but they weren't regenerate yet - they needed something, and they asked Peter what it was. His response was that they should repent and also be baptized. (Not that Baptism -is- salvific, but that it was a work in line with, or demonstrative of, the genuine nature of their repentance. Recall how Paul says to the Corinthians in 1 Corinathians 1:17, "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel..." - if baptism had to do with regeneration, then Jesus was sending Paul to preach the gospel without actually leading anyone in the [baptismal] way of salvation.)
Later in the book of Acts we see an opposite scenario. At Cornelius' house we see a household that is already repentant - they have turned away from falsehood, and are seeking to follow the one true God - that is, they are repentant - but they lack the gospel. Again Peter comes, and this time he doesn't demand that they repent - rather he preaches the truth to them - and SHAZAM! Pentecost, take two.
What a joy to preach the gospel to a heart that has been prepared by repentance! To see up close that brokenness giving way to light - which in turn gives way to peace, joy, and genuine fellowship.
Contrarily, how unsatisfying it is to see the gospel "accepted as true" by a heart that has never been anything other than impenitent, and receives the "seed" as it were, into that useless soil - at first there is great joy over the bonus of eternal life - but that dwindles quickly even as the proverb says - "For lack of wood the fire goes out" - who is raised from the dead in newness of life? The one who, in repentance, has gone to the cross with Christ.
Anyway, I found it an interesting distinction because, even if we failed to preach repentance (and I wouldn't do that since both Christ and the Apostles preached repentance alongside the gospel), yet even if we did - the gospel is still "the power of God unto salvation" when that same gospel is believed in a penitent heart.
It is good to note that while scripture teaches us that God is the One who gives us the desire to repent (we don't generate that ourselves) - yet we are still required to act on that desire!
Yet I can't see myself presenting the gospel in isolation - I would always have to couple it with the teaching of the soils.
posted by Daniel @
| The Missing Link
|I recall in my earlier walk with the Lord, how I didn't really believe that prayer worked.
I prayed and prayed, and it seemed the only prayers that were answered were the ones that would have happened anyway, "Dear God, please let there be a tomorrow - in Jesus name, Amen." You know the sort of prayers.
Because I didn't want to seem less spiritual than others, and because I fully anticipated God ignoring my requests, my public prayers were carefully crafted in such a way that God could fail to answer my prayer and that would be "okay." You know the prayer I am talking about - the one where you say, "Dear Lord/God/Father in heaven, if it please you/if it is your will/if there be glory for you in/ etc. do such and such..."
Clearly, if God failed to come through on my prayer request it had nothing to do with my lack of faith, the absence of God, or the caliber of my request - always and ever it was simply "not the will of God" - and butta-bing, I was off the hook as it were.
I wish I could say that this only went on for the first few weeks of my walk with the Lord, and that I quickly learned the error of my way - but I cannot say that. Truly, it was my little dark Christian secret, and I didn't want anyone to know that for some reason God wasn't answering my prayers. So I continued to pray like that, and as I did, I became more comfortable with praying like that - until prayer was an empty habit, a formal ritual that I did because I belonged to this religion that did that sort of thing.
I thank God (however) that through all that - His witness within me continued to prod me with the certainly knowledge that something was horribly wrong about the way I was praying.
You know, cracks in sidewalks usually start with dirt getting into a chip or a catching and clumping around a bump, so that eventually there is enough dirt there that some weed or grass seed can take root. Day after day, the roots press into the concrete - and maybe they don't get too far in one season - but then moisture works its way into that tiny impression and on a cold night the moisture freezes and in expandanding it makes the impression larger. The next year, the root comes to life again, and the cycle continues, until eventually the sidewalk is cracked clean through and these roots are free to dig down.
It has worked like that in my life - the Spirit wearing down my heart until eventually I am willing to submit. It isn't as if I don't want to "submit" per se, but rather that I don't want to submit entirely - so I submit as much as doesn't really matter to me, and the Spirit of God deals with my hard heart as described.
Now, in the matter of prayer, while I had always known on some level that I had been a big prayer phony - eventually I wanted to do something about it enough to actually do something about it. Disgusted with my own despondency in the matter, I began to really talk to God about it, and study specifically from scripture how I ought to be praying.
My studies brought me to 2 Corinthians 6:14 where Paul asks, "what communion has light with darkness?" He asks this by way of demonstrating a truism he applies to unequally yoking oneself with an unbeliever - but the question expects a negative response - that is, Paul is saying just as light has no communion with darkness, so too the believer ought not to yoke himself with the unbeliever.
It is interesting that the word "communion" is used. We typically hijack that word and give it a spiritually technical meaning - that is, while it means communication, we tend to pigeon hole it so that it only ever talks about the Lord's table - so we want to be careful not to do that here. The question was what communication is there between light and darkness - anticipating the answer that there is none.
The implication is that if we walk in darkness, we cannot have communion with God. Not that we suddenly stop being justified if we were saved by Christ - but that being "saved" doesn't auto-magically mean we are walking in the light; we may know about the light, but unless we walk in obedience to the light we possess, we are not walking in the light - and we are not going to be in fellowship with God, nor will we be in communion with God.
It is a terribly simple formula, but perhaps it is the simplicity of it that I missed when I first began to walk with the Lord. Scripture teaches that in the same way we received the Lord Jesus (through repentance towards God and trusting in Jesus Christ) even so we must continue to walk - that is, we must continue to repent (determine to follow God no matter what) and trust in Jesus.
Beloved - if your prayer life is empty - you need not wonder why - it is because you have become slack in your repenting. God doesn't answer prayers because your faith is greater than the guy beside you - he answers prayers because you are in communion with him through your continued willingness to obey. God isn't fooled by lip service - so we have to be truly willing (the sort of willing that produces action and not just conversation about action).
Look back brothers and sisters to the times when your prayers were marvelously answered - such as the prayer you prayed even to be saved - didn't your heart commit itself to obey? Didn't you have a smaller faith than you do now?
It isn't the mega-faith that receives answered prayers - but the obedient faith. Faith only grows when it is rewarded, and only obedient faith is rewarded. The math is simple enough.
Anyway - don't play games with prayer - that is, don't tell yourself that God doesn't answer prayer anymore just because the only repentant prayer you ever prayed was for your own salvation. Move on in your faith - continue to submit yourself to God - renew your efforts to obey. God doesn't demand perfection as a prerequisite to communion - but He is rightly aloof from those too proud or lazy to continue in obedience.
If you find your prayer life dead - chances are it isn't a faith problem, it is an obedience problem - you don't want to obey. God will deal with it if you identify it as something that is genuinely destroying your walk with God, and ask and believe God to deal with it as you continue to submit yourself to Him.
It has become fashionable to say that God answers all prayers either Yes, No, Wait, or My grace is sufficient. I think that is a wrong way to look at it. God answers prayer "Yes" - and when God doesn't answer prayer it is because either the prayer was inappropriate (according to your own desires), or because you were out of communion with God when you prayed it making your prayer "abominable" "No" isn't really an answer to prayer, it is the divine way of saying, your prayer was not right. Even Paul prayed according to his own desire that Christ would take away the thorn in his flesh - and his prayer was not answered because Christ's grace was all that Paul needed. So I say God answers prayer with "Yes" - sometimes the Yes takes a while to get here, but it is a yes none the less. I don't think "No" or "My grace is sufficient" are answers to prayer at all, but rather indications that our prayers are not answered.
The idea that God answers "no" to prayer is misleading. The truth is that Spirit filled people have their prayers answered all the time - like clockwork. Read about men like George Mueller or even John Wesley - amazing answers to prayer by men who were just like you and me, except that they were willing to obey God, and that kept them in communion with God - just as you were when God saved you.
posted by Daniel @
| I --LOVE-- My Family.
|Monday was a special treat for me.
I took my two eldest children out for the day. We went to visit my parents, then went out for lunch to Burger King, then off to the fair for a couple of hours - then over to my wife's parents for a couple more hours - then a stop in at home for supper before taking them out to see an animated feature we had been discussing.
It gave my wife some focus time with our third child, and gave me an opportunity to really enjoy the company of my children for a day. It often happens with volunteer leadership in the church that after working a fulltime job, time is given to various church ministries and preparing for ministries - not to mention various "side ministries" - so that you begin to guard your home time as "unwind time."
When I think about it, it seems to me that our culture is in a state of moral decline which is being fueled and abetted (in part at least) by both television and the various school systems. To be more specific, "objective morality" is under attack in both arenas - morality, it seems is subject to cultural definition - and culture is shaped by both the media, and the information we spoon feed the minds of tomorrow.
I mention that because my wife and I decided to give up television when our eldest was still in diapers, and we later - we chose to homeschool our children. So I am particularly blessed in that these little people whom I was spending time with haven't been inundated since the day of their birth with all sorts of things designed (it seems) specifically to rob us of (or hinder) the blessing of being a family together.
posted by Daniel @
| Couple Of Days Off
|The Red River Exhibition is in town, and I took a couple of days off this week to spend time with my kids and enjoy it before it moves on. So I apologize for my lack of blogging - hope to get back soon.
posted by Daniel @
| It all started with...
The American civil war, women's sufferage, and pacificism all contributed to a banding together of women - notably the poet Julia Ward Howe - who proclaimed the first "Mother's day" in 1870, but especially Anna Marie Jarvis - who pressed for an nationally recognized day to commemorate mothers. The first nationally recognized mother's day (May 12, 1914) was held on the anniversary of Anna's mother's death. It is Anna therefore who is considered to be the 'mother' of Mother's Day.
Yet by the 1920s Mother's Day had become so entirely commercialized that Anna (along with her sister Ellsinore) began to campaign against it - eventually spending their entire family inheritance attempting to bring to an end the commercial hijacking of what was (arguably) intended to be a sentimental vehicle by which pacificism could be promoted.
It was during Anna's promotional phase however - (before the commercialization of Mother's day) that Anna's zeal impressed a certain (Mrs.) Sonora Smart Dodd. Sonora's father had been was a civil war vet, and as a single parent had raised five children.
Think that through for a second. The driving force behind Fathers Day is that one man had managed to do something that mother's have been doing since wars were invented - parenting children solo.
Anyway - in the wake of Anna's mothers day promotion - Sonora, wanting to commemorate her Father's "mothering" of her siblings - she began to promote the idea of a Father's day - a day to commemorate Fathers!
As it happened, the anniversary of old man Dodd's passing was in June - so the first "Father's Day" was celebrated on June 19, 1910 (which actually missed the anniversary date by a couple of weeks - but it was celebrated nevertheless.)
Father's day didn't get off the ground quite as smoothly as Mother's day did however. Early supporters such as William Jennings Bryan, and President Calvin Coolidge gave unofficial support to the day, but it wasn't until Nixon, in 1972 that Father's day became nationally recognized.
Most people are under no illusion - Father's day, and Mother's day, are often referred to as "Hallmark Holidays" - that is, they are the day of the year when you buy mom a card and a flower or dad a card - not because you love them and want to honor them - but because someone said this is the day that if you don't buy them a card (or recognize them in some way) you will be a bad son or daughter.
Really - this reminds me of our sinfulness.
I like to give the example of the father with four children - who determines one day to give three of them ice cream. None of the four have done anything to warrant the ice cream - but the father, being kind and generous, determines to give ice cream to three of his children. He certainly could give ice cream to all of them - but for reasons that are entirely his own, he determines to give ice cream to only three of the four.
Now, if you were the fourth - the one who didn't get the ice cream - you would probably think - THAT IS SO UNFAIR! Why do they get ice cream and I don't? They don't deserve ice cream any more than I do - this is UNFAIR!!!
But that attitude is entirely carnal. The reality is that having earned nothing, we deserve nothing. The father has done absolutely nothing wrong in being generous to the three and not the fourth. He is under no obligation to give any of the children anything - in fact, it is only our utterly selfish perspective that demands the fourth child -must- receive ice cream, and we charge the father with cruelty if the fourth child doesn't receive the same as the others.
This is what depravity looks like - imagining that we deserve something for no other reason than someone else who, like yourself, has no right to a thing - but gets it anyway - we immediately presume that give us some right - but we are depraved indeed to imagine that charity and grace are ever deserved.
But it is this same depravity that we are all so familiar with that drives most of us to celebrate "Hallmark Holidays" - we don't want to leave our parents feeling "left out," or "less loved" than other parents - so we buy mom flowers and a card, or buy dad a card - or make some special effort - a special phone call, or having them over - or do whatever it is we do to make ourselves feel that we are not bad children for neglecting to be appropriately superficial and commercial twice a year.
It is good to love and honor our parents - it is the first commandment with a promise - but these "holidays" only remind me how commercial and superficial our culture really is. I know some of you reading this will agree, and some will want to remark that they use the time to reflect - and that such reflection is healthy and good - and they are right - it is - but I am not talking about reflection and right thoughts so much as the commercialism and wrong thoughts.
I am not complaining - just free associating.
posted by Daniel @
| Did The Law...
|...produce righteousness in Christ?
Seriously - did Jesus become righteous through vigorously keeping the law?
No. Jesus was righteous, and because He was righteous He kept the law. It wasn't that the law made Him righteous, it was that the law identified Him as righteous.
Now, let's say that you, from this day forward, kept the law perfectly for the rest of your life... Would the law make you righteous?
Well, no. Keeping the law doesn't make me righteous any more than it made Christ righteous - assuming I could keep the law, all it would do is demonstrate that I was already righteous - it couldn't produce any actual righteousness in and of itself.
Baby Christians often struggle under the new burden that genuine conviction of sin brings. They know that they have sinned, and feel like a big, fat, hypocrit for claiming to be a Christian while continuing to give into sin. So what do you think they do? Some try to keep the law in order to avoid the conviction that sin brings. They don't know where power over sin comes from, so they fall into Romans seven, and try and keep the law - only, just as in Romans seven, they find that they cannot keep the law.
That makes perfect sense of course, since the purpose of the law was never to produce righteousness, but to expose unrighteousness - and in so doing identify one's need for Christ.
Yet, even holding this knowledge firmly in one's understanding - knowing that the law doesn't produce righteousness, but only points out unrighteousness - many believers continue to live their Christian lives focused almost entirely on "trying not to sin" - their entire walk could be summed up as saying,
I read the bible, and pray, and then I focus on trying to make it through the day without sinning.
The trouble is that grows old, and the sincere Christian will try and figure out why that is.
Sometimes a form of Gnosticism is embraced. The believer imagines that the trouble is that they simply don't understand enough. So they embark on a career of reading extra-biblical texts - apologies, theologies, commentaries - whatever their particular bent happens to be, they engross themselves in trying to overcome the ignorance they imagine is the root cause of their continued failure in the sin department.
Sometimes a sort of antinomianism is embraced. The believer simply gives in to the idea that they will always sin, and more or less puts sin in the closet. All the external and obvious sin is dealt with, but the less obvious stuff is hidden from view or goes by undiscussed. They comfort themselves by saying that Paul considered himself the chief of sinners, so they are in good company.
Sometimes they embrace a regiment of works to salve their guilty conscience. They can't do anything about the sin, so they hang onto 1 John 1:9, confessing all the time, and then become members of every church ministry and run themselves amok till they burn out. I suspect that some have even gone into the pastorate thus.
But I digress.
The purpose of the law was never to produce righteousness in us - that is we don't become one stitch more righteous by keeping it. Go ahead and try - keep the law flawlessly (as if you could) for a month, and you will notice that you are exactly the same as you were before, only one month older.
Okay, you say, I agree, the law doesn't make me righteous - so if I hunger and thirst after righteousness, where does it come from?
Now - this is the right question to ask, and we do well to remember Who the Author and Finisher of our faith is. Scripture explains that you are either a slave to sin, or a slave to righteousness - not both. Paul asks, "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?" (ESV)
Now, the idea that obedience (to the Holy Spirit) leads to righteousness is not the same as thinking that keeping the law produces righteousness. Keeping the law doesn't produce righteousness in us, but staying in fellowship with God does.
Obeying the Holy Spirit is the only way to maintain fellowship with God - we call it "walking in the Spirit" and while it is a command in scripture to do so (Ephesians 5:18) - yet even if it weren't a command any right thinking believer, if he or she understood what was being said - would desire to do it with all their heart.
You see, it was the righteousness of Christ that allowed Him to obey the law (and not obedience to the law that enabled Christ to be righteous). In the same way, it will be the righteousness of Christ in you that will enable you to "obey the law" as it were, and not that your obedience to some rules is going to generate a righteousness in you. So unless/until you allow Christ to work unhindered in your life the process of sanctification will not progress much. You will be what scripture calls, a "carnal" Christian - a babe in Christ who ought to be eating meat, but hasn't the teeth for it yet, being mired in Romans seven.
Until a path through the wilderness of your "heart" is made straight - that is, until you change your habit of ignoring God most of the time, and running on auto pilot - until you humble yourself before God in determined, and continued obedience - you will not experience Christ's life in you - and you will continue to regard sin as something that has dominion over you in the practical sense - though some of you will affirming that it has no such dominion over you in a forensic, and theologically sense.
That isn't to suggest that once you determine to obey you will suddenly do so flawlessly - but it means that if you purpose in your heart to obey - you pick yourself up from failure as soon as you can, and set your face toward God again - and you continue to do so, leaving no room for wallowing in your defeat. Soldiers who lay face down in the mire are not going to be much help in the charge.
Anyway - the thing is that it isn't the obedience itself that is the sanctification - otherwise you wouldn't need to be saved to be sanctified - anyone could do it. Obedience to God's Spirit within you is just how you draw near to God. When you begin to draw near to God, you begin to find strength to help in time of need. God lifts -you- up, as opposed to you lifting yourself up.
You can keep doing it in your own strength if you want - but that isn't the way it is meant to be.
posted by Daniel @
| L'evangile... Sans Repentir!
|(English: 'The gospel... without repentance!)
Christ said, "Salvation is of the Jews." (c.f. John 4:22) when speaking to the Samaritan woman. We should note that saying salvation is of the Jews was not the same as saying that salvation is of National Israel.
Paul taught that it was a mistake to presume that being circumcised in the flesh made you a Jew; "...he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter;" This idea is not something that Christianity added to Judaism - John the Baptist , the greatest OT prophet preached that it was repentance that made you a child of God and not ancestry (c.f. Luke 3:8) - and he was preaching that to Jews before Christ's ministry began.
Isaiah prophesied about John the Baptist's ministry in Isaiah 40:
A voice cries:
"In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." - Isaiah 40:3-5 (ESV)
John preached a baptism of repentance coupled with a message to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus (c.f. Luke 3:3; Acts 19:4)
These thoughts from scripture knit together seamlessly in my understanding. When Isaiah spoke of making a straight path in the wilderness - he was talking about preparing a person to receive Christ.
Follow me on this. It used to be that the wilderness was an unpassable barrier. You were sure to starve to death, or get lost, or perhaps attacked by some wild animal, or fall into a ravine - it really depended on the nature of the wilderness in question - but one thing common to a wilderness was the idea that you didn't travel through it, you went around it.
Because of the whole modern transportation system - roads, cars, plane, trains, boats, etc - we have practically forgotten what a wilderness is. We can expect that if we walk long enough in a straight line, we will eventually cross a road and thereafter follow the road unimpeded.
That is the purpose of a road - to overcome the impedance of the wilderness - making it easy to pass through areas that otherwise would be very difficult to navigate.
Perhaps the best modern example we have of a wilderness is the continent of Antarctica. Even if we had snow shoes, a sled full of provisions, a compass, and winter wear, we probably wouldn't live through the journey from the shore to the nearest camp - the "wilderness" is unpassable.
When scripture describes John's ministry as preparing a way through the wilderness for the Lord, it is really talking about preparing us so that the Lord finds no hindrances in us. The way of the Lord is "prepared" when all hindrances are removed - that is, when we begin to "repent."
Paul described the gospel he preached as "repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus Christ." Repentance prepares Christ's way into your heart - and unless the way is prepared, Christ cannot "enter in."
The Judaizers were Jews who thought of Christianity as a Jewish denomination. In order to be a Christian, you had be be an Israelite - that is, you had to be a Jewish citizen, since every Jew understood that salvation was of the Jews. They thought that one became a Jew through national Israel - but John the Baptist had already explained that God could make children of Abraham from stones - that is - being a Jew had nothing to do with being an Israelite - and everything to do with being circumcised in your heart (c.f. Romans 9:29).
The Judaizers didn't understand that being a Jew was a spiritual thing - and this misunderstanding was the root of their error. They rightly understood that Christianity was Jewish - only they were thinking circumcision of the flesh instead of the heart. Blinded thus, they thought that a Gentile could not become a Christian without first being joined to national Israel by becoming a Jewish Israelite.
Now you might be thinking - what does that have to do with "L'evangile... Sans Repentir!"
Well, the gospel of the Judaizers, the one that Paul pronounced anathema upon, was a gospel that replaced the circumcision of the heart (repentance) with the circumcision of the flesh (works) - and there are people to this day preaching a gospel that doesn't involve repentance:
This "new" gospel typically begins by pandering to our most cherished possession - "self"
"You don't want to go to hell when you die,... do you?"
It is hard to see the hook for the bait -but really this is saying, you don't want to suffer do you? That is the negative sales pitch - the "something bad is going to happen to you but you can avoid it if you act now" approach. You can go with a more positive sales pitch if you like:
God LOVES you and offers a wonderful PLAN for your life. here we are not avoiding something bad, but being sold on something good - that is a, "something good can happen to you if you act right now" kind of sales pitch.
Either way this particular gospel begins with, and centers on, what God can do for you - either what good thing you can get out of God, or what bad thing you can avoid receiving from God - this gospel is built upon the unbiblical notion that the chief purpose of God is to glorify man.
This same gospel is not about being reconciled to God - it is about getting into heaven so that you can avoid going to hell - and the way you get there is by "believing in Christ."
This "believing in Christ" is usually presented as acknowledgment that certain facts are true:  Jesus is who He said He was (God), and  Jesus will do everything He promised to do. If a person is willing to accept these articles as being "true" then they are pronounced saved from hell - and welcomed into fellowship.
They are told that the moment they agreed that these truths were true, they were saved from hell and God's Spirit entered into them and began to dwell there as the surety of their redemption.
Then they are encouraged to come to church, to tithe, and to spread this gospel (bibles are often thumped at that point - but never opened) so that others can come to (your) church and tithe.
But scripture teaches that the heart is a fallow wilderness that must be plowed in order to receive the seed - this plowing is what we refer to when we say "repentance."
I want to be clear as possible here. Repentance comes from two Greek words "meta" (change) and "noeo" (understanding/thinking) - which we take to mean changing you mind about what you purpose to do. Recall in Matthew 21, the two sons? The father asked them both to go and work in his vineyard, and both had purposed in their hearts not to go. The one son was more honest with his father and said, "I will not go" - but the other was dishonest, and feigned to go in order to temporarily pacify his father. Neither intended to go, that is, both of them (when they heard the request) had purposed in their hearts not to go - but the one son changed his mind about what he purposed to do - and went out and worked in the vineyard. This son "repented" - and that is what repentance is - changing your mind about what you purpose to do.
Keep that in mind as we think about "L'evangile... Sans Repentir!" - looking at the parable of the sower, the seed can be received in three kinds of "unrepentant" soil. When a man hears that Jesus is God's son and died to save him from sin - if that man rejects this, the seed had fallen on hard pressed ground, never taking root.
When a man does believe that Jesus is God, and that Jesus is the Savior, etc. - yet the same man does so while failing to purpose in his heart to obey Christ - only one of two things can happen:
 He may try and be pleasing to God in some other way - by reading the bible, praying, going to church, going to bible studies, doing good deeds, being generous, tithing - you name it - he may look more Christian than real Christians - except that all this seeming "growth" is counterfeit - a carnal facsimile that approximates Christ in him, because he knows how he is supposed to look, and imagines that acting this way validates his "conversion." Try as he might, this fellow cannot do anything in Christ's strength because Christ is unable to penetrate his unrepentant heart - and so he runs himself ragged and eventually, inevitably, exhausts himself - all his "growth" withers away. Scripture calls this one the "stony ground" hearer - he heard the truth, believing it to be true - but did so without ever purposing to obey God. His heart never desired to be reconciled to God - it just wanted to avoid hell - that is, the motivation was never reconciliation, but self preservation, and because of this the truth, even though it is believed, doesn't result in the salvation of the one who acknowledges that these things are true.
 The other way this pans out is that obedience is "put on hold" - this one believes the truths to be true, and even acknowledges that one should be obedient to Christ - but never gets around to obeying, having never committed themselves to obedience in the first place. The weeds of worldliness choke out any hope of repentance leading to life.
When a person determines however that they really do what to be reconciled to God. That is, they are not just trying to haggle their way out of hell, or get live better while they are here on the earth - they aren't trying to use God as a means to their own ends - but they see themselves as God's creation, they see God as being worthy of their obedience, and they understand that they were created to bring God glory and to take joy in doing so - then they might turn to God "for real" - they may begin to look at their fallen estate for what it truly is - unfixable.
They will begin to understand that the reason the gospel begins with repentance towards God and ends with faith towards Jesus Christ is because that is how it happens. John the Baptists ministry was to prepare the Lord's path into spiritual Israel - the circumcision of the heart - repentance - the only road upon which your Savior can enter in.
Now for those of you who think repentance is a work.
"Pfffft" - do your homework. ;-)
posted by Daniel @
| HIV/AIDS Commentary...
|If you haven't read it already, Rick Warren's wife, Kay, has written a commentary about how Christians ought to be doing more to both combat AIDS and comfort its victims. Her commentary was picked up by CNN, and can be found here.
The responses to her commentary paint how Christianity is understood by our secular society.
Secular society rightly paints Jesus as having been merciful and compassionate, but thereafter they tend to drop the brush - hijacking the Jesus of the bible, and leaving in His stead a person is not concerned so much with the sin that separates men from God or reconciling the sinner to God, but is instead chiefly concerned that the ride to hell is a comfortable one.
One knee-jerk response to this phenomenon is to promote evangelism so single mindedly that we ignore physical needs entirely - as though "honest" Christian compassion was narrowly limited to the spiritual realm.
I for one wonder if "modern evangelism" isn't destroying Christianity.
posted by Daniel @
| The Scales...
|Most of us, prior to reading the bible, subscribed to a commonly held myth about how a person "gets to heaven." Frankly most of us would have preferred for God to give us invulnerability/immortality - after which he could drop dead for all we cared - we just did -NOT- want to go to hell, if such a place really existed.
Our understanding of "fair" typically involves a 50/50 split - half for me, half for you. When we think of tests and what not - we only need 50% to pass, etc. So at first it seems reasonable to us that if "evil deeds" makes you go to hell, "good deeds" should be able to balance out the evil - and if you have more good deeds than evil deeds, God won't send you to hell.
On the surface that seems pretty "do-able."
After all, most of us have never killed or raped anyone - we haven't been to prison, and we generally subscribe to the golden rule (Do unto others what you would have them do unto you). If we have lied, or stolen, it has been "harmless" little things that wouldn't get you thrown in jail - and those things that would get us thrown in jail - well, there aren't too many of those.
When we examine ourselves this way - we have to admit, we aren't really that bad - surely, we aren't as bad as some people, and according to our own estimation, we are at least as good as the next guy, and probably a teensy bit better - but just a teensy bit.
We don't relish the idea of dying, but should we drop dead right now, we figure we have a fighting chance of avoiding hell. Surely God is "fair" and being fair, he wouldn't send us to hell for just a few minor things. We could even think of the good things we do. Didn't I sponsor a child from Africa when I was dating that person in College? Didn't I give to the Jerry Lewis Telethon a couple of times? If someone really looks down and out on the street - I have given them money on occasion. In fact, there were times in my life when I was quite magnanimous. I am not the most charitable person - but I -am- a little charitable.
So we imagine our wicked deeds as being those things which are so foul that they cannot be overlooked - and as such there are very few if any - but our good deeds, however trivial - we imagine must outnumber the wicked such that if we put them together on a balance - the good on the one side and the evil on the other - that the good should outweigh the evil - or at least they should be close, that is, if we found out we had a terminal disease, we would probably think of padding the "good deed" side a little more - just to be sure.
Even if we don't believe in all that heaven and hell stuff - we still rest assured that if we are wrong about that - we are probably going to go to heaven anyway - since we were only being honest with the "information we had" - that is, having seen no miracles, we really can't be expected to believe in an invisible God - and if there was a God, He would understand and probably commend our "intellectual honesty."
But... if the bible is actually true in what it says, we owe it to ourselves to examine whether this "scale" model is correct.
We recognize immediately that nowhere in scripture does God consider "sincerity" an excuse for ignorance. In fact scripture speaks this way about men who deny the reality of God: "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." - that is, no one alive today can claim that they didn't have enough information to realize that there really was a God - what they regard as "intellectual honesty" - God regards as a stubborn, willful denial of what is obvious - that creation had a Creator.
Okay, so no one will be able to use the "ignorance" excuse. But we still have the scales right? Good deeds vs. Evil deeds? Scripture teaches us that it doesn't work that way - but let's pretend that it did - just for the sake of this argument.
If the bible is true, then this is true - it is evil to fail to do good. (c.f. James 4:17), in fact, it is evil to fail to love everyone else - and especially to fail to love God. Putting all your petty thefts, lies, and whatnot aside - each and every day of your life when you failed to love everyone and God - you were piling up stuff on the "evil side" - every time you had the opportunity to do good, and snubbed it because you didn't feel like it - heap it on. Really, if we include all the stuff that you knew was wrong - with the rest, we would have to admit that you do evil continually, and have done so almost every day of your cognizant life. The "evil" pile is sky high.
Now lets look at your good pile. Let's imagine that you have been a Gandhi, or a Mother Theresa - you begin in the morning to do good deeds, and continue to do so until you fall asleep exhausted at night. Scripture says, that all of the good deeds that we do are "unclean" - that is, they don't count as good deeds - but in fact are tainted - and could just as easily be heaped on the evil side.
That shouldn't be too hard to understand if you have the right perspective. Consider the husband who goes out and buys his wife flowers. Isn't that nice? No - ultimately it is self serving. He knows that being nice to his wife will result in a better relationship between them - and since he desires a better relationship, he is serving his own agenda - his being nice purchases something for himself - and as much as we would like to deny it - that is the root cause of all our good deeds - we do them so that we can be serviced by them in some way. When we understand this fully, we can let go of the idea that there is anything good in us - scripture teaches that there isn't - that there is not even one person on earth who is righteous - that every one of us is wicked from tip to toe, and has been since the cradle.
So if we want to continue using our scale model - we would have to take every "good deed" - and reason that they are in fact selfish acts - and place them on the "evil" side.
If we imagine that we can avoid hell by being good - we are following what scripture calls worldly and demonic wisdom - a lie designed to coddle sinners into hell.
If you refuse to believe that there is a God - that is your prerogative, but I encourage you to reflect upon this inescapable truth - if the bible is correct, you are indeed a sinner - and you need not hold out any hope of avoiding hell - scripture tell us plainly that everyone who does not believe is condemned already.
If that bothers you, there is a link on my left menu - "How to be a Christian" - you should click it and learn more about it.
posted by Daniel @