H  O  M  E          
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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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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.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[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.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Friday, February 26, 2016
What to do about love?
The word charity shows up 26 times in the King James version (KJV) of the New Testament. In each instance the word being translated as charity is the noun agapé, which our modern translations translate as love.

I don't recommend the KJV as a study bible, since a great many (hundreds) of the words used in that translation are either obsolete in modern English, or have since come to mean something different than those same words mean today ("conversation" for example, used to mean they manner in which you conducted yourself in the world, where now it describes a dialog or discussion).

I mention the KJV's use of the word charity, not to recommend the KJV, but rather to highlight something that the translators of the KJV took into consideration in translating the word apapé, the context and implied meaning of the word.  Translators of the KJV, did not shy away from using the word "love" to translate the word agapé, when that word more readily reflected the context.

If you wish to do a study on the instances where the KJV translates the word agapé as love,  you can look up each of these verses for yourself or follow the link and view them in Mounce's Reverse-Interlinear New Testament:
  • 1 Corinthians 8:1, 13:1-4, 13:8, 14:1, 16:14;
  • Colossians 3:14; 
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 
  • 1 Timothy 1:5, 2:15, 4:12; 
  • 2 Timothy 2:22, 3:10; 
  • Titus 2:2; 
  • 1 Peter 4:8, 5:14; 
  • 2 Peter 1:7; 
  • 3 John 1:6; 
  • Jude 1:12; 
  • Revelation 2:19 
If you Google a definition of love, you'll find that love is most often defined first and foremost as a deep feeling of affection. The default definition of love (in Western culture) is that of a powerful emotion.  In other words, when someone in our culture is speaking of love, they are usually referring to an emotion that describes their affection for something.

It's easy enough to say that our definition of love is going to be influenced by the culture that we live in, but it's probably more helpful identify some aspects of our culture, and ask ourselves how those aspects will influence us.

If our culture regards love primarily as an emotion, then when our culture hears that God is loving, it is going to interpret that as meaning that God's love is an affection He has for the people and things He loves.  Our culture has no category for God's justice, or God's wrath, and so the notion of God's love is not tempered by, or understood as being in harmony with, any of the other known attributes of God.  This unbalanced view of God's love is going to be a hindrance to anyone's understanding of what the bible means by love.

Our culture is presently suffering from an epistemological identity crisis.  On the one hand it is considered arrogant to imagine that truth is knowable, and on the other, we should respect everyone's own personal version of what is true, so that we can all be "right" even when our opinions contradict one another. The pursuit of happiness is now a pursuit of pleasure, and we should all work to allow one another to pursue their own version of pleasure so long as that version doesn't harm anyone unwilling to be harmed by it.  Even heinous acts of evil are being justified by the thought that every perpetrator is a victim of some form of poverty (physical, mental, financial, ethical, etc.) or other.  We shouldn't punish people for becoming what their circumstances have dictated, instead we should educate them into a better life, etc.

That's the culture that shapes (to one degree or another) what is being understood by many who read, and who preach the scriptures.  Unless we are very circumspect in our study of God's word, we are at risk of reading into the bible, our culture's understanding of love, rather than the coming away with the bible's understanding.

I don't believe the difficulty can be easily overcome by simply pulling out a (Greek) dictionary and finding out what words like "agapé" and "phileo" mean.  These words, like every other word we use today, or the writers of scripture used in their day, have different meanings across a given semantic range.  In one context a word  can mean one thing, and in another, it can mean something else.

We do that in English all the time.  Throwing a ball is functionally different than throwing a party or even throwing a fight.  The context informs us how we are to understand the use of the word.

Some interpreters unwittingly read more into the words agapé and phileo than they ought to - assigning to each word to a very narrow technical meaning (i.e. agapé is a kind of "divine" love, the kind that God loves with, but phileo is more of a friendship sort of love, or brotherly love), but the truth is that even if God's love is superior in every conceivable way - that superiority isn't suggested by the word agapé nor is it necessarily omitted when the word phileo is used.

Remember King David's son Amnon? He was the one who, in 2 Samuel 13 had  crush on his step-sister Tamar.  Under the horrible advice of his friend Jonadab, he pretended to be ill, and when King David came to look in on him, Amnon asked David to send Tamar to him with food for him to eat from her hand.  When she came, he sent his servants away, and invited her into his bedroom to feed him, at which point he tried to seduce her.  When his seduction failed, he raped her.  In verse 15 we read "Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her."  In the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) the word used to translate love in this verse is agapé.  This wasn't describing a pure and selfless love - the love reserved for God.  It was describing an utterly self-serving desire, that evaporated the moment it achieved it's goal.

We err if we think that because a text uses this word, instead of that word, it is describing a necessarily superior form of "love" - especially if our understanding of the word love is informed by our culture rather than the scriptures.

The culture in England 400 years ago was different than our culture today.  The word choices made by translators 400 years ago would not have been informed by the same culture we have today - and that discrepancy ought to cause a sober reader to consider why the word charity was used then in various places, where the word love is used today.

If the translators of the KJV were compelled by their understanding of both English and Greek to translate some instances of the word agape as charity, they were not alone.  Jerome, translating the Greek New Testament into Latin, did the same thing 1200 years before that. Jerome translated agapé alternately using two different Latin words: caritas, (charity, dearness, high price, love/affection etc.) and diléctio (delight, Good will, love)If you follow along in the Latin Vulgate, you will see a remarkable thing - Jerome used the Latin word for charity to translate the Greek, in the same places the KJV translators used the English word charity...

That is pretty interesting.

It tells us that for hundreds and hundreds of years, readers of the Greek New Testament understood this one thing: the word agapé sometimes meant what we mean when we use the word charity, and they even knew when that particular meaning should be used.

One might ask, were they more discerning than we are today?

Listen: I'm not suggesting that it is "wrong" to translate the word agapé as love in our modern bibles.  What I am just suggesting is that our culture no longer thinks of love in terms of anything other than an emotion.  I am not saying we should bring "charity" back into our modern translations (though it would probably help), I am saying that because agapé doesn't necessarily describe an emotion, we should be on guard against reading our cultural definition of love back into the bible.

If love is limited to the notion of a deep affection in our culture, how will our culture understand a command to "love" the Lord? Is that a command to foster affection for the Lord?

Jesus famously spoke these words in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me Lord! Lord! and not do what I tell you?"  Jesus was talking about the kind of discrepancy where your mouth says that Jesus has the right to command your obedience, but your heart says, I will not have this man rule over me.  That kind of Christianity, which flows out of the mouth, but not from the heart, is not the real deal.  Jesus put it out there plain and simple - if you call him Lord, but don't obey Him, He isn't your Lord, you are your own Lord.

Those of us who genuinely desire to please our Lord, will want to obey His commandments - but in order to do that we need to understand His commandments:
  • A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. - John 13:34-35 ESV
  •  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my loveIf you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. - John 15:9-17 ESV

If your Lord commands you to love others, isn't it important to make sure you understand what He meant by love? Is Jesus commanding people to feel affections? How did James put James 2:16?, "and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?". Do good intentions fill hungry bellies?
One might might say that the command isn't just to feel the affection - but to act on it. But that has its own problems. What if I don't feel an affection? Am I fulfilling the command if I act upon an affection I don't actually have? Will God be satisfied with my half-hearted obedience?
Consider the possibility that the love that our Lord is speaking of isn't an emotion. I know that culturally speaking, that is a difficult thing to do for some of us. But consider it.
How does God demonstrate His love? He loved us while we were yet sinners, giving Himself, if I may paraphrase much, for those who hated Him. He "loved" His enemies. Does that mean He felt a deep affection for those who hated Him, or did it mean that He served them without regard to His own emotions?

Slowly now...

Is God's nature one of selfless service, or is God's selfless service a product of an underlying emotional state? Do we have an emotion driven God who is calling us to be driven by similar emotions, or do we have a God who is selfless, who serves others regardless of merit or personal emotion, because that is His true nature. Jesus said to Philip, if you have seen me, you've seen the Father. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. He did not come to gain anything for Himself, not wealth, not fame, not pleasure, nothing - yet He came to give all of Himself, even His life. That is the nature of God that was put on display by our Lord, and I believe that is what "love" looks like.

It isn't an emotion, but it certainly can provoke our emotions. It isn't a feeling that provokes us to do good, it is the Divine Nature that, when we surrender ourselves to it, will result in our serving one another selflessly. You cannot serve your self and God at the same time - the only way to serve God is to stop serving yourself.

If that is so, the command to love one another is not a command to foster affection for one another, it is a command to put others before ourselves even as Christ put our needs before His own. It is a command that only makes sense when your understanding of love isn't being informed by your culture, but rather from the scriptures themselves.
Go read the scriptures and test these thoughts. How do you love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength if the love He requires is merely an emotion?

It is possible to serve the Lord by seeking to deny yourself in your inner most being, to deny yourself in your thoughts, to deny yourself in your life, and to do so with all your strength, in other words to live your life for God and not for yourself.  You can do that without having or even trying to generate a deep affection for God.

If our obedience and manner of living are supposed to flow from emotions - which are as much a part of our fallen self as the rest of our sinful self - then we are necessarily implying that our fallen nature not only empowers our ability to obey God, but rather our ability to overcome our own sin, is what the whole thing hinges on.

Slowly.....think.....If we could do that in the first place, we wouldn't have needed a Savior...

Our job isn't to make our fallen selves presentable to God, it is to deny our own will, which itself is informed by and lives to satisfy, our fallen nature. Love is not selfish, it is selfish - it does not serve self, it serves others.  Paul writes this so beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13, that the notion that love is driven by emotion falls apart as soon as our cultural lenses come off.

When we deny ourselves, we give Christ room to live in and through us.  The road to selfless living is one of personal denial - and it is the only way that genuine righteousness finds us in this life.  Paul wrote famously in Romans 7:18 (and we do well to comprehend the depth of his words), "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, no good thing dwells.  He understood that He was incapable of righteousness (there is no one who does good, no one one! - Romans 3:12), even as we are, in and of ourselves.

So dear reader, if your understanding of love is more cultural than biblical - don't let that infect your understanding of the scriptures.  To do what the Lord commands you, you need to employ a biblical understanding of love in Christ's commandments, and not a cultural one.

Stop living for yourself, stop serving yourself, stop telling yourself that as long as you have an affection for people you're obeying the commands of Christ.  Ask yourself the hard questions: who am I really living for?  When was the last time I denied myself something in order to serve someone else?  Was that something exceptional - or was it an expression of how I am now living my life?

Perhaps one reason the church is weak, impotent, and dwindling is because the enemy has learned to not only attack the scriptures directly, but indirectly also - twisting the meaning of God's commands, by polluting the culture whose language is being used to interpret it.
posted by Daniel @ 10:17 AM   0 comment(s)
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
The Power in God's Command.
I had coffee with a brother in the Lord this weekend, and as we are inclined to do, we spoke of matters concerning the tragic trajectory that modern Christianity seems to be taking, and again about the perceived or imagined causes of, and possible solutions to arrest the trend.

We agreed that the main problem was immaturity - at a time when believers ought to be full grown, they are still infantile in their faith.  For some it is because they believe themselves to have attained what they came to the church to get: eternal life.  They believe they have found the "correct" religion, and have believed all that is required of them to secure for themselves a deliverance from a hellish afterlife; and having attained what they came to get, they are not just treading water by attending church - maintaining the status quo, until they receive what they perceive to be their reward.

Such as these aren't drawing near to God, because they didn't become Christians to know of draw near to God, they became Christians because they wanted to escape the wrath to come.  Insofar as they judge themselves to have escaped that wrath, they find themselves content, and have no further desire to draw any nearer to God.  They love the Lord with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him because they didn't become to know God, to love Him and to submit themselves to His rule, they became a Christian to escape the consequences of their sin (i.e. their rebellion against God's rule).  Ironically, in practice, they ignore God's rule in their day to day live, and rather live by whatever the lowest common denominator of conduct happens to be in their congregation - and consider themselves to be secure thereby.

Others are more earnest, but suffer from the notion that they personally are incapable of understanding the "deeper things of God" and justify themselves thereby, in not pursuing them. They almost (if not outright) think that only those with certain positions and gifts can draw near to God, and having found obedience both difficult, and often fruitless, they have given up trying, and justify their failure on the grounds that they are lacking something, but they aren't quite sure what that is.  More often than not, these end up pursuing the latest fads, and believe that if they could just discover, then achieve the right motivation or spiritual truth (or ultimately, the right "experience") then Christianity would become easy, and they would thrive.  But since they are seeking for something that isn't there and will never be there, they fail to find it, and eventually burn out.

I suppose I could catalog several causes of immaturity, but the main cause, whether we are talking about a genuine believer, or someone who is convinced they are saved, when they are not - the same reason lies behind both the immature tare, and the immature wheat: ignorance.  The "tares" ignorantly believe they have what they came for, so they see no value in going further.  The wheat believes that Christianity is supposed to look another way, so in their ignorance they pursue what cannot be found, and wear themselves out pursuing the wind.

In short the churches seem to contain both false and genuine converts, neither of which do much more than attend church - and the reason that continues, is because they remain ignorant.  The former because they are never challenged to examine themselves and see if they are in the faith, and the latter because they are too busy pursuing a form of Christianity that doesn't exist to learn what Christianity actually looks like.

It was the latter group that I was most concerned with.  Since I personally found that a lot of what passes for Christianity today is really just a perpetuation of tradition and even in some cases, superstition.

One of the reasons immature believers continue in pursuing the various experiences, programs, and styles that never lead anyone out of their spiritual inertia is  because everyone else is doing that.  Christians want to fit in with one another just as non-Christians do when they congregate.  People tend to adopt the status quo wherever they go.

New believers coming to a church where everyone hollers, "Amen!" and "Preach it brother!" are going to assume that such expressions demonstrate a healthy faith, and will begin aping them sooner or later.  The same goes for stoic silence.  If everyone is perfectly silent, and all heads turn because some young mother's infant giggles, you can bet that new believers there are gagging their kids to preserve the "holy" solemnity of perfect, stoic, silence during a sermon.

Whether it is hand raising, speaking in tongues, or just using the same words and expression to pray as everyone else - new believers ape the congregation they come to stay in.  Every church has its own feel - and new believers coming to that church will interpret that "feel" as the "correct" way to "do" Christianity.

Unless a congregation is aware that this is going to be the case, it is probably not going to do anything to address it - and most don't. So I'll take just a moment to do that.  Take a moment to consider the flavor of your church.  Do you clap hands when singing?  Do hands go up (ostensibly and apparently to indicate spiritual receptiveness)?  Is it quiet when the pastor speaks?  Is there humor?  Is it very serious, or is it casual?  Etc.  The bible doesn't tell us to clap our hands when we sing, or to dance, but it doesn't tell us not to.  It does speak about "lifting up holy hands" - but the context of that is almost always lost to those who make the showing of their armpits a "thing".

The posture of prayer for the Jew, was to raise up their hands when they prayed - thus the call isn't to "raise you hands up" - it is rather that when you pray your hands should be holy - which itself describes your conduct - you should be doing the will of God with your hands, and not your own.  The NT equivalent is that the "earnest prayers of a righteous man avails much"  This passage isn't suggesting that the posture of holding your hands up in the air (which, thanks to television and cowboy westerns is now associated with surrender) is more spiritual than holding them at your side.

It is talking about the necessity of personal holiness in prayer.  You want to know why your prayers aren't being answered?  It is because you are not living a holy life.  If you haven't heard that, let me say that someone ought to have told you that in the very early days of your Christianity, but it is never to late - take that to heart, and learn to pray, by learning to walk the Christian walk.  There is no Christian-lite option, there is only a Christian-useless option, and the sooner you understand that, the sooner you will want to avoid it.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to make with this post.  The first reason a lot of believers remain in a state of spiritual infancy is because they are not made aware of what is expected of them, and not expected to pursue it.  The second is because when they set out to live the Christian life in all its fullness, they find themselves failing to find the "power" to do it.  The sit in Romans 7, wanting to do good, but failing to find a way to do it.

So I'll open up on this one point, and trust the Lord to speak to whomever He will through it.

Let's start with some basics:  I wouldn't shouldn't have a difficult time convincing a biblically literate aware Christian that the universe and all that is, ever was, or ever will be, in it exists, and came to exist, and will exist by God's command.  The only folks who would deny that do so because they deny the scriptures that teach that.

Consider the weight of this thought: There was nothing until God commanded there to be something.  

You may think that this truth is limited to the act of creation, but you'd be wrong, and that particular error will have a profoundly significant impact on "how" you understand what it means to be a Christian.

Consider when Jesus commanded the lepers to show themselves to the priests.  Under the Mosaic Law a Jew who had been previously declared unclean on account of a skin disorder had to present himself to a priest when and if he had been cured of his leprosy.  The priest would inspect the former leper to see if the claims of cleansing were true, and if so, he would declare the leper clean, and admit him to the general assembly once again.  When Jesus told those lepers to go and show themselves to a priest, they were still lepers.  They obeyed the word of Christ, and as they did so, they were cleansed.

You've probably heard a sermon or two on this passage in the New Testament, and the take-away that is often presented is that because the miracle didn't happen until they exercised faith by going (even though they were still lepers) to present themselves to the priest, it follows that faith precedes the miraculous.

Here is what I want to teach from that same passage: what was it exactly that healed them?  It was the power of God (obviously), but (and I hate to use such cheesy language here) what unlocked the power of God to do this miracle?  Their faith?  No.  It was the command of God - it was the fact that God told them to go and present themselves to the priests.

Consider, if you are able, that the commandment of our Lord is no small thing.  By His word, all that has ever existed came to exist.  This is who told these lepers to go present themselves to the priest, and pregnant in that command, was the implicit notion that they would be clean before they got there.  Yes, they exercised faith that what Christ implied would come to pass, and it isn't my purpose here to correct or ignore the importance of that faith - it is important.  What I want you to see is that God's command, because it is the command of God, is pregnant with the power to do what it has been unleashed to do.

Okay, I was being a little theatrical when I used the word "unleashed" in that last sentence.  God's word isn't leashed, I just wanted to emphasize the fact that when God commands a thing, it is very, very significant.  He isn't pithy with the things that He does, such that what He commands, He grants by His own power.

You'll hear a lot of rhetoric on how to be obey God.  A lot of  that sort of stuff waters down to finding the "right" motivation, or worse, experience. So what I am saying will probably seem pretty lame and way too simple compared to what others are going to tell you.  I will let the Spirit be the judge.

There is no "power" that we have to tap into.  The power to obey is in the command itself.  God has commanded it, and because He has commanded it, it can be done.  The first example of this happened when you were saved.

Do you realize that God commands us to repent and believe the gospel?  Paul wrote instructively, and accurately in Romans 1 that the gospel was the power of God unto salvation.  We might try and expand that by saying, "Well, it isn't like the words themselves have power, it just means that the power of God is present whenever those words are understood" - and I expect that wouldn't be too far off the mark.  I don't mean to say that there is power in the words themselves, as though reading them or seeing them unleashed (I am using it correctly this time) a latent, embedded power that was pregnant in the text itself.  What I mean is that whatever God commands, He commands according to His power.

Let's take that out of the theoretical realm, and put that into practice.

You don't want to read your bible.  It's boring - or put more accurately, it isn't regarded as being as entertaining as the other things that you would rather be doing at the moment.  You feel you should read it - or rather, you are convicted by the Holy Spirit that you should read it, but because it isn't entertaining enough to overcome your default apathy, you shrug it off and do something else with your time, as you have done countless times before.

In that situation, where do you "find" the "power of God" to obey?

That is how the question is typically stated.  But I suggest it is the wrong question to ask.  The question ought to be, "Am I really being convicted by the Holy Spirit, or am I being provoked by something else?  Guilt (I haven't read it in a while)? Religious duty (if I don't read it, people at church might find out!)? Religious habit (I have to read a certain amount every day, or I won't get the bible read in such and such a time)? Conceit (I want to be known as someone who really knows the bible)?

Listen: there are all kinds of bad reasons to read the bible.  But you should understand that it is the word of the Holy Spirit within every believer who provokes/convicts them to read their bible.  This He does so that through the reading of God's word we will draw near to the actual God, and not some God of our own making.

My point is that even when I am being convicted by the Holy Spirit to obey the will of God (such as to read my bible), more often than not I will not feel like it.  For the immature believer, that is usually enough to win the contest.  So how do I overcome my own feelings which are not inclined to obedience? Does God send me power to do that?


I mean, as a general rule, no.  You will experience many things as a Christian, and sometimes you will be carried along, almost effortlessly into the will of God - but that is always (at least in my own experience) an exceptional thing.  Perhaps the infrequency of this type of phenomenon is a reflection of some as yet unearthed deficiencies in my own walk.  Yet for today, let's accept this much: most of the time, we are not inclined to obedience.

What a lot of people do in that situation is seek the proper motivation.  They reason that if they were the right kind of Christian, this would all be easy.  Therefore they must lack something, and that is why it is so difficult to obey.  So they look for motivation in their feelings, in the writings of people who claim to have solved the mystery, or in various "spiritual experiences" - most of which are either demonic counterfeits, or just plain fluff.

The problem isn't motivation, because the truth is your flesh will not be motivated, and cannot be motivated to obey the will of God.  The will to obey God is not rising up from within the "you" that you think of as "you".  It comes from Christ who is in the believer through the Holy Spirit.  He desires that you obey Him, and you experience that desire as your own.

Consider this: If your desire to obey finds its origin in Christ, and that by itself isn't enough to motivate you to obey (and, for the person living carnally, it won't be), you can bet that every other effort to find the "correct" motivation is going to come up short. If you understand that, you'll stop trying to "find" the proper motivation, and instead deal with the actual problem - you don't want to obey.

You will never make your flesh (the you that is "You") want to obey Christ.  It isn't ever going to be tamed, it isn't ever going to desire to obey.  If you're chasing a version of Christianity where you imagine you find the magic key that makes it easy and pleasant to obey Jesus, you're going to be disappointed, and you're wasting precious time chasing something that the scriptures never suggest or promise.

The moment you understand that your flesh isn't getting any better, and will not get any better, that is the point at which you will begin to understand that the solution isn't going to involve creating a situation where you suddenly "want" to obey.  That just isn't going to happen.  We do not overcome the flesh by taming the flesh, we overcome it by regarding it as dead.

That is where it starts.  First you must understand that in a moment where you can choose to obey the will of God, or choose to pursue your own will, the way to overcome your own will, is not to fight against it, but to understand that it has no power over you.  The power it used to wield over you was your own death.  But if you're in Christ, then He who overcame death, has overcome that power. If you surrender your will to the one who has already overcome death, you will overcome what death is calling you to do.

Okay, I am using some personifications there that I've taken from Paul in his letter to the Romans, and it is easy enough to get lost in the personifications, so I'll repeat that in plain language.

The desire you have to do your own will is a sinful desire - meaning it is a desire to rebel against God's will, in favor of doing our own will. The penalty for that is death - which makes perfect sense; why should God sustain a life that refuses to conform itself to the purpose for which God created it. 

Our desires run contrary to that which permits life (obedience to God).  If we pursue our own desires instead of pursuing what God has created us to do, we are not just usurping the life that God has given us - we are destroying the only reason God has, or will ever have, to sustain the life He has given.  It may be hard to wrap your mind around it, but there is no life apart from God.  The life that we live - the life itself - isn't just owned by God, it -is- preceding from Him right now, it is being sustained by His will - and the moment a person intentionally disregards God's will, in that moment the life that this person was given is eternally forfeited.

So Paul isn't using death as a metaphor in Romans 5 and 6.  Death is just the word he uses to describe both the absence of the life that God sustains, and the absence of one's right to that life.  We lose the right to live the moment we sin. In that sense Adam's setting aside of God's will to pursue his own, (i.e. Adam's "sin") brought into being a situation where he no longer had a claim on the life that he was given.  He still possessed it, but he had no right to it.  Having no right to that life, he no longer had any right to direct the course of it either.  When we say that through sin, Adam brought death into the world, what we mean is that Adam's disobedience brought into being a forfeiture of his right to claim the life he was living.

The life we have inherited from Adam was forfeit (on account of Adam's sin) before we ever inherited it.  Said another way, we have been cut off from God ever since the days of Adam.  Adam and Eve could sense God's presence in the Garden prior to the fall - but when they lost "the rights" to the lives they were living, they lost the ability to sense God's presence because they were no longer connected to the life of God in the way they had previously been.  We've inherited that disconnect.  The life we received (through procreation) is a life that has already been disconnected from the life of God - He sustains it, but it is already dead in the sense that it is already cut off from God - He will not sustain our life once our body is through with it.

That is why we need a Savior after all, because we are born dead in our sins and trespasses, and need a life that is connected to God.  When we are saved, God doesn't re-connect the life we had been living to Himself.  That life is already forfeit.  Instead God gives  us a new life - the life of Christ, which we become partakers of when we are "baptized into Jesus" (i.e. born again).  In that union, we take on the life of Christ, which is still connected to God.

So when Paul speaks about the flesh etc. in Romans 5-8 etc., he is talking about the life that is forever forfeited, and will not be fixed.  His solution is the only solution - stop trying to fix that which cannot be fixed, but regard it instead as dead - because it is dead in that sense that it is not going to be redeemed, and will not be cured, etc.  We do not fix the flesh which is still animated by the old life of Adam, instead regard that life as being dead.

That doesn't mean we pretend it is dead.  It doesn't mean that we convince ourselves that it has no power over us.  It is rather that we recognize that it cannot, and will not have any part of our life in Christ.

It follows then, that we will never find sufficient motivation to overcome our sinful desires.  Such motivation cannot arise from our old life, or our old flesh, because both our flesh and our old life are spiritually dead, and cannot please (and therefore obey) God.

The very first time a Christian obeys God, is when that Christian obeys "the gospel" and believes. 

But how does the believer obey God when there is nothing in the believer's fallen and forfeit life, or fallen and twice dead flesh to provoke that believer to obey God?

Paul tells us that the power comes from the gospel itself, which is the power of God unto salvation.  He is saying that the power itself is pregnant in the command of God.

Paul writes that we are saved by grace through faith.  Grace, we've heard (too often) is "unmerited favor" and that works well enough, but the idea is that faith itself was a gift from God that you did not earn, or deserve - and certainly didn't generate.  You believed the gospel and so you obeyed the gospel, and as you surrendered by grace to the command to believe the gospel, you believed and were saved.

When you obeyed God's command to believe the gospel, you were saved.  The command, because it came from Him who brings into existence out of nothing things that now exist, produced the faith in you through which you were saved.

I know it sounds like a cart before the horse before the cart sort of nightmare, but that is the way it is. 

You may be wondering how all this applies to the topic at hand.  It applies in this way.  New believers haven't learned that there is no trick to sanctification.  You simply obey what God has commanded you to do because God is in the business of bringing obedience out of nothingness the moment you begin to obey.

Every place where your foot falls, will be yours he told the Israelites as they entered into the promised land to take it for themselves.  They had to go out and do it, but when they did the victory was not their own - it was promised them.  As they obeyed they received.  So it has always been.

We don't have the power to obey, or even to believe, but Christ who is in us has both.  As simple as it is, we just have to "trust and obey"  There is no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.

Immature Christians are immature because they are trying to be Christians without obedience, and they believe that they cannot exercise obedience,  because they haven't found an easy way to do so.  There is no way to make the flesh obey, and as long as they try and make that happen they wear themselves out in repeated failures sprinkled only very conservatively with a few marginal, and very superficial successes.  So they give up, because they don't know that they can't make themselves obey, but must obey nonetheless.  They don't rest in the power of God's commands, and instead attempt to succeed by exercising their own futile power to obey.

My advice, if you find yourself lacking the power to obey - embrace it.  You never had the power to obey to begin with.  Ask yourself instead, am I a slave of Christ?  If I am, what kind of slave sits around and looks for motivation?  I obey because I am a slave, trusting that as I do so, I'll find the strength of my Master in the work I do - because He commands it, and what He commands, He makes happen.

posted by Daniel @ 11:07 AM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
After 1500 generations, fruit flies are still fruit flies...
This morning I chanced upon an article that noted the environmental adaptions taking place in a line of fruit flies (drosophila melanogaster) that have been adapting to total darkness over 1500 generations (about 60 years).  Just to be sure we're all on the same page, environmental adaption isn't the sort of mutation typically envisioned by various theories of evolution. 

Environmental adaption does not introduce new information to a genome, rather existing information is switched on or off at the genetic level in response to a variety of environmental influences.  If there is a drought, and your DNA has something for that, it may switch "on" in the next generation.  if there is little food, another handful of switches may turn on, and some may turn off, etc.

The experiment in question, mapped out a couple of hundred thousand genes to determine which of these mapped genes were "adaptive" - meaning, which of these genes could "turn on" existing features that were being coaxed out by the lab-induced darkness.  Approximately 6% of the genome seemed to respond in a condition-dependent way.  When I say, "seemed to respond" I don't mean that they aren't sure whether or not they there was a change, but rather that they have no certain way to be sure which if any did change because of the lab induced condition of total darkness.  Without a deeper understanding (and experiments of this nature will eventually give us a greater understanding) of the factors involved, we aren't at liberty to do much more than guess how much of that 6% actually represents an induced change, or even whether or not the darkness was the only or prime factor.

But that is science.  The more information we have, the more certain our guesses will become.  For now we can say that after 1500 generations, a line of fruit flies left in total darkness experienced some genetic adaption.  That isn't the same as saying they "evolved" - since no new information was added to their genome, rather it is to say that their genome selectively turned on or off various latent features of their existing DNA.  This isn't the kind of "evolution" that most people mean when they speak of evolution, this is just a family of fruit flies doing what fruit flies have always been able to do - adapt according to their genome.

Don't get me wrong, this experiment has a lot going for it.  It will no doubt contribute to our understanding of how environmental adaptation works, and all that, but what caused this experiment to strike me as significant is what it tells us about changes to our genome after 1,500 generations...

Have you ever wondered how many generations it would take to re-populate the world staring from just two people?  A thousand?  A hundred thousand? Nope.  Less than 50.  Seriously, if conditions were perfect, it could be done in as little as 900 years, and in just a few dozen generations.

The big point isn't that fruit flies haven't evolved into something new even after 1500 generations, nor is it that if what most people think of as evolution is true, it happens so slow that we may never be able to verify it experimentally.  No the big thing is that if evolution actually explains our origins, we should have (over the millions of years we've allegedly been here) over-populated the world thousands of times.

Conservatively, 1500 generations of humanity should span about 35K-40K years, so we should expect the humanity from 40,000 years ago, to be just as smart, industrious, and genetically able as humanity today, since, genetically speaking, they are identical to us.  They had opposable thumbs, and certainly would have every advantage that we have in becoming the undisputed masters of this world, and over-populated the world, just as we have, many, many times over.

Yes, there is disease and famine, and all that in the world.  It has been here as long as we have.  But as convenient as it is to suggest that the reason mankind failed to thrive in the past was because we were too unsophisticated, or because disease, war and famine so limited our population that we failed to thrive until only recently.  Yet the same people who are willing to believe that the kind of spontaneous beneficial mutation that can produce a superior version in the place of previous inferior ancestors, if you just give the process enough time (millions of years), balk at the idea that mankind could ever have overcome his environment to dominate the planet has it has until only just recently.

How did we conquer this world? How did we overcome limited resources?  How have we tamed the air and the sea? What have we done that our genetically identical forefathers from thousands of years ago prior to written history couldn't have done?  In order to truly embrace evolution, we must adapt a very low opinion of mankind's ability to do anything - since we must begin with the assumption that mankind was in a state of utter indifference and idiocy prior to the last few thousand years.

One doesn't have to be a raving religious nut to question the viability of evolutionary theory.  The question we should be asking is how is it possible for all that information get into our DNA?  The human brain is far more complicated than any computer - are we to understand that the same natural processes that wear mountains down to dust, elsewhere build that dust up into super-computers?  We can understand how natural forces can destroy what is, but how can the same forces create information?  our DNA is more complex than anything you can imagine - not because it is conceptually complex, but because of the information in our DNA - how did it get there?

To believe that the kind of information that has been allegedly added to our DNA (slowly over millions of years) just wrote itself, or happened (repeatedly over the millennia) in response to an incalculable number of various natural impetuses requires a great deal of hope.  I would say, "faith" but faith has to have some anchor - you can't have faith by itself, faith has to be in something, you trust that this or that is true.  But in this case, you're trusting that the most complex information known to man came into being through changes no one has ever seen.  In other words, you're trusting that something no one has ever witnessed or recorded, has not only happened once, but happened millions of times in the past for pretty much every organism upon the earth,

People of faith - in particular those who believe the various divine creation accounts  - are ridiculed by those who believe that all the information in our DNA essentially came together through random chance.  Let's be honest - one party believes that everything came from something, the other believes that everything came from nothing.

The study produced a few articles, which produced a few conversations, most of which have or will have degenerated into an atheistic vs. a faith based debate about the origin of all things.  That's not a bad thing, as it gives atheists an opportunity to stare again into the face of their belief system: "everything originated from a very special form of nothingness - the kind of nothingness that we don't see today, but at one time created enough of a universe to start things off..."

posted by Daniel @ 11:15 AM   1 comment(s)
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Are humans losing the ability to think critically due to technology advances?
I am not asking the question myself. I stumbled across the question here, and typed out an off-the-cuff answer to submit, only to find that my answer could not be submitted unless/until I joined the forum.

Rather than do that, I thought, I'll just cut and paste my response here:

The American Heritage Dictionary defines Relativism (the philosophy) as "The doctrine that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, 'relative' — that is, their validity depends on the circumstances in which they are applied."  This philosophy can be summed up by the notion that there is no absolute (i.e. 'objective') truth.

In a similar way, Postmodernism, which promotes the notion of radical pluralism (i.e. there are many "ways of knowing" and "reality is subject to perspective", etc. etc.), promotes the complimentary notion that truth is something we interpret out of our individual realities rather than something that actually exists

These philosophies (in particular) frame our default "modern" worldview - which is what is being taught to students in our (western) public educational systems.  Pragmatically it lends itself to the notion that all religions and cultures are equal in that we cannot know which (if any of them) is right or superior.

Unfortunately, the perceived educational benefits of a postmodernism, relativistic worldview (pluralism, secularism, etc.) come at the expense of critical thinking - which posits that in order to think clearly on a matter, one's knowledge must be informed by and through factual evidence.  In a culture that has convinced itself that truth is unknowable, or that truth is a matter of perspective, knowledge can no longer be informed by factual evidence, because there is no such thing as an actual, objective fact.  All truth is inherently subjective and a matter of perspective, therefore even where evidence supports a claim, the claim may be rejected because our philosophies presuppose that even factual evidence is subject to opinion and perspective. There simply is no room to think critically, because critical thought presumes upon the objectivity of the evidence.

Therefore, if humans are in fact losing the ability to think critically, it probably doesn't spring from recent technological advances, but rather from recent trends in epistemological philosophies. A generation that is so enlightened that it teaches itself that nothing is truly knowable, can hardly escape the conclusion presupposed by its worldview: There is no longer any need for critical thinking since that archaic notion was premised upon a notion our worldview denies.
One of the beefs I have with our public school system, is that it passively promotes the memorization of knowledge rather than the learning of it. Truth is assumed, rather than demonstrated, and the student's job is to trust that what they are being told is actually true - so that all they need to do, in order to past the test, is to memorize it, and retain that knowledge until they write the test. Once the grade is given, the both the teacher and the student move past that hurdle to the next, in their race to get through all the material that the student is to be tested on.

In order to think critically, one must have a venue to actually critique what is being presented as truth - to question the authority behind any proposition until satisfied that the evidence given actually supports the claims being made.  You can't do that in a world where nothing is true anymore.
posted by Daniel @ 2:18 PM   3 comment(s)
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