Category Archives: Theology

Contract law (or, the efficacy of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection)

The Truth of the gospel is so simple a child can understand it.  However, there is also the meat of the gospel.  The details and teachings that are more complex and also extremely fascinating.  This article is going to discuss the idea of contracts (also known as covenants) and why they are so important.  I felt this was an appropriate topic, since this Sunday is known as Resurrection Sunday.

Contracts are pretty straightforward.  They are agreements between parties that lines out what is expected of each person participating in the contract.  God is a God that uses contracts/covenants to interact with and to guide mankind.  God drafts the contract and then man participates.

The Mosaic Law was a covenant between God and man, or actually a group of men, the Jewish people.  God said if man would flawlessly keep his side of the contract, then the person would inherit eternal life, would have his sins covered.  Mankind, in our fallen state, could not keep that contract perfectly. So, why did God make that covenant if He already knew we’d not be able to keep it?  The answer is simple; to show us that we couldn’t keep it.

What that shows is that we cannot gain eternal life and forgiveness on our own, we cannot fulfill our side of the contract and we are not righteous creatures, but the problem is, God is a completely righteous and just God and can’t just shred the contract, it must be fulfilled in order for there to be room for a new contract.   An example may help: You need to rent a house, so you sign a contract with the landlord to pay $500 per month for a year.  You are legally bound by the statues laid out in that agreement.  The ways you can fulfill your side of the agreement are clearly spelled out.

God set up the contract with man so that it could indeed be fulfilled under certain conditions.  A specific type of sacrifice must be made, and it must be a blood sacrifice.  What is sacrificed must be kin to whatever that sacrifice is going to cover.  The sacrifice must be perfect according to God’s law, therefore the sacrifice had to come from the chosen people with whom God made the covenant.  None of this was designed by accident.  Mankind caused it’s own fall, but God had a plan to redeem us.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was that perfect sacrifice.  He was perfect according to the law, and He was human, so He was kin to us, and He was Jewish, from the tribe of Judah.  He shed His blood by spilling it on the Cross.  This is why Jesus proclaimed it finished upon His death.  All debt was paid, all was covered, the contract was fulfilled.  The old covenant was nailed to the cross making way for a new agreement; anyone that trusts on Jesus’ person, life, death, and resurrection to cover all sin will inherit eternal life.

The new covenant, or contract, now hinges on faith.  By responding to God in faith, we sign on the dotted line and become covered by Jesus’ blood, our sin washed away, and we are no longer under the law of the old agreement.  God Himself seals us, and we become indwelt by the Spirit.  This is the only way to Heaven, and a correct relationship with God.  Faith in the Son.

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Filed under Apologetics, Conversion, Theology

Jehovah-Rohi; The Lord is my Shepherd…

This look at one of the names of God is going to focus on one of His more popular names or roles; that of our Shepherd.  This name is commonly known because of Psalm 23 and its “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”  The fact that it is “Jehovah-Rohi” shows us that being a shepherd is a part of Who God is, meaning it is His character to be our shepherd.

We know from scripture that there are good shepherds and bad shepherds.  One of the differences was to see if the shepherd would be willing to give his life for his sheep.  In God we have the ultimate shepherd, He sees to us, cares for us lives alongside of us… and did indeed die for us.  If one of us goes astray, He comes for us, not to condemn us but to get us out of whatever trouble we’ve found and bring us home.

The other aspect of a shepherd that many people tend to forget is that they do desire the sheep to follow them.  A sheep knows the shepherd’s voice and was expected to follow along, staying close to the shepherd.  I always like to imagine the Holy Spirit as the Shepherd’s sheep dog.  Not in any negative sense of course, but in the sense that the Holy Spirit is what helps guide us, and helps us tune into the shepherd’s commands.  All we have to do is listen for the Shepherd’s voice and respond when He calls; we have to trust Him, in other words, faithe on Him.

One aspect of all of this that should give us comfort, is that God is so far above us, that we are compared to the sheep, while He’s the shepherd.  Sheep aren’t the smartest animals on earth, but have their place, and their uses.   But note; the Shepherd is in charge, and it is His duty to see to the sheep.  If a threat approaches the sheep, it is the Shepherd who deals with it.  How wonderful to be a sheep protected and loved by God Himself!

How wonderful to be able to say, as David did, the LORD is my Shepherd, it is He Who leads, guides, loves, and protects me.  If I stray, He comes to get me.  Another awesome aspect?  That Shepherd, God Himself, became a Lamb that gave its life for me, and you, and to rid of us of sin and the penalty of the law.  This Lamb is so perfect, He meets every criteria of a perfect sacrifice.  Hold on to the fact that God, the Creator of all things, is your Shepherd the second you heed His call.  When times get tough, remember Who your Protector is, call out to Him, He will hear you.

For my other articles on the names of God see; Jehovah-rapha, Jehovah-Shammah, Jehovah-Tsidkenu, and Jehovah-nissi

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The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 9; Temperance

The last fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22 is “temperance.”  The Greek word used here is egkrateia, it means self-control, or a hallmark of one who masters their passions.  There should be nothing that has control over us, that stems from our human nature.  So, we have a struggle between human nature and divine nature.  It is more clearly laid out for us in 2 Peter:

2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

Notice all those things that are linked together and it all goes back to faith.  We are saved by grace through faith, so that is the starting point.  Trusting Jesus and God is faithing.  That faith and salvation leads to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit yields fruit, including temperance.

It is also interesting to me to see the last bit added on; if you don’t have temperance, if we don’t have self-control, it is because we have forgotten that we are cleansed from past sin.  Forgiveness leads to healing, that is forgiveness of ourselves and the realization that God does not hold our past sins over our heads.  If we do not realize that forgiveness it actually leads us to fall prey to our old nature.  Isn’t that interesting?  Legalism will never set us free, it is the fact of our freedom that enables our virtue of things like self-control.  Also notice that Temperance is also then connected on to patience, godliness, kindness, and charity.  Patience, godliness, kindness, and charity flow from self-control.

We struggle with many things that require self-control; drug use, lust, greed, anger, etc… We are promised that if we faithe on God, if we remember and realize that we are set free from all past sin, that we WILL have temperance/self-control, because it is a fruit of the Spirit.  Grab onto that fact, faithe, and remember. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed!  That is the path to controlling our human desires and passions, and giving over to the divine nature.

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Book Review; Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

Ooookkaayy… this should be interesting.  So, my philosophy is not to comment on something either glowingly or negatively unless I’ve read or watched it myself, especially if it is of a controversial nature.  It seemed like everywhere I turned in Christendom people were discussing this book, or warning others not to discuss the book…so I knew I had to read it and review it.  I have to be clear; this is my introduction to Bell.  I have no former gripe or praise for him, no angle to work for or against him.

Hopefully, I’m going to do something a little bit different in this review, as other reviews have already rightly attacked the factual flaws in Bell’s work.  If you want that style of review,  you can get one here: God is Still Holy and What you Learned in Sunday School is Still True: A Review of  “Love Wins.” I don’t agree with everything in the review, but it gives a good overview of many of Bell’s problems.

No, I want to approach this a bit differently and talk about implications.  First, let me say…I can’t believe this book, Love Wins, was actually published…I mean, I get why.  It’s going to make a ton of money, but it’s content is illogical, and its style is unpolished.  I’m really struggling with this review because I can’t believe that people would change their view on God, Heaven, or Hell based on this book.  The “gotcha” questions Bell proposes in the first bit of the book are easily answered by anyone versed in Apologetics, not just well-versed, just versed.  They are “milk” type questions…and are eerily reminiscent of the list of “questions” found on fundamentalist atheist websites.

For example, Bell asks, “What saves someone?”  I answer, and the Bible answers; Grace through Faith.  Bell asks, “Well, isn’t faith an action, and hence a work.”  I answer; No, something can be an action without being a work.  The Israelites were not allowed to work on Sabbath, were they allowed to think?  Sure.  Were they allowed to love?  Sure.  Where they allowed to trust (that’s faith)? Sure.  So, the big answer to all Bell’s rhetorical style questions is; we make it in by grace through faith, and faith is not a work.  QED.

So, moving on, what do I mean that I want to approach this review by implications?  I mean, what are the implications IF Bell’s thesis is right?  The implication of Bell’s thesis is that God is a monster…in fact He’d be the very monster Bell decries.  Bell clearly says that love can’t be forced, but the logical implication (reading Bell) is that it can be.  In the end, says Bell, everyone will succumb to God’s love and turn to God willingly.  That is a logical contradiction.  To be free will there must be true choice, but in this case, just by looking at Bell’s title; Love Wins, one can see there isn’t.

“Love wins.”  I didn’t know love was in a competition.  I didn’t know it was out to beat me.  But, I guess I was wrong.  Bell feels that God will so smufficate a person with love, they WILL respond and turn to Him either in this life in the next.  I resent the implication.  I resent his maligning of God’s character and God’s love.  God is not a rapist, nor is He a brainwasher.  Bell’s thesis is creepy in the extreme.  If you want to debate Hell, fine.  Annihilation vs. punishment, fine. Universalism, fine.  I even love to discuss the possibility CS Lewis raises that Hell is locked on the inside. But by claiming that God “wears you down” over long periods of time til you cave…why would anyone think that is acceptable from a Holy Loving God?

Bell’s implication is that God is neither Holy nor really Loving in any true sense, nor Just; He’s just interested in making sure every human being can be put on some Heavenly tally sheet.  Bell’s implication is also that evangelism is pointless, and so is suffering in this life.  What I mean by that is that everything winds up the same for everyone given enough time in the life to come.  A rapist that rejects love and God in this life gets an infinite series of chances to accept God’s gift of salvation, and in fact, will indeed come to accept it because nothing can stand up to God’s love.  We call that brainwashing.  A brainwashed individual is not acting under free will.  Jesus suffered when He observed that He had tried and tried to get through to the Jewish people, but “they would not.”  Why so upset if they were all going to be A-OK through all eternity?

Now, I completely understand someone being frustrated by evangelists trying to scare the crap out of someone to get them to believe in a loving God.  Fortunately I wasn’t raised that way.  For me, it has ALWAYS been about love and choice; true love and true freedom in choice.  I trust God to be just while still believing that Hell is real.  If we want to talk about Him giving every human an equal and fair chance at Heaven, I’m there.  If you want to point out that God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, that they choose it, I’m there.  If you want to point out the Devil is not in charge in Hell, and that it may not be all physical torture and pitchforks, I’m there.  But I draw the line at clearly maligning God, Our Father’s, character.

Briefly; other problems.  Horrible hermeneutics, flawed logic, sloppy writing, and whoever set up the actual book format…well, they shouldn’t win any prizes.  Plus, Bell dances around any reference to eternal contempt for some alongside eternal life for others, and ignores bulk passages that clearly indicate that faith in Christ is required to enter Heaven, that we die and then the judgment happens, etc… Not to mention he tries to describe Heaven, and it’s implications…he should’ve left that to Alcorn’s book “Heaven.”

I love books that make readers consider things from a new angle…this wasn’t one of them.  I’ve read another book recently that I guess I should’ve reviewed instead; “If Grace is True: Why God will save every person” by Gulley and Mulholland.  I didn’t agree with them either, esp. since they deny Christ’s sacrifice was necessary; however, their book was set up logically enough to review in a succinct way.  I feel Bell is theologically and intellectually dishonest, either unconsciously or on purpose.  He seems to be the type trying to “out moral” God…it just won’t work, and this isn’t the reference I’d turn to if I were to try.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Ministries, Reviews, Theology, Uncategorized

Earth vs. Eden…

Rereading the book of Genesis right now, and I felt the need to post an important detail, since the mess we find ourselves in on this spinning globe springs directly from the happenings “in the beginning.”

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Notice that we were given dominion over those things outside of Eden as well as what is in the garden; the whole earth.  Why is that an important distinction?  Because what man did in the garden had massive implications to the whole world and not just that “little bit” of Eden.  When man fell, it affected everything, not just those things within the garden.  We gave up our dominion to Satan, and it took the Last Adam to take it back.

Without Christ the whole world would be lost to us, literally.  It is because of His sacrifice and His position as the Last Adam that the whole world will be remade…He made it, He’ll redeem it.  We messed it up, we messed ourselves up, and only He can fix the mess we made…and if He can fix the whole world, He can fix any of the messes we’ve made in our own lives.  For believers, there is always reason to hope; and our hope is in Him.

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The just shall live by _____ ?

One of the fundamental aspects of the Gospel of Christ is that we are saved by faith.  I’ve written a previous article on faith, pistis in the Greek, which you can find here; What is Faith? The point of this new article is to underscore how believers are to live.

Romans 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Habakkuk 2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Doc Scott, my old pastor, used to point out that when scripture repeats itself; when God finds a concept so important that He says the same thing over again, it is time to pay attention.  The fact that the just shall live by faith is reiterated in scripture, it is repeated, it is important.  There is nothing else that fits in the blank the way that faith does.

It does not say the just are to live by works, by love, by grace, by money, by physical might, etc… Once we are saved, we are to live by faith, and faith is trusting.  As we live our lives and go along, we’ll make mistakes and stumble and fall…and climb.  No matter what, we should trust all along the way.  God is out for trust; us placing our trust in Him.  In this life we WILL have tribulation, and the proper response is to trust in God.  Exercising trust builds it like a muscle that we use, we don’t technically gain more muscle, but the muscle we have grows stronger.  I would also note that Paul would not have felt the need to exhort believers to a life of faith if our walk as believers was paved with thorn-free roses, puppies, and rainbows.

Many act like living by faith is easy…that it is a simple matter to trust God.  The heroes of faith would surely disagree.  Ever read through the Psalms?  David shows the ups and downs of walking in faith, and he is a man after God’s own heart.  Believers are never promised a life free of trials, those trials give us an opportunity to flex our faith and keep turning to God, to keep trusting Him, even if it is only with “fingernail faith.”  That faith, that trust that latches on and refuses to let go, even if it but a fingernail hold we keep on Christ’s robe…because of course, in the end, He is the One that has a hold on us.  Live your life day-by-day trusting in God; you won’t be disappointed.

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Nightline’s “Satan” Panel; pt. 1 Deepak Chopra…

My last blog post included the video link to Nightline’s “Does Satan Exist?”  I wanted to describe and discuss the people on their panel, and their views.  Apparently the producers wanted to try to make the “sides” equal, so there was a panel of four individuals; two who believed in Satan, two who do not…or at least they don’t in any conventional sense.

The two who don’t believe in Satan: Deepak Chopra, and Carlton Pearson.  The two who do think that Satan (and demons) exist: Mark Driscoll and Annie Lobert.

The name most people will recognize out of the four is Deepak Chopra.  Chopra didn’t leave any of his new age flare behind for this panel, let me tell you.  As always Chopra tries to correlate all things spiritual with our own “consciousness.”  Some of the more hilarious moments of this show came in when Chopra basically insists the he is more evolved than the rest of us, and is on a higher plane of consciousness.  I have to say that if I could wrap up Chopra’s stance in one word, it would be “prideful.”

How does this color his view on Satan and evil?  Well, first he  presents a straw man version of what it means to be Christian.  For example, he talks of our supposed obsession over sin, guilt, and shame.  In fact one of the tenants of Christianity is to be set free from sin, guilt and shame, not to obsess over it.  If we are to obsess over anything, it is to be Christ.  Chopra degrades any belief in any sort of spiritual being, as an actual being, as “primitive.”  So short answer; no, Chopra doesn’t believe in Satan.  If we left it there it would have gone a lot quicker.

What really gets me is that Chopra tends to make us his own belief system as he goes, and never offers actual evidence to back up his opinion.  He doesn’t really believe in evil, but rather a stifling of creativity.  We apparently need this stifling, however, because in Chopra’s made up religion, for any creation to occur, you need “contrast.”  Hunh.   Then, he went on to say that belief, and beliefs, are a cover up for insecurity.  Okay, let’s run with it as one audience member did.  So, beliefs are cover ups for insecurity, and Chopra is adamant about his own beliefs…so they too are a cover up for insecurity, with no real bearing on reality.  What’s funny is that when an audience member pointed out this blatant logical flaw, Chopra didn’t get it all.  It doesn’t inspire much confidence in anything he posits.

So, what then does Chopra do with the idea of evil?  Well, you see, it is all generated by our negativity.  If we get raped, murdered, mugged, if we step in gum, it’s all because of our own negativity.  Our states of consciousness are so un-evolved that we actually cause harm to ourselves.  Wonderful.  If we could just be more positive and creative in our consciousnesses we could imagine a world without AIDS, Cancer, bad people, hurricanes, etc… and cause that world to come about.  Yeah, we should all get right on that.

No surprises here, but the whole time I’m thinking how Satan had to be rather proud of this one.  Chopra put forth his own new age views on evil, and as I said, doesn’t believe in Satan.  Next installment I’ll take a look at Carlton Pearson’s “words of wisdom” as he makes his case against the reality of Satan.

Edit to add; I was looking over my notes, and another interview with Chopra and I forgot to point out something.  When Chopra feels certain verses of scripture (taken out of context and language, I might add) fits his needs when trying to make a point, he’ll quote it all day.  However, when other verses are pointed out to him in their proper context, he shoves the scriptures aside as mere made up myth, funny how that works innit?  Don’t get me wrong, he’s not the only one who likes to do this, but is indeed one amongst many.

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