Question: Why did Jesus have to be our "substitution" on the Cross (specifically the substitution for those who put their faith and trust in Him)? Why can't a "loving God" just forgive us -- and why did He require such a gruesome death for those who trust in Christ to be made right with Him?
Explanation: Jesus had to die on the Cross because God is just and honest. (Romans 3:26; Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18; Deuteronomy 32:4)
As a just God, God could not just turn a blind eye to sin. If a judge just lets a guilty criminal go Scott free, despite an unquestioned record of guilt against him, that judge would no longer be just and fair. And surely the judge of all the Earth must do right. (Genesis 18:25; see also Romans 3:5-6; Hebrews 12:23; Deuteronomy 32:4)
As an honest God, God cannot look at a guilty sinner (which we all, by default, are) and call that person righteous or even innocent. (Romans 3:19-20. See generally Romans ch. 3.)
With these realities about God in mind, we must also consider the state of man: We have ALL sinned and fallen short. We are all guilty when measured by our own actions, and we all deserve death for our sins. (Romans 3:23, 6:23)
As such, SOMEONE had to pay the penalty for our sins -- and that penalty is great. And there are only two options as to who can pay that penalty:
(1) Each person can pay the penalty for their own sins, which requires an eternity of damnation, or
(2) An eternal God can demonstrate His love by bearing that penalty for those who have put their faith and trust in Him, thereby making Him our substitute.
As for how all of that squares with God's love, most people fail to understand the true Biblical meaning of agape love, and instead read the Western / American cultural definition of love into the text.
For instance, most Americans see love primarily as an emotion, as a positive feeling, and so forth. Many (also) confuse "love" with "sex" or sexual attraction, but that is to confuse agape with eros. Many (also) confuse agape love with a Fatherly love, or with a "love" that equates to unconditional approval. But none of those things are true.
God's agape love is primarily an action, not primarily an emotion. The word agape could also rightly be translated as good will, benevolence, or charity. That is the kind of love that God shows to the world at large -- the love of doing things for our benefit, such as the provision of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, the sun and rain and seasons of rest that sustain us, and so forth. That is how God shows His love to the world, in addition to the greatest act of sending the Son to take on flesh, live the perfect life that no one else could live, and ultimately laying His life down for us (although the offer of forgiveness is only extended to those who put their faith and trust in Him). Agape is primarily about action, not primarily about emotion, not about a Fatherly love, and certainly not even a little bit about unconditional approval (let alone a sexual form of love).
In other words, even as mankind continuously rebels against God, God continuously acts for our good through His provision in our life. Far from teaching that God "unconditionally approves" of us or has a Fatherly love for the world at large (so, we should not think that everyone is in good standing with God no matter what), what this really does is serve as a contrast between how bad we are towards God (and each other), and yet how good God remains towards us. When we as humans get into fights with each other, we tend to say, "Well I know I was wrong, but look what you did to me!" But unlike such human interactions, when we stand before God at the judgment, every mouth will be stopped. We will have no ability to look at God and even SUGGEST that He did anything wrong, because all that He has done is good. (Nehemiah 9:33 ("However You are just in all that has befallen us; For You have dealt faithfully, But we have done wickedly.")) He has continually acted in charity, benevolence, and good will towards us, even while we continuously rebelled (and for most, actively rebel) against Him.
And so when the final judgment comes, God will remain good, just, honest, righteous, and even loving (in the agape sense) by casting unregenerate sinners into hell. In fact, God has no other choice but to do that, lest He violate His own divine character, which is impossible.
Nevertheless, the Cross makes it possible for God to "remain just AND be the justifier (the one who justifies) those who have put their faith and trust in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:26)
And, as the new covenant promises, those who truly trust in Christ are born again of the Holy Spirit (regeneration) (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27), and are adopted into the family of God as children of God, and even as friends of Christ Jesus. Those people -- the ones who are forgiven and justified -- are the only ones who will ever truly experience the Fatherly love of God and the friendship of God and the approval of God.
Everyone else will remain apart from the Fatherly love of God, and indeed under the wrath of God, for God is angry with the wicked every day. (Psalm 7:11)
As such, there is no conflict between God's love and His justice. God does not have a Fatherly love towards those who die in an unregenerate state, even though He provide(s/d) for them in the agape sense throughout their lives. There is no conflict between any aspect of God's love and the fact that God will send such people to an eternal damnation in a very real lake of fire. God never approved of such people, and never considered such people friends, even while He he Himself remained good, fair, and just in His dealings with them. (Nehemiah 9:33)
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This past Monday, the Pope signed an agreement of "human fraternity for world peace" with perhaps the most import imam in the Sunni Muslim world, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb. For those who don't know the difference between the Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam, the short version is that the Sunnis are the ones who like to blow stuff up -- including themselves. That's who the Pope signed this agreement with. But that's not the real issue here.
The real issue is the continued heresy and, quite frankly, blasphemy into which this Pope is leading his "flock." As a starting point, the document repeatedly refers to "God" as though Roman Catholics and Muslims are talking about the same Being. Anyone with even a cursory understanding of theology knows this is not the case. The one true God is triune in nature. That is, God is eternally existing as three persons in one unity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The "god" or "allah" of Islam is purely monotheistic in nature. In fact, the Quran specifically denies the Trinity. And every bit as importantly, Christians rightly understand that Jesus of Nazareth was not only the Christ (the Messiah), but that Jesus was also the eternal Son incarnate in the flesh. Despite mentioning Jesus by name over 90 times in the Quran alone, the Quran expressly denies that Jesus was the Son of God, thereby denying the divinity of Jesus Christ; and the Quran also denies the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, thereby denying the most important underpinnings of the Christian faith. These are not little things, but rather matters of eternal salvation and, indeed, of the very identity of the one true God.
In other words, when Roman Catholics and Muslims speak of their conception of God, they are not speaking of the same God, nor are they even thinking of the same God.
But yet to this Pope, there was no problem in signing a document that repeatedly referred to "God" (but not one single time to "Jesus"), even though it's clear to any sane, honest, and even remotely knowledgeable person that the God of the Bible and the "god" or "allah" of the Quran are unquestionably not the same Being.
And it doesn't end there. As if the foregoing wasn't bad enough, the document essentially quotes a verse verbatim from the Quran -- a verse which has no parallel or equivalent in the Bible. I'm sure most pundits in the West missed this, because most probably never took the time to read the Quran for themselves, let alone to have any serious theological discussions with practicing Muslims. But having read most of the Quran for myself, as well as taking any opportunity that the one true and triune God provides to discuss the true faith with Muslims, this statement jumped off the page at me:
The Document says: "whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity."
Although there is no equivalent in the Bible, this wording is almost verbatim identical to Surah 5:32 of the Quran: "whoever slays a soul -- unless it be for another soul or working corruption upon the earth -- it is as though he slew mankind altogether, and whosever saves the life of one, it is as though he saved the life of mankind altogether." (Translation taken from The Study Koran, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Editor-in-Chief)
Don't believe me. You can read the original materials for yourself:
But if that's not bad enough, it actually gets worse. Rather than protecting his "flock" as he ought, and speaking truth as he must, the Pope instead lets the Muslim world get away with taqiya (dishonesty) by taking this verse woefully out of context. Notice in the quote above, I greyed out some words. You may have even missed them on your first reading, but let me re-emphasize them here, and put them back in color, if you will:
"whoever slays a soul -- unless it be for another soul or working corruption upon the earth -- it is as though he slew mankind altogether, and whosever saves the life of one, it is as though he saved the life of mankind altogether."
See the "exceptions" now? The first one is essentially the death penalty for capital murder. Most people, including most Christians and Roman Catholics, would agree with that statement.
But what does the phrase "or working corruption upon the earth" mean? Well, according to The Study Quran, those words mean this: Muslims are allowed to kill "those who are working corruption, understood to mean idolatry, warring against the Muslims, or terrorizing roads."
Why is that a problem? Well, first of all, as I explained in more detail above, Christians (and even Roman Catholics) do not worship the same God as Muslims. The God of Christianity and Roman Catholicism (not the same faith, by the way) is triune -- one God eternally existing as three persons in unity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The "god" or "allah" of Islam is purely monotheistic, and is neither Father, nor Son, nor Trinity in any other conception of that term. Therefore, to Muslims, Christians (and Roman Catholics) are living in blasphemy when we ascribe deity to Christ and worship Him. In fact, the Quran expressly denies this point, perhaps most directly in Surah 5:116. So to Muslims, the very worship of Jesus of Nazareth as God is blasphemy -- in other words, the very basis of the Christian faith is blasphemy in Islam, thereby freely justifying a Muslim killing another human if that human is a committed Christian who professes Jesus as Lord. (Compare Romans 10:9-10, clearly stating that "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.") To put it more succinctly, Muslims are allowed to kill Christians simply for being Christians, and doing so would not go against the very verse that the Pope and a Sunni imam mutually referenced in a document that's supposedly about "world peace and living together."
Let me take this one step further, and I realize that many of you don't realize that Muslims see the world this way, but to the truly committed Muslim there will be peace on Earth only when the entire world has "submitted" to Allah and Sharia law. (Side note: The English meaning of "Islam" is "submit" or "submission.") At that point -- and only then -- will the "struggle" be over. (I put "struggle" in quotes there because "struggle" is the English meaning of the word . . . jihad.) Jihad ends when the whole world has been converted to Islam. The "struggle" ends when the whole world has "submitted" to "allah" as "god." That's when we'll have peace. And if that line of logic reminds you of a certain "peace treaty" prophesied by Daniel, then you're probably on the right track here:
"Then [the prince who is to come, i.e., the antiChrist] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.”
In this prophecy from Daniel 9:27, "one week" is commonly understood to mean a "week of years" (or more literally, a "seven of years"), and even more specifically as seven Biblical years of 360 days each. (See, e.g., The Coming Prince, by Sir Arthur Anderson.) Seven Biblical years of 360 days is 2520 days, or 84 months. Half of that number is 1260 days or 42 months -- which is the exact time period mentioned in Revelation chapter 11 prophesying how long the Holy City of Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot in the end times. I'm not saying that this is necessarily that, but I am trying to lay out some dots in their proper place on the timeline of history and Biblical prophecy. You may also do well to review 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 regarding the Great Apostasy and the coming of the lawless one, particularly in connection to the prophecy of Daniel chapter 9 quoted above.
In other words, while I wouldn't quite call this Document a "peace treaty" just yet, the Pope sure does seem to be leading his "flock" in that direction. But yet in doing so, he is either dishonestly lying to the world about what he knows to be true of Islam, or else is so spiritually blinded that he cannot see the obvious. Or in his case, as is the case of many tools of Satan, both may be true at once. But no matter how you cut it, one thing is certain here:
What this Pope is doing is downright heretical, and for all practical purposes is blasphemous as well. And I don't say either of these things lightly. As Jesus said in His Revelation to St. John, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues." (Revelation 18:4) I am thankful that the Pope does not speak for true Christians, and hasn't done so since really forever (although they tried to do so for a while). But for those among my friends and readers who have been deluded into remaining in the Roman Catholic Church, most likely because that's what you've always been told you must do, it is time for you to come out of the Whore of Babylon. Pick up your Bible. Read it for yourself. You don't need a priest to tell you what it means, especially when they have been so wrong and so corrupt time and time again. All you really truly need is the Holy Spirit and the plain text of Scripture.
What are you waiting for?
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The Gillette "Toxic Masculinity" Commercial, unpacked:
(1) Intro (0:00-0:09): Pictures of men looking down and depressed, like they know that's what coming is sad and that they're personally to blame. Subconsciously, this sets the expected tone for everyone watching.
Notice also the words used right at the start:
"Bullying. The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. Toxic Masculinity."
That right there is what the whole ad is about. Combined with the body language of the actors shown here, this sets the tone for the whole first part of the video.
(2) Bullying (0:10-0:18) Some kids running around, some of them busting through a random piece of paper, others running through a house, not doing anything discernibly wrong at all. Some words flash on the screen from a text message, with the implication that only boys say those things, not girls. They show a mother embracing a son, as if those boys running "through the house" necessarily picked on him, as if all those text messages were sent to him by those boys. (And is if girls never pick on girls at that age, as if only "masculinity" is the problem, as opposed to the sin nature of ALL people.)
(3) Sexual Harassment (0:19-0:28) Now we transition from bullying to sexual harassment, as if this also only goes one way. I've heard women talk. Y'all are dirtier than I ever was, even at my non-Christian worst. And to act as if a girl never pinched a guy's butt and giggled about it -- in fact, this happens MUCH MORE than the reverse, just because women know they can get away with it socially, whereas men know they can't. You also have the inevitable reference to Hollywood, and the women in bikinis who are freely objectifying themselves by how they dance. Then you finally flash to the boys on the couch, once again sitting there all dour and depressed -- subconsciously telling you exactly how to think and especially feel in that moment -- and who to blame, once again, as if only men behave in this manner, as if the problem is "masculinity" rather than the "sin" nature of ALL people.
(4) The Glass Ceiling & Second Wave Feminism (0:29-0:32). Now we're in a boardroom, with one woman "working her way to the top." And then of course we see the male Executive "mansplaining" something (another leftwing, feminist concept) that the woman said, with a bunch of other guys sitting there looking on. First of all, I've been in professional environments almost my entire adult life, and I've never ONCE seen this happen in real life. Secondly, for those who think this video is somehow God-honoring, please go read Titus 2. So again, the man in a leadership position is evil and "toxic," but the woman is doing nothing wrong, once again implying that the problem is men (specifically, men in leadership positions) and "masculinity," rather than the sin nature that's in ALL people.
(5) "Boys Will Be Boys" (0:33-0:38). The words "same old excuses" are being said in the background as we transition to two boys playfully wrestling on the ground. I'd remind you that God sent an angel to spend a whole night wrestling with Jacob, and then naming the entire country of God's chosen people after him -- Israel. Meanwhile, the men (who actually look masculine, for the most part) all stand by passively echoing the same words as everyone else.
(6) The #MeToo Movement. (0:39-0:48). As if all men are responsible for the evil in Hollywood, which is celebrated by the Left but overwhelmingly abhorred by most conservatives. And then of course, a bunch of "news" stations chime in, all repeating the same word, which is hard to hear until you listen a few times, but the phrase they're subconsciously driving home here is this:
"Toxic Masculinity. Toxic Masculinity. Toxic Masculinity."
Don't believe me? Go listen for yourself.
(7) Clean Cut "Good Guys" (0:49-0:53) Now we switch to some super clean cut, completely non-rugged, leaning-towards-effeminate males. These are the "good guys." Funny, I remember Jesus being a carpenter's son and not having a place to lay his head at night; and John the Baptist, who Jesus said was "the greatest man ever born of woman," living in the wilderness like a wild man, wearing clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and surviving off locust and honey. But I digress. Notice also that, in stark contrast to the first group of men in the intro, these men are subtly smiling -- once again, telling you how should feel at this point, changing your emotions from sad and guilty, to smiling and "this is how you should live," in response to what's coming next in this video.
(8) The one good guy standing up against all the bad ones, time and again. (0:54-1:14) Now finally we switch to some select manly-looking men doing the right thing, even while the mass of men do the wrong thing. The implication is clear here. And of course, the only people to blame are the men -- always the men, never the women -- with the implication again being that "toxic masculinity" is the problem (and by subconscious extension, that "masculinity" is "toxic"), rather than the sin nature that is in ALL people.
BTW, the implication here is that men become virtuous by defending the "oppressed" rather than by putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and living to serve and worship Him. This is Cultural Marxism 101.
(9) The good dad. (1:15-1:16) Amen to this.
(10) The fat white dad breaking up the playful wrestling match. (1:17-1:19) Heck, the kid on the bottom is actually smiling. This is ridiculous, and is subtly promoting passivity and effeminateness over masculinity and good-natured boyhood. We might as well ban wrestling and football next, and just stick the boys in tutus and drag. Oh wait, the Left has already done that . . . (never see any "videos" I mean "commercials" criticizing THAT, though)
(11) More of #8. (1:20-1:26)
(12) "The Boys Watching Today, Will Be the Men of Tomorrow." (1:27-1:35) The statement is true in and of itself, but I'm terrified for what "the boys watching today" will think manhood is about when they grow up.
(13) Closing (1:36-1:48) "It's ONLY by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best." This is Leftist Humanism at it's peak. Do better. Be a better version of yourself. Here's the truth: We are all vile sinners who deserve nothing but the wrath of God, at least apart from the blood of Jesus Christ. Even our "best" works are like filthy menstrual rags (Isaiah 64:6) before a holy and righteous God. Even our "best" falls woefully short. The problem we ALL face is sin -- NOT "toxic masculinity" -- and the solution is not becoming more passive or effeminate or even "challenging ourselves to do more," but rather the solution -- the only solution for ALL of mankind, male and female alike, passive and aggressive alike, rapist or model citizen alike -- the ONLY solution for all of mankind is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that is an absolutely necessary part of genuine Biblical salvation.
And if you don't get the things in that last sentence, then you don't get anything worth getting.
When tragic events happen, many people are quick to offer their "thoughts and prayers." But with so many "thoughts and prayers" out there, why is there still so much tragedy? I'm going to say something that might be shocking, especially for my Christian friends, but which must be said: "Praying" in and of itself is actually useless.
Why do I say that? Well, consider what praying truly is: Praying is fundamentally beseeching or requesting God to do something. So if you just "pray" without praying to the triune God of the Bible specifically, then you might as well just talk to yourself. Or stated differently, you might as well collapse the phrase "thoughts and prayers" to just "thoughts," because that's basically all that you're doing if you're not praying to the triune God of the Bible -- thinking to yourself, or thinking out loud.
To clarify that even more, the only way that sinful mankind can even approach a holy God in prayer is through the blood of Christ. Having been fully God and fully man Himself, Jesus is our only mediator between sinful man and a holy and perfect God in heaven. (See, e.g., Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Timothy 2:5; Matthew 27:51) He is our high priest and our mediator, and to Him and to Him alone we should pray. We cannot approach the throne of grace through any other means.
And finally, we have no reasonable expectation that God will answer our prayers if we living in open and unrepentant sin. (See, e.g., 1 Peter 3:7; 1 John 1:5-10; Ephesians 6:18) Now, He might still answer our prayers in such a situation, but He is truly under no obligation whatsoever to do so.
So putting all of that together, simply "praying" is no more effective than simply having "good thoughts," which is to say that neither is effective at all if we want God to change our country. Our only hope is to pray to the one true God, and to do so through the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And even then, to also confess and turn from (repent) our sins, both individually and as a nation.
There's an Old Testament Scripture that's very relevant here, and that is 2 Chronicles 7:14:
"IF My people who are called by My name will (1) humble themselves, and (2) pray and seek My face, and (3) turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
Now technically, that was a promise that God gave to "His people" during the OT time period, that being Israel. So technically, I don't think this promise directly applies to Christians today, and certainly not to America as a whole. But even if the promise doesn't apply today, the principal almost certainly still does: If we (or at least the true Christians) (1) Humble ourselves, (2) pray and genuinely seek the One True God of the Bible, and (3) turn from our wicked ways, THEN God will hear our prayers, and Lord willing, will heal our land.
But at the same time, when our country (and even much of the church) continues to outright reject God, reject His Word, reject His Ways, worship false gods, CELEBRATE so many sins, and do so much many other things that He calls evil, we can hardly expect anything from God except for exactly what we seem to be getting: His protection being taken away from this nation, leaving only His wrath, and giving us over to our evil desires. (Romans 1:18, 2:8; Ephesians 2:1-3, 5:6; Colossians 3:5-6. But see 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.)
And really, isn't that exactly what we've said to Him as a nation? "Leave us alone God, we'll do this our way!"
Maybe, just maybe, He is giving us EXACTLY what we've been asking for as a nation.
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"And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch."
~ Acts 11:26
There's no such thing as a "liberal Christian," at least not one who is mature in the faith. To be clear, you can be born again of the Spirit ("saved") but still growing in your understanding of the faith, and thus still stuck in old sins or old ways of thinking. While in the baby stages of your walk, you may still hold to some liberal or even progressive views. I know I did. In fact, I still held many liberal views even 2-3 years into my Christian walk (although the Democratic party's response to Obergefell woke me up like a ton of bricks). So if you're in a similar boat -- if you're genuinely saved and know God, but are still in the fairly early stages of your Christian walk -- then take heart and be encouraged that the Holy Spirit will gradually lead you into all truth. But to be clear, and leaving issues of Christian maturity aside for the moment, the words "liberal" and "Christian" are about as opposite and "rebel" and "saint," or "abortion" and "life," or "homosexual" and "marriage." Let me explain.
First, let's consider the meaning of the word "Christian." Do you realize that the word Christian(s) (the singular and plural forms combined) is only mentioned three times in the entire Bible? Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16. That's it. Only three times. And only one of those instances provides anything resembling a definition of "Christian," that being Acts 11:26, which is quoted in full above. But the relevant part is this:
"And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch."
In other words, being a Christian isn't a game of "Choose your own identity." Nor does simply calling yourself a "Christian" make it so. And to borrow from the logic that Paul explained to the Jews in Romans, you're also not a Christian (let alone right with God) simply because your parents were Christians or even in the ministry, and certainly not because you were "raised in church." (See, e.g., Romans chapters 9 and 10.) Rather, a Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ. And a "disciple," in plain English, is a pupil or a student, depending on your word choice, although they both basically mean the same thing. (I'll go with "student" throughout this post, since that word is more common in our modern vernacular.)
Now, something bears explaining at this point. And this might go against a lot of your sensibilities, but please bear with me. (And if you doubt what I have to say, or find it confusing in any way, then please do as the Bereans did and search the Scriptures to see whether these things are so. I'll try to provide links to Biblical citations as I go along, to help make your job easier.) But without further ado, that something is this:
You can be a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ before you are saved, the latter of which requires being born again of the Holy Spirit. Being a disciple (student) and being born again are two distinct, albeit related, things. You have to look no further than the first five books of the New Testament to see this clearly. (In fact, the word "disciple(s)" appears 252 times in the ESV translation of these five books, but is only mentioned once (Isaiah 8:16) in the entire rest of the Bible, and even there it still carries the same basic meaning.)
Indeed, as can be seen clearly in the Gospel accounts, there were many disciples that walked with and learned from Jesus when He was physically on this Earth. But yet, none of them came to saving faith until close to Jesus' death. And none were born again of the Spirit until the Holy Spirit fell on the 120 disciples who were in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, which occurred 50 days after Jesus' death on the Cross. So the Gospel accounts are quite clear that many became disciples (students) of Jesus' teachings during his public ministry (which covered approximately the last three years of his life), but yet none were saved until shortly before His death (arguably) or when the Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost (more likely). So, you can be a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ and His teachings before you are actually saved (and to be sure, in some situations, the opposite is true as well). Thus, being a disciple and being born again are clearly two distinct (but related) things.
So, to recap what I just said: (1) A disciple is a "student," and (2) Being a disciple (student) is a separate (but related) experience to being saved. And to clarify these points further, in the Christian context, a disciple is specifically a student of Jesus Christ.
Thus -- and more importantly for the sake of the instant discussion -- a Christian is not just anyone who wants to take that name; but rather, a Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ. There is no other kind of "Christian," except perhaps a false or misguided or not-yet-mature one.
Now, why does this matter? Well, because a Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ, and "a disciple is not above his teacher." (Matthew 10:24), that means that you can't claim to be a Christian (i.e., a disciple, or student, of Jesus Christ) and claim to know more than He knows. You can't be a Christian (a disciple, or student, of Jesus Christ) and claim to add to His teachings, or to reject or relax any of His teachings. The former was a major issue with the Pharisees, the latter was one of the main problems with the Sadducees (and keep in mind that Jesus was not exactly pleased with either group). Quite to the contrary, in order to be a Christian (a disciple, or student, of Jesus Christ) you must be willing to both study the Scriptures (which are all His Word) and to do what He says. To become like Christ, you must obey Christ -- not yourself or the shifting winds of doctrine and the culture around you.
And now that we've shown that Biblically speaking, a Christian is a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ and that there is no other kind of mature Biblical Christian, let's revisit the point I made at the top:
There's no such thing as a (mature) liberal Christian.
Or to rephrase that somewhat, there is no such thing as a "liberal Christian" who is mature in his or her faith. As I said at the outside, you can (and many will) still retain some sinful and worldly beliefs even after you begin your discipleship under the teachings of Jesus Christ; I know that was the case with myself, and presumably with others as well. And as I also said at the top, being a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ is a distinct (but related) experience to being saved, so I am not suggesting that salvation is by works. I am, however, suggesting and even stating quite strongly that Christian maturity requires work on the part of the Believer, and a mature Christian most certainly cannot be a liberal.
Why do I say such a bold thing?
Well, consider the definition of "liberal":
A Christian is a disciple (or student) of Jesus Christ, and a student is not above His teacher. Therefore, a student cannot intentionally ignore his teacher's teachings, nor can a student add to those teachings or remove anything from those teachings. But yet, a liberal is a person who does just that by being "open to new behavior or opinions" (an addition or modification) and who is "willing to discard traditional values" (i.e., deleting or blatantly ignoring the things taught by Christ and His Apostles).
Now, that's not to say that you have to reject every new technological advance (e.g., the computer I'm using to write this post, or the printing presses used to print my Bible) in order to be a good student. But the Word of God does say quite clearly that, in order to be a student of Christ (i.e., a Christian), you have to reject everything that adds to, removes from, or otherwise changes His teachings. And to be equally clear, the entire Word of God is His teachings:
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."
~ Paul the Apostle (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
"If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I [Paul] write to you are the commandments of the Lord."
~ Paul again (1 Corinthians 14:37)
Therefore, beloved . . . consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
~ Peter the Apostle (2 Peter 3:14-16)
The very example in the screenshot above captures this truth perfectly: Jesus said that marriage is between male and female, and throughout His Word, He makes clear that all homosexual actions and any other sex out of wedlock is/are sinful (e.g., Romans 1:26-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Revelation 21:8), and and that He hates divorce, which is another area of extreme liberality in modern America (see, e.g., the definition above again). But yet, according to the example given in the definition above, a liberal is someone who has "more liberal [i.e., open, or non-traditional] views toward marriage and divorce than some people." As anyone who has been following the homosexual marriage debates / divisions in this country is all too well aware, this but one example of where a liberal thinks he or she knows more than The Master -- the very one who is our Lord, but yet who so many refuse to do as He says.
And so again, I repeat: There is not such thing as a "liberal Christian" who is mature in his or her faith. You may be saved before you come to maturity as a disciple of Christ, but if that's the case you should be currently growing in both knowledge of and obedience to the Word. (And conversely, if you've considered yourself a "Christian" for much more than three years and still think it's OK to reject the plain teachings of Jesus Christ, and/or simply haven't had a desire to study and learn those teachings yet, then the very Spirit who wrote the Word quite likely does not truly live in you.) But to be sure, there is no such thing as a disciple (student) of Christ who think s/he know more than Jesus Himself. And as a result, there is no such thing as a Biblical "Christian" who is not a disciple/student of Jesus Christ, and there is no such thing as a disciple/student who is open to rejecting the fundamental truths of his or her Teacher . . . even though being a "liberal" requires you to do just that.
Truly, no student is above His Teacher, especially when that teacher is Jesus Christ Himself, and for at least that reason, there is truly no such thing as a mature "liberal Christian."
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If you've spent any time in an Evangelical church, you've certainly heard of the Great Commission. You've probably also heard more than your fair share of sermons and encouragements on the topic. But have you ever stopped to consider if what you've heard is actually consistent with what Jesus said to His eleven closest disciples?
If your Evangelical experience has been anything like mine, you've likely heard that the Great Commission is about taking the gospel to the world, and/or "leading people to Christ," and/or "winning souls for Christ," and/or something else along those lines.
But are those things actually Biblically accurate? And why does it matter?
Before we continue, let's take a look at the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28:16-20. That passage is below for your convenience. Please read it slowly and thoughtfully, making note especially of the bolded and underlined words:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~ St. Matthew, recording Jesus' conversation with the Eleven prior to His Ascension (Matthew 28:16-20)
Do you see what Jesus actually said there? He told them to "Go" and do three things:
(1) Make disciples of all nations (note that a disciple is a student, not a "convert"; see Acts 11:26).
(2) Baptizing them (the disciples) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and
(3) Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
That's it. Three things: Make disciples. Baptize those disciples. Teach those disciples to observe all that Jesus commanded. And if you want to be even more specific, the second and third items are really part of the first item. If you go back and read the passage again, slowly and closely, you'll see that born out more clearly: Go into all the world and make disciples (students) of all nations. And what does that entail? Baptizing them . . . and teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded.
Do you notice what things are missing from that list?
In other words, three of the things that many of us hear about the most aren't actually part of the Great Commission.
And that brings me to my next point. I heard a great quote recently. Hearing it was an act of Divine Providence, really. The quote was something that I believe God wanted me to hear in that moment, and which has impacted me significantly since I heard it. A few days ago, a random sermon started playing in "iTunes U" on my iPhone almost by "accident." If I did anything to queue it up, I'm unaware of it. It only played for a few seconds before I closed it out, almost by reaction before I fully realized what I had heard, and then I couldn't find it again. And in those few seconds, I only remember hearing one single quote. But nevertheless, that single quote was quite profound. I may be paraphrasing a little here, but as best I remember it, that single quote was this:
"We've reduced biblical theology to soteriology."
Let that sink in for a moment. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the fancy word above, "soteriology" simply means "the study of salvation." And quite frankly, that's what many of our Evangelical churches (not to mention individual discussions) revolve around. "What is required for salvation?" Am I "in" or "out" of the Kingdom? How do we get other people "into" the Kingdom? And so on and so forth. We get so concerned about reaching the lost that we forget to feed the flock.
As a result, we forget to live in a manner that honors God.
Because of our focus on soteriology, comparatively little time and effort is spent considering the manner in which God commands us to live once we are saved. This is important, and cannot continue to be so ignored. Remember that God saved Israel from the Egyptians, but then let the entire generation (except Caleb and Joshua) die in the wilderness after they were "saved" from the bondage of their former life. Why was that? Because God's people were disobedient even after coming into a relationship with Him, and desired to live like the world instead of in the manner in which God commanded. (There should be at least six distinct links in those last few sentences; please take a moment to hit and read them all.) They preferred the yoke of their former life to the way of God. And so do many Christians today.
So why don't we learn from their mistakes? We are so many afraid to truly proclaim and live out the whole counsel of God, including the hard parts? In no small part, I think most professing Christians are more concerned with the approval of their fellow man than with the approval of God. (Please read and pray over Galatians 1:10.) Very few, if any, would actually say that. But in practice, it's unquestionably true. If you doubt that, ask yourself when you last spoke out (publicly, particularly if you're a male) on a behavior that is Biblically prohibited but socially acceptable? When was the last time you were labeled a bigot, or racist, or homophobe, or Islamophobe, or any other derogatory term without any reason other than espousing Biblical truth? When was the last time you lost a "friend" for simply speaking the truth of God -- and not for being a jerk, but simply for speaking the truth?
Be honest. That's most of the church today: More concerned about the approval of our fellow man than about the approval of God. And as a result, we tend to focus on the "positive" issues and pithy Bible quotes, but shirk from truly proclaiming the whole counsel of God. Most Christians love Jeremiah 29:11, despite the fact that it's almost always taken completely out of context. But when was the last time you told someone about God's judgment, or the wrath that is to come?
Do you love your friends enough to tell them the whole truth?
Do you love God enough to proclaim His whole counsel?
Paul did, and we would be wise to learn from him in this regard (as well as in many others). As the Book of Acts makes clear, Paul spent three years with the Ephesians, and in the process declared "the whole counsel of God" to them. (Acts 20:26-27, 31) That's not to say that he didn't also preach the Gospel, but it certainly didn't take Him three full years, day and night, to share the good news. Clearly, there was more to Paul's ministry than that -- both intellectually, and emotionally. He realized the magnitude of what he was charged with, and the importance of God's People knowing and obeying and, at least for some, ultimately proclaiming the whole counsel of God. If you doubt that, read Paul's farewell to the Ephesian elders carefully. During that discussion, Paul reminded them that
"[F]or three years I did not cease to warn everyone day and night . . . with tears"!!!
~ Paul the Apostle, as recorded by Luke in Acts 20:31
Please pause and consider this passage seriously. Paul was with these people daily for three years. It certainly didn't take him three years to explain the Gospel. And I'm quite certain that he didn't simply deliver four sermons in duplicate on Sunday, before disappearing behind a black curtain for the rest of the week. Rather, he taught the Ephesians day and night for three years. He "kept back nothing that was helpful." (Acts 20:20) He was quite clearly doing a lot more than simply "proclaiming the Gospel" or "winning souls." But yet, precisely because he did more than just the basics -- precisely because he proclaimed the whole counsel of God and kept back nothing that was helpful -- at the end of his journey Paul was able to say with sincerity,
"Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men."
~ Paul the Apostle, as recorded by Luke in Acts 20:26
You see, our job is not to win souls. That's the Lord's job, for salvation comes from Him -- not from us, and not from your favorite preacher or pastor, either. When we start to get our role confused with His role, our priorities get out of whack as well. Rather than declaring the whole counsel of God as commanded, including the hard and difficult parts, pastors and preachers begin softening the message in order to get and keep more butts in the seats. We're more concerned with people liking us, or with being culturally relevant, than with actually doing the hard work that Jesus assigned to us. If you doubt that, ask yourself when was the last time you've heard a message on the Second Death or even the spiritual truths addressed in 1st Thessalonians? Instead, "Church growth" becomes a priority, which often leads to a focus on good music and sermons that don't challenge the congregation too much, lest our pastors scare away some goats while the sheep starve to death. And lately, "good music" (which is not "worship" -- more on that in a later post, Lord willing) starts to take priority over actually teaching and rebuking and even (or perhaps, especially) warning the congregation about the evils of sin. Not offending anyone becomes more important than challenging the flock to grow deeper and to obey all that God has taught us through His Word (as rightly divided and understood, of course), because of course we don't want to "scare anyone away."
I mean, Jesus would never do that . . . would He?
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The left has a strong desire for justice, but it's often misplaced. The problem isn't their desire for righteousness and morality per se, but rather in basing those things on a belief system that comes from man rather than God. And in doing so, they fail to realize that they themselves are running afoul of the only One who is truly righteous and just, that being God Himself.
Consider racism, a hot-button topic if ever there was one. Although most to the left of center are quick to scream "don't judge" and "just love everyone," these axioms stop at the door of racism. To them, racism is one of a few "unforgivable sins," and perhaps the unforgivable sin. While me may quibble over the definition of the term "racism," one thing we can all agree on is that any form of racism is evil. So let's start there.
Put a "loving" liberal to the test, and ask them if they think unrepentant racists should be forgiven by society -- or whether such a person be punished to the fullest extent of the law, perhaps even including imprisonment, murder, or execution? While individual liberals and leftists may disagree on the exact nature of the proper punishment, most would agree that there must be some punishment for racism. In their worldview, this particular sin simply cannot be forgiven.
Now let's take that one step further. Imagine that society passed an actual law making it illegal to be racist, even in your thoughts and words, and even if you were otherwise non-violent. The left would celebrate, and perhaps rightly so.
But what would happen if a racist was dragged before a judge, the record of guilt was both established and unassailable, and then the judge looked at the racist defendant, smacked his gavel, and declared loudly . . .
The godless left would be outraged! They would be up in arms! Cities would burn! How dare that judge do that! That judge was the most dishonest and unjust judge in the world! He should be impeached! He should be removed from power! He should lose all authority! In fact, he should die! The very judge who we trusted to be fair and neutral and good is, in fact, evil and dishonest himself!
And where would that leave us as a society?
Well, you see, all of those emotions you just felt about the judge would also apply to God Himself if He, as the Judge of all the Earth, failed to do right. Those same emotions and conclusions would apply to God if He were to decree that a guilty person was, in fact, innocent. The very God who we almost all agree will judge us one day, and who we count on to judge us fairly and righteously and honestly, would Himself be found to be dishonest and unjust and perhaps even evil Himself. Such a God would certainly be unworthy to judge us, let alone to rule over us in any capacity whatsoever.
Thankfully, God is none of those things. God is neither dishonest, nor unjust, and certainly not evil. Quite to the contrary, God is good, and fair, and just, and cannot lie. And so, God cannot look at a guilty sinner and declare that person to be righteous and just. God cannot declare such a person to be "Not guilty" without there being an outcry for divine justice, and without God violating His own character. As a result, God must declare a guilty sinner to be exactly what He is: A guilty sinner. And guilty sinners must be punished. Divine justice requires it. And so, not only will all people die once in this life (unless we see the rapture in our day), but guilty sinners must also die a second time when they are cast into the lake of fire and brimstone for eternity, surrounded by a fire that never goes out, and cut off from all that is good and just and honest and true.
Now, some of you -- many of you, perhaps -- may think "Good, that's what those racists deserve!" Moreover, you may think that you're off the hook because you're not a racist. (And I'm willing to assume for now that you're not.) But I also ask you, what about murder, or sexual assault, or animal abuse? The same general logic from above applies here as well. While individual liberals and leftists may disagree on the exact nature of the proper punishment, most would agree that there must be some punishment for these offenses. In their worldview, these particular sins simply cannot be forgiven.
But again, many of you may say, wait a minute -- I've never killed anyone, or raped anyone, or abused an animal! According to the ways of man, perhaps not. But what about the divine standards of God? After all, "only God can judge us," right? So let's consider what Jesus had to say about murder:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
~ Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:21-22)
Then, let's fast forward a few decades and consider the words of John the Apostle, the man who God used to write about Biblical love perhaps more than all of the other Biblical writers combined:
“Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
~ John the Apostle (1 John 3:15)
And on the topic of sexual offenses, consider Jesus' words here as well:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
~ Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:27-28)
And so now that the Judge of all the Earth has spoken, let me ask: Have you ever been angry at someone without a cause? Did you ever hate anyone, for any reason whatsoever, including because they were racist? Have you ever looked at a woman (other than your wife) with lust in your heart? If any of these things are true in your life, then congratulations, you yourself are a murder. Or an adulterer. Or perhaps, and quite likely, both. And by similar logic, if you've ever coveted anything that didn't belong to you, you're both a thief and an idolater in the eyes of God.
Sweating yet? You should be. Only God can judge you -- and what I've described above are the standards of the One True God who will, in fact, do just that.
To my friends who reject Christ, you yourself are no better than the very people you hate and despise so deeply -- and that's true regardless of which side of the political aisle you're on. The political left would cry out for racists and murders and animal abusers to be punished by any judge who is fair and righteous. The political right would cry out for the same with respect to those who hate America and are trying to destroy her. In both cases, your strong sense of justice is sincere, but yet misplaced: unless you've received an assurance of forgiveness from Christ, then please know that you too must be punished when you stand before the Holy and Living God.
And therein lies the problem for mankind, because this line of reasoning doesn't just apply to the specific sins mentioned above. This line of reasoning applies to all sins. For truly, whoever breaks even one portion of God's divine law, it's as if they have broken it all. (James 2:10; Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26) And to be clear, we've all fallen short of God's perfect standard, and we all have sin on our divine record.
But, therein was the problem for God: For God still loves His creation, and does not wish that any should perish, even as we wander through a lifetime of unrelenting rebellion against our Maker. And this is where the love of the God and the mercy of God come in to the picture. Rather than requiring us to be punished for our own sins, He took that punishment on the Cross for those who put their faith and trust in Him and in Him alone. He took the punishment that we all deserve. He paid the penalty for our sins, or more specifically, for the sins of those who put down their rebellion and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. In the words that perhaps sum up the Gospel better than any others, these actions allowed God to be both "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:26) And so you see, by His stripes we are healed, and by His blood we are forgiven.
But be warned again: Absent the forgiveness that can only be found in Christ, when you stand before the God who can and will judge you, you will be found every bit as guilty as the racists and fascists and other people that you find to be so evil in this life. And for the non-Believers on the right, the last sentence extends to the antifascists and Globalists and terrorists that you likewise find evil.
What's even worse is that, apart from Christ, you will be confined for eternity to the same hell as them.
And so in closing, I ask: Is that the eternal destiny that you desire, or are you willing to repent and believe the Gospel while you still can? For while God is patient, His offer of mercy and forgiveness in exchange for ceasing your rebellion against Him and His ways ends upon your first death.
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You may wonder why a Christian blog is starting with a quote from a 1960's radical. The answer to that inquiry is both simple, and complex. Simple, because in order for the Christian to understand how to rightly walk in this depraved world, it helps to understand how this depraved world "thinks." Complex, because, well, the issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution, and that takes some more digging to even begin to truly understand.
The issue is never the issue. Last night, I saw that eleven players on the Cleveland Browns took a knee during the national anthem. These are men who will make more this year than many of us have made in our lifetimes. They can hardly claim to be "oppressed" by any meaningful definition of that word. But yet, they are protesting the very country that allows them such economic freedom and prosperity from playing the game they love. So why are they kneeling?
The issue is never the issue. Last week, statues from the confederacy began to topple. Now make no mistake, I am no fan of the confederacy, or of slavery. And so on the surface, it seems hard to object. But the lawyer in me is forced to ask, what precedent does this set? Once we start taking down statues of former slave owners, where does it end? Robert E. Lee seems obvious. George Washington, not so much. Have you ever wondered what the real motivation is here? And why now, as opposed to ten or twenty years ago? Why do the statues go tumblin' down at the very moment this country is sitting on an absolute powder keg that seems ready to blow?
The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution. The end goal of the progressive left, and the Globalists such as George Soros, is to destroy America from within. As Soros said in his book The Age of Fallibility, "The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States." This is the same Soros who funds groups ranging from Black Lives Matter to the Evangelical Immigration Table, and probably dozens if not hundreds of others. He is a modern day Saul Alinsky, but much better funded, and with a much bigger community to organize -- namely, the entire "Globalist" world.
So how does protesting the national anthem and toppling statues fit into this picture? Well, the same way that "common sense gun control measures" are really an excuse for chipping away at the 2nd Amendment, with the desired end goal of eradicating it completely. And the same way that "homosexual marriage" and "marriage equality" were never the ultimate issues, but rather the gateway to destroying the family, and the Christian church. (Remember all the refrains -- "just let them get married, they won't bother anyone else"; "but all of my gay friends are so loving"; and so on. Except when they sue and shame and blacklist anyone who dares disagree with them.)
The issue was never the issue to the left. The issue has always been the revolution. The issue has always been the attempt to overthrow America, which primarily must happen from within for it to be successful. The issue has always been an attempt to overthrow the pillars of the American society: God, Country, and Family. You take away those three things, and eventually you have no country left to defend, nor do you have anyone remaining who is willing to defend it. And of course, to truly disarm America, you have to disarm its citizens -- hence those "common sense gun control measures" that seem so agreeable and innocuous on paper, but yet are so evil and diabolical in practice. (And this is coming from someone who thought guns were evil as recently as two years ago, not someone who grew up clinging to them, or to my Bible -- although the latter especially has certainly changed since I came to know Christ just under seven years ago today.)
The issue has never been the issue. The issue has always been the revolution, and the revolution has always been driven by a series of smaller revolutions. Attack God by destabilizing Jesus' church, and by turning it against itself over issues such as homosexual marriage and "tolerance" for sins. Attack the family by pushing the feminist agenda and the LGBT agenda and the entire sexual revolution. Disarm America by looking for every excuse to pass "common sense gun control measures," and silence America by looking for every excuse to outlaw "hate speech." And now, attack the very foundations of the country by trying to convince us that our Founding Fathers were more evil than the rest of us, in an eventual attempt to topple not only the statues of Lee and Washington, but in fact to topple the entire country. Attack the very unity that has made these United States so great for so long by calling every non-liberal white person a racist, and by protesting our very national anthem on those same grounds. And none of this will stop if we don't wake up, fight back, and turn back to God in spirit and truth, in prayer and obedience both.
The issue has never been the issue on the left. The issue has always been the revolution. And the revolution has always been about destroying America from within, and ultimately overthrowing God and creating a new world order made in the image of man, rather than by the power of God.
Since this is still a Christian blog***, I'm going to flip the script and end with Scripture, rather than having started with it. And to that end, there are two things that God has put on my heart to say at this point:
First, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is not a person alive without sin on their record, and therefore there isn't a person alive who is not in need of forgiveness from God. Oh, that precious forgiveness, which can only be found in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross, and only applied through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. But what is necessary for us to receive that necessary forgiveness from God? Well, according to no less of an authority than Jesus Himself, it's this:
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
~ Jesus (Matthew 6:14-15)
Now, why do I mention that? Why did God put that on my heart to say? Well, for this reason: If we are commanded to forgive even those who directly sin against us, then we are most certainly expected to forgive those whom we never even knew, and those who did absolutely nothing to directly harm any of us. I'm talking about men like Robert E. Lee, and George Washington, and Francis Scott Key, who, if you don't know, is the man who wrote the national anthem. I want each of you to let that sink in: If you can't forgive these men for things that weren't even done directly to you, then Jesus Christ has promised in His Word that you will not be forgiven, either. (Sometimes, the issue actually is the issue.)
Above, I said there were two pieces of Scripture that God put on my heart to address, and here's the second:
"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves."
As hard as this can be to understand at times, we are told that all governmental authority is from God. For the Christian, it was hard to understand how a man such as Barrack Obama could be from God. But yet faithful pastors preached this passage to us even then, even on the dark morning following Obergefell, and many other times when it seemed like the sky was falling on the church, the country, and even the world. And so yes, the same is most certainly true now with President Trump. As hard as this may be for my more liberal friends (and especially the non-Christians among us) to accept, President Trump truly is an answered prayer for a great many Christians. He may literally be the only man alive today with the internal fortitude to stand up to the full-on assault from the media, culture, liberals, leftists, and even many of the Establishment Republicans within his own "party." He's not perfect, but guess what? Neither are you or I. He, too, is a sinner in need of a Savior. But until then, He is still a man chosen by God for a time such as this.
And so, not only are all people everywhere commanded to repent and believe the Gospel, but in bowing the knee to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are also obligated to keep the rest of His Word, as rightly divided and understood, and to the best of our ability. And at a bare minimum, at least for purposes of this discussion, that includes forgiving America for her past sins, and obeying the governing authorities that God has placed over us in this day.
Because, sometimes the issue really is the issue after all. Sometimes, we have to recognize that He is God, and we are not; that He knows all, and we don't; that He is wise and just, and will repay our actual enemies by heaping burning coals on their heads, and that is not our role (nor do we want to be on the wrong side of that judgment).
But if you're still tempted to continue in your rebellion against both God and America, remember that in the words of 60's radical kingpin Saul Alinsky, the original radical was Lucifer himself. As Alinsky reminded us, "the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it effectively" was Lucifer, and that in doing so, "he at least won his own kingdom." But let us also not forget that, in the words of no less an authority than Jesus Christ Himself, that "kingdom" (i.e., this fallen world) is passing away, and all will be made new after Satan is justly punished for his rebellion. And when that happens, you most certainly want to be on the side of the One True King, Jesus Christ Himself, rather than confined to an eternal punishment apart from all love, hope, and goodness with the original radical and his minions.
Sometimes, the issue really is the issue.
*** PS - While this post was somewhat unusual in that it started with a secular quote and ended with Scripture, perhaps that was appropriate for a post about a current rebellion -- but yet a rebellion that will ultimately end in God's restoration for some, and God's judgment for others. In other words, the good news (as well as the somber warnings) come at the end of the story, just as in the Gospel narrative of Scripture. But regardless of how you frame it, the main reason I wrote is because God put this heavy on my heart this evening. And as Providence allowed me to see, I wasn't the only Christian blogger to write on this same general topic. As I was googling the main quote to see who wrote it, one of the first pages that popped up was a similar Christian blog -- "Preaching & Politics" -- and its post on the same quote, which seems to be making the same general argument. As that post concludes near its end, so will I: "Christians -- quit playing defense. You don't win football games by playing defense and you don't win culture wars that way either. Go on the offense. Take the fight to them. Remember, the issue is never the issue. The issue is the never-ending revolution to overthrow God."
Good night, and may God truly bless America.
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"Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead."
Modern liberals are quick to accuse Bible-believing Christians of being Pharisees. And while that may be true to some extent, they primarily misunderstand the true nature of the Pharisees: The Pharisee's main fault, other than their hypocrisy, was that they preached a works-based salvation apart from Jesus Christ. In other words, follow the rules, and you will receive the afterlife and the resurrection from the dead, even if you outright deny Christ.
While casting these accusations at others, however, liberals tend to miss the true nature of another group that was equally repugnant to Jesus: The Sadducees, who quiet frankly, bore an eerie similarity to modern liberal beliefs. Like modern liberals (and especially leftists), the Sadducees were more concerned with politics than with religion or Jesus, denied the Word of God as being true and inspired, consisted of primarily the wealthy and "elite" aristocrats of society, and most importantly for this post, lived for this life only, giving little if any thought to an afterlife. Although the Pharisees get all the "press" today, the Sadducees were equal opportunity offenders in Jesus' own day. In fact, not only did the Sadducees square off with Jesus often, but they joined the Pharisees in receiving this stern rebuke from John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest man ever born of woman:
"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 3:7 ESV)
You see, whereas the Pharisees had a tendency to add to the law (without necessarily following it themselves), the Sadducees had a tendency to relax or remove the requirements of the law that they didn't want to follow. Thus, while the Pharisees motivations were questionable (at best), at least they were living with eternity in view. But the Sadducees also fell short (and were severely rebuked) because they lived as though this life was all that there was.
Lest you doubt that last part, remember the Sadducees attempt to "trick" Jesus with their question about the woman who married seven brothers. (Matthew 22:23-33) Moreover, that wasn't a one-off event. Quite to the contrary, the Sadducees' denial of the resurrection was so core to their identity and beliefs that it became perhaps the main point of their on-going feud with the Pharisees.
Indeed, the magnitude of this dispute between the Sadducees and the Pharisees can be seen very clearly from an event that happened near the end of Paul's life, as recorded in chapter 23 of the Book of Acts. Leading up to this event, Paul was brought before the religious council of his day (the Sanhedrin) because he was preaching the Gospel. The council was initially united against him, but when Paul realized that the council was a mix of Pharisees and Sadducees, he was able to turn them against themselves with one simple statement:
6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. 8 For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. (Acts 23:6-8)
As this passage makes clear, the Sadducees unquestionably did not believe in the resurrection. And because they had no concern for the afterlife, they did not live with eternity's values in view. The same is true not only for many liberals and leftists today, but sadly, for many professing "Christians" as well.
On the political hard left, we have a band of anarchists trying to create a godless utopia on Earth, lawless thugs who are willing to use any means necessary to accomplish their goals. They're even willing to kill and destroy property to get rid of any perceived racism, not realizing that they make themselves murders (Revelation 22:15) and thieves (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) in the process. They seek to create a man-made "heaven" of inclusion on Earth, not realizing that, unless they repent and believe the Gospel, their own godless actions will ultimately serve as a basis of exclusion from the only place that will truly be free of racism, that being heaven itself. But from their point of view, which again is similar to that of the Sadducees, their position is somewhat understandable. (And to be clear, leftism is essentially a modern cult religion.) After all, if there wasn't an afterlife, then why would you live with eternity and the judgment in view?
While generally less extreme than the hard left, many liberals (both politically and spiritually) live the same way. Many will focus on Christian ethics, or the Beatitudes, or Jesus' summation of the entire Old Testament / Mosaic Law as hanging on the two greatest commandments. They seek to create a world of peace, so that we can live our best lives now. But yet, they fail to realize that none of the things they pursue can spare us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Colossians 3:5-6; Romans 2:5) as the judgment for our sins (Romans 3:20), which we have all committed (1 John 1:8). And perhaps more importantly, despite all of their admonitions to "just love" others, they neglect the greatest loves of all: love for lost souls, love for the Gospel, and most importantly, love for Jesus Christ Himself, which includes obedience to Him and His words (John 14:15, 21, 23-24).
Fundamentally, almost everyone on the hard left, as well as most modern liberals, reject God in one form or another. At the most extreme, they outright deny God's existence, or deny that Jesus is the Son of God, the Blessed Second Person of the Trinity. Others claim to have a belief in Christ, but disregard various clear teachings from His Word and instead choose to do what seems best to them in the moment. (This is not surprising. Indeed, the very definition of liberal means "open to new behaviors or opinions and willing to discard traditional values." In other words, modern liberalism teaches that everyone is free to do "what seems right in his own eyes," even if God has called an action evil, since liberals essentially live as if there is no divine King for us to one day answer to in eternity. As a result, you end up with a Democratic Party that claims to hold the moral high ground even while booing God at their own convention.)
And so, and much like the Sadducees, liberals and leftists fail to live with eternity's values in view. (To be fair, many conservatives do the same things, especially those who are focused on money and "professional success" in this life.) But the Biblical model -- and mandate -- is exactly the opposite of these things. As Jesus Himself warned, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25) That hardly sounds like a command to live your best life now.
So, as A.W. Tozer famously said, let us all "live with eternity's values in view." If we were to live with a focus on eternity, how different would our lives look? Would the left still be trying to build a godless utopia on Earth? Would many on the right still be trying build our own personal suburban fiefdoms, focused more on financial success than on sowing the Word of God? Would we all stop our shameless acts of self-gratification? Would any be ashamed of sharing the Gospel? (Romans 1:16) Would so many still be afraid to preach Christ and to confront sin (including our own) due to a fear of being rejected by man? (Galatians 1:10 -- read that one please.)
As Christians especially, we are to live for Christ, and to live with eternity's values in view. We are to put both cowardice and our own best interests aside, and truly live for Him, regardless of the cost to us. And to anyone else who may be reading this, I invite you to cast your cares on Him, to turn from your wicked ways, and to put your trust in Christ for your salvation both in this life and as well as in the next. And after doing so, then live your faith out by burning your life out for Christ. To borrow from C.T. Studd's famous poem, "Only one life, twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last." We would all be wise to keep those words in mind.
Or, perhaps more bluntly, consider the prayer of Presbyterian preacher Jonathan Edwards: "Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!"
How different would our lives -- and the rest of this world -- look if we all did the same?
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Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 16:18 NKJV)
I saw this sign today at a "church" in Austin. The Spirit in me was grieved, and my heart sank, although I'm not sure which of those emotions came first. But I also saw this as an opportunity to say something that needs to be said.
Those who have been reading my words for any amount of time know where I stand on the issue of homosexual marriage. My position there is that of the Bible, which is clear: Marriage is between man and woman, for the purpose of producing Godly offspring and glorifying Christ, and all homosexual behavior is sin. But otherwise, I'm not going to go into much detail on those issues here.
Instead, this post is about the other part of the "Gay Pride" equation, the part that never gets addressed:
P R I D E
We should find our identity in Christ, and in Christ alone. Anything else in which we find our identity is an idol, or at the least, a false identity: Race, skin color, nationality, profession, denomination, favorite school or sports team, and yes even, and perhaps especially, our sexuality.
But while any false identity is bad, the concern gets ratcheted up a level when identity spills over into pride. At that point, you've gone from "simply" believing a lie about yourself, to actually engaging in a very destructive sin. And lest you think I'm over exaggerating, let's consider just a handful of things the Bible says about the sin of pride:
And perhaps most importantly, the words of James, from the New Testament: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)
How true are those words today? One of the main things stopping homosexuals from coming to Christ isn't the Bible or the Christians who believe it, but rather their own pride in their "identity" as a homosexual person. And yet, one of the main themes that has been used to unify the homosexual community has also been one of the main issues that stop homosexuals from truly coming to Christ:
The very idea of "gay pride" is a trick of the devil, if ever there was one. (And to be sure, there have been -- and still are -- many.) To be clear, the issue of pride is not confined only to the homosexual community, although it is most certainly very prevalent there, in a way that most don't even seem to realize. Both ironically and sadly, what so many push as a source of identity and inclusion is, in fact, a source of sin and exclusion of the worst kind: exclusion from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
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"For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27)