Choose Wisely

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1 Chronicles 16:34Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. (NIV 1978)

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”.  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.  “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

My Musings – What is good?  We all have a general idea what it means to be good, and we usually contrast it with bad or evil.  But when it comes to man, in his fallen state, good is a relative term.  Relative to one another, but not to God.  In fact, the Bible states that “[t]here is no one righteous [good], not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10–12, NIV 1984).  Only God is good.

Before the fall, mankind desired the knowledge of good and evil more than life.  You might recall that there were two trees in the center of the garden – “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:9, NIV 1984).

But only one was forbidden – “And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  (Genesis 2:16–17, NIV 1984).  And that is the one they desired.

When it came to choices, mankind chose what was forbidden and forfeited what they already had – goodness and innocence.  It was a “fool’s choice,” for who needs to know the difference (good versus evil) when all they have and all they are is good and innocent?  In making the “fool’s choice” mankind also gave up the opportunity to live forever in that state (good and innocent).

As a consequence of that choice, God was no longer “safe,” for mankind.  But He was still good.  “He’s the King, I tell you.”  And His love “endures forever,” even in the wake of mankind’s bad choices.  Because of His goodness and love, He was compelled to provide a way back to the paradise lost, through the death and resurrection of the only man to ever be good (“the exact representation of His being“) relative to God – the second Adam, God’s only Son Jesus.  By accepting Christ, that goodness is imputed to man.  It all boils down to another choice.  This time will we choose the “tree of life” or will we continue to think that our ill-gotten knowledge is “better?”

My Advice – Choose wisely, choose life.

The Minority Report

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Romans 2:21-23[Y]ou, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?  (NIV 1984)

My Musings – This one’s going to sting a bit.  The following quote was recently posted to my FaceBook page. “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.”  I like the quote.  I agree with the quote.  I believe the quote is very descriptive of what we see happening in these “last days.”  So, I shared it.  But need to be aware of a couple potential problems.

Problem #1 – While we certainly should not condone or excuse calling a lie truth (or truth a lie), wrong right (or right wrong) or evil good (or good evil), perhaps we should not be too eager to condemn a society that does?  After all, weren’t we part of that majority at some point in time?  They are now, like we once were, already condemned.  What they need now, like we once did, is redemption.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save [redeem] the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”  (John 3:17–21, NIV 1984)

We cannot expect those living in darkness to recognize the light for what it is, if we use it as a weapon to maliciously expose them and not as a tool to sincerely help them see plainly.  We do not want people to be blinded by the light.  We want them to be able to see through the darkness because of the light.  And there is no middle ground here.  We must not dampen the light in an attempt make truth, right and good less “offensive” and more “user-friendly.”  A watered-down Gospel is no gospel at all.

Problem #2 – Just like God did not send His Son to condemn, but to save, Jesus sends us to be wielders of the light in an increasingly dark world.  But we cannot expect those living in darkness to see the light as a good thing if it also reveals our hypocrisy. “You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?”    We cannot excuse our own faults by viewing the faults of others as more egregious than ours.  Jesus was not scourged less for our sins than theirs.  His cross was not made heavier because of their sins than it was for ours.  His death was not more necessary for their sins than it was for ours.  Their was no sin so great that Jesus did not die for it and no sin so small that He did not have to die for it.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14–16, NIV 1984).

We cannot expect those living in darkness to see the light as a good thing if rather than illuminating our good deeds, it spotlights our hypocrisy.

Now here is where it really stings.  Are we Christians, in our hypocrisy, just as guilty of calling a lie truth, wrong right and evil good, when we excuse our “minor” sins while excoriating  the “major” sins of the lost?

My AdviceAlways be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  (1 Peter 3:15–16, NIV 1984)

Proclaim the truthBut do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.  

Stand up for what is rightBut do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.

Expose evilBut do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.

Remember, the lost do not need our condemnation, because they already stand condemned.  They need our light to guide them out of darkness (the lies they believe to be truth, the wrong they believe to be right, the evil they believe to be good), to where they can see clearly enough to believe the “minority report.”  Do not compromise your credibility as a wielder of what is true, right and good, by living like the majority.  Keep a clear conscience.

When all is said and done, the majority may continue to “hate the light” and speak “maliciously” about our witness.  We should not expect to be treated any differently than the Master.  Let’s just make sure that the malicious talk is indeed “slander.”  In so doing, we just may help rescue some.

Now for what really, really stings. This advice, like most of the advice I give, is just as much for me as it is for others.

 

The Deeper Magic

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1 Samuel 15:22 – “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – In the Garden (Eden) there was disobedience. God covered Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness, presumably from animals that were sacrificed.  The blood that was shed also covered their sin.

On the mountain (Moriah), Abraham was prepared to obey and sacrifice his son, but God prevented Him from doing so.  To obey is better, because it requires no sacrifice.

In the Garden (Mt. of Olives) Jesus prayed that if there was any other way, that He be spared from sacrificing His life.  Yet in obedience, He said “not my will but yours.”  In this instance, obedience (His) would necessarily lead to sacrifice because of disobedience (ours).

On the mountain (Golgotha), Jesus was sacrificed to atone for our disobedience.  There was no staying of the hand as in the case of Abraham, because there was no other way.  Christ’s obedience was more than sufficient to remove (not merely cover) the stain of our disobedience.

In the garden, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty, as death (the “deep magic”) turned into life (the “deeper magic”).  The fall of mankind in one garden comes full circle with the redemption of mankind in another.

My Advice – We have victory over sin, death and judgement because of Christ’s obedience.  And while no further sacrifice is required, we nevertheless should still live a life of obedience.  If we confess our sins, He will forgive them.  But why go there in the first place?  Let’s show our appreciation for God’s “deeper magic” that overcame the curse of “deep magic.”

“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”

(From “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis)

Your Sin Is Bigger Than My Sin

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John 8:3-12The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (NIV 1984)

Whether Great or Small – It is always difficult and dangerous to attempt to list sins according to their degree of seriousness. In one sense, all sins are equal in that they all separate us from God. The Bible’s statement, “For the wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23), applies to all sin, whether in thought, word, or deed.

At the same time, it seems obvious that some sins are worse than others in both motivation and effects, and should be judged accordingly. Stealing a loaf of bread is vastly different than exterminating a million people.

However, remember that whether our sins are relatively small or great, they will place us in hell apart from God’s grace. The good news is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and the sins of the whole world at the Cross. If we will repent and turn to Jesus in faith, our sins will be forgiven, and we will receive the gift of eternal life. (Billy Graham)

One Sin Makes You A Sinner – One leak will sink a ship: and one sin will destroy a sinner. (John Bunyan)

However, Your Sin Is Worse Than Mine? – A rather clever person once said: “Lord, help me forgive those who sin differently than I do.” (Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012)

The similarities between [your sin and mine] are different. (Yogi Berra)

My Musings – We have a tendency to believe our sins are more forgivable (less bad) than the sins of others.  That was one of the main points of the story of the woman caught in adultery.  The teachers of the law saw her sin as so grievous it deserved death.  Jesus taught (reminded) them that they were all in the same “leaking ship” in danger of sinking.  I am reminded of a somewhat similar scene from Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, where Frodo and Gandalf are debating the sins of that miserable creature Gollum:

Frodo:  “It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.”

Gandalf:  “Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death [cast the first stone] in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.”

Frodo:  “I wish The Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had ever happened.”

Gandalf:  “So do all who live to face such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

My Advice – As I’ve written in a previous blog, there is no sin so great (probably someone else’s) that Jesus did not die for it, and no sin so small (obviously mine) that He did not have to die for it.   So let’s not be too eager to “deal out death” to others.  The “similarities in our sins may be different” but we are all in need of God’s grace and forgiveness (“pity”), that is found only in Jesus. He was the only One who ever paid (or could have paid) for our sins. His sacrifice was the only thing that could “stay [God’s] hand” of judgment.  “All we have to decide is what to do with the [opportunity] that is given to us.”

Let’s not forget the second main point in Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery, that we have a tendency to gloss over.  Just because we do not have the right to judge the sins of others, does not mean they are not sins.  Just because we may think that our particular sins are not serious enough to deserve judgment does not mean they do not.  If we are in Christ, our sins are forgiven, let’s show our gratitude by following His admonition to “go now and leave [our] life of sin.”

Study 5 – All Christians Believe God Is Just & Merciful?

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Romans 9:10-18Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election [choice] might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated [rejected].” What then shall we say? Is God unjust [unrighteous]? Not at all [may it never be]! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort [exertion], but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (NIV 1984)

Romans 9:11-12 – This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works. (NLT)

Jacob & Esau (Twins) – Everything that could possibly be the same, was the same. Yet God chose one (the younger) and rejected the other (the elder), before they were even born.

The question is: on what is God’s election based?

Foreknowledge View (Arminian) – God’s election before anyone is born (form the foundation of the world) is based upon His foreknowledge of what man will ultimately do after they are born. Based on this prior knowledge God makes His choice (election), knowing what man will choose. Final decision is based upon a human choice, not upon a divine action.

Awkward Silence (Calvinism) – While the text says God chooses before man is born, and thus before man can do anything good or evil, it does not explicitly state that His choice is based on His foreknowledge. In fact, there is no text in the Bible that states that election is based on God’s foreknowledge. Calvinist view places significance on the fact that Paul not only states “before the twins were born,” but adds “or had done anything good or bad.” This emphasizes that it is “God’s purpose in election might stand,” and “not by works.” Foreknowledge is not relevant to “God’s purpose in election.”

The question is: does this mean God is unfair?

What Shall We Say, is God unjust? – God forbid (“may it never be!“! Injustice by God is unthinkable. Paul asks a rhetorical question and provides the answer to the anticipated objection that God is not being fair. The question of fairness is perhaps the greatest objection to Calvinist view. But Paul would not even need to confront this expected objection if God’s choice was made in view of His foreknowledge of what man would ultimately choose (Arminian). God could not be accused of being unfair if He was merely ratifying man’s ultimate choice based on His foreknowledge.  Nevertheless, God is not being unjust in exercising His “divine prerogative.”

Divine Prerogative“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Some receive a measure of mercy that others do not, but no one receives injustice. All are fallen and deserve judgment. Election is done in light of the fall (all are fallen) and not in light of good or evil choices down the road. God only chooses fallen sinners for salvation, but He does not choose them all. Man’s need for salvation is presupposed. There would be no need for election if man were not fallen. But all are fallen, and if God only gave justice no one would be saved.

God is not being unfair, but He is being unequal. We must be careful to not claim that God is not being merciful or gracious enough because He does not choose to show it to all equally. This implies God is not doing what He should (obligated to) do (that would be sinful). God is not obligated to be merciful. Merciful is not an obligation. It is unwarranted.  It is purely God’s voluntary choice. Considering what God’s mercy cost Him, who could possibly object to how, or to whom, He extends it?

Human Desire or EffortIt does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort [exertion], but on God’s mercy. The Calvinist view is that this statement contradicts the Arminian view (depends on man’s choice, which God has foreknowledge of).

A final question: is God capable of hatred and hardening a sinner’s heart?

Hated & Hardened – Hatred (“Jacob I hated“), as it is used, here does not mean malice. It means absence of divine favor. God gives mercy to Jacob, but He withholds it from Esau. Withhold does not mean that God predestines people to sin (predestined to be damned). God intrudes and ensures salvation of the elect, but He does not ensure the damnation of the reprobate. He just does not step in to prevent it. Hardened (Pharaoh) means the same. God is not directly causing Pharaoh to sin. He merely withdraws His restraint and lets Pharaoh to do what Pharaoh wants to do anyway (evil).

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

The Great White Throne Judgment

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GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENTThen I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

The Throne – This Great White Throne apparently differs from the throne that is mentioned more than 30 times in Revelation beginning with Revelation 4:2. Earth and sky fled from His (the one sitting on the throne) presence, and there was no place for them.(1) It is a great throne, because Continue reading “The Great White Throne Judgment”

Anger for A Moment, Favor for A Lifetime

Psalms 30:5For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – Anger and weeping seem to go on forever, when we are in the midst of them. But when we look back from the vantage point of heaven, we will see just how brief they were and we will not remember the pain or the sorrow.

My Advice – You are favored by God because you are saved. Accept correction from Him when it comes. It lasts only for the moment but His favor carries into eternity. Look past your tears to the joy that will undoubtedly come.