Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Bible, Unabridged Edition

Under the covenant of grace, is there ever a reason to teach the law?  I will let Scripture answer that question.
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.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
I hope that pastors who refuse to teach the entire Word of God (including the Ten Commandments and the Law) are reading this.  Your refusal to teach the entire Word of God is bringing up incomplete Christians who are ill-equipped for any good work.   That Bible is absolutely clear on this matter. 

First of all, Paul begins with "All Scripture."  This is important.  Paul does not say some Scripture.  Paul does not say only the Scriptures that pertain to blessings and promises.  Paul does not say only Scriptures you like or you think are important.  Paul says "All Scripture."  Even more, when Paul wrote this, the only Scripture in existence was the Old Testament.  When Paul wrote this, he was referring to the Pentateuch, the historical books of the Old Testament, and the Prophets.  He was not referring to the Gospels or Epistles.  Not that those are not just as important to us as the Old Testament as they are Scripture, but God was still in the process of revealing that Scripture when this epistle was written.  When Paul wrote this to Timothy, he was referring to the Old Testament and he said that all of it should be considered.  To say that any part of any Scripture has no place in the church of today is to blatantly deny clear Scripture to the contrary. 

Now Paul will tell us what "All Scripture" is good for.  First, it is good for doctrine.  You can not teach solid Christian doctrine without using all of Scripture.  Every part of Scripture is something God wanted us to know.  You can not say that you are teaching good doctrine if you purposely do not teach all of Scripture, including the law.  Even the doctrine of grace requires teaching of the law.  This is not to say that you teach the law in that the law imparts grace, but you teach the law to show the necessity of grace.  You can not believe you are a sinner in need of a savior unless you really know you are a sinner.  All Scripture is profitable for doctrine. 

All Scripture is also good for reproof and correction.  We all need correction and while the world has its own ideas of right and wrong, only the Bible gives us God's truth of right and wrong.   The Bible is our guidepost.  It sets our limits and charts our course.  Everything we do should be tested in the light of Scripture.  You can not effectively live life as a child of God without using the Word to guide you.  The Holy Spirit will use the Word to lead us and guide us.  It is also our measure of discernment.  Bad and destructive theology come from twisting and taking the Word of God out of context.  That is another reason why teaching from the whole Word is so important.  Without the foundation of the Word of God in our hearts, we will have no definitive test to discern whether or not we should adhere to or avoid one of the many ideas that will come our way, even from the church. 

All Scripture is also profitable for instruction in righteousness.  I think we need to take a moment to pause here.  There are many who believe we can glean little to no moral instruction from the Old Testament.  Some people will judge the morality of an issue whether or not Jesus specifically addressed it.  This is especially true when it comes to homosexuality.  Others like to teach that teaching the law adds bondage to the Christian.  That is only true if you teach the law as a means to salvation.  Teaching the law, however, is profitable for teaching righteousness.   In fact, that is exactly what Paul was referring to when he wrote this epistle to Timothy.  Once again, remember there was no New Testament at this time.  The Word of God is profitable for teaching righteousness.  This also assumes that it is necessary to teach righteousness, that is righteous living.  We are not called to live righteously in order to be saved, but to live righteously under the power of the Holy Spirit as a result of our salvation. 

Now Paul tells us why it is necessary to teach the whole world of God for doctrine, correction, and righteousness.  That reason is "that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. "  The complete Word of God begets a man of God complete.  An incomplete Word of God begets an incomplete man of God.  Teaching the whole Word of God begets a man trained and prepared for every good work.  Teaching an incomplete Word of God begs a man untrained and ill-prepared for the work of God.  In fact, someone not trained in the Word of God may not even know that he or she has a responsibility to serve.  

Teachers must teach the entire Word of God.  Refusing to teach from the parts that one does not like or that conflicts with an incomplete doctrine only serves to lead Christians astray.  God designed us with a need to be taught and pastors are given the responsibility to rightly divide the entire Word of God from Moses through Revelation.  Incomplete Scripture leads to incomplete doctrine and usually leads to the extremes of legalism or licentiousness.  Incomplete Scripture leads to a lack of discernment to where Christians attach to destructive doctrine as heresies abound in the church.  Incomplete Scripture leads to a lack of righteous living, which leads to accepted sin and an impotent church incapable of being the light and salt they were called to be to a fallen world.  There is no such thing as obsolete when it comes to Scripture and all of it is appropriate in some way to today's church.  If there is a part of Scripture that disagrees with your doctrine, the problem is not the God-inspired Word of God but with the prideful rebellious man who thinks he knows better.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  John 1:1 NKJV

Thursday, July 26, 2012

This is Bigger Than a Chicken Restaurant

Last Friday I wrote a slightly tongue-in-cheek post in support of Chik-Fil-A.  In the days that followed this went from silly tantrums of people who do not like people calling them out on their rebellion against God to something very troubling.  It is one thing when a group who disagrees with you protests your position.  Certain groups living in open rebellion and defiance of God are even prone to get rather nasty in their protest, but that is to be expected.  What is troubling is when government gets involved.  This week three mayors of three major US cities have come out and said that they will prevent that restaurant from opening in their cities.  What is even more troubling is they are open in their reasoning that this is about the religious convictions of the company leadership and for no other reason.  If you are a Christian and own a business, this should be extremely troubling for you.  If you are Christian, it is time for you to stand for righteousness.  Considering the percentage of people who call themselves Christian in America, the only way this is even able to happening is because you are cowering before the world.  It is time to stop being a useless coward and stand for Jesus. 
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His [own] glory, and [in His] Father's, and of the holy angels.  Luke 9:26 NKJV
Are you ashamed of the words of Jesus?  Do you fear the homosexual lobby more than you fear the Creator?   Are you more influenced by propaganda than by the leading of the Holy Spirit?  The answer to these questions is not defined by your words, but by your actions.  If you fail to stand for righteousness, then the answer for you is "Yes" to all of those questions.  You are becoming irrelevant as a Christian as you conform yourself to this world.  Your inaction is allowing the persecution of those you would call your brothers and sisters in the Lord.  How completely and totally shameful of you. 

It really is time for us to take our head out of the sand.   We live in this ignorant bliss that we can not be persecuted in this country.  I have news for you, it can happen and is happening.  A Christian business is being prevented from opening in three cities by three mayors who specifically cite the religious point of view of its owners as the reason why.  It does not matter the construction jobs that will never be.  The permanent jobs created also do not matter.  The tax revenue, helping to ease the burden of the city residents, also does not matter.  What does matter is that they stand for Jesus and standing for Jesus is not popular.  They are unwilling to compromise their values for the sake of making themselves more liked by the world.  They are doing so with everything to lose.   

Again, if you are a Christian business owner this should send chills down your spine.  I know it does mine.  I know my beliefs run the risk of hurting my business.  So far it has had no effect, but I have that in the back of my mind.  What I do not do, though, is compromise my message.  I will not hide or change what I believe out of fear of the world.  My trust is not in the world.  The world is merely a tool that God uses to meet my needs and the needs of everyone else who puts their faith in Jesus.  I encourage you to also stand by your faith.  Fear God over man and do not compromise not one tiny bit.  God can and will see us though persecution and our hope is not in this world anyway. 

The point I am making is that it is time we wake up.  We need to stop living in denial. We need to put our faith into action.  This goes way beyond eating more chicken.  This even goes beyond Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day (August 1) when we are asked to show our support for them by patronizing one of their many fine restaurants.  This means rolling up our sleeves, standing tall in the power of the Holy Spirit, and standing for righteousness.  Mayors, pundits, and protesters who oppose our view are in the minority.  It is time we showed them that fact.  It is time that we do not let them get away with blasphemy while we cower in the corner being scared to be called a bigot or homophobic.  Stand for marriage, stand for Truth, stand for the Gospel, stand for the Word of God, and stand for Jesus.  No longer can we stand by and watch our brethren be persecuted.  It makes me sick to my stomach to see a brother standing alone for righteousness while even his brethren snicker at him.  It makes me even more sick when I see Christians (even some that I know) standing against the Word of God and standing for sin.  They are worse than the sinner because the sinner does not know the truth that you are so willing and arrogant to defy.  Stand with him and stand against the sin of the world because that is what it means to stand with Jesus.  It is time to choose what side you are on.  There is no middle.  There is no compromise. 
And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15 NKJV

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It is the Best Part of Marriage, It is the Hardest Part of Marriage

This past weekend, I was in a discussion among friends on the issue of becoming one flesh when a couple is married.  This is something I have actually been thinking on for quite some time.  It is such a short and simple verse in the Bible, but what it means to your life is indescribable. 
So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. Matthew 19:6 NKJV
There are two ways to look at this.  The first is that this is the worst part of marriage.  Before leaping to judgement, please hear me out.  Before we get married, we live basically for ourselves.  I know many of of serve the Lord and feel we live for the Lord, but we do so with only our concerns in mind.  If you want to go on a missions trip, you just go if you can afford it.  If you want to serve the Lord in any ministry for any amount of time, you just do it.  If you want to hang out with your Christian friends until late at night, you just do it.  You do not care or worry about anyone else.  I do not mean this as a bad thing, it is just the reality of your life.  You have no one else you need to care about.  Even beyond doing things for the church, we live for ourselves in every area of our lives.  We eat what we want for whatever meal we want.  We go on vacation wherever we want and whenever we can.  We purchase what we want whenever we want and only worrying about ourselves.  You are completely and totally free to be your self in every area of your life.

Then you get married.  Marriage, as part of coming together as one, necessarily means the death of self.  I can tell you from experience that self does not go quietly into that good night.  Self wants to be catered to.  Self wants to do whatever it wants whenever it wants.  Self does not want to have to take into account another person.  Self does not want to hold off purchasing something for the greater good of the family.  Self does not want to let other people pick what to eat or even compromise.  Self wants what self wants because self is of the flesh.  Self fights tooth and nail to convince you that it need not die.  In fact, it is the failure to put self to its necessary death that so many marriages fail.  Self is the reason for adultery.  Self is the cause of arguments.  Self is the cause of any unhappiness in marriage because unhappiness is only even possible if there is a failure to put self to death.  When you look at marriage from the perspective of the flesh, this idea of becoming one is the worst part of marriage. 

The other way to look at this is that this is the best part of marriage.  When we get married, we are no longer alone.  No longer is it only you who does missions work or any other kind of ministry, but you have a partner in all that you do.  No longer do you have to travel alone on vacation, but you have someone to share all those wonderful memories with.  No longer do you have only your own resources in life, but you have the time, talents, and treasures of someone you are joined with.  All you have belongs to them, but all they have also belongs to you.  You are no longer living for yourself, but you are living for someone who is living for you.  The one flesh that is created can not be selfish because it was created by the union of two who have denied their selves. 

Marriage is a union ordained by God to create something new and better.  If you seek after God for your partner you will find someone especially made for you.  She fills your weaknesses with her strengths just as her weaknesses are filled by your strengths.  Those times you are down, she is there to pick you up.  Those times that she is down, you are there to pick her up.  In other words, you are made to fit one another so that you are able to join together.  You life is made to fit her life and her life is made to fit your life.  When you die to yourself you are living for the spirit.  When you realize that and live for that, you are well on the way to making the marriage successful.  In fact, just as living for the flesh in marriage is the most common way for failure, living in the spirit in marriage is the best way for success. 

The Bible says that marriage is a metaphor for our relationship to Jesus Christ.  This new oneness is part of that metaphor.  Just as how we need to deny ourselves when we come to Jesus, so must we deny ourselves when coming into marriage.  That is, of course, if we want it to be successful.  You will never have a successful marriage if you are living for yourself and you will never have a victorious life in Christ if you do not deny yourself.  Keeping your self means keeping your flesh and your flesh will do all it can to interfere with either of those relationships.  In fact, one can usually tell what kind of husband or wife someone will be by their relationship with Jesus.  The flesh-driven Christian will be a flesh-driven husband.  He will make decisions based on his own gratification and take very little into account in how he treats his wife.  He will do those things that make him happy and for him that will be enough reason regardless of whether or not it makes his wife happy.  These marriages are full of stress and misery for the offended spouse and many times they end in divorce.  On the other hand, a Christian who has denied himself will naturally move into that role as a self-denied spouse understanding that the other spouse's feelings are their own feelings.  In fact, a self denied spouse would not be able to exist in a situation where his or her partner is suffering.  This same principle applies to money in that the self-denied spouse understand that there is no such thing as "mine" and only "ours."  Money is another common reason for divorce, and for the selfish spouse one can see how that can become a major problem. 

As for me (and I am sure many of you), I can see the oneness I have with my spouse from both perspectives.  When I am selfish, I hate it.  When I want a pity party and for it to be all about me, I hate it.  When I am grumpy and my ill feelings hurt my wife, I hate it.  When those inevitable times come when we get angry at each other, I hate it.  Whenever I have to sacrifice what I want for our needs, I hate it.  I hate it all those times because I let my self take over.  I forget that this idea of "me" is dead, and sometimes I even hate that because whenever I am determined to be selfish and act out it is never only about myself.  It is about us.  She hurts when I hurt or when I fail in my attitude and behavior and I hurt when she hurts.  There is no "me", even when I want there to be.  There is only "us." 

On the other hand, I also love this oneness.  I can see God doing an amazing work in my heart.  I can see the amazing gift God has given me in making this wonderful person just for me.  I love even more that God has made me especially for her and that God made me as a gift for someone.  I know sometimes I do not act like a gift, but that is what God has made me to be for her.  When I am able to reckon that old man to be dead, marriage is the most wonderful thing in the world.  I have the honor of being entrusted to care for one of God's precious daughters.  I am given this gift of a partner in this life to have another part of me to compliment my weaknesses and to support me those times I need support. 

This is just like our walk with Jesus.  When we walk in the flesh, our walk fails.  We backslide or stand still.  We feel conviction in our hearts.  We know we are doing wrong, but we harden our hearts not wanting to give up the pleasures of the flesh.   We have the gift of salvation, but we certainly do not appreciate it and we certainly do not experience that abundant and blessed life offered to us by God.  In marriage, when we walk in the flesh, our marriage fails.  We never grow closer together and many grow further apart.  We feel conviction as we feel the pain of our spouse each time we hurt him or her.  Unfortunately, we harden our hearts to that pain seeking after that which we think will make us happy.  We have the gift of marriage, but we certainly never appreciate all that can mean for our lives.  We never experience all the joy that marriage can bring us. 

The point I am making is a lesson I am learning more and more each day.  To experience the true joy of marriage, you have to deny yourself.  Stop thinking in terms of what will make "me" happy and start thinking in terms of  what is best for "us."  The more I grow and the more I am able to put away self, the more and more I appreciate this amazing gift of marriage that God has given me.  I love my wife and I love love being married to her.  It has been a wonderful two years.  Even better, I know that as we grow in Christ together, what is wonderful today will be awesome tomorrow. I know that because I am choosing to sow to the spirit as I learn to deny the flesh. 
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV

Friday, July 20, 2012

Eat Mor Chikin

Over the past few days, the leaders of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain affirmed their stance on traditional marriage.  The reaction was no surprise.  The gay movement is up in arms calling for boycotts and protests.  I do hope that Chick-fil-A stands its ground and I do hope that we, as Christians, support them.  We need to stand by each other in the face of persecution even if that means going out for chicken. 
Blessed [are] those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:10 NKJV
I followed one thread on Facebook yesterday about this very subject.  Someone posted something in support of Chick-fil-A and brought the fire of persecution down upon herself.  I wonder if those people see the utter hypocrisy of their actions.  They preach tolerance yet show hatred.  In fact, they are filled with hatred towards anyone who disagrees with their position, all the while accusing them of hate.  They preach tolerance but practice violent intolerance.  They persecute, insult, threaten violence, boycott, libel, and attack anyone who disagrees with their position on gay rights.  The Christian position may be that we are against homosexual marriage being allowed, but they do not even want our position to be allowed in discourse.  They are the truly intolerant ones.  They also preach equal rights, but what they really mean is more equal for them.  They want to be able to spread their position and lies with impunity while viciously attacking anyone who holds an opposing viewpoint.  If you do not agree with them, in their mind, you have no right to hold that opinion, speak that opinion, or defend that opinion.  They are truly the epitome of hypocrisy. 

There are two reasons they behave in such a manner.  The first is that they have no argument to defend their position.  They have to shout as loud as they can lest any facts get in the way of their empty argument.  They say equal rights, but they have equal rights.  The nebulous idea of being allowed to marry whomever they love is an impossible idea.  Marriage is now and always has been regulated.  You can not marry a close relative.  An adult can not marry a child.  There is no longer any legal idea of forced marriage.  The idea of "love" is not a legal reason for marriage.  Love is not even definable in a legal way and so it really has no place in the debate of what constitutes a legal marriage.  Marriage is about family and bringing in the next generation.  It is how we continue as a society. I know that some heterosexual couples can not or choose not to have children, but that is of no real issue.  Infertility is generally not even diagnosed until a couple tries to have children (and even then it is generally treatable) so it really can have no place as qualifier for marriage.  And considering you can not force someone to bear children, it would be impossible to make it a requirement of marriage.  Their argument really comes down to one point: "We want to be able to so we should have it."  Their response to disagreement is just as childish as their argument.  Like a child, they shout and throw a fit hoping that someone will give them what they want.

The other reason is that they hate God.  This was rather evident in the comments I saw yesterday.  They call Christians brainwashed and hurl insults at Jesus.  They insult the church, the Bible, our beliefs, and even our Lord.  They may say they do not believe in God, but they do.  They would not have such hatred for something they consider to be imaginary.  They claim they are the ones with logic and reason on their side, yet they throw temper tantrums about a being they claim is no more real than the tooth fairy.  Seriously, I do not believe in ghosts, but I do not go around hurling insults at them.  That would be silly.  It is also illogical to claim some idea of right and wrong when there is no superseding authority over and above humanity.  It is also illogical to promote homosexual rights when they work against evolutionary development of the species (which is the highest ideal in an atheistic universe).  The reality is that they hate God.  Sadly, lest they repent, they will realize that no how far their hatred had gone all could have been forgiven just by receiving the Lord they once rejected.  Of course, for the most part and just like above, they have no real argument.  They parrot some things they hear on the internet that supposedly refutes the existence of Jesus.  Do a little real research and shine some truth on their lies.  Just like yesterday, they will scatter like cockroaches unable to stand in the light of truth. 

So make sure you stand up for Chicl-fil-A.  Take your family and enjoy a delicious dinner and fine and friendly service (I mean it, too.  They are really unusually friendly).  You will have a cheap night out and a great meal while supporting a company that stood for righteousness.  Let the real haters eat their inferior chicken sandwiches at McDonalds, Burger King, or even the other chicken places.  As for me and my house, we will be served a wonderful meal by the friendly and efficient staff at Chick-fil-A. 
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 NKJV