One argument I keep hearing against Protestantism is that there are so many Protestant denominations and surely God is not the God of confusion and would not let His church become so fractured. The implication is that Protestantism cannot be what God had in mind. This is in opposition to churches that feel they can trace their founding back to the first century as though having such a history is somehow a guarantee of orthodoxy.
This begs an important question. Should we expect, on earth, to find a perfect church that represents everything God had in mind when He started the church? If we look at the history of Israel, we see how even a near-theocratic nation, led by God, could get fractured. Israel had false prophets, false teachers, unbelieving Jews, legalistic Pharisees, doctrinally challenged Sadducees and a history of wandering from the faith. God always preserved a remnant, but the preaching of the Prophets shows God time and time again calling His people to repentance and more than once they were sent into captivity as a judgment on their sins.
What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Romans 3:1-2)
Despite having the Prophets, the Temple, the Scriptures (OT), and a cultural history of walking with God, the Jews often strayed and divisions existed. Unlike Judaism, which resided almost exclusively in Israel for centuries, Christianity spread beyond Israel almost from the start. It spread to Greeks and Romans, Egyptians, and people from all over. It spanned many languages and cultures. While it completed the message of the OT, it still brought change such that everyone was a convert at first. Being a Jew before becoming a Christian was not always an advantage as we see personified in the Judaizers. Some Jewish Christians brought the Law with them and attempted to add it to the Gospel. Many were initially uncomfortable with a faith without a Temple and a ceremonial law. It was a cultural shock to see Gentiles, once among the lowest of the low, suddenly on equal footing in the worship of God. In some ways, it was easier to come to Christ from a pagan background.
Not only were the Judaizers an early thorn in the side of the church but so were the Gnostics who tried to marry Platonian philosophy with Christianity. There were also false teachers and those who thought the gifts of God could be purchased. These things plagued the church while the Apostles were still alive. How much more so would they attack once the Apostles were gone? God did not spare the early church from division and strife. Paul wrote extensively to combat the false teachers and to address the divisions in the very churches he had established. These things were happening while the Apostles still lived. If God planned to preserve His church in unity, we don’t see evidence of it. Divisions existed right from the start.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
To expect to find a church today that lacks division or false teachers is a failure to learn from history. Paul warned us that there would be false teachers. Men who would tickle our ears. The Apostles battled false teaching by writing down the real teaching of the Lord and having it circulated among the churches. Their written record not only served as a hedge against false teaching 2000 years ago but serves that same purpose today.
There was never an earthly church preserved from error. Not even while the Apostles were alive. Jesus described tares growing up among the wheat to be separated on judgment day. Israel never had perfect unanimity and neither did the church. God always keeps a remnant though and that remnant is not confined to any one church, people group, social, or cultural group. It is comprised of those who cling to the truth, who study and show themselves approved, and who search the Scriptures.
In Biblical times it was not as easy to start a church as it is today. Most people walked to get to church. Most cities had but one church. You attended that church or none at all. Under different conditions, other churches might have sprung up like we see today.
What started on the Day of Pentecost, was the CHURCH, not a church. It was the church universal not to be confused with any particular church or denomination. The only sure teaching we have are those of Scripture. Anything else, no matter how godly, is the opinion of men. Only the Scriptures are divinely inspired. The writings of the early church fathers, while important and illuminating, are not on par with Scripture. If there were false teachers and false doctrine while the Apostles still lived, there certainly were 50, 100, or 200 years later. Even among these early writers, we see differences.
Does this leave us with no trustworthy faith? No! We often confuse that which is essential with that which is non-essential. In criticizing the many Protestant churches, the focus is always on their differences while turning a blind eye to their overwhelming similarities. A church’s style of worship, choice of eschatology, practice of speaking in tongues or not, … are not serious disagreements on the Gospel. Does one church’s decision to only sing hymns and another’s use of contemporary worship music constitute wholly different churches? Must all churches fall under one organizational structure? Where does Scripture teach that? We must not confuse the NT’s teaching on the church universal with that of the church local. We all want to claim we are THE church as though God confined all truth and righteous worship to just one group forever preserved from error. He did not so preserve Israel. He did not prevent division and false teachers in the Apostolic church. Why do we claim so now?
I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
What did Jesus mean by “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it?” Prevailing means overcoming and defeating. That would be the case if the truth was silenced and God had no remnant. That verse does not teach his church would not be attacked, not have divisions, and be preserved from all error. The tares will still grow among the wheat. Satan will not prevail against God’s church (the church universal). Satan will never stamp out faith on earth.
Sticking to a liturgy or structure for centuries is not a guarantee of truth. There was error mixed with truth from the very start of the church. We must always test all things against Scripture and distinguish between that which is tradition and that which is Scripture. Between that which is prescribed and that which is preference. OT worship was highly prescribed, yet it still did not stop false teachers and those with false hearts. The Pharisees were experts on what was prescribed yet added to it and were more concerned with the form than the substance. Jesus rightly called them empty tombs filled with dead men’s bones. He told us that the Father seeks those who worship in spirit and in truth. Having a tightly prescribed form still produced the Pharisees. It was not a guard against error. Truth was found in the Scriptures. The Pharisees neglected them and created a legalistic, manmade religion. They did not worship “in spirit and in truth.”
Would the Father prefer we had just one church we all belonged to? Perhaps but He is more concerned with preserving the wheat and keeping a faithful remnant. We worship in different languages in different places. We follow different liturgies or lack of liturgies. We sing different songs and have different histories but if we hold to the Gospel and worship in spirit and truth, those differences don’t matter. They are not the substance. There is nothing in Scripture that should make us assume there will be one church, preserved from error, that will endure. Instead, we see THE CHURCH, the church universal, that will prevail. That Jesus promised.
While attempts have been made to prove the existence of chakras, or energy centers in the body, nothing very concrete has been discovered. It seems to me to be more psychosomatic than physiological and I don’t think the difference matters to most believers in chakras. To them they simply exist. They believe they feel the flow of energy and the concentration of it in these centers. They believe they can feel blocked or unblocked. They don’t need medical science to validate their beliefs. The only ones who seem to care are the few that want some credibility in the eyes of the western establishment.
In my own study, I’ve come to believe what chakra practitioners mean by “energy” is something different than what I mean and what science would describe. As humans, we get chemical energy from the foods we eat. Our bodies convert the food we consume into nutrition that is spread through our blood stream to our tissue and organs and enables us to live and move. That is a form of chemical energy. Our bodies also turn some of this into heat. We call this thermal energy. That is why we are warm and when two bodies huddle they can give off a lot of shared heat. Our nervous system is made up of millions of neurons. Neurons have one or more dendrites, or tentacles, that act as antennae and receive information from other neurons. Within each neuron, chemicals (potassium and sodium) cause a polarity difference which results in an electrical signal moving across the body, or axon, of the neuron. When the electrical signal reaches the end of the neuron, it causes the neuron to release small chemicals called neurotransmitters which cross the synapse to a neighboring neuron where the process repeats. Thus the nervous system is able to send signals throughout the body. Sensory neurons receive information from receptors like the skin, the eyes, the nose, the tongue, etc. as well as from internal organs. Only small amounts of electrical energy can travel from one person to another. While it’s possible to feel a small shock when static current forms between people, these are small quantities of electricity and harmless.
The only conduits of electrical energy in our body are the nervous system. There are no storehouses or repositories of energy other than fat which is a formed of stored food energy. Each neuron contains the chemicals it needs to produce these small charges. To suggest one person can impart energy to another or direct it’s flow is not supported by science. Touching another person may cause a small, temporary static current, it is short-lived and not an ongoing exchange of energy. Humans get energy through the foods we eat. We don’t get it from other people or the sun or the earth, etc. The sun is needed for our food to exist but we don’t absorb energy through the skin. It is chemically produced by nutrition. When we describe feeling someone’s energy, we are really describing the changes in our receptors and how our minds interpret that information but there is no actual flow of energy. Our minds, if so inclined, may interpret it as such but physiologically there is no flow or exchange of energy. We may feel thermal energy or heat. We note the sensation of touch, even subtle changes in the air as someone’s hand gets near us. Yet this is not the same as saying their energy is flowing to us. We transfer energy through movement. When I cock my arm and throw a ball, the potential energy in my muscles is transferred to the ball to make it fly. In massage, muscular pressure can cause heat and movement of another’s muscles. However, that is not a transference of energy but rather the outcome of potential energy being applied. I cannot give you my energy. I can use my energy to move you (say pushing you) but I am not adding energy to your body.
I saw a demonstration at a tantric massage class where the instructor and an assistant lit a light bulb by touching each other in two places. The instructor cited this as evidence that energy can flow between people. If they only touched in one place, the bulb did not light. This experiment did not prove what he implied it did. Energy did in fact flow between them, but only a small amount of static electricity. At any moment, the human body produces the amount of electricity in a 100 watt light bulb. By touching in two places the instructor and his assistant were merely completing a circuit. The energy transference was minor. In his teaching, energy enters the body through transference either by touch or through our heads from the world around us. We are grounded when we have our feet flat on the ground. This instructor even went so far as to say that if you sat cross-legged you were not properly grounded. Your legs should not be crossed. This makes no sense as were energy flowing, as he believes, bends in knees would hardly stop the flow. I think it was said for effect and to make him sound more knowledgeable.
Psychology plays a great role in beliefs such as this. If someone is “trained” to sense energy in others and it’s suggested they will notice concentrations in specific areas, they might falsely interpret minor bits of thermal energy or subtle changes in airflow to indicate the presence of energy. They might say an area feels hot or cold. There could be a myriad of explanations for what they feel including that their minds are making it up. Likewise, the patient might be susceptible to suggestions. If they are told a certain area of their body feels hot, that might trigger their minds to send some nervous response to the area that causes them to feel there is something going on there. To them it is real and trying to suggest otherwise is very difficult.
Aside from the lack of scientific support, my main concern is actually the spiritual underpinnings on which this is built. Depending on who you read, some believe the concept came from ancient Egypt then was passed on to India. Others believe it started in India. There have been many different forms of the concept and many different numbers of chakras suggested. In one article I read said Westerners have completely misunderstood the true origin and meaning of chakras. The author claims that in the original Sanskrit, chakras were meant as objects of meditation and not representations of physical points in the body. (https://hareesh.org/blog/2016/2/5/the-real-story-on-the-chakras).
Originally, chakras were part of a meditative practice around Hindu deities. They have been westernized and repurposed and given a different focus such that what most westerners believe about chakras is quite different than the origins of them that the west claims to follow. It is these religious underpinnings that concern me. As a Christian, I want nothing to do with ancient Hindu scriptures and Hindu deities. I have often found that in the end, the belief in chakras is defended by saying that if you believe they are real and work for you, then they are real. If I believe I can fly and step off a cliff will that belief make me fly? No. I will fall to my death. We don’t create truth by our beliefs. Truth is objective and contradictory truths cannot exist. At least that is how the Bible defines truth. Once you step away from that, then truth is whatever you believe it to be. It is no longer rational or objective and thus contradictory truths can exist. I’ve seen many Christians get pulled off the path to chase after these mystical practices and beliefs. They fail to be discerning and grounded in the truth. They don’t see how they are disobeying and contradicting the Christian faith they claim to hold. They fail to look into the beliefs behind these practices and see no contradiction with their faith. The average Christian fails to get properly grounded in Scripture.
Whole books have been written on justification and imputation. I am not going to attempt to replicate them or give as full of a treatment. My purpose here is only to give an overview.
Let’s start with the term impute or imputation. It comes from Latin and is an accounting term that means “to apply to one’s account.” In finances, expenses are debited and income is credited. So, if something is imputed to you, it is credited to you or your account. The Reformer’s chose this term to differentiate it from the term the Roman Catholic church used which is infuse or infusion. When something is infused it is added to and mixed in with what is already there. Some people have health conditions that require them to receive infused medication. Instead of receiving a pill or a shot, they spend hours hooked up to an IV that drips and infuses the medication into their blood. An example of this is chemotherapy. Theologically, the term double imputation is used. Consider 2 Cor. 5:21:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This verse (though not only this verse) shows us double imputation. The first imputation is that of ours sins being imputed to Christ: “for our sake he made him to be sin.” Our sins were not infused into Christ’s as He “knew no sin.” No, our sins were imputed to Christ. Though He had never sinned he took upon Himself all our sins. God did this so that Christ’s death could atone for our sins. Jesus had no sins of His own to atone for but by imputation, he had our sins to atone for. The second imputation is that His righteousness was imputed to us: “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The righteousness of God is a righteousness that only God can have. We can never, on our own, posses such righteousness. We become “the righteousness of God” through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
Infusion says Christ’s righteousness is added to ours and it is this mixed righteousness that becomes our righteousness before God. What can we add to the righteousness of God? Since God’s righteousness is perfect and complete there is nothing we can add to it. Can you add more time to eternity? Can you add more numbers past infinity? If you have the righteousness of God then you have perfect and complete righteousness. The very righteousness of God Himself! That is what this verse teaches us. Christ took on our sin and atoned for it so that we could take on His righteousness and be saved. One theologian said that two of the most beautiful words in the Bible are for us. Jesus lived, died, and resurrected for us. For us, He took our sins upon Himself and shed His blood to atone for them and gave us His righteousness.
Underlining has been added for emphasis:
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Romans 1:17)
For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Romans 4:13)
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith (Romans 9:30)
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction (Romans 3:21-22)
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor 1:30)
Note here we become “righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Sanctification is listed as separate from righteousness and after it.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4)
“In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23:6)
“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)
Note that righteousness is a gift. If it was something, even in part, we earned it would not be a gift.
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (Romans 4:5)
Here we see the world credited which is the same concept as imputation. This verse expressly says faith is “credited as righteousness” to “the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly.” God justifies “the ungodly.” That does not sound like someone who has had Christ’s righteousness infused into his own. Were that the case, he would not be ungodly. What is credited to him as righteousness? His faith. It is his faith, not his works that are credited as righteousness.
I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)
For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19)
for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26)
Who does God justify? The “one who has faith in Jesus.” Faith, not works.
and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil 3:9)
Again, our righteousness is not derived from the Law (works) but “through faith in Christ.” That righteousness “comes from God on the basis of faith.”
I hope these verses show that we are justified on the basis of having been imputed the righteousness of Christ on the basis of our faith in Him, itself a gift of God.
As I have previously written, sanctification necessarily follows justification. Sanctification is an ongoing and progressive work in our lives as we gradually become more and more like Jesus Christ:
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6)
Sanctification is that ongoing work that God has begun and will one day perfect.
One misconception I find about salvation by faith alone, is that it becomes a license to sin. Since you are “saved by faith alone” then you can sin all you want once you express faith. Paul addressed this and wrote “May it never be!” Here is the fallacy in that. First, you can express faith but not possess faith. In other words, no expression of faith saves you unless you truly possess faith. You can say all the right words but if in your heart you don’t truly believe what you are saying then that is a counterfeit faith. Ever heard the term, “foxhole faith?” It’s been said “there are no atheists in foxholes.” In times of crisis men will sometimes cry out to God for protection or deliverance. Such faith may not be genuine. It may be just a “hail mary” (i.e. just in case God exists I will ask for his help). That’s not to say deathbed faith or foxhole faith is never genuine. God, who alone sees the heart, knows. True faith, while it can be born in a crisis, remains even when the crisis has passed. In His parable of the seed, Jesus talks about how some of the seed sown gets choked out by weeks or never grows. There are those who respond to an invitation of faith, but we see over time that their faith was not genuine. The thief on the cross, one might say, was a “foxhole believer” yet Jesus said he would be with Him that day in Paradise. While his faith might have been expressed under extreme crisis, He possessed true saving faith.
I wrote previously, that God saves us to “walk in good works He prepared beforehand for us.” If you truly possess saving faith it will produce fruit in your life. When God declares you just on the basis of Christ’s righteousness through your faith, He doesn’t just change your status from sinner to saint and then leave you alone. That is a misconception! That is not what salvation by faith alone teaches! When God saves you, He changes you. You are given a new nature. That new nature cannot help but produce faith. Thus, a changed man will not have an attitude of “I can sin all I want because I am saved by faith alone.”
When we realize how sinful our sin is, and how Christ took our sin upon Him, how can we not want to please and obey Him? If someone saves your life, would you not be grateful to them? If we would be grateful to someone who saved our physical life, would we not be much more grateful to someone who saves our spiritual life and thus our eternal soul?
Sometimes, to try and question salvation by faith alone, people will put hypothetical questions to you like “Could you murder someone, feel no remorse, and still be saved?” My answer would be no! It’s possible a saved person could murder someone (though unlikely) but not without remorse. The Holy Spirit would convict their conscience of their sin. Usually these hypothetical questions presuppose situations that would never occur with a truly saved person. However, if you answer (even with qualification) that yes that person would still be saved, they say “Aha! See, you don’t think how someone lives matters at all. You can say you believe, live like the devil, but still be saved.” If someone is “living like the devil”, and never repents, then I would seriously question their possession of saving faith. I would suspect they never had saving faith and thus are not saved. It is exactly this time of “easy believism” that James and other NT authors write against. Their writings do not teach that we need works to be saved, but that without works we weren’t saved. God does not wait to see those works before He saves us. He saves us when we possess no good works, but transforms us such that good works necessarily follow.
I believe the key to all this, is to understand that saving faith is a gift. God choses who receives this gift. The possession and expression of saving faith is a work of God through us. Without that gift, we can express faith but it is an empty faith and not from God. We should not confuse the two. If you merely express faith without possessing it, you might “live like hell” or have an attitude that you can sin all you want because you are saved by grace, but you will be mistaken and find yourself on Judgment Day hearing “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23)
You never get a do over in life. You can start over but you can never do over.
God never promised us an easy life. He never promised we’d be free of pain, sadness, loss, or persecution. He did promise He’d be with us to the very end of the age.
God never said He would take away all the consequences of our sin or of those whose sin harmed us. He did say He would wash our sins away as white as snow.
Sometimes God’s greatest work is accomplished in our pain and suffering. How we handle suffering is sometimes our greatest witness to a world that suffers but sees suffering as something to be avoided.
We will not find justice in this life but before the throne of God justice will be handed out and by the grace of God so will mercy.
Happiness is not a feeling when all is well or we are having fun. Happiness is a by-product of a right relationship with God. It is learning to be content and give thanks no matter what our circumstances.
Trials are a part of live as a believer. God is preparing us for eternity and to make us more Christ like.
Nothing on this earth will satisfy the longing of our soul. Only God can fill that vacuum in our hearts. The only true soulmate we will ever have is Jesus Christ.
If we do find happiness and joy, friends and family, good health and good living we owe it all to God and His good grace and good pleasure.
The greatest words we can ever hope to hear are “Well done good and faithful servant. Come and enter into the rest I have prepared for you.”
The greatest act we will ever perform will be to take the Crown of Glory off our heads and cast it to the feet of Jesus on His throne.
What we have cannot be bought with all the money in the world and the richest man or woman will never have as much as us. Our treasure is in our hearts and bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Therefore rejoice and give thanks to God Almighty. He loves you, cherishes you, died for you, and calls you His child.
There is no greater love and this truly is the greatest story ever told.
Look to Jesus and you will never lack for anything again.
I’ve come to a realization that has only taken nearly 56 years of life to come to. That realization is that no matter what has happened in your past you can’t get a do over but you can start over. The real significant part though is that while you can start over you can’t always erase the scars of the past. God can help you deal with them but He doesn’t always erase them.
I’ve heard and read amazing stories of people coming to the Lord from highly troubled pasts and instantly being healed of them (e.g. drug addiction). Praise God! If you know the Lord then you know He can do ANYTHING. Yet Paul prayed three times to have the “thorn in the flesh” removed from him and God did not grant him that desire. Whatever that was Paul had to carry it with him to the grave. What Paul learned was that when he was weak God was strong. He learned to lean on God and be content no matter what.
I’ve met many well meaning people who perhaps had some difficulties in their past who hoping to help me have told me I just need to make up my mind that I am no longer controlled by the past and everything will change. It did for them they say. Perhaps that worked for them and I’m not denying their claims but such thoughts seem inspired by the school of thought that says we are what we think and if we truly believe something we will have it. Christians know better. God is sovereign. Paul did not suffer from a lack of belief. His faith was amazing. The problem was not with Paul. The problem was Paul at first not seeing that his affliction was being allowed by God to bring about a greater faith and trust in Paul. God was using “all things” to work together for good in Paul’s life (Romans 8:28).
It reminds me of the gospel story of the military commander who sent word to Jesus through a servant that his son was dying and he wished for Jesus’ healing of his son. He added that it was not necessary for Jesus to come to his house. He believed that if the Lord would just “say the word” his servant would be healed. But it was “if” the Lord said the word. God is always sovereign. Jesus marveled at his faith.
Happiness is not having all our thorns removed. Happiness is learning to praise God and lean on His grace with our thorns. Happiness is a by-product of a right relationship with God. Think about that. Happiness is NOT dependent on our circumstances but on our relationship with God and that is something no one, no disease, no trauma, no tragedy, nobody, can take away from us. Thus we can be happy even in the midst of those things. That’s not to say we have no emotions except happiness. Tragedy still troubles us but we see those things through God’s eyes. We see the big picture; the eternal picture. We’ve read the end of the book so we know what will ultimately happen.
We can’t believe away our problems but we can believe our way to victory over them. God does sometimes take them away and what an awesome God we serve! Yet even when He doesn’t He brings about good (Romans 8:28). Faith is not asking why but saying why not? Why not me? Faith is growing through our trials not just asking God to remove them.
I can’t go back and make my past different as appealing as that seems. To be honest even if God gave me that power as a one-time gift I would not exercise it. I don’t know what I would be like today were it not for the trials in my life. Perhaps I would be an even better believer but perhaps I would take so much for granted and not have the battle tested faith I have. I would not risk that and I trust that God is causing all things to work together for good, that His preparing me for eternity, that my tears will be turned into joy, and that He who began a good work in me will complete it.
Starting over is realizing you have no strength in yourself but can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. It is learning like the Apostle Paul to be content no matter what our circumstances.
At the end of his trial Job received many blessings from God yet the family he lost was still gone. Gone at least until he joined them in heaven. Job’s memories of that trial did not get erased. Job though knew God better than ever before and saw his own limitations and foolishness. His ultimate act of character was to put his hand over his mouth acknowledging that he had no right to answer back to God.
Ultimately we have to trust in God’s goodness, love, and grace. If we believe in Him then we must trust Him. That means trusting our daily lives to Him and His will. Can we do it any better than to do it His way?
I think the #1 reason people refuse to follow Christ is a failure to grasp the holiness of God and by contrast their sinfulness. We compare ourselves to an arbitrary standard, pick out the worst in society or history, and judge ourselves to be “pretty good.” Therefore, if there is a God (not that they need one), then surely he would not reject a “good person.” Yet our righteousness is like a dark cave compared to God’s which is like the blinding sun at noonday. Stare at the sun too long and you will blind yourself. Our eyes simply cannot handle that much pure light.
Imagine a man who lived his entire life from birth in a dark cave with seemingly no way out. A stream trickles through with some fish and the climate is warm enough that he does not die from exposure. His eyes have grown accustomed to the darkness of the cave. He can’t really see much but his eyes, accustomed to the extreme darkness, can make out a little. Then one day some cave explorers find a way into his cave and discover him. They have bright lights on their heads that blind him. He has to look away as he’s never seen such brightness. He can’t understand their language but they seem trusting and he allows them to lead him. Realizing his eyes aren’t ready for the full light they put a bag over his head as they approach the exit. At first he is frightened why they would do such a thing but suddenly he senses he is in more light than he thought possible even with a dark bag over his head. It takes months of gradual exposure to the light for him to get to where he can open his eyes fully outdoors. Finally he can see and a new world all around him. A world he could never have imagined. Yet compared to the brightness of the pure sun he is still limited in what he can see as are all the others there who never knew the darkness he did. He can though see more than he could have imagined.
We are spiritually born into utter darkness like the man in the cave. All we know is darkness yet are convinced we can see as our eyes have adjusted to the darkness and we can dimly make out a few things. We have no idea that such brightness as the sun exists! Indeed it is so foreign to all we’ve even known that we cannot even imagine such a thing. We have no idea what we are missing outside of that cave. We don’t even realize a world exists outside that cave. We don’t know we’re in a cave. The cave is our world, our universe. We have no idea how we got there or what awaits us.
One day someone comes into our cave and through sign language communicates the idea that there is a whole wide world outside the cave and that there is light in that world. We have to choose though if we are willing to leave the safety and comfort of the cave (at least it feels safe and comfortable to us) or venture outside into the light. Scarcely believing such a world exists and feeling we already have all we need we decline to follow. Why go we reason? There is nothing more to life than what we have. This person is deluded. Logically they are either a liar, a lunatic, or highly unlikely are correct. We don’t trust them. Even if they are correct how do we know what the outside is like? What if they make us a prisoner or make us live a miserable life? Why risk so much for the unknown that really doesn’t make sense to us? So we stay (John 3:19).
Jesus Christ is the man coming into the cave to lead us out into the light. Yet we love the darkness more than the light. God the Father is the sun. His holiness is SO bright our eyes cannot look upon it. We will need new eyes if we ever hope to gaze upon such light. If we follow Christ out of the cave our eyes begin to adjust to the light slowly over time. We begin to see our sin but also the greatness and grace of God and the beauty of all He has created. No longer hidden away in darkness we now marvel in the light. Such beauty! So much to marvel at! We are aware though that compared to the brightness of the sun we are still in relative darkness but for the first time in our lives we understand that there is more than the pure darkness. There is a marvelous light. We cannot fully gaze upon it yet but we look forward to the day we can.
Praise God that He sends His Son (John 9:4) to us in the darkness of our sin and leads us into the light and into a life we never knew possible! Those in the darkness think they are the ones having all the fun with absolutely no idea how much they are missing out on. Non-Christians think Christians lead boring lives not allowed to have any fun. How little do they realize that true fun is not in license to do whatever we want (which in their case is controlled by their blindness) but in the freedom to be whom God created us to be. We are not slaves or handcuffed. We are living the life God designed us to live.
If you are wealthy enough you can buy a sports cars capable of hitting speeds of 260 mph. Yet if all you do is drive it around town in 25-45 mph zones you have no idea what the car is capable of and the feeling of opening it up wide and feeling the hum of the engine as the car rockets to its maximum speed. You will never know the thrill or riding a bike until you take the training wheels off. Those in Christ are living life to the full. Their engines are running full throttle. Those who reject Christ are driving that expensive sports car at 35 mph having no idea what more that car could do.
Too many are born, live, and die in the cave never knowing the light. When their eyes are finally opened it is on Judgement Day and it is too late. The passed up on their opportunity to leave the cave preferring the darkness. Given their choice God rightfully sentences them to eternal darkness. That is after all what they wanted. They had a chance to step out into the light and see but they preferred the darkness. Their lifetime passed without ever choosing to leave the cave so now they will dwell in eternal darkness. Yet now, for a time of judgment, their eyes are open and they are startled by what they see. Yet all too quickly they are taken back to the darkness from which they will never leave. The greatest suffering they will experience is having glimpsed the light and now with understanding realize their doom. Oh they will curse God and hate Him for not allowing them into His light! Yet for a lifetime they refused Him. He sent many to their cave to rescue them but they refused to leave. They were told about the marvels that awaited them outside the cave yet still would not leave. The rejected everyone who ever came to them. So now God has given them an eternity to live out their choice. They got what they spent a lifetime wanting. Yet somehow God is at fault!
No God is not at fault. We must take responsibility for our choices. Faith is when we do take responsibility for our sin and acknowledge it to God and ask for His forgiveness, His grace, and ask Him to lead us to the light promising to follow Him. The choice is ours. Do we stay in the cave of eternal darkness or do we step out in faith and embrace the light? Do we believe we are already living life to the full or do we trust God to show us how to really live life to the full? Do we accept our car can only do 55 mph or trust that it really can do 260 mph and even more?
That is the question. That is the choice. How will you choose?
I have read many impassioned pleas by those who feel Christians are to blame for them not having the right to same sex marriage or abortion. They ask why we can’t just let it go and if they are wrong then let God show them. As one woman on Facebook put it:
You are going to be just fine should I choose to marry a woman…you really don’t need to be in control of who I choose to be with … no matter how you feel about homosexual unions… it is not really important for you to control it. If you really feel it is a “sin,” then let God teach me…that is His/Her/whatever you believe’s job, not yours. LET IT GO!!!
While I know she writes with great passion for her beliefs I must point out a few flaws in her logic. First, we live in a democracy which means we all have equal rights to voice our opinions and beliefs and support the candidates we want and vote according to our conscience. We believe in the First Amendment which is why there was such an outcry when the French satirical journalists were killed by Islamic extremists. So I have just as much right to oppose same sex marriage or abortion as she has to support it. What she wants is not really free speech. She wants a world in which no one will stand up for what they believe if it might impose on someone else’s choices. Yet is society acted as she wishes we would have very few laws and soon lawlessness would reign. Why have a speed limit if it imposes on someone’s joy in driving 120 mph? Our founding fathers believed that we each have a voice and it is by engaging those voices and debate that we often arrive at the best decision. We should not silence those whose beliefs might oppose other’s beliefs.
Second she fails to understand Christianity although that is not her sole focus. Her statement implies it is only God’s role to teach. Hebrews 5:12 says “by reason of time you ought to be teachers.” Teacher is a role and gift listed in Scripture. God teaches us by His Word (the Bible) and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit yet gifts some with a special talent for teaching. Parents are to teach their children in the ways of the Lord just as those with the gift of teaching are to instruct the church. This writer has failed to consider that God may be trying to teach her through the voices she so opposes.
This generation has mistakenly made tolerance the highest moral value. Live and let live some say. Yet at times opposition is a gift from heaven to keep us from harming ourselves or others. Proverbs 27:6 says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are profuse.” A true friend will not be afraid to tell it like it is even at the risk of offending you. Would you prefer your doctor not to inform you that you have cancer because that might upset you? Would it not be better to know the truth as there might still be time to treat the cancer and live? We value a friend who can correct us when we are wrong and change the course we are on. If we tolerated all our children’s selfishness and disobedience they would grow up to be selfish, entitled adults expecting the world to bow to their will. Parents are not always and at all times their children’s best friends.
The Bible tells us that absolute truth does exist and is defined by God. We may live in a pluralistic society with all sorts of beliefs but for the Christian there are absolutes and we must always uphold them. It is clear from my reading of the Bible that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman only. Not two men or two women. Sex between two men or two women is likewise condemned. I realize not all agree nor care what I believe but my highest allegiance is to God and as long as my government allows me free speech and to vote my conscience I will oppose same sex marriage. I don’t hate same sex couples but I cannot agree that what they want is marriage. Certainly not as God defined marriage and He is THE author of marriage. I would lovingly call them to consider God’s purpose for their lives and for marriage. I am though but one voice and ultimately the majority will likely prevail. I have no doubt in time that same sex marriage will be legal in all 50 states. That does not make it right. Nearly all of Germany supported Hitler yet that did not make him a good or moral man.
God calls us to be His witnesses for the truth. We have voices and must use them. Whether we carry the vote in the end or not we are to speak the truth in love. I’m sorry this woman cannot see that. She thinks us as mean spirited or controlling. Is a parent who forbids their child from playing with matches being controlling? Perhaps but that control may just save their child’s life. God gave them the role of parenting their children teaching them right from wrong. Likewise God has given His children the role of standing up for good and truth in this world. We cannot fail Him. We must speak the truth no matter how unpopular and if we are the only one. That is not control it is love.
Image: Statue of Pope Paul II falls and crushes a man to death just 2 days before John Paul II is declared a Saint. Where was his intercession on behalf of this man?
Yesterday Pope Francis honored John XXIII and John Paul II declaring them saints. Sainthood is a uniquely Roman Catholic practice that is not well understood by non-Catholics and perhaps even some Catholics. I’ve read where some Catholic commentators liken a saint to a hero of the faith. Someone to look up to and celebrate.The Roman Catholic Church teaches that saints are to be venerated which means to revere or hold in deep respect. Nothing wrong with having heroes or great examples of faith. However, in Roman Catholic theology a saint is more than a hero.
The Catholic Church has redefined the Biblical term “saint” or added a new class of saints. Biblically anyone who is a believer in Jesus Christ is a saint. Saints are not a special class of believers set apart by especially noteworthy lives or supposed miracles attributed to them nor subject to any earthy inquiry and ceremony. All who are in Christ are saints. So the Roman Catholic use of the term saint and declaring certain people saints is not using the term in its Biblical sense.
More than that though their belief about what sainthood means is also non-Biblical. Among other requirements, candidates for sainthood must have two miracles attributed to them. One while living and another after death.The purpose of there being a miracle after death is to prove the candidate is in heaven, receiving our prayers, and interceding before God on behalf. Yet nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to pray to anyone other than God! There is not one example of Jesus, the Apostles, or any of Christ’s followers praying to anyone but God alone. 1 Timothy 2:5 says there is “one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” The Catholic Church tries to side step this verse by claiming it does not preclude “lesser mediators.” Therefore Christ is our “one mediator” when it comes to salvation but other mediators are possible in lesser matters. They cite the Apostle Paul exhorting men to make intercessory prayers. Yet Paul was writing to living men. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest there is any possibility of someone in this life communicating with someone in heaven other than God Himself. In fact, prayer, but it’s very definition is communication with God! To use the word prayer to cover communication with someone who has died and believed to be in heaven is a misuse of the word. Christ is the one who intercedes on our behalf before the Father and it is to Him alone we pray.
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:34 NIV)
If we have Christ interceding for us why would we need anyone else? Do we imagine a sovereign God is persuaded in His actions by the intercession of a “saint?” No! We pray not to persuade God but to be changed by our prayers into trusting God, His mercy, His goodness, and His will. Prayer changes us not God. God does not change His mind because of our prayers or anyone else’s. So why do we ask other people to pray for us? It gives us comfort, it reminds us that we are all one in Christ, it teaches us all to look to God, trust in Him, and accept His will. God though is sovereign. His will is not moved by our prayers nor swayed by the sheer volume of prayers. To suggest a “saint” or Mary “has God’s ear” and can intercede on our behalf is not only un-Biblical but robs Christ of His role as our sole mediator.
What about the miracles attributed to the intercession of these former Popes or other past saints? Certainly God has and can perform miracles but Biblical miracles are always done for the glory of God. In the Book of Acts we find in chapter 14 an account of Paul healing a lame man. After the healing the crowds became excited exclaiming “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” (Acts 14:11). What was Paul’s response?
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you…” (Acts 14:15)
Paul was desperate to open their eyes that this man was healed by God and not be some “god” as they supposed he was. The focus of all the Biblical miracles was God never the servant through who attended over the miracle. The disciples of Paul did not venerate him because he healed people nor any of the other Apostles. They attributed the miracle to God and God alone. If someone would have tried to honor Paul because it was his intercession that brought about the miracle I can imagine Paul tearing his shirt and demanding that he was nothing and it was by the hand of God the man was healed and not due to Paul in any way. Yet the Roman Catholic Church goes to great lengths to attribute these miracles to the intercession of some saint and the focus quickly becomes the saint and not the Lord.Suddenly everyone is praying to that Saint. One woman was said to have been cured by holding a picture of the late Pope to the tumor on her neck and leaving it there overnight while praying to him. I have a very hard time with that. Biblical miracles never drew attention to the hands through which God worked but to God Himself. While Jesus once used spit and mud He never gave someone a piece of his clothing and told them to wrap their lame leg in it or sleep with it on their eyes. The whole focus is wrong in the case of the Catholic sainthood “miracles.”
I would even suggest it’s possible these were not true miracles. While only God knows it would not be unlike Satan to cure someone if it put the focus on a man and not on God. Now we have a billion Catholics world wide praying to “saints” and venerating them rather than focusing all their attention on the Lord.
Many have also suggested that the choice of these two Popes is to politically be inclusive by making saints of two different styles of Pope. While I cannot read the mind of Pope Francis the mere suggestion makes the whole thing more laughable. Should “saints” be chosen for political considerations?
Sadly sainthood, like so many other uniquely Catholic traditions, is not Biblical. The Catholic faithful don’t seem to mind though. They have bought into the authority of the church and its traditions and do not test by Scripture what they are taught. The Book of Acts highlights the Berean Christians:
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
The examined the Scriptures to test what Paul was teaching them! Even the great Apostle Paul with all the miraculous things God did through him was checked up on by the very people he was teaching. This is mentioned to their credit. That meant opening, reading, and knowing their Scripture. It was not enough that Paul said it. Yet in my 24 years as a Catholic and in the lives of almost every Catholic I know no one questions the priest, the bishop, the cardinal, or the Pope. No one learns their Bible and checks for themselves. If pressed they run to Catholic Answers or some Catholic site to look up a response incapable of searching the Scriptures for themselves.
I hope these two past Popes are in heaven but if they are I guarantee they are not hearing our prayers. Do I question their salvation? Possibly as the Catholic Church does not preach the Gospel as they add works to faith thus preaching a false Gospel and Paul sternly said that if anyone preaches a false Gospel they shall be damned to hell. I will let God decide that though as He is judge.
Let us celebrate all who follow Jesus Christ. They are the saints. They don’t need a ceremony, the blessing of a living Pope, or any man made process. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus and not on men.
According to Dictionary.com, a preacher is “a person whose occupation or function it is to preach the gospel”. Sounds right. Now what is the gospel? The word “gospel” comes from two Greek words but in essence means “to bring the good news.” The same words were used to describe a messenger or runner sent from the front lines of battle to deliver news of victory to the King. So a preacher is someone who proclaims the good news. Now I come to the crux of the purpose of this article, what is the good news? What victory was won? What great thing happened?
Good news is good exactly because it is not bad. The military messenger’s message would not be good news if the army lost the battle. It is good news because there was an alternative and that was bad news. In the case of the gospel the bad news was not just a potential outcome it was a reality. Every human being is born under the outcome of the bad news. The bad news is that we are all born in sin separated from a Holy God. Theologians call it original sin. It is the sin of Adam and Eve and their disobedience applied to all mankind. When they fell (sinned) in the Garden we (all mankind) fell with them. It was a representative judgment where a group is judged by the actions of one or a few. As a result of that original sin we are born with a sin nature. By nature we are in rebellion against God, against His authority over us. We want to make our own rules, decide our future. We want to be our own man; our own woman. We want to judge for ourselves what is right and wrong. We don’t need God or at least we don’t need a God who is going to tell us how to live and stifle our fun. At least while life is good we can ignore God or at most look to Him as a cosmic vending machine who dispenses only the good things want. Leave religion for the fanatics, the foxholes, the dying, and anyone else not strong enough to stand on their own two feet and thus in need of an imaginary crutch to help them stand.
The Bible describes this state we are born into:
Romans 3:10-12, and 23
As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” … For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.(NLT)
So Paul’s letter to the Romans informs us that “no one is righteous” (i.e right with God). “No one is seeking God” (i.e. we are not searching for Him). We have all become useless. We have all turned away. No one does good. Not a single one. That is part I of the bad news. All means all as is in everyone! No one means not a single one. There are no exceptions. This is who we are in our natural state which we were born into.
In case you think Paul was not inspired and misrepresented Jesus then hear what Jesus had to say:
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Jesus describes a narrow gate through which we may find eternal life and “few who find it.” We’ll come back to this but that doesn’t exactly sound like the universalist approach that there are “many paths to God.” If that were the case then the gate would be wide yet Jesus said the wide gate “leads to destruction.” Christians are often accused of being narrow minded precisely because we don’t embrace universalism (in case you are not familiar with that term it is a belief that all religion is equal and all bring man in harmony with the divine.) Christians are labeled intolerant because we don’t believe all beliefs are equal. Instead we believe in absolute truth (i.e. that their are absolute truths that cannot be violated and that two “truths” cannot coexist. Buddhism cannot be the path to the same “god” Christianity is. They are not different but equal paths to the same end. They are different paths to different ends.
So where does this leave us?
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT)
Wages are something you are owed for services rendered. You sign an employment contract and you perform your work as instructed then your employer owes you wages as agreed upon in the contract. If not there are laws to protect you and enable you to recover your wages. So you earn your wages. Romans 6:23 says the “wages of sin is death.” What kind of death? Physical death? No worse. Spiritual death. Yes we will die physically and that is part of the punishment of the fall of Adam and Eve but note in this verse death is being contrasted with “eternal life.” Eternal life is eternal life with God which goes far beyond the physical.
There is another critical contrast apparent in this verse. Not that our sin is due wages (i.e. we are owed death) whereas the contrast is the “free gift of God” – eternal life. Can you earn a gift? Dictionary.com defines a gift as:
“something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned”
People give gifts not out of obligation nor expecting repayment. They are unmerited, unearned. Don’t confuse gifts as used in the Bible with our human institution of gift giving. We might withhold a birthday gift from an unruly, or ingracious child saying they don’t deserve it. However that is a contradiction. It would not be a gift if it had to be deserved. Gifts are not earned or owed. A good word to introduce now is the word grace. In the Bible grace comes from a Greek word meaning “unmerited favor.” If God gives a free gift it is pure grace.
So in summary here is the picture. We are born in sin. The wages of sin is death. The road to eternal life is narrow and few find it. The only way out is the free gift of God of eternal life. There you have the bad news. We are sinners deserving hell. There is good news though too! God offers us a free gift of eternal life. How do we get that gift?
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
How many ways are their to God? Jesus said He was the only way. Can Buddhism lead you to God? Can Hinduism? Can Joseph Smith? Can your own spiritual beliefs? Nope. Is that narrow minded? Sure. Is it narrow minded to say “2+2=4” and not 5 or 3? Is it narrow minded to say water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit? No those are absolute truths. Too many people today throw around the term “God/god.” “God” can be anything to anyone. So when I speak of God I mean the God of the Old and New Testament. I mean Jesus Christ. I mean him and him alone. I have run into spiritual teachers who say they believe in Jesus but they also believe in Buddha, Confucius, and a host of others. No Jesus said He is the only way. He is not a path he is the (one and only) path.
Now some of you may have been reading earlier in this article and raised an understandable question. Why should I be born in sin because of what Adam and Eve did? That doesn’t seem fair. Shouldn’t I stand or fall on my own? Hmmmm…ok do you really think you could live a lifetime and never sin? Have you ever even made it through a day or a week? You’ve never lusted in an improper way? You’ve never had hateful thoughts toward someone? You’ve never lied? Never cheated? We live in a world today full of temptation. We have Internet porn, unlimited access to entertainment of all kinds not all of which are good, streets full of sights and sounds meant to entice us to sin. Now think about Adam and Eve. They lived in a beautiful garden. No tv, no radio, no billboards, X rated movies. Just the two of them and God. Plus they were born without original sin. So they had a nature that could truly chose between right and wrong. Yet what happened when temptation came in the form of a snake but in the person of Satan? They caved in minutes. Do you really think you could have done better? Really? Ok so maybe you do. Maybe you think you could have lived a lifetime without every once sinning. If so you would have then been very lonely in heaven as I don’t think anyone else would be joining you! Was it really unfair of God though to judge us through Adam and Eve? Consider the flip side of that coin. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 Paul refers to Adam as the “first man” and Jesus as the ‘last man.” Remember the story of David and Goliath? The Philistines had this giant of a man that no one could defeat in battle. There mere sight of him put fear in men’s hearts. Goliath taunted the Israelites offering to fight their best man winner take all. It was really psychological warfare as the Philistines knew nobody in Israel would dare take on Goliath with the nation’s fate riding on the outcome. What they were proposing though was representative form of war. We each pick our best warrior and let them decide if for the rest of us. We should be able to relate to that. Many of us live in democratic countries where we elect our representatives. We don’t get to vote on bills they do. On a much larger scale our military represents the whole country. During WWII the US had approximately 16 million men and women serving in the military in some capacity. That represented about 11% of the total population. In subsequent wars the percentages have been much smaller. Still 11% represented 140 million.Had they failed out country might have eventually fallen. Let’s go back to the free gift of God or grace. God could have left us in our sins, sent us all to hell, and we would have had no right to complain. Instead He freely gave of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus was our David. He took on that giant of sin and through His death on the cross and His shed blood he won the victory. He sacrificed Himself for us. Except His death was not the end as death had no hold on him. 3 days later her rose from the dead. All we have to do is accept his death and victory on our behalf and put our faith and trust in Him and Him alone. That sounds like good news to me! If you don’t like the good news and think you can do better on your own then I hope you can lead a sinless life. I’m sure it’s already too late for that though. Plus we are born in sin so you are born condemned and incapable of leading a sinless life.Jesus is the way. The only way.
Would the Good News be good news if you did not know the bad news? Imagine the king when the runner appears and announced we won the battle and the King says “what battle?” “All my troops are resting and none are at battle so I don’t know what you are talking about.” Until we realize we have a sin problem that has eternal consequences we are tempted to think we are fine. We think we are a “good person” and therefore surely God will let us into heaven. We don’t, nor could, understand the absolute holiness of God. He cannot allow sin in His presence. Not any amount. No one can be good enough.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
You can’t earn your salvation. As we saw earlier it is a gift not something you earned and God owes you. It is “not as a result of works.” This is a stumbling block to the pride of man. We want to believe we are good. We want to believe we contributed to our salvation. It is a blow to our ego to admit we can do nothing to save ourselves. God has to do it all. Yes when we truly understand the “bad news” we are so grateful that God made a way. He could have left us in our sins but chose to send His Son to die for us. We can be washed by His blood and have our sins erased. We marvel that God would save us.
I took pains to explain this because in my next post I want to address the trend today to ignore the bad news and even aspects of the Good News. Many pastors/preachers today are motivational speakers rather than preachers of the Bible. They are more Christian Tony Robbins. Yes there is tremendous motivation in the Bible but Christianity is not about being healthy, wealthy, or being positive all the time. God wants something greater for you. He wants to give you spiritual health, spiritual wealth, and an eternal perspective that allows even the negative things to be seen as part of God’s great plan.
Tim Tebow’s faith has been a hot topic for several years now. Not so much his faith but rather his expression of his faith in public. I don’t follow American Idol but one of the 11 finalists, Colton Dixon, has been warned by the producers of the show that his overt Christianity might cost him votes and ultimately lead to his exit from the show. People seem divided by the likes of Tim Tebow and Colton Dixon. On one hand they appreciate their talent but on the other hand they don’t want to hear about their faith. For some their expression of faith overrides their talent and they are simply not a fan.
My first reaction is that no one is forcing them to listen to or read the interviews nor is anyone forcing the media to interview these talented Christians. If you don’t like who they are or their expression of their faith then simply don’t interview them or watch the interviews. Pretty simple really. Why listen then complain? Did anyone put a gun to your head and force you to listen? Last I checked we still have freedom of speech in this country so if Tim Tebow or Colton Dixon want to give thanks to their Lord for their talent and success than that is their right.
Apparently what people want is a vanilla society in which no one ever offends our beliefs or bores us with their faith. Sorry but short of some scifi film-like society where we are all controlled by Big Brother we all stand for something. In the same news today I read about George Clooney saying the US must do something in Somalia. The same George Clooney recently spoke out in favor of gay marriage. Now I could complain and say George Clooney should restrict his public comments to acting and film. Why is an actor using his celebrity status to promote gay marriage or US involvement in Somalia? Agree or disagree with George Clooney he has a right to express his beliefs and use any avenue he wants to put out the message. He is certainly not the first or only celebrity to speak out in support of causes.
Athletes and other celebrities often thank their parents, agents, promoters, friends, and others for their success in interviews or at award ceremonies. Why is it ok to thank Mom and Dad and not Jesus? Maybe it’s because you believe Mom and Dad did help but you don’t believe in Jesus so you don’t want to hear about him. Or maybe you think there is a Jesus but people create their own success. Irrelevant. Tim Tebow and Colton Dixon believe Jesus made a difference in their life and are going to give credit where they believe credit is due. This is another case of “Your God is too Big.” See giving God credit implies a God who is active in our lives and capable of having an impact on our lives. For those who don’t believe in God or want a distant, disinterested God that is offensive.
Well get over it! There are some of us who believe every good gift, every talent, every success comes from the providence of God. Our faith defines us and makes us who we are. Tim Tebow without his savior is no longer Tim Tebow. Love him or hate him Tim Tebow is one of the most sincere and transparent people around. He is not trying to hide who he is. Some people suggest he is trying to shove his faith down their throats. I don’t think being honest about who you are is shoving your faith down people’s throats. Apparently any public expression of faith is viewed as “shoving” by some people. If so there is a lot of shoving going on in our society and those who get on Tim Tebow’s case or Colton Dixon’s better start going after celebrities like George Clooney too.
The thing is you’re not going to silence Tim Tebow or Colton Dixon. They believe in something bigger than awards, material success, and popularity. Colton Dixon’s response to all this was: “Just because it can turn off voters or whatever. But, you know, being a Christian is who I am. It is a part of me musically. It is what I want to do after the show — go into Christian music.” Amen Colton! Be who you are, stand up for what you believe in, and if someone else does not like it then too bad. As Christians we have been commanded to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19). Tebow and Dixon are just living out their faith. Should you expect anything less?
Mindful Living is all the buzz in secular psychology these days. A simple web search will produce volumes of articles and books. In one such search I found articles on “The Calligraphy of Mindfulness”, “Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce the Sensation of Pain”, “Mindfulness According to William Wordsworth”, and “Mindfulness, Mindful Eating and Eating Disorders.” Before I comment more on this “mindful movement” let’s examine it’s roots.
First what is “Mindful Living?” According to livingminodfully.org it is:
Mindfulness is about waking up to life and what it means to be fully human. The practice of mindfulness is marked by openness and curiosity toward your experience. Mindfulness meditation develops awareness and compassion, which are essential to living skillfully. Compassionate attention helps develop many qualities and abilities such as focus, clarity, insight, love, compassion, and joy. These translate into reduced stress and anxiety, improvements in health and mental wellbeing, and greater adaptability and appreciation in life. Mindfulness practice helps us to take care of ourselves and thus transform the suffering and stress in our lives and in our society.
Pasted from <http://www.livingmindfully.org/>
Another similar sight puts this statement across their home page:
At LivingMindfully.com we embrace all paths that lead to peace & oneness…
Pasted from <http://livingmindfully.com/>
According to an article on wikipedia the origins of Mindfulness are Buddhist:
Mindfulness (Pali: sati, Sanskrit: smṛti / स्मृति) in Buddhist meditation.; also translated as awareness) is a spiritual faculty (indriya) that is considered to be of great importance in the path to enlightenment according to the teaching of the Buddha. It is one of the seven factors of enlightenment. “Correct” or “right” mindfulness (Pali: sammā-sati, Sanskrit samyak-smṛti) is the seventh element of the noble eightfold path. Mindfulness meditation can be traced back to the Upanishads, part of Hindu scriptures and a treatise on the Vedas. 
Pasted from <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness>
The same wikipedia article goes on to explain the connection between Buddhist Mindfulness teaching and Western medicine:
Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions. Scientific research into mindfulness generally falls under the umbrella of positive psychology. Research has been ongoing over the last twenty or thirty years, with a surge of interest over the last decade in particular. In 2011, NIH‘s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) released finding of a study where in magnetic resonance images of the brains of 16 participants 2 weeks before and after mindfulness meditation practitioners, joined the meditation program were taken by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Bender Institute of Neuroimaging in Germany, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It concluded that “..these findings may represent an underlying brain mechanism associated with mindfulness-based improvements in mental health.” A January 2011 study in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, based on anatomical magnetic resonance images (MRI) of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) participants, suggested that “participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.” 
Pasted from <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness>
From my own reading Mindfulness, at least as employed in Western thinking, seems to center on taking the time to slow down, observe your actions, and appreciate the nuances of them. Although I am not a Buddhist or particularly well verses in Buddhist philosophy I immediately sensed a contradiction. I always thought that Buddhist thinking and meditation was about clearing the mind and to stop thinking. So Buddhism would seem to be about being unmindful to me so how can the same philosophy produce Mindfulness? Indeed as I read further I found I am not alone in seeing this contradiction. Under the heading of “Zen criticism” in the same wikipedia article I found this criticism:
We should always try to be active coming out of samadhi. For this, we have to forget things like “I should be mindful of this or that”. If you are mindful, you are already creating a separation (“I – am – mindful – of – ….”). Don’t be mindful, please! When you walk, just walk. Let the walk walk. Let the talk talk (Dogen Zenji says: “When we open our mouths, it is filled with Dharma”). Let the eating eat, the sitting sit, the work work. Let sleep sleep.
Pasted from <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness>
Now that sounds more like what I would have expected from an Eastern philosophy.
Confused? I sure am! So am I supposed to be mindful during my walk or am I supposed to let the “walk walk?” See the contradiction? To some the mind is the problem. Any amount of thinking is counterproductive. The less you think the better. Don’t think. Just do. To others we need to be thinking just at a slower, positive, present level. Both seems to claim to grow from the same root stock yet have contradictory applications.
As a Christian my first and foremost question is should I be seeking any wisdom from Buddhist philosophy? Is not Buddhism a competing world view to the Biblical worldview? There is no question in my mind that Buddhism is a competing worldview. My Christian worldview is not one in which the ends justify the means. While something might work for some people does not alone make it worthy of my consideration. History is full of man’s philosophies and attempts to make sense of the life we live and the world we live in. What separates Christianity from the plethora of human philosophies is directional. Human philosophy is man’s attempt to explain existence, life, and the meaning of it all. Christianity, and specifically the Scriptures (Old and New Testament), are God’s revelation to man about existence, life, and the meaning of it all. See the difference? One is man trying to explain “god”, or whatever concept of ultimate truth they espouse, and how we are to live. The other is God revealing to man his existence, his purpose, and his God. Human philosophy is limited by definition because it starts from a position of ignorance guided only by what may be observed and imagined. Divine revelation is limited only by what God choses to reveal and the finiteness of our minds in understanding what an infinite God reveals to us. Since human philosophy has no way of knowing if it is on the mark it can only judge by what appears to be efficacious. If it makes your life go better then it must have value and in the end that’s the best we can hope for since by human philosophy we never can know the truth due to the inherent limitations of our own knowledge. We see this in the plethora of human religions, philosophies, self-help books, and so on. Google enough and you will find a multitude of often contradictory articles on how to deal with a problem in your life. I might suggest as well that human philosophy so often has issue with Biblical Christianity precisely because it allows for “many paths” to a truth or solution whereas Biblical Christianity allows for just one. Saying there is only one way to truth is fighting words to those who embrace many paths. It is seen as arrogant, ignorant, intolerant, and any of a number of like synonyms.
Really you can reduce worldviews down to two. There is the Biblical worldview and the secular/humanist worldview. Within the secular/humanist worldview there is the scientific worldview. Science limits itself to that which can be observed, repeated, tested, and falsified. Quite simply if something falls outside the ability of science to explain it (by it’s own rules) then it falls into the intellectual limbo of unknowability. Science can advance the theory that the universe began in a Big Bang in which highly condensed matter literally exploded and went on to form galaxies, stars, and planets. Science cannot address where that matter came from nor the rules or laws that dictated the results of that explosion. Such questions lie outside the bounds of science and thus are unknowable. Ironically modern Western thinking proceeds from the premise that all this is knowable is knowable via the scientific method and the rest is not worth philosophizing about. At times though Science stumbles upon it’s own logic like postulating that the matter for the Big Bang came from the collapse of a parallel universe of which there may be a countless number. Such postulation does nothing to resolve the issue. It just shoves the question back further in time. Ultimately you are faced with the same question. Where did the matter come from for that the very first universe (or first set of parallel universes)? Where did the laws come from that determined how that matter would act? Science cannot answer that question and never will be able to despite physicists like Stephen Hawking boldly declaring that religion is not necessary to explain such things and that science has all the necessary resources. Funny how a man who is so staunchly atheistic describes a universe that can create itself out of nothing (ex-nihlo) the very words used by theology to describe how God created the universe (see: http://articles.cnn.com/2010-09-02/world/hawking.god.universe_1_universe-abrahamic-faiths-divine-creator?_s=PM:WORLD ). Stephen Hawking is sounding very much like a theologian to me. He just doesn’t want to ascribe this ex-nihlo power to an identifiable, knowable God but instead leaves it to an impersonal universe. Whatever works for you Stephen.
Science, though part of the secular/humanist worldview, really sets itself at odds with both the Biblical worldview and rest of the secular/humanist worldviews. I stumbled upon an article about a psychologist Ellen J. Langer(http://chronicle.com/article/The-Art-of-Living-Mindfully/63292/) who created a bit of an uproar through a blog entry she wrote for Psychology Today. She recounted a story of a friend who had gone with a group on a trip to India during which they met a guru who asked to have his picture taken with them. Two photos were taken with different cameras and when developed neither photo pictured the guru. He was unexplainably not in either photo. Langer offered no explanation but used the story to suggest that when the data does not fit the theories (i.e. there was no logical reason the guru should have been absent from the photos) then we need to “open our minds to possibility.” Not surprisingly Langer was railed at for making such an un-scientific, intellectually untenable suggestion. All Langer is suggesting is that when the facts don’t fit our theories then we need to think “outside the box.” Therein is the rub. Science cannot think outside the box. The box is science. Remove the box and you remove science. Thinking “outside the box” in science is limited to challenging theories and positing new ones while staying inside the box of the scientific method.
I digress though. So what about the Christian and Mindful Living? Is this worth our consideration? I think not and here is why. We already have divine revelation that tells us all we need to know about life and how to live it. It’s called the Bible. Our problem is our ignorance of it. The typical scenario plays out like this. Secular psychology touts the benefit of some Eastern philosophy such as meditation or Mindful Living and it’s all the rage. Thoughtful Christians come along and say that parallel ideas are taught in the Bible and point a few out. They then suggest that such a philosophy does have benefit for the Christian providing we consider it in the Biblical context. While I appreciate this approach to me it begs a troubling question. Why does it take a Buddhist philosophy employed by Western psychology to get us Christians to reconsider what’s been sitting in our Bibles and within the proper context for thousands of years! Could it be that we are scandalously ignorant of our Bibles? I think the answer is a resounding yes!
I found an article that attempted to address Mindful Living and Christianity. What caught my eye was that the first 90% of the article quoted various men like 17th century monk Brother Lawrence, Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, and Dr. Normal Vincent Peale (all men it seems who tried to blend Biblical Christianity with Eastern philosophy). Finally at nearly the end of his long article he quotes two Bible passages with minimal comment. Apparently the philosophies of men have more meaning than the divine revelation of God. I don’t find this shocking though as the articles author sounds far more Buddhist than Christian to me and his list of links are strong evidence for that.
My call in this posting is for us Christians to start being Christians! Romans 12:1-2 describes how we go about doing this:
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, [a]acceptable to God, which is your [b]spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this [c]world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may [d]prove what the will of God is, that which is good and [e]acceptable and perfect.
The key is found in verse two. It is the renewing of our minds. We renew our minds by reading God’s divine revelation to us (i.e. we read the Bible). Biblical meditation is not some mindless state like Buddhist meditation but rather the focusing our minds on what we are reading and allowing it to wash over us as guided by the Holy Spirit to where it informs us on how to live. The Word of God is instructional and propositional. It is not a philosophy. It is precisely because it is instructional and propositional that it is rejected by most. We all love philosophies because there are so many to pick and chose from and if one doesn’t work why just pick another. Philosophies do not demand anything of you. They can be safely ignored.
I could write, and perhaps will, another article on God’s teaching on how to deal with everyday problems and worries that Mindful Living seeks to address. What we don’t need is to read books and articles on Mindful Living written from a Buddhist philosophical viewpoint. What we do need is to practice Romans 12:1-2 and allow the Spirit of God to renew our minds through the Word of God.
Human philosophies will come and go although nothing is truly new any more. Buddhist teachings have been around for centuries. Certain aspects of it will gain popularity from time to time but it’s all been there for centuries. God though is eternal and His revelation predates anything Buddhism or any other human philosophy has posited. Why follow the imaging’s of men when you can go straight to the Source – the divine Word of God?
I’m sure Mindful Living has helped some. The goal though as a Christian is not just learning to live a more peaceful and happy life. Biblically happiness is a by-product of a right relationship with God. It is not an end unto itself. We are living mindfully when we realize that it is God who created all things for our use and pleasure as we seek to love, obey, and glorify Him. We become enlightened by renewing our minds as per Romans 12:1-2. Enlightenment though is always limited to that which God has revealed as we will never have the mind of God. It is in knowing that God, His purpose for our lives, and His divine plan for eternity that our everyday acts take on mindfulness. Don’t focus on mindful living though. Focus on your relationship with God through His revelation and in the person of Jesus Christ and you will live mindfully.