A Resting Place

"It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me."

Monday, November 29, 2004

Christian moralism

I have found in my years of preaching that telling people to practice biblical commands is incredibly easy. Telling them they should do it out of love for Jesus is also very easy. But telling them about Jesus in such a way that they will know why they should love Him is another story altogether.

We've grown very comfortable with our Christian moralism, or what some call, "The gospel of Behavior Modification." It's easy to fight for laws to prevent homosexuality. It's easy to develop a list of things Christians don't do or at the very least "shouldn't" do. We shouldn't watch movies with a rating over PG. We shouldn't listen to secular music. We shouldn't drink alcohol. We shouldn't ever spend any time on ourselves. We shouldn't even sit down to enjoy a baseball game, because we should be out witnessing to someone instead.

The first problem here is that all of the "shouldn't" commands, many of which we make into universal for all Christians, are nowhere to be found in Scripture. The second problem is that this nice list of rules (and you can add your own to it) takes away from the truth about Jesus and destroys Christian freedom. The list above has become so common in Christianity that if average Joe Christian were to stumble upon this blog, he would be shocked to hear a Christian suggesting that we can indeed responsibly drink alcohol and would conclude I was "turning the grace of God into a license to sin."

We've gotten ourselves into a big mess on this issue, and it's going to take a while to get us out of it. A radical return to "Christ alone" is desperately needed.

Friday, November 26, 2004

the "scary" new worldview...

Everybody be frightened! Run and hide! Postmodernism is here!

Unfortunately, this is the reaction of many Christians to the ideological winds of change. It's hilarious, quite frankly. I mean, what did "modernity" ever do for Christianity? Do Christians really think that the reign of secular humanism was a good playing field for our religion? Isn't anyone else exhausted by the creation-evolution debates? Isn't anyone else tired of trying to memorize "evidence that demands a verdict" instead of the Scriptures?

There's all sorts of things that can be said about the issue of postmodernism, and I plan to write out as much as I can on the issue, but there's a fundamental truth we need to get back to - it is not the shifting sands of cultural and ideological trends that make or break Christianity. If we go back only as far as Abraham, and think about the 2,000 years that people held onto the hope of the coming Savior, and the 2,000 years that His coming has been celebrated, you have a religion that has remained steadfast in a wide diversity of cultures for 4,000 years.

My guess is, whatever happens with postmodernism, we're gonna be ok.

fun with names

I'm going to be experimenting with the name of this blog (since "Godly Life Ministries" is kinda boring, and since this is more my personal ramblings than anything else). Currently, you see "A Resting Place" as the title. This comes from the old hymn, No Other Plea:

My faith has found a resting place, not in device nor creed
I trust the Ever-living One, His wounds for me shall plead
I need no other argument, I need no other plea
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.

I've got some other possibilities working in my head, some of which are the following:
"Against All Insanity"
"Journal of a Recovering Pharisee" (or "Confessions of...", or "The Mind of...")
"Freedom Blog"
I'd love to hear some input on this from my readers (yes, all 3 of you). Let me know what names you like best (or if you have some other creative idea for a blog title). Until I've settled on a definite name, I'll be leaving the blog url the same.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Christmas, Upside Down (update!)

I am glad to announce that Chris Bayer will be joining us for the Christmas, Upside Down presentation at West Middlebury Baptist Church on Dec. 12, at 6pm. His acoustic guitar will be an incredible addition to the music!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Godly Life Ministries Presents:

Christmas, Upside Down
Dec. 12, 6pm - West Middlebury Baptist Church

Featuring the sounds of Scotty B, Travis (guitar) & Brad Prinzi (bass).
Simple rhythms, familiar and new tunes, three part harmonies, creativity, and the old, old story of the birth of Jesus is what this night will be about. Hope to see you there!
More info and constant reminders to come.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

the sovereignty of satan

I'm increasingly distressed by the power that many Christians are willing to attribute to Satan. It's shocking, quite frankly. I frequently hear things like the following:

"Satan is out to get me. He doesn't like that I'm having regular quiet times, and so he's attacking me."
"Satan knows my weak points and he goes after them all the time."
"I had a really tough week; Satan was really attacking me."
"As soon as I decided to serve in that role in the church, Satan began attacking - I even had some tests done this week to see whether or not I have cancer."

Um...when did Satan take control of who gets cancer?

If you are an American, evangelical Christian and haven't been living in a cave for the last 20 years, you've probably heard similar statements. And I think we're giving Satan way too much credit. A whole book could be written on this issue, but let me point you to one simple passage that tears down all this nonsense. In Job 1, God allows Satan to take everything away from him - his house, his wealth, and his children. Everything except his miserable wife. Job responds by saying,

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will leave this life.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the Name of the Lord."

Now, if we were to believe the common theology, that Satan is the root of all evil and all bad things that happen to us, and he's always "attacking" us and can do whatever he wants to sabotage our Christian lives, we would respond to Job by saying: "Now Job, you know God would never do that to you. Satan is attacking you. Don't let him win!" That's how many Christians respond when bad stuff happens. They would tell Job his words were wrong, and that Satan was just attacking him.

Now, read the following verse in Chapter 1 of Job: "Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything."

Wow. Satan took away all Job had. Job attributed what had happened to God. And Job was right. Because Satan is not simply the evil, slightly less powerful version of God. He is absolutely subservient to God, and can only do what God permits him to do. Job challenges his whining wife with a powerful question after God lets Satan take Job's health away as well: "Shall we accept good from God and not adversity?"

For far too long we've allowed ourselves to believe that Satan is sovereign - that he has free reign to attack Christians all he wants. Aside from the fact that Satan can't be everywhere at once and probably has never come anywhere near you or me personally, this belief in Satan's sovereignty is simply not true. It encourages nothing but fear, and totally ignores and distorts both the sovereignty of God and the powerful, Satan-defeating death of Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Kerry on Election

Fascinating. John Kerry said yesterday that he believes the bin Laden tape "scared" people into voting for Bush, and that's why he lost the election.


Could it possibly be, Mr. Kerry, that people were not so much "scared" of a terrorist attack, but they were "scared" that you would not defend us well from another one? If the bin Laden tape did, indeed, drive people to vote for Bush, it did so because people believed Bush would defend us better.

But there's another issue here that lies beneath much of Kerry's and other Democrats' rhetoric: a basic negative view of American people. They're easily swayed. They scare easily. If people would just think, they'd have voted for Kerry. But they don't think; they're dumb. And so Bush won.


a much shorter rant

So what does a Christian do when he or she sins and is caught by an unbeliever?

Um...admit it. Say you're wrong. This should be easy. But we get so afraid that we'll be exposed as being actual, real sinners, we normally respond with something like, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven." Or, "At least it's not as bad as..." Or flat out denial. Anything to take the attention off the sin.

Christians, people will be shocked if you're caught in a sin and respond in humility. Don't defend yourself. Don't make any excuses. Just humbly admit it and apologize. That's the Christian way to respond.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

a rant about sin and grace

There is indeed a question that faces many Christians who truly believe in a gospel by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone: What's the big deal about sinning if Christ already forgives our sins?

Whenever I've heard this question I've usually thought something like, "Well, that's a dumb question." Two things have stopped me from thinking that in the past few days.

1. Paul did not think it a dumb question (Romans 6:1).
2. I've had two people ask me that question in the past two weeks.

The most relevant way it was asked me was by a teenager struggling with the question. He simply asked, "How do we answer a person who sees us sin as Christians and accuses us of being hypocrites? We both sin, they might say, but you get to go to heaven and I have to go to hell because you believe in a little word called 'salvation'?"

Good question.

When posed with these types of questions, most Christians who know a little about their Bibles respond by saying, "Read Romans 6:1 - Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!" But that doesn't answer the question. In fact, that's what prompted the question in the first place.

There are several truths that Paul lays out to answer the "why" question. Why should we not continue in sin?

1. We died to it, because we died with Christ.
2. We were baptized and buried with Christ in death.
3. We are raised with Him to walk in newness of life.

In answer to the question of whether or not we as Christians should go on sinning, since we're forgiven anyway, Paul does not revert to Pharisaism and start dishing out laws to obey. That's what most Christians do. Those of us who believe in the need to strive for holiness tend to think it is something to be achieved through lots of effort.

There is most certainly effort involved. But it is Spirit-dependent, Christ-exalting effort. To where does Paul point us in answer to the question?

Right back to Jesus. The answer lies in Jesus. He deliberately points his apostolic finger at our baptism, which is a picture of what?

The gospel.

That's right, brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter how long you've been trying to live this Christian life, no matter how long ago you walked down an aisle, signed a card, "accepted" Jesus, "found" Jesus, or whatever modern cheesy Christian phrase you want to use, you still need the gospel every single day in the fight against sin.

Why should we not go on sinning since we are already forgiven through the gospel?

Because of the gospel.

That sounds like silly reasoning, perhaps. But a fundamental understanding of the gospel is this: Jesus defeated sin and came to save us from sin. Grace brought us to Christ. Grace will keep us in Christ. Grace will transform our desires so that we want Christ more. When Paul is faced with this question of sinning since we are forgiven, he does not say what we say:

Sin would have no dominion over you if you would just follow the right Christian rules. Or ask, "What would Jesus do?" Or pray the Jabez prayer enough times.

No, Paul says:

"For sin will have no dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace."

Consider these following words in closing:

"[God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption." 1 Corinthians 1:30.

The gospel is not just the thing that brought us to Christ and justified us. It is the message that will keep us in Christ, forgive us of sin, destroy our desire for it, and transform us through this long process of sanctification, until the day when our bodies are redeemed, and sin no longer tempts our feeble souls.

And the glory for it all will go to Christ and Christ alone.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Glory of God

I couldn't figure out why I was having such a hard time putting together this first sermon on the glory of God to be preached on Friday night. Then I realized it was because of the simplest of truths: the Glory of God is unfathomable. How does a finite human being communicate to other finite human beings the infinite majesty, splendor, and holiness of God Almighty?

I am looking forward to the coming meetings, but today I've come face to face with what I know I need every time I stand behind that pulpit: a realization that I cannot accomplish what I am setting out to do. It must be that the power and grace of God transform lives, including my own. If that does not happen, none of us have any hope of seeing, appreciating, and loving His great glory.

Friday night's meeting will be on Romans 1:18-2:3, and the subject from the passage to be addressed with be the glory of God and our sin. Saturday night, the text will be from 2 Corinthians 3, and the sermon will be titled, "Unveiled Faces: The Glory of God in Jesus Christ." Both will be preached at West Middlebury Baptist Church at 7pm. See my website for more info: www.godlylife.com

Welcome to my blog

Good morning, folks! I'm home sick from work today and putting together a sermon for Friday night, and I decided it was finally time to ditch the livejournal I've been using for "blogging." It really irritated me for some reason. So I've switched to blogspot, which does not irritate me quite as much, and hopefully that will inspire me to write more often. And hopefully once in a while something profound will come out.

The link on the Godly Life Ministries website will remain the livejournal link until this weekend, when I get a chance to change it. (All my website and publishing stuff is still on my parents' computer back at their house).

I hope you enjoy my ramblings.