Tuesday, August 26, 2008

John Newton's Cry For Holiness

I particularly like verse two; it gives us something to think about, doesn't it?

Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare

1. Come, my soul, thy suit prepare,
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.

2. Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and pow'r are such
None can ever ask too much.

3. With my burden I begin:
Lord, remove this load of sin;
Let Thy blood, for sinners spilt,
Set my conscience free from guilt.

4. Lord, I come to Thee for rest,
Take possession of my breast;
There Thy blood-bought right maintain
And without a rival reign.

5. As the image in the glass
Answers the beholder's face,
Thus unto my heart appear;
Print Thine own resemblance there.

6. While I am a pilgrim here,
Let Thy love my spirit cheer;
As my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,
Lead me to my journey's end.

7. Show me what I have to do;
Every hour my strength renew.
Let me live a life of faith;
Let me die Thy people's death.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Is Believing in Christ Easy?

A few days ago I received a catalogue in the mail from a Christian retailer. One of the items advertised was a parody of the Staples Easy Button. Instead of the familiar red button with logo, this button is blue with the phrase, “Heaven…it’s easy! John 3:16”. It’s catchy and quickly recognizable but is it proper theology? Is believing in Christ and receiving eternal life as easy as hitting a button?

At the risk of insulting your intelligen
ce I’ll quote the Scripture alluded to on the button:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.(Joh 3.16 ESV)
This verse is one of the most familiar of all verses in the entire Bible. Kids learn it in church at an early age. It’s a concise statement of salvation. Again, however, is it easy to believe in Christ?

First of all, the Greek phrase for “whoever believes in him” is πας ο πιστευων εις αυτον. The verb for “believes” is a present active participle. It can be translated, “whoever keeps on believing in him.” In other words, it isn’t a once-and-for-all situation. The struggle of faith is a continuous action, never over in this life.

Put another way, those who teach that a p
erson can pray for forgiveness once and become automatically and irrevocably good to go for all eternity are wrong. Salvation—a favorable relationship with God—is gained in a moment of time but this is a dynamic relationship that can continue or be severed at a future date. Salvation isn’t static.

I’ll come out and say it: I don’t believe in unconditional eternal security. I don’t believe in,
“Once in grace, always in grace.” That view is contrary to the New Testament record and makes light of the continued need to believe. Granted, there are more responsible teachers and preachers who proclaim that saving faith must be ongoing or it becomes null and void (or never existed to begin with). Sadly, though, there are others who lull people into a false sense of security by advocating that one can live far from God yet still be saved because in the past he prayed sincerely for salvation.

You may argue, "I don't know, Larry. The word 'believes' still sounds pretty simple to me." Well, it all depends on how you interpret John’s definition of faith, of believing, in the Gospel that records chapter 3 verse 16. Is belief in the apostle’s mind something that is a mere one time acceptance of facts and surrender or is belief something more?

Let’s look at a passage in his Gospel and talk about walking:
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (Joh 6.53-66 ESV)
Notice in this passage that the Lord makes a statement hard for some of his “disciples” to accept. (We’re not talking about The Twelve, as verse 67 clearly shows.) The Apostle John gives a parenthetical note that Christ knew who didn’t believe—keep on believing, present active participle—in verse 64. Notice further what happens in verse 66: “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”

Do you see the parallel?

To believe = to walk [follow, obey]
To not believe = to refuse to walk [follow, obey]

Thus, in the Apostle John’s mind, the words “believe” and “obey” are compatible! If a person refuses to walk with Christ—either by refusing ever to obey him or later to decide to revoke his decision to obey—then he isn't a disciple of the Lord Jesus!

Tie this in with our discussion; faith, in John's mind, meant obedience so to believe in Christ as mentioned in John 3.16 is a faith that obeys Christ! It isn't simply praying a prayer. It's praying a prayer...and walking...walking...walking with him in obedient surrender.

Back to my question: Is believing in Christ and receiving eternal life easy?

What do you think?

Is "Dialogue" Worthless?

How often have we heard a talking head say, "We need a national dialogue/discussion/debate in this country about [fill in the blank]?" It's often said when some some hot potato issue hits the front pages of the newspapers and internet sites. Pick an issue and this statement probably has been said about it:

Stem-cell research
Homosexual rights
Race relations
Gender issues
Fiscal/economic policy
Foreign policy

While saying, "We need a national dialogue/discussion/debate," sounds like a noble thing I believe it's a largely worthless sentiment. Why? Take a peek at the
ad hoc list above and tell me which of these issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of the American people?

That's the problem with "dialogue". It doesn't work, at least on a national scale. Sure, informal conversations may sway a person here and there but let's face it: a devout Christian who is pro-life and a secularist who is pro-choice probably will never agree because their worldviews are too dissimilar. The Christian believes King David when the monarch of old penned:
Psa 139:13-16 ESV
(13) For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
(14) I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
(15) My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
(16) Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
The secularist may say, "Nice poetry," but doesn't buy the argument. These two Americans interpret their world differently based upon different assumptions (underlying beliefs) and thus come to different conclusions about the meaning of things.

The concept is too nebulous. It's largely meaningless. To paraphrase Morgan Freeman from
The Shawshank Redemption, "'Dialogue' is a politician's word." I fear that when a talking head tells the American people that they need a national dialogue then the person should just say, "We'll probably have massive disagreement and never find resolution to this issue in this generation, if ever."

Evolution is Cancer

We live in a contradictory country.

In the United States we teach children in our public schools that the universe was created by a Big Bang. We teach them that all live evolved from a protein chain that itself evolved. We teach them that everything is a cosmic accident. We teach them that they, homo sapiens, are nothing but a series of mutations/adaptations over millions of years. We teach them that they are the highest link in the food chain but they are not transcendent from it. The only difference between them and a paramecium, we teach them, is happenstance evolution.

We teach them the science of a godless world. The universe is without Cause. They are here without an Intelligent Designer. They just are here due to some mathematical impossibilities. There is no Reason. There is no Purpose. They are just the sum total of their electro-chemical responses, nothing more.

And then we tell them that we have the moral authority to create capricious laws that govern their meaningless lives. Without a Designer what is right and wrong, anyway? Says whom? Without a Deity what are “morals” but a consensus of the majority oppressing the minority opinion? Might makes right? Morals are nothing more than a social construct where everything is relative to the era in which we live.

We tell them that evolution teaches the survival of the fittest but then enact legislation to protect species that we, the fittest, are harming due to our actions. Who cares about animals on the endangered species list? After all, if it truly is the survival of the fittest then the species that cannot adapt should become extinct. That’s the nature of things.

We place our children in a double-bind situation. We say:
You are nothing. You are a mutated accident from primordial soup with no more reason for being than an amoeba. You come from a universe that is nothing. It was an uncreated nothing and one day it will die as nothing.

You will be held responsible for things though you are nothing and your actions mean nothing. We will enact laws to pretend that we are something and that this universe means something though it is nothing.
Do we see the absurdity of this?

By the way, to teach children that we are nothing but a series of mutations is deeply disturbing to me. Why? Well, isn’t cellular mutation the very definition of cancer?

Evolution teaches us that everything living is cancer.

I believe that I am a creation of God. I am not cancer.

Are you?