Friday, September 28, 2007

Like a fool to folly

Last month, I took a look at contemporary media. I pondered the degree to which Christians should be involved in the world. I have been exposed several times (two or three) times to various experiences in movies and have finally come up with my conclusion.

I should have reached my conclusion a month ago, since in the comments of the previously mentioned post, I said:

"How many times must evil be glorified in what we watch to tell Christians to stop?"

Now I have to point out that there are several aspects of a movie: paying for what you want to watch and paying for what you do not want to watch.

If I pay for that movie ticket, I am contributing to the profit of whatever that movie will see. So if there is blasphemy, I am paying to see blasphemy, no matter how much I hate it. This, I am not fine with. I check out whatever movie I am going to watch on ChristianAnswers.net, but it hardly helps much. For example, ratatouille was, I suppose not suspect. But I do like to be warned about people even referring to God in an unsightly manner, be it blasphemy or not.

And this is the core of the issue: is referencing to God. If I pay to see a movie, then I pay for it. But when it is done in the adverts, that really gets my blood boiling. The last two movies I saw BOTH had adverts that I would not have optioned to pay for to see in a movie.

But I realize I pay for the adverts too. It is for this reason I do not wish to go to movies. I cannot stop these people, but I can withhold my contribution. The same reasons are applied to television. I refuse to have these things in life purely because I do not want to support these things anymore.

"No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Law

The Law is such a huge thing in Christendom. Without the law no one can be saved. I have been pondering the place of the law in the Christian life. How much do we have to obey? Which are the ten commandments? Well, here are my thoughts on the law.

Firstly, you cannot be saved by the law. This, to most Christians, seems obvious. But how obvious I wonder. The law does not save you. This means that by obeying the law of God, from this point on for the rest of your life, you will not be saved by it. The reason behind such a statement is this: The law is not given for salvation. I have received many an argument from friends saying "But I love my parents, I listen and care for others!" While I am not saying these things are not good, I am saying they are not the path to salvation.

But why? I have to obey the law, so why can it not be the means of my salvation? People are looking for the classic movie "one cure for all" solution in the law. The reason the law does not save is this: the law is what we are supposed to do anyway! We(human beings) are not found in a state where obedience is optional. Obeying the law is not a choice item. Think about the road traffic laws. Have you every received a letter from your local police thanking you for obeying the traffic laws? I certainly have not. There is only condemnation in the law! It is what is required of you no matter what.

But what is the purpose of the law then? Why keep it? God has saved us, do we need the law anymore? Of course. In conversion, we realize (via the Holy Spirit) that we are sinners in need of a saviour. The law of God convicts us in our hearts, and we are drawn to God, crying out in His name to save us.

This is the amazing thing: That there is no boasting in the works of the law. If I speed at 100 and Jimmy goes 200, where the speed limit is 60, who is guilty? Who receives a fine? We both do. I have no claim to be better than Jimmy just because my crime was less. It was still a crime. People seem to think that because they have not murdered they are not that bad a sinner. These people are pharisees and legalists!

"He [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
-Luke 18:9 - 14

The pharisee in this parable compares himself to others. But the one who is truly righteous compares himself to none other than an eternal God. He looks at himself and can plainly see that it does not matter that other people sin, but that he does. The law is pure, it converts the soul. But only God can save us.

So the law must be followed, yes, but under the realization that it is God who saves. But what law then? The law Jesus gave. remember that God gave us a new covenant under Jesus, that no longer we would be under sacrificial (ceremonial) or the Jewish(civil) law. In the NT we just follow the moral law, which are the ten commandments, summed up as

"And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
-Matthew 22:37 - 40

Even from the old testament God was showing that ceremonies and ritual are not what He requires.

"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
-Hosea 6:6

Praise be to God, who made the law so that we do know the manner in which to act, but who also paid the penalty for when we do not obey His word!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Less of me

Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and am come for thy words. (KJV)

Then he said to me, "Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. (ESV)
-Daniel 10:12

In so many ways the bible goes misunderstood, not that I claim to understand it completely. But one thing that can be learnt from Daniel is that he did not think he had it down either. He was constantly making sure that he was correct, abstaining in uncertainty and being diligent to his commitments to God.

When we first meet Daniel, he is proving himself a worthy man to carry the name "Friend of God." In Daniel 1:8 He does not eat the kings food or wine, in fear of defiling himself before the Lord. My question is how did he know to do that? The food was not offered to idols (the text does not indicate that it was) nor was the meat unclean. Daniel just knew to do it, granted that Daniel was "skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning" (1:4) but that does not mean he was Godly.

But as we reach Chapter 10 in Daniel we find out how he became so wise. He did two things and he was heard: (1) He set his heart to understand and (2) He chastened (humbled) himself before his God. It is these two elements that bring forth Godly understanding.

The first thing to notice is that Daniel did not miraculously achieve understanding by himself. He was not clever in his own right, but rather trusted that God would grant him the understanding that was needed. This fits in perfectly with a Christian attitude, as someone who realizes that there is nothing good in them, but all good things can be brought by God. Understanding, that is, true understanding, must come from God.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding"
-Proverbs 3:5
"Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?"
-1 Kings 3:9
" And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore"
-1 Kings 4:29
"Only, may the LORD grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the LORD your God"
1 Chronicles 22:12

So in what manner do we set our hearts on understanding? Proverbs 3:5 indicates that we start out by trusting in the Lord with all our hearts. The amazing parallel here is that we, as Christians, should be invariably gaining some sort of understanding the more we follow the greatest commandment:

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might"
-Deuteronomy 6:5, called the greatest commandment by Jesus in Matthew 22:38 - 39

But there is more to it than simply loving God, therefore trusting Him, we need to set our hearts to understand. This indicates that we do not perform this task reflexively. We are going to have to go against our very nature, which is to put trust in ourselves. We are going to have to put effort in to it. This is going to take some personal sacrifice, which leads into step two.

Daniel chastened himself before his God. This Greek word aw-naw' has so many meanings, all with regard to looking down and putting away, obviously in the context all relating to self. It has a connotation with lowlyness. The word relates to depression. This word is used for humble as well. So when we do not understand, there is no cause for dispair, for God is allowing for us a time of chastening, remember he chastens those He loves (Revelation 3:9). When we do not understand, God is not cursing us, He is blessing us with the constant reminder that He is sovreign! What praise can we give to the God of truth that is so amazing He chooses to share His truth with us. There are harsh reminders of this in scripture:


"Claiming to be wise, they became fools"
-Romans 1:22
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight."
-Romans 12:16
"Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise."
-1 Corinthians 3:18

There is so much in each of these verses, the glory and wisdom of God.

This is what I want to achieve: understanding in my God. This is what it is going to require: a loss of self. How amazing is my God. All the glory to Him forever.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Civility

I have been thinking lately about the manner in which Christians are to present themselves before other Christians and the world. The first thing I would like to say is that God is always watching and He knows our hearts whether we like it or not:

"I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."
- Jeremiah 17:10, cf 1 Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 139:2, plus all the times Jesus knew what people were thinking

So we can summarize it like this: God is watching. He watches to the extent that He knows our intentions. The idea that I am trying to put through is: How would you act if you constantly remembered that God can see what you do? In His infinite mercy, he even goes to the point of telling us how to behave explicitly.

The first issue I want to look at is civility. Civility is defined as:

  • formal or perfunctory politeness
  • politeness: the act of showing regard for others
[REF]

So in what manner are we to be polite in front of God? Obedience is obviously the answer, but lets go deeper into that. First we must distinguish that there are two kinds of civility: 1. Social civility and 2. Christian civility. Obviously if we are being civil, people will be able to see it. However, is there a difference between the civilized nature of unregenerate man and the new nature provided by Christ to man through the Holy Spirit at conversion? I would hope so. If we act no different to civilized unregenerate man, what is the point of telling people that they must pursue holiness?

Lets be honest here, people who belong to Christ should act like they know who owns them. My policy is the "lyrics off" policy. Turn off the words, and only the words, not the other sounds, and see how Christian the situation is. For an illustration: look at Hillsongs. Please do not think this is an attack on their salvation or their message, if you like Hillsongs that's fine, but just consider this point for a second. In your head, turn off WHAT they are saying. Then compare it to another secular band. In my head, there is no difference. For me this does no good, the message is, when you get saved, only certain things change. You can still have exactly the same background music as the world (plus the crowds will still be there screaming). Only the lyrics have changed. 1 The problem with this is that it is a surface (cosmetic) change. If we are saved, surely we are saved from the inside out, our minds now totally turned towards the glory of God?

Now lets apply this principle to Christian gatherings. Obviously when we get together it is for no other reason but the glory of God. We do not go out to glorify ourselves, our partners or do worldly things in the same manner as the world. We are certainly edified by the gathering of fellow believers, but all to the glory of God. If we acted in the same way as the world, we are the enemies of God. Obviously all the conversation at a Christian gathering will be permeated by Godly conversation, but what if we took the "lyrics off" approach?

Lets take a controversial example: drinking. At a Christian function, you should see very few people with a drink. Why is this? Well, first of all, surely Christians would organize designated drivers (in order not to even run the risk of breaking traffic laws)? The Christian is the one who absolutely does not drink and drive (not a drop), regardless of his opinion of his "limit". Also there would be no one who is legally not permitted to drink present, because we would not want to even run the risk of glorifying drinking in front of them (It would be their parents or very close personal discipleship that should explain drinking, but who is the group to determine their well-being?). We should be concerned for weaker and younger brothers.

It goes without saying that we should not drink in front of unbelievers, lest they think you can still be worldly and 'Christian.' A group of Christians who drink together would be a small group of people who knew each other very well. Jesus did drink wine (he even condoned it at a wedding by turning water into wine - not that we are told if He drank it there) at the last supper and on the cross. We have two cases when our Lord actually drank: in closed room with twelve people he had known for years (Matthew 14:25) and just before he died, while on the cross (which actually was sour wine and he did not ask for wine, he simply said "I thirst"). Which one applies to us? I really do not believe there is any other place for drinking in the Christians life. To be quite frank, I prefer abstinence. I feel that if people are going to argue "pro-drinking" they are fighting for something unnecessary, and they should question why they fight for it. It is just one of those things that can turn so ugly so fast, why even bother? Romans 14:21 all the way.

Prayer should also be something that people notice "lyrics off." Not personal prayer but when Christians gather, are they just doing something silly or is there some seriousness, as if there were a king present?

A Christian is someone who is careful. In certain instances, the bible is not talking of drunkenness in terms of alcohol, rather the insobriety of becoming 'drunk' within circumstances. Oh how I know of my weakness in this. I become so wrapped up in a situation that I am quite easily led straight into sin. We must be careful we do not get 'drunk' on the world. We must fervently protect our sobriety. If we are not being careful, we have not yet even begun to be Christian in a situation. Carefulness is being civil, but surely the sphere of Christian civility is a lot smaller than that of general civility?

There are certain things that are not associated with Christians. Ephesians 5 describes this: filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking and drunkenness with wine. What should be the Christian civility? Obviously all the things these things are not and: walking in love, thanksgiving, try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord, expose unfruitful works, careful walking (acting), making the best use of time (Eph 5:16), not being foolish, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with their hearts and submitting to one another out of a reverence for Christ (servant-leadership).

This is my opinion of what should happen when Christians gather in the name of the Holy Lord. We must keep in mind that Christ bought us with a price and although there is much joy in that, there is no joy anywhere else. If we are having fun and it is not in the name of the Lord, we must be careful not to fall off.

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers."
- 1 Peter 4:7


_______________________________________
1 Does this mean I think we should only sing hymns? No of course not! Praise Him with a new song. I think it is great to have a rock influence in the music, but you cannot do it exactly the way the world does it and make surface changes. Please do not think I dislike modern Christian music, I do not. But keep in mind that just because 'Christians' make the music does not make it Christian music.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In this day and age

In this day and age, it is too easy to say "I am a Christian." The question that should always be haunting us should be "Am I really?"

Questioning your election is not an unhealthy exercise. Calvinist or not, the term 'elect' applies to every Christian. The Greek word for church, 'Eklektos1,' refers to the "called out ones," also known as the 'elect,' so whether or not you subscribe to the doctrine of election as defined in Calvinism, as a Christian (no matter what kind of Christian) you do believe that you are called out. The process of calling out is where some Christians disagree.

But we do have something to rely on. When we question whether we are Christian or not we know we can examine our fruit. "Do I exhibit Christian characteristics as promised by scripture?" I know that for years this did bug me because I did not. We do have security that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. We also know that we cannot earn salvation, and although we should endeavor to be like Christ throughout our lives, we cannot be saved by our works. So when Satan or your conscience tells you "you do not deserve salvation," reply with "of course I do not, that is why Jesus had to come. If I were capable of saving myself in any way, Christ need not have died for my sin."

I read an article today [HERE]. A man was lead to his death. Just before leaving his fellow believers behind, he said "Overcome with faith." That man was executed for being Christian. His fellow brethren were beaten and treated like slaves. We get so caught up in doctrine disputes and such like, we act so much like the Israelites in the dessert. I wonder how I and many others would have acted in the same situation. Just look at what one of the captives said:

"I was beaten many times. They pointed a rifle and bayonet at me and tried to force me to convert."

They tried. But it sounds like they did not convert. If you can walk away from salvation, how do you know when you have? How did you know you were saved? What security is there in salvation? Is it "as long as I stand firm then God will save me?" Oh please let it not be so! How can you stand firm without Him?

Under persecution, I bet no one ever doubted that God would preserve their souls. Even on the emotional level, do you think people would think it possible to lose their salvation? Can you imagine counseling? The weakness of God against the mighty will of man? Oh man, where have you been? Is salvation such a commonality in your life that you would gladly accept that it is perishable? That you must maintain it?

I have often wondered how it was that, upon seeing the pillar of fire by night and following the pillar of cloud by day, the Israelites lost their faith (Not their 'salvation' just by the way - they are still out of the slavery of Egypt). How does one lose faith when faced with the glory of God? Yet here we are, with men who are prepared to teach that man can see the glory of God's grace in salvation, and choose to leave it behind. What is salvation to such men? It is like a pool. In the hot summer weather these men will gladly maintain it, but as soon as winter makes its marks on the land, they let it lie in waste.

Let me tell you what winter is in my analogy, just to be clear: winter is the period of spiritual blessing. When times are hot, when we really need it, we are in a state of mind that makes us realize the importance of our soul in eternity. Let us call these hot times a period of depravity. But under blessing, when we do not 'need' God or His salvation, we walk away? If salvation is not precious to you, then of course you will 'reserve' your right to walk away. Why bother being in an eternal commitment if life on earth is going to get better?

God came to give hope to those who have none. The totally depraved. Temporal blessings are a curse when God is not given the glory for them. He is so kind to us and yet we think that we have power over Him. Well, I think not. I know that when the end of days comes, when the final trumpet is sound, I will be with the group of people who declare that 'salvation belongs to our God.'

Anyway, I think that those South Koreans really had a bad time. Keep them in your prayers. Remember that God is there and it is His glory that we should seek. Be blessed in all you do.