Astounding parallels between Jeremiah’s day and our day

I find the similarities between Judah circa 700 B.C. and America circa 2000 A.D. to be astonishing.

Jer 8:8 – Jeremiah complains, “They use the Law to make it say what it does not really mean.”  Yeah, we have teachers today that conveniently interpret Scripture to fit their own narrative.  We have all varieties of churches, all of whom claim that their interpretation is right.

Jer 8:13 – Punishment for the sins of Judah is economic devastation, crops fail, famines and droughts.  Well, that doesn’t really fit.  We are in the midst of an economic boom.  But, the Great Recession was just 11 years ago and the Great Depression followed an economic boom during the “Roaring Twenties.”  While I don’t ascribe to human-caused global warming in the sense that burning fossil fuels has caused the climate to warm, I do think famines and droughts are the result of human sin.  (Whatever happened to the “Greenhouse Effect”?  That term is not in vogue today.)  In my view, the deserts are expanding, probably due to overgrazing and overuse of water by farmers.  There is evidence that the deserts of New Mexico are spreading into West Texas.

Jer 8:19 – The people cry “Where is our God?”  But, God was not to be found because the people abandoned Him.  When God brings punishment on a land for their sins, will He also listen to people pray for Him to come against the things He put in place to punish them?  God is not near because we are not near to Him.  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  We must repent, not just complain to God about the punishment He causes us to endure.

God has been forgotten in America.  The only time we call on Him is when disaster strikes.  We don’t need God.  Besides, He demands high moral standards, that we live ethically, that we love our neighbor more than ourselves and that isn’t convenient when we are trying to become more powerful and wealthy.  We would rather lie, cheat, and steal to get what we want.

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A Response To Andy Stanley’s “Thou shalt not obey the 10 Commandments”

Andy Stanley, in a sermon titled, “Aftermath, Part 3” said that the 10 Commandments were not to be applied to Christians because we are under the new covenant, not the old covenant.  He said that the Gentile believers were not asked to keep the Law of Moses.    He is right that pastors have been mixing the old covenant and the new together for a very long time, creating confusion.

On the other hand, nine of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament either by Jesus or one of the apostles.  Which commandment doesn’t make the cut? Keep the Sabbath holy.  So, the point that Andy makes is mostly inconsequential since nine of the commandments are repeated.  But, the principle is important and the principle is that the New Testament is NOT a continuation of the Old Covenant.  Stanley argues that Jesus fulfills the Law and therefore Christians are not required to keep the Law.  He says Jesus fulfills the Law to launch a new law, to love one another.

Nowhere in the New Testament are Gentiles told to keep Moses’ Law.  The New Testament makes a big deal in saying that they were NOT required to be circumcised, the primary identification of someone who is following Judaism.  Therefore, the Gentiles were not grafted into Judaism and not placed under the Law of Moses.

One might wonder why not keep the Sabbath?  Many Christians have incorporated Sabbath-keeping into their religious practices, mostly by changing it from Saturday to Sunday.  Who authorized them to change the day of the week to keep the Sabbath holy?  They will argue that since Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday, Sunday has replaced Saturday as the most holy day.  But, the Bible does not support this change anywhere.  So, why is it that the NT does not speak of obeying the 4th command?  In fact, it tells us not to let anyone judge you about whether or not you keep the Sabbath (Col 2:16).  In the OT, God is very serious about keeping the various aspects of the Sabbath.  He exiled the Jews for 70 years so that the land could take 70 years of Sabbath years that the Jews had not done in the 490 years they were living in Israel supposedly under the Law of Moses (even David did not keep this commandment?).  The Bible does not tell us why the Sabbath apparently is not important for Gentiles to keep; its absence in the New Testament sticks out like a sore thumb.  Therefore, arguing from silence (not a good idea) one may conclude that the Sabbath is not mentioned since Gentiles are not under the Law of Moses.  It surely would be confusing if Gentile Christians were told that the Law of Moses was not for them, except for the Sabbath-keeping.  So I reject the notion of a Christian Sabbath; it is not a biblical concept.  I do believe resting one day out of seven is a good principle and that is because the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  God wanted His people to enjoy rest and relaxation one day a week.  You could also argue that for Christians it isn’t one day that is holy, but all seven days are holy.

Another area that Christian leaders should be ashamed of their bad theology is the theology of tithing.  The tithe also is not mentioned in the NT, yet pastors everywhere love to teach their congregations that they should nevertheless be committed to giving a tithe to the church.  I think it is self-serving and a lack of faith and/or bad theology.  The tithe was meant for the nation of Israel for the Levites, the poor, and a celebratory sacrifice before the Lord.

In Stanley’s sermon, he covers the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 and explains how James and the elders came to their conclusion to NOT require the Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses.  James concludes that they will not put a heavy burden on these new believers that even the Jews could not bear.  Instead he writes a letter stating four requirements only that he wants the Gentiles to follow.  Stanley states that one might think James would pick the most prominent of the commands of Moses: Do not steal, do not lie, do not covet.  No, the Law of Moses is expressly absent from the list they generate.  What’s on the list?

19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” (Acts 15:19-21)

Command 1: Abstain from things polluted by idols

Command 2: Abstain from sexual immorality

Command 3: Abstain from what has been strangled

Command 4: Abstain from blood

Three of the four are requirements about eating food.  Many commentators conclude that the list was put into place to maintain the fellowship between Jew and Gentile believers since Jewish believers would still hold to the dietary requirements of the Law of Moses and by submitting to these rules, it would keep the peace.  Verse 21 can be taken a number of ways, but I take it to mean that if a Gentile believer wished to keep the Law of Moses, he could learn about it by attending one of the synagogues.  However, this interpretation may not be likely because elsewhere Paul makes it a major point that Gentile believers are not to add the Law to their faith (See Galatians).

So, yes, Andy Stanley is technically correct that the Ten Commandments are not applied to Christians, yet their universal nature means in effect that keeping the Law of Jesus incorporates the principles of the Ten Commandments.

Victory through Worship

Corporate worship can be very powerful, as evidenced in this passage in 2 Chronicles.

2 Chron 20

(a paraphrase)    Jehoshaphat seeks the Lord, not just inquiring of the prophets as was the custom, this time he called for a national fast.  The people assembled to ask for the LORD’s help.  Jehoshaphat humbled prayed before the people, ‘we are powerless against this huge army…We don’t know what we should do; we look to you for help.’  Then the LORD’s Spirit came upon a Levite and he prophesied: “Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, the battle is God’s…You will not fight in this battle, just watch the LORD deliver you.”  The people bowed low and worshiped the LORD.  Then some Levites got up and loudly praised the LORD.

On the march to the battle, Jehoshaphat appointed musicians to play and praise God, saying “Give thanks to the LORD, for his loyal love endures.”

Vs 22 – “When they began to shout and praise, the LORD suddenly attacked the enemy.”

What is the meaning of this?  I think the shouting and praising indicates the hearts of the people, that:

  1. they were trusting in God,
  2. they were confident that God would give them victory,
  3. They were filled with boldness.

Do you think the Israelites were self-conscious about whether or not they were in key?  Or if they would embarrass themselves with uninhibited singing?  It is a rare church that belts out worship and worships without being self-conscious.

Can you lose your salvation – Part 1

Can you Lose Your Salvation?

This is a question every believer encounters at some point in their journey with Christ.  Some people wonder if they were truly saved in the first place, which is a similar question.  The issue is ‘did I do something that made God mad at me?’  Or, ‘I have backslidden and I am not pursuing God, does God still consider me saved?’ Or, ‘I think I have committed the unforgiveable sin.’

In considering this question it is obvious that theology matters.  You must know what you believe about soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation.  How does a person become saved and if saved, always saved?  What are the conditions for salvation?  It is essential to know what it takes to go to heaven and whether salvation depends on you or not.  Your perspective and bias on how you approach Scripture will influence how you answer this question as well.  A Calvinist, for example, will always say no to this question since it is part of Calvinism that one cannot lose his or her salvation.  So, if Calvinism is true, the question is answered in the negative, you cannot lose your salvation.  But, then the questions just morphs for the Calvinist to ‘Are you sure you are saved?’.  Because if you do not persevere and you do fall away, then they will say you were never saved in the first place.

 

What are the conditions for Salvation?

Faith and Repentance from man; Grace and mercy from God.

One place to start is Eph 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you are saved through faith and this not of yourselves

NAU Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

NAU Ephesians 2:9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

By grace through faith.  Many people mis-translate the part ‘not of yourselves’ as referring to faith.  That is incorrect.  In the Greek the pronoun is neuter and so its antecedent must be neuter as well.  Faith in the Greek is feminine.  Obviously grace is not from man, it is from God, so it doesn’t fit either.  The proper antecedent therefore is salvation is not of yourselves and salvation is not the result of works, it is the gift of God.  Does God exercise faith to save us?  No, the Bible is clear that we must exercise faith to receive the gift of salvation.  Therefore, faith is not a work otherwise this Scripture would not be true.

So God saves us from our sins and gives us salvation or eternal life as a free gift.  It is not something we earn; it is something received on the basis of faith.  This leads me to John 1:12

NAU John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

This verse presents two conditions for salvation: receive Jesus and believe in the name of Jesus.  This verse also presents salvation as becoming a child of God.  Other verses state that we are adopted by God the Father.  This relationship is one of the reasons many people will give to state that we cannot lose our salvation since we would also lose the relationship of being God’s son or daughter.  In effect, God would have to un-adopt us.

So, we have at least two conditions for salvation: faith and receiving Jesus.  What about another famous verse, Romans 10:13: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  The idea here is that anyone who calls out to be saved will be saved.  You say, “Jesus, save me” and Jesus saves you.  Pretty simple.  This is not a separate condition, though.  Calling out to Jesus is the action that relays to God that you believe Jesus will save: faith.

One of the aspects of belief is that the Bible presents it in the present tense.  In other words, it is not a one-time event.  In the Greek, a one-time event is presented in the aorist tense which in English is translated as past tense.  In the Greek present tense, an ongoing action or continual action is implied which means that belief is ongoing.  It is the idea that our faith must have lasting value.  One cannot be considered to be saved if he believed for one day and then changed his mind.  His belief in Jesus must continue.  An analogy might be marriage.  You love that person for life.  A one-night stand does not constitute love nor marriage.

This brings up an important question.  What if a person believed in Jesus for a long time and then began doubting that Jesus really is God?  If you stop believing in Jesus, do you lose your salvation?  The answer to this question at this point would be yes because present tense belief, ongoing belief, is a requirement to be saved.

While Paul said, ‘I am the chief of sinners’, he didn’t mean it

 

1 Tim 1:15 – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost.”

It is God’s pleasure to save sinners, to see them repent in faith and turn to Him and receive the gift of the forgiveness of sins.

Paul is explicit: ego eimi (I am) chief of sinners.  Why the present indicative?  He could have said, ‘among whom I WAS the foremost.’  But, the emphasis is not on the fact that his sin is in his past, which we all know it is because he no longer persecutes and blasphemes.  Since it is evident that his sins are not present, Paul is emphasizing that he is the worst of sinners.  (one of the uses of the Present Indicative in Greek is emphasis.)

He also emphasizes that he is the foremost of sinners because through him Jesus Christ ‘might demonstrate his perfect patience’ to other sinners looking for mercy.   If Christ can save Paul, he certainly can save you, sinner.  That is Paul’s point.  To demonstrate how far the mercy of Christ will reach.

So, Paul is not the greatest sinner in the present, he is the greatest sinner before he came to know Christ.  Paul would be appalled that people would think that as a Christian Paul was the greatest sinner.  Once a Christian, no longer a sinner.  Yes, Christians sin, but it is not an identifying trait and not normative.  (That is why gay Christian is an oxymoron).

 

 

Is God blessing your church?

From the book of Haggai, chapter two:

If a man touches a dead thing, he becomes unclean.  If holy meat touches bread, that bread does not become holy.  It’s a one-way street.  We cannot impart our holiness to others, but the world’s deadness can make us unclean or unholy.

Patrick Hawthorne:

For days I pondered and prayed about what the Lord was showing me.  This morning, I woke to the answer.  The Church – the Body of Jesus Christ as a whole – has been guilty of mingling with the deadness of the world.  That which is holy has become defiled and unclean.  With pomp and parade, the Church has offered up the sacrifice of praise unto the Living God while succumbing  to the pressures of the world, content to let the house of God remain in a state of ruin.

https://servinggrace.com/2018/10/11/unclean-that-which-they-offer/

Holiness is what we are about, yet not separation or isolation from the world.  We must interact with the world but not become partakers in its licentiousness.  What areas do we flirt with the world?  We indulge our flesh, we seek the world’s entertainment.

Haggai says that the Lord tells us to ponder the results of our unclean sacrifices and the work of your hands: “From that time when one came expecting a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten…I struck all the products of your labor with blight, disease, and hail, and yet you brought nothing to me.”

But, now that they had responded to His earlier rebuke and began building the temple, the curse was lifted and God says, “from today on I will bless you.” (2:19)

How does that apply today?  These people were selfishly motivated, building their own lives and building their own houses and allowing the House of God to remain in ruins.  They changed their focus off themselves and onto building the temple of God.  Today, we are the temple of God.  Let us focus on building the Church (not the church building), the community of believers.  Let us make disciples.