Monday, April 30, 2012

How To Persuade A Dead Man

This title to this blog post is, of course, a rhetorical question. Ask anyone who works at the city morgue and they will tell you that no amount of persuasion, counseling, or advice is going to have any impact on any corpse. This is helpful to remember when we consider that the Bible describes unconverted people as those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Christian conversion is not “accepting Jesus into your heart”, in fact Jesus does not need your acceptance thank you very much. Conversion is when God , the Creator of the universe, resurrects a sinner from the dead (Ephesians 2:5) making them into a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). God gave Ezekiel a powerful vision of this reality in the valley of dry bones:

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD." So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ezekiel 37:1-10)

That is a picture of evangelism. Evangelism contains three necessary ingredients. Firstly, the God of the resurrection. Programs, therapy, and positive thinking cannot raise the dead. Only God can. Unless the Holy Spirit breathes upon the valley of dry bones then all our programs are nothing more than skeleton re-arranging. The second ingredient in evangelism is the prophet or preacher. It is God who converts but God chose the “foolishness of preaching” (1 Corinthians 1:21) to resurrect those who are dead in sin. The prophet must speak to the valley of dry bones knowing that he can do nothing unless God does a supernatural work. The prophet must also be careful to proclaim the message God told him to speak and nothing else. The third ingredient in evangelism is dead bodies. That was us prior to conversion and that is the condition of everyone in the world who is not a Christian.

This biblical reality not only serves as a timely reminder to examine our own lives to see whether we are “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5), it also helps us to understand why unconverted people are so often unable to grasp or accept what we can plainly see written in our Bible. Indeed Roy B. Zuck affirms this when he says that:

No one can fully comprehend the meaning of the Bible unless he is regenerate. The unsaved is spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4) and dead (Ephesians 2:2). Paul wrote, “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Does this mean an unsaved person cannot understand the words of Scripture? No. Instead it means he has no spiritual capacity for welcoming and appropriating spiritual truths. As Martin Luther once said, the unregenerate can understand the grammar of John 3:16, but they do not act on those facts. It is in this sense that they are unable to know the things of the Spirit of God (Basic Bible Interpretation p22-23).

1 Corinthians 2:14 also tells us that unregenerate men cannot experience “the things that come from the Spirit of God”. The Greek word used here for “understand” is ginosko which does not refer to intellectual comprehension but rather to experiential comprehension. Zuck goes on to say that it is only “the regenerate” who “have the capacity to welcome and experience the Scriptures, by means of the Holy Spirit.”

Reverence for God and His Word are also essential if one is to rightly handle the Scriptures. A “shoot from the hip” cowboy approach is incompatible with faithful exegesis of a sacred writing. This reverence for God and His Word also demands deep humility on our part and a willingness to consult with other scholars and commentaries because of our exceedingly great ability to “get it wrong”.

One excellent barometer for “examining ourselves” as we read Scripture is our willingness to embrace, obey, and apply what it teaches us. James called on us to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22a ESV). If the passage we read plainly assaults our preconceived theological position, do we force the text to accommodate our theology or allow the text to alter our theology? Do we have a growing love for God’s righteousness and His commands or reluctantly concede to them?

Though these things all reveal, to some extent, whether we have the necessary indwelling of the Holy Spirit, this indwelling does not excuse us as believers from putting in the “hard yards” of digging into the very Scriptures we are now illuminated to discern. The Holy Spirit may be the ultimate and infallible expositor, but He indwells a fallible and fallen house. God never intended this to be a passive exercise on our part. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a “prerequisite” rather than a “guarantee” for being able to rightly discern God’s Word.  We need to remember that God has commanded us to study and meditate on His Word (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, 119:9-16, 2 Timothy 2:15). Neither should we forget that God gave teachers as a gift to His Church (Ephesians 4:11).  We must travel the hermeneutical road in the joyous truth that God has made His Word understandable to those made in His image. But may we never forget to pack the tools required for digging up the treasures he has hidden along the way. “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2 KJV). 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Anders Breivik Understands Justice Better Than Scandinavian Law

This article by Al Mohler about the "Norwegian justice" system was just too good to pass up. Please read on:

The trial of Anders Behring Breivik represents one of the greatest tests of human justice in decades. Breivik stood in an Oslo courtroom this week and declared: “I admit to the actions, but not to the guilt.” The “actions,” of course, were the killing of 77 people on July 22, 2011. Eight were killed in a car bomb in Oslo. Breivik then shot 69 people to death on Utoya Island — most of them teenagers and young people involved in a summer camp sponsored by one of Norway’s major political parties.
Breivik has celebrated his murderous actions in court, calling his massacre the most “spectacular” event in recent European history. Having admitted to the killings, Breivik told the court, “I would do it again.”
He may have an opportunity to do so. Norwegian law allows Breivik to be imprisoned for only 21 years, even if found guilty of all 77 killings. Officials in Norway have attempted to assure their fellow citizens that Breivik is unlikely to be released, but the law allows criminals to be held in captivity after their sentence only on psychological grounds that represent a threat, and Breivik has been found sufficiently sane to stand trial.
How can this be? What sane nation would allow for a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison for premeditated murder — much less the calculated killing of 77 people?
Breivik is yet another example of a criminal type that is, by now, all too familiar to us. He is driven by an unfathomable hatred, largely directed at Muslims and those he claims are allowing Muslims to infiltrate Norway and subvert its national identity. He dares to pose as a “Christian warrior” even as he repudiates the essence of Christianity by his terrorism. He will be allowed to make a full defense in court, spewing his hatreds.
Meanwhile, the world stands in wonder at the fact that a guilty verdict on all counts can produce only a sentence of 21 years in prison — and Norway’s prisons are infamously plush. What is going on here?
The horrifying case of Anders Behring Breivik has opened a window into the reality of Scandinavian justice — and that window also reveals the shape of justice in a post-Christian world.
The Scandinavian nations are, according to many sociologists, the most radically secularized nations on earth. A study undertaken by sociologist Peter Berger years ago rated Sweden as the world’s most secular nation, with neighboring Norway close behind. But the Scandinavian nations are not merely secular; they are specifically post-Christian. The specific religious worldview they have lost or rejected is that of Christianity — the faith that shaped the culture of these nations for many centuries.
Christianity produces a system of laws and justice that puts a high premium on both personal moral responsibility and the sanctity of human life. For this reason, the punishment of murderers has been taken with great seriousness. Those who take a human life with premeditation were understood to forfeit their own.
The rejection of the Christian worldview and the loss of biblical moral instincts produces a very different system of justice. Norway abolished the death penalty in 1902. Later, the nation abolished the sentence of life in prison, claiming that it was too extreme. As Newsweek’s Stefan Theil has reported, “Normally, even murderers are fully eligible for parole after just a few years in prison.”
As for the “prisons” themselves, Theil explains:
Take Halden Prison, a maximum-security facility for murderers and rapists a few miles from the Swedish border. Completed last year for $280 million to house 250 inmates, its living quarters are bright and airy, with mint-green walls and IKEA-style furniture in varnished natural wood. Looking more like a college dorm than a maximum-security jail, each cell comes with a flat-screen TV, a private bath, and a large unbarred window. Inmates take cooking classes and work out with personal trainers; there’s a deluxe gym with a rock-climbing wall as well as a professional music studio for prisoners’ bands. Half the guards are women, which prison governor Are Hoidal says creates a less aggressive atmosphere. For the same reason, the guards don’t carry weapons and freely mingle with the inmates. Prisoners even fill out questionnaires to rate the level of service.
At one point, Theil declares the obvious: Norway “considers the idea of punishment barbaric.”
The loss of the Christian worldview often comes with a diminishment of both personal responsibility and the sense of punitive justice. Add to this the redefinition of human life and its value. The result is a nation that takes pride in a notoriously lax system of criminal justice — a nation that considers punishment itself to be barbaric.
Standing in that Oslo courtroom, Anders Breivik stated that he would prefer the death penalty to a “pathetic” sentence of 21 years. He, at least, seems to understand the scale of his crimes. “There are only two just and fair outcomes in this case,” he insisted in court, “Acquittal or capital punishment.”
The biblical roots of the death penalty for murder are found in texts like Genesis 9:5-6. Rooted in God’s covenant with Noah, the text reads: “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.’”
As Claus Westermann, one of the most famous Old Testament scholars of the twentieth century explained, this text indicates that God expects murderers to be punished with death. “The execution of the death penalty by humans is the carrying out of the command of God.”
Every human life is sacred precisely because every single human being is made in God’s image. Murder is, Westermann explained, “a direct attack on God’s right of dominion.”
He commented further: “Here in Genesis 9 murder is something utterly on its own; nothing can be compared with it. Throughout the whole sweep of human history, the murderer by his action despoils God.”
And yet, in another statement from his commentary on this text, Westermann points straight to the reason that a post-Christian culture loses its moral confidence in the punishment of murderers. He states: “A community is only justified in executing the death penalty insofar as it respects the unique right of God over life and death and insofar as it respects the inviolability of human life that follows therefrom.”
Once those convictions and moral intuitions are lost, the death penalty no longer makes sense. Eventually, even the idea of punishment itself loses all cultural credibility.
The world is watching closely as the trial of Anders Behring Breivik takes place in Oslo. The trial is now an international spectacle. But, much more than Norway’s justice system is on display. That Oslo courtroom is also revealing what remains of an understanding of criminal justice and criminal responsibility when the Christian worldview fades away. The post-Christian condition is fully on display in that courtroom. The man who committed the worst single-handed mass murder in Europe since World War II is on trial — and the maximum term to which he can be sentenced amounts to less than 3.3 months for each of the 77 people he murdered.
Article courtesy of Albert Mohler.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hermeneutics - A Scary Name For A Good Friend

Hermeneutics is a word that does not need to intimidate the regular churchgoer. I have often heard people excuse their biblical ignorance by making the claim that they are “not a theologian”. The truth of the matter is that everyone is a theologian. The real question is whether you are a good one or a bad one. The same goes for hermeneutics, we all do it when we read the Bible. The question is whether we practice good hermeneutics or bad hermeneutics.

Hermeneutics is technically defined as the science and art of biblical interpretation. Henry Virkler says that:

Hermeneutics is considered a science because it has rules and these rules can be classified into an orderly system. It is considered an art because communication is flexible, and therefore a mechanical and rigid application of rules will sometimes distort the true meaning of communication. To be a good interpreter one must learn the rules of hermeneutics as well as the art of applying those rules.

It is true that there is a realm of hermeneutics that is specialized and requires greater interpretive skill in dealing with difficult passages and specific genres. But there is also a general set of hermeneutical principles that apply to all of Scripture and can be readily embraced by the average layman. In fact, most modern interpretive errors in mainstream evangelicalism can be easily detected (and solved) by a plain reading of the text and its surrounding verses.

It is also important to make a clear distinction between hermeneutics and exegesis when we make the leap from interpreting a text to explaining that text. Professor Matt Waymeyer explains this distinction when he describes hermeneutics as:

The set of underlying principles which guide the process of arriving at an accurate interpretation of the Word of God.

Waymeyer then goes on to contrast this with exegesis which he defines as:

The application of those principles in which the interpreter actually draws out of the text the meaning of Scripture.

In short, hermeneutics is the principles of interpretation while exegesis is the practice of interpretation. Since all Christians are called to be heralds of the gospel then all Christians are called to practice a certain degree of hermeneutics in order to understand this gospel rightly, and all Christians are called to practice a certain degree of exegesis in order to proclaim this gospel rightly.

In the book of Acts we see an encounter between Philip and an Ethiopian where Philip’s hermeneutical skills are called upon to bring illumination to the Ethiopian who desires understanding:

And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:27-35 ESV emphasis mine)

At the pastoral level, hermeneutical principles are the foundation of a faithful and powerful preaching ministry. They are the foundational building block from which good biblical exegesis is derived. This, in turn, becomes the necessary platform on which to build systematic theology, expository preaching, and pastoral ministry.

Accurate Interpretation à Faithful Proclamation à Authoritative Exhortation

This pattern is laid out biblically in the book of Ezra where it says:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel (Ezra 7:10 ESV). 

Ezra was determined to study God’s Word in order that he could apply and live in accordance with God’s Word in order that he could teach God’s Word. We would all do well to emulate Ezra in this area.

Interpretation is an active part of our everyday lives. Just driving here today you probably practiced hermeneutics when you saw a diamond shape painted onto the left hand lane of the freeway to discern whether you were allowed to drive there or not. How much more important is it for Christians to rightly discern the written revelation God gave to us. Hermeneutics might be a scary name, but it is a faithful and necessary friend.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Blessing of Family

Just two days ago I bid farewell to my dear mother who travelled all the way from Chinchilla, Australia to southern California where I now live. My treasured wife had been enduring morning sickness and my on call emergency worker, otherwise known as "mum" (or "mom" for those many readers who can't spell) arrived to help take care of our children, and provide much needed support for my wife. Words fail me to describe my mum's tireless efforts in cooking, cleaning, junior entertainment, and making me breakfast each morning (mmmm good old eggs on toast!). The family is an institution ordained by God and can, in its best moments, provide a wonderful picture of self denial, sacrifice, and love. Jesus said:

Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

This earthly family that we have is a blessing ordained by God. The fragmentation and dysfunction we so often see is a result and reminder of Adam's fall and how we are all tainted by it. We should be careful not to idolize it so much that we are unable to embrace the greater eternal reality of adoption into God's family (John 1:12). We should also take care to avoid the other ditch of resenting the terrible experiences we have had in our earthly families at the expense of seeing that as a demonstration of our need to be restored into right relationship with God.

Jesus promised all who would follow Him that it would cost them dearly. For some people they discipleship will cost them many in their extended families. But Jesus also promises those that they will gain brothers and sisters and mothers and children as they enter into God's family through adoption, and eternal life in the age to come! That is too precious to risk missing if we treasure our temporal earthly family so much that we refuse to tell them about the heavenly Father Who sent His only Begotten Son to take the punishment that our sin demands in order that His children may gain their heavenly inheritance via the Saving Substitute Who stood in their place. The question really needs to be asked how much we really do love our families if we don't tell them about that. Jesus also promised persecution because that is the common consequence of calling lost sinners to repentance.

It is a good thing that Jesus was not as hung up about His self respect, self preservation, and avoiding conflict as we often are. If that was the case He never would have set His eyes like flint towards Calvary! He never would have prayed to the Father "not My will but Thine be done"! He never would have endured the agonies of hell in the place of His adopted family! We should not be surprised then that Jesus said:

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:16-38)

Rejoice today in the blessings that flow through our earthly families. Rejoice even more in the precious adoption and greater family we find in the body of Christ - the Church! And tell those who only have an earthly family about the loving Heavenly Father Who demonstrated His great love in dying for us while we were in our filthy sin (Romans 5:8), that we might be His children for all eternity where we can never be separated by sickness, division, or death ever again (Revelation 21:3-4). All praise and honor and glory unto You Great God Almighty!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Phil Johnson And John Macarthur Uncensored

It is now only three months until Phil Johnson will be in Denmark for Reformation Resurrection 2012. Those of you who want to come - be warned! The guys in Denmark tell me that the conference site is almost fully booked. So be very quick if you still want to come. All the details are here.

One of the highlights of the annual Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church (where John Macarthur pastors and I attend the Seminary) is when Dr. Macarthur does Q&A. It gives us an look inside the world of a man who has faithfully shepherded one flock for over 40 years and worked his way expositionally verses by verse through the entire New Testament. It is a special moment where we get some vulnerability, wisdom, off the cuff humor, sharp counsel, and no holds barred perspective on all the latest "church trends" and hot topics. What gave it some extra spice this year was having Phil Johnson conduct the interview and indulge in some extra provocation. This video is worth the watch, and gets better the longer it goes. Don't miss the finish!

General Session 5 - John MacArthur Q&A from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.

Friday, April 13, 2012

God Means What He Says And Says What He Means

In recent correspondence with a guy called Steve Ramsdale I became aware that he has somehow deluded himself into thinking that the Bible has nothing critical to say about homosexuality. Steve seems to think that what an author intends and the words that he uses are completely irrelevant. Steve's problem is that he has ordained himself as sovereign over the Bible that he reads in order to accommodate sin. The tragedy of this is that it has become his damning alternative to repentance.

Imagine finding the writings of a Civil War veteran who chronicled his first hand eyewitness accounts of the war he fought in. Would it be reasonable to re-interpret these writings based on the idea that the reader has a better understanding of the Civil War and can do a better job explaining it? Such an “innovation” would be treated with contempt by the general public. It would be met with scorn from the veteran’s community. And words fail me to comprehend the outrage of the original author were he alive to defend his work. How about if you were to attend a Bible study and hear the “modern evangelical mantra” of “what does this verse mean to you?”

Most of us are aware that this question has reached plague proportions in Bible studies all over the western world. This is astonishing when we consider that many of those Bible studies are extensions of local churches that have confessions that affirm the inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of the Bible. Why is this dis-connect sliding under the radar of so many laymen, preachers, and interpreters? While there are no simple answers to this problem there is a simple solution.

If we believe that the Bible was written by human authors under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then it should naturally follow that these words have meaning and that God does not have a problem explaining Himself. The Grammatical-Historical method of biblical interpretation has been the prevailing hermeneutical method of studying and teaching Scripture since the Reformation. While the name might be daunting and sound sophisticated, this approach is beautiful in its logic and simplicity.

If God has delivered His Word to humanity then it would seem obvious that He would do so in a way that can be readily understood by His audience. Hermeneutics is the principles that guide the reader to an accurate interpretation of Scripture. The Grammatical-Historical approach to hermeneutics involves reading the words of the text and understanding them as they are plainly read. If Jesus says that “No one comes to the father except through me”, He is saying what He means and meaning what He says. He is the only way to the Father!

A Scriptural example of this is found in Nehemiah:

The Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading… to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. (Nehemiah 8:7b-8,12b)

Of course, there is more to Grammatical-Historical interpretation than this simple point. But having experienced a lot of “creative accounting” when it comes to biblical interpretation, I have continually found that most modern day hermeneutical problems, emanating from pulpits, can be readily solved by a plain reading of the text and its surrounding verses. When the “prosperity preacher” tells his audience that “eye of the needle” which the camel is supposed to go through is really the gate to a city, he is easily proven wrong by reading the next two verses which clearly show that Jesus is referring to something humanly impossible; “with man it is impossible”. It is reassuring for the average layman that a plain reading of the text and its surrounding verses normally clears up most modern interpretive errors. It is also important to remember that since God’s Word is inerrant in it’s entirety, no interpretation should contradict what Scripture plainly teaches in other passages.

What about texts that are more difficult to understand? This is where the Grammatical-Historical approach excels. In order to gain a precise understanding of the text we are reading it makes sense to explore several basic issues:

1. Who wrote it? We want to know who the author was.
2. Who was it written to? We want to know who the recipients were.
3. Why was it written? We want to know the reason for the text being written.
4. When was it written? We want to know the point of history in which the text was written.
5. What was the historical context? We want to know the historical setting and issues particular to that setting.
6. What is the genre we are reading? We should read narrative as narrative and poetry as poetry.
7. What is the original language that the text was written in? We need to have the text accurately translated into our “mother tongue”.

We may not consciously think about it, but these are the issues we think through whenever we read a book, a letter, or even a sign. Why not follow these principles when trying to understand the revelation God has given to us?

The Grammatical-Historical approach to biblical interpretation also serves as a great mechanism in preventing interpretive errors among the more orthodox of preachers. It may sound good to find a profound allegorical symbolic meaning in the text, but the question must be asked as to whether that is what the text is actually saying. Novel pieces of historical information may serve to help a preacher make his point, but checking for historical accuracy will better help the preacher avoid making the wrong point.

It is also worth mentioning the danger of an over-realized Christology when interpreting a biblical text. There is no disputing that Jesus Christ is the transcendent story of both Testaments. But that does not mean that we should find Him under every rock in every verse. While Jesus Himself informed the men on the road to Emmaus that the entire Old Testament was about Himself, He did not say that He appeared in every episode. The Grammatical-Historical approach prevents the reader from finding Jesus where He is not, and assists the reader in stepping back from the individual trees of every passage to see the forest where Christ’s scarlet thread of redemption runs through its entirety.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jesus Christ Lives Forevermore

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. - The Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 15:1-22)

The Gospel is outstandingly good news. Especially in the light of a proper grasp of our falleness and unworthiness. It is worth remembering during the dark hours of our earthly sojourn that if we are in Christ we should rejoice because our names are written in the "Book of Life" (Luke 10:20). I sometimes ponder the depressing thought of going through life only hoping in temporal things and without eternal hope. That grieves me beyond measure and should compel us to preach in season and out of season. Charles Spurgeon said that "every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter". Do not offend God with your silence concerning His gift of salvation this Easter. Set aside the debate over whether Christ's death and resurrection actually happened at this time of year and seize the opportunity to preach Christ - the resurrection hope!

It is wonderful to have the legacy of the resurrection hope while we live in our terminally ill flesh that is but a moment on the scale of eterntiy.

When all around is sinking sand on Christ the solid Rock I stand Hallelujah!

Christ was raised bodily, glorified so that His human frame was perfectly suited for both heaven and earth. His body could be seen, and touched (Luke 24:39; John 20:27; 1 John 1:1). He ate food (Luke 24:42-43) and walked and talked as He had before the crucifixion. At this very moment, he sits on the Father's right hand in that same body—making intercession for the saints, including me.

More amazing than all of that, I will one day have a body like His: able to traverse heaven and earth, immortal, yet familiar in its physical form. In fact, it will be this very body, thoroughly healed of all its infirmities and imperfections. That amazes me and thrills me - Phil Johnson.

Till He returns or calls me home . . .

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Father Hath Punished For Us His Dear Son

The first Easter was approaching. God incarnate was grief stricken to the point of death. The Lord prayed in the garden of Gesthemene "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

Jesus Christ was fearless when confronted with the Devil, the Pharisees, the Saducees, King Herod, the Romans and their Governor. None of these intimidated the Lord as he boldly preached in their faces. But when faced with the cup of God's Holy wrath Jesus asked for another way. Mark's Gospel account reveals that Jesus petitioned the Father three times for another way than the cup of God's wrath. The wrath of God must be terrifying beyond comprehension.

It is this wrath that rests upon all unbelievers poised to strike at any moment (John 3:36). Pause and ponder that for a moment this Easter and honestly evaluate whether you value keeping the peace with an unbeliever more than informing them about the wrath that rests upon them. Jesus Christ, Who created all things, warned us with these terrifying words "do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

It is our endless littany of sin that fills the massive cup of God's wrath to the point of overflowing. When Jesus was in the garden he stared at the unspeakable horror that lay ahead. It was not the Roman beating that disfigured Him beyond recognition (as bad as that was). Nor was it the crown of thorns that penetrated deep into His skull (as painful as that was). Nor was it the capital punishment that Roman soldiers inflicted through crucifixion (as excrutiating as that was). It was the cup of God's just and righteous wrath poured out on the only Man who never deserved it. God demonstrated His great love at Easter in dying for His Church while we were still sinning!

As we travel back to Calvary today do you see your face in the angry mob shouting "crucify Him"? Do you hear the Savior saying "Father forgive them"? Do you grasp to some small extent the transaction that took place when Jesus cried "It is finished". Come today to the hill called Calvary and survey the wondrous cross where my Savior atoned for all my sin - past, present and future. Oh how precious is the blood that my Savior shed!

The Lord in the day
Of his anger did lay
Our sins on the Lamb, and he bore them away.
He died to atone
For sins not his own;
The Father hath punished for us his dear Son
Love moved him to die
On this I rely
My Savior hath loved me, I cannot tell why;
But this I can tell:
He loved me so well
As to lay down his life to redeem me from hell
(Charles Wesley)

Death and the curse were in our cup
O Christ, 'twas full for Thee!
But thou hast drained the last dark drop
'Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup, love drank it up
Thy bruising healeth me!
Jehovah lifted up his rod
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of thy God
There's not one stroke for me...
Thy tears, thy blood, beneath it flowed
Thy bruising healeth me!
(Fanny Crosby).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Today Is National Atheist's Day - Come Celebrate Their Religion

The Bottom Line invites you to join in today's celebration of the religion of Atheism. Denmark's very own Kristoffer Haldrup will be conducting free lectures on how to sound scientific while burying your head in the sand at the same time. Kristoffer will be taking up an offering during his lecture. You will also be able to come and listen to world renowned atheists vent their hatred for the God they don't believe in. Dr. Terry Tommyrot will also be presenting his thesis on why he doesn't believe in Richard Dawkins . . .

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. (Psalm 14:1a)