Merriam-Webster defines liberty as “the quality or state of being free.” In America, freedom is indeed one of the most valued qualities life affords us. We love Patrick Henry’s bold demand, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” When it comes to liberties that Christ Himself has paid for with His own death, however, many American Christians lose their boldness in the name of sacrificial love for the “weaker brother,” or even become the weaker brother by being a good sport and not rocking the boat. What I mean is that there are many areas of life God has left us believers free that we have allowed to be bound in a tyrannical grip by scrupulous individuals, well-meaning as they may be. Restrictions that have been maintained by a forceful grip exist in areas that God has left His people free, and that is a serious misrepresentation of God Himself. Though there have been many legitimate concerns regarding various liberties, the Scriptural and historical evidence reveals there have been several diversions from biblical Christian liberty.Continue reading “Concerning Christian Liberty in the West”
The Necessity of the Law
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (English Standard Version, Matt. 5:17). These are the words of Christ, who brought the gospel of grace to the world. One might would expect the law to be antithetical to the gospel, but that is not the attitude of Christ toward it. The Lord says, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19). Upon examining the Scriptures, one can see that the law, given by Moses, was given to aid God’s covenant people in the Old and New Testaments toward holiness by faith rather than prideful legalism.Continue reading “The Necessity of the Law”
A Way that Is Right and a Deadly Way that Seems Right
Wow, how unkind is that kind of language? The biblical author is actually telling the reader that, regardless of what he or she thinks, there is a way they may think is right but actually leads to death. Not just sorrow or some vague misfortune. That might be somewhat tolerable in our culture. No. It clearly says, “This way you think is right and good is actually going to kill you in the end.”
Have you left for your safe space yet?
We have a culture that cannot tolerate such language. It feeds off of so-called tolerance and acceptance at the expense of anything that falls outside the culturally accepted values and systems of thought. In other words, if you aren’t accepting of what we accept, then we will not accept you into anything.
Do you need any proof? Remember the Christian bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple seeking to have a faux wedding? I said faux intentionally because Scripture makes it clear that God has defined what weddings really are, and they are between a man and a woman (Gen. 2, Mark 10). The case I am referring to is Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which you can look into and see is still ongoing. The Christian owners of the business simply refused a service they believed would go against conscience, a conscience held captive by Scripture. For this, they have lost their business and have been fined. You can look at any, and I mean any dictionary and not find any definition of tolerance that looks anything like this.Continue reading “A Way that Is Right and a Deadly Way that Seems Right”
An Effort to Get the Horse Before the Cart: A Study of Regeneration and How it Precedes Faith
A couple months ago, I was asked to provide evidence from Scripture how regeneration could precede faith. The medium of the conversation, Facebook, provided limited means to do this. Taking the time to work out the theology through biblical study, scholarly research, examination of church history, and prayer has rewarded me with a greater grasp on the doctrine. Putting this into writing has also allowed the theology derived from the Scriptures to flow into a system of logic and inspire worship at the same time. That has been the motivation behind this: the desire to worship God rightly. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, “We worship what we know” (Jn. 4:22 ESV). One cannot rightly worship if one does not have an accurate knowledge of God. Worship is a matter of ascribing worth to an object, acknowledging the worthiness of it. We will never be able to fully worship God without error until we are glorified in Him in heaven, but we can and should seek to worship Him rightly by seeking to know Him as revealed in His Word as best as we can. Worship is the goal of theology, and the practice of theological study to the best of one’s ability is part of the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37 ESV). To that end, let us press in to know God’s glory in the doctrine of regeneration.Continue reading “An Effort to Get the Horse Before the Cart: A Study of Regeneration and How it Precedes Faith”
David Brainerd: A Life Given for Christ
“I continued in a solemn frame, lifting up my heart to God for assistance and grace that . . . my whole soul might be taken up continually in concern for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom . . . Continued in this frame till I dropped asleep” (Brainerd 167). These are the words of David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians in the 18th century. Though he was continually afflicted with illnesses and depression, Brainerd persisted in the call on his life to preach the gospel. He lived a short life, dying at the age of 29, but as John Piper says regarding why David Brainerd’s life is significant to him, “Brainerd’s life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints, who cry to him day and night, to accomplish amazing things for his glory” (Kindle Locations 111-113). David Brainerd’s life remains an inspiration for Christians today because it is a testimony of the extraordinary sustaining grace that God gives to even the feeblest of His children to accomplish His will.Continue reading “David Brainerd: A Life Given for Christ”
A Simple but Vital Reminder
All of us have various interests. Some of you are into achieving a certain number of steps for your Fitbit. Others are focusing on achieving better grades during the summer semester. Everyone is thinking about what they should be doing now to best benefit their lives for the present time. Sometimes we need reminders to keep us on track. Often, I will set a reminder on my iPhone to tell me when I need to make an appointment or speak to someone or even leave to go to church. It helps me stay focused on what is really important. The Bible works similarly to keep our lives on track with what is of eternal significance.
We often need to reminded that this life is not all that we have to live for. It is good for us to achieve things like fitness goals or academic excellence. Both those and many other things are valuable to our lives, but the reality we have to face is that you are going to die someday and someone else will get your stuff. It’s not a pleasant reality, but it’s the only one there is. Since this is so, what really matters in life? The Lord gives us a reminder in Jeremiah when He says
The knowledge of God, as in a relationship, is eternal life (Jn. 17:3). In all our endeavors, we must keep in mind that whatever we set out to achieve must be with a heavenly mindset. That means I am the best cook I can be because I want my life to demonstrate that I value excellence as the Lord values what is excellent. It is not so I can get the glory as the best cook in the business, but because I want to honor my King with the work of my hands, just as Paul instructs us to do (Col. 3:17, 23). The whole idea of the Christian life is to make Christ look as glorious and satisfying as He really is so He is magnified in our lives and others are drawn to Him. To have this understanding that Jesus is the only source of true satisfaction in life makes Him look really good, and it gives us the joy we long for. Nothing in this life will ever satisfy the desire of your soul apart from Jesus. Look to the Bible to direct you to what is eternally significant, and pray that the Lord will grant you the heartfelt desire of Isaiah 26:8, “Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts” (NIV).
Why Should We Study Theology in the First Place?
The subject of God is a highly popular one. People speak of many gods and how one should live in relation to divinity. Christians continually discuss and, quite frequently, argue about all things pertaining to God. We discuss denominational differences, how Christianity relates to culture, and whether Jesus is coming back in our lifetime or not. These are very common topics even to those who rarely attend their local congregations on Sundays. Then there are the Bible thumpers, the armchair theologians. Baptism, soteriology, textual variants, and some myriad other topics are regularly discussed in Facebook groups and anywhere two or more biblical erudite believers gather. But is this what God really intends theology to be about? Is doctrine a juicy topic for the fervent debater or a truth from which we learn how to grow in the grace of God? I believe theology ought to be more than merely a set of ideas regarding the subject of divinity; it should be a wellspring of godliness from which all those around you come to draw life from a holy God.
When the Lord was giving the Law to Israel in the Old Testament, He commanded Israel, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deut. 11:18). This is referring to the book of the Law, the commandments of God. God desires the words to become so ingrained in the minds of His people they are impossible to forget. The question we should ask when reading this is “why?” The Lord says, “[T]hat your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth” (Deut. 11:21). God blesses those who fear him by obeying Him. He says later, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known” (Deut. 11:26-28). This still applies today with regard to the words of Jesus. He said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (Jn. 14:21). His commandments include loving one another, something most of us have heard, but also bearing fruit (Jn. 15:1-17). Jesus said it is by bearing fruit we prove to be His disciples, and the way we bear fruit is by abiding in Him by storing up His words and by prayer (Jn. 15:5, 8).
If we are to store up Jesus words and seek to understand them, the central reason for doing so is to bear fruit for the Lord. Jesus did not say, “If my words abide in you, you will be appointed Facebook debater for heaven,” nor did He say one should learn His commandments to satisfy the cravings of a scholarly mind. It is to bear fruit. Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jn. 15:7). Very simple exegesis reveals Jesus is not saying we can ask for our fleshly desires, as my targeted audience will surely understand; however, I would like to ask you and myself, do we really understand this? Our asking, in regards to this text, should be done out of a heart yearning for the glory of God. But when we go to the Lord in desire for understanding of His Word, are we committing the sin of James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions”? Remember, my brothers and sisters, knowledge puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1), but the Lord says, “[T]his is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2). Knowledge for the sake of accumulating more knowledge is not good. We are to do all things for the glory of God, not the glory of our intelligence. This glorifying God by bearing fruit results in others coming to us to draw life from the God we are displaying. The psalmist says, “The unfolding of your words gives light; imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130). As God’s ways are seen and revealed, it gives light. By this we bless others, which, after the primary reason being the glory of God, is the second reason we should study theology.
My question now is this: are you seeking to know God’s Word so you can know Him and thus adore Him and bless others? Are you earnestly searching the Scriptures to bring all your life under subjection to His commandments? Do you fear Him and tremble and the awesomeness of His Word and out of this fear take great care to understand it properly? Brothers and sisters, these are questions I am asking myself. We ought to be humbled that the Lord has given us such a great book as the Bible so we can fulfill all godliness as the Son of God Himself did (Matt. 3:15). If the Lord is to be glorified in us, people will speak of Him and His greatness, not yours and surely not mine. May we be humble, contrite, trembling at the Word of God, and may God look upon us and cause us not only to know His ways, but to also walk in them.