What, then, is the essential characteristic of the true believer, the genuine disciple of Jesus Christ? It is not loud profession, nor spectacular spiritual triumphs, nor protestations of great spiritual experience. Rather, his chief characteristic is obedience. True believers perform the will of their Father, consistent with their prayer, “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” They cannot forget that at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Anyone who breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:19f.). And so they practice obedience. The Father’s will is not simply admired, discussed, praised, debated; it is done. It is not theologically analyzed, nor congratulated for its high ethical tones; it is done. The test is rephrased by a famous second-century document, the Didache, which says, “But not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet, except he have the behavior of the Lord.”
If I could explain all the mysteries of the Bible, then would you believe? No, you wouldn’t.
If I could show you many signs and wonders, then would you believe? No, you wouldn’t.
If I sacrificed all that I have and all I am in service to the poor and oppressed, then would you believe? No, you wouldn’t.
If I could live my life in such a way that there wouldn’t be even a hint of hypocrisy, then would you believe? No, you wouldn’t.
If I could prove my genuine love and concern for you over and over again, then would you believe?
No, you wouldn’t.
I cannot create a compelling enough argument to make you believe.
I cannot point to any sign that you could not explain away.
I cannot sacrifice enough or be authentic enough to convince you that the gospel is true.
No matter what I say or do, no matter how hard I try, there will always be another excuse to continue in unbelief.
While every day of my life will be spent seeking to live more and more in light of what Christ has done, I know I will stumble and fail. I will say and do things that will cause you to say, “See, this is why I don’t believe!”
I can’t not disappoint. I’m a sinner just like you.
So let’s be honest. I want you to believe the truth of the gospel. I want you to believe that Jesus Christ—God the Son in human form—lived a perfect life in obedience to God the Father, was crucified to pay for my sins and yours, and rose again in victory over sin, death and judgment.
You don’t want to believe this and there is nothing I can do on my own to convince you otherwise.
Fortunately, there is one thing I can do: I can pray for the One who can convince you to do exactly that.
I can pray for a miracle.
The only thing that will make you believe is if God, through the Holy Spirit, gives you a new heart—one that can see the truth and is willing to respond to it.
Then all the arguments will crumble.
Then all the barriers will break down.
Then all the excuses will come to an end.
And then you will believe.
Today—May 2, 2011—is Election Day in Canada. For those who are keeping track (or interested), it’s our fourth federal election since 2004.
Over the last several years, since I grew up and started paying taxes, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with politics.
A big part of it has to do with Canada being strapped with minority governments for the last several years. Now, for those who don’t know, a minority government exists when the party that gains the most seats still has less than the combined total of the various opposition parties. So, as you can imagine, when you’ve got four “big” parties plus independents, it’s not easy to get a majority (though certainly not impossible). The upshot of this is the opposition can be an aid in keeping sketchiness to a minimum among the ruling party. The downside is that the opposition can also come together and prevent any good plans the ruling party might have.
(They can also form a coalition and take over the government. See, who says Canadian politics are boring?)
Nw, here’s where the love-hate thing comes into play…
What I Love About Politics
I love seeing people—especially young people—take an interest in politics. This needs to happen. When I was growing up, my mother gave me the following piece of advice: If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about what the government does. Stated positively, exercising your right to vote gives you a voice into shaping how you are represented on a municipal, provincial and federal level. It is extremely important to exercise this right that we have been afforded, particularly since millions of people around the world do not have the ability to do this thing that we take for granted.
What I Hate About Politics
I hate seeing people—especially young people—get caught up in the demonizing of political leaders that comes with campaigning. Sadly at this point, I just expect a whole whack of mud slinging from the party leaders. I don’t like it, but I expect it. But that doesn’t mean that we have to engage in it.
Through this campaign, I’ve seen people trying to encourage university students to vote this year by creating attack sites devoted to trashing the sitting Prime Minister. I’ve seen young idealists talking about the rights of the working class, but seeming to have no idea what those rights are. I’ve seen people across the board make assumptions about every party’s plans without even reading them. Heck, I saw one young guy (who is either ridiculously stupid or mentally unhinged) write that if you’re a “right-winger,” you need to be murdered in the streets.
I don’t care where you land on the political spectrum—whether you’re a hair over to the right of center, left, really left, or you’re upset that trees don’t have the right to vote—but the folks you don’t agree with are no more (and no less) evil than you are. And it is profoundly unwise to fall prey to demonizing those with whom you disagree.
Yet we all do it, don’t we?
I would suggest two reasons why: [Read more...]
Matt Chandler on the power of the resurrection:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)
Matthew Barrett offers some helpful insights from the testimonies of Tyndale, Rogers, Latimer, and Ridley:
If these men were willing to die for such truths how much more should I be willing to stand for them today? Many examples come to mind. If you are a pastor, ministering in a difficult church, do not waver in your commitment to the truth even when those in your congregation criticize the doctrines you are proclaiming. Or perhaps you are a teacher at a school where you are surrounded by more liberal colleagues. Be resolved and steadfast in affirming sound doctrine, even if it be at the expense of your own career. Maybe you are a student being criticized because you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Remain determined and immutable in your affirmation of God’s Word. You might be a Christian who is tempted to reject the biblical doctrine of eternal punishment or the exclusivity of the gospel. Be on guard, less you also fall prey to false doctrine and fail to heed Paul’s admonishment and warning to only agree with sound words (1 Tim 6:3-4; cf. 1 Tim 4:6; 2 Tim 4:2-3; Titus 1:9; 2:1).
Also Worth Reading
TGC: Emily and I are at The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference this week. We’ll be part of the vast Canadian contingent. How will you recognize us? Just listen for the folks who say“Aboat.” Seriously, though, if you’re around and want to connect, shoot me a message via Twitter (@AaronStrongarm). Look for regular updates throughout each day.
Books: Check out the list for the 2011 BoB Book Giveaways. I’m going to this and am pretty excited! (I also have a few of these books, so expect a giveaway or two in the coming weeks!)
Funny: Are you a child of the 90s? If so, you’ll find this funny.
The Number One Reason To Buy The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence
In Case You Missed It
Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:
Title: Justified by Faith Alone
Author: R.C. Sproul
Publisher: Crossway Books/Christian Audio (2010 edition)
Martin Luther famously said that justification by faith alone is “the article by which the church stands or falls.” So certain of its importance to the Christian faith was Luther that it became the crucial dividing issue between the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches.
Today, however, many evangelicals “know” that we are justified by faith alone but are not entirely sure what it means. And because of this uncertainty, we begin to ask—does it really make sense? And is it really that important?
In his (very) short book Justified by Faith Alone, R.C. Sproul answers that question with a resounding yes as he lays out the Roman Catholic and Protestant doctrines of justification.
One of Dr. Sproul’s greatest gifts as a teacher is his ability to clearly and charitably examine positions with which he disagrees. In doing so, he manages to clear up a great number of misconceptions that Protestants have regarding Romanism.
A key example is whether or not Roman Catholicism offers a works-based salvation. Sproul argues that it is, in fact, not accurate to make this claim. As he examines Roman Catholic teaching, he reveals that faith in Christ is essential to salvation… it’s just not all you need. The congregant’s works of penitence, his acts of contrition, are also required. In essence, the Roman Catholic position is that of faith in Christ plus works equal justification (Justification = Faith + Works).
The Protestant position, however, is that faith in Christ alone brings justification, and our works are our response to and the evidence of our right standing before God (Faith=Justification + Works).
Sproul is also quick to address the common complaint against the Protestant position, which is that it is Antinomianism. In this error, we are saved by faith in Christ alone (justification), and there need be no evidence of saving faith (Faith=Justification – Works). However, the Scriptures are clear that one who says that he has faith, but there is no evidence of it in his life is a liar (cf. James 2:14-26).
Moving from the content to the audio production, this is one place where I find that the book falls a bit flat. Sean Runnette is a wonderfully clear narrator and I’ve enjoyed his work on other productions, but in this instance, I found his reading to be a bit bland. His reading seemed to lack the passion that tends to come out in Sproul’s text (as well as in his speaking). This is only a minor criticism, but it was bothersome enough that I felt it warranted mentioning.
Justified by Faith Alone is an important book, one that I believe readers of all ages and stages would benefit greatly from. Read (or listen to) the book, and gain a greater understanding and appreciation for this crucial doctrine—and praise God that it is by faith in Christ alone that we are saved.
A complimentary download of this book was provided for review purposes by ChristianAudio.com
Said Musa is an Afghani Christian who was arrested on May 31, 2010, for his faith. In the time that he has been imprisoned, he has been beaten, abused, spit upon, sexually assaulted, and mocked; now, he is sentenced to death.
Newspapers in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe have reported the story, but with, the exception of the Wall Street Journal and, of course, NRO, American outlets have not found it worthy of attention. The Journal reports that “Afghan officials have been unapologetic: ‘The sentence for a convert is death and there is no exception,’ said Jamal Khan, chief of staff at the Ministry of Justice. ‘They must be sentenced to death to serve as a lesson for others.’”
The U.S. government — reportedly including Secretary of State Clinton — and other governments have pushed for his release, but to no avail.
But the president has been silent, even as we fight a war that has among its goals the creation of a government that conforms to international human-rights standards.
An American president certainly needs to guard and shepherd his political capital, and should not speak out about every prisoner. But Musa himself has appealed to “President Brother Obama” to rescue him from his current jail. And when an obscure and aberrant Florida pastor, Terry Jones, threatened to burn a Koran, not only President Obama but much of his cabinet, as well as General Petraeus, weighed in on the matter.
If the actions of a Florida pastor who threatened to destroy a book holy to Muslims deserved public and presidential attention, then the actions of the Afghan government, ostensibly a ‘democratic’ ally, to destroy something holy to Christians, a human being made in the image of God, also deserve public and presidential attention.
Also Worth Reading
Books: Tim Challies new book, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, is going be released from Zondervan in April. Here’s the trailer for the book:
Preorder a copy from Amazon.
Biographies: Speaking of Tim Challies, this week he reviewed a new biography of A.W. Tozer that points out both his strengths and weaknesses.
In Case You Missed It
Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:
J.C. Ryle: It Costs Something To Be A Christian
I grant freely that it costs little to be a mere outward Christian. A man has only got to attend a place of worship twice on Sunday, and to be tolerably moral during the week, and he has gone as far as thousands around him ever go in religion. All this is cheap and easy work: it entails no self-denial or self-sacrifice. If this is saving Christianity, and will take us to heaven when we die, we must alter the description of the way of life, and write, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to heaven!”
But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standards of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an arm-chair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost.”
J.C. Ryle, as published in J.I. Packer, Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, p. 174
Last year, the story of Zac Smith from Newspring Church shared his testimony of battling cancer. A few months after the video was released, he succumbed to cancer and went home to be with the Lord.
His wife, Mandy, recently shared how God has used these events and the hope she and her children find, even in the midst of tears:
On Sunday, July 11th, I once again had the opportunity to preach at Poplar Hill Christian Church in Poplar Hill, Ontario. The message is from Romans 1:18-25, True and False Worship.
The abbreviated transcript follows for those who need/prefer:
The last time I was here, I spoke on obedience and how obedience—to God’s Word, for His Glory—is the evidence of the Christian life. That message has weighed heavily on me since I was last here and as I’ve examined my own life in light of it, I’ve been left with a question: If obedience is the evidence of what we worship, who or what am I worshipping? Is it God or something else?
What we’re going to discover together is this:
Because God is the only One worthy of our praise, we must examine our lives and discover who or what we truly worship.
Turn with me to Romans chapter 1; this is where we’re going to be spending the bulk of our time today.
Starting in verse eighteen:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
We are all Worshippers
At the end of June, I went to Honduras with Compassion Canada. We saw the projects at work, visited homes, played with kids, and it was amazing. While we were there, we also had the opportunity to visit the Copan Ruins and the remnants of the Mayan temples.
Our tour guide took us through the ruins, teaching us about the culture of the Mayans as we went. There were idols everywhere.
Images of iguanas symbolizing fertility; macaw birds representing their sun god… It was everywhere. But the thing that stood out to me the most was listening to him describe the after parties from a sports event.
Basically what would happen is that athletes would compete against each other, passing the ball around with the goal of hitting one of the six stone macaw heads on the sidelines of the court. And you had to do it without using your hands.
These games were a big deal—the religious leaders, the chieftains and all the people would fill the stadium. Now, after the game was won and a winner was proclaimed, there’d be a celebration in his honor.
Can you guess the prize for the winner? Sacrificed to the gods.
Doesn’t really make you want to win the game, does it?
Human sacrifice was all too common in this area of Honduras. People would throw themselves off the cliffs into the temple courts as a sacrifice, hoping to appease the gods.
As I learned about the culture, as impressive as the architecture is and as breathtaking as the ruins are, I was disgusted by the idolatry.
I started thinking about our own culture… is it really that different?
Sure, we don’t (normally) worship birds or practice human sacrifice as a reward for a game well-played; but as I’ve been looking around since I came home, one inescapable truth has become more apparent than ever:
We are all worshippers.
This is the way God has made us.
He’s not made us to worship, or to be worshippers; He’s made us worshipping.
Harold Best in his book Unceasing Worship describes it this way:
We were created continuously outpouring. Note that I did not say we were created to be continuous outpourers. Nor can I dare imply that we were created to worship. This would suggest that God is an incomplete person whose need for something outside himself (worship) completes his sense of himself. It might not even be safe to say that we were created for worship, because the inference can be drawn that worship is a capacity that can be separated out and eventually relegated to one of several categories of being. I believe it is strategically important, therefore, to say that we were created continuously outpouring—we were created in that condition, at that instant, imago Dei.
What Best is telling us is that our identity as worshippers is tied to God’s nature and our being created in His image.
Back in Genesis 1, we’re told that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of God hovered over the depths.
So in the beginning, there was God.
And that’s it.
Some will speculate that God created the world and humanity because He was lonely. He needed something to pour out His love upon. But that’s not what Scripture says. The Bible says that God lacks nothing. If he lacked, then He would cease to be God.
This is where the doctrine of the Trinity is so important. Because God is one God in three persons—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—He lives in perfect, eternal, joyful, community, unceasingly outpouring His love on Himself.
And we were created out of an overflow of this, not of need, but out of joy to share His glory with others. And because we were created in His image, we do likewise—unceasingly worshipping, intended to reflect His glory in all creation.
Paul understands this. That’s why he doesn’t say, “In the past, some of you didn’t worship anything at all.” He says, “All of you have worshipped created things instead of the Creator.”
We are all always worshipping something. And more often than not, it’s not our Creator.
Our Lives Show Us Who We Worship
We’re continuously worshipping, but there’s something else we need to understand:
Our lives show us who we worship.
The hard thing for all of us is discovering what it is we worship—why? Because we’re blind to it. We’re blind to it because we have, as Paul wrote, exchanged the truth about God for a lie.
We’ve made created things—sometimes good things—our god, worshipping them instead of our Creator.
Let me give you a couple of practical examples:
Every day, men and women across the country congregate in one of the dozens of temples that are on nearly every street corner in Canada to worship as we roll up a rim.
This past winter, we had the Olympics; do you remember the fervor that surrounded Men’s Hockey?
How about the last few weeks with the World Cup going on?
And what about all the silliness with Lebron James and Chris Bosch joining the Miami Heat?
I know a few people who were cussing out Bosch, but James… They were burning his jersey in Cleveland this week!
Because the god they worshipped had let them down.
He left to play for a different team.
And the idol was crushed.
We are all worshippers; we’re always worshipping something—and our lives will reveal who or what we worship.
Maybe there’s something coming to your mind right now—your job, your spouse, your kids, your car, your computer, candy…
We think that these things will make us happy. That they’ll satisfy and save us. But anything but God will always fail.
But we don’t believe it. We don’t believe it because we’ve exchanged the truth for a lie.
False Worship Suppresses the Truth
“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” writes Paul in verse 18.
When we sin, when we behave in a manner contrary to God’s commands and His character, we “suppress the truth” about God.
False worship suppresses the truth.
When we put anything in place of God in our lives, we suppress the truth.
This is a damning indictment!
To suppress the truth about God—to deny His authority, His majesty, His power—is to commit an act of cosmic treason.
Why? Here’s what Paul says on this. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Do you realize that every day, the evidence of God’s existence and His power are manifest? What can be known about God is plain to us because God has shown it to us.
Where does He show it?
In all of creation.
This is what the theologians call general revelation. That is, that we can know that there is a God and we can know something of who He is through natural means.
Speaking to this point, Acts 14:17 says,
[H]e [God] did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
What we see here is that God gives us rain and allows our crops to grow, and our livestock to thrive, in a display of His power and character. He “satisfies our hearts with food and gladness.”
In short, a great steak can bear witness to God’s existence.
And in Acts 17:24-27 we read,
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him…”
Practically, this means for us that everything—science, art, music, nature… everything reveals God’s eternal power and divine nature to the degree that we cannot with integrity deny God’s existence.
We are, Paul says, without excuse in acknowledging Him.
But consistently we fail to do exactly that. Instead, we suppress the truth about God in our unrighteousness.
False worship makes us fools
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
What Paul says here is that we have failed to honor God, to acknowledge and worship Him. In our sin, we have suppressed the truth about God.
And because we’ve suppressed the truth, we have come futile in our thinking. “[Our] foolish hearts [are] darkened.”
This is idolatry’s second effect:
When we fail to honor God, we become fools bent on stealing His glory.
When we refuse to honor God or give thanks to Him, we become fools, says Paul. In other words: Idolatry is stupid.
The prophet Isaiah communicated this well when he wrote,
The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
So basically, a man cuts down a tree—and one half he uses for firewood. The other he worships. We rob God of His glory… and give it to a piece of kindling.
Does that even make sense?
In our foolishness we start to think that God doesn’t really see what we’re doing. That because our false god doesn’t speak or think or see or hear, we’re in the clear.
But, Isaiah 47:10 says, God always knows:
You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.”
Paul writes that as those who suppressed the truth claimed to be wise, “they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
Again, it comes back to the truth that we are without excuse for acknowledging our Creator.
It’s why the “new atheism” movement is so bizarre. The whole point of books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and several others is basically to say this:
There is no God… And I hate Him.
It’s intellectually dishonest. How can you hate someone you don’t believe exists?
If God doesn’t exist, shouldn’t you not care?
Instead, what do we see?
Dozens of books, documentaries and magazine articles attempting to debunk the idea of God… and in particular the God of the Bible.
Why? Why is so much energy spent debunking Christianity?
Why do we see more books trying to do this entering the bestseller lists every year?
Why is there such a need to find the gospel—that God the Son, Jesus Christ, became a man, lived the perfect life, died in our place for our sins and rose again to give us new life and reconcile us to God the Father—to be a sham?
Because deep down, we all know it’s true. We all know He’s real.
And it terrifies us.
Because we stand naked before Him—and without His intervention, we—have—no—hope.
Here’s the thing: Every other religion, every other belief system, in the end, revolves around the same thing—You.
It’s all about what you do, about how you must earn your way into God’s favor, how you must become one with the divine or with the universe. All is one. God is a part of the system or God doesn’t exist.
But if all is one, God is none.
It’s the lie that we’ve exchanged the truth for. It’s a foolish act meant to rob God of His glory.
It’s the serpent’s lie from Genesis three: “When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Understand—Buddha, Krishna, Allah… There is no hope. There is no life. They have no power.
But Jesus Christ does.
That’s why the gospel is so offensive—it’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus HAS already done!
He saved us when we could not save ourselves! He took the punishment that we so richly deserved.
And we show ourselves to be fools when we deny His power, authority and majesty—when we rob Him of His glory and deny Him the worship that is His due.
And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.
False Worship Reveals of the Wrath of God
Going back to verse eighteen, we read, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”
All of what we’ve just talked about—that we continually worshipping, that in our rebellion against God we’ve suppressed the truth and exchanged His glory for created things—Because of all these things, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.
When we talk about wrath, we have to understand that there are two basic kinds that we’re talking about.
The first is God’s active wrath.
Active wrath is a tangible demonstration of God’s judgment over sinners.
When we read of the conquest of the Promised Land and the command to kill ALL the Canaanites—that was the active wrath of God.
When Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead because they lied about how much they were giving in Acts 5—THAT was the active wrath of God.
When we look toward the Day of the Lord when He will execute final judgment on all of creation—THAT is the active wrath of God…
God’s active wrath is offensive to so many people; it’s the cause of ideas about there being two different kinds of God depicted in the Bible—the hot-tempered God of the Old Testament and gentle Jesus, meek and mild. The reason for this is that we have difficulty understanding God’s perfect justice and holiness.
But there’s something even more terrifying than God’s active wrath, as we’re about to see. Listen to what Paul says in verse 24:
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
What Paul describes here is the passive wrath of God.
What this means is that we’re so bent on our sin—we’re consumed with doing what we want, rather than obeying Him—God says, “Okay, go get’em tiger.”
He gives us over to a “debased” or depraved mind says in verse 28. Second Thessalonians 2:11 says that, “God sends a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”
And truth be told, there’s little more terrifying to me than this.
If God’s passive wrath is upon me, it means He’s letting me do what I want. It means my conscience has become so hard that I don’t want to respond.
Because I love my sin.
I want my idols.
And God says, “Have at it.”
Before God sent the flood in one of the most magnificent displays of His active wrath, He looked down at all of creation and “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Man was given over to a depraved mind. The passive wrath of God was upon Him.
And the active wrath was coming.
We Must Recover True Worship
Verse 25 says that we’ve exchanged the truth about God for a lie, worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator.
In order for us to be saved we must recover true worship.
Left to our own devices, we’re utterly incapable of doing this.
Fortunately, God has made a way for us.
In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
That, friends, is the secret. That is how we are able to recover true worship:
We must apply the gospel to our worship.
Because of Christ’s death on the cross, our sins are paid for when we put our faith in Him. Elsewhere, Scripture says that we are made new creations in Christ—and because it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us, we are given new desires to serve Him and worship Him as He deserves.
We must apply the gospel to our worship. And that begins with repentance.
Why is repentance important?
Repentance is the heart of the Christian life. The first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which ultimately resulted in the explosion of the Protestant Reformation, says, “All of life is one of repentance.” Repentance is not a one and done action—it’s a lifestyle.
A Christian cannot live an unrepentant life. Dr. J.I. Packer, one of the most brilliant theologians of the last 100 years has been quoted as saying, “All you need to do to become a heretic is to stop repenting or fail to call others to repentance.” It’s become contentious to call anyone to repentance in our day, even on issues where Scripture is clear—be it sexuality, gossip, gluttony, slander, malice… but here’s the thing: whenever we come up against one of these issues, we have to remember what the real question is—it’s not, “can one be a homosexual, an adulterer, a liar, a gossip, and be a Christian?” The question is—Can one be unrepentant and be a Christian?
Repentance is a process. Repentance isn’t being sorry that we got caught, or feeling bad or even acknowledging our sins. It’s much deeper.
- Repentance begins with conviction from the Holy Spirit. Our sin is revealed to us through prayer, through our conscience, through Scripture or through the preaching of God’s Word.
- Conviction leads to confession—we name our sin and agree with God, acknowledging our idol.
- Confession leads to true repentance—it demands the death of our idols, which comes as we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
- This leads to restitution—we seek to make right whatever we’ve done wrong in our pursuit of our idols. So if we’ve cheated on our taxes, we put it right. If we’ve stolen from work, we return it. If we’ve broken something, we replace it
- The final step is reconciliation. Repentance—true repentance—restores relationships with God first and foremost and other people as we are able.
Repentance allows us to worship in freedom. Through repentance, we are no longer slaves to our idols, but free to worship God as He would have us—to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice,” as Paul wrote in Romans 12:1. As we trust God, study His Word, obey Him and worship Him, we are “no longer conformed to this patterns of this world, but transformed by the renewal of our minds.” Our desires change. Our attitudes change. Our habits change. All to the glory of God.
A few questions and we’ll close:
- What idols exist in my life?
- What created thing is robbing God of His glory?
- If that thing is revealed to me, will I repent?
- Will I take that first step today?
Saturday was the first of our big travel days on this tour of Honduras. We flew from Toronto to Miami and finally to San Pedro Sula, where we arrived very late in the evening.
San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras, is the industrial hub of the nation, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Ayax, a colleague from Compassion Honduras, shared with state of the city, as we drove to our hotel. Even though it’s dangerous, even though there is so much poverty, there is still hope.
Because of the Church.
The Church is here and God is working through her. Children are meeting Jesus and they’re telling their families about Him, too.
After we arrived at the hotel, we set to work putting together packages of gifts for children at the church projects we’ll be visiting. With all 22 of us working together, we got it taken care of pretty quickly and then enjoyed a small meal before bed (in my case, tortilla soup, which was delightful, in case you were wondering).
Perhaps the biggest treat of the trip so far has been meeting the Compassion Honduras staff—including my old friend Alexis.
He and I met in 2006 when I was here on a missions trip; he was one of the four translators who worked with us. We also joined Compassion’s staff pretty close to the same time (within a few months of each other). He’s an amazing guy who loves the Lord and also really loves Compassion. I’m looking forward to spending some more time with him and all of our staff throughout the week.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. . . .
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. . . .
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-16, 23-24
I love Psalm 139. As David moves through the psalm, we see him confronted with a keen awareness of God’s sovereignty—that God fully knows David. He knows every deed.
And he knows every thought.
“Even before a word is on my tongue . . . you know it altogether,” he writes. Every thought. Every word. Every action.
Every ugly sin that David would try to hide from anyone else, God knows it.
How does he react? Guilt? Shame?
Awe. [Read more...]
Title: Journey to Truth: How Scientific Discovery Provides Insights into Spiritual Truths
Author: George F. Garlick, Ph.D
Publisher: VMI Publishers (2009)
For years there’s been much hoopla over the apparent conflict between science and Biblical truth.
One extreme says that science is absolute, that all we can know is what we can see and measure empirically. Miracles aren’t possible. We are, essentially, cosmic accidents. The other extreme completely ignores the reality that science has anything to legitimately offer in terms of understanding how the world and humanity were created and designed to function.
However, neither position is intellectually honest. Neither leads to a complete understanding of truth. But is there really as great a divide as some make it seem?
In The Journey to Truth, author George Garlick seeks to show how science offers insight into Biblical truth. Garlick, a physicist who pioneered holographic ultrasound technology, blends science, theology and a dash of biography in this short book. To be honest, I found the results to be somewhat mixed.
A Compassionate Man
His personal stories provided a great deal of insight into his character, which I greatly appreciated. The last chapter—where he speaks of being compelled to stop and pick up two young men on the Interstate and trying to restore the vitality of his hometown—reveals a man who is deeply compassionate and wants to use the gifts he’s been given for the good of others and the glory of God.
The Curse of Knowledge
It’s very obvious reading this book that Garlick is a scientist. He provides in-depth descriptions of various scientific theories related to the creation of the universe, time/space and more. And he describes them in such a way that makes it clear that he obviously knows what he’s talking about.
Which is good, because I don’t. This is what is known as “the curse of knowledge.” Those with knowledge describe what they’re talking about in such a way that either
- only those who share this knowledge will understand; or
- the illustration becomes bogged in over-communication as the writer seeks to bring the reader up to the same level of knowledge
More often than not, I found myself scratching my head and wondering if there might be another way of communicating this same point. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a big science-guy. I did well in it in school, but it was never my passion.
I’m guessing that someone who really loves quantum mechanics and quirks & quarks would completely understand what Garlick is talking about in roughly half the book, but I was left a bit in the dark. This, unfortunately, made for some hard slogging in the middle chapters of The Journey to Truth.
Truth & the God of the Bible
So how does scientific discovery point us to Biblical truth? Throughout the book, Garlick provides some intriguing insights that point to the truth that this universe didn’t accidentally happen. Scientific discovery, when honestly looked at, reveals to us what God has plainly made known. We know that He is a God of order, given how intricately detailed our bodies and this world are. We know that He is infinitely powerful because only a being of infinite power could cause everything to come from nothing.
What Garlick is describing is the truth of Romans 1:18-20:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
On page 40, Garlick illustrates this in a very interesting way. Imagine a mountain where one side is perfectly smooth and the other is jagged. The smooth side is what the Bible reveals. The other is science. Both, Garlick says, eventually come to the same conclusion. Eventually scientists will reach the top of the mountain of truth and find a bunch of theologians already waiting there.
As glad as I am that he makes this point, there’s so much more that can be said because this is really only dealing with general revelation, rather than special revelation.
If the mountain is God’s general revelation (natural theology as some describe it), then this is a very apt metaphor. However, it can only really tell us that there is a God who created the world and everything in it, but it can’t tell us all that much about Him.
Science can tell us a great deal about the “how” of God’s creative act, but not the “why.”
But it doesn’t speak to our condition as sinners. And it doesn’t speak to our need of a Savior.
These are things that there are no scientific categories for.
The Journey to Truth provides some helpful insights, but ultimately it left me feeling a bit cold. While some, particularly those who really enjoy science, will undoubtedly enjoy it, it’s not a book that resonated well with me.
 This concept is described in-depth in Chip & Dan Heath’s excellent book, Made to Stick
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review by Bring it On Communications
Matt Chandler shares some of the story of his conversion and discusses some of the men who have shaped him:
There are certain people who have been a powerful influence on us, particularly in how we live out our faith.
I’ve spoken of some of them here before. My friends Adam & John have been major influences, particularly as we’ve been wrestling with theology together. Chris, a godly man who took me and a few other guys under his wing at a moment in my life when I desperately needed guidance and counsel. My Friday morning men’s group is increasingly becoming influential in my life as we try to work out .
But what about you?
Who influences you?
Who has been an influence in the past and who continues to be to this day?