"Free Pass" Theology

Something interesting that’s been coming up over and over again in conversation has been the idea that God gives certain people a free pass.

If a group of people live somewhere where the gospel’s never been preached, they automatically get into Heaven, is one heard a fair bit, but I honestly don’t give it much thought because it’s answered in Romans 1:19-20.

But there’s another idea that gives me pause:

If a child dies very young, before reaching an “age of accountability,” then he or she goes to Heaven.

I’ll admit, I really like the idea of this, but I want to know if it’s true.

So I’ve been doing some research. And aside from (so far) finding that the only place where a doctrine of an age of accountability is clearly defined is within Mormonism, I did find a couple of interesting points:

In Deut. 1:35-36, the Israelites who are about to enter the Promised Land are reminded of God’s judgement on the previous generation, that “Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the Lord!” [Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (07/19)

“He moved out, took all our money, and left me with two children”

A powerful testimony from the Mars Hill Church blog:

After giving my heart to Jesus, he radically changed my life. I stopped being sexually active, changed my circle of friends, started singing in a choir, changed the way I dressed, started treating the people better, and used my free time to get closer to Christ. After college, I met and married a man who was serving Jesus. We had two beautiful boys, we were a part of a church, we served in the music ministry, and things felt right. My life suddenly changed, however, when I caught my husband having an affair. He moved out the same day, took all our money, and left me with two children.

Read the rest at Blog.MarsHillChurch.org.

“Why Johnny Can’t Preach”

Ben Quinn at Baptist Twenty-One offers a concise recommendation for T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach:

If you’re looking for a good book on preaching, you definitely want to check out T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach.  I realize that most of you theology buffs are thinking, “The last thing I want to read is a preaching book,” but I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.  The literary quality alone is the worth the price of the book ($9.99 at Amazon), and you can read it in one sitting.

Playing off the titles of Why Johnny Can’t Read (Rudolf Flesch, 1966) and Why Johnny Can’t Write (Linden and Whimbey, 1990), T. David Gordon argues, “that societal changes that led to the concerns expressed in the 1960’s to 1980’s in educational circles…have led to the natural cultural consequence that people cannot preach expositorily” (15).

Read the rest at BaptistTwentyOne.org

Dan Kimball: “The Toughest Chapter to Write and Thank You NT Wright”

Dan Kimball shares his struggles writing about the issue of homosexuality:

The most difficult chapter in this book I am struggling with in the final writing and editing is the chapter on homosexuality. I did write about homosexuality before in the They Like Jesus But Not The Church book and my theological understanding of what Scriptures teach or don’t teach on it. I also addressed it in the DVD curriculum for that book, as I interviewed my gay friend Penny for that session in the DVD. The DVD was important as I wanted people to not just think about homosexuality or read about it, but to see the emotions, the eyes as one speaks, and hear the heart of my friend Penny – so that those that may not understand can hear her perspective and damage Christians and the church have done to her over the years.

But this book I am writing now is a trade book not written to only church leaders like my others. So I feel more weight  because the reading audience is much broader and probably more diverse. With this specific chapter, I am finding myself retyping sentences and thinking through how all different viewpoints will be reading what I am writing. So this one is taking several days wrapping it up.

Read the rest at Dan’s blog.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Everyday Theology: “Money is the Root of All Evil” Exploring the truth that money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit & John Bunyan What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and what we can learn from John Bunyan’s experience.

Everyday Theology: “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” Seeking to understand the purpose of godly discipline.

Book Review: Deep Economy Emily Armstrong offers her insights into Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy.

The cool thing about a genealogy…

A short while ago, I was reading the first chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. As many reading this would know, the chapter opens with a genealogy of Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham. As I read through it this time, I saw something really neat that I never really paid careful attention to before; that being the people on the list:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ (Matt. 1:2-16).

In it we see men and women, priests, leaders, adulterers, idolaters, wicked kings, murderers, prostitutes, liars, covetous people, and even a gentile or two…

It is a cross section of all the people that Jesus came to save.

Jesus’ earthly family is just like all of us: Liars, murderers, idolaters, religious people, prideful, covetous people; men and women of all kinds.

There is so much more in this genealogy than I’ve ever given it credit for. It gives us the opportunity to rejoice and see that there is no type of person that Jesus cannot save. No sin that Jesus’ death on the cross is not sufficient to atone for. And it shows us that God will use whomever He chooses to bring Himself glory, regardless of their “goodness.”

Had I not stopped to chew on this passage, and just sped through it to get to the “more important” stuff, I would have missed something really cool that God was showing me, and an opportunity to stand in awe of how powerful and meaningful an easy-to-ignore passage of Scripture really is.

Three Simple Letters

When thinking about why I trust the Scripture, I am reminded of the beauty of it’s words. There’s truly no other book as powerful and amazing as the Bible.

And do you know what is one of my favorite words in the whole Bible?

It’s not one that a lot of people really think about, because it’s an easy word to overlook. It’s three letters that are packed with power:

But

Look at 1 John 4:10: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (emphasis mine).

And check out Ephesians 2:1-6:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following m the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (emphasis mine)

Just in these two examples, we see the power of the word “but.” Without these three letters, we would not see the grace of God in these passages. “But,” as a conjugation, connects opposing ideas, or coordinates elements.

We cannot love God on our own… but He loved us and died for us so that we can!

We were condemned, dead in our sins… but God, in His mercy and grace, made us alive!

Without the intervention of God, we’d be left stranded on our own, lost in our sins. “But” shows God’s intervention on our behalf.

That’s why a word like “but” is so powerful.

I trust the Scriptures because even the most seemingly insignificant words are rich with meaning.

I hope you will find as much joy in the simple words as I do.

Reflections on the Old Testament

A short time ago, I completed my read through the Old Testament. After I told Emily that I’d finished, she asked me a great question: “What do you take away from it?”

Anticipation.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read of men and women who try to pursue God on their own terms and fail. Who pursue things other than God and it destroys them. And we see the hopelessness that comes from trying to follow the Law apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

The Law and the Prophets teach us one thing: We are completely incapable of following the Law. And even if we conform morally, our hearts become proud and we trust in our moral conformity rather than in the God who gave us His Law!

So when we don’t follow the Law, we sin. And when we do follow the Law, it shows us just how broken and evil we really are.

But in the midst of that, there’s so much hope.

Salvation will come.

God has not left us in the darkness of our rebellion.

He has not left us in our pitiful moral conformity.

The Lord will come (Zech. 14:5) and will be king over all the earth (Zech. 14:9). “And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:1b).

God is coming, and His herald will come before Him to prepare the way… “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” (Mal. 3:2).

Made in the Image of God: Holiness

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

One of our most important shared attributes with God is holiness. The Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as being holy:

Psalm 22:3 says, “…you [God] are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”

Psalm 89:18 calls God “the Holy One of Israel.”

Psalm 99:9 says, “the Lord our God is holy!”

Isa. 6:3 says, ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The Prophet Habbakuk calls God, “my Holy One” (Hab. 1:12).

1 John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

His name is holy (Ezek. 36:22). His words are holy (Jer. 23:9). His Spirit is holy (Luke 1:35). Absolutely everything about God is holy. It is unique, set apart, pure, good and true. There is no malice in Him. No evil, “no darkness,” is in Him at all. He is perfect.

More than 600 times, the word “holy” appears in the ESV translation of the Bible. Every time, it refers to God’s name, character, covenant, dwelling place, offerings, statutes, law… and His people.

“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16, Lev. 11:44)

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The God Who Acts

I finished reading Isaiah yesterday. While spending some time reflecting on the major themes of the book, I found this question coming up over and over again: What is the major difference between the God of the Bible and other “gods”?

The God of the Bible — The Father, Son & Spirit — acts.

He calls (Isa. 41:4, 41:9, 42:6, 43:1, 43:7, 48:12, 49:1, 51:2).

He carries (Isa. 46:4).

He speaks (Isa. 7:7, 10:24, 22:15, 23:16, 29:22, 37:6, 38:1, 43:1, 43:12).

He purposes (Isa. 14:24, 19:12, 23:8, 44:28, 46:10, 48:14, 54:16, 55:11).

He judges (Isa 59:18, 65:6).

He saves (Isa. 25:9, 30:15, 33:22, 35:4, 45:22, 49:25, 63:1, 64:5)

He redeems (Isa. 29:22, 43:1, 44:22, 44:23, 48:20, 50:2, 52:9, 63:9)

There is no other god who emphatically states, over and over again, “I save. I judge. I purpose all things.”

Only the God of the Bible.

Only Jesus.

This is the message that Isaiah came to preach. This is the message that Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection, proclaim: There is a God who acts to save His creation and He will redeem us.

We cannot save ourselves and all other “saviors” are folly. There is no hope in a god that cannot act.

There’s no hope in TV. Sex. Sports. Bands. Education. Self-Esteem. False-Religion. Vague Spirituality.

There is only hope in Jesus.

So let us put our hope in Him.

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him (Isa. 64:4).

Breathed Out by God

“All Scripture is breathed out by God…” says Paul in 2 Tim. 3:16. Honestly, if you have ever had any doubt about this, you need to look at a passage like this:

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22).

It’s such a bizarre concept, isn’t it? This concept of loving your enemy.

This is not an idea that people could come with on their own. The best we can come up with on our own is “don’t fight back.” Don’t retaliate. But Jesus went so much farther than that, commanding us to repay evil with good:

To love our enemies.

But why? Why should we do this? Why not just seek justice (or more correctly, vengeance)?

“[S]o that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:16-17). [Read more...]

The Arrest

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Matthew 26:36-56

Today, millions of Christians around the world will celebrate the brutal murder of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins. Betrayed, denied, mocked, beaten, and ultimately nailed to a Roman cross—all because of us. And by us.

Let us not make light of the seriousness of sin, particularly as the new day dawns. The cost was high to make God’s enemies His friends. May we worship with hearts filled with thanksgiving as we celebrate our suffering Savior, who cried “It is finished” (John 19:30), and put an end to the curse of death.

And may God bless you as you do.

Spurgeon: Jesus Didn't Die Because We Were Worth Saving

“Jesus did not die for our righteousness, but He died for our sins. He did not come to save us because we were worth saving, but because we were utterly worthless, ruined and undone.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, All of Grace, page 90 (emphasis mine)

We have a great God and Savior. Praise Him for the men who remind us of that.

10 Things We Don't Mention in Worship Songs…

A while back, Abraham Piper wrote about “10 Things we don’t mention in worship songs but that I’m happy God saved me from.” I liked it so much that I’m blatantly copying him, although not his 10 things.

Here’s my list:

  1. Rage
  2. Children out of wedlock
  3. Divorce
  4. Adultery
  5. Pride (though I struggle with this constantly)
  6. girls with low self-esteem
  7. Self-esteem
  8. Satan (long story)
  9. Candy and things that taste like candy (again, I struggle with this constantly)
  10. Emergent theology

What’s yours?

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 10

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God” (Psalm 10:3-4).

His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity” (v. 5-6)

The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it” (v. 10-11)

Psalm 10 centers around the prosperity of the wicked. This theme appears a number of times within the Psalms: Why do the wicked always seem to escape judgement? Why do they prosper when the righteous suffer?

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