"Love each other as I have loved you."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Guilty by association, w/ show-biz

First of all, the three or four of you goonies who read my lovely blog should congratulate my wife and I. On Sunday @ 1044pm, my wife gave birth to our first child, a son. We named him Joshua, after our Savior, Joshua, er...you know Him as Jesus. Too bad everyone else and their mother (what??) is named Joshua in America. Hey, my name is Joe, there's a pattern here. Ya think? So I'm a Dad now, and to celebrate the birth of my first child, I'm giving up sleeping at night time! =)

So, I'm going to take a break from the previously discussed subject matter below and move on to a different target for now.

On Christian Research Network an article has been posted discussing some "Hollywood stars" who 'read their Bibles' everyday.

Normally this would seem like some very benign news, however per usual with this website, this 'news' is turned in to an opportunity to tear down apparent brothers and sisters in Christ, and curse them with our words, instead of commending something most Christians would consider a 'good thing' (Bible reading).

Look what was said on CRN about these people:
"Christian Post tells us about some celebrity "Christians" who read the Bible. CRN reminds you that the Pharisees, whom the Lord referred to as "children of the Devil," read the Bible every day as well"

Now the implication that they're making is obvious: that because these people are celebreties, they cannot possibly be "Christian" because they're too much 'of the world' (nice broad strokes there...paint a broad picture...)(I think driving cars and having clothes is 'too much like the world', if you ask me, lol.)

First of all, the author sets up a false ditchomy. He compares religious hypocrites, who are believing in a works-based righteousness religion, to professing Christians who declare they read their Bibles daily. Is that a fair comparison? This is like comparing apples and oranges. The author has juxtaposed a situation from 2000 years ago including different surrounding circumstances, a totally different group of people, and a completely different understanding of religion, on to a modern situation where people who profess Jesus as Savior, say they read their Bibles daily. Completely ridiculous, totaly disimilar situations. Terrible comparison.

Let me draw a true comparison of what the author is doing here so you can see the ridiculousness of this type of comment: Say there was this group of people who for some ungodly reason I really didn't like very much, and I said to you: "These people talk about the Jewish people all the time", and then immediately afterwords I say "Now remember that HITLER talked about the Jewish people a lot too..." You would then say to yourself, following along with my retarded implication, '...oh so these people must be evil like Hitler too.' That is exactly like the set up that has been distastefully done here. Apparently these people are not Christian because hey, the Pharisees read the Bible everyday too, just like them! (I'm a Pharisee too then, according to that weird comparison, by the by...) Oh and they were assumed to be false christians beforehand because hey, they're part of Show-biz. "Surely nothing good could come from" Hollywood! Guilt by association. How merciful and compassionate.

Anyone can make the case that Martin Luther, The everything-but-worshiped 16th century reformer, is just as evil as Adolf Hitler because he's from Germany also. Using this logic, it's perfectly reasonable to say that 'Carrie Underwood' is a 'child of The Devil' because she's in Hollywood. See the picture that's been painted here?

Besides, what is even the point of 'reporting' on this 'news item'? Just to spit venom at Christians, as if our own lives were not full of sin as well?

Now it's obvious that the whole flair of this article is to point out that these people are not Christians because they're in show-biz and some of them have done questionable things (what Christian saved by GRACE, hasn't? Has the author of this tirade against these Christians done anything sinful, ever?), or been in questionable movies. The point is also being made that you can say you read the Bible all you want, but some Middle eastern religious hypocrites from the 1st Century read the Old Testament every day, and they were 'damned', therefore if you're in a career field that is deemed 'the devil' by CRN, you're just like those Pharisees. Makes sense, right? I work in the Military, and many would say I'm evil too, just because of my job. I must not be a Christian, they would say, because I'm part of an 'evil organization' that 'kills people and breaks their stuff'. But I assure you by God's Grace alone that I am a Christian. Perspective and personal conviction is everything, but when you elevate that conviction to a position where you can do God's Judgment for Him, then you're a legalist.

They don't even know a meager 1% about the people they just condemned to hell. "By their fruits, you will know them.", said Jesus, sure, but CRN doesn't even know a fraction of a fraction of these people's lives and their walks (or lackthereof) with the Lord. How can you make a discernment on such little information? How can you act as God to them? You cannot. These people might have problems, shortcommings, and sins in their relationship with God, but fortunately for them, we're not saved by what we do. And I'll bet the author of this article on CRN has JUST as many sins before God as they do. Not the same sins maybe, but sins are sins, and equally terrible before God. So who are you to judge your brother to hell? Aren't you glad you're saved by Jesus' Works, and not your own, sinner? Perhaps these Christians who have been sworn at and torn down by the authors words (see Ephesians 4, for the real definition of 'swearing' and 'cursing' at someone), should take the same standard the author has used here against the Hollywood Christians, and use it against and use it on the author from CRN. I'll bet they come out looking just as bad as the Hollywood guys do, just as I would too. But then again, if they did that, it wouldn't be very Christian of them, would it?
"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done."

People, listen carefully, a man or woman is saved by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Jesus Christ and His finished Work alone. Perfection on our part is not required. Jesus was, and still is, perfect for us. I'm trusting in that.
If only CRN followed and showed that they actually believed in the 'solas' they so adimantly profess and claim to love all the time.

Si Solus...

Grace and Love to all,


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Is God the Judge?

I have heard a few times in the last few days that neither God the Father, or Jesus Himself will judge the unbelieving. Instead the point has been made that Jesus own words judge men. Let's evaluate this. We'll also look at whether this changes anything concerning the judgment, punishment, and eternal destination of these people.

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son
of Man. "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are
in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will
rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself
I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek
not to please myself but him who sent me. John 5:26-30

So Jesus has been given authority to judge because He's Human. Rather, the perfect Human being, being both God and Man. Also, this could be a throwback to Daniel 7:

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will
never be destroyed." Daniel 7:13-14

Jesus said something interesting at the end of Chapter 5 which I think is relevant here:
But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?"

So Moses judges these Jews? But wait...how can Moses have that authority? But notice it's what Moses wrote...in which these Jews trusts are, that will judge them. They're being judged according to what they know. The problem for them becomes that Jesus is written about by Moses and the Law, and if they really believed what Moses had said, they would believe in Jesus. But as it stands, because they think they know Moses words so well, and choose to ignore them concerning Jesus, Moses will judge them. See how that works?

In the next post, I'll be looking at what Jesus says concerning His Words and His Judgment, and we'll see if Jesus Himself judges, or if His Words do.

Grace and Love to All,


Friday, November 23, 2007

How much Doctrine?

Since this is my first post in the raging sea that is known as 'the blogsphere', I figured I would use my first post to sling a stone at a "Goliath" of subject matter: Doctrine. Let's look at some Scripture first:

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them." Acts 17:22-34

How much Christian Doctrine must one believe at the time of their salvation? We're so quick to say to a person with whom we are sharing our faith..."Sir, believe this, this, and most certainly this...let me tell you of the predestination of the saints, let me tell you of the sovreignty of God, the hypostatic union, justification, sanctification, let me tell you of the doctrine of ______, oh and please do not forget _______, you must believe these things!"

But when we look at Jesus Christ, and His Apostles, as they preach The Gospel, do we even see a fraction of the Doctrines we love so much and know to be true in the preaching of the Gospel to the lost?

Not really.

What? Blasphemy? No, of course not. We have to ask ourselves "what is the Gospel"? What needs to be preached among the human race? How simple is the Gospel anyways? Does deep doctrinal teaching come before, during, or after the Gospel is preached and believed?

Let's look at the verse at the beginning of the post. The Apostle Paul is in Athens, preaching to a bunch of guys who basically like to argue about philosophy and 'new ideas'. By the time Paul is finished preaching the Gospel to these guys, he's covered a lot, but generally he covers that there is One True God, He created everything, is all-powerful, God has nothing to do with man-made idols, God commands us to repent of our sin, has appointed a Man to judge the world, and proved all of this by raising Him from the dead. A lot of what Paul said was to break down the cultural divide between Jew and Greek. Paul was leveling a wrecking ball on Greek Religion, and addressing the problems with it compared to the Truth in Christ. To this end, he succeeds and is mocked, like usual. But look at the major theological points Paul brings up. He doesn't touch on the doctrines we consider SO essential to Christian belief, that we maul each other over constantly, condemn and damn each other to hell over. In Paul's dialogue here there's no diety of Christ, no complex soteriology, no systematic theologies, no hypostatic union, no Trinity, nothing to argue over on regeneration, justification, sanctification, or even WHY Jesus died. I don't see any of that in there, or in many of the sermons the apostles or Jesus preached to the lost.

Now before anyone reasons me a insane heretic, apostasy monger, man-lover, doctrine-hater on my first post (thus proving my point from above, ha ha), I do believe Doctrine for the Christian life is increddibly important, and I believe in what I would hope most Christians have believed in from the Scriptures for the past 2000 years. We get sound Doctrine from Scripture, which we should be studious about and hide it in our hearts. With that said, does that solve our original question of the ammount of Doctrine we must believe in before we're saved, or at the time of our salvation?

What I do see in Pauls discussion with the Greeks is essentially "Repent and believe". Which is precisely the Message that Jesus first began preaching, and continued to preach during his Ministry on Earth. But look at this example...

He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house." Acts 16:30-32

So right here we don't even see 'repent' being mentioned. I would think this is because you can't have saving faith without repentance, as it will always accompany Faith in Christ.

Let's think about the thief on the Cross next to Jesus for a moment... I wonder what he believed in? How much doctrine did he know when Jesus Christ said to Him "Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.". We know he understood Jesus was a King, and without sin, and undeserving of this death, but that's IT, is that all the man needed to believe to be saved? Some of us today, if this story was not in Scripture, and the Lord Himself didn't say "You're mine" to this man, we would look at this poor broken hearted thief and say "Well...he didn't make a positive confession of Jesus being...this this this this and this...so he's probably not a Christian". Hogwash. What we do know is this: The man was sorry for his sins, knew he was wrong, and knew Jesus somehow had the power to save him. He had repentance. He surely knew of the surrounding events of the last few days, with Jesus entering in to Jerusalem, and his many speeches, and his ransacking of the Temple. And the Holy Spirit had pricked this man's heart. He knew who Jesus was, in part, and what he had been doing. He had faith.

So I see the same thing happening here...."repent and believe", as what Jesus and the Apostles preached.

So how much doctrine do we need to be saved?

Repentance and faith in Christ. That's the Gospel at its very foundation. Take a look through the preaching of the NT and try to say otherwise. Impossible.

Now, if we look at the sermon on the day of Pentecost that Peter gave to the Jews gathered, we see a long sermon about a Man who God has made Savior and Lord, and who was killed, and rose again from the dead by God's power. Not much doctrine there either, and then we see again...at the end of the sermon "repent..." We see the demand to believe this Gospel and repent and turn to this Jesus. When the people responded, they were baptized and included in to the Church. So what did these men and women believe WHEN they were saved? "Repent and Believe". We spend too much time fighting over the doctrinal nuances of the Gospel, which really aren't THE Gospel at all, but deeper aspects of it. We spend so much time worrying about these things that we forget to preach this, the SIMPLE Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here's what's 'necessary' to hear and believe when we're first saved:

"By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the
Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to
the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve." 1 Cor.15:2-5

Simple Huh? Now, my final point in all of this: What happens AFTER this Gospel of the Kingdom is preached?

I thought I'd never ask. Continuing on in Acts 2, after the sermon of Peter:

"Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand
were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:41-42
So we can see what happens after the Gospel is preached and believed. The newbies of the faith devote themselves to what the Apostles teach/taught. That's where they are going to learn deep Spiritual Truths of God (Doctrines etc) and be obedient to them and accepting to them. This is what Christians do, not just a new Christians, but ongoing in our entire life long walk as well. They accept what comes from the Spirit of God because they have "the Mind of Christ", and non Christians cannot understand the deep things of God, because they do not have His Spirit.

What about us today? Do we have the Apostles teachings? Of course we do, in the Bible, in the New Testament, even the Gospels (because the Apostles got their teachings from Jesus by personal contact or further revelation in visions, dreams, prayer, etc). That does not discount the Old Testament at all, which is what the Christian faith is completely founded upon, and what Jesus based much of His teaching on. We can learn and submit to doctrine from the Old Testament as well. But as with all things in Scripture, the truth must be correctly divided and used properly. Basically, I'm not going to go stone some children for being rowdy. Ha Ha.


So, let's keep deep doctrine where it belongs, to be used to mature and grow a Christian up in their faith, what a way to love each other as Jesus loved us!! But when we preach the Gospel, let's remember how simple it really is, and let us 'walk as Jesus did'. Let's not "add to His Words, lest he reprove us and show us to be fools". Let's not add anything to Jesus Christ's righteous work on the Cross, and His perfection for us. Repent and believe. A real conversion is that simple, and after, that person will want to know God more and more, learn His Truth, and share it with other Christians for edification, always remembering that Christ did the work to save us, and we reap that by Faith in Jesus and not ourselves.

Now, I'm not talking about a 'minimum ammount of Doctrine' that all Christians will definitely believe in and agree on as they mature in their faith, that is a whole other Bible Study. I'm talking about what does a person 'believe on' when they are first saved. Make sure you understand my meaning in this post.

Grace and Love to all,