The ‘Begats’, Jesus, and John Mayer

What if I told you that even most of those who read their bible daily are probably skipping the most important part of the word?  What if I told you that it was important enough to begin both the Old and New Testaments? What if I told you it was a crucial element in keeping your youth group kid from becoming the college student/atheist that I spoke with today?

Why aren’t we reading it? Honestly? It’s “boring”.  I’ve heard pastors joke about it, and unashamedly skip it. I’ve heard people actually tell students to “skip over” that section. I can almost hear the groans as I hit you with one word…….

begat

I believe with all my heart that the two MOST important phrases in all of scripture are “begat” and “for you”.

Why begat?

First of all, God felt it important enough to include it in the canon of scripture. Not only include it, but place it in prominent places, in great depth. It is, along with all scripture, theopneustos (literally, God-breathed).

Secondly, because it sets the events of the bible in history! I can’t stress that enough. This isn’t allegory. It isn’t mythology.  It actually happened.

It not only reveals to us that God entered into His creation, but did so in time and history!  Unbelievable!

Thirdly, because it provides a proper presentation (and ready defense) of the gospel we are commanded to proclaim.

And finally, it shows God’s great love in covenant as He chose a people for Himself, based upon His grace alone.

Am I stretching here? Let’s take a look:

1. We have substantial genealogies from the very first book of the bible (Gen 5; Adam to Noah)

2. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people are defined by the genealogies of real, historical people. (i.e. When God sends Moses to speak to  His people, He is told to speak of ‘The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’.  It is noteworthy that this is not the same name which Moses was to use of God to Pharaoh.)

3. Genealogies are used even in very routine interactions in scripture, to show God’s sovereign choices of real people (who really lived, in real points in history). An example would be God enabling and choosing the craftsmen for the tabernacle in Exodus 31.  In the midst of some of the greatest foreshadow and symbolism in all of scripture (the tabernacle), we have God enabling and selecting (by name) real, living, known men.

1The LORD said to Moses, 2“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: – Exodus 31:1-6

4. Apart from genealogy, scripture also lists specific, historical people groups and historical figures to explicitly show these events as historical and not allegorical or symbolic:

a. The land promised to Israel was filled with real, historical people: Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

b. The most significant events in the Bible (Entering the promised land, destruction of the temple, etc) and in the New Testament (The birth of Christ, the death of John the Baptist, The crucifixion, The journeys and trials of Paul, the early church, etc.) are all set in historical context by listing the names of historical kings and rulers.

So, how do the begats help keep my kid from becoming the college atheist I spoke to today?  In two very significant ways:

1. It presents the gospel as a historic event.  It forces me to present the actual good news  of the gospel.  The reason it is called the evangel (from which pastors are called evangelists) is that the biblical greek is εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion) or good news.  This thing happened. It really, actually happened. In history.  So it guards me from allegorizing the gospel, or making it something I do. I can’t “live the gospel” or “be the gospel” or “do the gospel” anymore than I can live, or be, or do the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves during the civil war.  My only option, and the only mission given to us by God, is to proclaim this news!

2. It guards us from subjective experiences.  Your testimony is not the gospel. How you feel about Jesus isn’t the gospel.  If you share your testimony or feelings with the college atheist I just met, the response?  His testimony and feeling.  Jesus gives you purpose? Cool, Habitat for Humanity gives him purpose.  Jesus makes you feel joy?  Sweet. Playing music connects him to the universe and brings him joy. Congratulations, you’ve just put the God of the universe on the same subjective plane as John Mayer.  Ugh.   By presenting the gospel in it’s proper context, an objective event, which took place in history, we present good news which is outside of what we “feel” or our “experiences”.  So you get a warm fuzzy (entirely subjective) when you pray. You feel like the Holy Spirit is giving you a subjective, personal confirmation/revelation that you “feel in your heart.”  Interesting, so did this guy:

Yes, Joseph Smith, prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (The “Mormons”).  As a matter of fact, I once had a chance to watch LDS missionaries witnessing of their faith to a friend of mine. They asked him to read the Book of Mormon, and then pray that he would feel a “burning in the bosom”, and a peace, which would confirm that the Book of Mormon was true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

The problem here is that once you get out of the objective word of God into your subjective “feelings” or “experiences” you are in treacherous waters:

“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.” -Proverbs 28:26

So where do we go? Scripture:

Do you know what the book of Luke is about?  Luke (who was not an Apostle, but a disciple of Paul) wrote the book of Luke to “Theophilus” (who most scholars believe was an influential Roman official) after speaking with various eyewitnesses and reported the events which had taken place when Jesus was alive.  Luke was a highly educated man and his finished work is a tremendous work of historical research.  Luke talked to real people, who knew a real Jesus.  This isn’t subjective “feeling”, this is eyewitness testimony:

[Dedication to Theophilus]
[1:1] Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, [3] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, [4] that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
(Luke 1:1-4 ESV)

We are exhorted to look to the scriptures, not our subjective feelings, to hear from God:

[Paul and Silas in Berea]
[10] The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. [11] Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

(Acts 17:10-11 ESV)

And we are most definitely presented the gospel as an objective, historical event to be proclaimed as FIRST importance.

[The Resurrection of Christ]
[15:1] Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
[3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, [5] and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. [6] Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. [7] Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. [8] Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

(1 Corinthians 15:1-8 ESV)

So, as you see The Holy Spirit’s primary method of inwardly confirming and testifying to truth is the illumination of public revelation that God has provided. A Christian would encourage a person to investigate the various things that point to the trustworthiness of Christ, and to pray that the Holy Spirit would illuminate such (Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”), while a subjective witness (used in a non-scriptural witnessing method, by the college atheist, or by a Mormon would be based upon feelings or personal revelation).  While Mormons emphasize subjective truth (truth discerned by mere feelings), it is important for Christians to help explain the nature of objective truth (something that often challenges our feelings).  The gospel isn’t “God has a wonderful plan for your life”. The bible never uses this language, and the apostles never preached it.  God has a wonderful plan for your life? Great, so does the Peace Corps. Are you seeing it yet?

As we close out on the value of the ‘begats”, it’s important to point out that time and space on a blog doesn’t allow the deep dive into the full beauty of the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1, but it is in itself a hidden treasure of the grace of God. Truly beautiful.

I’ll close with the Apostle’s Creed.  After reading this blog, see if you can spot the historical marker:

(Note: “catholic” in the creed means “universal” and not Catholic as in Roman Catholic)

Did you see it?  It’s not subjective. It happened, in history. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, a real man, who existed in real, objective history (He was the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judea from AD 26-36, serving under the Emperor Tiberius).

So, next time you’re reading the ‘begats’ let them remind you that when you are witnessing, you are called to “keep it real”.. literally. Present the historical, objective gospel (which is the only gospel we’ve been authorized to share)!

Marc

6 Months of Marc5Solas

This is the 6th month of M5S. After a quick look back and inventory, I can only say…

I would have never imagined that “my little blog” would be used outside of my little circle of the world.   What I started as a way to answer a couple of recurring questions I had been asked, and provide a repository of my thoughts for my girls, is being read in 17 countries on 6 continents! (No readers in Antarctica yet) 😉  I’ve also received some nice comments from readers, including a member of  the Oklahoma House of Representatives. (Random, but cool!)

I’ve done none of the traditional, recommended marketing to “get hits”, as I have no interest in chasing numbers.  I’ve done my best to be faithful in representing God’s word, and He has (to my humble amazement) used it.  For those who have read it, thank you.  For those who have sent comments and asked questions, bless you. I pray that I’ve been faithful in presenting His gospel.

With that, no more “navel gazing”.  Back to the word for His glory!

Marc

I couldn’t make this stuff up: Gloria Copeland: “You’re supposed to control the weather”

From the “I couldn’t make this stuff up” file, the following quote from Gloria Copeland.  (I guess they were busy during Hurricane Katrina?) The problem here is that anytime someone speaking for God says that I’m “supposed to” do something, it’s law. I’m bound to it. It’s sin if I don’t do it.  Anyone have a verse that says I’m supposed to control the weather? Anyone? Bueller?

Full quote:

“You know, you’re the – you’re supposed to control the weather. I mean, Ken’s the primary weatherman at our house, but when he’s not there I do it. And you can see what’s happening out there. It shows just like they have on – at the weather – like on the news. I mean, he’s got the computer that’s got the current weather on it and all that for flying. So sometimes I’ll hear something, I’ll hear the thunder start, and maybe he’ll still be asleep, and I’ll say, “Ken, you need to do something about this.” [Laughter]

And knowing that – but you are the one that has authority over the weather. One day Ken and Pat Boone, when we were at Hawaii at their house, and we were – they were setting outside, and there was a weather spout out over the ocean.

And that’s like a tornado, except it hits the water. And so they were sitting there and they just watched it, rebuked it, and it never did anything. One day, I was in the airplane, in the back, and my little brother was in the back with me, and Ken was up front flying. And we were not in the weather, because we don’t fly bad weather, but we could see the weather over here. And I looked out the window and that tornado came down just like this, down toward the ground. And Ken said, “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus. You get back up there!”

So this is how I learned how to talk to tornados. I saw this. And that tornado went [makes repeated whooping noise], even while I was watching. And my little brother was not a devout Christian at that time, and that was really good for him to see.

So you’re the weatherman. You get out there-or the weatherwoman, whichever it is, and you talk to that thing, and you tell it, “You’re not coming here. I command you to dissipate! And you get back up there in Jesus’ name!” Glory to God. That-I won’t charge you extra.”

(Supporting video clip, in full context, at 4:55 mark here: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-tube/play.php?id=cwnVideo-4460

Post Chik-fil-A: A call to Repentance (There is no “us” and “them”)

Purpose:

I’ve noticed lately that in the conversation regarding “same-sex marriage” and homosexuality in general, that there has been much heat and very little light.  The recent Chik-fil-A discussion has shown me that most folks aren’t particularly interested in honest dialogue, but in scoring points for their side, even (and often) at the cost of truthfulness.   Being “pro-family” isn’t the gospel. Being “anti-gay marriage” isn’t the gospel. And some of the activities I’ve seen have drawn lines political lines in the sand which have made it extremely difficult to accomplish our mission of  gospel proclamation.

With that, I’m going to write what I know may be a dangerous blog post. It may hurt me professionally, may cost me some friends on both sides of the fence, and will almost certainly be taken out of context.  Why risk it?  Because I see the biblical position on this issue horribly misrepresented, and am saddened to hear many Christian youth woefully unprepared to even engage the subject.  I write as a Christian, to other Christians here.  I am writing to an audience who believes in objective, external truth as revealed in the bible.  If you do not hold the bible as authoritative and inerrant, or if you are a relativist, even the most accurate exegesis of scripture will conflict with your worldview.  If, after I present the biblical position you find you disagree with what I’ve written, ask yourself honestly if the disagreement is with what is in the text, or is it simply not what you want to believe.

As I write, please hear my heart. I hate no one.  I look down on no one.  I know my own sinful heart and work to remove the beam from my own eye as I attempt to faithfully and accurately present the truth of scripture.  You aren’t going to find anything hateful as I address this issue. My goal is to speak as clearly and as accurately as possible on this sensitive and emotional issue.  The church has often interacted with an inexcusable lack of respect and civility with the homosexual community, and for that, I truly apologize.  It is my earnest desire to address this issue with love, grace, civility and truthfulness.  There is no “us” and “them”.  We are one, united under a command to repent and believe.  The call to repentance for some will be from pride, and for confusing our political agendas with our mission to preach the gospel of repentance to all men.  For others, it will be a call to repent of the sin of homosexuality after a clear presentation of God’s word in this blog.   And so… my prayer.

Prayer:

My prayer is that the light of God’s word would illuminate this subject. I pray that Christians would obey the clear commands in scripture to be both well studied in the word, and to love neighbor as self.  I pray that the Lord would use my very limited abilities to lay out a simple presentation for youth who are unprepared to engage this subject biblically.  I pray that I never allow my pride to ignore the plank in my own eye, or to see my sins as less offensive to God than those of other men; Even if theirs are sins which are less acceptable in the church.  I pray for those who struggle with homosexuality. If you gain nothing else from this blog, get this… there is grace for you.

Prohibition:

The following are texts which explicitly prohibit homosexuality.  There are other passages of scripture (such as the account of Lot in Gen19) which are often debated (i.e. the sin in Gen19 is rape and not homosexuality). However, for our purposes, we will deal with texts which explicitly speak of the act of homosexuality being a sin:

“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” – Leviticus 18:22

 

“‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. – Leviticus 20:13

 

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

 

 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” – 1 Timothy 1: 9-11

As you can see, both the old and new testaments explicitly teach against homosexuality, labeling it “detestable”, “contrary to sound doctrine”, and that those practicing homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Faced with such direct teaching, those who would maintain the supremacy of the bible and yet defend homosexuality must build their case either outside of scripture, or by denying that these passages apply to them.

Often, a simple appeal to emotion is used, but to put it bluntly, our emotion is to be submitted to the authority and teaching of scripture, not the other way around.

I’d like you to ask yourself this honest question; Do you believe we are to obey every aspect of OT law? Wearing only single fiber clothing?  Not cutting the edges of our beards? Not eating pork? Probably not.  Most of us would agree that not all aspects of the law are binding in that regard. But why not?  Conversely, who of us would say that all of the law is to be discarded; Love your neighbor as yourself, do not steal, do not lie? I can’t imagine anyone is ready to throw all of the law out either.  So, then, how do we determine which laws we follow and which we are no longer bound to?  And why are we no longer bound to it?  In short, how would you respond to the objection below?

Common objections by category:

Format:  I’ve organized my thoughts in a way that I believe will help identify, understand, and respond to the most common objections to the historic view that homosexuality is condemned in scripture.  First, I’ve posted my purpose, my prayer, and scriptures which specifically prohibits homosexual behavior.  I will now work through common objections. These objections typically state the condemnation of homosexuality was only for a particular people, a particular place, or a particular period and are no longer binding.  I’ll address each individually and finish with a discussion of the law, it’s permanence, and a promise.

People:

The argument here is typically that the law was only for “them”, and not for us as New Testament/Christian believers.  We clearly see that the law is not a single, monolithic, body. Rather, it is broken into the three categories above.  What did Jesus himself teach regarding 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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 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. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 5:17-20 ESV)

As you can see, the law will remain.  Unless you believe that we are to adhere to every aspect of OT Law, we must take a closer look at what  Jesus expressly overturned under His new covenant, what He leaves unchanged, and what He raises the bar on:

1. Ceremonial Law: These laws are no longer applicable, as they have been fulfilled in Christ. Examples of these are:

a. Food (Mark 7:19)

b. Unclean People (The leper in Mark 1:41)

c. A bleeding woman (Mark 5:27)

d. A dead child (Mark 5:41)

And finally,  Jesus ends the ceremonial law once and for all by doing what no earthly priest could ever do; He sat down, at the right hand of the father.  In language that no Old Testament Jew could ever miss, Jesus, the spotless lamb, is sacrificed once and for all.  The foreshadows are gone, the types and shadows are complete. Jesus has fulfilled the ceremonial law.

2. Civil: Jesus ultimately ended the separation of Jew and Gentile as he tore the temple veil. The NT sends the adoption theme to all men everywhere, Samaritan, and gentile alike.  These laws still teach us through principle, but are no longer binding.

3. Moral: Jesus not only holds this in place, but raises the bar to show the ultimate standard of these laws:

           “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

            “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

            “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.        

(Matthew 5:21-48 ESV)

To speak specifically to the fact that the moral law contained within the holiness code was not simply for national/ethnic Israel, consider the following:

Leviticus 18:24-30 teaches that divine judgment had come upon the nations who previously dwelled in the land.  These were nations that did not have the law of God given in the Decalogue (Ten Commandments). Clearly, the prohibition of homosexuality wasn’t only a Jewish matter, it was something that transcended ethnic boundaries.

Therefore, to attempt to lump “the law” into one basket, and then claim that we are inconsistent if we don’t follow all cleanliness or civil laws (such as those in the figure below), is inaccurate.   It is a fundamental misunderstanding (or misrepresentation) of the law.  We do not follow (and are not bound by) the ceremonial laws, since Christ has fulfilled them completely.  We are also not bound by the civil laws, though we do gain value in understanding their underlying principles.

Summary:  The ceremonial code has been fulfilled in Christ, the civil code is an example in principle, and the moral code is applicable to all men.

Place:

To believe that the moral law is applicable only to a certain locale is an absurdly weak argument.  Would he say that it would be acceptable (for anyone, Jew or Gentile) to sell one’s daughter into harlotry while residing in Los Angeles? Practice incest in Canada? Obviously not. These actions are abhorrent to God regardless of their location. So much so, in fact that Leviticus teaches us that these practices are so horrid that they defile the land itself (Lev 19:29, 20:19-22).  Clearly, the Levitical prohibitions on homosexuality are not limited to either the land, or to those who lived in the land.  They also pre-date the giving of the ceremonial or civil laws, as shown by those engaging in this practice before Israel entered into the land being held accountable and punished for their behaviors.

Summary: The moral code is applicale in all places. 

Period:

Frequently, those who advocate the bible’s acceptance of homosexuality will argue their position by pointing out things that are contained in the book of Leviticus which are no longer practiced, or simply ignored, by those who profess to follow the God of the Bible.  From this, it is often deduced that the book of Leviticus is no longer applicable to our contemporary situation.  Those who advocate the compatibility of homosexualty and Christianity readily turn to Leviticus and then challenge their challengers with a  “what about this passage” approach to obedience.

A few examples of this approach would be illustrative at this point. Scanzoni and Mollenkott have accused those who oppose their por-homo position with script inconsistency:

“Consistency and fairness would seem to dictate that if the Holiness Code is to be invoked against 20th century homosexual,  it should likewise be invoked against such common practices as eating rare steak, wearing mixed fabrics, (etc.)”

As pointed out previously, this is a clear confusion of the categories of the law.  If you do not understand that the eating of steak (which was a ceremonial law and fulfilled in Christ), or the wearing of mixed fabrics (civil law which was for national Israel), you can easily be tripped up by the seeming “inconsistency” of the modern church.  The problem with this argument is that even if (and we have clearly pointed out that they are not) all these laws were valid, and being violated, it would not make a valid defense for biblical support of homosexuality.  In short, the argument looks like this:

1. You say homosexuality is prohibited in the bible.

2. So is (insert other law here), which you violate.

3. Therefore, Levitical laws are no longer binding.

You see the problem, right?

1. The same Levitical laws prohibit laws which nobody would throw out (incest, bestiality, stealing, lying, etc.)

2. At best, for the pro-homosexual argument, we have a common hypocrisy, which does not negate the validity of the law itself.

This is the argument of a child;  We’re not supposed to hit people. Dad hit someone. Therefore, hitting is OK.   Homosexuality is prohibited, so is cutting your hair. You cut your hair, so both are OK.  Even if both laws were equally applicable (which they are not), a shared hypocrisy would not validate a clear violation of those laws.

Summary: The moral code is applicable in all periods.

Permanence

The non-binding laws were exclusively ‘ceremonial’. They regulated the Israelite sacrificial system and matters such as ceremonial cleanliness.  Although they hold forth moral duties, they were typical of Christ’s sacrifice and since he has fulfilled all they typified, they are abrogated and non-binding to those who follow Christ.  These laws regarding ritual purity and separation differ from the civil law in that they were not for a well-ordered society, rather they were necessary solely because of a Holy God dwelling in the tabernacle and among the people.  For that reason, they dealt with food (Lev 11), childbirth (Lev 12), disease, infection (Lev 13-14), and bodily discharges (Lev 15).  We also see ceremonial laws as having to judicial penalty. They simply made the guilty party “unclean” (often until the end of the day).  These were not universally binding. For example, unclean animals or dead animals (both “unclean” could be sold to travellers or foreigners.)

Laws concerning everyday civil matters in the Israelite community are binding in their underlying principles, as we have discussed.

The only laws that are, without exception, ever-binding are the moral code.

Summary: The moral code is applicable for all time.

Promise:

I have laid out, as clearly as possible, the orthodox biblical position on homosexuality.  It’s clearly not politically correct, and may even ben wrongly branded as “hate speech” in some countries.  For that I make no apology.  However, I will interact with those struggling in this sin with dignity and with love as they are also made in the image of God.  If you are struggling with homosexuality, you are no more a sinner than I am as I struggle with my sins.  But a sinner you are, and repent you must.  But know that you are never, ever beyond grace:

            And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

(1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV)

 

The word is clear, the sin is evident, and the grace is sufficient for those who would repent, in faith believing.

As always, I’m always here to answer e-mails.

Next week: Examples of actual arguments you may encounter, and how to respond to them biblically.

Marc

Note: While not directly quoted or footnoted, this blog contains material from Dr. James White’s “The Same Sex Controversy”, which I recommend:  http://www.aomin.org/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=50

The Christian Bookstore is a Minefield

“What should I read?”

I get this question almost every week.  As someone who typically reads a book a week on average, I appreciate that people value my opinion.  I love to read, I love to learn, and I love to discuss what I’m learning. I like to work through what I’m learning with people much smarter than I, and I enjoy passing on what I’ve learned to those it may help.  In short, I want to study to show myself approved, and to rightly handle the word of truth!

So, here’s how the conversation typically goes:

“I’m looking for a good book (possibly inserting category of book here).  What have you read lately that you like? What do you recommend?”

The problem with the question above is that the three parts don’t often work together.  If you’re looking for a book on a subject I don’t read much about, or have much interest in (like eschatology in my case), then it’s hard for me to make a recommendation.  Secondly, what I’m reading may not be a good fit for you. Maybe I’ve recently had great discussions with a Hindu at work and have decided to spend a couple of months working through vedas, agamas, or puranas in order to interact with them and present the gospel in their context. I certainly wouldn’t recommend any of them if asked.  Or, I might be reading a book on a subject that isn’t applicable or interesting to you at this season in your life. Finally, what do I recommend? That’s tough if I don’t know you well, what you’re struggling with, where you need growth, or what your interest are.  With that, here are some basic recommendations:

1. Know why you’re reading before you decide what to read:

Have a game plan and a goal for your reading.  Most voracious readers I know read intentionally.  Find a subject that interests you and read deeply. Read footnotes, read the source material for those footnotes.  Invariably, you’ll end up down the road having read multiple books.

2. Read primary sources:

If you want to know what Islam believes, the proper source is the Koran, not Fox News, and probably not your favorite evangelical pastor.  Strive for accuracy and truth as you engage subjects, and try to understand various sides of the issue.  There are very few things less effective (or attractive) than someone who believes what they believe because they believe it (and have no ability to see it in the larger context in order to defend or present it).   In this regard, I rarely trust even “big names”.  I’ve seen respected pastors and academics misrepresent and absolutely butcher beliefs which differ from theirs.

3. Categorize:  Finally, I recommend you keep the lines of your categories well-defined and guard against encroachment.   If you want to read something for “spiritual development”, understand what scripture says about your current state (fallen), your problem (sin), the solution (the atoning work of Christ) and the continued work ahead (scriptural study, prayer, and the daily battle of sanctification).  Find books which use these terms and work from these biblical categories.  If you don’t, you’re going to end up with some extra-biblical (and often non-biblical) “solutions” to “problems” which are not really the core problem at all.  THAT is how you end up off mission and far removed from scripture.

As I start to read, I read in several categories:

The Bible:  I know this is the pat answer, but only the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, word of God.  The word used in scripture is theopneustos; literaly “God-breathed”.  If you’ve got something you think is more worth reading, we need to talk. 😉   I would challenge you, if you are an adult who has been a Christian more than a year or two and haven’t read the entire bible, you need to get after it. Seriously.  The “M’Cheyne” bible reading plan takes about 10-15 minutes a day and will work you through the ENTIRE bible once, and the New Testament/Psalms/Proverbs a SECOND time.  You spend more time than that on facebook. You can do this.

I list the bible separately from the categories below.  I’m not a proponent of “solo scriptura” or ONLY reading the Bible, but understand that anything not found in the Bible is not theopnuestos.  It may be good, it may be accurate, but it’s always at risk of leading us away from the gospel, and that default is usually law. Be careful.

1. Pure leisure:  These are good airplane books. Good books to read while sitting and waiting for the kids, on the beach, or well.. in the restroom.  These books are almost never scriptural or academic.  Examples of things like this for me might be Readers Digest (yes, I’m probably the only person under 70 on the planet that loves RD!), comedy books by guys like Bill Bryson, or even an old Calvin and Hobbes book.   I’d say this makes up less than 5% of my typical reading, but I do enjoy it!

2. Classics:  I think there is great value in reading the great classics, both great American authors and great historical authors:  Mark  Twain and Ernest Hemingway are favorites of mine. One of my 3 favorite books of all-time is “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. I’m glad to see schools getting back to some of the classics. If you haven’t read “Lord of the Flies”, you’re missing out.  If you’re interested in how to get started reading some of the classics, let me know. I’ve got shelves of them and would be happy to let you borrow one!

3. Spiritual Development/Self-Improvement:  Yes, I bundled those two together on purpose.  If there is a landmine for the Christian, this is it.  There is more nonsensical garbage (is that direct enough?) in this area than any I’ve seen.  Look, your problem is sin, the solution is Christ, and the ongoing work is sanctification.  If you get the problem wrong, you’re going to get the “solution” wrong.  Go into Walgreens thinking you have athlete’s foot when you really have skin cancer and you’re going to waste your time, and the results could be fatal.

How do we get this wrong?

I feel empty, like I’m not growing. My kids are horrible and I feel “unfulfilled”. So, I go to the local Christian bookstore and see a book that speaks directly to my “need”.  (Which is a subjective/FELT need. Your view of your need may not jive with your need as defined in scripture): “3 Steps to Living Your Best Life Now, and How to Have Better Kids!”  It’s got a nice, smiling pastor on the front of it.  Bingo!   The book then gives me 3 steps, which all boil down to the seemingly comforting and simply  “Just begin to put God first in your life” and “just love on other people”.  Huh.  Sounds familiar.  Wait, I  know!

“And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 ESV)

So, how’s that working out for you?  I’ll give you a hint; you aren’t doing it. You never have, and never will.  Really? ALL your heart? ALL your soul? ALL your strength?  And you love your neighbor as yourself?  There’s a word for this requirement; LAW.  Guess what? You can’t do it, and Jesus knew that. Paul spoke of this in Galatians; If you attempt to live by the law, you inherit the entire law, and are separated from Christ. Ouch.

So the entire “solution” laid out by smiley-happy guy is guaranteed, in scripture, to lead to your failure and land you in hell.  Nice, huh?

So the solution to the problem of sin is repentance.  Have bad kids? Guess what, your kids are fallen little people being raised by fallen big people.  Your spouse is awful? Well, your marriage is a union of two fallen people sinning against each other… maybe we look to repentance to each other and to God, and show the grace that He has shown to us?  I know that won’t sell many books, but it sure sounds a lot more like the gospel than “Just begin to…” and then a list of law, no?

In short, you’re going to view the problem as sin, and the solution to be EXTERNAL to you  that has been DONE (grace/gospel), or you’re going to view the problem as your felt needs/better life and look for the answer INSIDE yourself through things you need to do (law/works).  In theological terms, the real solution is extra nos (outside of us), in other words, it is an alien righteousness. Read the books on the shelves of your Christian bookstore (or your church bookshelf) and see if they point to the problem as sin with an external solution of the gospel and grace, or if they ID the problem as not living your best life (often hidden as “God’s plan for your life”) and the solution as works, or “to do” steps.

4.  “Christian Fiction”:   There is, apparently, an entire genre of Christian fiction that I’m not much aware of. I’ve read “The Chronicles of Narnia” and nearly everything C.S. Lewis ever wrote, but I’m not very current on these areas and must admit I’ve never read an “Amish Christian Romance”.  I’d view these as leisure reading with the possibility of some theology and “Christian” undertones thrown in. I’d be careful of what this message is, and our natural default is law and generic “be nice to people and the good guy wins in the in end” spirituality. I would include in fiction (thought it’s often marketed as “theology”) any book which unveils some new “mystery”.  Seriously, do you actually believe that the pastor at your local seeker-church has been given special revelation to unveil a truth in scripture which the church hasn’t understood in 2 centuries?  You figure the odds are better that he’s reading something into the text that isn’t there? A good example of this is, well, anything written by Mark Batterson. Circle Maker? Good grief.

5. Theological books:  I know, I know. Theology is “boring” it leads to dead, dry Christians.  (None of which is true)  But theology is, literally, the study of God.  I bet you know and read a TON about your favorite sports team, celebrity, band, etc.  Why is it considered so “dead” to learn more of God as he has revealed Himself to us?  I, seriously, can’t think of anything more thrilling.  God has chosen to reveal Himself to His creation through a book.  We are a people of the word, and of words.  Spend time understanding them!

As I close, I’ll just say that I’m really, sincerely, deeply saddened by the what I see in most “Christian book stores”.  The absolute garbage being devoured by people who may not know better is truly a tragedy.  As an example, I’ll look at the current Amazon Top 20 “Christian” Books in part 2… stay tuned!