Saturday, October 16, 2010

Real Friends

So you say you admire me? You respect me? You look up to me? You even like me?

Then why are you wearing that? Who said that it is friendly to show your breasts, your back, your belly, your thighs to me? I am not your husband! (See Song of Solomon 7, Isaiah 47:1-3, Genesis 3:1-7, 21.)

You may say that you are a Christian, but I know who you really are! You are a trap, and I am running far, far away from you. See you at Jesus' feet--if you repent. (Proverbs 5, 7)

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Not So Good Ol' Days

"Gone are the days/Of 'Leave It to Beaver'/Matt Dillon and his sidekick Festus/Now we survive on the immoral lives/Of those of 'The Young and the Restless'" ~ Carman, "Soap Song" on Radically Saved

I love Carman. His style of music, his passion for seeing the Kingdom of God manifest in the lives of God's people, were both honorable in every way. However, there is one line in this song that bothers me. I am not slamming Carman for using it, I'm just taking exception to the mentality behind it.

Matt Dillon and his sidekick Festus were sheriff and deputy who put down crime and criminals in their small town. That was the admirable side of them that made their show popular. The down side, however, was their friendship with Miss Kitty.

Miss Kitty was the local bar owner and the proverbial "mother of harlots" of her town. I'm sorry, drunkenness and fornication aren't virtues in any society, and yet Miss Kitty was the protected queen of the show. Our acceptance of this has led to where we are now: drunkenness (or drug abuse) and fornication are now praised with reckless abandon on the vast majority of shows today. Sure, there are the "family-type shows" where the father and mother are stable influences in their children's lives, but those shows are not only few and far between, we seem to get a lot more entertainment value the more dysfunctional the family is.

Of course, we won't change Hollywood any time soon, but we can change ourselves. We let Hollywood get to this place because we have not cut off the source of their revenue. That source is only cut off when we exhibit and teach lives of holiness to the Lord.

Calling on others to follow Jesus is my passion in life. More importantly, for those who watch me, is my personal pursuit of Him in every area of my life. That means I don't pay for things that will not glorify Him. That means I don't bring things to my house and indulge in them if I will be drawn away from Him. True, as we live lives that honor the Lord, the world will mock us. I say, "Bring it on!" The worst they can do is kill us, which means we go to Heaven, the best they can do is follow us, which means they go to Heaven, too. How can we lose?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Definitions

It's good to know what people mean by what they say. Unfortunately, miscommunication leads to many unnecessary disagreements and divisions. It is funny how people fervently use words whose meaning they clearly don't know.

Like legalism. There is a big difference between being strict and being legalistic. Legalism is adding to the commandments of the Lord, not simply asking people who claim to follow Him to do what He has already commanded them to do. Jesus didn't get after the Pharisees because they told people to follow the Law. Rather He got after them because they added commandments to God's commandments in order to make themselves look good, while they totally ignored the actual commandments of God and lived lives contrary to them.

Similarly, when the Apostle Paul contended for the freedom of the Gentiles from the Law, he was not doing anything new. Naaman was not compelled to follow the Law when he was healed by Elisha. Nineveh was not compelled to become Jewish at the preaching of Jonah. So why would God, who through His prophets had foretold the salvation of the Gentiles, put this burden on the new Gentiles?

This same Apostle Paul was the one who commanded that Christians abide by the moral law: "Owe no man anything, except to love one's neighbor as himself. For he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the whole law" (Romans 13:8-10).

Jesus said the same thing and challenged the salvation of those who called Him, "Lord, Lord" and yet disregard His instruction (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:15-23).

Does this mean that salvation is by works? Hardly. It means that Jesus came to "save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21) not just from Hell. In fact, Jesus taught that the way to avoid Hell was to take the most drastic of measures to keep from sinning (Matthew 5:27-30; 18:7-9). Paul said, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity" (2 Timothy 2:19).

The only way to do this is to live in grace: that is what Romans 6 is all about. Grace, or Spirit-filled living, does not allow us to sin to our hearts content and remain in Jesus' "good graces." Rather it empowers us to overcome our sinful tendencies and the temptations that bombard us every day. This is what Jesus meant by "If any man come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow after me [i.e., walk in His steps]."

In short, Christianity is about living life on God's terms, being grateful for His passing over our iniquities, not about us getting over on God: "Be not deceived: God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that also shall he reap. He who sows to the flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Galatians 6:7-8). Jesus' beef with the cities He upbraided in Matthew 11:20ff was that they did not repent, not that they didn't believe He existed, not that they didn't believe in God, not that they didn't go to church.

So, when it comes to commands like sobriety (i.e., not getting drunk or high), modesty in clothing, fornication, honoring parents, etc., it is not legalism that drives those who ask people who claim to be Christians to adhere to the Biblical standard. It is Jesus Himself.

Now, are some people too strict about it? Maybe. It might be that they are strict because they have seen people ruined by ignoring God's commands. It might be that they heard about the commandment but don't understand it well enough to communicate it properly with the person they have taken to task.

But it might be that they are just right and we need to repent. Because walking with Jesus means that we have to change. And we have to change a lot of things that we like(d) doing. There is pleasure in sin for a season, but the end of it is death. Is it worth "piling up" the grace needed to save ours souls only to discover that in our love for sin has caused us to miss out on God's grace entirely?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Salvation: Use It or Lose It

Okay. Let me say before I start that I know that, after you finish reading this, some of you will not want to be my friends anymore. That is okay with me. At least you will know me a little better. I'd much rather you know the guy you're praying for than pretend to be something I'm not. I only ask that you finish reading it before you judge me. I expect to be judged. I only ask that you judge me with all the facts in hand.

Can you lose your salvation? First of all, why would I even bother with this topic? All I ever usually do is talk about life the way I live it.

It is because I live a life that continually confronts me with this question: What is the Gospel? I'm not going to argue the finer points of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, because I think that's a fruitless endeavor. I'm going to look at the Scriptures and see what examples God left for us in the Bible to explain the doctrinal concepts He presents to us in the letters He commanded His Apostles to write—in the Bible.

I haven't consulted any commentaries on this subject. I haven't read any books recently that particularly tackled this question. I was laying in my bed one night thinking about several things, and this subject came to mind, so I decided to tackle it on paper. There will be no references to theologians, no quotations from respected pastors, no deferences to “church fathers”—only a mild acknowledgment to Bill Perry for pointing out the importance of “story” in the Bible.

Now, he did not explicitly state this while he was teaching the “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” class in the spring of 2009 at Calvary Chapel St Petersburg, but I did draw this inference: that God has detailed doctrine in the stories He has recorded for us in Scripture. The key to understanding doctrine, therefore, is to understand the stories that illustrate it. And not just the parables.

So what stories illustrate the dilemma I present in this article? Well, for sake of space, I can't touch on all of them, but I did think about Nadab and Abihu, Judas Iscariot, and Annanias and Sapphira. I also thought about saints who sinned egregiously, Aaron, David, and even Peter, yet still made it to Heaven. What separates the two groups of people?

Let's see:

Nadab and Abihu: These were the elder two sons of Aaron, the inaugural High Priest of God. In fact, they were inaugural priests themselves, being among the first group of people specifically set apart by God to minister to Him and to His people. They were among the seventy elders that met with God and ate a feast with Him upon the mountain while Moses was about to receive the Ten Commandments in tablet form and the instructions on how to build the tabernacle and all the instructions for the priestly services (Exodus 24).

And yet in Leviticus 10, we read that God consumed them both in a moment for offering “strange fire before Jehovah which He had not commanded them” (Jay Green's A Literal Translation of the Bible; I know of no English translation that substantially differs). In all my years of reading the Bible, I had never understood why God would be so harsh. The implication that they were drunk when they did it, inferred by most people who presented the case to me from verses 8 through 11, didn't seem to do it justice.

But then I started re-reading the Bible, starting in Genesis, and noticing all kinds of things that I had never read before, such as Exodus 30:9: “You shall not offer up strange incense on it, and burnt offering and food offering...” Upon what? Upon the altar that God was so painstakingly detailing for Moses, after displaying His might and power with thunderous display upon the Holy Mount! How could they forget?!

And yet they did. Aaron, their own father, was not allowed to mourn their deaths. Were they ever saved? Did they lose their salvation? Had they died before this happened, would they have gone to Heaven?

Judas Iscariot was a Christian's Christian. He was trustworthy, he came from a noble background, he was the treasurer for Jesus Himself. Jesus called him, “Friend,” and even displayed the closeness of their relationship by giving him the sop at the Passover meal (John 13). But Judas betrayed Jesus.

Even before this very night, Judas had “covenanted with the chief priests and Pharisees, saying, what will you give me that I should turn Him over to you?” And for the price of a slave, Judas betrayed the Lord of Glory. Funny, he didn't even get to enjoy the money he got by evil-minded schemes: he threw the money back to the enemies of God, and they turned it over to the potter, in fulfillment of prophecy.

But let's back up: What if Judas had died before all this happened, would he have gone to Heaven? Did Judas lose his salvation? Was Judas ever saved?

Annanias and Sapphira were well-known to the congregation at Jerusalem. They needed no introduction to Peter, and they were obviously of visible status if they felt the need to make such a public display of their giving. Funny how Jesus' commandment not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing got lost in all this “generosity,” but that's not what Peter rebuked them for. Peter didn't even rebuke them for not giving all the money—he said it was theirs to do with as they chose! What God was angry about was the fact that they lied about it. And God struck them dead on the spot.

Peter was shocked. Not at God's response, but at the folly of this couple. Their reputation obviously preceded them. The words of rebuke that Peter spoke to them were not words of, “Ah, I caught you now! I knew it all along, you treacherous wretches!”

No, his words were, “Why... Why...?” (Acts 5).

So, did they lose their salvation? Were they ever saved? If they had died before they got the chance to do this, would they have gone to Heaven?

I really think that's the wrong question to ask. This is why:

Those who will be rejected by Jesus on Judgment Day-- who make the appeal, “Didn't we work the same works of those who followed you?” are given the same description in Matthew 7—workers of iniquity or lawlessness—as those who are described as tares in Matthew 13. In other words, the real question isn't whether or not you can lose your salvation. The real question is whether or not you want to serve sin.

Let's look at the lives of those who did choose sin, and yet did not die the death of the ungodly: Aaron, David, and Peter.

Aaron, already designated to be the inaugural High Priest of the Most High God, decided to cave to the pressure from the people of Israel (now, I know with words only, you think, just by reading the narrative, “That wasn't that much pressure,” but do remember that this is the same group that had already repeatedly tried to stone Moses when God was stretching their faith) and make a golden calf to represent the false god that allows, encourages, and even demands all sorts of sin. Then, when Moses confronted him about it, he lied, saying that the calf had simply “appeared” out of the fire, when, in fact, he had carefully fashioned it himself. He didn't die on the spot.

But what happened? After this, his own older two sons were emboldened to disregard the commandment of the Lord. They ended up in Hell, and he could not mourn their deaths. Eventually, Aaron himself challenged God's call on Moses' life and, after more failures, was denied entrance to the Promised Land.

What about David? He didn't die the death for deliberately choosing to commit adultery with another man's wife and then plotting that man's death after repeated attempts to get the man to sleep with his own wife in order to cover it up. “But the thing which David did displeased the Lord,” and he lost his first son from Bathsheba, and several other sons to mischief and the work of the devil in their lives. And God said specifically that this was a direct result of his sin.

And then we have Peter. A man mightily used by God. He was chosen to pronounce the deaths in Judgment against Annanias and Sapphira. He was used to open the door of the Gospel both to the Jews and also to the Gentiles. And yet he compromised the Gospel under pressure (Galatians 2). The result?

He had to face the shocking embarrassment of the public rebuke from the Apostle Paul. Can you imagine being imminently successful in ministry and having an upstart little missionary guy set you straight in front of all these people that look up to you? Yet that is what God did to Peter. And this little upstart went on to write most of the New Testament, while Peter only contributed two short letters. And God didn't make Paul exclude this incident from his writings, which letters were in wide circulation during Peter's lifetime, because he didn't die until at least five years after Paul. Can you imagine that?

So what conclusion do I draw from all this? It's not safe to choose sin. Pick sin, and you'll pay for it. Don't rest in the comfort of your salvation and decide to just compromise. It isn't worth it. And you could very well find yourself on the wrong leg of the U-turn from Hell-bound sinner to Heaven-bound saint. Thank God for His grace and mercy, but let's not tempt the Lord.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Modesty

Dear Friends,

TheRebelution.com has launched the results of their massive Modesty Survey! Over 1,600 Christian guys have answered questions on everything from glitter lotion and lip gloss to swimsuits and skirt slits! It's everything girls have ever wanted to ask guys about modesty, but were afraid to ask! For guys, it's really interesting to see what other Christian guys think!

Most importantly, the survey is presented as a resource to help Christian girls (and guys), not a list of legalistic rules, and it is accompanied by the Modesty Survey Petition (which tons of guys have signed) which encourage young women to focus on the heart, not the hemline, to honor their parents, etc.

The results were released on St. Valentine's Day as a gift from 1,600 Christian guys to all Christian girls -- and I can't think of a better one! Now the survey is being endorsed by people like Shaunti Feldhahn ("For Women Only") Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Revive Our Hearts), CJ Mahaney (Sovereign Grace Ministries) and Shannon Ethridge ("Every Woman's Battle")!

Go check it out: www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey

But also make sure you spread the word to all your friends. We want as many Christian girls (and guys) as possible to see this, so forward this email on!

Your (Excited) Friend,

Joshua S Black

P.S. Guys, they are still accepting signatures for the Modesty Survey Petition, so this is an opportunity for you to still share your voice on the topic of modesty!

THE MODESTY SURVEY
www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey