Posts in Bible
Plan For Holiness' Sake

I'm reading Proverbs 29 this morning. In the ESV, verse 18 says this:

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

I learned that verse in the King James back in the day. It reads like this:

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

There is a lot of popular church work these days in the field of strategy, vision casting and leadership. Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, the whole Catalyst movement, Driscoll; they all deal heavily in vision casting, strategic planning and management and leadership systems. While proponents of these philosophies would say that they simply exist in the field of human relations much like gravity exists in physics and the leadership of the church can choose to make use of them or choose not to heed them at their peril, opponents of management philosophy that I have encountered online and in person tend to accuse "planners" of worldliness. "The church is not a business." "God's ways are foolishness to the world." Stuff like that.

I tend to attempt to walk in some middle ground in this area (assuming there is some) but what struck me about Proverbs 29:18 this morning is that the vision of leadership impacts the holiness of the people under that leadership. While it's easy to accuse planners of just wanting big churches, or money, or fame or whatever, God's Word, at least to some extent, says that people aren't motivated to discipline and personal holiness when they don't have someone providing them with clear direction for the future.

I think Paul expresses this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 when he says:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

When I read literature about strategic planning, or am in discussion with our ministry team about vision, we typically have our eyes on evangelism (not money or fame btw). However, Proverbs 29:18 is a good reminder that the people of God need vision too, if only as motivation for their own holiness. Vision casting isn't just about the external mission of winning souls, but the internal mission of feeding sheep.

Bible, MinistryZak AdamsComment
Predestination!, or, Blueberries Taste Better Than Strawberries, That's Why I Eat Them

I'm reading through Tell The Truth by Will Metzger for an evangelism class in school. He's a pretty strong Calvinist, but from that position he makes a very thorough case for evangelism. I agree with much of what he says. I love the comfort and boldness that comes from an understanding that God is the one changing hearts. He is the one responsible for the outcome of our evangelism. I can share my faith and the story of Jesus freely and rest knowing that God brings the increase. However, Metzger occasionally throws in some fairly heavy reformed theology, attempting to convince the reader to adopt it. He argues for predestination under the assumption that his readers don't already believe it and that it's hard to understand. Those are probably good assumptions, but the way he does it comes across rather odd sometimes. In chapter 10 he focuses almost exclusively on predestination. God saves individuals that he chooses to save based on His unknowable good pleasure.

I'm just barely beginning to kick this idea around, but why does it seem like the Calvinist doesn't allow anyone to speculate about God's good pleasure? It's ok to say God's ways are not our ways, and we can't possibly understand, but if we throw out some possibilities for why God chooses people, we are somehow cheapening grace. A Wesleyan would argue that God chooses people because they will respond in faith. The truth is they do respond in faith. To the Calvinist though, this subjugates God's sovereignty and free grace to the condition of the faith-choice in the person. It makes God's will a slave to man's. I understand that argument, but doesn't any reasonable articulation of what could possibly be the source of God's good pleasure subjugate his sovereignty to some factor outside of Himself, albeit a factor that He Himself has chosen?

For instance, say it was God's good pleasure to save everyone with a taste for classical music. A love of mozart was the basis for salvation. Let's go further and say that God implants this dormant love in the hearts of those he will save at birth. It will blossom in college and God will grant salvation to them. God chooses the criteria. In this example, God hasn't really chosen criteria for saving people. He has simply chosen people through an affinity for classical music. The "why does God choose people" question still hasn't been answered. The Calvinist responds "we don't know." That doesn't mean that a reason doesn't exist however. If there is no reason, if God is just throwing darts at a board full of faces, isn't he capricious? Isn't he just playing with souls?

I think Calvinists believe that there is a reason why some are saved and others aren't, that's why they use "God's good pleasure" in the first place. When I say I choose to eat blueberries because of my good pleasure, it's because there are characteristics of blueberries that I prefer over strawberries. I don't choose strawberries because there are things lacking in strawberries. I choose blueberries because of the things about blueberries that I like. That's what "my good pleasure" means. That there are reasons behind choices is implied by the statement.

For some reason though, the Calvinist can't have anyone listing the reasons behind God's choices, because that somehow lessens God. Scripture however is pretty clear that God is looking for faith in people. I believe that God has known who will possess that faith since before time began. He has chosen us from before the foundation of the world. I don't think that makes Him any less sovereign. If anything, it makes Him more sovereign. He is discriminating in His choosing based on solid criteria that He Himself has come up with. Saying that God gives us the faith and then chooses us doesn't protect God's sovereignty, it just pushes His real reason for choosing people farther back and forces us to either speculate about what that reason could be, or in the case of Metzger, just say we don't know and glory in His grace anyway.

I think we should definitely glory in His grace, but when we ask the question, "why does God save people," scripture tells us that it's because they have faith in Him. To ignore that solid reason in favor of some unknown one deeper in the mind of God (not that there aren't many things deep in the mind of God that we can't know) seems a little forced.

So, that's my little soteriology rant today. Thank you for joining me.

BibleZak AdamsComment
Sacrifice For The Good Of Mankind!, or, Paper Is Easy, Brains Are Better

I've decided to give up two personal conveniences for the good of others and the betterment of myself. Both of these conveniences have to do with my public work during Sunday gatherings at church.

I'm giving up capo'd chord charts.

When I lead music from the guitar, I often use a capo. It allows a guitar player to use the most appropriate and best sounding voicings (or chord shapes) in the best keys for congregational singing. There are several problems with this though. First, no one else in the band plays with a capo. My chord sheets says "G" but everyone else's says "B." That makes it more challenging for me to communicate. I have to transpose as I speak to my team, which, for some reason, doesn't always work right. Secondly, I have on more than one occasion placed my capo on the wrong fret of my guitar. I then played all the right chord shapes in the wrong key. Again, the rest of the band doesn't have this and consequently has no idea where I am and cannot play with me. As a solution, I have decided to just memorize the shapes in each capo'd position and play with charts that are labeled for the absolute key.

What this allows me to do is both communicate with the band easily (because we are reading the same chart) and increase my ability to play the correct chords wherever I am capo'd without having to rely on the transposed chart. They can understand me, I become a better player.

I'm giving up sermon notes. 

I am taking a preaching class this semester and in one of the textbooks the author strongly encourages his readers to get rid of sermon notes. He does not advocate memorizing the sermon, but simply memorizing the outline. I usually preach with an outline about a page and a half long. I was given the opportunity to open up Kroc Church's study of the book of Galatians and got to preach for the last two weeks through chapter 1. I did not use notes either time. It was a lot of fun.

This practice has done two things for we so far. First, it allows me to keep better eye contact with the congregation while I am preaching. I have noticed an immediate difference in my ability to read the congregation. Secondly, it forces me to write a simple outline. If I'm going to memorize it, it can't be 8 points with 3 subpoints each. It has to be simple. Hopefully a simple outline is easier to communicate to the congregation.

So there you have it. Two ways I'm trying to become better at what I do. Hopefully these steps won't come back to bite me one day in a horrible wrong key/forgotten outline mishap. Perish the thought.

My Faith Is Not Important Enough To Concern You With, or, True > Happy

The Oatmeal recently published a comic called "How To Suck At Your Religion." (warning, offensive language) There are a lot of things that I would take issue with in it and several points that he makes that I would agree with. There are a lot of caricatures of religious ideas, particularly Christian ones, that are unfair critiques. I have one big issue with his conclusion though, and it's an issue that I find increasingly common. He says,

Does your religion inspire you to help people? Does it make you happier? Does it help you cope with the fact that you are a bag of meat sitting on a rock in outer space and that some day you will die and you are completely powerless, helpless and insignificant in the wake of this beautiful cosmic ****storm we call existence? Does it help with that? Yes? Excellent! Carry on with your religion!*

*Just keep it too your ******** self.

I think that's totally lame. What I take from that paragraph is that religious/faith based/metaphysical/philosophical aspects of my worldview are only as good as they make me feel and help me to cope. If they do that, then they are great (but not worth sharing). If they don't, then they aren't. On top of that, they are completely subjective (see his comparison to a child's favorite color).

Now, I understand that he holds that view. From following his work, I would guess he's at least somewhat of a secularist/naturalist/materialist. My problem is that the view that my religious beliefs are just subjective preference, like my favorite ice cream, is incredibly hard for me to find valuable.

I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is who the Bible says that he is. I believe He is the Son of God and that after being brutally murdered in the early 1st century AD he physically rose from the dead 3 days later. There is good, historical, forensic science based evidence for this. I also believe that I have encountered Him, alive, not physically, but spiritually. He has changed my life. If I didn't believe in this objective reality, I wouldn't be a Christian. I would stop being a Christian. I'm a Christian because I know with reasonable certainty what happened in the past and I know what I have experienced.

No one else has to believe that, but it seems that the Oatmeal's position is just a polite way of saying "you go ahead and be crazy, just don't bother me with it." If not arrogant, that's just poorly thought out as far as an argument goes. Anyone that boils faith claims down to subjective self-help maxims isn't taking faith seriously. Either you don't think your worldview is faith based (it is) or you don't care enough about reality outside of your daily rhythms and routines to formulate a coherent philosophy of life (you should).

Religious claims are a big deal. They are a big deal for the Christian, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Atheist/Agnostic and every other adherent of every other belief system in the world. Refute them, argue for the superiority of yours, demonstrate how your worldview best represents reality, but don't dismiss them. That's not reasonable.

Now I know the Oatmeal is a cartoonist, and his medium is limited. If I had to guess I would guess that I would thoroughly enjoy a cup of coffee with him. But this cartoon represents an idea that is pervasive among the non-religious and the mildly-religious: what you believe doesn't really matter as long as it makes you happy and you don't "bother" anyone else with it.

What you believe about the world really does matter. What matters most about it is whether or not its true. Believe what you believe because its true, not because it makes you happy. Take the time and do the work to figure out what's true. Just don't kill people. He got that part right.

 

BibleZak AdamsComment
Summer Membership Class, or, Doctrine Is More Fun Than Getting Rained On

I started a new session of the Kroc Church Membership class on Sunday. I typically set up the class to run for 6 weeks in 2-hour segments. Since it's summer and no one wants to have 6 of their summer afternoons (or whatever passes for summer afternoons in North Idaho) taken up by doctrine and philosophy (except me of course) I am abbreviating the class to 3 weeks of 3-hour sessions. Sunday's class went rather well, if I do say so myself. We got through the Our People documentary and the first 4 doctrines. I had to go quickly through some of the finer points, and gave a bit of scripture to take as homework instead of looking it up and discussing it in class, but I think it went pretty smoothly.

It's a small class this time, only 8, but I think it will be a good one. Lots of interest in what we are doing and a desire to be involved. Truthfully, I'm not interested in making members and soldiers that simply want to get a certificate or say that they are connected to our church. I want people who are excited about the mission of God and want to get their hands dirty with the work of the ministry. I don't think this class will disappoint. There are several staff represented, a couple from my Community Group, and a few others that have been in the process of checking us out for awhile. It's a good group.

It's interesting, but I think there is something to be said for having membership classes more often during the year. The last class I taught was in the late winter, February/March. Since it's July, any momentum and excitement for membership that we could have generated from the Spring enrollment is gone. We will enroll new members and soldiers from this class some time in August, and then the next class will be in September. I am planning on doing 2 classes this fall, almost back to back, to further capitalize on our congregation seeing the new recruits and the enrollment prompting others to sign up. It's quite a bit of work teaching two sessions in a semester (back to the six week per session format as well) but I think there will be considerable fruit from it. Whether people become Salvationists or not, the knowledge of who we are and what we believe in invaluable if someone wants to be connected to our ministry. All I have to do now is raise up someone else to teach the classes so that I don't have too all the time!

My Faith Is Not An Adjective, or, When's Your iPad's Spiritual Birthday?
I really don't like the concept of "Christian" things. I'm not the first person to notice this, but the word Christian is a noun. It's a noun, that over the centuries, has meant "one who follows Christ" more or less. It's a word for people. People who have given their allegiance to Jesus, the Christ, or savior, of the world. There are a couple things that drive me crazy about the label "Christian," whether it's music, movies, art, literature, or, as of today, home electronics. One reason is that the word has become a marketing term. If we put "Christian" in front of it, there is a whole demographic that will just rush out to buy it. Is it good? Can it compete in the marketplace of ideas? It doesn't matter, it's a Christian thing.

Another reason I really dislike the adjective is that it gives a wrong impression of the definition of the word. To the outside world, Christian should mean:

a person or group of people, set apart for Jesus Christ, dedicated to serving Him through loving others and sharing His message of freedom from sin and death and restoration as subjects of His wonderful kingdom by grace through repentance and faith.

Instead, because of the adjectival usage of the word, it comes across as:

Nice, wholesome and bland versions of real culture, dumbed down for those people that don't want to interact with the world at large.

Is that harsh? Yeah. Are there examples where "Christian" things are not any of those things? Probably. But by and large, the average person sees an article about the "Edifi" and sees a second-rate Kindle Fire with limited functions and applications for people that are what, too afraid to buy a real Kindle Fire? It's either that, or Christian Family stores, the makers of Edifi, are just trying to capitalize on a captive audience. I'm not sure which is worse.

I don't wear Christian clothes. I'm not sitting on a Christian couch. I didn't have Christian coffee for breakfast.

I am a Christian. I love and follow Jesus Christ. I want others to be Christians. Christians are people. Christian is a people word. Christians need to use it as a people word.

Update! Gizmodo has an article on the Edifi.  Notice how the default assumption is mockery. Best comments?:
 Does the Tablet come with the 10 commandments etched on the back?
It comes with five of them. The other five are on another tablet.
BibleZak AdamsComment
OIA, it is the way, or, No Golden Plates, No Circumcision

When I was in Bible College, I was taught the OIA method of Bible Study: Observation, Interpretation, Application. First you look at the text. What does it say? You can answer a lot of questions about a passage just by reading it carefully and making notes about the concepts that the author is communicating. Secondly, What does it mean? The interpretation of a passage is singular. The author had a specific thing in mind when he wrote the sentences and, based on what you observe from the text, you need to make a judgment about the interpretation. Since there is only one, it's helpful at this point to see what other, much smarter people have said about the passage in the past. My guess is that you and I are not discovering an interpretation that 2000 years of the church missed. Third, What does it mean to me? Interpretation is one, but application is many. There are often several different ways to apply the one meaning of a text to yourself, your family, your church, our culture, etc. All that introduction to say, I think we confuse interpretation and application sometimes. On the one hand, we make many interpretations. This happens especially in a small group setting when you read something and one person says that the passage means one thing and another person says that the passage means a complete opposite thing and everyone nods in agreement. Two completely opposite interpretations cannot both be true.

The other error, the one that I find myself looking at more often lately, is that we are firm on the one interpretation, but we are also firm on the one application. We do not allow a text to have more than one application* because we like a single application the best. Here's a for instance in Galatians 1:8:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

We are beginning a study in the book of Galatians next week at Kroc Church, and I get to teach on that verse. So, what immediately comes to mind when I read that verse? Mormons. We live just north of major Mormon country here in North Idaho, and the Latter-Day Saints have a large presence here. My pastor growing up was somewhat of an expert on the cults, and whenever the Mormons came up, we heard this verse. You see, according to the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith was visited by an angel named Moroni and shown the location of some golden plates that he needed to translate into the Book of Mormon. So, an angel from heaven preached a different gospel to him.

Don't get me wrong, that's a great application. Mormonism is a false gospel no matter how it came into existence, but if a so-called "angel" delivered it to Joseph Smith, that's a superb application of this verse. However, Galatians 1:8 was in the Bible 1800 years before Joseph Smith, so how was it applied then? If I connect the application of this verse so tightly to Mormonism that I don't allow for other applications, I will miss a lot, specifically because I'm not Mormon!

Throughout the book of Galatians, Paul isn't teaching against Mormonism, he's teaching against legalism and license. He goes back and forth showing that a failure to trust God results in either an assumption that the cross of Christ isn't enough (leading me to add works-based righteousness to the gospel) or that God doesn't have my best interests at heart (leading me to disregard the commands of God because I think they are burdensome). The false gospel that is being preached to the Galatians is that they need to be circumcised in order to be Christians.

When I read Galatians 1:8 and only see a proof-text against Mormonism, the verse becomes meaningless to me. But, if I hold to the interpretation (that there is only one gospel and we need to reject all false ones) and can freely apply it to my context (where I hear many false gospels through people, media and culture all the time), then all of a sudden Galatians 1:8 is relevant to me and the situations that I find myself in.

So, interpretation, one. Application, many. Observe, Interpret, Apply. Learn it, live it, love it. And if an angel shows up on your bed tonight, just make sure you ask some probing questions.

*That's not to say that every application is valid. Applications need to be firmly grounded in the observations and interpretation of the text. 
BibleZak AdamsComment
Membership Class - Week 5

Last week in the Kroc Church membership class we finished the doctrines (and there was much rejoicing) and started to talk about unique aspects of The Salvation Army. Doctrine #10:

We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We talked about what it meant to be sanctified, and I chose to focus on what it means that our bodies are to be sanctified.  We have this weird idea that God is only concerned about our souls, but the truth is, He cares about our whole person.  We looked at sanctification as a process (2 Corinthians 3:17-18) and as a partnership (Romans 8:1-11, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Philippians 2:12-13).

It's possible to take the idea of grace and believe that once you raise your hand or pray a prayer, God requires nothing more of you.  The Bible however, places a great emphasis on our personal holiness.

Other people over the years have created an unhealthy relationship between the body and the soul.  Neo-Platonism in the 1st and 2nd centuries taught that matter was evil and the spiritual world was good.  Therefore the way you treated your body wasn't important.  We looked at how even Christians today can have that attitude if we are not careful when we say "it's all gonna burn!"  The body belongs to the Lord.

Doctrine #11:

We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.

Doctrine 11 can be a tough one to swallow for some people.  We are immortal beings and there is a judgment coming.  There is a judgment for believers (1 Corinthians 3:5-10) as well as unbelievers (Revelation 20:11-15).  We have a great hope for a future world that is free from sin and death, however there is a real, eternal judgment coming for those who reject Christ and choose to be the lords of their own kingdoms instead of submitting to His lordship.

We moved on from there to look at some specific traits of Salvationists.  We talked about the sacraments and TSA's position to not ritualistically mandate communion and baptism.  We practice this as a witness to the rest of the Christian church that water baptism and communion do not save; it is grace of Christ that saves us.  I also throw in a pertinent quote from the 2008 International Spiritual Life Commission:

Our position as Salvationists is a position of freedom. The response of Salvationists worldwide to their freedom in Christ may be diverse, differing with the cultural context of indigenous Salvationist mission. Such freedom and diversity are to be prized as part of our heritage as Salvationists.

Finally, we moved on to a quick overview of officers, territorial, divisional and local structure, and a fun Salvation Army Terms matching game.  Our Corps has very little traditional Salvationism in it (other than our effort to preach the gospel and meet human need) and many of the terms that are sometimes used are absent in our Corps.  For instance, our Corps is called Kroc Church.  We do not use the terminology "penitent form," (altar) "fire your cartridges," (tithes and offerings) or "Holiness Meeting" (church service).  However we do talk regularly about officers, soldiers, World Services, and being Promoted To Glory.  I believe there is a healthy mix of the new and the old in our Corps, and I am glad for it.

 

Frightening

So, I am taking a preaching class in school right now.  One of the smaller assignments is to read some journal articles on preaching and write synopses of them.  So, I got on the library database and found an article on "Easter Preaching" by David R. Buttrick in the journal Interpretation.  I don't know anything about Buttrick or Interpretation, but I think, "Hey Easter's coming up.  This should be interesting." I was disappointed.  While the author correctly points out that the Easter audience will be wide and varied beyond a typical Sunday, and while he also states that resurrection is more than just a personal promise but also the restoration of all things in God's kingdom, he completely devalues and even denies the veracity of the gospel accounts, and his basis for this is the work of atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann!

Lüdemann's work is just not good.  His arguments are consistently beaten biblically and philosophically in debates and in writing by William Lane Craig.  It just blows my mind that pastors would be entering their pulpits on Easter Sunday with a message of hope and life to come without the support of the truth of the physical, bodily resurrection of Christ.  To quote Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Our faith is built on facts.  If we lose those facts, there is nothing left that is commendable about Christianity.

Membership Class - Week 3

We had a really great membership class on Monday.  We started with a review of last week's topics.  This quickly turned into an impromptu discussion of the reliability of the Bible.  Some quick facts about how the Bible stacks up amongst other historical documents can be found here.  We can trust God's Word. So, this week we started with doctrine #4:

We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly god and truly and properly man.

The fancy theological word for this is the "hypostatic union."  Similar to the trinity in it's weirdness, Jesus was, and is, both fully God (the second person of the trinity) and fully human.  We looked at evidence for Jesus' divinity (John 8:58 and John 10:30 among others) as well as evidence for his humanity: John 1:14, Hebrews 2:17 and Philippians 2:5-7.

The great thing about this truth is that it shows that 1) Jesus has the ability to pay for our sins as a human representative with the sinless deity worthy of such a huge sacrifice, and 2) Jesus understands us.  He's been there.  He probably lost his earthly father at a young age, he grew up poor and misunderstood, he worked hard with his hands, he was ridiculed by friends and family, betrayed and denied by his closest companions, and brutally murdered even though he committed no crimes.  If you can resonate with any of that, realize that Jesus gets what you're going through probably more than you do.

We briefly talked about the Chalcedonian Creed in 451ad that put to rest this issue.  It's important to understand the theological battles of the church in the past, because the Devil continues to use the same old tricks.  When the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and others deny the deity of Christ, we can understand that that issue was already dealt with fifteen hundred years ago and that just because it has come up again doesn't mean the argument has any more merit than it did then.

Doctrine #5 is a heavy one:

We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocency, but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness, and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.

Total depravity is a foreign concept to our culture.  Voices from everywhere talk about how people are "basically good" and they go wrong because of their environment and the things that they are taught.  You'd think that anyone with children would laugh at that idea.  We are born in sin, wicked rebels, dedicated to our own selfishness at the expense of God's law.  The class was thoroughly depressed by Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 51:5 and Romans 3:10-11.

Total depravity doesn't mean that all that humanity does is totally evil, but that all of our good works can never meet God's holy standard.  We bear the image of God that Adam and Eve (real people btw) have passed down to us, but it is marred by sin.  We are unable to fix it and deserve to be destroyed for our wickedness.

This doctrine is incredibly important.  First, it tells us that something has gone terribly wrong.  Things are not the way that they are supposed to be.  God is not the author of evil.  Secondly, it helps us to understand sin.  In their book Doctrine, Mark Driscoll and Dr. Gerry Breshears quote Cornelius Plantinga:

The Bible presents sin by way of major concepts, principally lawlessness and faithlessness, expressed in an array of images: sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold.  Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck.  Sin is blindness and deafness.  It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it - both transgression and shortcoming.  Sin is a beast crouching at the door.  In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their divine calling.  These and other images suggest deviance: even when it is familiar, sin is never normal.  Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony.  Above all, sin disrupts and resists the vital human relation to God.

Doctrine #5 further helps us understand our need for a savior.  Because we can't fix the sin problem, someone else needs to, and that brings us to doctrine #6.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.

There is a lot of confusion about whether or not the Bible is true, whether we can trust it.  I think it's very important to understand that our faith is built on facts.  I gave 5 facts in class that support the resurrection.  Theses are not points of faith that Christians hold to; these are historical realities that secular historians have to explain away if they are to deny the Bible.

  1. Jesus was crucified.
  2. Jesus' disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.
  3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed into a Christian evangelist.
  4. The skeptic James, Jesus' brother, was suddenly changed and became a leader in the church.
  5. The tomb was empty.

Jesus really did die on the cross and the world was changed because of it.  The only reasonable explanation for this is that Jesus actually rose from the dead like the Bible says.  So what did his sacrifice do?

Jesus made atonement.  The word atonement holds two other words: propitiation and expiation.  To propitiate (1 John 2:2, Romans 3:25) means to "satisfy the anger of a deity."  The word expiate means "to remove guilt."  There is a great picture of this in Leviticus 16.  In it, Moses describes a procedure that is carried out once a year on what is called The Day of Atonement.  All the people of Israel gather and confess their sins.  The high priest places his hand on a goat and confesses the sins of the people, symbolically transferring them to the goat.  Then they kill the goat.  The death of the goat covers the sins of the people for a year.  Then they get a second goat and the high priest confesses the people's sins on that goat.  But this time, they drive the goat out into the wilderness so that it can't find its way back to the camp.  The sins of the people, symbolically transferred to that goat, are removed from the people for a year.

Jesus, whose sacrifice was better than that of goats, satisfies God's wrath against our sin and removes our sin from us.  He is the perfect sacrifice, and the benefits of his offering are available for anyone.

Doctrine #6 reminds us that we have a faith built on facts, that our sins can really be forgiven and that God is not angry with us, and that our sin has been removed from us forever and will never be brought up again.  Praise God!

 

Daughter Makes A Disturbing Discovery

This morning Charis and I were sitting together on the couch reading our Bibles.  I had my trusty ESV and she had chosen "My First Bedtime Bible" to read.  About half way through our time together, she began to notice that her Bible went from Genesis 9 to Genesis 12 and totally skipped over chapters 10 and 11.  She then found whole sections and whole books missing  from the Bible.  We got her a full text NLT for Christmas.  I think she's about ready.

BibleZak AdamsComment
Pay Attention To What You Hear

Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.  For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. - Mark 4:24-25

BibleZak AdamsComment
Psalm 33:11 and Inter-Generational Ministry/Postmodern Nonsense

So, in my Bible Reading Plan today, I read Psalm 33.  Verse 11 says:

The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

At the church where I serve as Community Pastor, our primary discipleship method is called a "Community Group."  It's a gathering of people, based around relationships and missional living, that meet to hang out, eat together, study the Word, serve their city, and just BE Christians.  We think this is really important, because many of the commands of scripture are just not doable during a once-a-week Sunday service.

Sometimes we get complaints that in addition to our Community Groups, we need mens groups, womens groups, seniors groups, college-aged groups, etc.  We resist this because we feel that we best represent the body of Christ when we ignore those somewhat manufactured distinctions and gather in spite of our differences.  I heard it put recently that when people who naturally get along get together, that's no big deal.  When Jesus brings different people, who wouldn't normally hang out together, into relationship with each other, that's a big deal and one of the glories of the Gospel.

So, God's Word will last for ever, and the plans of His heart are good for all generations.  We don't need a separate Gospel for seniors, kids, young adults, men, women, singles, marrieds, and Star Trek fans.  The counsel of the Lord stands forever, and the plans of His heart to all generations.  That also means that the "postmoderns" who need to change the content of the Gospel for people today, are just wrong.  Methods change, the truth of the Word doesn't. Psalm 33:11.

BibleZak AdamsComment
Bible Reading Plan This Year

So, I ran across a new Bible reading plan this year.  It's put together by a guy named Professor C. Horner.  You can find it here.  Basically, It divides the Bible into 10 sections, and you read a chapter from each section a day (10 chapters a day).  It's pretty robust, but the way it weaves different sections of scripture prevents monotony (I'm looking at you Numbers) and it's really interesting how different passages work together.  For instance, I read today in Genesis 34 about the city of Shechem and then I read about the same area hundreds of years later in Judges 9.  Kinda neat.  anyway, the ten sections aren't even, so you end up repeating some more often than others, which totally changes the relationships between the passages.  Pretty cool.