Thursday, April 17, 2014
What we have concerning Jesus actually is impressive. We can start with approximately nine traditional authors of the New Testament. If we consider the critical thesis that other authors wrote the pastoral letters and such letters as Ephesians and 2 Thessalonians, we’d have an even larger number. Another twenty early Christian authors and four heretical writings mention Jesus within 150 years of his death on the cross.
Moreover, nine secular, non-Christian sources mention Jesus within the 150 years: Josephus, the Jewish historian; Tacitus, the Roman historian; Pliny the Younger, a politician of Rome; Phlegon, a freed slave who wrote histories; Lucian, the Greek satirist; Celsus, a Roman philosopher; and probably the historians Suetonius and Thallus, as well as the prisoner Mara Bar-Serapion.
In all, at least forty-two authors, nine of them secular, mention Jesus within 150 years of his death.
In comparison, let’s take a look at Julius Caesar, one of Rome’s most prominent figures. Caesar is well known for his military conquests. After his Gallic Wars, he made the famous statement, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Only five sources report his military conquests: writings by Caesar himself, Cicero, Livy, the Salona Decree, and Appian. If Julius Caesar really made a profound impact on Roman society, why didn’t more writers of antiquity mention his great military accomplishments? No one questions whether Julius did make a tremendous impact on the Roman Empire. It is evident that he did. Yet in those 150 years after his death, more non-Christian authors alone comment on Jesus than all of the sources who mentioned Julius Caesar’s great military conquests within 150 years of his death.
-Gary Habermas and Michael Licona in The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Shirley McLaine celebrated her birthday this past spring: she turned 62 and 162 and 262 . . . Many folks in our society today would think that belief in the resurrection is just as looney as belief in reincarnation. Hence, it would be beneficial to look at the historical evidences for the resurrection of Christ. We may well wish to do that in a future essay. In this essay, however, we want to turn our attention to the theological implications of Christ’s resurrection.
A number of Christians feel that their gospel presentations should include simply the fact of Christ’s death, but not his resurrection. Some go so far as to have a crucifix in their homes or around their necks with a corpse hanging on it. Certainly such a picture elicits remorse and pity. But does it offer hope? Does it suggest that sins are forgiven, or just that they are the cause of such a vile punishment, of the innocent dying in the place of the wicked?
I don’t mean by this that we should not focus on or think about Christ’s death. After all, even Paul said, “I preach Christ, and him crucified.” But he also preached Christ risen from the dead. If we neglect this part of the gospel, we offer a powerless gospel--one that cannot change lives.
We will begin this brief study with a quick look at the resurrection in the Old Testament, followed by the resurrection of Christ in early Christian preaching.
(1) The Resurrection in the Old Testament
The resurrection of the dead was not plainly revealed in the OT until very late in salvation history. It was not until the Jews were taken in captivity, in the sixth century BC, that this was clearly articulated. Daniel 12:1-2 is the principal text: it speaks of the resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous:
At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (RSV)
Why was it not clearly revealed till then? It was not revealed until there was a felt need for it. When the Jews had no present (because of the captivity) they had to look to the future. The revelation of the resurrection came at precisely the time when the people of God needed hope for the future.
What is significant about this is how masterful are God’s insights into human nature. In the NT era, one religious group in Palestine did not embrace the resurrection as a true doctrine: the Sadducees (cf. Mark 12:18)--that is why they were “sad, you see!” The Sadducees were in charge of the temple. They derived their income from the sacrifices. In a sense, they were the precursors to modern TV evangelists. They had it good! They were the rich aristocracy that ran the place.
Those who have it good in this life don’t often long for the next. The Sadducees illustrate this. The resurrection is a truth especially precious to those who are poor and those who are hopeless. It is precious to those who long for heaven enough that earth holds no sway over them.
Nowadays, the new elite are the intellectual elite. They, even more than the wealthy, are the ones who typically reject the supernatural. (Just note the majority of professors in the American universities today.)
But Christians--whether poor or rich, smart or otherwise, well-educated or not, should prize the resurrection as much as anything else. To the extent that the resurrection is not significant to you, to that extent you are not considering yourself a citizen of heaven. As Paul told the Colossians (3:1-2), “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
(2) The Resurrection of Christ in Early Christian Preaching
Some of us put so much emphasis on the death of Christ that we neglect his resurrection. But to do that is to make the gospel less offensive than it was intended. The gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing. Why? Both because it is a message about a dead Jew hanging on a Roman cross that purports to have some relevance to my life; and because that dead Jew allegedly came to life again. And precisely because of this, he can forgive my sins! Now that, my friends, is a foolish message . . . to those who are on their way to hell. And admittedly, it took plenty of persuasive powers for God to convince us otherwise.
The early church took the resurrection of Christ seriously. It was the cornerstone of their preaching. Look at the sermons in Acts:
Acts 1:22 (criterion for selection of an apostle)--”one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
Acts 2:23-24, the keynote in Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost: “this Jesus, who was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having destroyed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”
Acts 3:15 (Peter’s second sermon)--”you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”
Note also the following: Acts 4:2 (“they were preaching in Jesus the resurrection from the dead”--that is, that because of him we too can be raised!); 4:10; 4:33; 13:30, 34; Acts 17:3; 17:18, 31; 23:6; 24:21; 26:23 .
Also, note 1 Thess 1:9-10 and 1 Cor 15: 3-5. The church embraced the resurrection as both true and central to the preaching of the gospel.
(3) What’s at Stake?
What’s at stake? Everything! (Rudolf Bultmann, the most influential NT scholar of this century: he wanted to salvage Christianity for the modern man, but by evacuating from the gospel any semblance of the supernatural. The cost was too great. The apostle Paul could not agree less with Bultmann: note 1 Cor 15:12-19). (As a young man, I had a pastor who argued that even if Christ were not raised from the dead, Christians were better off than others because we have embraced a great ethical system that kept our lives clean. Paul argued that we, of all people, should be pitied the most. For him, ethics meant nothing if Christ were still dead. To Paul, truth was the cornerstone of ethics, not a lie.)
I think it is safer to side with Paul than with Bultmann. But it may be helpful to think through the importance of the resurrection. What are the ramifications of the resurrection? Why does it matter?
Significance of the Resurrection of Christ
I’m just going to touch on a few points. No one can do an exhaustive treatment of this great theme. We will never be able to plumb the depths of what Christ’s death and resurrection mean for us, but in the least we can offer a few key points. This is a simple, straightforward message. There’s really nothing fancy about it. For the most part, I’ll just read the biblical text and trust the Holy Spirit to stir up your hearts. If you have not put your faith in Christ, now is certainly an appropriate time to do so.
(1) The Ultimate Apologetic: Validation of the Miracles of the Bible
George Eldon Ladd, in his A Theology of the New Testament (p. 354) states: “God did not make himself known through a system of teaching nor a theology nor a book, but through a series of events recorded in the Bible. The coming of Jesus of Nazareth was the climax of this series of redemptive events; and his resurrection is the event that validates all that came before.”
The Bible speaks of creation as virtually the finger-painting of God, while the resurrection of Christ required the strong arm of God! It is his mighty work! In other words, the resurrection of Christ implicitly contains an argument from the greater to the lesser. If we can embrace this miracle, what is to prevent us from embracing lesser ones?
(2) Proof that God is the God of the Living and is a Living God (cf. Matt 22:32; Luke 20:38; Rom 1:4; 6:9; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 54-57)
Several texts prove this point, but none so eloquently as 1 Cor 15:20-26:
(20) ¶ But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
(21) For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
(22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
(23) But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
(24) Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
(25) For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
(26) The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (RSV)
As Ladd pointed out (p. 354): “If Christ is not risen from the dead, the long course of God’s redemptive acts to save his people ends in a dead-end street, in a tomb. If the resurrection of Christ is not reality, then we have no assurance that God is the living God, for death has the last word. Faith is futile because the object of that faith has not vindicated himself as the Lord of life. Christian faith is then incarcerated in the tomb along with the final and highest self-revelation of God in Christ--if Christ is indeed dead.”
But if Christ is raised from the dead, then God is sovereign over all things, even death.
(3) Fulfillment of Jesus’ Predictions and of Scripture (cf. Matt 17:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; 20:9; 1 Cor 15:4)
Again, several texts point in this direction. Note two in particular: John 2:22; 1 Cor 15:4:
John 2:22 “When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” (RSV)
1Cor. 15:4 “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (RSV)
Thus, if Christ is not raised from the dead, he is a liar. And if he is a liar, then his death did not pay for our sins.
(4) An Essential Part of the Gospel (cf. John 11:25, 26; Acts 1:22; 2:31; 3:15; 4:2, 10, 33; 13:30, 34; 17:3; Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 15:4; 2 Tim 2:8)
We have seen some of the passages in Acts. Note now two other texts: John 11:25 and Rom 10:9:
John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (RSV)
Rom. 10:9 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (RSV)
(5) Implicit Demonstration of Christ’s Deity (John 2:19-22)
The resurrection of Christ is unique in two major ways:
All others who were raised from the dead returned to their graves (e.g., Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, Eutychus);
Christ’s is the only resurrection to take place without a human agent.
Also, note who participated in Christ’s resurrection: the Father (Gal 1:1), Holy Spirit (Rom 8:11), and the Son (John 2:19-22).
Clearly, if Christ raised himself from the dead, he must be more than a man! His resurrection without human agency is an implicit affirmation of his deity.
(6) Guarantee of Believers’ Resurrection (cf. Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:12-14, 20; Col 1:18; 1 Pet 1:3; Rev 1:5)
Again, note a few key texts: 1 Cor 15:12-14; Col 1:18 (“firstborn from the dead” does not mean chronologically first, but in terms of preeminence--cf. 1:15).
(7) Balanced Perspective on the Spiritual Status of the Human Body (Rom 8:23; 1 Cor 6:13-20; 15:32-34; 2 Tim 2:18)
The bodily resurrection of Christ speaks volumes about the spiritual status of the body: it is not inherently evil, with the mind being inherently good. Both were created good by God; both were corrupted in the fall of man. The ancient gnostics felt that only the mind was good. Some Christians have adopted this stance and have taken on an ascetic lifestyle, trying to deny the body its natural functions and pleasures. Others are hedonists: they believe the body is bad, but decide: “Why fight it?”
But if our bodies will be raised from the dead, as Christ’s was, then our bodies will be fully redeemed. And if they will be redeemed, then there is something salvagable about them. . . . Not only this, but they can be dedicated to God and used for his glory NOW! (Rom 12:1--”Present your bodies as a living sacrifice which is acceptable to God”). (But the fact that they need to be redeemed means that they are utterly sinful.)
Note 2 Tim 2:18, which condemns those who embrace other than a bodily, future resurrection of the saints. Note also Rom 8:22-23 (“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” [RSV]).
(8) The Indwelling of the Spirit and Resurrection Power (John 14:17; Acts 2:38; Rom 6:4; 8:11-14; Eph 1:13-14, 20; Phil 3:10-16)
The Spirit was promised to those who put their trust in Christ. It is vital for us to understand that apart from the Spirit in our lives we would not believe. He seals us to God and grants us the power necessary for sanctification.
(9) Forgiveness of Sins (John 19:30; Acts 2:32-38; Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 15:3-4, 17)
Note especially John 19:30. Jesus’ cry from the cross is “It is finished.” This the Greek word tetelestai. This word was used in commerce at the time. It was often written across a bill to indicate that the bill was paid in full. The resurrection is the receipt that God gave humanity that Jesus’ death did, indeed, pay the full price of our sins. (The world’s sins are not enough to keep Christ in the grave! His resurrection is proof that our sins are forgiven!)
Two points: First, forgiveness was costly (the cross), but because of the resurrection, there should not be lingering guilt for sin. If God slew his own son and kept him in the grave, every time we sinned the guilt would be too much! We’d say, “It’s because of sins like this that Jesus is no longer with us!”
But the resurrection means that no sin is so heinous that we cannot forgive ourselves. Some of you have done some pretty foul things in your time. The empty tomb means that they’re forgotten and forgiven!
Second, you have no right to withhold forgiveness from someone else. You need to forgive your spouse, your friend, your boss, your neighbor, and even your enemies. If God in Christ has forgiven all people, for me to withhold forgiveness says that I am more righteous than God! And it’s to say that Christ’s death was not adequate. Friends, that’s blasphemy. You’ve got to let it go! You’ve got to forgive that person his pocket change because God has forgiven you your millions!
To sum up: life, relationship, forgiveness, sanctification, the future, sanctity of the body. A whole philosophy, an entire world view, is wrapped up in the resurrection of Christ. Act as if your life depends on the resurrection of Christ--because it does!
He is risen! He is risen! That is the best news we can possibly tell a dying world!
Monday, April 14, 2014
"At least that’s what the headline read in yesterday’s USA Today (April 3, 2014). The story concerned ABC newsman Dan Harris, the co-anchor of Nightline and weekend editions of Good Morning America, and his new book, 10% Happier. Following an “extremely embarrassing” on-air panic attack, Harris began to explore the world of meditation. “It’s completely secular,” notes Harris. He describes it in three steps:
“One, sit down with your spine straight and close your eyes. Second, try to notice where the feeling of your breath is most prominent, and try to focus on what it feels like every time it comes in and goes out. And the third step is the key. Every time you catch your mind wandering, forgive yourself and bring your attention back to the breath. That moment is the bicep curl for the brain.”
So what is the Christian to think about this? Is there any place for meditation in the life of the believer? Yes, I believe there is, but not in the way Harris describes it.
All of us want to not sin. When the apostle Paul said in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” he meant that sin is failing to glorify God because of having cherished other things as more valuable and enjoyable than him. The key to not sinning is therefore to enjoy God above all else, for in our enjoyment of him is his glory in us. The psalmist declares that the way not to sin, i.e., the way to enjoy God above all else, is by treasuring his Word in our hearts (Ps. 119:11). Making God’s Word our heart’s treasure is another way of describing one aspect of meditation. More than merely “confessing” his Word, “treasuring” it “in our hearts” means placing ultimate value on its truth, prizing it as something precious and dear and of supreme excellence, and then ingesting it through memorization and meditation so that it flows freely through our spiritual veins. When this happens the Holy Spirit energizes our hearts to believe and behave in conformity with its dictates. In other words, we sin less.
The problem we face is that meditation has become a dirty word in many Christian circles. But meditation is a thoroughly biblical concept, apart from which the believer will never fully embrace and experience the depths of communion with God that he has made available to his children. We simply must not permit the abuse and distortion of this biblical practice to rob us of the delights God intends for it to impart.
Meditation begins, but by no means ends, with thinking on Scripture. To meditate properly our souls must reflect upon what our minds have ingested and our hearts must rejoice in what our souls have grasped. We have truly meditated when we slowly read, prayerfully imbibe and humbly rely upon what God has revealed to us in his Word. All of this, of course, in conscious dependence on the internal, energizing work of the Spirit.
Meditation, then, is being attentive to God. It is one way we “keep seeking the things above where Christ is” (Col. 3:1). It is a conscious, continuous engagement of the mind with God. This renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:1-2) is part of the process by which the word of God penetrates the soul and spirit with the light of illumination and the power of transformation.
Meditation may take one of several forms, depending on the object upon which we focus our mental and spiritual energy. Most important of all is meditation on Scripture.
Spiritual and moral transformation does not descend upon us like dew from heaven. Change is the fruit of fascination with the glory of God as revealed in Scripture. “We change,” notes John Piper, “because we have seen a superior beauty and worth and excellence. If you look into the face of Christ and then look into Sports Illustrated or Glamour and are not moved by the superior beauty and worth and excellence and desirability of Christ, then you are still hard and blind and futile in your thinking. You need to cry out, ‘Open my eyes to see wonderful things out of your Word!’ And your life will show it. Where your treasure is – your desire, your delight, your beauty – there will your heart be also – and your evenings and your Saturdays and your money. We are changed by seeing the glory of God in the Word of God” (from a sermon entitled, “Wonderful Things from Your Word,” January 11, 1998, p. 2).
Consider these statements about meditating on God’s Word:
"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success" (Joshua 1:8)."How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night" (Ps. 1:1-2)."Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee" (Ps. 119:11)."I will meditate on Thy precepts, and regard Thy ways" (Ps. 119:15)."Even though princes sit and talk against me, Thy servant meditates on Thy statutes" (Ps. 119:23)."And I shall lift up my hands to Thy commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Thy statutes" (Ps. 119:48)."May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; but I shall meditate on Thy precepts" (Ps. 119:78)."O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day" (Ps. 119:97)."I have more insight than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation" (Ps. 119:99)."How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Ps. 119:103)."My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Thy word" (Ps. 119:148).
When the seed of the Word sprouts and sinks its roots deeply into our souls, the fruit it yields is sheer gladness. The psalmist declares him “blessed” who “greatly delights” in God’s commandments (Ps. 112:1). In the hymnic celebration of God’s Word, Psalm 119, we read of him finding more joy in God’s testimonies than in all riches and what they might buy (Ps. 119:14). He committed himself to “delight” in God’s statutes (Ps. 119:16,24,35,47,70,77) and to relish the joy they bring even in the midst of affliction (Ps. 119:92,143).
There is also meditation on God’s creative power and beauty in nature.
I’m still growing, often imperceptibly, in my appreciation for the splendor of natural creation. I have to be honest, though, and admit that I’d rather be sitting at my desk with book in hand, under the refreshing breeze of a well-oiled air-conditioner, than on the beach or in the woods or walking in a grassy meadow. I have much to learn from the Scriptures in this regard. Jonathan Edwards has helped me, as he describes the impact of one particular encounter with the power and wonder of creation:
"And as I walking there [in his father's pasture], and looked up on the sky and clouds; there came into my mind, a sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. . . . The appearance of everything was altered: there seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost everything. God's excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon, for a long time; and so in the day time, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things: in the mean time, singing forth with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce any thing, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning. Formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me. I used to be a person uncommonly terrified with thunder: and it used to strike me with terror, when I saw a thunder-storm rising. But now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God at the first appearance of a thunder-storm. And used to take the opportunity at such times to fix myself to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God's thunder: which often times was exceeding entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. And while I viewed, used to spend my time, as it always seemed natural to me, to sing or chant forth my meditations; to speak my thoughts in soliloquies, and speak with a singing voice” (Diary, 27-28).
And then of course just thinking about God himself can be a mind-altering, heart-warming, sin-killing experience.
"One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple" (Ps. 27:4)."When I remember Thee on my bed, I meditate on Thee in the night watches" (Ps. 63:6)."I have considered the days of old, the years of long ago. I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart; and my spirit ponders. . . . I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Thy wonders of old. I will meditate on all Thy work, and muse on Thy deeds" (Ps. 77:5-6,11-12)."Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them" (Ps. 111:2)."Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, so I will meditate on Thy wonders" (Ps. 119:27)."I will remember the days of old; I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands" (Ps. 143:5)."On the glorious splendor of Thy majesty, and on Thy wonderful works, I will meditate" (Ps. 145:5)."If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Col. 3:1-2)."Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith . . . for consider Him . . ." (Heb. 12:2-3).
Once more, Edwards writes:
"I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious ways of salvation by Him. I had an inward, sweet sense of these things, that at times came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged, to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ; and the beauty and excellency of His person, and the lovely way of salvation, by free grace in Him. . . . [And I] found, from time to time, an inward sweetness, that used, as it were, to carry me away in my contemplations; in what I know not how to express otherwise, than by a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world; and a kind of vision, or fixed ideas and imaginations, of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapt and swallowed up in God. The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden as it were, kindle up a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of my soul, that I know not how to express” (Diary, 26-27).
Consider a few other texts on meditation:
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Ps. 19:14)."Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall be glad in the Lord" (Ps. 104:34)."Cease striving and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10)."My mouth will speak wisdom; and the meditation of my heart will be understanding" (Ps. 49:3)."Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things" (Phil. 4:8).
So how does Christian meditation differ from the way it is practiced in secular, non-Christian circles?
(1) Unlike those forms of meditation which advocate emptying the mind, Christian meditation calls on us to fill our mind with God and his truth. I’ve often heard well-meaning but misguided Christians suggest that the mind is dangerous or at least inferior to the heart. We frequently hear it said that God does not want to lead us or guide us or speak to us through our minds but through our hearts, as if "mind" and "heart" in Scripture are at odds with each other. A careful examination of the use of those words in the Bible will reveal that nothing could be farther from the truth. The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to be renewed and transformed in our minds (e.g., Rom. 12:1-2). Paul prayed for the Philippians that they might "abound still more and more in real knowledge and discernment" (1:9). He prayed for the Colossians that they might "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (1:9).
Nowhere in the Bible is the "mind", per se, described as evil or unworthy of being the means by which God communicates with us. What the Bible does denounce is intellectual pride, but not the intellect itself. It is humility that we need, not ignorance. I stand opposed to arrogant and cynical intellectualism. But that is not the same thing as using the mind God has given us, with the help of the Holy Spirit and the instruction of Scripture, to evaluate and discern and critically assess what is happening in both the church and the world. Whereas some things that God says and does are trans-rational, insofar as they are mysterious and often go beyond our ability to fully comprehend, God never does things that are irrational in the sense that they might violate the fundamental laws of logic or the reasonable and rational truths of Holy Scripture.
(2) Unlike other forms of meditation which advocate mental passivity, Christian meditation calls on us to actively exert our mental energy. This is nowhere better stated than by Paul inPhilippians 4:8. Here he encourages us to “let our minds dwell on” whatever is “true,” “honorable,” “right,” “pure,” “lovely,” and of “good repute.” Those things that are “excellent” and “worthy of praise” are to be the targets of our mental aim.
It isn’t enough merely to acknowledge that things and ideas of moral and mental excellence are important. Merely affirming such truths and virtues will avail little in a time of testing. We must energetically reckon, take into account, and give deliberative weight to these things. Our minds must be captivated by them in such a way that the tawdry, sleazy, fictitious, and fanciful fluff of the world loses its appeal. D. A. Carson reminds us that “this is not some escapist demand to avoid the harsh realities of our fallen world. The sad fact is that many people dwell on dirt without grasping that it is dirt. The wise Christian will see plenty of dirt in the world, but will recognize it as dirt, precisely because everything that is clean has captured his or her mind” (Basics for Believers, 116).
(3) Unlike secular expressions of meditation which advocate detachment from the world, Christian meditation calls for attachment to God. If the believer disengages from the distractions and allurements of the world, it is in order that he/she might engage with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(4) Unlike those forms of meditation which advocate visualization in order to create one's own reality, Christian meditation calls for visualization of the reality already created by God. Christians do not meditate to experience metaphysical oneness with God but to enjoy spiritual communion with him. When believers meditate they do not embark on an inner journey to find the center of their being but look outward and away from themselves to focus on the objective revelation of God in Scripture and creation. It is not some mystical transport that we seek but moral transformation into the image of Christ himself.
May God help us to think deeply and lovingly and gratefully on him and his saving grace to us Christ Jesus!" www.samstorms.com
Sunday, April 06, 2014
if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3 ESV)
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:25-29 ESV)
The only sure foundation we have in this world is Jesus Christ. He has been tested in every way and has been found faithful. Jesus made a New Covenant with those who would believe in him, and we are being built together into the spiritual temple of God. Jesus is the cornerstone of his temple, and the sure foundation. In response to the chaos all around us, many Christians in our day are crying out in desperation as King David did in Ps. 11:3.
Those who are in Christ can find hope in the mist of despair. While the world lives in a state of panic and instability, we as followers of Jesus have hope in the return of our King, to set up his eternal Kingdom of peace on the earth. And while we wait on Christ' return, we should seek to establish justice and peace on the earth now.
All disciples of Jesus have access to the Kingdom of Heaven in this present age. As we observe the very foundations of western culture and the Church being shaken, we must respond with prayer and counter - cultural Kingdom living. Since marriage is being redefined and morals are on the decline, we must fight this spiritual battle in the spiritual realm. Our moral foundation in the west has been eroding for decades. But instead of retreating or denying our present state of apostasy, we must stand strong for the truth of the gospel.
God is shaking our society and his Church. Anarchy seems to be prevailing. but those that have a good foundation built on truth will stand during these times. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, but God's Kingdom will stand forever. - Bobby
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
THE CONTRASTS IN COLOSSIANS 3 are so stark they are haunting. On the one hand, the sins in Colossians 3:5-9 are foul: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, lying. Greed is labeled “idolatry” (Col. 3:5). One can see why. In effect, one worships what one most desires. If greed lies at the heart of our deepest desires, then acquisitiveness has become our god, and we are idolaters.
On the other hand, the virtues briefly spelled out in Colossians 3:12-17 have always been associated with genuine Christian character. Here I wish to focus on the last two verses: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:16-17).
(1) The “word of Christ” is not exactly the Scriptures. It is the Gospel—but the primary access we have to that Gospel is the Scriptures. The expression “word of Christ” is sufficiently flexible that it can mean either the word that Christ taught or the word about Christ. Insofar as the Gospel itself was both proclaimed by Jesus Christ and so embodied in his person and ministry that it is also what the apostles say about him, “the word of Christ” embraces both meanings.
(2) This is what is to dwell in us richly. It is to fill our memories, occupy our horizons, constitute our priorities. We are so to reflect on it, as we turn it over in our minds and learn how it applies in every area of our lives, that, far from occupying a little religious corner of our experience, it will dwell in us richly.
(3) This must take place not only in the privacy of personal study and reflection but also in our mutual instruction and admonition. Whatever teaching takes place within the local church, it must be full of the Gospel and its rich, life-transforming implications and applications.
(4) Over against all that is foul and all that is idolatrous, Christians are to be characterized by gratitude. We have been called to peace, the apostle says. “And be thankful” (Col. 3:15). The singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs is to be done “with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Indeed, the apostle concludes, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17, italics added). - (For The Love Of God, D.A. Carson)