Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jesus is the Truth

Jesus is the Truth. Jesus does not merely convey truth to us. He does not just communicate partial truth to us. He does not communicate the opinions of men. He claims to be much more. Hendricksen points out that Jesus is “the very embodiment of the Truth.”1 John told us that Jesus is the Logos, the Word of God incarnate when he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 [EMTV]). He also said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 [EMTV]). Hendricksen reminds us, “Jesus is the truth because he is the dependable source of redemptive revelation”2 When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38 [EMTV]), he did not see that the Logos, the Word incarnate was standing right before him.
Application: We can look for truth, but if what we find does not lead us to the Truth, then what we have found is something other than the truth. We can find no ultimate truth apart from Jesus Christ. The Islamic works or the Buddhist middle way are not valid, authentic ways to reach God. Jesus Christ has not only revealed the Father to us, but is the only way in which we can reach God. Any other claim to truth leads into a false path that will lead to destruction.
1Hendricksen, John., p. 268.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jesus: The Way

Jesus is the way. He is not “a way” or “telling us about the way,” or pointing us to someone else who can show us the way. No, Jesus claims to be the way. There is a uniqueness to Christ. This is nothing new. In chapter 10, Christ referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd. He also characterized Himself as the door to the sheepfold. He did not say that there were many doors. We can see from the beginning of the Old Testament things which show us that God is not a pluralist.

There was one entrance to the garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve had been expelled, an angel with a flaming sword was stationed at the entrance to guard the way so that they might not be able to get to the tree of life. No matter how hard Adam may have searched, there was no way He and Eve could get back into the garden and have access to the tree of life.

There was one entrance into the Ark. God told Noah to build the Ark and to have a door in it. It is through that door that Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives entered. It was through that door that the animals who were to be preserved entered. It is that door that stood open for anyone who wished to enter the Ark. The Scripture teaches us that God waited patiently to execute His judgment while the Ark was being built.1 However, those who did not heed the warnings of Noah to enter the Ark, who chose to stay outside, perished. There were not hundreds of little boats going along in the wake of the Ark, nor were there other arks prepared by other people directed by other gods. There was but one Ark, and one entrance into it. The one way in which anyone then could have been saved was to enter into the Ark via the door.
There was one entrance into the Tabernacle, and later, into the Temple to get to the most holy place. There were not multiple entrances. by which people could get in. There are many other examples which could be used, but this should illustrate that Jesus did not teach the ideas we have of pluralism and inclusivism, that there are many ways to “get to God.”

Hendricksen says, “This is another of the seven great I AM's of John's Gospel . . . . In the predicate of each of the words way, truth, and life is preceded by the definite article.”2 He goes on to say, “Jesus does not merely show the way; he is himself the way. It is true that he teaches the way (Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21), guides us in the way (Luke 1:79), and has dedicated for us a new and living way (Heb. 10:20); but all this is possible only because he is himself the way.”3 Hendricksen also makes a valid point about us being saved by the person of Christ, not some nebulous principle or undefined force. He uses this illustration: “In the school the pupil is educated not primarily by blackboards, books, and maps, but by the teacher who makes use of all these means.”4 Jesus did not come to merely teach us about God, but to reveal God to us and to make a way for us to God through Himself. He is our way to God.

We cannot hold on to the thought that there are other, equally valid ways of approaching God. There are many examples that God is not pleased when we try to do things our way. The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram give evidence of that. They rebelled against the appointment of the Aaronic priesthood, and they perished. Scripture tells us that “the ground under them split apart. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them” (Num 16:32-33 [ESV]). Jesus is the way, and there is no other.
1See 1 Peter 3:20
2William Hendricksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to John, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1953), p. 267.
4Hendricksen, John, p. 267.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

An open letter to the Iranian mullahs: Your god is too small.

The situation regarding Pastor Youcef Nadarkhan demonstrates conclusively the bankruptcy of the Muslim religion. If their god has to rely on the power of the state to enforce belief, if their god cannot draw people to himself on the basis of ideas, but people have to be compelled on pain of execution by the "religious" authorities, then their god is too small. If they have to issue fatwas against "infidels" and cajole their followers into pursuing and killing anyone who dares question their authority then their god is too small. If, because of this post, they should now say that I deserve to be killed, then their god is too small. If they do not allow any freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, then their god is too small.

If the Muslims believe that their god is truly the God who is everything they claim with the many names ascribed to Him, then they would acknowledge that God can and will defend His honor. He does not need people to commit murder in His name. He does not need men and women to strap on bombs and blow themselves up in crowds, murdering people indiscriminately. They would not believe that they should teach the hatred of others, teaching, for example, that some descendants of Abraham are "pigs" and "apes" while ignoring that they also claim to be descendants of Abraham (What does that make them one might ask.). They deny that we are all descendants of Adam and Eve through Noah"s family. We were all, in Adam, created in the image and likeness of God. Because we were in Adam, we also bear that image Therefore, none of those descendants can possibly be a "descendant of pigs and apes" because we are all related.

They claim to be submissive to God but they serve a god that bears only superficial resemblance to the God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the prophets. They claim to believe that Jesus, whom they call Isa is a prophet, but they refuse to believe His words. They have accepted the words of a false prophet instead. How do I know this? Because Paul said that even if an angel from heaven came and preached any other gospel than that which was revealed through the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, then let him be accursed. Is the message of Mohammad the same message given through Jesus and the apostles? Judge for yourselves. Read both the Bible and the Koran. Compare them in detail. Tell me that the message of Mohammad is that same gospel spoken of by Paul. You can't because it isn't. Mohammad is a false prophet, and is therefore accursed.

My God is big enough to have taken on the sin of the world, nailing it to the cross in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He conquered death when He arose the third day. He ascended to Heaven and sent His Holy Spirit to be with His church. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. At His name, not the name of the false gods every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father. This will not be optional. They will not be bowing at the name of Mohammad. They will not be bowing down toward a stone. They will bow before the living God. There is only one name by which people must be saved. That name is Jesus.

Instead of murdering yet another follower of God who happens to not accept your form of religion, why not begin a dialogue? Instead of continuing the hatred and the pursuit of violent imposition of your religion, why not finally undertake your own reformation? Instead of continuing to provoke violence, why not seek peace? Why not truly submit to the True God, the one who said that He was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one could come to the Father except through Him. That one was not Mohammad, but Jesus. One with a sword can compel conformity to a certain outward standard, but the gospel of Jesus Christ can change the heart. 

This will not be received well by the radical Islamist who might read it. It might generate thoughts of hatred and murder. Some cleric might issue a fatwa against me. If so, then my point will have been proved. Their god is too small. My God is big enough to let me say that I pray that they will give up their hatred and turn to the One True God, that they will find forgiveness for their sins, not in a bomb, but in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. May God grant them ears to hear and eyes to see.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hungering for the Word?

Putting away therefore all wickedness, all deceit, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1 Peter 2:1-3 [World English Bible]).

We have enough babies that have been born in our church recently that we could ask the new parents to give an account of how much their newborn babies crave milk. They are insistent that they be fed. They do not exhibit any sort of patience when it comes to this desire. Their very life depends upon them being fed regularly with milk.

“Growth in any area of human existence is progressive, incremental. This growth, it goes without saying, is dependent on food as nourishment. Having noted the enduring character of the word of God, Peter depicts this 'word' as being the means by which nourishment comes to the Christian.” Expositor's Bible Commentary: Hebrews-Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) p. 313.

“. . . the main point of the imagery—illustrated by the verb 'crave'—is to stress the idea of hunger and focused pursuit. Peter wishes foremost to convey motivation for growth, not to suggest immaturity on the part of the readers (thus Grudem, 94).” Expositor's Bible Commentary: Hebrews-Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) p. 313.

Contrast this with what Paul says in Corinthians: “I fed you with milk, not with meat; for you weren’t yet ready. Indeed, not even now are you ready, for you are still fleshly. For insofar as there is jealousy, strife, and factions among you, aren’t you fleshly, and don’t you walk in the ways of men?” (1 Cor 3:2-3 [WEB]). and what the author of Hebrews says: For although by this time you should be teachers, you again need to have someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God. You have come to need milk, and not solid food. For everyone who lives on milk is not experienced in the word of righteousness, for he is a baby” (Heb 5:12-13 [WEB]).

The craving described by Peter is not the immaturity described by Paul. Peter reminds us that we need God's Word for our survival. Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’” (Matt 4:4 [WEB]).

"if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious"

Peter here challenges his readers and us to not take for granted our salvation. Are we exhibiting evidence that we have indeed tasted that the Lord is gracious? Are we striving to put away all wickedness, all deceit, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking? Are we craving the Word of God even as a newborn craves milk? Or are we just content with thinking we have our “get out of hell free” ticket so we can now live the way we want?

Have we tasted that the Lord is gracious or are we avoiding dealing with our sins, excusing them as “not so bad” when in the sight of our Holy God, they are an affront? Have we placed our trust in the blood of Jesus Christ to save us from the wrath to come or are we thinking that because we are not as bad as some people that God will somehow just excuse the sins we practice?

James challenges us saying, “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26b [WEB]), and Paul tells us, “However God’s firm foundation stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness” (2 Tim 2:19 [WEB]). The Bible does not give us the luxury of taking God for granted. Let us indeed examine ourselves, asking ourselves whether indeed we have “tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Speaking up again

Lest anyone think I am driven by hate toward those of different national origins, particularly those from the Hispanic nations of north, central, or south America, I can assure you that I have a great respect and love for the hard-working among them who desire to come to the United States in order to make a better life for themselves. However, I cannot condone the blatant disregard for the laws of this land by some who enter illegally. Nor can I condone the efforts of those who wish to reward those who have broken the laws of the land by establishing some form of amnesty and legalization of status. To do so would be a slap in the face of those who have made the effort and sacrificed much to follow the legal paths to immigration. We must not reward those who break the law with a path to citizenship unless they first return and follow legal means to come here.

At one time, this nation had a viable guest-worker program that allowed people to come in and work legally. The current situation is a result of changing that program, leaving no legal way for those who desire to come here and work to do so. It is high time for our representatives to realize the negative impact of the current system and to do something about it.

The current situation does not allow control of entry. People who can ill afford it pay large fees to "coyotes" to bring them into this country. They are packed into the back of tractor-trailer rigs and hauled to the border. Sometimes, the one hauling them realizes that he cannot get them through and unhitches and abandons the trailer with the people packed inside with no adequate ventilation, food, water, or sanitary facilities. Many have suffered this way and many have died. Others are led on paths through the desert with inadequate water and subject to being robbed by the very ones they paid to take them though the desert.

Consider also the impact on the land. Those who live in the border areas regularly have these illegal aliens trespassing across their property, destroying fences, leaving behind litter, and despoiling the beauty of the land. Those who come out to confront the trespassers are subject to violence, some being shot at and at least one being murdered by the illegal aliens (and yes, they are illegal aliens, not "undocumented immigrants," which is politically correct mumbo-jumbo that confuses the issue and hinders real discussion of the situation). We have laws in place, but those who are supposed to enforce them do so with inadequate staffing and with rules so strict that they cannot even effectively defend themselves if assaulted by the illegal aliens.

The situation as it exists is complex, only because of the way this has not been effectively addressed. During President Reagan's administration, there was what should have been a one-time amnesty granted. With that was supposed to come effective control of the border. The border remained porous, and many more poured across, thinking that the "one-time" amnesty would morph into repeated amnesties. Indeed, there have been many discussions to do so. To date, they have not succeeded, and must not do so. However, there have been no effective discussion on solutions that would provide a legal means for workers to come here openly.

Why not? Why can we not address the underlying issue? Why can we not have a viable guest-worker program whereby those who desire to do so could do so legally. Why can we with that not have a strong and enforceable border that would be effective in keeping out those who are undesirable--those who are drug runners or those coming to do harm. If those who are currently crossing the desert to come in order to work could cross legally at established checkpoints and walk openly with full documentation as to their status, then the presumption could be that those crossing at other points fall into those who wish us harm, either by terrorism, gang violence, or running drugs. More potent force to intercept and deal with those criminal forces could then be brought to bear since those crossing for work would be able to do so easily.

Why not let those who wish to come to work be able to do so with pride and not with a sense of fear? Why not let them work openly and above board, being fairly compensated for their labor and not being paid under-the-table in an underground economy which is then not taxed fairly? Why not let them be contributors to society instead of a burden to our health-care systems? Compassion is not extending some form of amnesty, regardless of whether you disguise it by giving it some other politically-correct name. Compassion is giving these people a real, legal means to come in and work, and allowing them to move freely with documentation between their work and homes, assisting their families in countries where their earnings are supporting their families who live in sometimes desperate circumstances. Compassion is treating with respect those who come here legally and taking appropriate means against those who come here illegally.

What about children brought here, who have grown up here, and have no recollection of the land of their nativity? Yes, that is a difficult situation, but if the issue of adults who enter illegally, knowingly and willfully breaking our laws, and who are accountable for their actions, is first dealt with, then the more difficult one of these children who were brought in and are not willful lawbreakers can and should be dealt with differently. For these, mercy should be exercised. And for these, there should be discussion as to ways by which these can be integrated into society or assisted in integrating into the society of the nation of their birth. To discuss things like granting in-state tuition to these children when citizens of this country do not get such privileges is again disrespectful to all those who have made the effort to do things legally and have struggled to be able to afford to attend institutions of higher learning. Until there is a legal status, there should be no discussion of state of residence and privileges that go along with such residence.

There will also need to be discussion and resolution of the "anchor baby" situation. Since these people come here illegally, such a birth should not grant automatic citizenship in the United States of America. This would also remove the incentive for many to come here illegally, and would keep women from endangering their lives and the lives of their unborn children in order to have a baby here. It would also lessen the burden on our hospitals and health care professionals who are mandated to provide care but have no means to collect the money needed for such care from the indigent people who come under such circumstances.

I do not pretend to have all of the answers, or even that my proposals are viable. However, I do know that the current situation is untenable and that there needs to be substantive discussion of viable solutions, not political posturing which only seeks to gain votes for one's party while doing nothing to actually fix the problem. It is my earnest prayer that our leaders will understand that real solutions are needed. May God grant them insight into ways to address this situation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Speaking up

Something I never thought I would be doing, I decided that I wanted to do something to make theological academic books more affordable for our students. To do this, I stood up in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, which I am attending in Phoenix Arizona as a messenger of Grace Baptist Church of Wake Forest, NC. I presented a motion that the SBC encourage Lifeway to work with publishers to make electronic editions of academic works for devices such as Kindle,, Nook, IPad or other devices. This would make these works available to our students at a cost savings over hard-bound or paperback editions of these works.

What I did not realize was how disconcerting it is to see oneself on a huge screen. It is rather unnerving. I have been nervous enough standing in front of smaller groups. The butterflies were certainly fluttering as I stood there, and I know my voice was shaking. I am glad I had written out what I wanted to say as if I had not, I would have probably have gone blank. I think it was well received as there were several seconds to the motion. From here, it gets referred to the Committee on Resolutions, who will determine if it is a suitable matter for consideration by the SBC. We will find out tomorrow if it goes on or is rejected. In any case, it brings this matter to the attention of many. We need to take advantage of technological advances that make it possible to keep a pastoral library, not on multiple bookshelves, but on one small device. Just imagine how much better it would be if a missionary could transport a whole library of books in a carry-on bag and not have to ship hundreds of pounds of books. The cost savings would be tremendous. The money saved in shipping would certainly be better used to go to gospel work.

My few moments of discomfort may have a significant impact. Some works that only seem to come out in traditional formats may become available in forms that leverage the advantages of the newer technologies. The SBC should be on the forefront of using technology to promote this, and the impact Lifeway might have in promoting such means of publication may help to make more works of significance available to students and others in need of quality theological resources.

Our Lord did not call us to be comfortable, but to be faithful. God help us to get over our anxieties so that we can be faithful in learning to know and then to do His will.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Do we really trust the Bible?

Not too long ago, the news was abuzz about whether or not vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin believed that dinosaurs and humans lived as contemporaries about 4,000 years ago. One would wonder whether The ones ridiculing her believed at all in freedom of religion or free speech. Apparently, they believe that anyone that does not toe the line on evolutionary doctrine is totally disqualified for public service. That election may be over, but the issue remains.

Many of those who questioned Sarah Palin's beliefs have totally rejected the Bible's authority. Many of those in public life have also rejected that authority. The question which we must answer is not how many people have rejected the Bible's authority. The question is whether those of us who claim that the Bible is God's inspired Word will trust it when it speaks plainly. After all, to use an old saying, any lemming can follow the crowd over the cliff. Will we dare to stand firm against the tide of public opinion? Will we stand firm and boldly proclaim that God's Word is the foundation, not only of our faith, but also of our philosophy.

How does the Bible address this issue? Do the Bible's authors, inspired as they were by the Holy Spirit, believe in the historical nature of the creation account which is found in Genesis chapters one through eleven? Let us look at some examples.

In 1 Corinthians 15:21-26, Paul compares Jesus Christ to Adam. Paul had a personal acquaintance with Jesus Christ, having met Him on the Damascus road. His argument assumes a literal existence of the first Adam. If he believed in an evolutionary timescale as many today believe, he could not have made the argument that death is a result of Adam's sin. If he believed that life had existed for thousands or millions of years before Adam with corresponding death, he could not have argued that death is an enemy that shall be destroyed. No, death is not a natural part of life. Death is an enemy that shall be destroyed. The penalty (death) brought in by Adam's sin has been paid by Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus, death will be destroyed.

In John chapter one we are told that Jesus Christ is the creative Word of God made flesh. Therefore, He is the eyewitness to the creative events. In Mark 10:2-12, Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees concerning marriage. They wanted to test Him about the lawfulness of divorce. Jesus did not take their bait, telling them that Moses allowed divorce due to their hardness of heart, but it was not as God intended it. Jesus referred to the creation of Adam and Eve at the beginning of the creation as being the foundation of marriage. Because God's plan was for a one-flesh union which man should not separate. Jesus accepted the creation of Adam and Eve at the beginning of creation as a literal historical event. Contrast this with the activist groups who are now trying to redefine marriage to allow for homosexual, lesbian, or other forms of unions to be called marriage as well. If Jesus' statement of the creation of male and female in the beginning were not true, then there would no longer be justification for maintaining the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Although Matthew's genealogy of Jesus only goes back to Abraham, Luke 3:23-38 presents a genealogy that traces the lineage of Jesus all the way back through Abraham and Noah to Adam. Luke also accepted that he was giving an authoritative, historical genealogy. Since the Bible tells us that, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," (2 Timothy 3:16), the account given in Luke is also God-breathed and therefore is to be trusted. If we claim to be Jesus' followers, then we should also be willing to believe this same history.

If we claim to be Bible-based believers, then we must stop disregarding the Word of God which provides the basis for our beliefs. We have an authority (Jesus) who was witness to the events of creation and who has inspired writers to record an accurate account of those events. We must be willing to base our worldview on that account. Man in rebellion has rejected that account and has created his own mythology (the big bang and molecules-to-man evolution) to explain the world without God. We must not follow the crowd in their rebellion, but must rather acknowledge that God's revelation should serve as, "...a lamp to my feet And a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105)