Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Article: Preaching to Exhausted

This article is written by Pastor Allen Kraft of Stop Trying Harder blog.  This article has been copied w/o permission.  If you know that I cannot publish it here with the proper accreditation, please let me know and I will remove the post.

I remember receiving a letter a few years ago from one of the leaders in our church’s youth ministry. Darrin was an outstanding, mature, godly young man and yet in his letter, he informed me of his recent decision to renounce Christianity. What was his reason? While he had a few fairly common theological questions and doubts, the root issue was much deeper than all of that. He was spiritually exhausted. He had spent years doing all the things Christians are supposed to do and yet was not experiencing any real change. He felt that his only option was to renounce his faith.

How many of the people that listen to our teaching every week are very much like Darrin —sincerely wanting to follow God and yet growing tired of trying? Some are perhaps unaware of their exhaustion as they continue on a treadmill of spiritual busyness. Others carry a deep sense of failure: “Everyone else seems to be getting this. Why is it not working for me?”
Creating Exhaustion?

The ultimate irony is that we as pastors and teachers often contribute to their state of spiritual fatigue. It’s nothing intentional. We simply want to help apply God’s word to their lives. So we fill every sermon with good Biblical principles: four strategies to improve your prayer life, five keys to a healthy marriage, three ways to be more loving, etc. etc. All of this is helpful information, but imagine the long term impact in a person’s soul when they know they haven’t come close to mastering last week’s application points and are now getting three more to add to their list.

While this kind of principle-centered preaching seems to resonate with so many people, it actually can lead to two equally dangerous paths. One path is spiritual pride. Those who are working hard to keep these lists feel really good about themselves. They feel close to God because of how well they are doing...sort of like the Pharisee in Luke 18 who rejoiced in his own moral goodness and despised the sinner praying next to him. How convenient that pride and selfcenteredness weren’t on his list! If we as pastors are not careful, we can end up creating a culture filled with Pharisees—good, moral people who are striving to do the right thing and yet blind to their own real need.

The other dangerous path toward which principle-centered preaching can direct people is the path of disillusionment and despair. Each week those in our church hear more things they are supposed to be doing—good, spiritual, Christian things—and they know deep down that they can’t do it. They’ve tried to change. They’ve knelt at the altar, making promises and commitments and resolutions, but each time the end result is the same. No change…except for the added guilt and shame. Some resolve to try harder. Others give up all together.

A “New” Kind of Preaching

So what’s the answer? How can we as pastors and teachers help people avoid the trappings of the principle-focused path? How are we to preach to the spiritually exhausted? The answer may surprise you: Preach the gospel. Preach the gospel not just to the lost but to the found. Often we as pastors see the gospel as the entry point into Christianity. We preach the gospel to lost people, but we fail to realize that the saved need the gospel just as desperately. The gospel is not simply the starting line for Christianity. It is the race itself. (See how Paul talks about the gospel in Colossians 1:6, Romans 1:15)

If this is the case, how does one go about preaching the gospel to those who have already embraced it? The answer is very simple: Preach repentance and faith as continual activities rather than as one-time, initial responses to the gospel. The mistake we often make is in not realizing that repentance and faith are critical aspects of a person’s on-going experience with Christ.
Preaching Repentance

Often we as pastors shy away from using the “repentance” word too frequently. We realize that many Christians view it as an oppressive, negative thing or as something we do when we really mess up. Part of our role as pastors and teachers is to help people understand that repentance is anything but oppressive. It is life-giving! When Jesus began his ministry of preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he laid a crucial foundation with these words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). Guess what He’s talking about? Repentance.

To be poor in spirit is to see the depth of our brokenness, to see the depth of our need. This, like the other beatitudes, is not a one-time event but rather a continual response. When we as believers truly understand the gospel, it forces us to face the truth that we are a lot more sinful than we realize. When God began to open my eyes to see the gospel in this ‘new’ way, He started by showing me how much I needed it—even in the most spiritual of activities.

I remember one Sunday afternoon reflecting on the morning worship services and feeling really good about my message, having heard lots of positive comments from people who were there. As I was enjoying those reflections, I started to think about specific people in our church who weren’t there that morning—some key leaders who I thought really needed to hear that message. I found myself getting angry…righteous anger of course. In the midst of all this, I sensed God asking me a question: Alan, is this anger really about Me and My glory, or is it about you and your desire to have people hear your “great” message? Ouch. That hurt. I saw with painful clarity how my motives—even in preaching—were for my own glory rather than His.

This is us. We need the gospel every moment of every day because our flesh instinctively is drawn toward self-absorption and idolatry. In light of this, one of our key tasks as teachers is in helping all of our people see the depth of their need for Christ. We all need our eyes opened to see how self-absorbed and self-centered we truly are, how often we look for life in all sorts of things rather than God.
Redefining Sin

Part of our problem with repentance is how we define sin. If we talk about sin as “doing bad things”, our people will freely acknowledge that they are not perfect but at the same time will feel they are doing pretty well. However when we define sin according to the first commandment—loving God with all of our being—suddenly we realize that we have a BIG problem with sin. It permeates all we do. How often are we as Christians trying to find life and meaning and significance and security in things other than God? How often are we looking to shopping, or our 401k, or our attractiveness, or our reputation or our success as the thing from which we find ultimate joy and meaning?

When we begin talking about sin in this way, suddenly the room gets quiet. People begin seeing that sin is so much more than doing bad things. It includes the multitude of ways we replace God with self as the center of our lives. The great thing about defining sin in this way is that I can always find lots of personal examples to share in messages—which fosters an atmosphere where it’s okay to admit you’re broken. That goes a long way in creating a culture of continual repentance.
Good News

Now some of you are perhaps envisioning this renewed emphasis on repentance as a real downer—a guaranteed way to decrease the size of your congregation. Actually, the opposite is the case. When people begin seeing the depth of their brokenness, it opens a door for something absolutely amazing—the presence of Christ filling their brokenness. This is the second half of the gospel we proclaim. Repentance AND faith.

I used to preach about faith only when talking about prayer or how to endure times of difficulty. One day, I was reading Romans 1:17 and the light bulb came on. Paul says “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.” I had read that verse literally dozens of times and had never really seen those last four words: From first to last. The entire Christian life is about faith. We are to live by faith. In other words, we are to continually place our trust in Christ alone.

Now this is where the brokenness of repentance becomes so important. If a person doesn’t see the depth of their sinfulness and need, how deeply will they live their lives in dependence upon Christ? When our preaching is primarily focused on principles and application points, it’s easy for people to both lose sight of their need for a Savior as well as what an incredible Savior He really is. The focus is on following principles rather than embracing a Person. One leads to self-sufficiency, the other to Christ-sufficiency.
A New Testament Pattern

Once we begin to grasp this continual repentance and faith message, we begin seeing it everywhere in the New Testament. Jesus said in John 7:37, “If anyone is thirsty, let Him come to Me and drink.” That’s the gospel! If someone doesn’t admit they are thirsty, they won’t run to Jesus for help. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In his weakness, he more fully experienced God’s power. In Romans 7:24-25, after being brutally honest about his own brokenness, Paul declares, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

In each of these places as well as dozens of others (including Galatians 2:20, Matthew 11:28-30), the spiritual life is described as being lived in continual repentance and faith. As we see the depth of our need, we can more fully embrace Christ in that moment. Paul’s words at the end of his life are incredibly eye-opening: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” (I Timothy 1:15). Notice, he doesn’t say “I was the worst but am beyond that now.” Paul says, “I am the worst of sinners.” Present tense! Paul’s lifelong path of spiritual maturity involved him seeing with increasingly clarity the depth of his need for mercy—which made him more in love with his Savior.
Gospel-Infused Preaching

All of this means that in our preaching we have the wonderful privilege of continually encouraging people to embrace these two life giving truths of the gospel: We are far more sinful than we realize AND we have a Savior who is far more wonderful than we ever dreamed. Every message we give should in some way highlight these two realities. We want to help people see with greater clarity the depth of their brokenness and the glorious sufficiency of their Savior.

Often our basic approach to Biblical preaching is a three step model:

1. Here’s what the Bible says

2. Here’s what it means

3. Now go do it. In this approach, the climax of the sermon is giving people a challenge to try hard to do what God wants them to do—which actually drives them further from the gospel. Christianity becomes a list of things to do in order to please God.

What might it look like to infuse the gospel into this paradigm? It actually is quite simple to do. In step 3, after showing people how they should live, we then remind them of their own inability to do this. Our self absorption and idolatry make this impossible—which then leads to a 4th step. Proclaiming Jesus as our solution. In the midst of our inadequacy, we can look to One who is adequate. In the midst of our weakness, we can look to His strength. So now our basic approach is as follows:

1. Here’s what the Bible says

2. Here’s what it means

3. Now go do it…but you can’t. (Repentance)

4. Look to your incredible Savior, who longs to live His life through you. (Faith)

In each message—no matter what the specific passage or topic—we can preach the gospel in this way. We can expose brokenness and point people toward their Savior. While the first approach only adds to the exhaustion of the hearers, this second approach is music to their souls. They no longer have to continue on the treadmill of performance, trying to make God smile. They no longer have to pretend they are doing better than they really are. Instead, they can admit their weakness and more fully embrace the beauty of their Savior. It really is good news!

Copyright 2009 by Alan Kraft All Rights Reserved
I've been on this rat wheel, I still know people on this rat wheel.  That's why I'm including it here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The History of Purgatory

I have wondered where the Roman Catholic church got the doctrine of purgatory from.  While I was reading The Story of Christianity, Vol. I, by Justo L. Gonzalez, I ran across this:

... Gregory* "the Great."  He was also a prolific writer whose works were very influential throughout the Middle Ages.  In these writings, he did not seek to be original or creative.  On the contrary, his greatest pride was not to say anything that had not been held by the great teachers of earlier centuries, particularly Saint Augustine.  To him, it sufficed to be a disciple of the great bishop of Hippo, a teacher of his teachings.  But in spite of such wishes, there was a chasm between Gregory and his admired Augustine.  Gregory lived in a time of obscurantism, superstition, and credulity, and to a degree he reflected his age.  By making Augustine an infallible teacher, he contradicted the spirit of that teacher, whose genius was, at least in part, in his inquiring spirit and venturesome mind.  What for Augustine was conjecture, in Gregory became certainty.  Thus, for instance, the theologian of Hippo had suggested the possibility that there was a place of purification for those who died in sin, where they would spend some time before going to heaven.  On the basis of these speculations of Augustine, Gregory affirmed the existence of such a place, and thus gave impetus to the development of the doctrine of purgatory. 

*He was the bishop of Rome at this time in about 540 A.D.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Living In God's Will

This question seems to plague good, well-meaning Christians.  The most we ever seem to grasp of this idea is a vague feeling that we are "where God wants us," whatever that means.

The good news is - is you are probably living in God's will right now.  So, what is God's will?  First, let's go with the basics.  1) If we are going to sum up God's law it's "love the Lord God will all of your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." When we are saved we are then free to love God.  And we know if we run roughshod over the Ten Commandments, that's not doing God's will.   2) We know we are commissioned to share the gospel.

But what do we do?  We are saved to serve our neighbor.  This is our responsibility, dear brother and sister in Christ:  Look at I Thessalonians 4 (which my ESV heads up with 'A Life Pleasing to God') verse 11-12. 
...and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one...  If you are doing these things, you are living in God's will.  

It's easier than you thought, isn't it?

The above is living in God's will, I'd like to add one more verse about the work of God.  In John 6:28-29 when the people ask Jesus "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?"  Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Baptism Mini Lesson

Freedom Splash from North Point Church, MO, ( is an event where you can (or could have had) have some July 4th fun, as well as, get baptized.  "Jesus asked us to make our faith public by being baptized," Tommy Sparger.  Where did Jesus say that in the Bible?  There is not a single verse supporting this claim. 

In a video from NPC, "What is Baptism," the definition of being baptized is "Someone is ready to show the world they are a Christ follower.  (Troy Hartman.)  Or, going public with your faith..."  Where does the Bible say that?  It doesn't.  It is not obedience or surrender or trust--that is baptism preached as a "work" which is law.  

Now, let's take a look at Acts 2 (day of Pentecost) vs. 29-38.

 38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized*, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. 
*Greek-Baptizo- is the passive voice, being done to you

SO, is baptism for the forgiveness of sin?  WHAT DOES THE TEXT SAY?

The Nicene creed picks this up in 381 AD:  One baptism for the remission of sins.
 In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Romans 6:
3Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
In Greek it is passive

You can't do this to yourself, it has to be done by God.

Galations 3:
27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Also passive in Greek.

Titus 3:
4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

The washing of regeneration is how the Bible describes baptism.

I Pet. 3
 18For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19through whom[d] also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.

Thank you dear Mr. Rosebrough, from Pirate Christian radio, for taking the time for doing this work, so people like me can clean up our theology by comparing things we've been taught to what the Bible says.  (Fighting for the Faith's 6/30/10 program.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What the Bible Does Say: Matthew

I'm guessing (only a guess, mind you) that my previous post may have stepped on someone's toes because of a comment I got on my other blog.  ???  Although, it may not have been little ol' me.  Still...

Anyway, at the time of my last post I was really angry.  It's time to do a little legwork.

Matthew 12:50

This passage is further explained in John 15:14-16a.  14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17  

The point I was making, okay hammering, was that Christ chose us.  All of my life I have been taught and believed that one could "ask Christ into his/her heart."  That is simply not what the Bible says, anywhere.  So in the Matthew 12:50 example, you are Christ's brother, sister, mother, his family if he has chosen you then you are grafted into the olive tree.  (Christ is the vine, we are the branches.  John 15:5) Romans 11:17.

The next passage, Matthew 16:16, when Peter confesses Christ, it is expressly stated that the knowledge is from the Father in heaven.  II Corinthians 4:4 states: The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  Let's take a look at that for minute.  If unbelievers minds are indeed blinded, as Paul writes, then we are in no way capable of scrounging up some positive decision-making ability to ask Christ into our hearts.

The rich young ruler asks what good thing he must do to get eternal life.  Christ was not concerned with the young man's possessions or his actions, but his faith.  The young man wasn't able to repent because he didn't have faith.  Why?  See verse 26, below.

25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
 26Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 

Verses 28 and 29 talk about those who will, indeed, inherit eternal life. Verse 28 reads, you who have followed me. Taking a look at the disciples, for example, every time Jesus says to them "follow me."

Summing this section up, without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6a).  We cannot conjure up our own faith or make a decision to choose God, so it is a gift from God.   So when we come to saving knowledge in Christ it is the moment God gives us faith, we are then able to believe and repent.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What the Bible Doesn't Say: Matthew

I am going to start with Matthew 12.  Matthew 1-11 is the journal of Jesus' physical journey, miracles, and the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7).

Verses 46:50
Jesus' Mother and Brothers
 46While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."  48He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" 49Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."  

It does not say:  Whoever asks Jesus into their hearts is my brother and sister and mother.

Matthew 16:16
Peter's Confession of Christ
 13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  14They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
 15"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
 16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
 17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.

It does not say, you know this because you've asked Me into your heart. 

Next, recall the parable of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19?  Matthew 19:16-26
The Rich Young Man
 16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"  17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
 18"Which ones?" the man inquired.
   Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
 20"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
 21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
 22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
 23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
 26Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 

In verse 21, it does not say, you need to ask me into your heart.   Jesus is pointing out the young man's idolatry.  Even more informative in verse 26, Jesus is informing them it's impossible for man to "save" himself by works.

Skipping ahead to verses 28 and 29:

 28Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

It does not say:  And everyone who has asked me into their hearts will inherit eternal life.

I am going to make one final point about the book of Matthew (25:1-13) by looking at the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  To sum it up, there were five wise virgins and five foolish virgins.  The five wise virgins were ready for the bridegroom because they had faith.  Not because they asked Jesus into their hearts.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Case For Amillennialism - This Blessed Hope

Since I am by no means a theologian (drat), I am passing along some notes I've taken from Dr. Kim Riddlebarger's lecture Christ's Return, Our Glorious Hope ( March 25, 2010).

My previous suppositions are from my life-long learning as a dispensationalist.  

Titus 2:11-14  11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

The heart and expectation of New Testament eschotology is the second advent.  Paul does not speak of a Golden Age to come or within the lifetime of his hearers.  Paul doesn't point us to  a secret rapture (before God's wrath is poured out).  Which is a major criticism of dispensationalism.

I'll take a minute and explain that dispensationalism teaches that believers will be raptured, taken out of the earth, and leave everyone else on earth undisturbed to live through the tribulation--which lasts for seven years.

Nor are there two ends:  Christ coming back, establishing a 1,000 year reign, followed by the final judgment.  Believers and unbelievers are judged at the time Christ returns (No millennial explanation.)  Paul is not a postmill, preterest nor disp  Rom. 9-11, but looks forward to one great future event.

The dispensationalist view is "get ready now" or be left behind to face the anitchrist.  Therefore, dispensationalism would not be the source of hope (gospel), but justice.  In other words "be ready" turns the second coming into law.

For Christians, the second coming is the day of gospel; for the non-Christians, it is total law and judgment and something to be feared.  Not to escape the tribulation.

The second coming is the final consummation of all redemptive history, final order of things established, and the curse removed.  The differences between amil and postmil surface here.  Christ's return is the end, NOT a one halfway step, not to set up another kingdom.  There are TWO eschotological ages:  THIS AGE, temporal, and the AGE TO COME, eternal.  There is no room for an earthly millennial age.  IF there is a rapture, then Christ returns after seven years, that's a 3rd advent.  We read where Christ's return is loud with trumpets, so with dispensationalism, the rapture would be quiet, or only heard by Christians.

Three specific things happen at once in scripture:  1) Resurrection of the dead; 2) Judgment of believers and unbelievers; 3) Final consummation--make all things new.

The resurrection of the dead is the body and soul being put back together again.  The separation of the two was due to sin.

II Thes 1:6-9   6God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.  Direct link between resurrection and day of judgment.

I Cor. 15:50-54   50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

See also:
John 6 and 11:24

Dreadful time of judgment no longer delayed by the mercies of God
Matt. 25:35-46  ALL NATIONS - NO GAP
If this is the final judgment, what do we do about a millennial.

Rev. 20:11-15  Great white throne judgment, general resurrection already done, cosmic renewal at the same time (fleeing from God's presence.)
John 12:45 Glorious inheritance.

(Bible verses from NIV version.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Law and Its Uses

God's Law
  1. "You shall have no other gods before me."
  2. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments. "
  3. "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."
  4. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."
  5. "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. "
  6.   "You shall not murder."
  7. "You shall not commit adultery. "
  8. "You shall not steal. "
  9. "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." "
  10. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."  Exodus 20:3-17
Summary of the Law: 

Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  Matthew 22:37-40

Three Legal Uses of the Law
  1. To keep us from beating each other up and taking each others' stuff (authority)
  2. Show us our need for a savior
  3. Show Christians what a good work is.
The only way the Law can save you is if you keep it perfectly from the moment you are born.  (Although there is a problem with:  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  Psalm 51:4-6)  IF the Law could save you, there would have been no need for Christ to die on the cross.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I Samuel 12:24

Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.

In this verse Samuel is addressing the children of Israel.  They have had a history of being faithful for a time then falling away from the LORD.  Samuel admonishes the Israelites for even wanting a king.  God was supposed to be the nation's king.  He (Samuel) says in verse 13:  And now, behold the king whom you have chosen (Saul), for whom you have asked; behold, the LORD has set a king over you. (14)If you will fear the LORD and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well.  (15) But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD then the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king.

At this point, the children of Israel have already received the ten commandments.   They have found that it is not possible to keep the commandments (law) perfectly, so God set up a sacrificial system to atone (pay) for their sins.

So back to verse 24,  Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart.  Since we already know that this is impossible, why would Samuel say this?  When one fears the LORD and serves him faithfully, it means that the individual is living a life of continual repentance.  NOT serving him faithfully will all of his heart.  Of course it is something we can strive for, but we should not judge ourselves by how faithfully we have served, because it is not quantifiable.  If it were, we would fall woefully short anyway.

That is why faith is crucial.  That is why Jesus died on the cross.  Hebrews 11:6 reads:  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

He Is Risen!

(image from

If this were the end of the story, we would still be in despair, without hope and forgiveness of sins.  "He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed."  Isaiah 53:5

(image from google search)

Because of this, we are able to believe, in faith, repent, and receive forgiveness of sins.  "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."  2 Corinth. 5:21

Sunday, March 28, 2010

There really are only two religions. Really.

One:  A religion based on faith.

Two:  Every other religion is based on law.

First let's look at law.  Why do I say this?  Think about it.  What do you have to do to get to heaven, or reach the highest plane of consciousness, or reach Nirvana, or have twenty-some virgins, or keep your family together in heaven?  Do the right things, to earn your place in heaven.  Or become something, or be something.

It's rules and more rules, meditation, good works, bearing children, killing infidels, serving others, feeding the poor.  It's do, do, do.  If you have to do something it qualifies as a work which qualifies as law.

Next, let's look at faith.  The Bible (through Christ) is the only place where faith is a requirement.

Paul had a lot to say about it.  In the book of Romans alone, we find:
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."  Romans 1:17

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—Romans 3:25

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.  Rom 3:28

However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.   Rom 4:5

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.  Rom 4:11

It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.  For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.  Romans 4:13-15

It seems counter intuitive that we don't have to work to receive heaven, our experience of  life on earth is generally full of the harder you work, the greater your reward.

Praise God!  If it were up to my good works, I'd be on my way to Hell.  (All of the verses quoted are from the NIV.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Can You Substitute Change for Sin?

Okay, this will probably be a bit of a rant.  Last night (and this morning) I was at a workshop, entitled Full Confidence.  It was about having confidence in what the Bible says is true.  Since "fide" was highlighted in the title, I thought that faith would be discussed more, but in the sessions I sat in on, it was not.

The opening speaker talked about change.  He began with a story about the movie Finding Nemo.  He ended with Dory's "just keep swimming" chant/song.  Honestly, I'm not sure what that has to do with keeping confidence in God's word.  He read Hebrews (citation needed):  He then launched into an entire lecture on change, starting with the creation in Genesis and talking about how God created a world of change.  He also talked about Adam and Eve eating of the forbidden tree in the garden, stating it was an arbitrary rule.  That act put us on a "changed" trajectory.  I think his pinnacle statement was that God had to change his form (to man) to come to earth.  He also said, delighted, something like:  The change, that causes the change, that brings the change (I'm sure I'm getting this wrong.)  The point is he said "change, change, change, change" a lot.  It this story making sense?  If it is not, it wasn't to me either and this is the best I can do to explain it.  I was getting more and more frustrated because it seemed like this lecturer was more impressed with what he was telling us, than to look at God's word. 

As the lecture was winding down he quoted this "verse" twice, which hit my boiling point.  "Christ became change, who knew no change."  Now, this probably sounds familiar, it is the verse:  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God(II Cor. 5:21)  Being my usual wall-flower self, I piped up to the speaker and said something like:  "The Bible says sin."  To which the speaker said, yes, it does and quoted the verse correctly.  I challenged him and said, "why don't you tell us what the Bible says, then."  He somehow wove my comment into the lecture and kept chugging along.

A short while later it was time for our break.  At that point a man sitting in front of me turned to me and said I needed to "make this right" and apologize for saying what I did.  The fact that I wanted the Bible quoted correctly didn't make any difference to him.

I will say this.  Now, certainly you can have a discussion where you talk about an unchanging God changing and coming to earth for mankind.  I'm in with that discussion.  What I'm not in is making God's word say what it does not say.  If replacing "change" for "sin" in II Cor 5:21 works, shouldn't exchanging the two words in other contexts work just as well?  Let's see--

By no means! We died to change; how can we live in it any longer?  Rom 6:2
The wages of change is death.  Rom 6:23
Christ died for our change according to the scripture.  I Cor 15:3
For Christ died for changes once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,  I Pet. 3:18

Hmm, those don't seem to work as well.  Maybe I'm a simpleton and don't understand the nuances of a lecture from a PhD.  Maybe I'm too much of a fundamentalist.  I am still confused as to why highlighting "change" and changing a verse gives us confidence in the steadfastness of the scriptures.  You know, maybe it was not the right way for me to handle the situation.  But if the worst one can say about me is a staunchly defend God's word, that's okay with me.  And, personally, I need Christ to forgive me of my daily sins, not my daily changes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jesus Didn't Say...

"You can't judge a book by its cover."*
What he did say:  "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.  You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  
Matthew 12:33-34
"For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.  The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  
Luke 6:43-45

*Paul Washer

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Studying the Bible

In my previous post,  I introduced the word hermeneutics.  It simply means how one goes about studying the Bible.

There are different ways in which to do this:  The way many pastors and theologians use is Grammatical, Historical and Systematic.  These terms are pretty clear.  Grammatical is what the text actually says, not what you could make it say or want it to say.  Historical is looking at how other theologians during the course of history have interpreted the Biblical events.  A systematic approach is one that is orderly, building on the Biblical text over time.

Trouble arises when these approaches are deviated from.   Some examples?  Stay tuned.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What's Hermeneutics, Anyway?

The conversation went something like this:

A young male friend lopped over to my section of the choir room  in his oversized robe.

"Hi!" I said, "how are you?"  "Fine!" Tim replied.

"And what classes have you signed up for this term?" I asked. 

"Something-or-another and Hermenuetics."  Said Tim.

"What's "Hermenuetics?" I asked.

Meanwhile, a choir buddy seated on my other side, shifted in her seat, adjusted her robe over her legs to get more warm from the frigid air conditioning and echoed my question, "Yes, what is that?"

"Well, it's a way to study the Bible."  My young friend replied.

(Spring 2008)

* * * * * * * * *

A nice $20 theological word, isn't it?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why Basement Theology?

I was thinking about calling this blog Theology 101, but I knew that would be too exalted a position from my starting point.  I am learning about theology from the ground up, as it were.  Hence the name:  Theology in the Basement.

I wish I would have started this blog a good year to 18 mos. ago to chart my journey, ramblings and insights.  But we have to start where we are, so while I was sitting in church this a.m. I decided to begin this blog.  It's not intended for anything, necessarily, other than documenting my own journey.  If something else evolves along the way, that's just life.