"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

Same Sex Romantic Love Not a Sin?

A man who claims to be a Christian from the UK has written to claim that same sex romantic love is not listed listed as a sin somewhere in the Bible. He claims to have already been converted... Already a Christian, already read the
Bible cover to cover and can't find a word against same sex romantic love, and, he says "since you can't either, its only logical and fair to put blame on people like you who want a sin to be a sin, even if it aint listed in the Bible. But I don't blame you for it as we Christians do it all the time. We all like to add our own sins, look at the mid 60s when we wanted to condemn black people, we had no Bible text to do it but did it anyway. We condemned women and drowned loads of em in the 1500s with no Bibical evidence, and today we do it to homosexuals with no Biblical texts. Is that a good thing?... I see you want to hold on to a kind of homophobic lifestyle without any Biblical evidence that you can.

My response:

Hi _________

While a clear and unambiguos biblical case can be made against homosexuality, it is also true that many people really do just hate homosexuals and construct their arguments against homosexual practice in order to provide a rationale for their angry feelings against them. And it is, no doubt,true that Christians frequently misuse doctrines that are true in order to achieve improper ends. And I would agree that homosexual practice is not necessarily more heinous than a lot of sins out there which are also called detestible to God .. some of which I have personally committed prior to knowing Christ. But sin is sin, and all sin is rebellion worthy of death. But you and I both are all born into a condition - the bondage to a corruption of nature which manifests itself in many sins here on earth than none of us can escape from naturally unless Christ sets us free. Being born into a condition is not testimony that this is what God desires or intends us to do, but is part of our condition in the fall. Due to our corrupt natures, I have committed this sin, and you are addicted to some other form of idolatry but both of are slaves to our fallen condition and are hopeless apart from Christ. Being natural is not not an argument for, but against something being of God because depravity keeps us from being able to save ourselves and extract ourselves from our willful sinful predicament. Fact is, we don't want to.

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March 31, 2008  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

The Hidden Treasure (8 -- Giving Away the Gold)

It is a singular characteristic of the wealthy men of this world, that they are almost without exception parsimonious, and cling tightly to the great riches they possess. It would seem a dictate of logic that, according as one could give without jeopardizing his own security and position, he would feel more free to do so with indifference. In reality, it is often those most pressed for necessary finances, and those whose ability to provide for themselves the most basic wants is in question from day to day, who are the most willing to give to others. Thus, the wealthy tend to preserve their wealth through greediness, and the poor tend to discourage any accumulation of wealth through liberality.

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March 28, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Justification - The Reformation v. Rome

"For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." Romans 3:28
"Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." Romans 4:4-5

I was going through some of my old study notes today and came across this short article by Dr. R. C. Sproul. In reading it through again, I was reminded about the magnitude of the issue as it relates to the very Gospel itself, and the vital differences that still remain between the two sides. Rome believes that justification is by grace, through faith and because of Christ. What Rome does not believe is that justification is by grace alone, or through faith alone, or by Christ alone. For Rome, justification is by grace plus merit, through faith plus works; by Christ plus the sinner's contribution of inherent righteousness. In contrast, the Reformers called the Church back to the one true Biblical Gospel: Salvation is by God's grace alone, received through faith alone, because of Christ alone, based on the Scriptures alone, to the Glory of God alone. Dr. Sproul's article (below) brings out the clear distinctions between the Reformers and Rome concerning justification - which as Martin Luther declared, is the article upon which the church stands or falls. - John Samson

Dr. Sproul writes:

At the heart of the controversy between Roman Catholic and Reformation or Protestant theology is the nature of justification itself. It is a debate not merely about how or when or by what means a person is justified, but about the very meaning of justification itself. Reformed theology insists that the biblical doctrine of justification is forensic in nature.

What does this mean?

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March 27, 2008  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Obedience (7)

Obedience Is Beautiful

True Christian obedience is haunting, jolting the minds of our opponents. It is compelling, winning worshipers to our God. We convey godliness through our good works, pleasing the One who calls us to holiness. The Word of God is more desirable than gold, and sweeter than honey. This Word produces obedience in the lives of God's people by their faith. Surely that fruit is beautiful.

March 25, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Obedience (6)

Obedience Is Necessary

For the Christian to obey God is normal. It is no extraordinary thing to do what your Lord commands—even to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus… daily. But obedience is more than to-be-expected: it is inevitable. Someone who is saved by grace through living faith in Jesus Christ will certainly obey God. In fact, disobedience points to the absence of true and saving faith. So, although obedience is not a prerequisite for salvation, it is a necessary fruit of salvation.

March 24, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Hidden Treasure (7 -- Wearing the Gold)

Although the labor represented by an intricately-wrought chain of gold is enormous and eminently various, the gold ore having been digged up and refined and painstakingly crafted through many thousands of hours, the final end to which all this diverse toil has been directed may be expressed in this one thing, that the chain be worn about the neck as an ornament of grace and beauty. The woman who delights in fine jewelry is not at all satisfied to rejoice in the beauty of her ornaments as they hang upon the pegs of her jewelry box, but must use them to adorn her own person, so that their own innate loveliness is imparted in some measure to herself. The beauty of the jewelry is never so great as when it enhances the beauty of its owner.

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March 24, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Good Friday: Life in the Blood

The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. [Leviticus 17:11]

Today is the Day of the Cross. I've never heard anyone contest the historicity of the death of Jesus on a cross—the historicity of his resurrection, yes, but not his death. The crucial question is not whether it happened. Rather, it is whether his death had any unique significance. Is Good Friday simply a memorial day for the loss of another good man? Or does it mean something more?

The original application of Leviticus 17:11 was in ancient Israel, with regard to animal sacrifices. People sinned, and, in order to be received by a Holy God, they had to make atonement for their sins. So they slaughtered dumb animals like bulls and goats as substitutes for themselves so they could survive God's presence.

Now, there's a problem with this. And it's not the kind of problem where you feel like you should call the Audobon Society because they practiced cruelty to animals.

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March 21, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Obedience (5)

Obedience Is Supernatural

Only Christians can obey God rightly. Therefore, the merest potential for obedience comes from outside nature, since just being a Christian is supernatural. Not only that, but we obey the will of God by being filled with the Spirit, by walking in the Spirit. How, then, could the origin or empowerment of our obedience be anything but supernatural—unless you would reduce the Holy Spirit of God to the level of nature?

March 21, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Obedience (4)

Obedience Is Legal

le•gal: adj. of, based on, or concerned with the law. Christian obedience takes the form of law-keeping. What's that you say? Obedience has more to do with love than with law? What are the greatest precepts of the Law of God? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself." That's right, love is a commandment, the fulfillment of the Law. If you're a Christian, you do what God tells you to do, which he has told you by way of the moral Law.

March 20, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Obedience (3)

Obedience Is Glad-Hearted

Good works drawn from a reluctant heart do not constitute God-honoring obedience. In fact, this is lip-service, performed for some reason other than a joyful response to grace—which is the same as disobedience in God's eyes. Only the heart made healthy and glad with salvation can be truly obedient. "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." If you truly love your Savior God, then he cannot ask too much of your allegiance.

March 19, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Obedience (2)

Obedience Is Covenantal

The Christian obeys God for reasons stipulated by God. The Ten Commandments are prefaced with these words: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." This creates the atmosphere in which obedience takes place. The Christian obeys God because God has shown favor to him—not so that God will show favor to him. In Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Covenant sacrificed himself to save his people from their sin and to redeem them for righteousness. This is the ultimate motivator to Christian obedience.

March 19, 2008  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Obedience (1)

Obedience Is Relational

This may seem obvious, but obedience requires two parties: the one obeying, and the one obeyed. The Christian obeys God. Christian obedience is not some sort of purity detached from relationship to God. We do not pursue a self-contained morality, as if virtue in itself meant something. "Getting better" at obedience (a.k.a. sanctification) is becoming submissive to God. Either we are righteous for God's sake, or righteous for the sake of self (self-righteous, which is to say unrighteous).

March 17, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Coming to Christ

Before I saw Christ, oh, how I feared to come to God! He was holy and I was sinful. He was righteous and I was guilty. He was wrathful and I was a child of wrath, deserving of every eternal torment. But then God's merciful Spirit opened my eyes to the King of Glory, and my heart was changed forever. Before, I had seen every reason to flee from God, and was overcome with despair at the realization that I could not escape his presence. Afterwards, I saw every reason to come to God, and found no other delight than that I could never be out of his sight. Jesus changed my perspective entirely, so that what had been my misery and despair became my only joy and unshakeable hope. I found in him every reason to come to God, and no reason to forbear.

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March 16, 2008  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Incarnational Infiltration- Meditation on the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Philippians

During wartime, a very strategic maneuver is to infiltrate the enemy's people and get inside the enemy's gates, so that the opposition can be defeated from within their own territory (Infiltration is defined in my dictionary as moving into or permeating). This is exactly what our God, the Divine Warrior does in his gospel warfare against Satan the deceiver and enemy of our souls.

When we think of Paul's letter to the Philippian Christians, we rightly think of such things as rejoicing in Christ and how we ought to live our lives in Him. Additionally, we should also notice the letter's focus in chapter one on how the gospel infiltrates the enemy's territory. Before we read our passage from Philippians chapter one, let us be reminded that Paul was a prison in Caesar's dungeon in his household, the Praetorium in Rome. He is in chains and possibly facing death soon. He is writing the letter of rejoicing in Christ to Christians who live in the Roman Colony of Philippi, a retirement community for former faithful Roman officers and soldiers. This is important to keep in mind.

Paul takes up his pen to encourage the Philippian Christians to know their union with Christ and with each other (2:1-5); to be reminded that they are to pray and praise God for his kindness and mercy (4:4-7); to think on certain things because of Christ, knowing his peace, and to know how we can be content in Christ Jesus because he supplies all of our needs according to his riches in glory (4:8-19). He also tells these Christians who live in this Roman Colony that they are now ultimately citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven (3:20-21).

Because of this new identity and citizenship, regardless of their privilege at one time of being Roman citizens, or citizens of the kingdom of man, they are now highly privileged members of the Kingdom of Heaven and await a greater inheritance because of their service in Christ's militant army.

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March 13, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Hidden Treasure (6 -- Admiring the Gold)

In the world of men, there are two basic classes of wealth which are ever sought. The first class is composed of those substances which have an inherent worth and beauty, such as silver, gold, and diamonds. The second class is composed of those substances which, though inherently worthless, may be traded for other things of value, such as the ugly paper dollar which might readily be exchanged for all goods and services under the sun, and which is therefore highly prized. The difference between the two is that the latter class only allows one to delight in something other than itself – a man with dollars may find joy in the fine dining and fancy houses for which he might trade them, but little values the look of the paper itself. But the former class inspires admiration by its own intrinsic properties. A diamond dazzles the eye, and is therefore sought for itself, and not just to be traded for other things.

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March 11, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

We Wouldn't Make This Up

At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”

The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. [Exodus 12:29-36]

There are a lot of people in this world who want very badly to believe that God is a God of love. Indeed, the Scripture says quite literally that God is love. But that's interesting, because Exodus 12 makes it clear that God kills babies out of anger. This is not the kind of thing you make up if you're trying to sell the "God is love" idea to people! It's tremendously hard for us to understand God's wrath and love together, but the Scriptures demand that we try.

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March 09, 2008  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

A Quote from a Disciple (2nd Century AD)

The quote (below) is from The Epistle to Diognetus 9, translated by Maxwell Staniforth. This text dates from the mid to late 2nd century AD. It is an early indication that the doctrines of substitutionary atonement and double imputation were not first the product of the Protestant Reformation, but were held dear by the earliest generations of Christians. The author is unknown - he refers to himself simply as a mathetes “disciple”.

"He showed how long-suffering He is. He bore with us, and in pity He took our sins upon Himself and gave His own Son as a ransom for us – the Holy for the wicked, the Sinless for sinners, the Just for the unjust, the Incorrupt for the corrupt, the Immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything except His righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we, in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for! – that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the One holy, and the holiness of One should sanctify the countless wicked!"

March 08, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Death and the Afterlife

If you're in the Portland area this Friday night, feel free to join me at the Lucky Lab Beer Hall (1945 NW Quimby) for a Table Talk (after the fashion of Martin Luther's olden days discussions). We'll talk about Death and the Afterlife. Here is a PDF of the handout.

March 04, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Hidden Treasure (5 -- Fashioning the Gold)

The reason for the surpassing value of gold is to be sought in a unique combination of its various qualities, including such things as its limited availability, imperviousness to corruption, usefulness for a wide array of applications, and not least of all, unrivalled beauty. This last quality is an unexceptional characteristic of valuable materials. In terms of sheer functionality, pewter lacks nothing that sterling silver may boast. But the latter is always prized more highly simply because it is more beautiful. Pewter may be used to feed the body of man just as well as silver; but it can never feed his beauty-starved soul. Pewter may be useful to the trader of household wares, but silver is required by the jeweler or artist.

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March 04, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink