Saturday, 28 February 2015

The danger of neglecting the offers of the Gospel

Below is some commentary from J.C. Ryle on Matthew 10:15: 
...we are taught that it is a most dangerous thing to neglect the offers of the Gospel.  It will prove "more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment" than for those who have heard Christ's truth, and not received it (verse 15).
This is a doctrine fearfully overlooked, and one that deserves serious consideration.  Men are apt to forget that it does not require great open sins to be sinned in order to ruin a soul forever.  They have only to go on hearing without believing, listening without repenting, going to church without going to Christ, and by and by they will find themselves in hell!  We will all be judged according to our light; we will have to give an account of our use of religious privileges: to hear of the "great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3) and yet neglect it, is one of the worst sins a man can commit (John 16:9).
What are we doing ourselves with the Gospel?  This is the question which everyone who reads this passage should put to his conscience.  Let us assume that we are decent and respectable in our lives, correct and moral in all the relations of life, regular in our formal attendance on the means of grace.  That is all very well so far as it goes, but is this all that can be said of us?  Are we really receiving the love of the truth?  Is Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith?  If not, we are in fearful danger; we are far more guilty than the people of Sodom, who never heard the Gospel at all; we may awake to find that in spite of our regularity and morality and correctness, we have lost our souls to all eternity.  It will not save us to have lived in the full sunshine of Christian privileges, and to have heard the Gospel faithfully preached every week.  We must experience acquaintance with Christ; we must receive his truth personally; we must be united with him in life; we must become his servants and disciples.  Without this, the preaching of the Gospel only adds to our responsibility, increases our guilt, and will at length sink us more deeply into hell.  These are hard sayings!  But the words of Scripture, which we have read, are plain and unmistakable.  They are all true.
 - J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, Matthew, p. 72-73.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Al Mohler on 50 Shades

Al Mohler weighs in on 50 Shades here, in his article called 50 Shades of Shame. 

Mohler reminds us that truth, beauty and goodness are inseparably joined together because they flow from and originate in God himself.  He points out that pornography warps beauty by seeking to separate it from truth and goodness.  That means that producing or partaking in pornography is an act of rebellion against God - willfully trying to separate what God has joined together.  And make no mistake, Mohler clearly considers the 50 Shades books and movie pornography and recognizes in them an attempt to normalize and popularize graphic and abusive porn to a far wider audience. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

50 Shades of Sexual Immorality

Below is a round-up of Godly exhortations about the movie (and book) 50 Shades of Grey, set to be released this Friday, just in time for Valentine's Day.  In short, don't go see it, not even so you can talk to others about its dangers.  Its defenders preach the message that all the immorality in this story is consensual and therefore morally OK, but that is not a defence a Christian should consider valid on its own.  Adam and Eve both ate the forbidden fruit out of mutual consent, but they didn't have God's consent and therefore it didn't matter what decision they made together.  Take another biblical example, that of orgies.  Orgies are also consensual, but they are strictly forbidden in Scripture (Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3) because they are sexually immoral whether or not all parties consent.  50 Shades is a story that glamourizes and normalizes abusive, selfish and self-centred, lust-based, personal sexual gratification in the context of causing another pain.  It stands in stark and obvious antithesis to God's definition of love, which seeks the others best and serves one another.  

This book originated as a work of fan fiction, inspired by Twilight.  As a father of 3 girls, I believe Twilight also ought to be avoided for the same reasons as it too glamourizes a warped, controlling, abusive relationship that, if it weren't for the device of vampires, everyone would recognize as sick and twisted (for more, see Douglas Wilson's article from The Huffington Post below). 

Desiring God on 50 Shades and how sin is dangerous, not playful.
Douglas Wilson calls 50 Shades by its biblical name
Douglas Wilson's piece on 50 Shades at Huffington Post
Another post by Wilson with further discussion and some additional links, including the one to his multi-part review of Twilight, which goes into the self-destructive psychology of the main character and the emotionally abusive relationship at the heart of the books.
Emily Whitten at World Magazine on 5 Myths about 50 Shades
Tim Challies reminds us that 50 Shades is porn for women
Tim Challies shares 7 lessons from the 50 Shades phenomena and reminds us that this is what the Bible means when it speaks about the sexual impurity of pagan cultures and that it has no place in the Church of God.
Dave Boehi points out there's been more than a little peer pressure from Christian women to read or see 50 Shades
Kevin DeYoung minces no words: 50 Shades is sinful straight up

The final word goes to the God the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul: 
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  - Philippians 4:8
I have not read 50 Shades, nor will I.  I have not watched 50 Shades, nor will I.  And I don't want to prime my girls to one day be vulnerable to a selfish, abusive man who only values them for what he can get from them, so I will not allow them to read Twilight.  Enough can be known about Grey in the above articles to know that it is neither pure, nor lovely, nor commendable, nor excellent, nor worthy of praise, and so it is not worth putting in your mind.  Nothing about this is grey, this is a black and white issue.




Saturday, 7 February 2015

Canada's Supreme Court Unanimously Supports Doctor Assisted Suicide

You can read reports about the Supreme Court decision at the Globe and Mail, and the National Post.  In their ruling the judges have said that the decision is limited to “a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life and has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability, that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”  They have also pointed out that the condition need not be terminal, and that the suffering may be either physical or psychological.  Those are the conditions they have imposed...for now.

I believe this is a slippery slope decision.  I believe it is only a matter of time before physicians, family members, and others will begin "assisting" people in making the decision toward "assisted suicide" who may not have made it on their own.  I believe that all too soon we will hear of parents deciding for their disabled or unhealthy children, grown children deciding for or coercing their aged or infirm parents, or some physicians leading patients who would not have gone this direction otherwise to choose this as the right option rather than remaining a burden on a society with limited resources.  I believe that we will see people who are otherwise healthy but who are in the midst of a time of depression or in difficult life circumstances demanding these same rights in the near future.  In fact, I believe that before my kids are my age, we will see people who have no discernible physical or psychological ailments demanding "the same rights" to manage their existence as do sick people.  Why do I think this decision will lead to that?  Because people are involved and people are sinful.  The nature of sin is to continue in a downward rebellious march away from God until all authority has been wrested from God and we have raised ourselves up to the place of ultimate and total authority in his place.  A sinful heart is never satisfied with limited rebellion.  But it is not just the slippery slope and where this could, or rather will, lead that makes this decision wrong.  This decision is already wrong as it stands.

Anytime people take for themselves prerogatives that are God's, like deciding what constitutes a life worth living, or when life ought to end, or what lives ought not to make it past a few days, weeks, or months in the womb, it is a form of rebellion against the God who gives life to all.  It is God who breathes into people the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).  "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand."  (Deut. 32:39)

We are not autonomous.  We are not an authority unto ourselves.  We are not the gods and lords of our own lives.  We are not vested with the authority to choose who ought to be born, nor are we given the authority to pick when we die.  God made every person and because he created all people, each person owes allegiance to him and must submit to his rule.  But of course this ruling by the courts to allow people to choose when they die is simply the logical outworking of a people and culture and society which has long ago rejected the authority of God in exchange for the lie that "you will become like God."  As a society, we have rejected the truth that God is the creator of all life, and so it logically follows that his Word should have no authority to define how life ought to be lived. 

Every human being is made in God's image.  As Francis Schaeffer said, "Any person, no matter who he or she is - a stranger or a friend, a fellow believer or someone who is still in rebellion against God, anyone of any age, before or after birth - any and every person is made after the likeness of God."  (Whatever Happened to the Human Race, p. 158). Every human life has value simply because every human bears God's image.  Some will argue, and the courts have agreed, that suffering life is not really life, that at some point life becomes less than life and is no longer worth living, at least if the sufferer deems it so.  It is easy to see why people in a culture of pleasure, of self-fulfillment, of personal gratification and the pursuit of all things ME, a society of human-centredness, would believe that life is not worth living if it is not measuring up to an individual's expectations for it.  That is simply not true.

Suffering, even severe suffering, does not relegate life to some state that is sub-human or unworthy of continuing.  I want to be sensitive to people who do suffer severely, having known close family and friends who have lived in the depths of great suffering, some for very extended periods.  But even life with severe pain is still real life.  This is demonstrated in the life of Christ.  When God became incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, he suffered much and yet, even in the depths of his worst suffering, excruciating anguish which was both physical and psychological, he still was fully God in human flesh.  While not identical, this is analogous to created human life.  Suffering does not make human life meaningless any more than it made Christ's life meaningless.  In fact, in some sense, it takes on an extra level of meaning, often for the sufferer and those closest to them.  Perhaps when a sufferer finds their life no longer worth living, it is because the suffering has highlighted the purposelessness of their life prior to suffering, but the suffering brings that purposelessness into stark relief rather than allowing it to be hidden in the distractions we often surround ourselves with in the course of everyday life. 

For those who know God and understand their highest purpose and life calling to be to glorify him, suffering becomes simply a new context, albeit a very difficult one, in which to continue to live out that purpose. 
"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."  (Rev. 4:11)
But if God sends suffering to us, he also sends the strength and grace to live in it.  If we don't find we have that strength to endure, it is likely God's way of telling us that we need to turn to him.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Swords into Ploughshares

Further to my post a long while back about many Christians not being that excited about the afterlife, or about eternal life as conceived of by many people, just sitting around for eternity strumming harps and walking on streets of gold...

I'm sure this has happened to most if not all Christians who regularly read their Bibles.  You'll be reading along in a book of the Bible and you'll read a passage that you are quite familiar with, or at least that you have read or heard many times before.  This time, however, it sticks out sideways and you see it in different light, say, the light of a 50 million candle power search light.  It's as though you are seeing the 2D passage you've always seen in 3D for the first time.  That happened to me several years ago with Isaiah 2:4:

     He shall judge between the nations,
       and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
     and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
       and their spears into pruning hooks;
     Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
       neither shall they learn war anymore.

Or as Louis Armstrong sang, "I ain't gonna study war no more..."

This is a passage that addresses a time universally recognized as not having come yet.  If you have any doubt, just watch the news - still lots of war.  Nations don't appear to be boiling their chemical weapons down into cancer medication any time soon.  Christians recognize this as a prophecy about the new heavens and the new earth, or at least about the millennial reign of Christ (exact interpretation depends on one's eschatology).  Anyway, this is referencing a time when nations will no longer war for they will all recognize the authority of Christ the King.  There will be peace.  Therefore, there will be no more need for weapons of warfare.  What will be done with all those weapons?  They will be turned into gardening tools and farming implements.

So, the new heavens and new earth will not be one long vacation, where we do nothing but visit each other in our mansions and walk along the shores of the crystal sea.  We will be gardening.  We will be tending creation.  We will be fulfilling our original vocation of taking dominion, only this time it will be over a redeemed and renewed heavens and earth, one rescued from sin and death and the curse by the blood of Christ; one under full submission to the rule of God the Father and his Son.  In the new heavens and earth we will be working, only our labour will not be toil, and the creation will willingly and happily submit, and there will not be thorns and weeds to contend with.  And there will be no serpent slithering into this garden-city, the new Eden-Zion.  And we will have access to the tree of life once more, where the nations may eat and be healed and live forever. 



     

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Christian Children: Airbrushed covenant robots OR loving disciples of Jesus?

My friend, Toby Sumpter, has some very wise words for parents who realize they have not been parenting faithfully.  No matter who you are, if you have children, this applies to you at least some of the time... and I know it certainly applies to me.  Specifically, he calls parents to recognize God's means and ends in how parents discipline (lovingly train and disciple) their children.  Here's a short excerpt:
"Remember, the point of discipline, the point of parenting is to train up disciples of Jesus who love Jesus with you. The reason why unruly, undisciplined, and misbehaving children is a problem is because those habits and sins are training for breaking fellowship with God, Church, and Family. But don’t lose sight of the goal. The goal is not children who have their shirts tucked in all the time. The goal is not children who never speak out of turn. The goal is not a pile of airbrushed covenant robots. The goal is children who love God with all that they are. Our goal is children whose hearts have been changed by the Spirit. Our goal is children who are driven by the gospel of grace, whose hearts are overflowing with joy and gratitude and gladness and thanksgiving."
There is more to say about biblical parenting than Toby says in this post.  There is certainly much to say about the proactive teaching of the Word of God in the family setting and the positive aspects of training and discipling our children - things like teaching our children the promises of God for them in the gospel (in parallel with his 4th step). However, Toby's intention is not to give an exhaustive treatise on what godly parenting looks like but rather some biblical counsel and wise words of application for those times when, holding up God's Word next to how we've been practicing our vocation as Christian parents, we see some ways that we have been unfaithful.

You can find his good words here

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Augustine on the Father's love for us in Christ

"How great was your love for us, good Father, for you did not even spare your own son, but gave him up to save us sinners!  How great was your love for us, when it was for us that Christ, who did not see, in the rank of Godhead, a prize to be coveted, accepted an obedience which brought him to death, death on a cross!  He who alone was free among the dead, for he was free to lay down his life and free to take it up again, was for us both Victor and Victim in your sight, and it was because he was the Victim that he was also the Victor.  In your sight he was for us both Priest and Sacrifice, and it was because he was the Sacrifice that he was also the Priest.  By being your Son, yet serving you, he freed us from servitude and made us your sons.  Rightly do I place in him my firm hope that you will cure all my ills through him who sits at your right hand and pleads for us:  otherwise I should despair.  For my ills are many and great, many and great indeed; but your medicine is greater still.  We might have thought that your Word was far distant from union with man, and so we might have despaired of ourselves, if he had not been made flesh and come to dwell among us."

                                                                              - Confessions, St. Augustine

                            -  Romans 8:32; Philippians 2:6-8; Psalm 87:6 & 88:5; John 10:18; Romans 8:34; John 1:14