Friday, March 17, 2023

Living the Truth in an Untruthful World


In the post-modern world, a simple argument clears up a lot of the confusion, or maybe it doesn’t.  You’ve probably heard it. It begins with a question: Is there absolute truth? Answer: No, there is no
absolute truth. We create our own truth. What is true for you may not be true for me. All truth is subjective. Question: Are you sure? Answer: Absolutely.

That argument conjures up a worldview with an absolute condition of no absolutes. Not much there to stand on.

My worldview is grounded in the absolute truth of Scripture—a biblical, Christian worldview. From here I judge the world. That's right, I judge. I don’t pass judgment on the person who can’t live up to my standards. Sometimes I can’t live up to my own standards. I don’t judge the unredeemed for living like sinners. But I do judge sin, and evil, and untruth. And I judge righteousness.

These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace   Zechariah 8:16

I can’t pretend to understand the worldview of a person who has lived an entirely different kind of life than me. But I can, without argument, point to absolute truth. And the absoluteness of it urges me away from what the world is telling me I should accept—that I’m wrong more often than right about what is true. That I’m wrong about morality, family, marriage, gender, the value of human life, racism, and what it means to be free, among other things.

Most of us who hold a biblical worldview are pretty clear on general moral behavior and God’s plan for family life. God values life, and so do we. We know God created male and female and that marriage has certain eternal parameters. But most of us have had to show some love to those who slip outside of those boundaries. That doesn’t mean the truth is no longer true. Truth does not become untrue.

As for racism, it has taken too long for American Christians to paint the multi-racial picture of the New Testament church. But it was happening, and still is, thank God. Except that the social climate of recent years seems to have draped a cloud over the church. Some Christian leaders have embraced the shadows, and some believers have retreated into the disjunction that was giving way in the light of truth, before the clouds shoved in.

It's a complicated dilemma, and there’s no pretending it isn’t. But it’s not an excuse to alter your biblical worldview. What the world teaches about racism is not what the Bible teaches. In my own mind and lifestyle, I am not a racist, and my worldview does not allow for racism. But now I am persuasively being taught a new way of thinking that insists on racism. It tells me that I can’t help but be a racist. If I can’t help it, then there is no hope, except for revolution—social and governmental upending.

I can’t begin to express the depths of my concern for our nation, and for our churches. But there is someone who can and does express it very well. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you are a churchgoer or a Sunday morning golfer, a teacher, politian, a protestor or a sympathizer, black or white or any other ethnicity, read Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe by Voddie Baucham. It’s not an easy book. It is an important book. You will be blessed by it, and absolutely enlightened.

As for what it means to be free, the fight won’t win it. The post-modern, post-Christian worldview doesn’t get it. Subjective truth can’t even imagine it. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to attain true freedom. 

Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed   John 8:36

Friday, February 17, 2023

The Everlasting Gospel

This is the last of my Gospel posts. The original post from a few years ago entitled The Everlasting Gospel reviewed all the previous Gospel posts and told of current events as they related to prophecy, politics, and persecution. I won’t review the other Gospel posts here, since I’ve just shared them over the last few months. And I won’t refer to those now past events which may or may not have lost their relevance. This is an update. Anyone who thinks the world has let up on the three p’s—prophecy, politics, and persecution—in the last few years…well…maybe you haven’t been paying attention. 

I’m not saying you haven’t been watching the news. The nightly broadcasts do share some valuable information, although the newsworthy is accompanied by the agenda. But that’s a topic for another day. I’m not suggesting you haven’t listened to the chatter around you. If you have, you’re probably feeling a bit confused. Or overwhelmed. Or experiencing a perplexing guilt over something you never knew you did or said or thought.

But it’s really not about that. This is about the Gospel, and how it has been, and is, and will be everlasting. It is not shaken as the earth is shaken. Are there more earthquakes at present than in the past? Maybe science is simply better at counting them. There have been over 1,000 so far this year. Maybe science is better at counting them so we can know that there are more earthquakes. Prophecy declares there will be more earthquakes. So why wouldn’t God provide us with the technology to count them? 

Did a strange cloud appear over Turkey eighteen days before the quake that buried thousands of families alive? I don’t know for sure, but the internet does reveal a picture of a red cloud that eerily resembles the map of the epicenter and surrounding areas. Does the Bible speak of signs in the Heavens? Yes, it does. Was this one of those signs? Perhaps, it was.

As far as prophecy is concerned, this present age has been marching toward its finale since Jesus ascended into Heaven, declaring that He would return. That’s when we entered “the last day”. The signs have been there all along. They have come and gone and come again. But never have all of the signs converged as they have now. This has brought a sureness in the minds and spirits of those paying attention that we must be in the last of the last days. Do your own research. Reach your own conclusion, if you’re paying attention. Whether you are or not, if you belong to Jesus, He will rescue you. But God did give us signs. He did tell us to look up, for our redemption draws near. It gives me great peace in this increasingly evil world to look up.

The Gospel is not shaken, nor is it rewritten or repurposed like the laws and ideals of this world. The agenda I spoke of is not only that of the media. In fact, you can’t blame the minions who only report what’s placed in front of them to a viewership comprised of the anxious, the arrogant, and the apathetic. You can’t blame the disciples of so many new world philosophies that shine forth hope for a better tomorrow. But God will hold them accountable, if they don’t turn from their narcissistic attempts to overthrow their Creator. Who is behind this constant beckoning to change the world? Leaders, politicians, global entities which are not elected, or official, or even approved of by the majority of people? Yes. Satan, himself? Definitely. 

The Gospel is not shaken, or rewritten, or crushed by the powers unleashed all around us in this dark hour of human history. Persecution is ramping up. In many places across Europe, a believer can be arrested for daring to display an subtle hint of their Christian faith. A woman was arrested in the UK for praying outside an abortion clinic. Not protesting, not blocking the entrance. Just praying in silence.

In the last year, Nicaragua, for the first time, made the list of the top fifty most dangerous places for Christians. Church buildings were damaged, schools, radio and TV stations were shut down, and Christian leaders were expelled. In other more dangerous countries like North Korea and Nigeria, thousands of Christians were arrested, beaten, or killed. North Korea’s new anti-reactionary thought law applies to any type of material deemed objectionable by the government, and it most certainly applies to the Bible, Christian books, films, and recordings. A source on the new law reported, “People who distribute imported South Korean media content to other people also face execution. Or, they face imprisonment with their families at a political prison camp run by the Ministry of Social Security.”

The thought police are employed by other governments as well. They are not strictly anti-Christian, but Christians are less free to speak, to gather, to worship, to share their faith, and to keep true to their values. In many parts of the world, such behavior invites execution. But not in the U.S.A. Yet, here we face a growing street team of self-appointed thought police, and they are easily agitated by the presence of Christians. Maybe not all Christians, just those who can find no other hope but in the Gospel of Christ. But isn’t that all of us? Sadly, many have adopted a lesser gospel bent on resetting society, not redeeming the sinner.

Here is the last paragraph of my final Gospel post as it appeared when I first wrote it:

I am unthreatened at present, and as such perhaps not holding the Gospel as dear as those slain around the world must have held it. For them, the fight is done, and the everlasting has come. For others, persecution is at the door. How unyielding their grasp must be to endure the weight of that burden. Yet, I do hold the Gospel most dear, for it will outlast politics and nations and wars and death. The Gospel will be the only good news left at the end of this age, whenever this age is destined to end. And it alone will be enough.

Now, the headlines have changed. The night has darkened. The rulers of this lost world seem unstoppable. I can no longer state with all certainty that I am unthreatened. But the threat only makes the Gospel more real. It will not shrink. It can’t be silenced. It is, by life or by death, everlasting.

 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.  Romans 3:22-25 (NLT)



Friday, January 27, 2023

The Far-Reaching Gospel


Nearly four hundred years ago, a movement within the Christian community engineered the future of the church by stressing field preaching, aiming to draw in young people, the writing of innovative hymns, taking those hymns outside the church, and meeting together in small groups. The fields have become streets, and street preachers are not typically well received. 

But overall the modern approach echoes the old strategy.

Of course, nobody wants to hear how European pietism of the 1600s shaped modern evangelism. Not right now. Too many oddities have swept over Christianity in the new world and this is not the time to delve into church history. What we need now is the safe comfort of an American Bible-belt sanctuary filled to the last pew with clean-cut, straight-laced, but not too politically correct believers. We want the familiar, the good old-time religion. We don’t want the wrong crowd, the radical music, the broad political agenda, or the apprehension of too much evangelism in a hostile environment. We just want a place to call our own where the outsiders won’t bother us. Maybe that’s a good definition of church for some, but it doesn’t carry the Gospel into the broken world.

While the movement of those long-ago believers progressed, their culture endured political and religious wars. In the thinking of most of the population, the evil of slavery was socially acceptable. Witchcraft and paganism were common. This was no Bible belt. If the average family had access to scripture, it wasn’t in the form of several faux-leather copies piled unread in the den. This was a harsh existence for most. The voice of the Gospel, however, rose above the obstacles as it always must.

Living the Christian life has never been easy. Looking back, it may seem a more pleasant and peaceful saneness blessed a generation or two at various points in history. But peace not found in Christ is an illusion. Sometimes, it’s a very good illusion that demands to be kept. Then a generation comes to its senses by revelation or oppression, and the Gospel moves. It reaches into a stained society to free those wrenched in unbelief. It calls to the ones deemed unclean. It meets the threat of perversion. It counters the claim of irrelevance. The Gospel reaches far into the uncomfortable places we thought we could avoid.

It is the joy of the church to tell the old story anew in times of trouble. It is not the privilege of the church to remain forever content in its surroundings. Our security is not of this world, nor our hope in this world. Our guarantee is not to remain citizens of a Christian nation. Nor should we think our national leaders are anything but appointed by God for some purpose. If their objective proves detrimental for us, then God will be sufficient. And by His will the message of the Gospel will become a louder cry.  

A very old hymn that was once new:

Christ, the Life of All the Living

Christ, the life of all the living;
Christ, the death of death our foe;
Christ, for us yourself once giving
to the darkest depths of woe:
through your suffering, death, and merit,
life eternal we inherit;
thousand, thousand thanks are due,
dearest Jesus, unto you.

 You have suffered great affliction
and have borne it patiently,
even death by crucifixion:
our atonement full and free.
Lord, you chose to be tormented,
that our doom should be prevented;
thousand, thousand thanks are due,
dearest Jesus, unto you.

Lord, for all that bought our pardon,
for the sorrows deep and sore,
for the anguish in the garden,
we will thank you evermore.
For the victory of your dying -
sinful nature mortifying -
thousand, thousand thanks are due,
dearest Jesus, unto you.

Friday, January 13, 2023

The Selfless Gospel


And my selfish pursuit of survival.

Here’s what I needed: To be rescued from among the fallen, reconciled with God, restored to a condition worthy of eternity in Heaven, and redeemed from unavoidable death.

So I turned to Christ to rescue, reconcile, restore, and redeem me. I needed it. I wanted to possess it. And in my quest for self-preservation, I obtained it. I’m a selfish being.

Here’s what Christ needs: Nothing from me or anyone else.

But he offered to rescue me. He became my reconciliation with God. He gave me His righteousness, and therefore passage to eternity in Heaven. He redeemed me from the death I couldn’t escape.

Here’s what it cost me: Nothing.

Here’s what it cost Him: A trade of glory for flesh and gravity. The cross. The strong grip of death apart from the loving presence of the Father.

Here’s what I gained: Knowledge of God. Fellowship with others like me and inclusion in Christ’s church. Awareness of life as it’s meant to be. The ability to follow God. The experience of His glory. Overwhelming identification with His grace.

Here’ what Christ gained: The approval of His Father. The church. The right to redeem the entire earth over which He will soon rule unchallenged. The crown of the One True King. Glorification.

Did he do what he did to accomplish this goal? No. It was all His before He spoke the world into being. He is—His Gospel is—completely selfless. Here are a few other things He gained: Hatred. Mocking. Widespread, blatant disrespect. Apathetic, half-hearted consideration. Adamant refusal.

Even my own selfish need for His selfless gift wasn’t really selfish at all. If He hadn’t pointed out my need, I never would have known. In a way, my selfishness is rooted in His selflessness. If He didn’t show up, I wouldn’t have looked for Him. As it is, I gave up clinging to what I thought I knew about life to obtain…life. And life is in Christ.

Another one of those paradoxical truths? God’s glory gained by selflessness. My redemption realized out of a selfish need to live and not die. The rhythm of salvation. The poetry of grace. God came down to live a simple human life in an ancient land and then he died on a cross. And then He conquered death. And then I accepted His astonishing remedy to cure what I didn’t know was wrong with me until He told me. For His glory, for my life, I’ll take it. What else can I do? There is no other way.

And this is the testimony, that God gives us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I John 5:11-12