Archive for the 'Religion' Category

06
Feb
10

God’s Chosen Exiles

1 Peter 1:1-2

God’s Chosen Exiles: The Calling of a Christian

Truth Taught– God, in His Trinitarian nature and Sovereignty, has chosen those who would become His exiles in a world not their own.

     In order to understand what the phrase “God’s chosen exiles” means for the Christian life, there must be a comprehension of to whom and for what reasons Peter wrote this letter. We can gather from the opening verse of chapter one that Peter introduces himself as an apostle of the Lord Jesus, establishing his authority to be writing, but then proceeds into saying something very unique and central to his overall reason for writing. Peter addresses the recipients of his letter as “elect exiles of the dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1). What could this mean?

     By calling his recipients “elect exiles”, Peter can only have one audience in mind. To put it simply, the church! While this letter may be addressed to the church, Peter has good reason for doing so. His aim is to teach the church about how to prosper in the faith, trust in God, remember the works and teachings of Christ, and all while enduring suffering in this world as God’s elect exiles. This letter is filled with reminders of encouragement of how to suffer for the glory of God, a timely teaching for the world then and the world now.

     It can be seen from the writing of Peter that the church was made up of a mixture of people, both Jew and Gentile. It has widely been accepted that Peter’s letter was writing primarily for a Jewish audience, but Scripture within the letter itself may not indicate that to be necessarily true. Consider 1 Peter 1:18, “Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers”, and 1 Peter 2:10, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’ people”. Both verses would indicate something not normally attributed to Jewish Christians.

     However, this is not to say that there were not Jewish believers in the church congregations either. It is historical fact that many types of diverse people were mixed during this time. We get a picture of this from Acts 2:9. However, this does not mean that we cannot gather an even more beautiful picture of Christ from this mixture, because the mixture of Jew and Gentile in the churches goes to show that in Christ the wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down making the two people one in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2: 11-22).

     With this information in mind, it leads us to our full discussion of the text itself. Within these opening two verses of 1 Peter, there are three major themes that jump out. 1.) God electing individuals to become the church which in turn are the “elect exiles” spoken of. 2.) There is a Trinitarian understanding of election in which the reader sees the origin, the experience, and the goal of election. 3.) There is also a reminder from Peter that though believers are still sinners and sin willingly sometimes, there is continual restoration in our relationship to God through the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood. It is a very humbling reminder indeed.

     Right from the start, Peter wants his readers to understand something of monumental importance. He wants them to grasp the fact that they, who are true believers in Christ, are in fact elect. The doctrine of election is such a controversial theme in today’s society that it can cause serious divisions in the church body. However devastating this may be, and it is very unfortunate, Peter is opening his letter with a greeting about the doctrine of election. If doctrine of election is so notorious for being held in low regards, why in the world would Peter open his letter talking about it? Peter understands what many of us today may not ever come to terms with, and that is the fact that God is completely sovereign and holy, even in the calling to salvation Christians.

     What is even more striking about these “elect” that Peter mentions is an understanding of their true identity as those who are elect. They are exiles; they are aliens; they are sojourners as some other translations put it. When you seriously think about what it means to be an alien, exile, or sojourner, the first thing that comes to mind is a sense of not belonging. When we hear about immigrants entering into the country illegally, we think of them as not belonging. They are refugees to our country and their home is of another place. A negative example would be to consider what a foreign bacterium is to the human body. When the human body senses a strange life form, it tries to do away with it; the body does not like the intruder. In much the same way, only in a positive sense, Christians are these aliens or exiles chosen by God to this way of life. Our home is not here in this world, but with Jesus in heaven.

     Consider these passages, John 16: 32-33,

“Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”.

John 17: 14-19,

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth”.

     As is evident from these two passages, our place is not of this world, but our mission is to be here as those elect exiles of the faith and endure for the sake of Christ. Our true identity as believers in Jesus is to be those aliens. However, Peter does not stop there, but goes directly into a Trinitarian explanation of how it is and for what reasons God has chosen to elect His exiles.

1.) According to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

     Peter first gives his readers the origin of election, it is found in the foreknowledge of God the Father. It is not uncommon that the phrase “foreknowledge of God” can be taken in completely the wrong way. Most of the time, readers will interpret the foreknowledge of God as something like God just knowing a fact in advance. So the end result is that God chose those to be elect based on the fact that he saw that they would chose Him, but this is a false understanding of the text.

     To correctly understand the foreknowledge of God in this text, the reader must understand that this foreknowledge is a fore-knowing of a person in a personal context. Very much like a father knows his child, or Adam knew Eve. There is an intimate understanding to the word foreknowledge in this text. Very much like Ephesians 1:3-14, God chose us (believers) in Him (Christ) before the ages began to be as adopted sons. God intimately knew His exiles.

2.) In the sanctification of the Spirit.

     Next, Peter gives his readers the experience of election that is found in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. The term sanctification literally means to be “set apart”. As believers, God has set us apart to become more like His son Jesus and to be holy as He Himself is holy. Consider these two verses,

Hebrews 12:7-11,

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of Spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”.

James 1:2-4,

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”.

     When Peter speaks of “sanctification of the Spirit” he means to portray the idea that we as believers in Christ are surrounded by the atmosphere of the Holy Spirit being sanctified through various trials as discipline. So as God’s chosen exiles of the dispersion, we are being trained and disciplined by God to produce a greater yield for His kingdom. Remember that we are chosen exiles in a foreign place that is hostile towards us because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3.) For obedience to Jesus Christ.

     We have seen that due to God’s foreknowing of His elect, it is by the Holy Spirit that we are involved in daily sanctification to make us holy as He is holy. But what does it mean to be holy as He is holy? There is a greater purpose and that is for us to have complete obedience to Jesus our Lord. But what does this obedience look like? Consider these two passages of Scripture,

Ephesians 2:8-10,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”.

1 John 5:2,

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments”.

     As God’s chosen exiles, He has pre-ordained that we should walk in good works because of what Christ has done. It is when we as believers are active in these good works that we are showing our love for God because we are keeping His commandments. What should some of these good works look like? We are to love the lost and share the gospel just as Jesus says in Matthew 28 before He ascends into heaven, we are to abstain from any sinful actions against God or our brothers and sisters as is seen in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7. There are pages full of commands from God in Scripture and all are what would constitute obedience to Christ Jesus.

     Finally, we come to our last point in the passage. It is not only by the foreknowledge of God, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, or for obedience to Christ, but also for the sprinkling of Christ’s blood as well. So far we have seen the origin, experience, and goal of election, but it is here that we see the how being put into action. We all know the Romans 3:23 passage about all being sinners and falling short of God’s glory, so how are we to keep moving toward obedience in Christ if we continue to sin?

     The question addresses the heart of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. It seems as if Peter has taken truth of the latter part of verse two and compared it with what we find in the book of Leviticus about those who suffered from leprosy. Not only was this physical disease deadly in a biological way, it was also unhealthy in a communal way. Consider this passage,

Leviticus 13:45-46,

“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, unclean, unclean. He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp”.

     Peter too recognized that because of our sinful human condition, our spiritual status was also in the same kind of trouble. This time, we were not outside of a physical camp, but the spiritual camp of God. As a result, there needs to be reconciliation happening. A cure needs to be administered, because without one, all sinners are as good as dead! Again consider this passage of Scripture,

Leviticus 14:6-7,

“He shall take the live bird with the cedar-wood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field”.

     It is from this passage that we see the connection with Jesus’ blood. Just as it took the sprinkling of blood from an animal to cleanse the leper, it takes the blood of an innocent lamb to cleanse the sinner. Now the unrighteous sinner can be seen as clean by a holy and wonderful God. It is through the sprinkling of Christ’s blood that we are able to have restoration with God even if we succumb to sin in this life. It is truly an amazing concept!

     Now we as Peter’s readers are able to step back and see the majestic work of our Trinitarian God in the opening verses of 1 Peter. We should now have a fuller understanding of what it means to be God’s chosen exiles. We know that we do not belong in this world, but God has us here to do good works, even if it costs everything. Thankfully however, we can have restoration in our relationship to God through the blood of our Lord Jesus. To Him be the glory forever!

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29
Dec
09

Responding to 10 Reasons why Jesus is not God…Reason #10

     It’s no secret that the true identity of Jesus is debated about all around the world. These discussions range from topics concerning the real historical Jesus to theological disputes about the nature of Jesus’ divinity. The question is however, who is right? Over the next couple of weeks, I would like to take some time and respond to a comment that was left on my blog site that challenged me to consider a video put together by an Islamic theological talk show. The particular episode in question is about a guest host, who was a former Christian youth minister, gives the top 10 reasons why Jesus is not God. My objective for this series of writings is two-fold.

     1.) I want to accept this challenge and give responses to each of the 10 reasons. In each response, I will be responding directly to the claim made by the people on the show. My responses may not be too long, but if further discussion is desired, I would love to engage. 2.) In doing so, I would like to advocate that Jesus is in fact God and that God is truly revealed through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Without His works, death, and resurrection, no one could know God in a redemptive way.

     First, before we get started, I would like to say that in me responding to these theological claims, I want it to be understood that I am not attacking the Islamic people in any way. I do not have anything personal against them. I am seeking to humbly and faithfully defend the Christian faith. If anything, this should make for an interesting discussion that could prove pivotal in later engagement with Muslim believers.

     As I was watching this video, I noticed that the host and the guest being interviewed were very humble and kind. I respect that and I commend them for taking this issue very seriously. The video is an episode from a talk show called, “The Deen Show” (Click here to preview this video), and they’re website can be found at www.thedeenshow.com. If you get a chance, you should check it out, it’s quite interesting.

#10 Reason why Jesus is not God

      According to the guest on the show the first reason that Jesus cannot be God is because Jesus was born. He argues that God has always existed, even before time. He would like to argue that God has always existed and cannot be born, Jesus was born, and therefore, Jesus does not have the same qualities as God so He cannot be God.

Response to Reason #10

     I guess my first thought on the matter is to simply ask, why not? Even if Jesus is God, why can He not be born? Cannot God do anything that He wants to? This reason of why Jesus cannot be God fails to embrace the fact that Christianity has developed a theological system of how Jesus can be both God and be born, and the system works. In order for this objection to carry any weight, more on the matter needs to be argued. Just by stating that God cannot be born is not enough to overthrow such a belief.

     Besides that, Christianity has a whole theology built around the incarnation (Jesus becoming man) of Christ. Along with our Muslim friends, Christians too believe that God has always existed, but we hold to a Trinitarian nature of God. This Trinitarian nature of God consists of the fact that God is 3 persons in one nature, the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. They’re not 3 separate gods that are really one in the end, as some eastern religions might believe, but rather there are 3 persons in one nature. The Trinitarian concept of God is a monotheistic belief, only one God. All of that to say, we believe that Jesus has always existed.

     So we see that reason number 10 taken alone does not work. Christianity has a whole theology built around the fact that Jesus is God and was born. In order for this objection to work, it would have to discredit the whole of Christian belief and by itself it cannot accomplish that. However, the fact that Christianity has a place for Jesus being God and being born does not mean that it has answered every objection, but it does give us a good starting point.

19
May
09

Habakkuk and the Character of God in the Bible

   gow         One of the most interesting books of the Bible would have to be Habakkuk. This tiny writing sits at the end of the Old Testament containing much detailed information about who the God of the Bible is and what He looks like in relation to the entire created universe. Discussing the character of God seems to be a major point of dialogue in most theological and philosophical circles today. There are many opinions about who the God of the Bible really is, and many differing views are being taught within the Christian church itself. The point of discussion in this article is to focus on the true nature of God based on Biblical evidence, but first it would be wise to consider other views that are being held in the church today.

     Consider this quote from a “Christian” theologian,

     “The future is determined not by God alone, but in partner with human agents. God gives us a role in shaping what the future will be. He is flexible and does not insist on doing things His way. God will adjust His own plans because He is sensitive to what humans think and do.”

     What is particularly interesting about this quote is that it quickly diminishes the completely sovereign aspect of God’s character. This is not too far off from what is known as Open Theism, the view held by people like Gregory Boyd and John Sanders. Basically, this position holds that God does not know the future exhaustively and that He can only know what is knowable. This seems to be taking a step away from the historical view of who God is in the Bible.

     Considering the book of Habakkuk would, in my outlook, absolutely decimate this view of God, and Habakkuk does it biblically. The whole point of the book of Habakkuk is that God is completely sovereign in every aspect of life. One quick read through of Habakkuk would quickly put to rest the notion that “God is flexible and does not insist of doing things His way and that God will adjust His own plans because He is sensitive to what humans think and do”.

     In fact, the opposite is true. In the narrative of Habakkuk, the prophet Habakkuk goes before God questioning why God has not done anything to stop the wickedness that the people are committing. God answers Habakkuk and says that He is doing something, “A work in your days that you would not believe if told” (Hab. 1:5). God was referring to the raising up of the Babylonians to judge and destroy the wickedness of Judah, the very place where Habakkuk was at this time. Habakkuk then questions God as to why He would do something like this, but God answers with a rather astounding remark.

     “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not right within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4).

     As Habakkuk is in immense fear of the Babylonian threat coming, but God answers by saying that the Babylonians will get their just punishment for destroying Judah, but the ones from Judah who have faith in the Lord of heaven will live. To me, this raises some considerable doubt about the nature of God as presented in the quote above. Will God really adjust His plans even if we humans do not think it is a good idea what God is doing? I think not, and Habakkuk clearly shows this.

     The ending of Habakkuk is what is truly amazing about this whole study. By the third chapter, Habakkuk is now singing a song of praise to God remembering all that God has saved His people from mainly focusing on the Exodus out of Egypt. Habakkuk concludes that though the army of the Babylonians is coming, he will rejoice in the God of his salvation because God still saves people. Clearly, Habakkuk did not want to endure hardship of war, but joyfully does because the true God, the Lord in heaven will deliver him.

     As for the character of God, we see that He works out all of history to His liking. Of course this does not mean that humans don’t have a free will, but rather that God’s sovereignty is compatible with the free will of humans. I think it would be wise to say that the God of the Bible is not the God of the quote from above. God does not dwell in systems of theology such as the Openness of God, but rather sits comfortably in the realm of biblical truth taught in Scripture. God is not a sucker sitting around for when we humans conveniently need Him, but rather God is actively working out all of history for His glory and liking. Truly we worship and amazing God that is still in the business of saving sinners from the just punishment we deserve.

14
Mar
09

Round Two, The Battle for the Big Bad Bus Ads Continue.

    

   ab  As the battle for the bus campaign rages on, the war for space on the sides of city buses is by no means at a stand still. As of October 21, 2008 in London England, the atheist ad campaign was in full swing. Supported by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, the atheist bus campaign has received much publicity. And with a slogan that says, “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”, it is clear that hype is not hard to come by, especially with the Christian community.

     In response to this atheistic slogan being pushed, members of the Christian community are striking back with messages of their own. “There definitely is a God, so join the Christian party and enjoy your life”. This is an example of one of the several responses from Christian groups. Among other responses are ones that quote Psalm 53, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God”. On and on the battle continues, but what are we to think about this?

     No doubt this competition brings about mixed feelings of being patriotic to ones cause, but should this be the way to handle disputes on theology? That’s right, theology! At the most basic level of this argument is one of theology, but it’s whose theology is right that is in question. Is the atheistic theology, one that calls for the absence of God the right way, or could it be the Christian’s view of God who intervenes in the affairs of humans that is correct after all? I say that this is no way to be fighting for a truth that means so much for so many people.

     I have to admit that I am somewhat skeptical of this bus campaign stuff. As a Christian, spending our time and money combating atheism on the sides of city buses is not the way to go. We need to be devoting our time and energy into spending quality time with people who do not believe the Christian message showing them the true gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we should be involved in our community helping those who are less fortunate and in dialogue with the people of our community to show them that Jesus came to save sinners. I am all for the apologetical approach to defending the faith, but wasting time with bus ads probably will not save anyone. I will also note that putting an atheistic slogan on the sides of city buses will probably not convince anyone either. We need to take another look at what the Bible says about defending the faith,

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” 1 Peter 3: 15-16

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” 2 Corinthians 10: 3-6

     Know that I am not saying that there is not place for intellectual engagement, because as Christians we should be ready to engage this world intellectually at any moment, but there is a way that we should go about doing just that. Responding to an atheist bus campaign with ads of your own will not reflect the gospel accurately and that is what we should be doing. Rather than mocking the atheist position with words like theirs, we should take every thought captive for the sake of Christ. When it’s all said and done, my opinion is that overall; these bus ads will probably not matter much.

Consider these sources:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29662866/

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1877658,00.html

http://www.atheistbus.org.uk/faq/




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