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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.

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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/

02
Feb
09

What they wont preach…Who are the children of wrath? Pt. 1

    

    p      “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest”. The Apostle Paul- Ephesians 2: 1-3 (NASB).

     When it comes to the relationship between the church and the culture of our present day, so many times they tend to clash on many levels. The passage quoted above from Paul in the New Testament is an example of one of those situations in which the culture of today is in conflict with the truths taught in Biblical Scripture itself. This post is the first in a series of three articles where our focus will be on the topic of the wrath of God and those who are recipients of God’s wrath; Paul calls them, the “Children of wrath”.

     In this passage Paul is talking to the Christians at the church in Ephesus, whom he recognizes as true believers in Christ. Paul mentions first how they were once dead in their sin and they walked according to the course of this world and even according to “the prince of the power of air, and this is the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience”. When Paul says they were dead in their sin, he is meaning spiritually they were dead. While physically alive, God’s judgment was upon them (John 3: 36) rendering them spiritually dead in sin.

     So what? What could this possibly mean for anyone else since Paul was only talking to the Ephesians? It would do well for everyone to note that Paul is addressing them in the past tense in this situation. He says, “of which you formerly walked”. The Ephesians were once dead, but now are not. By stating this Paul is showing the state of all human beings before coming to salvation in Jesus. Consider Romans 5: 12 (NASB),

     “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned”.

     According to Paul in Romans chapter 5, all have sinned in Adam and therefore just as Ephesians chapter 2 says, before salvation in Christ, we are all dead spiritually. Not only dead spiritually, but a slave to sinfulness and cannot be free of that until God intervenes (John 8: 34). On this topic pastor John Piper says, “There are three S’s to remember when dealing with this passage”,

1. We are sick unto death with sin.

2. We are sabotaged by Satan.

3. We are sentenced to an eternal hell apart from the grace of Jesus Christ.

     So as one can easily see, Paul provides no easy position for us to be in who are not true believers in Jesus. It is no wonder why the Bible clashes with our humanistic culture in so many ways. Just as everything in our culture is relative and we make it what we want, the Bible teaches otherwise and that there is something more than us out there. According to the Bible, you have it only two ways, either to be slave to sin or to be in submission to the God of the universe, Jesus Christ.

     Friends, this is no easy topic to talk about and that is why it is ignored frequently in most churches (including evangelical churches as well) around America today. Though this is just an introduction to the topic that will be discussed more in detail in future posts to come, please consider my challenge to you. If you are not a believer in Jesus, this has eternal consequences for you. If you are already a believer in Jesus, take this time to reconsider the grace of God and join in with other believers in worshiping Him because He is worthy and has saved you. Remember just as John Piper says, “You will not find out about your true nature in the newspaper or TIME or NEWSWEEK”. You need to turn to God’s word to find out. Until next time…Grace and Peace in Christ Jesus!

29
Jan
09

John Piper on Obama.

     This is a video from pastor John Piper on challenging the newly president elect Obama to be courageous and lead this country.  I pray that all you will enjoy and hopefully gain something from the passion of John Piper. May God bless you and bless our newly elect president of the United States. To Christ be the glory forever! Amen.

 

09
Jan
09

Is Denying Jesus…Christian?

    

   jc  “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’ Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple”- John 8: 58-59

     This is a quote from chapter 8 of the gospel of John and seemingly attests to what all orthodox Christianity believes; that Jesus is truly God! However, not all who call themselves “Christians” are in agreement over this belief. Does the Bible teach that Jesus is really God? Do both the Old and the New Testaments confirm this? Ultimately, can one be a “Christian” and deny the divinity of Jesus? My answer of course is that the Bible does teach the divinity of Jesus and that in order to be a Christian, based on Biblical evidence, ones needs to believe that Jesus is truly God, the second person of the Trinity along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

     The whole reason for this discussion is based off of a conversation that I am currently having with an internet friend who does not agree with the notion that Jesus is God. This post is not in any way designed to attack this friend personally, but to merely discuss this issue and prove from the Biblical narrative that Jesus views Himself as God. But why the split among people who call themselves Christians? They both cannot be right, can they?

     No! Both sides cannot be right, Jesus cannot be both God and not God at the same time, so what are we to do with this issue? It would be wise to look at the split and to know where everyone falls on this issue. Of course, there are the Catholics and the Evangelical Protestant churches that hold to the divinity of Jesus, then you have the liberal protestants who are just confused about everything in Christianity and do not know where they stand half the time, but that is for another discussion altogether, finally you have the groups who claim to be true Christianity but do not hold to Jesus being God. These groups include the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christadelphians, the Christian Science movement, and many more of the alike who all deny Jesus’ divinity. Why do they diverge away from traditional Christianity then? I think in all of these cases, the answer is simple; all have in some way been started by a person or people who, for personal reasons, whatever they may be, have not agreed with the traditional view of Christianity and turned true Biblical Scripture into what they want it to say. In fact, most of these groups have had so many problems with traditional Christianity that their own “Bible” has come from their thinking. That is why it is hard to talk with a person from one of these groups, because they argue from their Bible that is supposed to be the only correct version, but are not without many inconsistencies in the text. It seems that from each of these groups comes the claim that they are the true church (check out CARM for more information on this). Of course, this could be argued against evangelical Protestantism, but what has the church agreed upon over the course of its history? All of the essential Christian doctrines, the virgin birth, the Trinitarian view of God, Jesus being fully God and fully man, Jesus’ physical bodily resurrection from the dead, the ascension of Christ into heaven after being resurrected, and that Jesus will return at the end of time. These are all orthodox beliefs that are being challenged by many of these new groups, but what does the Bible actually say about Jesus being God?

     The Biblical passage that opened this post can be found in the gospel of John, and is one of many places in the Bible that Jesus’ divinity can be found. I would like to take a few minutes and discuss some passages from the New and Old Testament to establish my case for Jesus’ divinity. Consider these as Biblical evidence,

John 8: 58– Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am”. Jesus here in this verse is clearly claiming divinity by calling Himself the name that God in the Old Testament told Moses (Exodus 3: 14). Jesus is undoubtedly saying to the Jewish leaders that He is the one who was talking to Moses from the burning bush. The Jewish leaders respond by wanting to kill Jesus because they knew what He was claiming.

John 1: 1-14– This is another passage from the gospel of John in which Jesus is viewed as God. John here tells the reader that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word that John keeps referring to is Jesus. So in essence, in the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. John then goes on to tell us that the Word came into the world. Does this sound like Jesus? I think this is very clear, don’t you?

Hebrews 1– This whole chapter is designed to portray Jesus as God. In the opening of Hebrews, the writer says this, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact imprint of His nature, and upholds all things by the power of His word. When He made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High”. This person that the writer of Hebrews is talking about is non other than Jesus Himself. Jesus is the exact imprint of the Father’s nature.

Psalm 110– This whole psalm is amazing to read! In the beginning of this psalm, David opens with this phrase, “The LORD says to my Lord: sit at My right hand”. This is a picture of Jesus interacting with the Father on the throne.

Daniel 7: 13-14– Here Daniel refers to some one “like s Son of Man coming”. Jesus often refers to Himself as the Son of Man, and this passage in Daniel shows the Old Testament existence of the Son of Man interacting in creation and the Son of Man is Jesus.

     In conclusion of this discussion, I would just like to say as a closing argument, to undermine the belief of Jesus being God, is to essentially destroy the gospel message. How can the message of the gospel be truly preached if Jesus is not God? It cannot be! As a reminder to those who do not understand what I mean when I say gospel, the gospel message is that God, being perfect and good in every way created the world and all that you see (Genesis 1). God then created man in His image, designing them to worship and love Him while loving them all the more (Genesis 1 & 2). Man in our folly rebelled against God’s decree and that threw all of creation into sin and sin explains all evil that we see (Genesis 3). Man being radically depraved and spiritually dead like spiritual corpses are deserving of Hell of our actions (Ephesians 2). God sent His perfect Son, Jesus the second person of the trinity who is fully God to become fully man and be offered as a sacrifice for the sins of His people (John 3: 16). Jesus was crucified and the sins of God’s people were placed on Jesus and Jesus bore the wrath of God to Himself to save His people (2 Corinthians 5: 21). By doing this, God has now worked through Jesus and by the Holy Spirit to save sinners like you and I (Ephesians 1). Jesus having been physically resurrected is now with the Father on the throne ruling and judging the nations (Colossians 1) and will return soon for His people (Revelation 3: 11). It would do well to consider the message of the Bible and believe Jesus is Lord. Friends, to deny Jesus’ divinity is to deny the gospel message in full. I challenge those of you who consider themselves Christian but do not believe Jesus is God to reconsider your claim. Anything that is not preaching Jesus as God is not the true gospel. Grace and Peace.

25
Dec
08

The Word Becomes Flesh.

    

     cj     Well it looks like we all have made it to yet one more Christmas day and all the thanks and glory be to Jesus who is on the throne now. I pray that all of you are having a wonderful day with family and friends. Knowing that it is Christmas, it would be wise to talk a little about the one who Christmas is supposed to be about, the Lord Jesus Christ who is fully God and fully man. I am speaking of a very important view in the Christian faith known as the doctrine of the incarnation, but what does that mean?

     “The Incarnation of the Son of God is the terminology used to describe what happened when the second person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God, “became flesh” as he was miraculously conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary according to the Bible. In the incarnation, the divine nature of the Son was perfectly united with human nature in one divine Person. This person, Jesus Christ, was both “truly God and truly man.” (Theopedia).

     As one can clearly imagine, the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus is severely important to the Christian faith and a doctrine that cannot be compromised. I am willing to go as far as to say that as a Christian, the doctrine of the incarnation is so important that to stray away from this doctrine is to leave the lines of orthodoxy and not be within the boundaries of the Christian faith. With that in mind, the doctrine of the incarnation is exactly what Christmas is all about and why Christmas is considered a Christian holiday. Consider with me John 1: 1-18,

     “1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (ESV Bible online).

     This rather lengthy passage is very important and plays a large role in understanding the doctrine of the incarnation. In fact, my study Bible, and I would assume most study Bibles, label this section “The Word made flesh”. While this entire passage is important, the focus will be primarily spent on the first part of the passages, namely verses 1-5, but the rest of the passage will be discussed in some detail as well.

     In the opening verses of the gospel of John, the writer keeps referring to this idea of the “Word”. John starts from the beginning and says that “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God”. This clearly echoes the opening phrase of Genesis chapter 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, but John shows that the Word was with God in the beginning. Not only that, John says that the Word “was God”. This is extremely important to understand!

     As John goes proceeds in his writing, the reader finds that the “Word” being discussed in the opening verses is none other than Jesus of Nazareth Himself. John is showing that Jesus was with God in eternity past and that Jesus is God. Hmmm, this is intriguing! Could it be that this is good grounds for holding to the view of a Trinitarian nature of God? I think so!

     The Greek word that is used for “Word” in this passage is Logos which “conveys the notion of divine self-expression or speech and has a rich Old Testament background” (ESV Study Bible). God’s Word is effective because God speaks and matter comes into existence, and also by speech, God relates personally to His people. By using the Greek word Logos in this passage, John is also showing that this concept of the Logos is even more superior to the way in which the Greeks would use the word Logos. In Greek culture, Logos is seen as an impersonal principle of reason that gave order to the universe. However, in the case of John’s writing, John shows that the Word was with God indicating a personal relationship with God. John also shows that the Word was God affirming that this Word is also the same God who created the universe. (Refer to Colossians chapter 1 for a cross reference). What an interesting concept!

     The next part of the passage (vv. 6-8) is important as well in understanding some Old Testament prophecy concerning the coming of Jesus. John goes on to write about John the Baptist who was prophesied about in Isaiah 40: 3 and sent from God to be a witness about the “light”, who is actually Jesus; so that many may be saved by the message of the gospel preached by John the Baptist. Remember however, John the Baptist is not the “light” but a forerunner of the light to come.

     As for the rest of the passage (vv. 9-18), this concludes the opening of John’s gospel with talking about the actual incarnation itself. We find that in this passage, the light comes into the world that He has made and yet those whom He has created did not receive Him. John, then goes to on to make a very important statement concerning the point of His coming into the world. He would give the right to become children of the Most High God to anyone who would believe, but not according to the person’s will, the person’s flesh, or blood, but according to the will of God (vv.12-13). Jesus came to save sinners!

     My friends, the point of Christmas is this; that God would send His son, the second person of the Trinity, a Savior, Jesus Christ to save a people for Himself. As we consider this day, December 25, 2008, please remember that this is more than just a baby being born in a manger, but that baby was and is the God of the universe who sits on the throne ruling the universe. Please also remember, that Christmas should not be the only day that we celebrate the events of the incarnation, but everyday should be considered a celebration for God because He would send His Son to die for sinners who do not deserve His grace and peace. It is through Jesus that we have true grace and peace for this season. God bless all!

24
Dec
08

William Lane Craig on Richard Dawkins Pt. 2.




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