Posts Tagged With: Jesus is Lord

Where was God During the Elementary School Massacre?

Antonio Lacerda / EPA

A woman places flowers at a makeshift Sandy Hook memorial in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Anthony Lacerda / EPA

The murder of 20 little children and 6 women in Newtown, Connecticut has shaken every person who has a conscience. I’ve watched my close family weep, and I myself have not stopped the tears as they have come. Who would do such a thing? We are getting clarity (as much as possible), on that question. Someone completely consumed with a wicked, depraved heart has done this.

Where was God during the elementary school massacre? Here we have the big question. Many anti-theists (AKA atheists) will give the simplistic, cop-out answer that there is no god(s). No thank you, anti-theists, for that non-answer which you yourselves know is false.

Next try: He was surprised and grieved by it like we all were. Many well-meaning folks will give this answer in an attempt to “get God off the hook” for human evil. It sounds nice on the surface (who would want to live in a universe where God knows ahead of time that things like this are coming and yet does nothing to stop it?), but it falls flat.

All complex argumentation aside, it is simply no comfort to say God did not know because He doesn’t know the future: well then, who is in control? Would it be more comforting to know that no one is in control? How about Satan, or human beings, or maybe the impersonal stars in the sky? No thank you. I am grateful that God’s Word doesn’t teach any of these things.

Another thought that is probably the most popular: God knew it would happen, and it wasn’t His will for it to happen, but He couldn’t stop it. This is another attempt to get God off the hook for human evil, but it breaks down as soon as we look at it more deeply. It is the answer the well-meaning priest in Newtown has given to the media. It is the answer some blog writers are giving, including on the giant sites like Huffington Post and CNN Belief Blog…

Yet, it is another false comfort. God looked at Adam Lanza suiting up with body armor, packing magazines of bullets, knowing what he was going to do, and didn’t so much as have the power to thrown a falling tree onto the guy’s car as he drove there? Why not? The answer given is usually that “God cannot stop human free-will.” My dear friends and neighbors around the world, let me gently refute this lie. I understand why it is believed, but ultimately there is no truth or comfort in it for the victims in this tragedy. God could have stopped this man, but He did not.

The Greatest Injustice in All History

God was right there in the midst of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. He was there, allowing Adam Lanza to do his evil, but He was also there with the teachers and children, graciously not allowing every single one of them to be hunted down. Yet even this monstrous act was not nearly the greatest injustice and tragedy to ever happen.

When the one, innocent, pure Man who ever lived was falsely accused, arrested, whipped, and crucified on a Roman torture device, evil was riding at its highest. Jesus was LOVE incarnate – He is God with flesh on, come to earth “not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17b). Jesus had always, eternally lived with God the Father, as God the Son – and the great love between them the Holy Spirit. Three divine, perfect Persons who are LOVE and sinlessness… and the Son chose to come to earth to bear the pain and penalty of human sin as a sacrifice for us; He did it in order to swallow death and sin just as death and sin were swallowing Him on the cross…

Have you ever stopped to think about this? When the crowds and the high priests demanded Jesus be hung from nails until He died, they were committing an atrocity beyond the scale of words. The evil in their hearts was breaking out at an all-time darkness and ugliness. Jesus had come to lead them to forgiveness and eternal life, they had spit on Him and called Him a liar. He had healed their sick, raised the dead, and promised fellowship with God for eternity, they were tearing His skin off with razor-sharp bone fragments embedded in leather whips.

What is human evil? It is best seen in the crucifixion of Jesus the Son of God.

Where was God during the murder of His precious, eternally worthy Son?

Right there. Right in the midst. Unsurprised. Unprovoked. In control.

Why is this comforting? Look at what Peter said a couple of months later as he spoke to the very people who had done it:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken[c] by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death. (Acts 2:22-23 NKJV)

You see that? They were responsible for their evil choices, and God had before determined it to happen. They’re both there. We can’t do that level of math, but there it is without apology.

What is our comfort in that, and in the elementary school massacre? Only that God is working out His gracious purposes among a rebellious, sinful, murderous human race. We are surely allowed to exercise our creaturely freedom, and we choose real, horrific evils, but God exercises His sovereign freedom to either restrain or allow us to act.

He is in control, just as He was at the cross. All of those people who crucified Jesus thought that they were rid of Him, and that they were in power. They had a moment of power, but it was allowed by God in order to then make Jesus the sacrifice for the sins of the world. Through the most evil act ever committed, God brought salvation for the world, and through the evil of Adam Lanza, there will be good and precious outcomes brought by the sovereign God, yet those ends we cannot yet see.

Shall we cry against Him for allowing it? Only if we are willing to call Him unjust for determining the murder of Jesus as the means of our salvation. We don’t want to go there, beloved people.

—–

One last thing: I know my words may seem callous, or academic, or cold. I promise you that is not my intention. This tragedy goes way beyond my or anyone’s ability to simply fix with an explanation of God’s sovereignty. My hope, rather, is to plant the seeds of healing and restoration for those torn and broken by this act. There is hope, there is meaning in what God allows to happen. We cannot see it all, but we must trust Him in His rule of our society. He has promised to heal and completely forgive the sins of any person who comes to Him in faith – looking to that cross where Jesus paid for human sin. Do you see your sin being paid in His death? Do you believe that He rose from the grave to be your Savior and God? Then call to Him today and every day, never let Him go. He will destroy your sins, evil choices, and even your death someday… these will be defeated by His gracious power.

That is the power of Jesus the Christ – He has defeated the power of death, and draws all people to Him to share in His victory. I am praying for my neighbors in Newtown, Connecticut, that they would bring their broken, angry hearts to Christ. He is the only healer who can mend these kinds of wounds.

With so much more I could say, thanks for reading.

-Justin

Categories: Jesus the Pinnacle of History, The Message of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Enough on Christian Hypocrisy

For three months I’ve blogged about Christian hypocrisy, with so much more that could be said. I had only planned on writing on this for about a month, but the lazy, long summer has had me blogging only intermittently. Some of the topics, like the one on the Prosperity Heresy, gained a good number of readers and traffic, while certain other posts got almost no traffic, leaving me thinking I might as well have written about the amazing process of screen door manufacturing.

But for now I’m going to move on from this topic. I can summarize most or all of these posts by a single thesis statement: Christian hypocrisy is present in our world for the most part because most people called Christians have never been born again; yet because of the private, personal nature of regeneration and the difficulty in discerning such from the outside, their actions unfortunately still reflect on Christ and His Church. (I’ll take a quick break while you read that over).

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

When the gospel is changed or lost Christianity is perverted into a false religion, no better than Buddhism, Oprahism, or Islam. While still retaining the appearance and credibility of the truth, false Christianities do more damage to the honor and glory of Christ Jesus than almost anything else.

Almost, I say, because as much as I hate to admit it, the truly born-again, Spirit-filled believers in this world are also a part of the stumbling block of Christian hypocrisy – if not the worst. Yet when we mess up and play the hypocrite, we have a golden opportunity to make much of Christ crucified for our sin, buried, and risen on the third day for our justification. Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies!

We cannot stop the false Christians in our world from defaming Christ with their actions and words, but for us who are truly His, we can use our own hypocrisy as opportunity to lift Him up high as the bearer of our shame, the friend of sinners, the forgiver of imbecilic rebels like us. Let’s not lose an opportunity to make much of Jesus Christ, cosmic King. With much more to say, I rest…

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

 

Categories: Interpreting Christian Hypocrisy | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

One Breath of Celebration – Jesus Lives!

Unique in Your life now of 2,000 years, with a 3 day interruption by death – when you took death by the head, and smashed its brains out, and rose from the grave, Your people now shout…

HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY!

Jesus lives and so shall we…

Categories: One Breath | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Either Rome or Reformation – Not Both

Long post ahead – please read it all. I’ll wait while you go get your coffee and slippers…

As many of you know, I’ve had the blessing of dialoguing with a Roman Catholic nicknamed Letting Smoke Out. See any of the previous few posts here on this blog for details. As of now, LSO has decided that the only issue we are able to discuss is the authority of Rome as sole interpreter and infallible dispenser of biblical truth. To be fair, it was his explicit attention to me on Twitter and resultant invitation to dialogue which led us to set out to discuss “The path of salvation.” As I attempted to set the stage for that discussion, I think he realized that he could not in honesty receive the slightest proposition of truth from my reading of the Bible because of my rejection of Roman authority and legitimacy. “DOA” stands for “dead on arrival,” as our discussion of salvation is as of now.

Our discussion has continued on his blog, only it is stuck on issues of authority, which is fine, but it is not going anywhere too productive… mainly because of our extremely different starting assumptions. That’s sad to me – but I entrust it and our friend LSO to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he seems to have so generously done for me. I do, however, find I am obligated to finish my initial intent to make a better contrast of Roman Catholic salvation theology and that of the Christian/Reformed Church. This is in part to honor the helpful, respectful input of two Catholic gentlemen on my blog, vivator and Sparki. I will post on salvation and justification next.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for this burden for my Roman Catholic friends

Over the course of my nine year life in Christ, my heart has become heavy for the Catholics. Each day recently I have been pondering these issues, thinking hard about both sides, and trying to pray for wisdom. To most of you dear readers, this is perhaps an intellectual, interesting, or maybe slightly dry discussion which is all probably right up your alley if you’ve read this far. Yet I hope it is a little more than that to you – it is to me. These Catholic folks with their internet nicknames who have taken the time to talk with me… they are made in the image of God – and they are deceived by an antichrist spirit. I know that sounds harsh to our postmodern ears, but to be true to Jesus Christ I must be direct. LSO in particular has referred to me as a Christian who is “outside of the Church.” I appreciate his recognition of the Holy Spirit in me, but with all due respect, the Bible knows nothing of a Christian who is outside of the Church. I believe if we dig at this a little bit, maybe – by God’s wonderful grace – He may use it to unravel a little of the string holding together their bonds in darkness. I know, heavy sounding words… but this is life and death!

Daddy, what’s a Church?

Many members, one Body

One of the main problems here is that LSO, and his Roman Catholic brethren have an unbiblical, twisted definition of “Church.” From LSO found here:

Read Matt 18:17 again.  See how Jesus instructs the apostles to tell the “church”.  Clearly He is not referring to some theoretical entity, but to an established organization – His church. Our Lord gave definitive instruction at this passage and yet you believe He was referring to an “invisible body”.  How can someone tell or listen to an invisible body?  “Tell the church”…”listen even to the church”… now that’s clear.

When I say that the Body of Christ is “invisible,” I mean that no one but God knows exactly all who is the wheat, and who are the tares. Remember how Jesus warned (Matthew 13:24-30, and basically the entire New Testament carries the same warnings) of unbelievers (hypocrites) who come into the fellowship with us, who pretend to be real Christians, but are not? We don’t really know who many of those “fakers” are… because they can look very convincing. That’s why the true Church of Jesus Christ is “invisible.” Those who have received the grace of adoption into the family of God are only known in our full number by God. This leads us to our point, namely that the Church of Jesus Christ is not a building, not an organization, but it is the Body of Christ made up of individuals.

Would any Roman Catholic really say that every single individual who claims to be a Catholic is really, truly “in the Church”?

Don’t Run Away! It’s Just an Eeeeeensy bit o’ Greek!

So what is the definition of “Church” from the Bible? The Greek word ἐκκλησία (ecclesia), from Thayer’s Lexicon:

(from ἔκκλητος called out or forth, and this from ἐκκαλέω); properly, a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly; so used.

Also, from the Bible:

ek, “out from and to” and 2564/kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.

[The English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios). 1577/ekklēsía (“church”) is the root of the terms “ecclesiology” and “ecclesiastical.”] (All emphases mine).

In light of the definition of “church,” and not to mention the word comes from the same Greek word used for “elect,” should we not see the Church as the whole Body of believers, and not an organization or institution in Rome? How could LSO think of me as a sincere Christian who is simply “outside of the Church”? Being a Christian means I have been “called out” of the world and into the assembly of God’s people – it does not mean I am a Roman Catholic, Baptist, Amish farmer, or any other denomination. See the confusion of categories?

OK – so that was a bit sloggy, but I had to do it – and if you are still with me, I think this will be worth it for all involved. The Roman religion defines the Church as the Roman religion, and no other. If someone is not in the Roman religion, Rome does not see him or her as in a state of salvation. What’s that teaching called? Salvation by institution. Just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are scared stiff to even think thoughts about stepping into a real church for fear of Jehovah God annihilating them. Look here:

Classical, true Roman Catholicism has preached that there is no salvation outside of the Roman religion. From catholicism.org:

“Outside the Church there is no salvation” (extra ecclesiam nulla salus) is a doctrine of the Catholic Faith that was taught By Jesus Christ to His Apostles, preached by the Fathers, defined by popes and councils and piously believed by the faithful in every age of the Church. Here is how the Popes defined it:

  • “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
  • We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
  • “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

Let’s be honest. Rome believes that she is the one true Church of Jesus Christ as an institution – not defined by faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sins, but only defined by belonging to its number – to be saved you have to be in the Roman organization, and then cooperate fiercely with the prescribed ladder of sacramental righteousness to “make it.” And all of this off of an obscure verse about building the church on “this rock” – which may mean Peter, or his confession of faith, or Jesus may be talking about Himself… but even if He meant Peter, this still does not demonstrate a papacy!

Most importantly though, the gospel of Christ is not found in Rome’s teachings. In some ways, it is very close – an almost gospel, yet the Apostles fiercely condemned counterfeit gospels which had merely added little bits and pieces to the gospel of Christ – while Rome has added dozens of things to it. Catholicism is a religion of lies, and it is taking its people to hell by the billions. That’s not funny – and believing Christians need to stop toying around with Rome. We are to stand up and call our Roman Catholic friends to repentance of dead works into a living, secure relationship with Christ based solely on His works and one time atonement.

Here’s the hard, cold truth: I, Justin, and numerous others like me are not Roman Catholics, and yet we are the Body of Christ.  I do not believe and in fact vehemently reject Romanist theology – I am walking in the footsteps of the millions who have gone before me, and in the footsteps of the Reformation Christians who shed their blood to salvage the gospel out from Rome. I have these convictions because of the gospel, because of God’s Word, and because He has chosen me unto an everlasting salvation, accomplished by Christ outside of and before me. I do not merit the grace He gives, otherwise it would no longer be grace but a debt He would owe. God will be no man’s debtor, believe that.

So that is all to say to LSO and my other Roman Catholic readers; you may feel yourself generous and magnanimous for granting to me that I am a Christian, just simply outside of the Church, but your own papal doctrines really don’t allow for such. Either I, as a gospel believing Christian, am wrong and outside of His Body, or you are, or we are both in mythology. It cannot be that our mutually exclusive truth claims are the same gospel or ecclesiology!

Finally, and most importantly, what does God’s Word say?

What does it take to become a part of the Church of Jesus Christ invisible and universal?

Belief in who Jesus is and what He has done, is doing, and will do. A very few of the many Scriptures on this subject:

  • Romans 10:8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9[e]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, [f]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [g]resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE [h]DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
  • John 6:28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
  • John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were [i]born, not of [j]blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • John 5:37 And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. 39[i]You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive [j]glory from one another and you do not seek the [k]glory that is from the one and only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
  • Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.(All Scripture NASB)

What does becoming a member of the Church/the Body of Christ result in?

Justification, sanctification, and glorification. Good works which justify the reality of faith.

  • Romans 8:28 And we know that [k]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was [l]raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of [m]Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written,“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
    WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”

    37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (real faith which saves will always produce good works as a fruit).
  • James 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can [n]that faith save him? (No!)
  • James 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [p]dead, being by itself. (saving faith is always accompanied by works)
  • James 2:18 But someone [q]may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that [r]God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and [s]as a result of the works, faith was [t]perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (Context and harmony with the entirety of Scripture!)

How does one come to have saving faith? I’ll write about that in my next post.

Thanks for reading an extremely long, but heartfelt post.

-Justin

P.S. I am aware that the Reformation was only 500 years ago and that Roman Catholicism has been in its present form for over 1,600 – but when I say “Reformation” in reference to the true Church, it is a synecdoche for Apostolic, original Christianity.

P.P.S. I know that this in not the world’s greatest apologetic attempt, and that many of you could do better, but in all sincerity it is dedicated to the beautiful lover of my soul, Christ Jesus. May He do with it as He wills.

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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