THE EXTENT OF AUTHORITY

When I was a young Christian, I had a hard time with the concept of authority. Not in the sense that I did not know what it meant but in the application of it. Let’s face it; application of Biblical authority is one of the greatest problems in the religious world today. Satan has persuaded many that they have the authority to determine what God should want. True Bible students do not always understand the correct application of the principles of authority, either. At the outset, I must say that I do not have all the answers, but I think that I understand a general principle that I hope to elaborate here. My question years ago was, “Do I need authority to wear a tie?”. I happened to be wearing a tie when I asked the question. Ranging from “No” to convoluted explanations about why I do not need authority to wear a tie, no answer seemed to satisfy.

Colossians 3:17 is very clear, however, about this principle if we understand the phrase “in the name of”. Some time ago, a policeman might have yelled to a fleeing suspect, “Stop, in the name of the law!”. We understand that the law does not have a name or that the very term “law” does not carry with it any reason to stop fleeing. It is the power behind the law that would cause one to stop. The law is a creation of government. Government is authorized by God, Romans 13:1. The law, therefore, carries the weight of authority. It is because of the authority of the law that one who is fleeing would be compelled to stop.

The verse tells us that we are speaking about the authority of the Lord. What about the authority of the Lord? Well, we are to do whatever we do (and say) and all we do in His name, by His authority. The ideas of whatever and all we do, what do they leave out? The answer is obviously nothing. If I send my son to the store for milk, eggs, bacon, and a loaf of bread for breakfast and tell him to make sure he gets it all or not to forget any of it; how would I feel about his coming home with only a gallon of milk? Maybe more to the point – if the boss of your company promised you a raise at the anniversary of your hire every year, how many anniversaries would you want to go without a raise? No, you would want them all.

Yet, when it comes to the Bible, we suddenly forget what we know about whatever and all. The point of the verse is that anything we do requires authority. And there is no limiting context. So, do I need authority to wear a tie? The simple and correct answer is yes. In pondering that answer, I have come to believe that the reason I had so much trouble with the question is that I believed if it were so then I would have to ask the question of everything. Do I have authority to get out of bed, to eat breakfast, to brush my teeth, to take a shower, etc? The reality, though, is that I would only have to answer the question once, not every morning. Also, in many ways, having authority is like breathing. I do it, but I don’t have to think about it. For many things, I already know through years of teaching and common sense that I have the authority. For example, I know I have the authority to eat because God created me to eat. The Bible places limits on my eating, though. It also places limits on my television watching (in terms of what I see) and the clothing I wear (modest, not revealing or ostentatious).

The point of all of this is that there is nothing I say or do that is exempted from the need for authority. Nothing! If so, what is it? Watching TV? Racing a car? Feeding the poor? Teaching faith only? Leaving a congregation? Now, you see my point, if you’ve been reading my articles. Why is it that Christians, who would otherwise understand and apply the need for authority, suddenly ignore it completely when they want to leave or are faced with someone’s leaving? Though no one has ever expressed outright disagreement to me when I’ve taught on leaving, I have the feeling that some do not really agree with me. They simply stay silent and possibly think that I am entitled to my opinion. Again, ignoring a principle of scripture that we must prove what we believe, 1 Peter 4:11.

Having authority is at the root of ALL we do and say as Christians. If we do not have the authority, in accord with the limits of authority which God set down beforehand (Matthew 16:19), we have no right to do or say something. That truth is plain.

WHAT IS LOVE?

Love is a concept that is hard to define concretely. Often our definitions are really descriptions of loving behavior. Sometimes we just know it when we see it. So what is love? Can it be defined or at least described in some way that is objective? What do we know about love?

While many say love is an emotion, we are still left with a fairly nebulous idea. So is anger an emotion. One aspect of that idea that might be valuable is that emotion is a fickle thing. Emotions rise and fall and can be deceiving. Whatever love is, it must be kept free of deception in any way. For example, Paul says in Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy”.

Paul’s statement might make more sense in light of one thing we do know for certain about love, that it is something that means nothing without a corresponding action. As John tells us, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth”, 1 John 3:18. This assertion, to me, is one of the most important of all in examining what love is. Love is not just an emotion inside of us. The idea that we feel love in and of itself for no real reason is not consistent with scripture. Neither is the idea that love inside of us means anything unless it is expressed in an action.

For love inside of us to be known, it must be expressed in action. In other words, when someone says, “I love you”; what do they mean? We can’t know unless he acts on that statement. If it is a husband speaking to his wife and he is giving her flowers, she could know that he loves her. If he, instead, were to give her a box of frogs, she might not feel loved (unless she likes frogs). It is true, therefore, that it is easy for someone to say, “I love you” and not really mean it. In fact, the statement means nothing unless one’s actions match the statement.

We then arrive at 1John 3:16. The word “know” can mean “to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of, perceive”. So because God sent Jesus and Jesus was willing to be offered up for us we can understand the nature of love. It may be an origin point or it may be a defining example; but either way, the standard is set by God. Other scriptures bear these things out: John 3:16 (where God put His love into action); Romans 5:8 (where God demonstrates His love); Ephesians 5:2 and Ephesians 5:25 (where Jesus put His love into action); and 1 John 4:9 (where God’s love was manifested toward us).

God is the origin of love, 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:16. We are created in His image, and therefore, have love in us. The admonition to us to express this love in actions is all over the New Testament. Think on what John says in 1 John 4:7 and 1 John 4:20. In addition, possibly the simplest definition of love is also by John in 1John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments”. So, would we be able to say that we loved God if we were not willing to follow His word? The scriptures make it clear that we cannot. Lots of people say they love God but refuse to submit to the most simple command of Mark 16:16 and rather, with great effort, try to explain it away.

In many ways the religious world’s understanding of love is almost that of a child. My grandson may not have any working understanding of love, but he knows he is loved when we are together. On the other hand, he loves unconditionally. He may not always obey, but he loves in action with hugs and other gestures that express love. When people say, “I love Jesus”; they may love Him. Again, the true test is whether they are willing to submit to His will. We often hear people say, “Jesus loves you”. While this statement is true, the use of it may be disingenuous. It may be used to justify behavior that is contrary to His will. The person saying that Jesus loves you may be saying that because Jesus loves you He will overlook your wrongs, behavior contrary to His will.

A man on a website writes that he knows that when the end comes Jesus will only ask us one question, “Did you know that I loved you?”. In all fairness, I read no further, but the surface attitude of that question misses the mark. Jesus will know that we loved Him by our actions. Did we obey His will and did we express our love in action without hypocrisy? Did we do the good works which God created for us to do, Ephesians 2:10. Not the works we think are good or want to do but the works that God created us to do.

In addition, the idea that Jesus is merely love leaves out an important part of love. If you love your child, would you let him wander into the street? Would you smack his hand when he tries to touch the stove? Do such actions negate love or demonstrate love? Why is so hard to understand that God does the same for us, Hebrews 12:6? God’s will for us is for our good. He gives us His will not so that we will be deprived of fun but so that we will live good, healthy lives. If we ignore that will, we cannot say we love God. Further, if we do not love God; what is our end? For those who turn from God, we know that God will send them from His presence in eternity. Does that mean God is not love? Would we have God ignore sin? And if we would have God ignore sin, then why did Jesus die?

Love demands reprimand, justice, and punishment. God is not only love; but He is also just, Revelation 15:13. In fact, just as our love might cause us to punish our child for bad behavior (and God tells us this is right and necessary, Proverbs 29:15), our love for another might cause us to tell him an inconvenient truth. The next time someone tells a homosexual or adulterer or fornicator that he has to come to Jesus as he is, that Jesus loves him anyway; realize that he has no love for that sinner. How do I know? Because his actions are not in keeping with what is in the best interest of the sinner. Think on Galatians 6:1 and 2 Timothy 2:25.

God is love, and He has made us, having love, in His image. We are to love others not only in word but also in actions. If we do not love (in actions), we cannot be said to love God. Love is also just and demands punishment. It may mean that sometimes we must “be cruel to be kind” in the words of the song. At least, it may seem that way. But love demands it.

MORE ON AUTHORITY

As a Christian, do you believe that you need authority for what you say and do as a Christian? Silly question, right? No, it is not. Do you really believe we need authority or do you just say we need authority? In other words, when the rubber meets the road and you make a decision to say or do something in your life as a Christian, do you determine Biblical authority or do you ignore any need for Biblical authority?

Recently, in asking a Christian for Biblical authority in an action he was undertaking, the response was, “Where is your authority for asking me for authority?” We say, “I would never say that”; but that is exactly what we say, in effect, when we do not seek out Biblical authority for our own actions. So, again, do we believe we need authority for our words and actions or not?

Interesting, isn’t it, that the chief priests and elders of the people asked Jesus about this very thing in Matthew 21:23 when Jesus was teaching. It was not wrong that someone requested authority from Him regarding His teaching; however, we know from His answer that their motivation for asking the question was wrong. If those men asked Jesus from where His authority came, does it seem out of the question that some might rightly ask us where our authority comes from?

Jesus understood the need for authority and for the need to provide that authority. What does He say to His apostles in Matthew 28:18? He specifically makes known that He has authority and He received that authority from God (see John 17:2). We know that because He says that authority in Heaven has been given to Him. None but God can give that authority. Why does Jesus tell His apostles that He has all authority if authority in our lives is not important?

Jesus defines love for Him in John 14:15. He does not say, if you love me you will feel warm or walk around crying tears of joy or tell people that you love Him. He says that the one who loves Him will do His will. Not hard to understand, is it? Until we come to verses like Mark 16:16. Then, we seek ways around what Jesus plainly said. The teaching of “faith only” is a teaching that lacks authority.

Let me tell you that the Bible is VERY clear about this. We may not all agree on the method for determining authority or understand the directives alike, but we cannot debate that God says we MUST have authority. Where, you may ask? In Colossians 3:17. We may be familiar with this verse, but do we understand its implications? Everything we do or say demands that we do it by the authority of Jesus. It is, therefore, imperative that we understand the need for Biblical authority in our words and deeds and that we are prepared to offer our Biblical authority for our words and deeds when asked. To ignore this is to ignore a command of God. If you doubt it, you have the right and responsibility to show why from the scriptures.

 

CHRISTIAN HYPOCRITES – AN OXYMORON?

Those outside the church often complain about hypocrisy among so-called “Christians”, and they are right to do so in many instances. One of the most difficult things for me as a Christian has been to witness the unChristian ways in which Christians act. I’m not talking about the isolated incidents where we might slip up and say or do something we know we shouldn’t (1 John 1:8) but the practices that we have or the actions we consciously take. It is the Christian who realizes that the Bible teaches that fornication is wrong but then softens his stance when his college-age son moves in with his girlfriend. There is hypocrisy among some Christians who believe that they have every answer, are always right, and know the Bible better than most others who have studied it. My purpose, here, is not to address that hypocrisy but the hypocrisy of Romans 12:9, “love without hypocrisy”. Certainly, we are to rid ourselves of all deceit and hypocrisy, 1 Peter 2:1.

Now the Bible is clear that we must love our brothers and sisters. 1 John 4:21 tells us that if we love God, we MUST love our brother. Further, 1 John 4:20 tells us that we CANNOT love God if we do not love our brother. 1 John 4:11 conveys that we love each other because God loved us and 1 John 4:12 tells us that God abides in us IF we love one another. You get the idea. Love of brethren is not an option but a command as many other verses attest, James 2:8; Galatians 5:14. In addition, think about what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:22, that “in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart…”. Did you catch the words “sincere”, “fervently”, and “pure”? Ultimately, the one who does not love his brother “abides in death”, 1 John 3:14; and that is not physical death but spiritual death. A person who does not recognize that because God showed love to him he must love his brethren is spiritually dead.

The first thing that is obvious from Romans 12:9 is that love and hypocrisy are mutually exclusive. One cannot love if that love is hypocritical in some way. The question is, “How can our love be with hypocrisy?”

One way is found in 1 John 3:18. It is easy for one to say that he loves his brethren, but John is clear that saying so is not enough. Is it enough for one to say he is a “Christian”? How would a wife feel if her husband just said he loved her? The idea is that we must show that love in our deeds. Showing love is an active thing. Hypocrisy comes in when one says he loves his brother but does nothing to show it. Also, when a person says he loves his brother but his actions are contrary to showing love. For instance, if one person follows the scripture of Matthew 5:23-4 in trying to offer his brother an opportunity for the brother to tell if he has anything against him; and the brother refuses to give reason, his love is hypocritical.

Our love can be hypocritical if we hold others to a higher expectation than we are willing to live by. Such would be similar to what Peter said to his brethren in Acts 15:10. One says that the brethren have a particular problem, but never acknowledges his role in that problem. The brethren are not close enough, but the brother has done nothing to improve closeness between all the brethren.

Our love can be hypocritical if we do not hold to scripture in our dealings with others. We believe the Bible is our source of authority, 2 Timothy 3:16. We say that we need Biblical authority for our actions, yet when we consciously choose to take a particular controversial action, we do not think we need Biblical authority. This situation is particularly true in the case of a decision to leave a congregation, a decision which can only be scripturally defended in limited circumstances.

One of the most beautiful expressions in this regard in the Bible is found in Philippians 2:3-4. Christians are told to look to the interests of others. Our love is hypocritical if we take actions without considering the effect those actions will have on our brethren. If our actions will leave our brethren frustrated, upset, saddened, hurt, etc.; how can we say we love our brethren? Clearly, we can say it, but the hypocrisy is evident. Effectively, we are saying we love you; but we don’t really care about you.

Each of us as a Christian must understand what the Bible teaches about our relationships with brethren and our need to love our brethren and then live what it teaches. People notice easily when the words don’t match the deeds. Unfortunately, oftentimes those are people we might know or are trying to teach who are looking at the example we show forth; and what they see instead of love is hypocrisy.

EXAMINING “REASONS” FOR DISBELIEF 2

MORE EXAMINING “REASONS” FOR UNBELIEF

As Christians, we hold the Bible to be what it says it is: God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) revelation (Galatians 1:12). If, indeed, it could be proven that the Bible is neither of those; than we would have to toss it aside. It is disingenuous to say that the Bible is not the word of God when it says itself that it is.

The writer on alternet.org who listed her top 10 reasons for not believing in God also states that, “Sacred books and authorities can be mistaken. I have yet to see a sacred book that doesn’t have any mistakes. (The Bible, to give just one example, is shot full of them.)” She includes a link here to the Skeptics Annotated Bible (where I have not found any explanation of who is behind the site but I do find all sorts of judgments against the scriptures). The writer also asserts, “Pointing to the perfection of the Bible as a historical and prophetic document… when it so blatantly is nothing of the kind” (sic). (And another link to Skeptics.)

Two aspects of atheistic argument continue to bother me. The first is the attitude that those who do not believe in the Bible are more expert in the Bible than any Christian. The Skeptics Bible points out this “absurdity” in the Bible: ‘In an apparent endorsement of astrology, God places the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament so that they can be used “for signs”. This, of course, is exactly what astrologers do: read “the signs” in the Zodiac in an effort to predict what will happen on Earth, 1:14’. This point would be problematic if there were a true Christian who believed that signs here relates to astrology rather than the simple meaning of indicating day and night and seasons and such. Stars can also be signs aside from the Zodiac. Doesn’t the north star have a particular function as a sign? The implication is that this verse shows absurdity when, in reality, it shows the ignorance of the critic.

Are we not continually treated to the many “facts” that unbelievers point out? The intimation is that we have been so stupid not to embrace them. The writer’s statement, itself, is presented as fact: the Bible is full of mistakes. Are we Christians so ignorant that we have not realized that the Bible rarely, it seems, says anything that is right? The smarter people seem to see these mistakes so easily, and it is just our blind devotion to scriptures that keeps us from seeing them, too. That set-up seems so foolish in itself. Lots of very intelligent people believe in the Bible. Maybe it is that these so-called “mistakes” and “contradictions” are not really as self-evident as the atheists believe. In fact, centuries of onslaught against the Bible have not proven it to be false.

The writer’s statement brings me to the second bother: The attitude that those who do not believe are objective about their unbelief. Certainly, the overt sentiment of our writer friend is that she has determined the fallacies of the Bible through her own completely objective, unbiased, free-of-preconceived-notion, scholarly study. She has no axe to grind, of course (though if you read about her, you will find the axe). It has been rare that I have heard someone who makes such strong claims against the Bible that they do not have some reason for feeling this way; and in many cases, the reason is sexual immorality. If not, it is a refusal to want to submit to any authority. Whatever it may be, there is usually a reason behind the view that makes such people no more objective than they say we are as Christians.

EXAMINING “REASONS” FOR DISBELIEF

One of the so-called reasons given why atheism is the more intelligent choice of beliefs is the following: “The inconsistency of world religions” as found on alternet.org and explained as, “If God (or any other metaphysical being or beings) were real, and people were really perceiving him/ her/ it/ them, why do these perceptions differ so wildly?” It continues, “The explanation, of course, is that God does not exist. We disagree so radically over what he is because we aren’t perceiving anything that’s real. We’re “perceiving” something we made up; something we were taught to believe; something that the part of our brain that’s wired to see pattern and intention, even when none exists, is inclined to see and believe”. Of course. How could we be so stupid? It is all so obvious.

Let’s be clear, this explanation is not science. Is it even a reasonable argument? We do look around and see a multitude of faiths, from Buddhism to Christianity to Judaism to Islam to Zoroastrianism. In fact, within Christianity we see thousands of denominations. Is this religious division proof that God cannot exist?

Let’s think about the denominations within Christianity. How many churches are there in the Bible? One. Jesus said that He would build His church in Matthew 16:18. We can assume, then, that the intent within Christianity would be that there would exist one church and only one. The first century Christians were part of that one church and followed and taught the doctrines of that one church. As time moved on and denominations arose, what are we to make of them? Are they natural offshoots of what Jesus meant or are they, indeed, deviations from the one, true church? Clearly, they are deviations from the one. Since they depart from original doctrine, they cannot all be true. Does this deviation prove that Jesus did not build His one church? Not at all. It proves that we, as human beings, have decided to do what we want to do rather than what Christ wants of us. There still exists one, true church and thousands of deviations from the truth. There is no proof in this division that God or the one church do not exist.

The same holds true when we consider world religions. They cannot all be true because they disagree. There are, however, many similarities within religions. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all recognize Jesus. Does this commonality prove to those who are unbelievers that Jesus existed? Most religions seem to have a flood story. Why are there these similarities? Are they coincidence, or is it that the similarities come from one root, much like the multitude of denominations arise after the one, true church? If the Bible is the truth of the living God, then we would expect that it is the root of all history and anything occurring after what it records, which begins with the creation, would be taken from it. So, it is not surprising that other religions have similarities to Christianity.

Now, do the differences in world religions prove there is no God? Not at all. Again, the Bible records that the message of the gospel had been taken into all the world at the time, Colossians 1:23, in fulfillment of the “Great Commission” to the apostles, Matthew 28:19. If that is true, then all people at the time had the opportunity to hear the gospel. If they had the opportunity to hear the gospel, would we expect that everyone would obey it? And if they do not obey it, does their non-acceptance of it prove that God is not real or that His word is not true?

Why would we think that if we do not have complete agreement, then something, in this case God, cannot exist or be true? Let’s apply that principle to other parts of life. In the article, the comparison is made to a tree. We can all look at a tree, the reasoning goes, and agree on it. The tree, therefore, exists. This comparison is a false one. God is supernatural and cannot be perceived in the same way as a tree. And just because we can perceive a tree together and cannot perceive God together alike, then we should believe that God does not exist? Do we all perceive and describe love in the same way? If not, then love does not exist.

Do we have complete agreement on anything in life? Weather forecasters cannot seem to agree on the weather; therefore, weather does not exist. We have a growing number of people who deny that the Holocaust ever happened. Because some say it did and some say it did not, then it did not exist. More to the point, can we see complete agreement in atheistic evolution circles. Is everyone in agreement about evolution? (And no fair dismissing anyone who does not agree as having an agenda. Having an agenda is what got us into current evolutionary theory.) Scientists do not agree on what is now called “man-made climate change”. If we used this logic, we would have to say that “climate change” does not exist.

All of this thinking is a case of using reasoning that we do not apply in our daily lives to the aspect of faith. It is a non-sequitur. The logic does not follow. It is majority rule or decision by consensus. True science is not determined by consensus. In fact, the logical conclusion of this argument is that if everyone cannot agree on something, then it cannot exist. There are people out there who believe that we are not real. Scientists are theorizing that we are just a projection off of a black hole. Some do not agree; therefore, I suppose I do not really exist.

I understand that the writer’s point is more toward the idea that if God exists, why does He not make everyone know it for certain? Think about that for a moment. What does it imply? That the only way God can exist is if He puts into everyone’s mind exactly what we need to know to believe in Him. In other words, if He removes free will. We would all believe in Him and worship Him because He made us. How many atheists would want to exchange their ability to disbelieve for the life of a robot? The fact is that God has revealed what we need to know to know Him and to follow Him. The Bible is the inspired word of God, 2 Timothy 3:16. Not everyone, even those who profess belief, see it that way. The Bible itself says there will never be universal agreement on its words, Acts 13:46; Romans 1; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; Jude 8. All of this might actually prove God exists.

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE KINGDOM

So many people, it seems, believe the kingdom is yet to come. The idea that the kingdom is future even to us is, in fact, a major part of premillennial doctrine. It makes me wonder…

When John the Baptist came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is AT HAND” (Matthew 3:2); did he mean at hand… in two thousand years?

When Jesus came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is AT HAND” (Matthew 4:17); did he mean at hand or in two thousand years?

When Jesus said to the Pharisees, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God HAS COME upon you” (Matthew 12:28); did he mean that it had come upon them or would come some two thousand years later?

When Jesus, explaining that the kingdom was not a locality, said, “the kingdom of God IS within you” (Luke 17:21); did he mean the kingdom will be within you in two thousand years?

When Jesus said to Peter, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19); did he mean he would give him the keys of the kingdom in two thousand years?

When the disciples asked Jesus, “Who then IS greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1), did they mean who would be greatest in the kingdom in two thousand years?

When Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present (having come) with power” (Mark 9:1); did he mean you who are listening might live to be over two thousand years old?

When the thief said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42); did he mean remember me in two thousand years?

When Paul said that “He HAS DELIVERED us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13); did he mean that God would convey them into the kingdom in two thousand years?

When John wrote to the churches in Asia that he was their “brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9); did he mean that he was their brother in the tribulation and patience of Christ but not the kingdom? That would come two thousand years later.

Doesn’t it seem odd that all that was said and done in regards to the kingdom in the time of the first century was all about a kingdom that not only was two thousand years away, but still has not arrived?

OUR NATION

It amazes me not only how far we in this nation have turned away from God but also how far we have gone away from morality as revealed in the Bible. Maybe it is the reverse, that we have decided we do not want His morality and so we turn away from Him and to such religious theories as “Evolution”. After all, if I am really just an accident of nature, then it doesn’t matter with whom or what I sleep. Along with this trend is the trend to re-write history. I know there is a website now that purports to have some thirty-odd quotes from the founders that will make Christians/conservatives angry. That seems to me to be what we are often accused of: cherry-picking. The overwhelming evidence of the writings of the founders and successive shapers of our nation is that they believed this was a Christian nation that could not survive without our collective belief in the God of the Bible. That statement is an undeniable fact which thirty-some-odd quotes cannot disprove.

The founders are viewed today as either the near-geniuses that they were or as old-fashioned and irrelevant. Some say that even the historical fact of the founders’ belief that this was a Christian nation really means nothing to us today. Such could only be true if we do discard God and the morality of the Bible. It is said that Franklin, when questioned about what the Constitutional Convention had bequeathed to the people, answered, “A Republic, if you can keep it”. We are in danger of losing it right now. Why? Because we are ignoring the wisdom of the founders. For instance, John Adams stated,“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”. He was not talking about just any morality or just any religion, either. John Hancock added in reference to God, “Let us joyfully leave our concerns in the hands of Him who raises up and puts down the empires and kingdoms of the earth as He pleases”. In fact, to the vast majority of founders, the fabric of the nation would unravel if the populace turned from God and the Bible. How sentient they were.

Elias Boudinot: ““[O]ur country should be preserved from the dreadful evil of becoming enemies to the religion of the Gospel, which I have no doubt, but would be introductive of the dissolution of government and the bonds of civil society”.

James MCHenry: “The Holy Scriptures …can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness”.

Noah Webster: “[T]hose who destroy the influence and authority of the Christian religion, sap the foundations of public order, of liberty, and of republican government”.

Patrick Henry: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship”.

These are not just a smattering of cherry-picked quotes but are a representation of a body of thought common among the founders and successive generations. Their warning to us was to turn from God at our own peril. If that is not great wisdom, I do not know what is. What we see happening in this country is a result of just that, turning from God. We are too smart now, so we do not need God. I have yet to hear the man who is smarter than the founders who denies God. We are so obsessed with our own self-importance that we have even jettisoned the concept of our own responsibility. I am sad for this once-great country. We are constantly told that we are on the wrong side of history; but when we look at the writings of the founders, we see that it is not us who have departed from the wisdom of history. Actually, we have but to look around us to see what happens when societies remove or refuse God: China, Russia, Iran, etc. I certainly would not want to live in those societies nor would I want to see our country become as those societies, but that is where we are headed.

 

 

A TALE OF TWO REACTIONS

Two stories I came across recently prompted me to this writing. The first is the story of a baker. You may have heard about him. His name is Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado for forty years. In 2012, he was approached by a homosexual couple who wanted him to bake their wedding cake. By all accounts, he politely refused and offered to sell them any other baked item. You see, Phillips is committed to God and believes, rightly, that homosexuality remains sinful in God’s sight.

The men filed grievances against him with the with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in a state where homosexual marriage is not even recognized. The Commission stated that Phillips would have to change his store policies, make sure his staff receives sensitivity training, and report to the commission for two years to prove that his business has not discriminated against anyone. Phillips’ has said he will not bow down to such tactics. “My God is bigger than any bullies they’ve got,” he said. “I don’t worry about it. I honor my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and be true to what He wants me to do.” He has also made it known that he will close the business before he compromises his views. Short of that, he will just not sell wedding cakes anymore. His business is booming.

My wife told me that the denominational preacher of a friend of hers has said something similar regarding performing weddings. If he is forced to perform homosexual weddings, he will just not do any weddings.

The second story is about a Baptist church in La Mirada, California. Upon the revelation that his son is homosexual, the preacher, Danny Cortez, stated that he no longer believed homosexuality is a sin. Alright, it is California; and he is allowing his personal situation to alter his views as so many do. The board debated about removing him, but decided he was right. “So now, we will accept the LGBT community even though they may be in a relationship. We will choose to remain the body of Christ and not cast judgment. We will work towards graceful dialogue in the midst of theological differences. We see that this is possible in the same way that our church holds different positions on the issue of divorce and remarriage,” Cortez commented. Interesting to me that in the face of complete compromise with the world he and the church are saying that they still “choose to remain the body of Christ”. I suppose if I became a serial killer I could say I choose to remain in the body of Christ. Sadly, it would not mean that I was, nor does it mean they are. Ultimately, he is condemning his own son instead of helping him to see the truth. As a society, we see the danger to us from cigarettes as greater than the danger of sin. Many have left the congregation.

There they are; two reactions to a doctrinal issue. Reminding us of Peter in Acts 4:19-20, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard,” and in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men”; Phillips’ response was very scriptural. May it be that we have such courage when the arm of persecution reaches us.

Quotes in the above are taken from churchleaders.com.

A JUST GOD?

The good news of the gospel is cause for rejoicing. Our sins separated us from our God. In an act of supreme grace, Ephesians 2:4ff, God sent Jesus Christ to this earth to become the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus, then, willingly shed His own blood for us. As a result, we can be reconciled to God through our obedience. Our God is an awesome God who loves us and shows great mercy towards us. Ultimately, we are thankful and overjoyed at God’s grace. We know He loves us. He cares about us so much that He even knows the number of hairs on our heads, Matthew 10:30.

Those in the religious world are content to dwell on this aspect of God. They do so to the exclusion of so many of God’s other attributes. In fact, God’s love, they say, will save everyone. No one will be punished for the deeds he did in the flesh, 2 Corinthians 5:10. Or they say that there is no hell, but the wicked will be punished with annihilation. These are simply ways to concentrate only on the love of God and ignore other attributes He has.

One of these attributes is that God is faithful, 2 Corinthians 2:18; Hebrews 10:23. This quality is also a positive one, so no one has a problem acknowledging this as an attribute of God. Yes, God is love and He is faithful. What does it mean that God is faithful? The scripture tells us God cannot lie, Titus 1:2. He is all truth. As such, He must be faithful to Himself which means He must also be true to His word. If God has said it, it must be true; and He will hold to it. In this idea is the fact that God will do as He has said.

In fact, a third positive attribute stems from the faithfulness of God and is found in 1John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. We appreciate God’s faithfulness when it has to do with His forgiving our sins. Interesting, too, though, is that God will forgive the Christian’s sins , but He requires something of us. He will forgive our sins, but we must confess them to Him first. And that faithfulness of God will forgive us.

We would also agree with John in the above verse in that it is just of God to forgive us if we confess our sins to Him since He has said He would. Here we see that God is also just; and in this context, most people would have no problem acknowledging that God is just. It is only right for our loving God to forgive our sins.

While it is true that God is love, 1 John 4:8, that is not all God is. God is faithful. God is merciful and forgiving, too, but He is also just. What else does this idea of justice mean, though? A loving God offers the possibility of reconciliation to a sinful people; a just God rewards those who accept His offer and punishes those who do not. The reality of a loving God is also a just God. He is a God who wants all to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9. At the same time, though, He is a God who will judge those who disobey Him. In this is justice. How could God be considered just if He not only rewarded those who serve and obey Him but also those who rebel against Him? Where would the justice be? A God who is faithful to what He has said must reward those who are faithful and must also punish those who disobey. If He did something else, He could not be considered just. If He allowed to enter heaven everyone who, in life, mocked His will; how could He be considered just? If He simply destroyed those souls who were disobedient, where would His justice be? He has said that those who are disobedient will be punished, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9. Paul says there that God will take vengeance on those evil people. See also Romans 2:5-9; 2 Corinthians 5:10; and Galatians 6:7.

We can be thankful that we have a loving, faithful, merciful, and forgiving God; but we should also be thankful that He is just even though the thought of God’s punishment of the wicked may sadden us. In Revelation, after the destruction of Babylon, we might expect to see mourning over her even though she was wicked; however, in Revelation 18:20 we read these words, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” Here we see that the just judgment of God is cause for rejoicing. It may seem paradoxical to us, but it is what the justice of God demands.