Status Quo Was The Status Quo

I was recently scanning the “Religion” message forum – a place for open discussion of all things religious – on Amazon.com and I came across a very interesting “thread.” It was titled: What would the world be today if Jesus and Christianity had never existed?

Now I must admit I’ve never considered this question before. I’ve never heard the issue raised.

Status quo was the status quo. That is: most of the discussion was along the lines that, were there no Jesus, no Christianity, things in this world would be basically the same.

Now that surprising to me on many levels (some of which I will mention here). It seems absolutely none of the Christians I know would answer that the world would still be truckin’ along at basically the same pace with no major differences. So the overwhelming response was not coming from the Christian worldview, but from a secular atheistic worldview.

Now that may not be atheistic with respect to any god at all. But it is certainly atheistic toward a god who actually does anything.

Another surprise is that many of the leading secularists of the modern day – such as Sam Harris – blame religion for most of the world conflicts and wars. The one who hold this view would logically believe that the world sans Christianity would be a much more peaceful place.

I am stricken by the irony of this idea: that a religion centered around repentance, mercy, forgiveness and grace, a religion whose God, when he came to earth, said “Blessed is the peacemaker,” a religion whose primary carriers opt for martyrdom over resistance would merely propagate violence, hatred and widespread suffering. Though I disagree vehemently, I do appreciate the irony (or absurdity) of the view. I also recognize that many who have acted on behalf of (or in the name of) Christianity historically have acted often in ways very far removed from its teachings.

(I’m not stooping here to apologize for Christianity’s place in the Crusades, which are constantly thrown in my face as a miscarriage of justice on behalf of Christianity. If it weren’t for the Crusades, Islamic radicals would have probably taken over all of Europe. The entire western hemisphere would likely be speaking in Arabic, daily memorizing the Koran, making pilgrimages to Mecca and endeavoring in other vain attempts to earn passage into Paradise.)

But where does a Christian begin in considering the question: what would the world be today if Jesus and Christianity had never existed? We can at least say that there would be no substitutionary atonement on the cross. This would lead to no grace, no mercy, only wrath from a Holy God toward unrighteous man. This is a very bleak picture to begin with.

We could further extrapolate, however, with the apostle Paul who boasted only in the cross, for all good things come to man through it. Common grace would be absent. There would be no with-holding of wrath, by God, on behalf of the righteous remnant who trust in him.

This was the case with Sodom and Gomorrah. God would have with-held wrath had there been a mere 10 people who were righteous, who trusted in Him. But there weren’t. And fire and brimstone (literally sulfur) were rained down from heaven on these cities and their inhabitants were utterly destroyed. That is a picture of the absence of common grace because of the lack of a righteous remnant. Without Christ and Christianity the world would be a horrible place; mankind would be doomed to destruction.

But I must extrapolate even further. Without Jesus, there would be no Triune God. Genesis 1, in which God says “Let us make man in our image,” could not be. Without Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, there would be no mankind.

Be we must go even further still. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that our world holds together by the word of His power. (The “His” here refers to Jesus.) So without Jesus, everything – everything – would just fall apart, cease to be. Further, though, John 1:3 tells us that all things came into being through Christ. So, actually, everything wouldn’t fall apart because there would be nothing of our existance – or any other save for God himself – created.

However, we must still trek further. We must consider the very person of God. For without the second person of the Trinity – Jesus – God would be a far different God. Who could even speculate as to the kind of God he would be?

Apparently the secular and Christian answers to this question are far different – about as different as two answers could be. The real question to be answered though is not: what would the world be today if Jesus and Christianity had never existed? The real question is: Has God really spoken?

For if he hasn’t, the secular answer is as good as any. But if God has spoken, if He has revealed Himself, if the Bible is His revealed Word, then the secular answer fails at every level and the Christian answer to this question – and a million others – is the only pertinent answer there is.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

For the Purpose of Godliness… Bible Intake

So I’m back to start the next chapter: Bible Intake Part 1.

The alternative to discipline is disaster. No spiritual discipline is more important than the intake of God’s word. There is no substitute for it. Lord, I confess that often I honor you with my lips but neglect you in my heart. I am often far from your word. I confess this and repent of it. Lord, I will strive to grow in the disciplines, especially this one of Bible intake. Grant me strength and will. For I can do no good thing apart from your power. Amen

Hearing God’s word is an important aspect of Bible intake. Luke 11:28 and Romans 10:17 both speak favorable of hearing God’s word. A church is a good place to do this. But other means are good too, such as recordings. Consider tape lending services and short wave radio. 1 Timothy 4:13 speaks favorably of corporate Word reading, preaching and teaching. Private “golf course” worship is possible but not a viable replacement. It is important that we prepare our hearts and minds to hear the word of God. This is true in church. We should hold hearing the word with higher reverence than we do. This is a discipline to be cultivated.

Reading God’s Word is also important. Since “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” shouldn’t we read it? This must be a discipline. John Blanchard wrote on how often we should take in God’s Word. How often do we face problems, temptation, or pressure, need instruction, guidance, or encouragement, or need to see God’s face again? Everyday. DL Moody said a man can no more store up grace for the future than he can eat for six months at a time or breathe once for the rest of his life.

Practical suggestions for reading the Word regularly: Find a time. This takes discipline. But it is worthwhile. If it is when you are tired and sleepy, you will retain little. Find a plan, a schedule. Meditate on at least one word or phrase during each reading. This deepens understanding and helps us remember what we have read.

Reading God’s word gives us breadth, but studying gives us depth. Studying is very important. Consider Ezra who disciplined himself to study Gods word, to apply it, and to teach it (Ezra 7:10). Let us not fail to study God’s word. When you read, write things down. Cross reference. Outline, a chapter or paragraph at a time. This will give a strong understanding of the text. Read books by others but do not fail to explore the Bible for yourself.

More application. If your growth in godliness were measured by the quality of your Bible intake, what would be the result? What is one thing you can do to improve your intake of God’s word? The chapter closes with an exhortation from pastor Geoffrey Thomas to read the Word.

For the Purpose of Godliness… Discipline

Donald Whitney has written a book on spiritual disciplines. It is quite good. Here are my reflections on the first chapter.

Just opened my new book on discipline by Donald Whitney. This is a great book I’m looking forward to it. I will be writing more about it.

1 Timothy 4:7 says “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” NASB. (ESV says “train yourself for godliness’). Godliness needs training. You don’t fall into. You don’t trip over godliness when you walk down the street and take it home with you. You must be disciplined. “The spiritual disciplines are those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth.”

God uses 3 main things to help us grow, to make us more mature spiritually. He uses people. Iron sharpens iron. He uses circumstances. Pressures, conditions, even weather. Opened doors. We have no control over these. We do have some control over spiritual disciplines and how they affect our lives. However, even in this, spiritual growth is a gift from God. But the disciplines are our means of spiritually “working out.” Consider Blind Bartimaeus who never gave up or Zacchaeus. Neither affected their own spiritual growth. But both did what little they could to work toward it.

1 Timothy 4:7 is a command. Holiness is not an option but a mandate. The means of obtaining holiness is not a suggestion but a command. Christ modeled discipline for us, his disciples. Fruit follows discipline.

One thing I like about this book is at the end of every chapter, there is a “more application” section. It is usually a great addendum to each chapter. It usually has some emboldened statements and then some elaboration. There is danger in neglecting the spiritual disciplines. Whitney then elaborates with a story about the author Coleridge who was apparently undisciplined. There is freedom in embracing spiritual disciplines. Quoting a man who compares spiritual discipline to athletic discipline, he says “Discipline is the price of freedom.” But it takes time. There is an invitation to all Christians to enjoy the spiritual disciplines. Discipline without direction is drudgery. So practice for the purpose of godliness. “Jesus was the most disciplined man who ever lived and yet the most joyful and passionately alive. He is our example of discipline. Let us follow him to joy through the spiritual disciplines.”

Church and State

Matthew 16:18 I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

It seems that the Reverend Wright controversy will never die. And I say why should it? His statements were caustic and hateful. He spoke against his country and its leadership and for the opposition of our nation. But more importantly is the fact that he spoke this from the pulpit.

The political pundits can talk politics all they want, but the last I checked there is not one government on this earth that is not on its way down to the ground. Every President, every King, every Prime Minister, every political leader down to the Somalian warlords who are currently holding food from their country men will some day see their power stripped away – either by death, politics or else the second coming of Christ. But there is one institution in this world that is eternal and that is the church of Jesus Christ. The US Government is a drop in the bucket. God has raised it up and will set it down. But the church of Jesus Christ is eternal.

I believe Reverend Wright out to be allowed to say whatever he wants about America or about anything else. But when he stands in the pulpit, such talk should be put away.

We are moving toward one cosmic moment at the speed of time. We are moving toward one moment when all who are alive or dead, who are humans or spiritual principalities will see everything put under the feet of Christ. And on our way we have men who stand in the pulpit, a platform set up for one reason, to preach the Gospel, and spout political hatred. We have men who stand in the pulpit and talk about freedom from an oppressive government. We have men who stand in the pulpit and talk about freedom from debt, from sickness, from struggles and from low self-esteem. We have men who stand in the pulpit and preach but what they are preaching is not the gospel.

A church should be concerned with the political and social climate. Issues concerning the sanctity of life most certainly matter. The institution of marriage which our children grow up seeing is of great importance. How we care for the hungry and the unemployed is a concern. But of first importance is the gospel. Our Lord said that the gates of hell would not shake the church. The church can thrive be light in a dark world. It can thrive in a culture where the unborn are stripped of dignity in the public eye. It can thrive in the most hospitable and irreverent society Satan can throw at it. The wolves may prowl around at its door, but the Good Shepherd will protect the church.

Let us bear up as a church and grow a burden, not for what a man may say politically but what he may say theologically. Let us protect our churches from the wolves who we would otherwise invite in to show us the way to destruction. Let us first of all pray. Pray for the strength, the purity, and the character of our churches. Pray for their protection and for their cleansing. For we are all in the body together. Let us be watchful in our own churches, not suspiciously spying, but biblically discerning the teachings and the ideas we are embracing. And lastly let us be ready to share an accurate and Christ-exalting word with an unbeliever who may have questions about such matters as incorrect doctrine coming from the pulpit.

We live in a society that is moving toward a day of judgement, and we have forgotten that. Let us hold true to our first love. Lets not get so caught up into who our president is that we forget about our King. And when the next political upheaval rolls through, lets not get up into arms, but let us rest quietly in the arms of our Lord and Protector. The Lord is a man of war. The Lord is his name.

Reality!

Every Thursday night (with just a few exceptions), I play guitar and lead worship at my church for a service known as Reality. Philip Brown usually speaks (on the gospel). It meets on Thursday night at 7 pm. Its a great time of worship and fellowship, a time of real relationships with God and with people. I would just like to invite the readership here to come out and spend some time with us on Thursday night.

I would also like to make a request of the people who are at Reality each week. I am continuously searching for the songs that you like, songs that minister to you, songs that exalt Jesus, songs that bend your heart to be more like his. But I dont know what these songs are for you. And that is my request. Just let me know which songs you would request. In the past I’ve done some that people have requested. One of them I had never heard when it was requested. So let me know. I will try to find it, learn it, and sing it and invite you to sing it with me.

Also, I have an open door policy for the band and for singers. If you play something, let me know. We can work it in. Just want to play with me every now and then? Thats OK. Just let me know. Or just show up on a Thursday night at 5:30. Thats practice time. Just show up with your weapon of choice and join the party. All are welcome.

You can leave a comment or just tell me when you see me.

– Nate

A Poem

This is a poem I wrote based on something Flannery O’Connor said about faith not being an electric blanket. It reminded me of a passage in Luke. Hence the title.

Luke 9:58

The man who came to Jesus

Was told to count the cost.

Faith’s no electric blanket.

It will lead you to a cross.

It’s not a thing to run toward

To flee from pain or life.

The way of faith is suffering:

A life of sacrifice.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

There is a new movie coming out this Friday night (April 18, 2008). It is probably the most anticipated documentary ever to hit the screens:

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

Expelled Banner

This film stars many scientists with varying views on evolution, Intelligent Design theory, neo-Darwinism and Social Darwinism. Former presidential speechwriter/comedian/game show host Ben Stein does most of the leg work in this film. He runs all over the US and even visits other countries in his quest to get to the bottom of all the commotion surrounding the “big questions” of our origin.

I was privileged to attend one of the early screenings of the film in Louisville KY. And I can say that, over all, the film is quite well done. It is entertaining. It is informative. And though Stein has taken a side on the issue, he allows the scientists he interviews to say what they think. They were given the questions ahead of time in order to prepare their answers. Even so, this gets pretty incriminating for some of them at times when they suggest that life was formed “on the backs of crystals” or speculate that possibly aliens bestowed life on our humble planet.

The film begins with a visit from Ben Stein to a former employee of the Smithsonian institute who claims he was fired for publishing a peer reviewed science article which spoke favorably of Intelligent Design. The skeptical Stein then investigates further into many similar claims. This is one of the primary ideas of the film, probably the most causative reason for the film.

Its purpose is not to debunk the theory of evolution or to force public high schools to teach Creationism (gasp!). It is to expose the fact that many in academia are purposefully trying to smash all dissent and discussion of the modern dogma of neo-Darwinism. If scientists are no longer allowed to follow the evidence where it leads, then how can science continue to expand knowledge? The film is not an attack on science, but a defense of it.

Ben Stein concludes his journey by visiting the site of a former Nazi concentration camp. But contrary to what some critics would have you to believe, Expelled does not try to blame Darwin for the atrocity known as the Holocaust. Darwin made claims that the “lower” forms of humanity should not be allowed to propagate. Hitler tried to give evolution a little boost. He tried to speed up what he believed would eventually be the natural selection of the aryan race. Stein eloquently makes this clear.

The movie is an honest look at neo-Darwinism, ID, and the academy of the modern day. I highly recommend it to anyone who cares about our origins, our dignity, or our right to free speech.

For another review, go here:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/04/expelled_critics_so_bored_they.html#more