Tag Archives: sin

Can the Old Testament be Trusted?

In the ongoing debate over the morality of the homosexual lifestyle this question is becoming more and more relevant, and yet the focus has been entirely on the issue at hand with most people quietly refusing to ask the hard questions that should be at the center. Can we accept the Gospel apart from the Old Testament? Is the Old Testament reliable, and is it compatible with the message of the Gospels?

Over the past few weeks, I have repeatedly seen info-graphics, pictures of facebook discussions, short “stories”, etc. that take an aggressive posture against the teaching of the Old Testament, particularly when it comes to basic definitions of morality. The argument is that the Old Testament Law is separate from the New Testament teaching of grace and forgiveness. The idea is that when Christ introduced the Gospel of grace all obligation to the Old Testament law was lost. For Christians, according to this line of thinking, the Old Testament is outdated and shouldn’t be relied upon for sound moral teaching.

Those who teach this seem to have forgotten to read the Gospels in all of their haste to separated them from the Old Testament.

Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” Matt 5:17-20

We should note that this passage comes right after the ever popular beatitudes, in the middle of the sermon on the mount, and just before all of the “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” teaching that no one wants to dispute.

Is it possible that Jesus could really have meant to uphold the teaching of the Old Testament law? Look at the teachings on murder (5:21-22), adultery (5:27-30), and divorce (5:31-32) that follow right after this teaching. In most of these cases, true to what He said in 5:20 Jesus’ moral teaching either affirms the strictest Pharisaic interpretation of the law or goes beyond it. From this it is safe to gather, that just as He said, Jesus fully intends for Christians to adhere to the Old Testament’s moral teaching.

All the confusion comes from what we see happening in verse 17 “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. The key to understanding what is going on in this passage is to have a correct view of the unity of Scripture.

The Bible is divided into to two testaments, or covenants, but it stands as a unified whole. The key is to understanding this unity is to properly recognize the purpose of the Bible itself. The purpose of Scripture is to tell the history of God’s redemptive working for mankind after our fall into sin, and to ultimately tell how God stepped down to redeem us from our sin and show us the way back to Him through grace.

This purpose is clear from the message itself. Genesis 3 tells the story of mankind’s deception and fall into sin. Yet look what God promises from the first moments of man’s sinful condition, in speaking to the deceiver:

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Even from the beginning God had promised to send One who would crush the head of the Serpent, but since a testament is a covenant, we should recognize that everything that proceeds the giving of the covenant to Abraham in Genesis 12 is the prequel, the back story that explains why the story is necessary. Look at the covenant itself and God’s plan is perfectly clear:

Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3 (emphasis mine)

From the very institution of the covenant, God is working to see the redemption and blessing of all the peoples of the earth, in fact, those who read the Old Testament well will find that the “Great Commission” is simply a restating of what God has been getting at all along.

When we recognize this unifying theme in Scripture, then we can ask ourselves what the point of all those dreaded books of the Law is. The New Testament writers as well as the early church fathers all agree, the purpose of the Law is to demonstrate to mankind our own sinful condition, the insufficiency of animal sacrifice as well as our own works, and our ultimate need for redemption. This means that the moral requirements of God do not simply go away because we cannot meet them, they are tied directly to God’s divine nature and cannot change. What does change is the means by which mankind ACCESS God.

God gave us the full weight of His moral law, and a sacrifice system for when we failed to live up to it, to demonstrate in fullness that we are unable to live up to His just requirements. As shown above Jesus reiterated and reinforced these just requirements, but then chose to introduce the power of grace. Christ bore the punishment of our moral failure on the cross, once for all time, and freed those who place their faith in Him from the just recompense of their sinful ways. In so doing He put an end to the need for the sacrifice system, by His one perfect sacrifice.

It gets even better though! Rather than excuse us from the demands of God’s just law, the power of Christ allows us to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirt who makes us able to meet God’s righteous requirements. The moral demands of God cannot go away because to do so would make God not God, but being God He has chosen to not only pardon our past sins but also to empower us to walk a life free from entangling sin. The message of Christ is not that holiness will be redefined so we can reach it, but rather that we will be transformed so that we can attain true holiness.

Where does that leave this discussion? What is it we are actually doing when we try to reject the moral nature of God and His just requirements? There are two ultimate issues with choosing to ignore the Old Testament because we don’t like what it has to say.

First and foremost, those who reject the moral teaching of the Old Testament are closing the door to God’s grace. The Old Testament is necessary to demonstrate to mankind that we are sinners in need of grace, without the knowledge of sin, there is no room for grace. When we try to redefine sin to make ourselves or others more comfortable, ultimately we are blocking God’s ability to forgive us of that sin and to empower us to overcome that sin. God had to give the Old Testament first, before we would have any ability to comprehend what the New Testament meant. Apart from the knowledge of sin, there can be no forgiveness of sin. The reason for this is obvious, I won’t repent of sin that I don’t acknowledge is there. Our goal ought to be to recognize and repent of ALL sin in our lives, and as followers of Christ we are under command to help others recognize and repent of their sin as well.

Second, those who fail to study the Old Testament will fail to see the working out of God’s constant faithful dealings with those who follow Him. The New Testament doesn’t attempt to cover any ground that the Old Testament has already thoroughly addressed, for this reason it dwells on the Gospel itself, the establishment of the Church, and the teaching necessary to establish the Gospel in men’s hearts. Most of the great stories of God’s faithfulness to those who trust Him are in the Old, not the New Testament. Christians would have a much better grasp on how to handle suffering and walk faithfully through difficult times if they would just read the first 2/3 of their Bibles.

Ultimately, Scripture is a unity. It is all written for man’s redemption. If we choose to ignore part of it, we damage the means of our own redemption.

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God of Wrath, God of Grace

The Gospel is good news, it’s good news for all of humanity; but in order to be good news it has to be understood properly. There has been an on going trend, over the last several decades, to reject anything condemning in the Gospels. As a culture, we have chosen to ignore all references to the need for holiness, and to God’s righteous wrath being poured out upon those who reject the Gospel.

When we look at what the Gospel is all about, we ought to turn to the Gospels and see what Jesus Himself had to say. Many people today, uncomfortable with the moral demands of scripture try to argue that Jesus taught only grace and no punishment, but Jesus in fact was very clear that without salvation, mankind would most certainly face the wrath of a righteous God.

Look at this passage, where Jesus addresses the certain punishment of those who are unable to satisfy the requirements of a just and righteous God, all passages are taken from the NKJV:

Mark 9:42-50

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where

‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’

And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— where

‘Their worm does not die,
And the fire is not quenched.’

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—where

‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’

“For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”

And this one, where Jesus maintains that we must maintain proper fear of God, who maintains the power to cast us into Hell:

Luke 12:5

But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

As for the righteous requirements of the law, look what Jesus has to say in this next passage, in that we cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless we are more righteous than one of the most legalistically righteous sects of all time:

Matthew 5:20

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven

Now look at the passages immediately preceding and following the above passage, in which Jesus lays the kind of morality that God demands

Matthew 5:1-19

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Notice that last passage, Jesus affirms that the teaching He is revealing does not in any way remove or nullify the moral law of the Old Testament, rather it reveals more clearly what the law demands. Now for the passage following 5:20

Matthew 5:21-30

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[b] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old,‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

Notice that Jesus’ moral teaching demands not only right behavior, but right thoughts and heart conditions behind that behavior. If we show self control and don’t commit a sin, such as adultery or fornication or murder; but in our heart we really really want to, and entertain thoughts and images to that effect, then we are just as guilty before God as if we had carried those thoughts into action. This poses great difficulty, because none of us is capable of keeping a law this perfect. In fact, if we are judged for our very thoughts, then everyone of us sins on a frequent basis.

This leads to an important question, if none of us can possibly meet God’s moral demands: What then is the Gospel or Good News?

This is where Jesus’ teaching varies radically from every other religion on earth, take a look:

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Matthew 18:23-27

Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt

A talent of gold, according to at least on source I looked at would be worth over $840,000 at todays gold prices. 10,000 of them of course goes way beyond anyone’s ability to ever even consider repaying.

And this is where the Gospel of Jesus differs from every other world religion. Whereas all other religions in the world lay out moral laws and demand that men be “good enough” to get into heaven, the Gospel clearly states that none of us can possibly live up to God’s moral demands; and so, rather than allowing us to perish, Jesus came in the flesh to dwell among us and took our sins upon Himself. Now if we will accept Him we can put on His righteousness and experience a total heart transformation that will take away all of sins and make us into those who can say honestly they meet God’s moral demands. This an only be done through the work of Jesus on our behalf and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. All we have to “do” is surrender our lives to the work Christ did on our behalf. In choosing to falsely believe that God does not practice wrath at all, we make the work of Christ of no value, and blaspheme the very one on whom we must believe for salvation. If God is only grace, then first of all Christ Jesus Himself was a liar and fool and secondly His death and resurrection were completely unnecessary. As it stands it is the paradox of God’s righteous wrath and saving grace that makes the Gospel the Good News.

Daily Scripture Meditation

2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”

When our Lord Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness and removal of your sins, they were as of yet all in the future. You hadn’t been born yet, you hadn’t committed a single sin and yet He knew, and made a path to salvation for you. When the Holy Spirit called you and you responded, you received through the cross for all of your sin, past and future. Nothing you had or would do remained a secret from God.

For this reason, you can walk out from under habitual and addictive sin. There is no need to feel the ongoing condemnation of sin your life. As Romans 8:33 says “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Only God is lawfully able to prosecute our transgressions against Him, and when you accepted grace through the cross He chose to pardon you of His own sovereign will.

For this reason, the old you – the flesh, actually died at the moment of salvation. Instead you became a new creation in Christ Jesus, and that new creation is completely freed from the sin that used to entangle you. It may feel like you can’t shake something, but the scripture says you can. In fact it says you already have.

All you have to do is recognize that the only way you can be entangled in sin is by giving in to a lie. Sin only has an ongoing grip on you if you believe it does. Repent, not only for your sin but for believing its lie, turn back to God, and then forget. God has already forgiven you, repent and move on!

The Blood of Christ and the Blood of Abel

A Reflection on Hebrews 12:24

The blood runs down my hands,
And it trickles to the ground,
My heart sinks deep into a chasm of despair,
At the though of what I’ve done,
And then done again
It’s been a losing battle for me,
I would restrain myself,
But I am unable,
I lack the strength to resist alone,
And so again I act in my weakness,
And blood is shed in sin,
I begin to weep,
But the real nightmare has only just begun,
Because as though my own guilt did not condemn me enough,
The blood cries out from the ground,
It calls day and night for vengeance,
To the God of heaven who I know is Just and will surely answer
The sound of judgment rings in my ears again and again,
And I know that the wrath is coming,
I am fully condemned,
I cannot deny the blood shed
Here am I damned and doomed in my sin.

But thanks be to God there is other blood,
Sprinkled upon me,
My Great High Priest,
The one called Savior,
The one who is ever with me,
Who loves me beyond all measure,
Christ Jesus!
His Blood now runs over me.
It washes me with it cleansing power,
And it speaks a better word,
Than the judgmental word spoken by the blood of Abel
It cries out day and night before the throne of God most high,
It demands forgiveness and mercy
It satisfies the wrath of God,
And sprinkled with it I now boldly come,
Before the throne of grace,
And God speaks to me face to face.
All that I have ever been is gone,
All that I have ever done is forgiven,
All I am is swept up in the matchless glory of Christ,
Because the blood of Christ speaks a better word.

No Magic Bullets

I won’t lie, there is a lot wrong in the world today. I won’t say things are worse in the United States than the rest of the world, but we have begun the process of decline and that will probably come with some very extreme consequences. Just think about some of the things that we are now facing:

*We have entered a period of total moral depravity, and the church, in most cases, has chosen either to endorse wicked behavior despite clear Biblical contradiction or else fails to take any significant action other than petitioning the government to outlaw such behavior.
*Mixed in with this moral decay is a level of narcism, materialism, and hedonism rarely seen except in the death throes of a society. As a result of this many members of society are too focused on themselves to even notice the early markers of societal collapse.
*We have so totally destroyed our nation’s topsoil reserves that we could very likely see a famine sometime in this generation.
*In the meantime the food that we are producing has been so processed, genetically modified, chemically altered, and degraded that we are all getting sick just because of what we eat.
*Our economy is exhibiting all the early warning signs of a hyper-inflationary collapse, and the national debt has soared so high that we are only a few short years from having the interest payments on said debt exceed our GDP.
*We have a political class that largely believe that it knows better than the people and can take whatever liberties it wants at our expense.
*This same political class is largely bought and paid for by a relatively short list of major corporations resulting in an unholy union of government and big money. The result of which has been the rise of a new aristocracy with tendencies every bit as oppressive and tyrannical as any before it.

I could go on like this for quite some time, but I think my point is sufficiently made. No doubt you have many of your own issues that are deeply effecting the lives of Americans and others around the world today. There are a growing number of people well aware of the difficulties that we have created, the problem is that most people don’t recognize the solution. We have a tendency, as human beings and more specifically as Americans (who love convenience), to want to find some miraculous solution that will put everything right, what I refer to as a magic bullet. “If only we could elect X” or “if only we could pass a law doing Y” are phrases that get tossed around constantly.

Now if you pay attention to nothing else, pay attention here. The fundamental problem with these kinds of phrases, and even with several recent grass roots political movements, is that they fundamentally believe government is the answer. They are rooted in the belief that if we change some governmental issue then all will be well. The thing is, there is no quick fix or magic bullet for the litany of problems we are facing down as a nation. It is time to remember who we are as Americans, and more importantly as free human beings. The answer isn’t some mystical “them”. The answer lies with us. Americans have always been a people who find ways to overcome extreme odds, a people who pull together their own creative genius to find new and better ways to overcome unbeatable odds. The problems we face today, while certainly influenced by those who benefit from them, are the result of millions of poor decisions made over time. When you change yourself, and then begin to take a positive role you aren’t just changing things, you are becoming the change that needs to take place.

This isn’t an easy thing to embrace. It means that we bear ultimate responsibility for each and every situation we encounter, and that means that in areas we have yet to change ourselves we have to accept that we are part of the problem. At the same time though, it is time to do away with this nonsensical notion that nothing can be done. Stop behaving as though those in power will do whatever they like and no one can change it. You can change it! You, yourself can take actions that will ultimately result in total transformation of our society, because you are society.

Is your faith deeply offended by the American church culture? Be the change, get repentant before a Holy God, become a person of prayer and holiness. Then find a church that is actively engaged in the Great Commission, in local ministry, and teaching the word of God unadulterated and with authority. Can’t find one? Then start a home fellowship, church isn’t about a building it’s about the fellowship of believers. Don’t just passively endorse false doctrine or total inaction by your continual attendance every Sunday.

Does the media’s constant drivel of wicked programming bother you? Turn it off. Seek out new and more uplifting means of entertainment. There are millions of books, many of the greatest classics are now free. Besides that, there are millions of activities you could be doing together as a family that will make you stronger and closer rather than weaker.

Does the encroachment on American liberty by the new aristocracy deeply disturb you? Take back your liberty! Stop voting for lesser of two evil candidates and instead vote only for those who actually represent your values, you may not win right away but you will at least not be part of the problem anymore. Get involved within some of the 3rd party and independent grass roots movements. Demand pro-liberty legislation, especially at the state and local levels. Educate your fellow citizens, many of them probably don’t realize that they are surrendering their liberty bit by bit every day. Wake them up and show them how to stop. The Son’s of Liberty had to do exactly that prior to American Revolution, otherwise we might still be under British rule. Remember that depending on where you live you may have to vote with your feet, and you may also be forced to commit civil disobedience.

Are you concerned about the economy? Fix your home economy. Get rid of your personal debt load even as you raise the alarm about our national debt crisis. Build a strong home economy that will have enough redundancy and resiliency to stand up under a wide variety of economic conditions, including collapse. Pick up a productive trade in addition to whatever you already do for a living. Then, help re-form the Daughters of Liberty. They worked together to make sure American’s weren’t overly dependent on imports, especially British imports. Even as the Sons of Liberty were preparing the people to start a revolution, they were making sure that American homes were adequately prepared to do so. Band together with your friends and neighbors to form your own micro-economy, one which is free from the industrialized economy and not dependent on our failing currency.

Are you tired of the constant assault on our nations agricultural resources? Feed yourself. Grow a large garden. Or, better yet, get a hold of some land, whether borrowed or bought, and become part of the small farm revolution. Purchase what you can’t produce from healthy, local producers. These skills are slipping away from us quickly, read as much as you can on the subject and relearn the proper ways of producing food. Rediscover your own kitchen, prepare your own food from raw ingredients rather than letting some massive producer prepare it all for you hundreds of miles away.

These suggestions are only the beginning. There are literally millions of small action steps that you can take, and help others take to become an important part of the necessary change. I hope that we can discuss these others together as more time occurs, if you have a problem or answer you would like to discuss drop me a comment.

At the most fundamental level, the first thing you must do is change your mind. Recognize that our situation is not hopeless, we have overcome worse situations before. The Great Awakening occurred at a time when public morality was so poor, many thought the church wouldn’t survive. The revolution was carried out against the world’s most powerful empire. The Constitution was created, in large part because of a inflationary and debt laden monetary crisis. We are the answer, and with God’s grace, providence, and guidance we will overcome these crises as well.

It’s time to stop complaining about the problem, and become part of the solution.