Am I a Good Person?

Wrong question. Well, sorta. If you mean, in comparison to other people, sure, you might just be one of the most outstanding and morally upright human beings I have ever encountered. But when the issue of moral goodness is applied to a human’s relation to God, and whether or not that person can appeal to their better self for some positive weight on the scale on of God’s judgment, the Bible is emphatically certain, that all of us have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

This is the number one issue that modern people need to deal with today in order to have a correct understanding of who God is, as well as to be able to accurately assess the condition of their own soul before a thrice Holy God. Talking to a friend on Christmas, who heard my sermon just hours before, he had a complete misunderstanding of what sin is, who God is, and why Jesus is necessary for salvation. To him, he was a good person, and   he didn’t feel it fair and just, but rather petty, to have a god send a good person such as himself to hell simply because they don’t do one thing that God requires – believe in Jesus.

I am not sure how much clearer I could have been (but I suppose it does not matter how clearly I could have spoken, for the natural person does not accept the things of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. It is the Spirit of God that reveals these things to men, not words of clarity) but I told him that his perspective is all wrong, because it is not as though he were a perfect person except for a lack of faith in Jesus, rather, it is that he has done nothing but continually sin against God, break His commands, have little to no regard for God or His law, he has not loved Him, and in fact, all his righteous deeds upon which he was basing his status of “good” was nothing but filthy rags in God’s sight. He did not comprehend spiritually that he was by nature an object of God’s divine wrath and fury. And it was this that sentenced Him to hell, not “just not believing in Jesus.” Belief in Jesus for salvation only makes sense in the proper context of human sinfulness. Until a person discern rightly about their status and condition before God as a sinner (made possible only by the sovereign grace of the Holy Spirit of God), the call for faith in Jesus for salvation will continue to remain utter foolishness to those who are perishing. But to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. Soli Deo Gloria!

The Bible Story is OUR Story

A Latin American theologian has said that the important thing for the student of the Bible is not to understand the text but to understand the world through the text. Of course the second is not possible without the first. In this respect the Bible functions in the life of the Church like the language we use. Of course we have to learn the meaning of words and the rules of grammar and syntax. But when we are actually speaking, writing or reading, we do not attend to these things. We attend through them to the meaning, through which we deal with the situation ‘out there’. All knowing, and all human dealing with the world is conducted by means of a language. We do not think about the language so much as live in it. It is part of ourselves. In an analogous fashion we need to live in the Bible so that its language, its images, its histories, its prayers, its songs become our way of understanding and dealing with the world.

There is obviously no short cut to the recovery of the Bible as ‘Holy Scripture’ for modern secularised Europeans. Much will depend upon faithful biblical preaching by our pastors. And this must encourage the daily reading of the Bible in our homes. When you read a good novel you come to know the hero of the, story as if you had actually met him. No description of him, for example in an obituary notice, can be a substitute for this. It is as you watch him dealing with actual situations and people that you come to know him. So it is, I think, in reading the Bible. As you read and re-read and go on reading, you come to know God. He is the one whose nature the Bible discloses. You come to know him personally. And because this is the whole story from the beginning of the world to its end, I who am now part of this story, feel that I know the one who is the author of the story and that I can trust him. I do not find infallible answers to be questions or solutions for my dilemmas. But I can go ahead, take risks, with the sort of confidence that is expressed in the apostle’s word: “I know whom I have believed”. It is when there are congregations of men and women and children who are living the story now, here, that the Bible will become good news for secularised people.

Quoted from Leslie Newbigin, “The Bible: Good News for Secularised People”

Infallibility: An Inescapable Concept

    As Christians, we believe that the Bible is infallible. We believe the Bible to be true, unerring, and authoritative in all that it teaches, because it is the Word of the One True God. Atheists and Agnostics do not believe this to be the case. They claim that since the Bible is written by humans, and since humans err, the Bible has to by necessity contain errors. They also make claims as to the scientific and historical inaccuracies, the mythological nature of the Bible, and the downright foolishness of the Bible and its ridiculous stories, leaving the Bible far from being infallible or authoritative.

    Whatever their arguments are, the inevitable conclusion of their claims is simple, “The Bible is not infallible, because I am.” This might sound strange and even somewhat silly at first, but it is no doubt true.  When the unbeliever makes an absolute claim such as, “the Bible is not the word of God” he is making himself out to be his own god, determining for himself what constitutes good and evil, right and wrong, true and false.

The unbeliever has thus become his own infallible source of truth. He has transferred infallibility from God to himself. Granted, he might appeal to another person or even a whole group of people as the basis of his authority and the reasons for not believing in God or the Bible.

As R.J. Rushdoony states in his Systematic Theology, pg 2.

The doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture can be denied, but the concept of infallibility as such cannot be logically denied.  Infallibility is an inescapable concept.  If men refuse to ascribe infallibility to Scripture, it is because the concept has been transferred to something else.  The word infallibility is not normally used in these transfers; the concept is disguised in and veiled, but, in a variety of ways, infallibility is ascribed to concepts, things, men, and institutions.

But in order for persons to speak an infallible word, they must meet the prerequisites to do so. Sadly for them, only God can do that. Let’s look briefly look at 5 foundational characteristics that one must possess in order to speak infallibly on any matter.

    Omniscience: In order to speak authoritatively on any matter, one must know absolutely all there is to know. Only God knows everything, therefore He alone has the ability to speak an infallible word. His understanding is limitless (Ps. 147:5).

    Truthfulness: God indeed does know all things, but if He were capable of lying (as Allah is) than even if He knew everything, when He spoke on a matter there would be no reason for us to believe Him because He could very well be lying. But the Triune God of Scripture cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). Thus, when God speaks He speaks as one who knows all things, and as one who can only tell the truth.

    Omnipotence: Scripture declares over and over again that God is Almighty. In order for there to be any authority anywhere, there must necessitate first some power and strength to bring about what would be commanded. God is all-powerful, and therefore has supreme power and ability to bring about whatever is consistent and compatible with the rest of His attributes.

   Sovereignty: Sovereignty goes hand in hand with Omnipotence. God not only has the power to bring about whatever He desires, He actually does it. All things that happen, happen because God is controlling all things to bring about His plan. Man can’t do this.

   Immutability:  God cannot change (Mal. 3:6). If He could, then we could not be confident that God will always be truthful. We could not be confident that God really does know all that there is to know, and He could then, hypothetically, come into new knowledg

The atheist does not believe in God. He seeks to disprove God and the Bible by use of reason.  For him, reason is his authority. He proves the reliability of his reason by his reason. This is circular reasoning, which is a logical fallacy. But the believer does the same thing. We believe the Bible to be God’s Word. How do we go about proving it? By the Bible. But, it is through the Bible that the Holy Spirit testifies to the truthfulness of God’s Word. Since God is the only one who can speak an authoritative infallible word, God is the only one who can testify to the truthfulness of the word that He has spoken. This is the role of the Spirit of God, providing an infallible testimony to the truthfulness of the Scriptures in the hearts of all believers.  As Scripture itself testifies:e that could change His perception. If God could change, then there would be something that caused Him to change, and that thing would then be more powerful than God.

11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.14The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

                                                    ~ 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 ESV

   

Always Learning and Never Able to Arrive at a Knowledge of the Truth

Some people claim, mostly Deists, that we just simply cannot know the Truth about God because of who He is. He is Infinite, and we are finite; He is Pure, and we are sinful. Our fallen sinful human minds cannot understand the truth about God, and even if we could, even to the smallest degree, we are so corrupt that the message of who God is would get twisted by sinful man and then be used in such a way as to exploit people and make them slaves. These kind of people often have a very anti-government sentiment about them, not trusting any authority figures or powers, seeing them as the  manifestation of Big Brother, The Man, The System, The Beast, whatever they might label government, their attitude is self evident. Government cannot be trusted. Be Aware!

I have a friend who is very much like this, and I write this post in light of some of things that him and I have been discussing. Now what is so ironic about this is, that in rejecting the authority of the Bible, for it has been corrupted by man, and therefore is not trustworthy, authoritative, or a reliable source of divine Wisdom, he has set himself up as that very same authority that he so despises. He has now claimed for himself an attribute that he downright denies the possibility of existing anywhere else, especially in the Bible.

Allow me to demonstrate: He says that God, and Absolute Truth cannot be known because we are too sinful. But is he not making a claim concerning the Absolute Truth that he has already dismissed in his foundational presupposition? Has he not already said that mankind cannot know Absolute Truth? If that is the case, is it possible that we can actually know anything at all? If we can’t know the Truth, then what can we know? And how can we know that we can’t know the Truth? Does this not require an absolute knowledge concerning God’s revelation, a knowledge that is actually impossible to know according to his own presupposition?

Or allow me to say it like this: “Man cannot know God.” In order for this statement to be considered as true, my friend would have to possess all knowledge, or simply have access to all knowledge, i.e., God would have to reveal that truth to him. But since he already said that man cannot know God, he cannot know for sure that man cannot know God. He has shot himself in the intellectual foot, so to say.

All we can know, according to him, is our own experiences. But our own individual experiences cannot dictate to us the Truth, because so many people have so many different experiences. That would mean there could be more than one Truth. If there is more than one Truth, then wouldn’t my friend be a hypocrite for opposing the government who exploits and enslaves and manipulates people? I mean, he is trying to hold them to a standard that “he feels” is right and wrong according to his experience. But if the government is doing what they believe is right, according to their experience, then why is that wrong? If my friend seeks to hold the government accountable for their crimes, doesn’t he have to hold them to a standard of right and wrong that transcends all and that all men are accountable to? And where does he get that standard? From his own experience? Then we are back in the same boat again, for they could arrest him and say that he is an enemy of the State because he is opposing what they feel is the best for them and is most conducive to the benefit  of their experience, which dictates to them the truth.

Since my friend has a gripe against government for their “sins”, and believes that they should be held accountable to that very standard of right and wrong that he employs, he obviously does have a standard of right and wrong that does not generate from within himself and from his own experience, but from outside of himself, and is transcendent. This is his experience, is it not? Now if the truth is known by experience, then his experience now dictates to him that there is a transcendant standard or morality that is binding upon all men. Now the question is, what is that standard, and where does it come from? Historically people have claimed “Natural Law” as their basis for knowing right and wrong. That God created the universe to act in such a way, as well as mankind, that all men know instinctively what is right and wrong. This  is self evident. All we have to do is apply some reason, and we can know what the right and the wrong is.

But not all men reason the same. Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, they all “reasoned” their way to killing hundreds of millions of people. So then, if their reasoning is flawed, doesn’t that also then mean that there are transcendent Laws of Logic as well? And to what do they comport with? How do we know them?  Well these questions are getting a little further away from the topic than I intended. Suffice it to say that all these answers can be absolutely found in the Ontologial Trinity (see Ralph Allen Smith’s book, Trinity and Reality: An Introduction to the Christian Faith. Canon Press: Moscow, 2004).

So what is my point? That my friend does not have all his ducks in a row, to say the least. He has denied the possibility that men can know God, and yet his very experience, which he prizes and esteems so highly, necessitates that God has indeed revealed something about Himself, namely His Righteous Character and Nature, for that is the very thing that mankind sins against. To sin is to fall short of the Perfect Character and Nature of God Himself. And since my friend believes that sin is the reason we can’t know God and the Truth about God, we have another internal contradiction in his thinking, because sin, as I just said, is man’s deviation from God’s self revelation of His own Righteous Character and Nature to mankind. He has at the same time, rejected the possibility of God revealing Himself to man, because of the self revelation of God to man.

This is why the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is so important. Jesus Christ, accurately, truly, clearly, reveals to mankind the Truth about God. Jesus Christ, unlike sinful man, is sinless, and is not from below, not bound to the finite understandings and knowledge of mankind, but He is from above, and possesses Infinite knowledge of all things, especially who His Father is (John 8:12-20). Since He is God, He cannot lie. So whatever Jesus Christ testifies to concerning whatever, it is True. And as such, His testimony is binding upon all men. All men are required to heed the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, for He speaks with Absolute Authority over the whole creation, and that includes individuals, families, companies, schools and universities, and civil government, etc. He has laid down His perfectly righteous laws that all men are required to obey. His laws are Just, and His rule is just, and righteous, and good. He is the Good Shepherd, the Prince of Peace, it is a good and gracious thing to be under His authority and to be led into the ways of truth, which are like rivers of pure water that refresh the soul. It is a glorious thing to have the mind of Christ and to be able to think God’s thoughts after Him, and to see the world for what it is, and to know that there are true God given answers to the worlds problems. I thank God that this is so.

Now my friend, on the other hand, he yearns for this, and wishes this were true. His passions and desires are to see men come to a knowledge of the truth, and to see the wicked punished, and the righteous prosper. He yearns for beauty to flourish in all areas of life, and to see humanity be united. But the sad fact is, he has rejected the only standard of truth, beauty, and goodness that Truly exists, and rejected the very possibility that there could ever be true unity (which is found ultimately in the Trinity, and is manifested in the Church, which isthe Body of Christ). He is always learning, and nevr able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7), because He has rejected the source of all knowledge, which is the fear of the LORD (Prov. 1:7). And he will never be able to come to the beginning of knowledge or wisdom, because he rejects the idea that man can know God (which is also to reject the ability of God to reveal Himself to man). To know God is to fear Him. And since he says He cannot know God, he cannot fear God, and therefore, he cannot know anything Truly. A sad state to be in, especially for one who is seeking to become a teacher. What good is a teacher who cannot even account for how he knows anything to be true at all, since his whole presupposition excludes the possibility of knowing the only One who knows The Truth about everything.

Some Thoughts on Contemporary Worship Music and Evangelism

The other day was a beautiful day. Both my Daughters were Baptized into the Covenant Family of God. So naturally we called our friends and family to join us in celebration for this joyous occasion.

It was a combined service (usually we have two, one more “contemporary, the other more “traditional”), and naturally there were more people in the sanctuary than usual. The music began, and the drums started pounding, guitars started playing, and people began clapping.

For some, this is a regular experience in their worship, and they whole heartedly approve of it. I myself am more of a “traditionalist” I guess you could say, and, if I might have the audacity to interject my own thoughts and “preferences” in choosing a “style” of worship, I suppose that I am more of a hymn kind of guy.

Now before I get tinto my little rant concerning the use of of Contemorary Christian Music (CCM) in Church services, let me first begin by saying that I am not against CCM outside the church context. I myself am frequently blessed by the medium of Christian Hip Hop, and sometimes listen to other Christian rock bands as well. So right from the start, I wanted to state that I am NOT anti-CCM. And I am not even necessarily against the use of drums and guitars and the like in worship services. I believe God should be glorified by the use of all musical instruments (Psalms 98, 150).

So what am I getting at? Just that I think it is Ironic that alot of CCM is used for the sake of making unbelievers or non-churched peoples “comfortable”, as in the seeker sensative movement, and yet, I believe that the use of CCM in church services actually HINDERS evangelism and evangelistic purposes for which it was originally intended because it makes people feel uncomfortable. Shoot, it makes ME feel uncomfortable. And this is exactly what happened the other day in church.

When the music began and people began clapping, I felt uncomfortable, knowing that unbelievers were there. Unbelievers are most likely expecting to hear hymns and the like and would probably not feel as uncomfortable. I know it makes them feel that way because I was told by a person that it made him feel uncomfortable. I don’t blame Him.

I just think that when unbelievers come in to our churches, we should be looked upon by them as “wannabe” wordly rockers with a Christian flavor. We should sing hymns and Psalms, and maybe even chant. This would actually make the unbeliever feel more comfortable in a worship service because this is what He is expecting. Solemnity, reverence, awe, and seriousness (note: I am still not advocating for making worship service “seeker friendly” when I say this, I am just noting the irony).  Just some thoughts, maybe I’m way off in left field. Or maybe not.

The Restoration of the Image of God in Man and the Implications it has on the Hip Hop Culture

Man was created in the image of God. Man was endowed with creative abilities just like God. Being creative is just one way in which man reflects the image of God in himself. Hip Hop is a cultural phenomenon that expresses itself in creative ways. Hip Hop provides a way for unheard, neglected people to just have a good time and be creative, and to express life as they see it, the good, bad, and the ugly.

As it is with all forms of art: music, poetry, painting, film, sculptures, etc., there is an inherent characteristic in these works of art, and those who create those works of art, that cries out to the Creator, either in praise to Him, or in rebellion at Him.

Man was created for the sake of glorifying God. When man does not glorify God, he is not operating in accord with his purpose for his existence. When works of art are created, they are either reflections of the Creator, or rejections of the Creator. If they are not reflecting in its mode of existence the reason for its existence, it is worthless, and serves no purpose. A simple illustration should suffice.

Imagine a fruit tree that bore no fruit. This tree would not be worth anything. It has a specific reason for existing, to bear fruit, and it fails to accomplish this task do to some defect in it. There are only two options for this tree. Either it is to be replanted, nurtured, given fertilizer, and dealt with in a manner where this tree is given another opportunity to produce fruit, for which it was initially created, or, the second option is to totally discard the tree and burn it. For it serves no purpose except to be fuel for the fire.

Another scenario, but a little different. Some things are created for a specific purpose, but not due to any fault in itself, but by the coercion of an external force or entity, this thing was used in a manner that it was not intended for. Airplanes were created for travelling. Using it as a weapon is a violation of its reason for existing. Looking upon such a thing is horrific and disturbing, especially when it is used in a manner that is abusive, hurtful, murderous, insensitive, and cruel. Nobody wants a defective product that does not work for the reason it was created. And the person who created something does not want his creation to be used in a manner it was not intended. Plain and simple.

Now what does this have to do with Hip Hop? Everything. Humanity was created for a specific purpose, as well were all things. The most important reason and purpose for the existence of man is to glorify God. As I mentioned above, all things either cry out to God the Creator in praise or in rebellion. Since the Fall of Humanity in the Garden of Eden, we have not been able to operate and function properly for the reason we were initially created. Fallen sinful man could no longer have fellowship with God and glorify Him as he ought to be glorified. Now instead of tossing humanity away completely, God, in His infinite Wisdom already had a plan aligned. He decided to take the necessary steps to help grow and nurture the plant of humanity, and not to completely destroy it just yet.

God sent his prophets and messengers and law into the world to as a means of slowly redeeming man (nurturing). Eventually He sent Jesus Christ into the world to redeem humanity from their sin and to restore us back to our reason for existing, ie. to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. Now all peoples of the world are commanded to be restored back to their humanity, back to the reason of their existence. Those who are restored are blessed by God, made right with Him, and find that they have a new reason to live, not for themselves in selfishness, but for the promotion and glory of their Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Man’s creativity is to be a responsive act of worship back to the Creator, in praise, honor, glory and blessing. And being that it is, Hip Hop as a creative culture, and being that all peoples everywhere, including those in the Hip Hop culture, are commanded to be restored back to their reason for existing, Hip Hop is to exist for the chief reason of glorifying God. Not that that is the only reason for its existence, but it is the chief reason. All things find their chief reason of existing in the glorification of God.

So when rappers are rapping about sin and promoting it, there is a clear instance of something being used for the wrong reason, for that which it was not created for. Hip Hop and man both. So then, when rappers promote killing people, doing drugs, getting drunk, committing fornication, adultery, idolatry, etc, they are engaging in complete and total rebellion against the Almighty Creator God of the Universe. They are taking a creative art, and are promoting sin with it. They are taking an air plane and using it as a weapon. Hip Hop is beautiful, and creative, and God honoring, but it is not meant to be used in the manner in which it is most popularly used today.

The promotion of sin with rap, though it has gone on for such a long time now that it almost seems inseparable, is a misuse of an art form that was created to demonstrate beauty. It is hard to paint a masterpiece when you’re painting with feces. But if that is all you know, if that is all you have been exposed to, it is easy to think that crap looks and sounds good. And this is the very reason Hip Hop needs to be redeemed and reformed. People think that feces is the best thing going on, and they have no idea that God has more to offer them then they could ever imagine. God is more beautiful and glorious than we could ever imagine, and He wants us to experience Him. Not just as spectators, but to become one with Him and to be like Him, so that we become beautiful, and reflect once again the Image of God in which we were created.

People need to have their perceptions challenged and changed, and by the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, this will happen. Hip Hoppers, just like everybody else are called to repentance, and to restoration. Those who refuse to repent, align themselves with the tree that bore no fruit, and had no reason to exist. They will find themselves living a life of worthlessness, and their only reason for existing in the end, is to add fuel to the fire.