Monday, October 31, 2011

Raising awareness or Coarse Jesting?

Recently it seems that there are more and more people are signing on and joining in the effort to alert, educate, and raise funds to help support Breast Cancer Research.  That is 100% fantastic!  Breast Cancer is a serious problem and it does take the life of many many many women each year.  A little known fact, it actually does affect men as well.  Each year a small percentage of those who are diagnosed with and or die from Breast Cancer are men.  Women still make up the largest group of those affected by this awful cancer.

So it is good to give money to support the finding of a cure and it is good to raise awareness by informing others and educating people on how to keep watch over their bodies to watch for early signs of any problems.  In many cases, early detection is treatable.

That all being said, is it acceptable to use perverse double entendre and labeling it as 'raising awareness'?  I think that for Christians the answer must be emphatically NO!

However, no one seems to have a problem with the frequent and growing number of slogans and such that use such perverse language in order to tell people about Breast Cancer.  From bracelets that have "I ❤ (insert slang word for breasts here), to shirts that say "Save the (another slang word)." and the most recent one I've seen, "Save Second Base"; because "2nd Base" is slang for Breasts as well.

These slogans are recognized culturally as coarse slang words.  They are considered by most to be a bit filthy.  The intention of such slogans seems to be to illicit a smug laugh or some such reaction.  Are those types of things raising awareness?  I suppose you could make the argument that even someone complaining about it means that it has raised awareness and achieved there purpose.  Point well taken, but is it possible that the only thing that such perverse things are raising awareness of is pointing the minds of those bearing these slogans towards lustful thoughts?  Perhaps.

To continue using such perverse language simply because it is achieving the purpose of spreading awareness or to stop its use because some are using it as an opportunity to have lustful thoughts would be pragmatic at best in both cases.

So let us look to Scripture and find out what it has to say about perverse and coarse language such as the aforementioned slogans.

In Ephesians 5 we find Paul making a contrast while instructing Christians on how it is we are to walk.  He begins by instructing Christians to be "imitators of God" (Ephesians 5:1).  He next says that we are to "walk in love" (Ephesians 5:2) and to illustrate that truth he points to the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:2) and that such imitation and manner of walking is a "fragrant offering and sacrifice to God".  In other words, it is this type of behavior that God expects and is pleased with from His children whom He's called to so conform to the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

Paul's contrast comes in verse 3-4.  We are, in contrast to proper walking, told that those in Christ are to abstain completely from "sexual immorality" and "impurity" and "covetousness" that such behaviors as a lifestyle should not even be named among us.  Because abstaining from such is proper conduct for the saints (Ephesians 5:3).

Verse 4 then lists more things that typify the behavior of the unconverted.  The Apostle says, "let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking" instead our speech should be "thanksgiving".  Filthy talk, foolish talk, crude joking.  Paul says that those are all "out of place" (Ephesians 5:4).

Then, in verse 5, there is a warning... not a warning of retribution for those practicing the crude behaviors, but rather an alert that those who are practicing those behaviors are not born again.  "For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." (Ephesians 5:5-6)

So left to itself, this is legalism.  It is law.  Do this... abstain from that... But it isn't left to itself.  Why is it important for Christians to follow God's Word verses the world's way of being coarse and crude?

In verses 7-8, Paul gives the indication that this isn't just a list of shalls and shall nots that we follow, they are the Gospel indicatives.  They are those things which typify those who have been born again by Christ!  Those who are now walking in the light.  The contrast is key in this passage.  We were "once darkness", past tense.  But now we are in the light and must, by result of regeneration, "walk in the light" (Ephesians 5:8).

Verse 9 says that the "fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true" (Ephesians 5:9).  In other words, the proof that you are born again is seen in bearing these characteristics that are not common to the natural man, but only common to one who is still dead in sin.

This should be a word of caution, for a person who finds themselves practicing and applauding and approving of such coarse jesting and crude language to examine their own hearts to see whether or not they are truly in the faith.  Whether or not they are truly born again (2 Corinthians 13:5).  Examine yourself.  Go through 1 John and see whether or not your life is bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8).  Have you repented of your sin and trusted in Christ?  I'm not asking if you go to church or if you call yourself a Christian.  Many people do both those things and are no more saved than the Devil (James 2:19). 

Perhaps you've just never considered it.  Perhaps you just went along with wearing those crude slogans because you didn't give thought to how it might affect others.  Has it crossed your mind that it could possibly cause others to stumble?

Walk in the light, as Jesus is the Light (1 John 1:7).  If you find that you are offended by the command to pursue first the righteousness of God (Matthew 6:33), then could it be that your unwillingness to conform to Christ comes because you, in fact, don't know Christ?  I can't answer that question for you, all I can do is as I've done... which is to point you to Scripture concerning the matter...

So, support Breast Cancer, raise awareness for it, raise funds for it, find an appropriate way to give donations towards the furtherance of the research for a cure.  In addition, pray for those with Breast Cancer and pray for those who are seeking cures.

But put away the crude slogans.  The pink ribbon is well known enough and sufficient to help us to raise visual awareness and it doesn't have to be crude to accomplish this.  As for intellectual awareness, here is a site with facts on the subject.  Go there, educate yourself, and then get busy helping make others aware of the very real danger and importance of regular exams.

As for the condition of your soul... check out

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Q&A: Why a bronze serpent & how is that a shadow of the Messiah?

Question: Why did Moses use a serpent image and how was that a type of Jesus?

So after church last Sunday I was asked a question that I only was able to answer in part.  It intrigued me so I went home and sought the rest of the answer and decided to give it tonight since there may be others who have wondered the same thing…  The question came from Numbers 21.

Numbers 21:4-9 - From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

The question was, why did Moses make the image that would save the people to look like a serpent and how was this, a shadow of Jesus Christ?

And it is sort of curious considering that the serpent in Genesis is Satan… why a serpent here?  Well, firstly, the serpent in Genesis and the image of the serpent here are not representative of the same thing.  How do we know that?  Well, in verse 9 of Numbers 21 it tells us that those who looked on the image of the bronze serpent were saved from the venom of the bite and they lived.

To give you a context for what’s happening here, the Israelites have been led out of Egypt by God’s hand and now they are making their way towards the land of Canaan.  Edom blocked their way and so after a successful battle they journey south to the Red Sea and then back North to Canaan thereby completely by passing the land of Edom altogether.

Along their journey, as Israel often did, the people began to complain.  Aaron has just died, and Miriam had died a while before him, and they are mourning and their mourning is moving to groaning over their situation.  Apparently having quickly allowed their trials to over power the memory of having experienced God’s power in saving them and providing for them at every turn.

So they complain against God and Moses and ask ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?’  So God allows for their punishment at the hands of or rather at the venom of a deadly snake.

As a result the people realize their sinful ways.  v7a - And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.”

They realize that they have sinned and go to Moses to make intercession with the Lord on their behalf.  Now, Moses does go and do just that.  He prays for them.  In the last half of verse 7 it says, v7b- So Moses prayed for the people.

And God responds to Moses request, but not in the way that the people had requested.  Not in the way that Moses had likely requested either to be honest.  God responds, v8 - And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”

God answers by providing a remedy for the bites.  He does not remove the snakes.  The snakes stay among them for a certain period of time to be a reminder to them.  Every time they would be bitten by or just see one of those snakes they would remember what had brought that consequence upon them to begin with. 

v9 - So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

So God provides for the Israelites, not by removing the snakes, but by removing the ability for the snakes to kill the people if bitten.  He did it by instructing Moses to fashion a bronze serpent and raise it up on a pole high above the people for the whole camp to see.  I would surmise that it was likely centrally located in the camp so that everyone passed by it and saw it frequently.

And the implication is more an issue of when the serpents bit someone and not if they did.  If they bit anyone, that person wasn’t to try and suck out the venom, they weren’t to see the local physician for an anti-venom medication or attempt to treat it in any way on their own whatsoever.  They were to simply look to the image of the bronze serpent on the pole and they would live.

Now, how in the world was this supposed to teach the Israelites about the coming Messiah in whom they should place their trust and hope for salvation?

To get a better understanding we need to look over to John 3.

John 3:1-15 - Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

So Jesus is trying to wrap Nicodemus mind around the idea of the new birth.  Jesus tells him that to see Heaven one day a person MUST be born again.  Nicodemus couldn’t grasp it because his mind was legalistic and prone to think of salvation in terms of what he could accomplish… works he could do to EARN God’s forgiveness.

You see Jesus’ statement has an implied point that someone of Nicodemus’ well educated intellect would have grasped very quickly.  What confounded him was obvious.  It was as if Jesus asked Nicodemus, ‘Nicodemus, how much did you have to do with your physical birth?  Your first birth?’  Nicodemus responds, how can a man be born again?  How can HE re-enter the womb for a second time…

Nicodemus said, there is no work I can do to be born again, which was the whole point.  It wasn’t up to him to be born again, it was up to God to perform this work, that was what Jesus was driving home to him. 

To further explain using something that Nicodemus would be well acquainted with, v14 - as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Jesus compares Himself to the serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness.  He said, just as the serpent was lifted up, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.  That whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.

So we know that the serpent was a type of Jesus... a shadow of the coming Messiah... let's look at the similarities

- both the serpent and Jesus were lifted up, the serpent on a pole and Jesus on a cross.

- both were lifted high above the people (Golgotha could be seen for MILES to some degree)

- both were cures... the serpent cured the bite from a living serpent so that the people wouldn't die, Jesus cures our most serious venom of which we’ve all been bitten by, namely sin

- if the people looked to any cure besides the serpent image... medicine.. anything... they died, if we look to anything but Christ to save us (works, etc) we die... there is no work we can perform that will save us… our good works and efforts to be good don’t amount to squat. We must be born again, forgiven and justified by the Savior who hung on a wicked cross for our sin

- God ordained that looking upon the serpent image to be a cure... God ordained Christ to be the only Savior

- both were a very unlikely method of cure that no one would naturally think would work (the serpent because looking on a pole would do no good under any other circumstances, Christ was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks... they'd both rather seek "cures" to their sin on their own. 

In John 3:13-14 Jesus makes reference to the serpent when talking to Nicodemus... as a Jew, Nicodemus couldn't wrap his brain around having to trust Christ's grace and not his own works to atone for sin... it was mind blowing to him... and Jesus said, just as Moses lifted up the serpent, so much HE be lifted up...

- and now I think it is THIS one that explains the most about why a snake was used... ok, so what was a snake?  A vile, grotesque thing... especially knowing the history of the serpent in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve compiled with the danger of a snake’s venom, no one wanted to have anything to do with a snake... it was gross, its symbol offensive, YET to be cured of the deadly snake bite, they had to look on this thing that they despised so much... what about Christ?  Beautiful to us because we are born again and have been saved but what was He to the Jews?  For that matter, what is He to any unbeliever... a vile thing, grotesque... He was beaten and bloody... 

Isaiah 52:14 – As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

Isaiah 53:2-3 - For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

- that which would provide a cure from a snake bite was the image of a snake... that which saves us from our sin, had to become the very thing that killed us spiritually... Romans 8:3-4 - For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

There were no magical powers in that bronze serpent.  They merely needed to look upon Him because that was the stipulation that God had in place in order for Him to heal them.  No other man could have taken Christ’s place.  Because no other man qualified.  The healing from our sin comes from the sacrifice of Christ because He is the Son of God, God in the flesh, not simply because He was a man.  He had to be a man in order for His sacrifice to qualify as a representative for humanity.  He had to be fully God so that He would be able to live a life as human that was unstained by sin and was thereby qualified to be the sin sacrifice for all who would ever be saved.

- The serpent image didn't wound anyone, even though it looked like the thing that caused the wound... again, Christ did not cause our sin, nor did He sin, yet He became the very thing that had caused our sin... as if HE had committed our sins...

2 Corinthians 5:21 - For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

You see, the bronze serpent was a very reddish bronze in color.  In fact, archaeologists have found bronze and copper in that region and it has a very deep red tone to its color.  The event with the Israelites illustrates both the sacrifice of Christ and the faith of His people.

Just as the bonze serpent was lifted up, so Christ, as one born “in the likeness of sinful flesh” was lifted up.  The afflicted Israelites had no other way of rescue than to look at the bronze serpent, just as sinners have no hope for salvation, for being spared from God’s wrath, except faith in the crucified and risen Son of God.

Isaiah 45:22 - Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

Jesus Christ, in order to rescue us from our sin and from certain eternal death, put on human flesh, not subject to sin because He was fully God.  The God-man.  Second person of the Trinity, clothed in humanity but retaining full Deity.  Doing this He became our representative before God.  Since the world, under its own reasoning, cannot understand the wisdom of God, Christ was offered up in the foolishness of the cross. 

1 Corinthians 1:21 - For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

That we would look on Him who became our sin.  Just as the Israelites detested looking on the serpent, so too we should detest looking on what Christ had to become in order to save us.  When I look at the cross I see the innocent Savior covered in and paying the fine for my lies, my lusts, my idols… every sin that I should have been made to pay for, Christ willingly stepped in and paid my fine, taking my place on the cross.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pastor's Bookshelf: Pillars of Grace by Steve Lawson

Curious about how God spread the Gospel after the close of Scripture?  Interested in learning how God has used courageous men throughout the history of Christianity to preserve and defend His Word?  Then you absolutely MUST read this important book by Steve Lawson.

Now, this is not an exhaustive history but it is a fantastic overview and a great introduction to church history.  What sets this book apart from several others is that Dr. Lawson summarizes the theological beliefs of the early church fathers and also those who were responsible for helping to spread the Gospel over the last 800 years based on their own writings.  So many other so-called history sources try to slant the beliefs of the early Christians or omit them altogether... Dr. Lawson is transparent with beliefs that they seemed, from their writings, to have been still developing some parts of their theology but that they were dead on with other aspects.

If you have no interest in church history, you should... it is very encouraging to read  of the saints who have gone on before, being obedient to the point of death in most cases, so that we can have a sound expositions of Scripture and such great encouragement by their witness.

To be fair, while Dr. Lawson is an excellent writer, the book seemed to drag just a bit.  It never lost my interest, and I would give it 9 out of 10 marks, but it may bog you down around the middle as well.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Reformation Trust Publishing through their Blog for a Free Book Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Showing the 180 Movie to our church - Part 1

Last night I showed the 180 Movie to our church.  I will be posting some video responses below of people who volunteered to share their reaction after viewing.  There were times when jaws were wide open watching the film, there were tears as the pictures of the Holocaust were shown.  Nearly all of them admitted that they had never correlated the two events together. 

Our prayer is that this will serve to help our church be more vocal about the Gospel primarily so that those who are in favor of abortion will come to know Christ (if they are in fact not born again) and see abortion as the vile sin that it is.

What strikes me about the two atrocities, that being the Holocaust of the Jews and Abortion, is that it was people who were already born who were being murdered in Germany.  So they had a voice, you could see pictures of them emaciated and starving.  With abortion, the children can't make a sound, no one cares to watch the sonogram in 3D that shows their face grimace with pain as the process begins.

I once wrote that abortion is nothing more than modern day Molech worship.  How true... how true... the only difference is that we don't worship the false god of Molech when we murder a child, we are worshiping the god of self.

Next week we will be showing this video to our students and praying for their reaction.  Many of them who will view it are unconverted.  My pastoral prayer is that God use this video next week to finally break their hearts over their sin and draw them unto Himself.  At the same time, I pray that as the future voters of this country this would help them to discern between a good political candidate and a bad one.

Sometimes the liberal left accuses evangelicals of being "single issue voters" because we discount a candidate who is pro-choice.  That is a bit of a straw man argument because most of us certainly consider more than simply their abortion stance, however, life and the protection of it is more important to me than tax structure or foreign and domestic policy for sure.  How can you expect ANY candidate to make wise decisions that affect the protection of the American people when they have already showed a lack of concern for the sanctity of human life to begin with?  If they see an unborn child as disposable, imagine how they view other life... just a thought...

Now, having said all that, I want to be clear.  If you are reading this and you have had an abortion.  I am not condemning you.  There is forgiveness available to you from God even for that sin.  If you are feeling guilt over having had an abortion, I know that you likely feel like you can't be forgiven for something so awful.  But you can.  God will forgive you.  If you will ask Him to forgive you He will.  Here's the thing though, you (and everyone else in this world) need forgiveness for more than just the singular sin of abortion.  Oh no, we need forgiveness from God for ALL our sin.

I do not want to isolate the sin of abortion as if it is unforgivable and everything else is forgivable.  That's not true.  There is forgiveness for you not just for abortion, but for the lies you've told, the things you've stolen, the hate in your heart towards others, the lust in your heart that you've acted on... He is a good and kind God and even now He bids you come to Christ that you might be saved!

Without forgiveness of sins you will spend eternity in Hell, not because you failed to trust in Christ, but because you died in your sins and therefore are accountable to pay for your own sin.  God so loved this world that He sent Jesus Christ, His only Son, to live a perfect life free from sin even though He was tempted, then He died on a cruel Roman cross where He endured the physical pain and scorn of the cross and death but He also took the full wrath of God for the sins of all those who would repent and trust in His Name.

So that you do not have to spend eternity in Hell.  So that you CAN have eternal life!  Christ paid the fine!  Turn from your sin (repent) and trust in Jesus Christ today and God will forgive you and grant you eternal life!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

7 Step formula for making a cult

If you study world religions and their founding it won't be hard to figure out which ones are cults and which ones aren't.  If you look closely, most all of them follow this basic 7 step formula.

Step 1.) Call into question the authority and/or infallibility of the Bible.

Step 2.) Claim to have received a "revelation" or "vision" that corrects the errors of Scripture.

Step 3.) Re-write Scripture to raise the status of man (or even deify man) and reduce the Holiness and Righteousness and Sovereignty of God.  Be sure your "new words" are thought of as NECESSARY to understand the Bible or deny the Bible altogether with a complete separate work.

Step 4.) Remove the need for a Divine Savior in Jesus Christ by making Him a mere example OR remove Him altogether.

Step 5.) Teach that man can do something to save themselves with or without God's help OR that they don't need saving at all.

Step 6.) Tailor your message to tickle the ears of your target audience.

Step 7.) Sit back and watch it grow.

Congratulations, you've got yourself a cult.