Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


There is a concept in our culture that seems to have gone by the way-side over the years. Not much is thought of about this concept when ancestors pass away. What ever became of the idea of heirs? You know, the someone next in line in the family hierarchy that says he/she will carry on the family heritage?

If you were to look up the definition of heir, you're more likely to find a definition more suited to the idea of assets, possessions, or something of monetary value being passed on to descendants, loved ones, or those that were close and trustworthy. But there was a time when heir had a greater meaning. A time when there was greater consideration given to the notion of passing on a legacy...a reputation if you will...that directly identified a person(s) to the family line.

This was a concept not lost on many before us. Look at a few of these quotes found at

To state the facts frankly is not to despair the future nor indict the past. The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies and gives a faithful accounting to those whom he owes an obligation of trust. John F. Kennedy

Those in supreme power always suspect and hate their next heir. Tacitus

Father was the eldest son and the heir apparent, and he set the standard for being a Rockefeller very high, so every achievement was taken for granted and perfection was the norm. David Rockefeller

I'm the heir apparent to the heir presumptive. Princess Margaret

This idea of passing on a heritage was not lost on the people of Israel (in biblical times) either. God actually made this a priority. Let's look at Deuteronomy 6:1-9:

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
1 “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ 4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

So you see that God's heart is for a heritage to be passed down from generation to generation. God wanted heirs to the legacy for all He did for the people of Israel.  It's a legacy not only to remind them of God's faithfulness but also regarding their own commitment to God. It's important for them to know where they came from, to know how they got there, and equally as important, a vision for where they were going. This was a legacy as much for God, who brought Israel out from bondage, as it was for the Israelites to commit themselves to God and to ensure this commitment was passed on to future generations. They needed to remember.

But is this concept any different for us today? Has the idea of heirs become moot and irrelevant for our time? Why is it we don't place more of an emphasis of teaching our children the things that are important to our families so they can be passed on throughout generations?

What about the dad or mom who want the best for their children? Are they modeling the Christian life? Are they emphasizing the transcending nature of God to their son or daughter? Is the dad showing his son what a real man, one with integrity and a strong character, looks like in a perverse and ungodly culture? What about the mother and daughter relationship? Is the mom showing her very impressionable daughter the virtues of womanhood and what it means to be a Proverbs woman?

So much is lacking in the church today in this regard. Too many children and grandchildren are growing up in broken homes, living in sorrow and despair, and without any semblance of love within their four walls. And the church is partly responsible!

Our culture for years has been on the attack against families, breaking down the building blocks and foundations of marriages and healthy relationships between parents and children. Statistics would show a disturbing trend in the family dynamics. It's no wonder more and more people are turning to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. as a means to cope with it all.

How did we arrive here? Why have so many generations past let go of what truly binds families together? I believe it's because people are turning their backs on God. The church is turning a blind eye to blatant unrighteousness. And the world is teaching children its version of virtue and morality, whether that's in the public schools, television, government, or other medium.

Many in the world today are looking for truth and leaders to point the way. Is that to say there are no leaders? No, but too many have busied themselves with church programs and itineraries, that they're neglecting what should be their primary focus. Christ needs to be their focus. OUR focus! Our shepherds need to be helping the flock cling ever more closely to our Great Shepherd.

God is offering hope through His Son, Jesus! Jesus is the only one who can meet our problems head-on and do something about it. So if our leaders know God's promises and know that God will always do what He says, why are there so many problems in the world? And why is the church virtually absent in these matters?

The church could certainly learn some valuable lessons from Abraham. In Romans, Paul tells us that Abraham received a promise from God. In contrast to the church today, when Abraham received that promise, he responded in faith. He became "the heir of the world," receiving God's promises not because he was exceptional at obeying the law, but because he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

So, instead of programs and telling people they need to try harder to be good, the church would do well to point them to Jesus, draw near to Him, and to believe in Him by faith. Unfortunately, the church is doing more to confuse people about God than they are at clarifying the gospel message. They present misconceptions that somehow we can make ourselves right with God through works. Some churches would suggest the false notion that someone other than Jesus (a saint perhaps) could intercede on their behalf. Even worse, some would suggest (like Oprah) that we are our own gods, in some weird kind of way. This, by the way, goes ridiculously farther than the notion that we can get right with God on our own.

If we want to understand what God wants from us, what's important to Him, we need to delve into His Word and pray. Without the Holy Spirit's guidance, we're not going to have a clue in how to turn our families and marriages around. But if we look carefully and listen to what He has to say, we'll see that He has a plan. Look at this following passage in Romans:

Romans 4:13-25
13It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. 18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 19Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

By reading this passage, do you get the sense of what Paul is saying? Here's a man that despite the odds and circumstances, Abraham still trusted God! Like us, Abraham could have been looking at the circumstances surrounding his wife's age and infertility and had thought that God was crazy for saying that he would be the father of many nations. But no. Paul says that Abraham believed God, "being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised," and that "it was credited to him as righteousness." Abraham understood the legacy that God was giving him. He didn't try to establish his own righteousness before God, but rather believed by faith, and because he did he received the promises of God. And even more than that, this passage says the offspring received the promise as well. The offspring became heirs through Abraham's faith.

Granted, this passage also shows that those of the law, the Jews, were part of the promise. Verse 16 tells us that the promise came by faith, that by grace it was guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring - not only those who are of the law but also those who are of the faith of Abraham. The emphasis is not that those who received the law (the Jews) would be the offspring to receive the promise, but that those who would later believe by faith (believers in Christ) would be the offspring of Abraham. This is confirmed when Paul says in verse 17, as it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." So you see that we're all heirs in the promise, just as Abraham was, if we put our faith in God's promise, Jesus Christ. Just as it was credited to Abraham as righteousness, it is credited to us as well.

So what can we do? How can we make a difference? I think just like Abraham, we look at our families and our particular circumstances, and "against all hope, in hope believe." "Believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." If you want to pass on a heritage to your family, believe in Jesus. Your sons and daughters will be heirs to a legacy that will pass on to generation after generation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Same-Sex Marriage

The following is from the editors at National Review Online. When I write on the Biblical case for marriage, I tend to believe there are reasons to uphold the traditional view of marriage that can appeal to non-Christians as well Christians. I've heard, and I believe this, that God's principles work whether we accept them or not. Meaning that if God has a plan for marriage, even a nonbeliever can adhere to the principles set forth by God and experience a fruitful marriage. Conversely, if a Christian rebels against God's principles, that person can expect much hurt and pain through their poor choices.

Whether the editors at National Review Online hold to a Biblical perspective of marriage or not, there are great truths written in this article that all of us would be well to heed. The article can be found at, but for your convenience I've included the entire article here. God bless!


September 7, 2010 4:00 A.M.
The Case for Marriage
From the Sep. 20, 2010, issue of NR.

If it is true, as we are constantly told, that American law will soon redefine marriage to accommodate same-sex partnerships, the proximate cause for this development will not be that public opinion favors it, although it appears to be moving in that direction. It will be that the most influential Americans, particularly those in law and the media, have been coming increasingly to regard opposition to same-sex marriage as irrational at best and bigoted at worst. They therefore dismiss expressions of that opposition, even when voiced by a majority in a progressive state, as illegitimate. Judges who believe that same-sex marriage is obviously just and right can easily find ways to read their views into constitutions, to the applause of the like-minded.

The emerging elite consensus in favor of same-sex marriage has an element of self-delusion about it. It denies that same-sex marriage would work a radical change in American law or society, insisting to the contrary that within a few years of its triumph everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about. But its simultaneous insistence that opponents are the moral equivalent of the white supremacists of yesteryear belies these bland assurances. Our tolerance for racism is quite limited: The government, while it generally respects the relevant constitutional limits, is active in the cause of marginalizing racists and eradicating racist beliefs and behaviors. Moreover, social sanctions against racism, both overt and implied, are robust. If our society is truly to regard opposition to same-sex marriage as equivalent to racism, it will have to undergo change both dramatic and extensive. Churches that object, for example, will have to be put in the same cultural position as Bob Jones University was in the days when it banned interracial dating, until they too join the consensus.

If proponents of same-sex marriage thought through these implications, their confidence might evaporate, for it seems highly unlikely that this project will succeed at all, and impossible that it will do so without decades of arduous and divisive social "reform." That is no reason to shrink from the task, if it is truly a just one. But we should first consider whether the historic and cross-cultural understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman really has so little to be said for it.

We think that there is quite a bit to be said for it: that it is true, vitally true. But it is a truth so long accepted that it is no longer well understood. Both the fact that we are debating same-sex marriage and the way that debate has progressed suggest that many of us have lost sight of why marriage exists in the first place as a social institution and a matter of public policy. One prominent supporter of same-sex marriage says that the purpose of marriage is to express and safeguard an emotional union of adults; another says that its purpose is to make it more likely that people will have others to give them care in sickness and old age.

So at the risk of awkwardness, we must talk about the facts of life. It is true that marriage is, in part, an emotional union, and it is also true that spouses often take care of each other and thereby reduce the caregiving burden on other people. But neither of these truths is the fundamental reason for marriage. The reason marriage exists is that the sexual intercourse of men and women regularly produces children. If it did not produce children, neither society nor the government would have much reason, let alone a valid reason, to regulate people's emotional unions. (The government does not regulate non-marital friendships, no matter how intense they are.) If mutual caregiving were the purpose of marriage, there would be no reason to exclude adult incestuous unions from marriage. What the institution and policy of marriage aims to regulate is sex, not love or commitment. These days, marriage regulates sex (to the extent it does regulate it) in a wholly non-coercive manner, sex outside of marriage no longer being a crime.

Marriage exists, in other words, to solve a problem that arises from sex between men and women but not from sex between partners of the same gender: what to do about its generativity. It has always been the union of a man and a woman (even in polygamous marriages in which a spouse has a marriage with each of two or more persons of the opposite sex) for the same reason that there are two sexes: It takes one of each type in our species to perform the act that produces children. That does not mean that marriage is worthwhile only insofar as it yields children. (The law has never taken that view.) But the institution is oriented toward child-rearing. (The law has taken exactly that view.) What a healthy marriage culture does is encourage adults to arrange their lives so that as many children as possible are raised and nurtured by their biological parents in a common household.

That is also what a sound law of marriage does. Although it is still a radical position without much purchase in public opinion, one increasingly hears the opinion that government should get out of the marriage business: Let individuals make whatever contracts they want, and receive the blessing of whatever church agrees to give it, but confine the government's role to enforcing contracts. This policy is not so much unwise as it is impossible. The government cannot simply declare itself uninterested in the welfare of children. Nor can it leave it to prearranged contract to determine who will have responsibility for raising children. (It's not as though people can be expected to work out potential custody arrangements every time they have sex; and any such contracts would look disturbingly like provisions for ownership of a commodity.)

When a marriage involving children breaks down, or a marriage culture weakens, government has to get more involved, not less. Courts may well end up deciding on which days of the month each parent will see a child. We have already gone some distance in separating marriage and state, in a sense: The law no longer ties rights and responsibilities over children to marriage, does little to support a marriage culture, and in some ways subsidizes non-marriage. In consequence government must involve itself more directly in caring for children than it did under the old marriage regime - with worse results.

Thoughtful proponents of same-sex marriage raise three objections to this conception of marriage. The first is that law and society have always let infertile couples marry; why not treat same-sex couples the same way? The question can be tackled philosophically or practically. The philosophical answer boils down to the observation that it is mating that gives marriage its orientation toward children. An infertile couple can mate even if it cannot procreate. Two men or two women literally cannot mate. To put it another way: A child fulfills the marital relationship by revealing what it is, a complete union, including a biological union. A man and a woman who unite biologically may or may not have children depending on factors beyond their control; a same-sex couple cannot thus unite.

The practical problems with using fertility as a criterion for marriage should be obvious. Some couples that believe themselves to be infertile (or even intend not to have children) end up having children. Government could not filter out those marriage applicants who are certain not to be able to have children without extreme intrusiveness. Note that we do not generally expect the eligibility criteria and purposes of marriage to exhibit a rigorous fitness in other respects. This is true about those aspects of marriage about which proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage alike agree. Nobody believes that people should have to persuade the government that they really are capable of a deep emotional union or that they are likely to stick around to take care of an ill partner before getting legally married, because that would be absurd. Nobody would try to devise a test to bar couples with no intention of practicing sexual exclusivity from getting married. It does not follow that marriage is therefore pointless or has nothing to do with monogamy, emotional union, or caregiving. (Those are indeed goods that marriage advances; but if sex did not make children, they would not be a reason to have the institution of marriage.)

The second objection proponents of same-sex marriage raise is that the idea that marriage is importantly linked to procreation is outdated. In our law and culture, the ties between sex, marriage, and child-rearing have been getting weaker thanks to contraception, divorce and remarriage, artificial reproduction, and the rise of single motherhood. Yet those ties still exist. Pregnancy still prompts some couples to get married. People are more likely to ask nosy questions about whether and when children are coming to couples that have gotten married. And we have not at all outgrown the need to channel adult sexual behavior in ways conducive to the well-being of children: The rising percentage of children who are not being raised by their parents, and the negative outcomes associated with this trend, suggest that this need is as urgent as ever. Our culture already lays too much stress on marriage as an emotional union of adults and too little on it as the right environment for children. Same-sex marriage would not only sever the tie between marriage and procreation; it would, at least in our present cultural circumstances, place the law behind the proposition that believing that tie should exist is bigoted.

The third objection is that it is unfair to same-sex couples to tie marriage to procreation, as the traditional conception of marriage does. Harm, if any, to the feelings of same-sex couples is unintentional: Marriage, and its tie to procreation, did not arise as a way of slighting them. (In the tradition we are defending, the conviction that marriage is the union of a man and a woman is logically prior to any judgment about the morality of homosexual relationships.)

And does marriage really need to be redefined? The legal "benefits" of marriage - such as the right to pay extra taxes, and to go through a legal process to sever the relationship? - are overstated. Almost all the benefits that the law still grants could easily be extended to unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, without redefining marriage. The campaign for same-sex marriage is primarily motivated by one specific benefit: the symbolic statement by the government that committed same-sex relationships are equivalent to marriages. But with respect to the purposes of marriages, they're not equivalent; and so this psychic benefit cannot be granted without telling a lie about what marriage is and why a society and legal system should recognize and support it.

Same-sex marriage is often likened to interracial marriage, which the law once proscribed. But the reason governments refused to recognize (and even criminalized) interracial marriages was not that they did not believe that such marriages were possible; it is that they wanted to discourage them from happening, in the interests of white supremacy. Sexual complementarity is a legitimate condition of marriage because of the institution's orientation toward children; racial homogeneity has nothing to do with that orientation. Laws against interracial marriage thus violated the right to form an actual marriage in a way that laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman do not violate it. The argument about what the equal rights of all citizens entail for marriage laws turns, in other words, on what marriage is. If marriage just is by its nature oriented toward procreation, the refusal to redefine it to accommodate same-sex partners unjustly discriminates against them no more than the military does against the flat-footed.

Same-sex marriage would introduce a new, less justifiable distinction into the law. This new version of marriage would exclude pairs of people who qualify for it in every way except for their lack of a sexual relationship. Elderly brothers who take care of each other; two friends who share a house and bills and even help raise a child after one loses a spouse: Why shouldn't their relationships, too, be recognized by the government? The traditional conception of marriage holds that however valuable those relationships may be, the fact that they are not oriented toward procreation makes them non-marital. (Note that this is true even if those relationships involve caring for children: We do not treat a grandmother and widowed daughter raising a child together as married because their relationship is not part of an institution oriented toward procreation.) On what possible basis can the revisionists' conception of marriage justify discriminating against couples simply because they do not have sex?

How, for that matter, can it justify discriminating against groups of more than two involved in overlapping sexual relationships? The argument that same-sex marriage cannot be justified without also, in principle, justifying polygamy and polyamory infuriates many advocates of the former. There is, however, no good answer to the charge; and the arguments and especially the rhetoric of same-sex marriage proponents clearly apply with equal force to polygamy and polyamory. How does it affect your marriage if two women decide to wed? goes the question from same-sex marriage advocates; you don't have to enter a same-sex union yourself. They might just as accurately be told that they would still be free to have two-person marriages if other people wed in groups.

We cannot say with any confidence that legal recognition of same-sex marriage would cause infidelity or illegitimacy to increase; we can say that it would make the countervailing norms, and the public policy of marriage itself, incoherent. The symbolic message of inclusion for same-sex couples - in an institution that makes no sense for them - would be coupled with another message: that marriage is about the desires of adults rather than the interests of children.

It may be that the conventional wisdom is correct, and legal recognition of same-sex marriage really is our inevitable future. Perhaps it will even become an unquestioned policy and all who resisted it will be universally seen as bigots. We doubt it, but cannot exclude the possibility. If our understanding of marriage changes in this way, so much the worse for the future.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How Are You Trying to Justify Yourself?

It breaks my heart sometimes to hear people talk about certain behaviors they're defending and use the Bible as a means to justify that behavior. For example, when Christians make the claim that homosexuality is wrong, other people in our culture, and even in the church, use examples in the Old Testament to justify why they believe homosexuality is okay. One way they do this is to take Scripture and adapt it to their interpretation to justify it. is one of those organizations. These are quite intelligent people who will debate you and will have an extensive knowledge of the Bible.

The purpose here is not to get into a debate on that particular subject though. Besides, I've written on this previously. But may I briefly direct your attention to another blogger, Lloyd, at Solid Rock or Sinking Sand? He replied to someone who had a comment on one of his posts regarding same-sex marriage and I think he did a great job in his rebuttal. In this comment, this person showed great disdain for Christians that are taking a stand for Biblical principles. Lloyd did a terrific job at expounding on Scripture in replying to this attack on his faith and in an attitude of love.

But I digress. Back to my original point. Some people are able to take the Word of God and twist its meaning to fit their purposes. This is nothing new, of course, as Satan did that very thing in enticing Eve and causing Adam and Eve to sin against God.

In the New Testament, Jesus even scolded the Pharisees for taking the commands of God out of context to make them feel superior. Of course, the Pharisees understood Scripture well enough. They would be considered the foremost authority due to their extensive knowledge and study of the Pentateuch. But they lacked heart knowledge. This can only come from the Holy Spirit as God reveals His Truth. Jesus told them at one point, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matthew 23:23)

The problem only seemed to get worse over time. By the time the church was established, Paul and the other Christian leaders were having to combat false teaching left and right. Even today, we need to be on guard because destructive teaching seems prevalent in our culture. Let's look at 2 Peter 2:1-3 for context in this area:

False Teachers and Their Destruction
1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

So, as you can see, we need to be able to discern truth. 1 John 4:1-6 is an excellent passage to gain a Biblical understanding on truth and discernment. An excellent commentary on this passage can also be found at for further reading on this subject.

Courtesy of WordPress
The Truth, however, has always been under attack. Paul certainly experienced this in his missionary journeys when the Pharisees insisted on the necessity of circumcision as a means to salvation, or to be right with God. Indeed, this insistence to be circumcised carried out through various places in the Roman Empire. In Paul's letter to the Roman church, the epistle known as Romans in the Bible, Paul made some careful observations in this regard.

Paul was concerned about how works in general was being misunderstood as a means toward salvation. He wanted to make it abundantly clear that no amount of works was going to help any man be right with God. (See my previous post on this topic.) In an effort to expand on this, Paul pointed to the one man that all Jews could associate with...Abraham. In fact, the Jews held Abraham in high esteem. They considered their heritage as the "chosen people" directly related to Abraham, and as such, they found great pride in being part of that lineage. So Paul uses Abraham to bring his point across.

In Romans 4, Paul begins to talk about Abraham. Paul makes the case that Abraham, though he was perhaps a good man, was not justified before God because of anything he did. He clearly says that because "Abraham believed was credited to him as righteousness."

Paul then goes into an explanation of why it's only because of faith, not works, that justified Abraham before God. He referenced Psalm 32:1-2 when David made the assertion that "Blessed are they
whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." Paul explained that David was confirming the very thing he was saying, that it's the "blessedness to whom God credits righteousness apart from works."

Now Paul moves into the subject of circumcision. As part of his exhortation about works, Paul cleverly ties in circumcision as one of those areas considered that can not make them right before God. This was a blow to the Pharisees and other Jews who believed that circumcision was one of the ways that distinguished them apart from other people. In fact, the belief was that just as Abraham was justified before God out of circumcision, they would be too. That, and they were of the lineage of Abraham. But what they were basing this justification on was on a particular work that came from man.

This belief was so strong in that culture, it was difficult for the early church to keep the doctrine of justification by faith separate from the work of circumcision. Look at Acts 15:1-5 and you'll see what I mean:

Acts 15:1-5
1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

The fact that the Pharisees were trying to manipulate the church and its followers into believing circumcision had merit in the course of salvation was no small thing. The Pharisees were concerned about their position within the Jewish community. If the Christian church was allowed to continue on its course of integrating Gentiles and teaching that salvation was by faith and not by the law, the law that was entrusted to them as prominent leaders, then they would lose control...and power.

According to, " If Gentiles could enter the church without following Jewish laws, the church would attract more Gentiles, and eventually Gentiles would be the majority. The church would no longer be a branch of Judaism, but a distinct faith." They summarize their point by stating, "Some men said that Gentiles should be circumcised and obey the laws of Moses or else they could not be saved. Not so, said the apostles. Gentiles are saved by grace and faith. God is pleased to dwell in people who aren’t circumcised and who don’t keep the rituals. But since Moses is widely preached, we need to give a decree that clearly distinguishes the Christian faith from the Law of Moses."

What is at stake here is clear Biblical teaching. If the Pharisees had their way, the Gentiles too would be given a burden as Peter said in Acts 15:10, "why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" No, clearly Peter and the disciples recognized that it wasn't by any act of man, such as circumcision, that was going to bring Jews and Gentiles alike to salvation. Rather, it was by grace as Peter pointed out in Acts 15:11, "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

In that same context, Paul explains to the Romans in his letter that the blessedness he mentioned was not only for the circumcised, but also for the uncircumcised...meaning Jews and Gentiles alike. And to bring his point home Paul asks, "Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before?" (Romans 4:9-10) Here is Paul's reply:

Romans 4:10b-15 (emphasis mine)
10b It was not after, but before! 11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

13It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

There are many things we could take from this today. My hope is that God uses any part of it to touch your heart. But, let's be sure that what you believe to be from God is truly from God. Don't believe for a second that there is anything you can do, in and of yourself, to justify yourself before God. Don't be like the Pharisees that believed circumcision had the power to save. It's all about Jesus and what He did for us on the cross. To believe in anything or anyone other than Christ would be in vain. God bless!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Earning Your Way to Salvation?

Image: anankkml /

Good Enough?

How "good" are you? Do you consider yourself a generally good person? You probably do. And most people would likely agree with you.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate how good you are? Like me, you know you're not perfect, so you probably wouldn't say 10. Even rating yourself a 9 might seem like a stretch if you think about some people who have gone before you like Mother Theresa or Billy Graham. 8? Maybe. But 7 seems more realistic, doesn't it? In our own minds, we generally have a positive view of ourselves, right?

But wait! Don't you remember that lie you told your mom or dad when you came home late as a teenager? How about that white lie? Sure, you said that because you were trying to spare someone feelings, but isn't that still lying? Or how about the pen you took from work without permission? Isn't that stealing? Certainly you don't use the copier at work for personal use without first paying for it. What about speeding? Do you ALWAYS drive the speed limit, no matter what? (That 5 mile an hour over the limit doesn't count...that's still speeding.)

Now how good are you? Maybe you'd be pressed to say you're good half the time. Maybe.

But the question has to be, "By who's standard?" If we judge ourselves by each other, aren't we likely going to think pretty highly of ourselves? You're not a murderer, right? You probably don't consider yourself a thief either. However, maybe you've taken an item from a store by accident and didn't pay for it. Didn't even realize it until you got home. That's not stealing, is it? Umm...yes. Yes it is.

Okay, these are minor infractions. At least you're not Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Adolph Hitler, or some terrorist nut-job. Now those people...

Now wait a minute. Let's think about this for a second. Does it seem realistic that God would judge whether He will redeem us based on some kind of grading scale? Or does it seem more likely that God's standards might just be a little bit more than that?

The problem with us is that we always want to quantify stuff. We think everything is measurable. Even whether or not we're good enough to get to heaven. Is it just me, or does this sound vaguely familiar? Anybody? How about Santa Claus? He's gonna find out who's been naughty or nice!

Hopefully that is not our perception of God. The reality is that God is a HOLY God! Holy means to be set apart. But for God, it's more than that. God is perfect. As such, His standards are perfect. Consider these words spoken in a prayer by Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:

1 And Hannah prayed and said:

“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
My horn is exalted in the LORD.
I smile at my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.

2 “No one is holy like the LORD,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.

3 “Talk no more so very proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the LORD is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed.

4 “The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And those who stumbled are girded with strength.

5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
And the hungry have ceased to hunger.
Even the barren has borne seven,
And she who has many children has become feeble.

6 “The LORD kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.

7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.

8 He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.

“For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
And He has set the world upon them.

9 He will guard the feet of His saints,
But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.

“For by strength no man shall prevail.

10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces;
From heaven He will thunder against them.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to His king,
And exalt the horn of His anointed.”

Pretty powerful words. But they still fail to describe God completely. God is indescribable. The point is is that we can't measure up to God's standards by how good we are. Romans 3:9b-18 tells us that, "...9b both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. 10 As it is written:

“ There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”

13 “ Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“ The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “ Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “ Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “ There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Do you see that? In verse 12? There is none who does good, no, not one. A very sad commentary on the state of man. Do we really think we can measure up? And make no mistake, these verses don't just tell us that we can't be good enough, they do more than that. Scripture tells us that for the unregenerated heart, man is the enemy of God. Two verses stick out that tell us about who the Christian once was before God saved him:

Romans 5:10
"For if, when we were God's enemies..."

Colossians 1:21
 "...and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior."

So, as you can surmise, God is opposed to the wickedness of man. What's the end result? Death. Not the kind of death you might be thinking of. Everyone is appointed to die once. No, what I'm talking about is a second death. Romans 6:23 says that, "...the wages of sin is death..." A lot can be said of this subject, but let's just say that it's not a good thing. Ultimately, it's the worst thing that could happen, a complete separation from God and your Creator. That's a spiritual death.

The topic here is whether or not we can ever be good enough to measure up to God's standards. Remember, His standards are not on the same level as ours:

Isaiah 55:9
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Now the question is, what hope do we have? If we're trying to measure up by man's standards, NONE. No hope. But God has an alternative plan. God did for us what we couldn't do ourselves. By sending His Son, Jesus, through the virgin birth to come in the form of flesh and live among us as a man, God circumvented man's sin nature. How that works, exactly, is complicated but Jesus bypassed the sin nature that ran through Adam by not being born of the seed of man, but by the Holy Spirit.

And the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life, He met the standard of righteousness required by God. And then in the process of dying on the cross, Jesus exchanged our sin for His righteousness!

2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 2:24
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Jesus, then, is the answer. Jesus was the One good enough to meet God's perfect standards and Jesus is the One, through His righteousness, that justified us before God! Look at the following passage that sheds more light on this subject:

Romans 3:21-31

Righteousness Through Faith 
21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

So, you see, "a righteousness from God - the righteousness of Jesus" has been made known that justifies us before God. It's not about us obeying the law, or being good enough. This is clearly saying that it wasn't, rather that it was apart from obeying the law (or observing it). Now look at this text:

Romans 4:4-8
4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

The point that Paul is making here is that by working to gain our salvation, the only thing that we'll gain from it is what we deserve. Since wages are paid to the worker, the just payment (Romans 6:23) for works (toward salvation) is duly the very thing deserved.  Consider these two verses if you have any doubt as to whether works has any merit.

James 2:10 
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

1 John 1:8
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

Paul reiterates the point that it's faith, not works, that is credited as righteousness. But not just faith in anything or anyone, but faith in Jesus Christ who justifies us before God. The only thing...the only One...that can justify us before God is faith in Jesus, "faith in His blood" that atoned for our sin.
My charge to you is, if you're sitting there wondering if you can ever be good enough, you can't. There is only One who has ever been good enough, and that was Jesus. The good news is that if you put your faith in Him, that Jesus would be the One to make you right with God, you can have assurance that you too can be saved. Are you ready to accept His gift?

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.