Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Insufficient Salvation of Catholicism, Part IV

Here is another response to John O’Brien’s expression of the Catholic doctrine of the priesthood:

When the priest announces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim.

Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary. While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of man, not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest’s command.

Of what sublime dignity is the office of the Christian priest who is thus privileged to act as the ambassador and the vice-gerent of Christ on earth! He continues the essential ministry of Christ: he teaches the faithful with the authority of Christ, he pardons the penitent sinner with the power of Christ, he offers up again the same sacrifice of adoration and atonement which Christ offered on Calvary. No wonder that the name which spiritual writers are especially fond of applying to the priest is that of alter Christus. For the priest is and should be another Christ.
(John O’Brien, The Faith of Millions, 255-256)

Today I would like to highlight the following phrase:

No wonder that the name which spiritual writers are especially fond of applying to the priest is that of alter Christus. For the priest is and should be another Christ.

“Another Christ.” Let there be no doubt about Catholic teaching on this point: the priest, by virtue of the fact that he “continues the essential ministry of Christ,” “pardons the penitent sinner with the power of Christ,” “offers up again the same sacrifice of adoration and atonement” as Christ, is to be regarded in his sacramental office as “another Christ.”

Don’t miss this. O’Brien is not just describing the office of priest; he is glorifying it. He starts the last paragraph gushing about the “sublime dignity” of the office; he marvels at the “power” of the priest, which he describes as greater than saints, angels, cherubim, seraphim, and even (from a Catholic, no less!!) the Virgin Mary; and he closes by calling the priest “another Christ.”

I’m not so dense as to conclude that Catholic theology is teaching that the priest’s office and work are the same as that of Jesus. But given O’Brien’s words above, it is impossible to deny that he is giving the priest “glory,” the very glory that Christ has earned for his work, and that the priest then deserves said glory because of his assistance and participation in the work of redemption and salvation.

The Bible, on the other hand, says:

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another
. (Isaiah 48:11)

In verse 9, just before, he explains that he is withholding judgment for the sake of his praise, so that his glory might not be diminished by his having to destroy his own people. Why is this important? God here declares that he is jealous of his own glory. He will not give it to another. He will not see it diminished or shared. It belongs to him alone, and his very administration of justice in the universe takes his glory as its reference point.

God’s glory is most precious to him, and it is his alone. This is why we worship only one God, not a pantheon, not other men, not nature – only God.

So it is amazing to see the New Testament describe Christ in this way:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Jesus receives the glory and adoration of all men, every knee in heaven, on earth, and under the earth – spiritual and physical, living and dead. They all acknowledge Him as Lord, and so they should. As the New Testament teaches, he is God incarnate. And it is because of that fact, and that fact alone, that God the Father can share glory with Christ. Since that glory for Christ is worthy because of Jesus’ divinity, that glory redounds to the Father as well, who is God.

Christians have always confessed that Jesus had to be God in order to complete the work of redemption. One of the reasons why, however, is because God will not share his glory with another. Salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9), and to no one else. Again, on this point, as in other areas, Catholic theology diminishes the deity of Christ.

No mere man deserves the praise O’Brien gives. No human office can bear the weight of that glory, nor should it. O’Brien robs God of what is exclusively his, according to Scripture, and gives it to men. This is the very essence of unbelief and rebellion against God.

- Jeff Jones

(Cross-posted from Cutting It Straight)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Insufficient Salvation of Catholicism, Part III

At long last, we resume! Here is our third installment on the Catholic concept of the priesthood as expressed by John O’Brien:

When the priest announces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim.

Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary. While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of man, not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest's command.

Of what sublime dignity is the office of the Christian priest who is thus privileged to act as the ambassador and the vice-gerent of Christ on earth! He continues the essential ministry of Christ: he teaches the faithful with the authority of Christ, he pardons the penitent sinner with the power of Christ, he offers up again the same sacrifice of adoration and atonement which Christ offered on Calvary. No wonder that the name which spiritual writers are especially fond of applying to the priest is that of alter Christus. For the priest is and should be another Christ.
(John O'Brien, The Faith of Millions, 255-256)

Today I would like to highlight the following phrase:

Of what sublime dignity is the office of the Christian priest who is thus privileged to act as the ambassador and the vice-gerent of Christ on earth! He continues the essential ministry of Christ: he teaches the faithful with the authority of Christ, he pardons the penitent sinner with the power of Christ

Let’s tease out the implications of this statement. By way of contrast, as usual, we go to the Bible, this time in Mark 2:1-12:

1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Rather than healing the paralytic right away, Jesus forgives his sins. What you need to notice is the indignant reaction of the scribes in verse 7: “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?

The Jews understood the true implications of Jesus’ words. By claiming the authority to forgive sins, he was claiming a divine prerogative. In other words, as the scribes implied in their indignation, no one can forgive sins but God alone. The healing that follows, then, has a point and purpose – to establish the legitimacy of Jesus’ claim to be able to forgive sins, and in so doing to authenticate his own divinity.

So the New Testament teaches that only God can forgive sins, and this is proper. After all, every sin is ultimately a personal affront to God. Every sin, whether it has a human victim or not, is a rejection of God’s rightful authority and holiness. Therefore, while a human being can forgive that aspect of a sin that offends him, he cannot absolve the sin entirely because God is also offended and alone has the power to forgive it completely.

Catholic theology denies this by delegating the authority to forgive sins to a human priest. There is no denying the force or implications of O’Brien’s statement: “he (that is, the priest) pardons the penitent sinner with the power of Christ”; after all, the priest is the object of the verb pardons. The priest is doing the pardoning, not God. He does so “by the power of Christ,” yes, but that merely reduces Christ to being an instrument. It does not change the essential nature of the act: it is the priest who acts, not Christ; the priest who decides in the individual case, not Christ; the priest who dispenses (or withholds), not Christ; and so, as is evident from O’Brien’s effusive praise, it is the priest who receives the glory, not Christ. (More on that in a later post).

The bottom line here is that Catholic sacramental theology takes a power that belongs to God alone and gives it to a mere, sinful man – along with all the glory that comes with it. In the process, it denies the uniqueness of Christ and diminishes his deity. A human being who claims to have the power to forgive sins, as the Jews rightly objected, blasphemes our Holy God. And so does the Roman Catholic Church.

(Cross-posted from Cutting It Straight)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Slapping Stupidity Between Two Covers

“Needless to say, The Power is a bad book. A really bad book. It’s so utterly stupid, so unbelievably vapid, that it boggles my mind that anyone could read it and believe it. If you could package foolishness, if you could slap stupidity between two covers, you’d end up with The Power. Read it if you must, but as you do it, you’d better generate some good feelings toward brain cells; you’ll need to attract a few to yourself if you’re to replace all the ones that are sure to die as you give hours of your life to all of this drivel.”

Challies: Book Review - The Power

If you didn’t know:

The Power is the just-released 2010 follow-up [to The Secret] and one that immediately raced to the top of the New York Times list of bestsellers. The problems with the book are too many to catalog in a short review. It is almost mind-boggling how much unsubstantiated and blatantly contradictory nonsense Byrne manages to pack into just 250 pages, many of which contain little more than pictures and out-of-context quotes (from people as diverse as Gandhi and Jesus, Albert Einstein and Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

Oh, and while we’re on that note, the law of attraction just might not be all it’s cracked up to be. The Secret of Rhonda’s Success

Who knew!

Monday, August 30, 2010

When one can’t actually argue for his position…

… he’ll resort to hypocritical ad hominem attacks. I recently encountered this myself, for actually saying what the Scriptures say, with the authority that the Scriptures say it, consistent with the history of the Christian faith. Those with whom I tried to reason actually tried to define me out of Christianity, presuming that they could invent the religion on their own terms, instead of submitting to the revelation of God in Christ. Indeed, I was actually blocked by two individuals on Facebook – though I never sent them personal messages, and only interacted with their comments in a comment thread in which they volunteered to write. I suppose that is the proverbial shove off the digital cliff… what a day we live in!

Anyway, I mention this because Steve Hays at Triablogue addresses (in his post Brotherly Love) the same sort of personal attack against the T-bloggers, which reads:

To the author of this blog: Wow. Is this what your brand of Christianity teaches you? It is hard to find as many bigoted and intolerant people in the world. Shame to see someone who supposedly calls himself "Christian" going off like you have. It is people like you who give Christians a bad reputation with so many people. I saw the Glenn Beck speech and I thought it was inspiring and his words sincere. Did you see it? Or were you too wrapped up in your own self righteous condemnation of everyone who doesn't follow the exact same tenants as you? If God sends a man like Glenn Beck to hell, then he is not a God of love or a just God, just a spiteful and cruel one. What we need is more brotherly love and unity in finding what unites us, not the kind of acrimony and un-Christian hatred that you displayed in your posting. I know that Mormonism features many tenants that are different from Baptist teachings, but if you look at the heart of what Mormon people feel and believe about Jesus Christ and living the gospel of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", they are essentially the same as those of other people who read and understand the words of Jesus.

Hays responds, in part:

i) Folks who can’t argue for their position fall back on first-shaking adjectives like “hatred,” “intolerance,” and “bigotry.” That tactic won’t work here.

ii) Whether or not Beck is sincere is irrelevant. Sincerity and veracity can lead separate lives, and often do.

iii) The commenter is typically blind to his own intolerance. He’s only tolerant of those who see things his way.

iv) The fact that he’d say God is spiteful and cruel for sending Beck to hell is a good illustration of folks who judge by tone and appearance rather than reality.

v) I’m all for brotherly love. But Beck is not my brother. He’s a lost soul. And he’s recruiting others to his false gospel.

viii) ”Do unto others” is not a slogan you can uproot from its Biblical soil and transplant wherever you please. For instance, mob families also live by the golden rule: you kill my boy and I’ll kill yours.

I cite this because the comment to which Hays responds is yet another example of the typical response of the modern pluralist, who proclaims tolerance, yet seethes hatred; who proclaims love, yet pours out insults; who decries exclusive claims, yet in a rather exclusive act condemns those who don’t agree with him.

In the words of Doug Wilson, idolaters are blind.

Make no mistake: one of the dangers facing evangelists is that they may be tempted to fail to communicate to a convert the cost of discipleship. Jesus spared no words. He said that allegiance to Him could get you killed. Thrown off a cliff, as it were. These words are seared into my mind – a servant is not better than his master. That is, since the world hated Jesus, they will hate His followers.

The corollary to the mistake of the evangelist, who fails to tell the convert to count the cost, is the mistake of the convert, who actually fails to count the cost.

If you are faithful to the Gospel, to Jesus, to the word of the cross, you will be personally attacked, you will be called wretched names, you will be called crazy, you will be socially ostracized. Many of those who claim to be tolerant and open-minded will gnash their teeth at you. They will despise you and avoid you. They will charge you with being unloving, despite your desire to see them saved from damnation, while they pour hatred upon you. The ‘open-minded’ of the day will ignore your messages. They will sever contact with you.

And that’s because many are only open-minded insofar as there is no claim made upon them. They are only tolerant insofar as others share that tolerance. And they are only loving insofar as that love rejoices in wrongdoing, and hates the truth.

Thankfully the word of God accomplishes all of His purpose. Because otherwise we would have absolutely no hope.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Careful that love for love does not turn into murderous intent

Here is an excerpt from a discussion in which I’ve participated, part of which I blogged about here. Read that post first. I’m also discussing these issues at a depth afforded by a written forum. Again, I emphasize that in a normal conversation, one might need to stay a bit closer to the surface. Note that I have removed any names from the discussion, though the discussion is public.

I personally cannot think of a better reason not to seek the love and beauty of Christianity than by reading your responses here. You preach as though you're understanding is absolute. You rant on without have the slightest clue who you're preaching to.

The God I love is love itself. She is compassion, beauty, hope and most of all, love. He does not condemn me, sentence me, punish me, but instead, eternally loves me and holds me close in my time of need. The God I know is not in a bible where only one absolute truth can be gleaned.

I know of no braver and stronger individual than my friend... She is a reflection of God in action and her place in God's love is secure.

I wish you the best... The scripture from Matthew is beautiful.

My interlocutor wrote:

"I personally cannot think of a better reason not to seek the love and beauty of Christianity than by reading your responses here."

Which merely demonstrates that you just do not like God as He has revealed Himself. You like a god on your terms - a god of your own making. And this is turn confirms that my understanding of who I am speaking to is quite accurate: You don't like God, like everyone apart from God's sovereign saving work. Like me before someone told me the life-saving and pride-obliterating truth which I'm retelling to you, which I only accepted because for some reason God decided to open my cold, wicked heart to the truth.

Moreover, I surely wouldn't agree with your understanding of the 'love and beauty of Christianity', which apparently has little to do with the Christianity that Christ established. So I don't think it's a bad thing that MY responses cause people not to seek YOUR version of 'Christianity'. If they did, God help me.
"The God I know is not in a bible where only one absolute truth can be gleaned."
Then we agree that you just don't like Jesus. Which is what Christians expect of people apart from the grace of God.

As for speaking in absolutes, that's the thing about revelation. It provides an epistemological foundation upon which one can know the truth about reality.
Here are the absolute statements that you made in your reply alone.

"The God I love is love itself.”

"You rant on without have the slightest clue who you're preaching to."

"her place in God's love is secure."

I could go on. You preach as though your understanding is absolute.
The problem is that by denying God's self-revelation in the Scriptures, which you do here - "The God I know is not in a bible where only one absolute truth can be gleaned" - means that you reject any foundation upon which you could consistently make such absolute statements. I make absolute statements because they are grounded in God's self-revelation. You are simply saying things that you have made up. Why should I believe them? And why would you presume to challenge me for making an absolute statement when your condemnation of me is piled with absolutes? That seems a bit hypocritical. On what ground do you suppose that what you have said is more than just your opinion? My intuition tells me that you're wrong. Why do you claim that your intuition is absolute truth and mine isn't? And if you don't intend to make this claim, then you admit that what you say isn't binding on me, or anyone else. So why did you say it?

Another observation:

"I personally cannot think of a better reason not to seek the love and beauty of Christianity than by reading your responses here. You preach as though you're understanding is absolute."

This is an interesting statement. Apparently the goal is to get people to seek the 'love and beauty of Christianity'. Yet, speaking with absolutes doesn't do this. But making an absolute claim is really the only way to communicate the 'love and beauty of Christianity'. Otherwise, you're can't say it's true at all. So the only way to communicate the love and beauty of Christianity is to say that the love and beauty of Christianity may not really exist - 'I don't really know, it just feels good!'.

Unless, of course, the thought is that you should only say those things about Christianity which are nice to hear. But that's hardly credible, for Christianity, from both a redemptive historical and a systematic point of view cannot be carved into hermetically sealed chunks.

Not to mention such a perspective puts one into the category of those who tried to throw Jesus over a cliff in Luke 4. 'Love for love' can quickly turn into murderous intent.

Luke 4:21-29
21 And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" 23 And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself.' What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well." 24 And he said, "Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.

Notice that others want me to speak nice, kind, gracious words, according to their terms. That's what those in Jesus' hometown wanted. "22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth." That's a tempting thing, the applause of men. But Jesus goes on to say some things that they just don't like to hear, such as God's refusal to assist starving widows in Israel, while he fed a Sidonian! So what do they do to Jesus? They quickly become enraged. The 'love and beauty of Christianity' does not come on their terms, so, "When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff."

All in the family

One of the consequences of liberalism, modernism, and post-modernism has been the rise of religious pluralism even in the churches. Here is a recent conversation in which I participated, which serves as a tragic illustration of the sort of ‘lostness’ endemic among us. I hope my analysis might prove helpful to others. Obviously in a written forum one can go into more detail; I would suggest distilling this significantly in conversation. Stick to basic exegesis of the text of Scripture, and keep the main point in view. This conversation shows some of the contemporary difficulties evangelists face in presenting the truth claims of the Gospel.

I wonder...you have so much to say about scripture....and the Christian Faith...sometimes knowing ABOUT God is much different than knowing God....love is ALWAYS a subjective experience....one of the heart...not singularly the intellect..."

Regarding your comment on knowing about God versus knowing God: This seems to be operating on the odd presupposition that the more someone knows about God, the less he probably actually knows or has relationship with God. I mean, you haven't seen whether I live in accord with my profession. You just simply assume that I probably lack relational knowledge of God - but on what ground? Because I know things about the Scriptures, and I'm willing to say them whether people take offense or not? That's the implication of what you're saying. So the more I know about what God has said, the less I probably know God. How does that thinking make sense? The Psalmist treasures God's word in his heart, and Jesus said that it is those who abide in His word who are truly his disciples (John 8:31). His sheep know His voice, and they follow Him (John 10). The list goes on. In Scripture, knowing what God's word says is not a bad thing. It's absurd to think that you can know someone without knowing something about him. And to the degree that you don't know about a person, that will hinder your ability to know him. Cognitive knowledge isn't sufficient, to be sure, but it is necessary. The question becomes whether my life is consistent with my profession - does my life show that I am born again? - and to know whether someone's actions are consistent with his profession, you'd have to see how he lives. Without a solid profession, one isn't a Christian. But with a solid profession, it becomes a matter of fruit-bearing. And unless you can rightly assess fruitfulness, your artificial dichotomy has no support. It may feel good to frame things this way, but it's self-deceptive to belittle knowing about God. It may give you an out, but beware of being hoodwinked. Those who love God want to learn as much as they possibly can about who He is as He has revealed Himself. They want to know what God says about Himself. For example, "Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them." (Ps. 111:2) Apparently you aren't really considering whether this could be my motive. And don't misunderstand - I'm not saying this in defence of myself. I am saying it because it has bearing on your revelation-diminishing perspective.

Keep in mind that even if I am a raging hypocrite, that's MY problem, not YOUR excuse. If what I say is true, irrespective of my own personal state, you have to submit to it, not because it's from me, but because it is the truth. No one will hide behind another's hypocrisy on judgment day.

"Like I said...I used to believe in the exclusivity of Christ...I just have a hard time believing that at this point...I also need to trust that God loves me in my frail faith and is not going to keep me on the wrong side of His gates because I struggle with this...that would be like a parent kicking their teen out because they asked questions...problem's not with the teen for asking questions...but with the parent..for not loving unconditionally.."

I can't say whether Jesus is his only revelation...I used to say that...but just can't anymore...having been so trashed by those who say they are the only one's who have a line to the true Father through Christ.....

Second, and I say this because (1) most people won't; and (2) I fear for you. I don't think you know how profoundly rebellious this comment really is: "Like I said...I used to believe in the exclusivity of Christ...I just have a hard time believing that at this point...I also need to trust that God loves me in my frail faith and is not going to keep me on the wrong side of His gates because I struggle with this...that would be like a parent kicking their teen out because they asked questions...problem's not with the teen for asking questions...but with the parent..for not loving unconditionally.."

You're simply presuming that you have a familial relationship with God. Yet God has made adoption into His family conditioned upon relationship with Christ alone (John 1:12-13). It's those who receive Jesus who have the right to become children of God. You can't presume on the familial relation with God if you do not have the legal problem rectified first - and our legal problem is dealt with at the cross and applied by truly believing in Jesus, by believing in His substitutionary death and resurrection, and by God counting us as righteous through faith. But when you deny that Jesus is the exclusive way, you're showing that you do not believe Him and His work. If you did, you would see that it is necessary for salvation. So you do not have the right to presume on a familial relationship with God. I don't like having to say this, but you're in grave danger here.

You have great reason to question whether you've received Jesus, because you explicitly disbelieve what He says. Your metaphor pictures an inquisitive teen. Putting aside the presumption that you're in God's family, the reality is that you're not wondering HOW something works; you're denying something, namely, that Christ is the exclusive way to salvation, precisely because you understand what this means - that everyone who doesn't believe stands condemned. It's not that you don't get that or understand it, it's that you don't like it. This isn't merely inquisitive. It's rebellious. God is Father of His children, but He is also King, Judge, Creator. Those who are not counted righteous in Christ are enemies of God.

If you knew God, you would never even think of impugning God's character by saying, "the problem is with the parent for not loving unconditionally". You define love the way you want it, and then you condemn God if He doesn't match up to your standard. That's the epitome of the clay talking back to the Potter. You turn things upside down. That's rebellion. For if you loved God, you would bow the knee, no matter how He chooses to express His love.

Please, consider what you're saying. You are defining God the way you want Him, and rejecting the parts you don't like. That's by definition idolatry. A rejection of God.

Jesus spoke to some people who apparently believed in Him, but they didn't like everything that He had to say. Jesus wasn't fooled  (John 8:31-33). He tells them: "But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”" If you do not believe what Jesus said about Him being the exclusive way to the Father, Jesus Himself says that you are actually not of God. That's what these Jews here were doing - they were assuming that they would be ok without Jesus, while denying that Jesus was the only way: "31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”" They were, like you, presuming that they were in God's family.

Jesus says that to reject God's word, to reject Jesus' words, means you're of the devil. It means that your father isn't God, it's Satan. "Because I tell the truth, you do not believe me." That's Jesus speaking. Not me. I didn't make this up. Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him." You need to be in God's family on His terms - otherwise, you're in a very different family

Can you bear to hear God's word? Check yourself at this point, because it doesn't look like you can. Jesus says that your perspective puts you in grave danger: "But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me." These Jews He spoke to here presumed that they were in God's family just because they were Jews. But Jesus defines God's family as those who believe what Jesus says and abide in His word. And sadly that just isn't where you stand. And you would even blame God for not receiving you! I'm not saying this to hurt you, but to call you to repent and believe Jesus for your sake. Jesus extends an offer of mercy. You need to embrace it. But you need to embrace it on God's terms, not your own. It's not a plea bargain or a conditional surrender. You need to bow the knee, put your hand over your mouth, listen to Jesus, and wholeheartedly trust Him.

"Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."

"well, then, I guess I am in rebellion...
I'm wondering if you work...
Thanks for taking the time to try to save my soul.
I have been a "good girl' all my life, and tried so hard to follow the Christian way.
I'm just tired now,
and God knows....

and if I am not of God...well...I've done my best in my life to be of Him...
now...
well...we'll see."

“28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30).

As an addendum, it would seem that my interlocutor doesn’t actually understand Christianity, that being found to be pleasing to God does not involve working for God, but receiving from God. Also, being “of God”, in a Johannine context, basically refers to being born again from above. “I’ve done my best in my life to be of Him” seems to misunderstand at a fundamental level how one becomes of God – and it is not by doing and trying:

John 3:5-8  
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."

Even though the offer of salvation is a free gift, people do not by nature want to receive it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Religion of Peace

Awww.... that's so cute!

The 17-year-old winner of a Qur'an recital and general knowledge competition organised by al Shabaab rebels in Southern Somalia got an AK-47 gun, two hand grenades, a computer and an anti-tank mine as prizes.

The runner-up in the month-long competition aimed at 10-25 year olds, a 22-year-old, received an AK-47 and ammunition at the ceremony, where the rebels urged parents to allow children to learn how to handle weapons and fight against the enemy.


You just can't make this stuff up!

Bottom line - compare this with the words of Jesus Christ:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36)

Therefore, as the Apostle Paul put it:

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

Our weapon is the "Sword of the Spirit," which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Our weapon saves people.

(Cross-posted from Cutting It Straight)