Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Tree Of The Knowledge Of Good And Evil – Oh What A Blessing!

            Lost in the abundance of good news in the Bible is one least mentioned yet significant detail – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the forbidden tree).

            This is a familiar narrative. God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat from this tree. But they succumbed to the temptation of the devil, disobeyed God, and ate from the forbidden tree.

The Cross & the Forbidden Tree

            Interestingly, there are at least a couple of similarities between the forbidden tree and the Cross of Calvary.

            First, death was a common element in both the forbidden tree and the Cross of Calvary. The forbidden tree was a means to bring about death upon mankind. The Cross was a means to defeat death.

            Second, Satan was made to be a fool through the forbidden tree and the Cross of Calvary. Satan thought that by killing Jesus on the cross, he could defeat God. But we know that that was not the case. God reigned victorious over Satan through the resurrection and ascension of Christ, thereby defeating death once and for all.

            God displayed the foolishness of Satan through the forbidden tree as well.

            This tree is largely considered to be the precursor of the curse upon mankind. But by placing this tree, God, had in fact, blessed mankind. Although the forbidden tree ensured the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God in HIS infinite wisdom defeated Satan’s plan to pave way for the man to respond to God’s love and goodness.

The Necessity of the Forbidden Tree (An Intricate Part of God’s Plan of Redemption)

            God knew that Satan would assault Adam & Eve through temptation. God also knew that Adam & Eve would succumb to Satan’s temptation. So God, through the forbidden tree, paved way for the man to respond to HIM.

            Just a simple thought should suffice.

            If the cross was a means to defeat death, then death should have a point of entry into the realm of mankind. The forbidden tree provided death that point of entry into man’s domain. In other words, if the cross was a means of death’s exit (read defeat), then the forbidden tree was a means of death’s entry into man’s domain.

Why the Forbidden Tree?

            Evidently, the angelic rebellion occurred in the heavenly realms before the fall of man (disobedience of Adam and Eve). God knew that Satan would orchestrate the rebellion of mankind.

            The purpose behind the orchestration of mankind’s rebellion against God was to bring about a spiritual separation between God and man. However, the separation was not the intent behind the creation of man. God did not create man, for the man to be independent of God. God created man so that man could glorify God by being in HIS presence.

            Why did God place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

            Had this tree not existed, we could assume that Adam and Eve may not have rebelled.

            But that need not be the case.

            If Adam and Eve did not rebel or if they did not possess a chance to rebel, they may not have been able to display their obedience to God. But obedience to God can only be accentuated if there is a possibility to disobey God. Obedience would not carry much value if disobedience were impossible.

            Then again, if God had removed every possibility of mankind’s rebellion, then man could only be an automaton. This was and is not a viable environment for love to exist (love between God and man).

            On the other hand, had the tree of the knowledge of good and evil not existed, Adam and Eve may have been tempted to rebel in other ways. As long as Satan existed there was always a possibility of him tempting man to rebel against God.

            But God, it seems, made Satan’s life easy through the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The presence of this tree entailed a possibility to disobey God. Satan recognized this and promptly ushered Adam and Eve into disobedience.

            However, ultimately, God’s wisdom prevailed. Satan was made to be a fool. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil ensured this eventuality.

The Blessing of the Forbidden Tree

            God, in HIS infinite wisdom, ensured that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a blessing to mankind.

            The wisdom of God prevailed. In and through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God ensured that man had a clear path to respond to HIM (thankfully, through the redemptive sacrifice of our Lord Jesus). This was the blessing behind the presence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

            Man’s disobedience ensured that he had a clear sight of the good and the evil. In other words, through their disobedience, Adam and Eve learned three important lessons:

            1. They knew that God is good, Satan is evil, and that God would judge and punish their disobedience.

            2. They also knew that God had power over Satan and them.

            3. They knew that Satan had power over them.

            So by virtue of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God, Adam and Eve had a clear sight of (A) The good (and the most powerful) God and (B) An evil (and the less powerful) Satan.

            This clear sight allows man to respond to God’s goodness and love by being obedient to HIM through a conscious disregard of every possibility to disobey God.

            By possessing the knowledge and discernment between good and evil, Adam and Eve (read mankind) could know the difference (if only they made an effort to respond to God) between God and Satan. This knowledge is vital for man to respond to God’s love.

            This is indeed a blessing of God. 

Conclusion

            The tree of the knowledge of good and evil reveals God’s infinite wisdom.


            Albeit its very brief appearance in the creation narrative, the forbidden tree was a significant element in God’s plan of redemption. It was also a blessing to mankind because its presence offered the man a clear sight of God thereby enabling his proper and adequate response to God’s love and goodness. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Lord’s Supper – What Is The Proper Attire?

            While baptism is the initiatory rite, the Lord’s Supper is the continuing rite of the visible church. The Lord’s Supper was established by Christ for the church to practice as a commemoration of the Lord’s death (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20).

            Who participates in the Lord’s Supper? It is generally agreed that one has to be a practicing believer in order to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Anything less is a sin (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). The Lord’s Supper signifies, at least in part, a spiritual relationship between the believer and the Lord. Thus a personal relationship with God is a prerequisite for participation in the Lord’s Supper.

            The believer should also be mature enough to be able to discern the meaning of participating in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:29). Hence, it is advisable that children do not participate in the Lord’s Supper.

            What is the proper attire to participate in the Lord’s Supper? Before we consider this subject, let us recollect the most important prerequisite to participate in the Lord’s Supper. The believer’s active relationship with God is the most important prerequisite.

            While we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we are to approach the Lord ’s Supper in holy awe (our motives should be thoroughly examined), “Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28, THE MSG).

            On the other hand, if we give no thought to our participation in the Lord’s Supper, then we run the risk of facing serious consequences, “If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave.” (1 Corinthians 11: 29-30, THE MSG).

            In other words, the most important prerequisite to participate in the Lord’s Supper is spiritual in nature, and not physical. The physical aspects such as our attire, posture etc. are secondary, at most, or of no significance at all. 

            So a rich man who is impeccably clothed and a beggar with his ragged attire can both participate in the Lord’s Supper as long as their motives are appropriate. Clothes do not matter while participating in the Lord’s Supper.

            The motivating factor to blog on this topic was my friend’s question to me recently. He asked if it was appropriate to wear shoes while participating in the Holy Communion / The Lord’s Supper.

            In certain churches, the Holy Communion will be served at the altar/stage. The believers walk to the altar/stage to partake in the Holy Communion.

            In other large churches, the believers remain in their seats while participating in the Holy Communion. The elements (bread & grape juice/wine) are brought to their seats. In this situation, the believers may be wearing their shoes while participating in the Lord’s Supper from their seats. Significantly, these churches do not impose any restrictions on attire.

            The disposition of our heart is more important than our shoes or clothes. By being silent on the type of clothes or other paraphernalia that believers ought to wear or not to, the Bible offers greater importance to the hearts of the believers than their attire. The dirt in our hearts has far fetching spiritual ramifications than the dirt in our shoes.

            Does the Bible say whether you and I should not wear shoes while participating in the Lord’s Supper? No, the Bible does not!

            God commanded Moses to remove his sandals because he was standing on the holy ground (Exodus 3:5 cf. Joshua 5:15). Should this be a point of reference for believers to partake in the Lord’s Supper without their shoes?

            I do not think so!

            If you are diligent enough to not wear shoes, but if your heart is not in the right place while you partake in the Lord’s Supper, then you are sinning against the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27-31). Not wearing shoes does not provide any immunity from sinning.

            God commanded Moses to remove his sandals because God was locally manifesting HIMSELF in the place where Moses was standing. Thus that place was holy ground. 

            Today, there is no localized manifestation of God’s presence (at least not in our churches!). So it really does not matter whether we wear our shoes inside the church or while partaking in the Lord’s Supper.

            But it does matter where our heart is while we partake in the Lord’s Supper.


            Significantly, let us not be legalistic while practicing Christianity. Let not law rule our faith in Christ and fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters. May the grace of our dear Lord Jesus Christ rule our hearts and minds as we think and decide on practicing our faith. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

If Jesus Is Seated At God’s Right Hand, Are There Two Gods?

            Honest seekers, students of the Bible, and the detractors of Historic Christianity seek clarity/answer to the presence of the ascended Lord Jesus at the right hand of God. The detractors ask questions such as, “Jesus ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God. Does God sit next to himself?”1 Seekers and students of the Bible ponder over the narrative of the ascension and ask whether Historic Christianity teaches the presence of two Gods – one being, God the Father, and the other being, the ascended Lord Jesus.

            The Bible teaches that God raised Christ from the dead and seated Christ at HIS right hand, “That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 1: 19b - 20, NIV). This, to any lay reader, would appear as two persons – one being God and the other being Christ.

            Dr. William Lane Craig explains the ascension of the Lord Jesus in his Defenders podcast on the ‘Doctrine of Christ’:2

…when Christ ascends to the Father’s right hand and is exalted, should we conceive of this as a return to his pre-incarnate state or is this exalted state a kind of continuation of the incarnation? The answer to that question is the latter. It is not a return to the pre-incarnate state; rather, Christ always exists from now on in two natures – one human and one divine. That is the lesson of the ascension. Christ did not discard his body and leave it behind. The doctrine of the resurrection is that the same body that was crucified and laid in the tomb was now raised from the dead, gloriously empowered with immortality and incorruptibility and super-human properties, and then ascended into heaven to be exalted to the right hand of God the Father.
So don’t think of the ascension and the exaltation of Christ as an abandonment of his humanity. On the contrary, it is the glorification of his humanity. I think this is a precious lesson to us of the worth and value of our human bodies.[6] …The doctrine of the resurrection and ascension of Christ teaches us that Christ carries his exalted humanity into the eternal state just as we will in the eternal state have human bodies. They will be glorified bodies free from illness, disease, disability, sin, corruption, and mortality, but nevertheless they will be human bodies.
So the…lesson of…the resurrection and ascension is that the incarnation is a permanent condition of the second person of the Trinity, not a merely temporary condition for thirty-odd years to be abandoned by him. Rather it is a permanent incarnation of the second person and therefore an emphasis to us of the value of our material creaturely humanity.

            So this is what we understand. Christ in HIS ascended state exists in HIS state of incarnation with two natures – human and divine.

            Theologian R.C Sproul helps us to understand ‘Christ’s seating at God’s right hand’:3

God’s right hand is the place of “highest favor with God the Father” (WLC, Q&A 54), and the phrase is used throughout Scripture to indicate His power and sovereignty (Ex. 15:6; Isa. 48:13). To say that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father is to say, as John Calvin explains, that “Christ was invested with lordship over heaven and earth, and solemnly entered into possession of the government committed to him — and that he not only entered into possession once for all, but continues in it, until he shall come down on Judgment Day” (Institutes 2.16.15).
In sitting at the right hand of God, Jesus sits on the “throne of his father David” (Luke 1:26–33). He is the Messiah of Israel, “the highest of the kings of the earth” and the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to keep the offspring of David on the throne forever. (Ps. 89:19–37). We are not waiting for Jesus to enter into His messianic reign, He enjoys it now. All of His enemies are being put under His feet as His gospel is preached and His kingdom expands (1 Cor. 15:20–28).
Coram Deo
Even now, Jesus is seated on the throne of His father David at the right hand of God. This means that He is ruler over all and that the kings of the earth rule only according to His sovereign permission. As such, Christ alone is worthy of our highest allegiance, and it is to Him that we must render obedience, even if it means, at times, defying the rulers of this world. Jesus’ kingdom alone is eternal, and His rule is above all others.

            Pastor John Piper explains that when we see Christ, we see God. But this is not in the sense how a photograph represents a person. Christ is to be seen as the radiance of God’s glory:4

There are two things that might keep you from entering heaven and enjoying the glory of God and all his works. One is if your sins were not forgiven. The other is if you went out of existence and all the works of God went out of existence. So if you are to have a happy future in God's presence, two great works are needed: a work of purification of sins, and work of preservation of your existence…
If we will learn from Scripture how to see ultimate Reality, we will see that we need Christ not only to make purification for our sins, but also to provide preservation to our souls and our bodies. So Christ is doubly worthy of our dependence and trust and love and worship.
When we see him sitting at the right hand of the Majesty it is not only to honor the work of his purification in saving us, but also to honor the word of his power in preserving us. We owe our purification to him and we owe our being to him…
There are two more phrases in the verse to look at, but they are easily combined, and in fact do go together: "He [Christ] is the radiance of His [God's] glory and the exact representation of His nature." Or, as we saw from the original words: "He, being the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his nature . . . sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."
The difference between this qualification for sitting at God's right hand and the other two is that those described what Christ did, while this describes who he is. What he does is "uphold all things by the word of his power," and "make purification of sins" by the worth of his blood. But what is he? Who is he? That's our last question this morning. Who died for sins? Who rose from the dead? Who upholds the universe by the word of his power? Who is sitting at the right hand of God?
The answer is: Christ is "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his nature." What does this mean? It's important that we take these two phrases together, because they control each other and keep us on track.
When it says that Christ is the exact representation of God's nature, we are to realize that to see Christ is to see God. Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). Colossians 1:15 says, "He is the image of the invisible God." To see what God is like, you see what Christ is like.
But that could be taken in an entirely wrong way. Suppose you take it to mean that Christ represents God the way a photograph or a painting represents a person, or the way an authorized letter represents the king, or the way a wax impression represents a golden ring. That would be totally wrong. And the other phrase here is meant to protect us from that misunderstanding. He is the exact representation of God's nature not the way a painting represents a person, but the way radiance represents glory. Verse 3 says, he is "the radiance of God's glory."
An Analogy of Sun and Sunlight
In other words he relates to God the way radiance relates to glory, or the way the rays of sunlight relate to the sun. Keep in mind that every analogy between God and natural things is imperfect and will distort if you press it. Nevertheless, consider for example,
There is no time that the sun exists without the beams of radiance. They cannot be separated. The radiance is co-eternal with the glory. Christ is co-eternal with God the Father.
The radiance is the glory radiating out. It is not essentially different from the glory. Christ is God standing forth as separate but not essentially different from the Father.
Thus the radiance is eternally begotten, as it were, by the glory—not created or made. If you put a solar-activated calculator in the sunlight, numbers appear on the face of the calculator. These, you could say, are created or made by the sun, but they are not what the sun is. But the rays of the sun are an extension of the sun. So Christ is eternally begotten of the Father, but not made or created.
We see the sun by means of seeing the rays of the sun. So we see God the Father by seeing Jesus. The rays of the sun arrive here about eight minutes after they leave the sun, and the round ball of fire that we see in the sky is the image—the exact representation—of the sun; not because it is a painting of the sun, but because it is the sun streaming forth in its radiance.

            While we strive to interpret the Bible, we should understand that the Bible cannot be read and understood literally, all the time. In other words, the Bible cannot be literally interpreted always.

            Christ is not literally seated at God’s right hand. In fact, God does not have a right hand!

            God is an incorporeal being. HE is Spirit. God does not have hands, legs, eyes, and ears as we do. But the authors of the Bible speak of God in anthropomorphic terms. This is to attribute human characteristics to God. Hence, in this instance, God’s right hand does not literally denote the right hand of God.

            Christ seated at God’s right hand is a metaphor that expresses the exaltation of Christ. The right hand symbolizes a position of authority and honor.5

            The Bible teaches that Christ rules over everyone and everything because HE is seated at the right hand of God. The right hand of God is a position of power over all other powers, “The right hand of God, therefore, is a reference to both a place of proximity to God the Father and a position of power above all other powers. Jesus the Messiah exists at this right hand of God today, perfectly reigning with God the Father and God the Spirit in community and power.”6

            Since God is incorporeal and Christ exists in HIS incarnational state with both natures – the human and the divine, the Bible does not suggest the existence of two Gods. Christ remains the second person of the Blessed Trinity. God’s core divine nature (The Father) is now exercising power through the Son via HIS incarnational state.  

Endnotes:

1https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/muslim-objections-to-jesus-deity

2https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-1/s1-the-doctrine-of-christ/the-doctrine-of-christ-part-7/

3https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/seated-at-gods-right-hand/

4https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/he-sat-down-at-the-right-hand-of-majesty?fbclid=IwAR1TuQy_qJ8f0BjKFYjjxQ6ddtaj-3b4aJRTNWIU1z3blkn5bIbx__v43e0

5https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/muslim-objections-to-jesus-deity

6https://www.compellingtruth.org/right-hand-of-God.html


Websites last accessed on 31st January 2019. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Three Reasons Why All Religions Do Not Lead To God Or Heaven


          Wikipedia reveals that approximately 7% of the world’s population includes atheists or agnostics.1 If all religions lead us to God, a key majority of the world’s population will be on the right track with only a small minority going astray - denying or being unsure of God’s existence.

            On the other hand, if all religions do not lead us to God, there is a definite crisis. A vast majority of the world’s population could be in jeopardy, for they could believe in falsehood, which jeopardizes their eternal life.

            Wikipedia estimates that 24.1% of the world’s population is Muslims. If Islam is the only true religion, then a 75.9% majority of the world’s population does not believe in the truth.

            This argument could be extended to every religion. If Hindus believe that their way is the only way to heaven, then they disqualify every other religion that contradicts them. So if Hinduism is the only way to heaven, then all the other competing religious worldviews cannot lead people to heaven. This implies a majority believing in a falsehood.

            Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism are not the only religious worldviews that makes truth claims. In fact, every religion makes truth claims.

            This brings us back to the question, ‘Could all religions lead us to God & heaven?’

            Three reasons could be posited to explain why all religions cannot lead us to God and heaven:

            1. Every major religion contradicts the other.

            2. There can be only one God.

            3. There can be only one means of salvation.

Every Major Religion Contradicts The Other

            Every major religion claims exclusivity. I provided a glimpse of the exclusivity claims of the major world religions in an earlier article of mine, entitled Exclusivity Claims of Major World Religions. While discussing the exclusivity claims of Hinduism, I wrote, “Hinduism excludes other religions based on its core doctrines. Consider the doctrine of God in Hinduism. Brahman, the absolute God of Hinduism, is a mysterious being.4

            Although Brahman is one God, he manifests in innumerable forms, “Hinduism is unique because it is essentially a monotheistic faith which acknowledges polytheism as reflective of the diversity in God’s creation. God is one, but also many. He manifests Himself in innumerable forms and shapes.”5 But the God of Christianity does not manifest Himself in innumerable forms. Hence, Hinduism should exclude Christianity or Islam on the basis of the Godhead. The same holds true for doctrines such as karma and reincarnation, which absolutely contradict Christianity and other religions.”2

            Even Islam, Buddhism and Judaism claim exclusivity. So if every religion contradicts the other, then all religions are not teaching the truth. Only one religion would teach the truth, whereas the others do not.

            Historic Christianity also claims exclusivity. Conservative Christians believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. This belief renders every non-Christian as an eternal inhabitant of hell. But the conclusion that Jesus is the only way to heaven is predicated on the premise that Christianity is the only religion that makes valid truth claims.

            Since every religion contradicts the other, all religions cannot lead man to God and heaven.

One God

            God is the ‘maximally great being’ or the ‘greatest conceivable being’ or the ‘greatest being possible.’ The maximally great being should be omnipotent (infinitely powerful), omniscient (possessing unlimited knowledge), and morally perfect, to say the least.  

            Such a maximally great being ought to be singular. In other words, there cannot be two maximally great beings. They cannot be maximally great if they are equal. Maximal greatness signifies that one of the two would essentially be greater than the other.

            Therefore, there can only be one God.

One Salvation

            Salvation is the deliverance from the power and penalty of sin. Sin is an assault on God. In other words, sin is the transgression or violation of God’s commands.

            If God is one, then the sin of mankind is essentially against that God (because there are no other Gods). Hence, there can be only one means of salvation, for it is that one infinite God who offers the means of salvation to erring finite humans.

            But what if God offers two or more means of salvation to the erring humans? Is this possible? It is possible as long as the means of salvation do not contradict each other.

            There are two major means of salvation offered by the major world religions. While Historic Christianity offers salvation by the grace of God through faith in Christ, the other major world religions teach salvation through good works.

            Salvation by grace through faith is a non-negotiable tenet of Historic Christianity. Historic Christianity teaches that mankind cannot perform good works (i.e. be perfectly obedient to God) to go to heaven because man is a perpetual sinner. Hence, God graciously sent HIS Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to die on behalf of all (the sins) of mankind, thereby paying the penalty for sin, which is death. Christ then overcame death through HIS resurrection and ascension. Thereby, those who believe in Christ are saved by virtue of Christ’s one-time perfect sacrifice and their belief in HIM.

            Contrarily, the other major world religions teach that mankind would have to perform good works i.e. being obedient to God, to go to heaven. For instance, Islam teaches that worship of God and obedience to his commands are the prerequisites for salvation.

            Hence, salvation by grace through faith contradicts salvation through good works. Since the means of salvation in other religions and Christianity contradict each other, there could only be one way to be saved.

Conclusion

            There is only one way to God. All religions cannot lead us to God. Those believing that all religions lead to God are treading dangerously. They are risking their eternity.

            If you are in that boat, think this through and make sense of your life. If you pray to God to lead you to the right path, HE will. May the truth set you free.

Endnotes:

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism#Studies_and_statistics 

2https://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.com/2017/08/exclusivity-claims-of-major-world.html


Websites last accessed on 28th January 2019. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Are My Future Sins Forgiven?

            You and I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because we are sinners. When we believe in Christ, we offer our lives to HIM as a living sacrifice. We are then saved, forgiven, and declared righteous and holy.

            When we believe in Christ, we are forgiven of all our sins – the past, present, and the future.

            Wait!

            Does this mean that the sins I am going to commit (in the future) would be forgiven?

            Yes, God would forgive the sins that you and I would be committing in the future, said the late Rev. Billy Graham:1

One of the Bible’s greatest truths is that Christ died to take away all our sins–not just part of them, but all of them: past, present, and future.
This is why you shouldn’t fear that you will lose your salvation every time you commit a sin. If that were the case, you and I would lose our salvation every day–because we sin every day. Even if our actions are pure, our thoughts often are not. And even if our actions and thoughts are pure, we still sin because of the good things we should be doing but fail to do.
Never forget: Your salvation does not depend on you and how good you are.
It depends solely on Christ and what He has already done for you through His death on the cross. The Bible says that Christ “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
Does that mean it doesn’t matter whether or not you sin? No, of course not. Sin is serious; it is an offense to God, and it breaks our fellowship with Him. Sin also compromises our witness for Christ. The Bible is clear: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
But you cannot live the Christian life in your own strength. You need God’s help–which is why He has given His Holy Spirit to you. When you sin, confess it immediately, and then seek the Holy Spirit’s help each day to live as you should.

            We are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Christ. The inherent beauty of the gospel of Christ is that we do not fear to lose our salvation as and when we commit sins. (This, however, does not offer us a license to sin.)

            Dr. Michael Brown’s explanation will enable us to understand this better:2

…it is true that God doesn’t save in installments, meaning that the moment He says, “I forgive you,” you become a child of God and you pass from death to life, from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God, from condemned to not guilty, from wicked to righteous, from lost to saved, from having a debt of sins bigger than Mt. Everest to being totally and absolutely forgiven – all in a moment of time. That is grace in action. That is the power of the blood of Jesus. It is a free gift, and it is yours forever.
That also means that if you sin tomorrow and get upset with a coworker, you do not become unsaved and go back to death, back to the kingdom of Satan, back to being condemned, back to being wicked and lost. Instead, as a child of God who is still in the “forgiven” column – meaning, God looks as you as His beloved child, a former guilty sinner whom He has pronounced forgiven – you now need to apply the blood of Jesus to your life and receive fresh cleansing. But you do not do this as a lost sinner being saved. Rather, you do it as a child of God who is in the “saved-righteous-holy-forgiven” column, freshly applying that source of forgiveness, the blood of Jesus, to your life again.
…God deals with us as His children, which means that we don’t get saved one moment, lost the next moment (the moment we commit a sin), and then “resaved” the moment we ask for forgiveness. This kind of spiritual schizophrenia is not only totally unbiblical but it is totally maddening. Who can possibly live like this?
So, it is crucial that we find a place of security in the Lord, remembering that we are saved by grace, not by works, by God’s goodness, not by our goodness. It’s also crucial to understand that when God forgives, He forgets – meaning, He doesn’t keep a record of wrongs against us – and that when we are forgiven, we are really forgiven. And it’s crucial to understand that Jesus paid the price for every sin we will ever commit, and when we come to Him in sincerity, asking Him to wash us clean, He will do it without hesitation. The price has already been paid.
This means that if God isn’t bringing up our past we shouldn’t bring it up either, and if He says we are forgiven, we really are forgiven. We must receive it, no matter what we’ve done and no matter how far we’ve fallen: “I am God’s child and I am forgiven!”
… So, we can rest assured that, as far as our salvation is concerned, we have been forgiven of our sins, and God remembers them no more. How mind-boggling is that? And as far as our ongoing relationship with God, forgiveness is applied whenever we need it and ask for it. 

            The grace of God that forgives us of all our sins does not offer us a license to sin. Dr. Brown refers to Pastor Joseph Prince’s words, “"If you hear of any 'grace' teaching that tells you it is all right to sin, to live without any regard for the Lord, and that there are no consequences to sin, my advice to you is to flee from that teaching. You have just been exposed to counterfeit grace. Genuine grace teaches that believers in Christ are called to live holy, blameless, and above reproach. It teaches that sin always produces destructive consequences and that it is only through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ that one can be set free from the dominion of sin."”3 

            When we are caught in sinful habits, our relationship with God is disrupted (cf. Psalm 15). But when we confess our sins and repent to God, HE forgives us and our relationship with HIM is restored. Believers who are caught in sin(s) will truly desire to be delivered and grow in holiness.

            A true believer will hate his sins. He/she will pray eagerly for deliverance from sins so to grow in holiness. This is the hallmark of a serious or a sincere Christian.

Endnotes:

1https://billygraham.org/answer/does-god-forgive-the-sins-we-will-commit-in-the-future-or-just-those-from-our-past/

2https://askdrbrown.org/library/future-sins-forgiven-advance-fundamental-error-hyper-grace

3https://www.christianpost.com/news/hyper-grace-setting-the-record-straight-with-pastor-joseph-prince.html


Websites last accessed on 24th January 2019.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Should We Obey The Ten Commandments?

            Popular megachurch pastor Andy Stanley, the son of the famous preacher Charles Stanley, recently asserted that Christians do not need to obey the Ten Commandments: (Emphasis Mine)1

The Ten Commandments are from the old covenant
The Ten Commandments played a significant role in God’s creation of the nation of Israel. It gave them moral guidelines and helped separate this new nation from their neighbors. This was part of the formal agreement (or covenant) God created with his people, but Jesus’ death and resurrection signaled the end of that covenant and all the rules and regulations associated with it.
Jesus didn’t issue his new command as an additional commandment to the existing list of commands.
He didn’t say, “Here’s the 614th law.”
Jesus issued his new commandment as a replacement for everything in the existing list. Including the big ten. Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced all the old commandments.
Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.
The new covenant replaced the old one.

            The late Rev. Billy Graham discarded any insinuation that discredits the Ten Commandments:2

Yes, the Ten Commandments are still important! You’ll find them in the Old Testament (the part of the Bible that tells us what God did before Jesus Christ came into the world). You’ll find them in two places: Exodus, chapter 20, and Deuteronomy, chapter 5.
The Bible tells us God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, who led the ancient Israelites after they’d been freed from slavery and were headed toward the land God had promised them. The Ten Commandments were given so they would know how to live, and God promised that if they followed them, their lives would be blessed. Moses said, “Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days” (Deuteronomy 5:33).
Although they were given many centuries ago, the Ten Commandments are still valid, and our lives (and our world) would be far better if we followed them. The first ones deal with our responsibilities toward God — to put Him first in our lives, and not allow anything to take His rightful place. The latter ones deal with our responsibilities toward others — to avoid lying, stealing, murder, immorality, greed, and so forth.
But the Ten Commandments are important for another reason: they point to our need for God’s forgiveness and help. No one lives up to them perfectly, and that’s why we need Christ. Don’t let your past hold you back, but begin a new life today by asking Jesus to forgive and help you.

            Did the Lord Jesus abolish the Ten Commandments or the laws when HE specified the two great commandments?

            Read Christ’s response to the expert in the law when HE was questioned about the greatest commandment of all the 613 laws, “One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” (Matthew 22: 35-40, NIV).

            It is essential to observe that the commandment to love God preceded the commandment to love each other. The first and the greatest commandment, which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind is of greater significance than the second greatest commandment, which is to love one another. In other words, we cannot love our neighbor as to how God commanded us to love them if we do not love God with all our life.

            Did the two greatest commandments replace the Ten Commandments or all of the 613 laws?

            No!

            In fact, both these commandments refer to the Old Testament laws. The first greatest commandment is a quote of Deuteronomy 6:5 (4th law in the Old Testament). The second greatest commandment is a quote of Leviticus 19:18 (13th law of the Old Testament).

            Christ did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”” (Matthew 5:17, NIV). So it is evident that these two commandments do not invalidate the Ten Commandments or all of the laws.

            In fact, as the late Rev. Billy Graham mentioned, the first four of the Ten Commandments are based on our relationship with God while the other six commandments are based on our relationship with our fellow human beings.  The two greatest commandments are a mere summary of the Ten Commandments; they do not abolish or replace the Ten Commandments.

            Therefore, those who obey the two greatest commandments in the New Testament are in fact obeying the Ten Commandments.

            Does the new command of Jesus replace the second greatest commandment? This is the new command of Jesus, ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”” (John 13: 34, NIV). This new command is also a reference to Leviticus 19:18.

            There seems to be a difference between the second greatest commandment and the new command. The second greatest commandment commands us to love others as to how we love ourselves. But the new command commands us to love others as to how Christ loved us.

            So is there a contradiction between the new command and the second greatest commandment?

            No!

            The Lord merely raised the standard to love others when HE said that we ought to love others as to how HE loved us. The second greatest commandment and the new command are conveying the same message - to love others. But the standard to love others are from two perspectives: love others as to how we love ourselves and love others as to how Christ loved us.

            The Bible teaches us that we are no longer under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14). So why obey the Ten Commandments or any of the laws if we are not under the law? Gotquestions.org has a useful response to this question:3

The key to understanding the relationship between the Christian and the Law is knowing that the Old Testament law was given to the nation of Israel, not to Christians. Some of the laws were to reveal to the Israelites how to obey and please God (the Ten Commandments, for example). Some of the laws were to show the Israelites how to worship God and atone for sin (the sacrificial system). Some of the laws were intended to make the Israelites distinct from other nations (the food and clothing rules). None of the Old Testament law is binding on Christians today. When Jesus died on the cross, He put an end to the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23–25; Ephesians 2:15).
In place of the Old Testament law, Christians are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). If we obey those two commands, we will be fulfilling all that Christ requires of us: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). Now, this does not mean the Old Testament law is irrelevant today. Many of the commands in the Old Testament law fall into the categories of “loving God” and “loving your neighbor.” The Old Testament law can be a good guidepost for knowing how to love God and knowing what goes into loving your neighbor. At the same time, to say that the Old Testament law applies to Christians today is incorrect. The Old Testament law is a unit (James 2:10). Either all of it applies, or none of it applies. If Christ fulfilled some of it, such as the sacrificial system, He fulfilled all of it.
“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). The Ten Commandments were essentially a summary of the entire Old Testament law. Nine of the Ten Commandments are clearly repeated in the New Testament (all except the command to observe the Sabbath day). Obviously, if we are loving God, we will not be worshipping false gods or bowing down before idols. If we are loving our neighbors, we will not be murdering them, lying to them, committing adultery against them, or coveting what belongs to them. The purpose of the Old Testament law is to convict people of our inability to keep the law and point us to our need for Jesus Christ as Savior (Romans 7:7-9; Galatians 3:24). The Old Testament law was never intended by God to be the universal law for all people for all of time. We are to love God and love our neighbors. If we obey those two commands faithfully, we will be upholding all that God requires of us.

Endnotes:

1https://relevantmagazine.com/god/why-do-christians-want-to-post-the-10-commandments-and-not-the-sermon-on-the-mount/

2https://billygraham.org/answer/the-ten-commandments-are-still-very-relevant/

3https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-law.html


Websites last accessed on 21st January 2019.