Saturday, August 26, 2006

Why I don't believe in Free Will

But am still not a Calvinist.

We make up these terms as if we understand their full implications, but, the way people argue their points, I wonder. Free Will, Total Depravity--all of these wonderfully high sounding terms that supposedly define the Christian faith.

If only they were found in the Bible.

That's right, you will never see the phrases "free will" or "total depravity" in the Scriptures at all. And I believe that these terms were invented as a part of a lack of understanding by both "sides"--neither of whom is actually capable of grasping the truth (quite simply because it is "unsearchable", Romans 11:33-36). Only pride would tell a man otherwise.

This is what I find in Scripture: God ordains two paths, the path of obedience and blessing, and the path of disobedience and condemnation. He lets us choose which path we take--but we are never out of His control. God knows all the decisions we will make before we make them, and God has divinely orchestrated events in our lives using the good and evil choices that He knows we will make.

There are so many things that we cannot control, specifically the consequences for our actions whether good or evil and even the dates of our births, that for us to think that we could ever accomplish our own will is foolhardy to say the least. However, it is a clear contradiction of Scripture to say that we have no choice at all in whether or not we heed God's call.

"Choose you this day whom you will serve" is very clear. There is no arguing against it. But it is foolish to say that God is not in complete control, because He ordained who would be there at that time to make those choices.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Money: A Biblical Perspective.

There are a lot of verses in Scripture about money. Many people think that the Bible says that it's wrong to be rich, but that's not what the Bible says. Many people think that the Bible says that being rich means that you have favor with God, but that is not what the Bible says. It would be really nice if people actually read what the Bible has to say on a subject before speaking...

The Bible never says that money is evil. It says that covetousness is evil (covetousness=lust, which we covered in the previous post). It does, however, caution those whose security is money.

"Labour not to make wealth, From thine own understanding cease, Dost thou cause thine eyes to fly upon it? Then it is not. For wealth maketh to itself wings, As an eagle it flieth to the heavens" (Proverbs 23:4-5, YLT).

Jesus said, "Treasure not up to yourselves treasures on the earth, where moth and rust disfigure, and where thieves break through and steal, but treasure up to yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth disfigure, and where thieves do not break through nor steal, for where your treasure is, there will be also your heart" (Matthew 6:19-22, YLT).

Like everything on this earth, money will pass away. Even those who think they have secure incomes are reminded that there is something far more important:

"Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
--(Luke 12:16-21)

Everybody dies. It is therefore more important to spend time on the eternal, rather than the temporal. So many people spend so much time chasing money. And it won't last. And it won't help them on the other side. Get saved from your sins. Today.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lust--A Biblical Definition

On my other blog, I talked about modesty and its opposition to lust, primarily sexual lust. But here, I want to define lust in the broadest Biblical terms. The Apostle Paul said, "I had not known lust except the law had said, 'Thou shalt not covet'," so it is pretty clear that "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" aren't always and only about sexual matters. The actual commandment reads, "Thou shalt not covet...anything that is thy neighbors," not just his wife, or her body.

This is one of the most often overlooked commandments of the Ten. Most people who define themselves as good never think of this one. Covetousness, or lust, actually initiates one into breaking all the other nine. I'll show you how. But first, I want to define lust.

Simply put, lust is a desire for anything that is not yours and is forbidden by God. A married woman, an unmarried woman's body (it's not yours!), a car that's too expensive, etc. In short, lust is a desire for something that is out of the revealed will of God for you. How do you know what He wants for you? By reading His Word. That's where God speaks most audibly to those who are willing to hear Him.

Truthfully, lust, by its very nature, places something above God in your life. It makes getting what you want more important than obeying God. When God says that you can't have this, lust says to obtain it by however you can, which usually includes lying, stealing, doing hateful things (remember 1 John 3:15 says that whoever hates his brother is a murderer), disobeying parents, etc. When God says to be content with this, lust says to pursue something else. When God says to pursue this, lust says to settle for that, because it's "easier. "

In short, lust leads directly to disobedience, if indulged. "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (James 1:14-15, NKJV). That is why Paul urges us to "clothe {ourselves} with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts)" (Romans 13:14, AMPL).

Thus, the very nature of lust is a violation of the First Commandment, as well as leading to breaking the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eight, and Ninth.

It also leads to breaking the Third Commandment, because there is no more fear of God when He is not viewed as being on the throne. Not only using His name as a curse Word, but also pretending to be one of His, which is taking His name to yourself in vain--in vain, because it has no effect; or as Paul says, "For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]" (2 Timothy 3:5, AMPL).

Another problem with lust is that, in order to indulge it, you have to create your own God. Why? Well, think about it. If you know that the true God hates what you want to do, then you have a choice: crucify it or crucify Him. Most people choose to crucify Him.

Paul says, "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. " (Romans 1:18-25, ESV)

See the progression? Jesus said that this is why people go to hell, "[because] light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (John 3:19-20, NKJV). This is why "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge" and therefore why "God gave them over to a reprobate mind" (Romans 1:28)--because they would rather serve a new god than give up their lusts.

Paul says that, in doing so, they actually make life harder on themselves, "to do those things which are not convenient" (the end of Romans 1:28, KJV). This would constitue a breaking of the Fourth Commandment in spirit, whether or not they observed it in the letter (which most Christians don't because the real Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday). How? Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given to us to give us rest from our labors, just as God rested from His.

Most lust-buckets don't really get a break, because they spend all their time trying to get what they want. They forget about the rest that God has given them, because they can't take that break and still pursue their own goals. (I know--I used to be one of them.)

Steven Curtis Chapman thoroughly illustrates this with his song "Land of Opportunity", from his Signs of Life project:

"Another day is off and running/And I hear somebody pounding on my door/It's opportunity knocking/Says what I need is just a little bit more
"Every time I turn around I'm finding/Another chance to climb a little higher up/But it's never what I thought once I get there/And I'm left wondering "How much is enough?"

"I can live like a prisoner to all that could be/I'm living in the land of opportunity/But a heart pure and simple/Is a heart that stays free/Living in the land of opportunity/I'm living in the land of opportunity

"This is a world full of options/It's like a never ending buffet line/While all that I'm really needing/Is living water and the bread of life
"So as I'm walking through this life making choices/There is one thing I must never forget/This land of opportunity has one God/If I seek Him first He'll take care of the rest!

"I can live like a prisoner to all that could be/I'm living in the land of opportunity/But a heart pure and simple/Is a heart that stays free/Living in the land of opportunity/I'm living in the land of opportunity

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God...Seek ye first the kingdom of God

"I can live like a prisoner to all that could be/I'm living in the land of opportunity/But a heart pure and simple/Is a heart that stays free/Living in the land of opportunity/I'm living in the land of opportunity

"(Seek ye first the kingdom of God)So many choices, so much it could be/(Seek ye first the kingdom of God)Living in the land of opportunity/(Seek ye first the kingdom of God){And His righteousness!}/(Seek ye first the kingdom of God){He'll take care of the rest!}"

Having that perpesctive makes life a lot easier. And it precludes all lusts. If you are focusing on the Kingdom of God, you will not walk in lust. Paul says, "walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16, KJV).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Are You Really A Christian?

"And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"

One of the things that really bothers me is how many people claim to be Christians, yet when you see them in real life, they disobey God at almost every turn. Then when you show them what the Bible actually says, they reply, "Oh, that's your interpretation!" Really? I wonder what Jesus would say to that?

Actually, Luke 6:46 (our thesis verse today) is what I think He would ask most "Christians" today. There are so many that do what they want to do, but then try to call themselves by His name. In Matthew 7, Jesus warned us to be on the look out for those who claim to be His but actually seek to destroy us. He went on to say that many people will approach His throne, pleading their case to be let into Heaven, talking about the works they did before men in His name, but that He will command them to depart from Him as workers of iniquity, whom He never knew. Are you one of them?

Just what does it take to be a Christian anyway? I think we need to answer this question before we do anything else at all.

Simply put, it is one who has repented of his sin and been therefore forgiven of his sins, by God for the sake of Jesus Christ who paid for our sins. What does it mean to repent? The Greek word translated "repent" throughout the Bible is a word that means to turn around completely. An about face. Bascially, you recognize your life before Christ as worthless and make whatever changes He deems necessary for you to line up with His will.

You say that's not what you signed up for? Well, maybe you aren't really a Christian, then. This is what Jesus said: Now huge crowds were going along with [Jesus], and He turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters--[yes] and even his own life also--he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.
"For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him,
Saying, 'This man began to build and was not able (worth enough) to finish.'
"Or what king, going out to engage in conflict with another king, will not first sit down and consider and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand [men] to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if he cannot [do so], when the other king is still a great way off, he sends an envoy and asks the terms of peace.
So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple."
--Luke 14:25-33, Ampl.

Jesus Himself said that there was a cost to believing on Him, and that price tag is your rights and all you hold dear. "My rights?" Yes, your rights. How does a dead man--one who is crucified--have rights? He has none. He is ruled by the Cross. His natural affections are abandoned, because he is ruled by the Cross. The world's enticements mean nothing to him, because he is ruled by the Cross. That is the kind of life that Jesus calls us to live. That's the price that he calls us to pay.

Are you willing to pay it?