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from Got Questions:

The existence of so many religions and the claim that all religions lead to God without question confuses many who are earnestly seeking the truth about God, with the end result sometimes being that some despair of ever reaching the absolute truth on the subject. Or they end up embracing the universalist claim that all religions lead to God. Of course, skeptics also point to the existence of so many religions as proof that either you cannot know God or that God simply does not exist.

Romans 1:19-21 contains the biblical explanation for why there are so many religions. The truth of God is seen and known by every human being because God has made it so. Instead of accepting the truth about God and submitting to it, most human beings reject it and seek their own way to understand God. But this leads not to enlightenment regarding God, but to futility of thinking. Here is where we find the basis of the “many religions.”

Many people do not want to believe in a God who demands righteousness and morality, so they invent a God who makes no such requirements. Many people do not want to believe in a God who declares it impossible for people to earn their own way to heaven. So they invent a God who accepts people into heaven if they have completed certain steps, followed certain rules, and/or obeyed certain laws, at least to the best of their ability. Many people do not want a relationship with a God who is sovereign and omnipotent. So they imagine God as being more of a mystical force than a personal and sovereign ruler.

The existence of so many religions is not an argument against God’s existence or an argument that truth about God is not clear. Rather, the existence of so many religions is demonstration of humanity’s rejection of the one true God. Mankind has replaced Him with gods that are more to their liking. This is a dangerous enterprise. The desire to recreate God in our own image comes from the sin nature within us—a nature that will eventually “reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Do all religions lead to God? No. All people—religious or otherwise—will stand before God some day (Hebrews 9:27), but religious affiliation is not what determines your eternal destiny. Only faith in Jesus Christ will save. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). It’s as simple as that. Only Christianity—faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—leads to God’s forgiveness and eternal life. No one comes to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6). It does make a difference what you believe. The decision to embrace the truth about Jesus Christ is important. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

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from Got Questions:

Much misunderstanding about the Christian life occurs because we either assign commands and exhortations we should be following as “era-specific” commands that only applied to the original audience, or we take commands and exhortations that are specific to a particular audience and make them timeless truths. How do we go about discerning the difference? The first thing to note is that the canon of Scripture was closed by the end of the 1st century A.D. This means that, while all of the Bible is truth we can apply to our lives, most, if not all, of the Bible was not originally written to us. The authors had in mind the hearers of that day. That should cause us to be very careful when interpreting the Bible for today’s Christians. It seems that much of contemporary evangelical preaching is so concerned with the practical application of Scripture that we treat the Bible as a lake from which to fish application for today’s Christians. All of this is done at the expense of proper exegesis and interpretation.

The top three rules of hermeneutics (the art and science of biblical interpretation) are 1) context; 2) context; 3) context. Before we can tell 21st-century Christians how the Bible applies to them, we must first come to the best possible understanding of what the Bible meant to its original audience. If we come up with an application that would have been foreign to the original audience, there is a very strong possibility that we did not interpret the passage correctly. Once we are confident that we understand what the text meant to its original hearers, we then need to determine the width of the chasm between us and them. In other words, what are the differences in language, time, culture, geography, setting and situation? All of these must be taken into account before application can be made. Once the width of the chasm has been measured, we can then attempt to build the bridge over the chasm by finding the commonalities between the original audience and ourselves. Finally, we can then find application for ourselves in our time and situation.

Another important thing to note is that each passage has only one correct interpretation. It can have a range of application, but only one interpretation. What this means is that some applications of biblical passages are better than others. If one application is closer to the correct interpretation than another, then it is a better application of that text. For example, many sermons have been preached on 1 Samuel 17 (the David and Goliath story) that center on “defeating the giants in your life.” They lightly skim over the details of the narrative and go straight to application, and that application usually involves allegorizing Goliath into tough, difficult and intimidating situations in one’s life that must be overcome by faith. There is also an attempt to allegorize the five smooth stones David picked up to defeat his giant. These sermons usually conclude by exhorting us to be faithful like David.

While these interpretations make engaging sermons, it is doubtful the original audience would have gotten that message from this story. Before we can apply the truth in 1 Samuel 17, we must know how the original audience understood it, and that means determining the overall purpose of 1 Samuel as a book. Without going into a detailed exegesis of 1 Samuel 17, let’s just say it’s not about defeating the giants in your life with faith. That may be a distant application, but as an interpretation of the passage, it’s alien to the text. God is the hero of the story, and David was His chosen vehicle to bring salvation to His people. The story contrasts the people’s king (Saul) with God’s king (David), and it also foreshadows what Christ (the Son of David) would do for us in providing our salvation.

Another common example of interpreting with disregard of the context is John 14:13-14. Reading this verse out of context would seem to indicate that if we ask God anything (unqualified), we will receive it as long as we use the formula “in Jesus’ name.” Applying the rules of proper hermeneutics to this passage, we see Jesus speaking to His disciples in the upper room on the night of His eventual betrayal. The immediate audience is the disciples. This is essentially a promise to His disciples that God will provide the necessary resources for them to complete their task. It is a passage of comfort because Jesus would soon be leaving them. Is there an application for 21st-century Christians? Of course! If we pray in Jesus’ name, we pray according to God’s will and God will give us what we need to accomplish His will in and through us. Furthermore, the response we get will always glorify God. Far from a “carte blanche” way of getting what we want, this passage teaches us that we must always submit to God’s will in prayer, and that God will always provide what we need to accomplish His will.

Proper biblical interpretation is built on the following principles:
1. Context. To understand fully, start small and extend outward: verse, passage, chapter, book, author and testament/covenant.
2. Try to come to grips with how the original audience would have understood the text.
3. Consider the width of the chasm between us and the original audience.
4. It’s a safe bet that any moral command from the Old Testament that is repeated in the New Testament is an example of a “timeless truth.”
5. Remember that each passage has one and only one correct interpretation, but can have many applications (some better than others).
6. Always be humble and don’t forget the role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation. He has promised to lead us into all truth (John 16:13).

Biblical interpretation is as much an art as it is science. There are rules and principles, but some of the more difficult or controversial passages require more effort than others. We should always be open to changing an interpretation if the Spirit convicts and the evidence supports.

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from Core Christianity:

In Mark 10, a young rich man eagerly comes to Jesus. He is a winner who does not want to give up trying to win.

The good thing about him is that he has a desire for something more, something beyond worldly winning. He asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

It is good to ask about eternal life, but his question reveals a deep flaw. You see, as Robert Capon notes, while he wants something more, he can’t imagine pursuing it in any other way than doing through more winning and striving. His question shows he believes there are techniques for inheriting eternal life.

Breaking the Law

Jesus knows the man’s mindset. He responds, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” Jesus is showing him that the law can save no one because the law can be kept by no one. He’s bringing up the law so the young man will take an honest look at how unsuccessful he’s been at practicing the righteousness he thinks is the answer to his problems.

But instead of recognizing his shortcomings as measured by these basic commands, this guy cuts Jesus off with, “I’ve done all those things perfectly since I was a kid.” In effect what he’s saying is, “Why don’t you give me a harder, more grown-up spiritual assignment?”

And how does Jesus respond? This is good for us to see. After being cut-off and ignored, Jesus looks at him and loves him. That’s what he does to us.

Jesus loves us when we don’t get it, when we rebel, when we rely on our own selves and not him. He is the picture of perfect, patient love.

So, with patient love and cosmic understatement, Jesus presses the law even further. “You only have to do one simple little thing.” The man’s eyes widen with anticipation. “Sell all that you have and give to the poor . . . and follow me.”

Jesus has really just applied the first of the Ten Commandments to this rich guy: Worship no other gods but God. Serve nothing but God. Jesus is revealing to him how much he fails to fulfill the commandments because he worships his wealth so much and asking him to give it up.

Jesus does the same thing to us, too. It might not be riches, but it could be anything you love more than God. Your idol is whatever you rely on to justify your existence. This text is not really about wealth, but idolatry. We are all guilty of loving something more than God, so Jesus turns the law on us, too.

Intensifying the Law

There is a reason we write about law and gospel so much: it’s because Jesus and the Apostle Paul talked and wrote about it so much. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus intensified the law when he took the Ten Commandments and told us, it is not just about our outward behavior. If you sin inwardly you have broken all of the law.

Then, in Matthew 22:37 he summarized the law with two prongs. He was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He replied: “Love God with all your heart” (summarizing the first four commandments), and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (summarizing the last six).

Jesus made the law even more dangerous and intense than it was in the Old Testament. He wasn’t just explaining an ethical code for his followers—he was freaking people out so they would know their need for a Savior.

This is what’s supposed to happen when we read: “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength . . . and love your neighbor as yourself.” That is the law pointing directly at us and asking us to give an account. Our response is not “Sure, that sounds easy and fun,” but instead “Lord have mercy on us!” We need mercy because we fail at those two things.

You don’t love God or your neighbor perfectly. That’s why you need a Savior.

The Law is a Mirror

You see, the law is a mirror. It reflects to us our problem, our condition, our need, and our death. The law is good because it shows us reality. When we look in the mirror, it says, “You need to shave or apply some make-up.” Like a mirror, the law shows us our problem, but it doesn’t fix our problem. The law cannot generate what it commands.

The correct response to understanding the perfect law of a perfect God is what the disciples say in Mark 10:26: “Who then can be saved?”

The Rescue

When applied to sin, the law curses us with judgment. In the presence of the law, only a holy substitute can save us, or else we leave in depression like the young man. Look at what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7 and 8: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (Romans 7:24–8:3).

Jesus died on the cross in our place to take away our curse for breaking God’s law. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”

Because of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, there is an answer to the disciples’ question, “Who then can be saved?” The good news comes when Jesus says, “With man [salvation] is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

That’s the point of the law and the gospel: with us, salvation is impossible (law), but for God, everything is possible (gospel). It’s when we face the impossibility of doing anything to save ourselves that the gospel of Jesus floods in.

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from Got Questions:

A “worldview” refers to a comprehensive conception of the world from a specific standpoint. A “Christian worldview,” then, is a comprehensive conception of the world from a Christian standpoint. An individual’s worldview is his “big picture,” a harmony of all his beliefs about the world. It is his way of understanding reality. One’s worldview is the basis for making daily decisions and is therefore extremely important.

An apple sitting on a table is seen by several people. A botanist looking at the apple classifies it. An artist sees a still-life and draws it. A grocer sees an asset and inventories it. A child sees lunch and eats it. How we look at any situation is influenced by how we look at the world at large. Every worldview, Christian and non-Christian, deals with at least these three questions:

1) Where did we come from? (and why are we here?)
2) What is wrong with the world?
3) How can we fix it?

A prevalent worldview today is naturalism, which answers the three questions like this: 1) We are the product of random acts of nature with no real purpose. 2) We do not respect nature as we should. 3) We can save the world through ecology and conservation. A naturalistic worldview generates many related philosophies such as moral relativism, existentialism, pragmatism, and utopianism.

A Christian worldview, on the other hand, answers the three questions biblically: 1) We are God’s creation, designed to govern the world and fellowship with Him (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:15). 2) We sinned against God and subjected the whole world to a curse (Genesis 3). 3) God Himself has redeemed the world through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:15; Luke 19:10), and will one day restore creation to its former perfect state (Isaiah 65:17-25). A Christian worldview leads us to believe in moral absolutes, miracles, human dignity, and the possibility of redemption.

It is important to remember that a worldview is comprehensive. It affects every area of life, from money to morality, from politics to art. True Christianity is more than a set of ideas to use at church. Christianity as taught in the Bible is itself a worldview. The Bible never distinguishes between a “religious” and a “secular” life; the Christian life is the only life there is. Jesus proclaimed Himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and, in doing so, became our worldview.

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from Got Questions:

The increasing number of natural disasters and terrible storms have many people wondering, who controls the weather, God or Satan? Some point to the descriptions of Satan as the “prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2 and the “god of this world” in 2 Corinthians 4:4 as evidence for Satan having control over weather. An examination of Scripture reveals that whatever influence Satan and his demon angels have over the weather is restricted by God’s ultimate sovereignty. The Devil, our “adversary,” must be taken seriously; we should acknowledge his existence and his limited power over the secular world. At the same time, Satan, a defeated fallen angel, is super-human but not divine, having only the power that God ultimately allows (2 Thessalonians 2:6-11).

If Satan could impact the weather, it would only be by God’s permission, and restrained, as in the case of Job. Satan was allowed by God to torment Job in order to test him, and this included “the fire of God” (probably lightning) which “fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants” (Job 1:16). This was followed by a “mighty wind” (possibly a tornado) that destroyed his home and killed his children (vv. 18-19). So if the fire from heaven and the tornado were somehow caused by Satan, they were still under the ultimate control of God for His purposes.

It is God, not Satan, who controls the weather (Exodus 9:29; Psalm 135:6-7; Jeremiah 10:13).
God controls the skies and the rain (Psalm 77:16-19).
God controls the wind (Mark 4:35-41; Jeremiah 51:16).
God upholds and sustains the universe (Hebrews 1:3).
God has power over the clouds (Job 37:11-12, 16).
God has power over lightning (Psalm 18:14).
God has power over all nature (Job 26).

God is in control of all things, including the weather. Through His providence, God provides for and protects His children, but He also permits Satan, demons, and mankind to exercise their limited will to commit acts of sin, evil, and wickedness. These same beings are fully responsible for any and all man-made disasters and tragedies they cause. We know that God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 11:36), and therefore His invisible hand is in our pain, even though He cannot sin or be the perpetrator of evil (James 1:13-17).

There can be no meaningless suffering for the believer, whether the suffering is caused by mankind or by a natural event. We may not always know why evil acts or natural disasters happen, but we can be assured that in all our trials and tribulations God is working all things together for His glory and for our everlasting good (Romans 8:18-28).

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from MSN:

nationwide coalition of more than 150 conservative Christian leaders signed a statement, released Tuesday, affirming their beliefs on human sexuality, including that marriage is between one man and one woman and approval of “homosexual immorality” is sinful.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s list of 14 beliefs, referred to as the Nashville Statement, is a response to an increasingly post-Christian, Western culture that thinks it can change God’s design for humans, according to the statement.

“Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be,” the statement from the coalition members reads.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood convened a meeting of evangelical leaders, pastors and scholars Friday at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s annual conference in Nashville. The coalition discussed and endorsed the statement.

In a press release, John Piper, co-founder of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, called the Nashville Statement a “Christian manifesto” on human sexuality.

“It speaks with forthright clarity, biblical conviction, gospel compassion, cultural relevance, and practical helpfulness,” Piper said. “It will prove to be, I believe, enormously helpful for thousands of pastors and leaders hoping to give wise, biblical, and gracious guidance to their people.”

Among the signers who have been involved in national politics: James Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in the District of Columbia.

Dobson and four others — Senior Pastor Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church, which has four campuses in northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri; Pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; President Richard Land of the Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.; televangelist James Robison, founder of Fort Worth-based Life Outreach International — also are members of President Trump’s evangelical advisory board.

In a series of tweets, Pastor Brandan Robertson of MissionGathering Christian Church in San Diego, an LGBT activist who helped organize a protest at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission conference, called the statement an affront to God’s creative design.

Christian author Jen Hatmaker of Austin, Texas, who come out in favor of same-sex marriage and whose books have been removed from the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Christian Stores because of that philosophy, called the timing of the statement callous because of the Aug. 12 Unite the Right white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, Va., and protester Heather Heyer’s death.

“If the fruit of doctrine regularly & consistently creates shame, self-harm, suicide, & broken hearts, families, & churches, we shld listen,” she tweeted.

Each of the Nashville Statement’s 14 beliefs include one sentiment the signers affirm and one they deny. They cover a range of topics from a prohibition on sex outside of marriage to the connection between biological sex and gender identity.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, who as a councilwoman officiated some of the city’s first same-sex marriages when they became legal in Tennessee, took issue with the statement’s moniker. In a tweet, she called it “poorly named.”

Its name is derived from the meeting location. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s founding document — the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood — was signed about 30 years ago during a summit at a resort in Danvers, Mass.

Founded in 1987 and based in Louisville, Ky., the council’s website said it has helped several religious groups, including the 15 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, promote “gospel-driven gender roles.”

Some members of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention that played host to the coalition last week, signed the statement.

In the news release, the commission’s president, Russell Moore, said it is “urgently needed.”

“The sexual revolution cannot keep its promises, and the church must stand ready to receive with compassion the many who are in need of a better hope,” Moore said. “The Nashville Statement is part of that mission, and my prayer is that it will help anchor churches and Christians to the gospel of Jesus Christ for years to come.”

This year, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s annual conference focused on parenting, including how to talk to your kids about their biblical view of sex, same-sex attraction and gender identity.

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from CCC Discover:

As a pastor, I’m often asked by friends outside the church whether there’s any difference between the major world religions. After all—the thinking goes—aren’t they all communicating the importance of love? Don’t they share a common basis in morality?

With all the religious tension in the world, it’d be great to simply conclude that all religions are, at their core, essentially the same. If that’s the case, it’s pointless to argue about dogma, and the thought of going to war over differences becomes incomprehensible. Despite what may be good intentions in emphasizing the similarities across religions, there are real problems with assuming that “all religions just teach love.”

While it’s true that many of the great world religions share common moral teachings, the idea that this means “all religions are basically the same” assumes that morality is the essence of religion, and that the distinct aspects of each religion are peripheral to their primary message of moral uprightness. In truth, the religions of the world, while sharing some similarities, also contain irreconcilable teachings.

As a Christian pastor, I teach that Jesus Christ died on a cross for the sin of the world and that he rose again from the dead after three days. According to the earliest followers of Jesus, that message was the cardinal truth of Christianity. In fact, to dismiss it would be to destroy the Christian faith altogether. Here’s how one of Jesus’ earliest followers put it,

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. (1 Cor. 15:13-15)

This man, the apostle Paul, taught that if the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t true, then the Christian faith was in vain. What’s more, if the resurrection didn’t happen, then the moral teaching didn’t matter. He continued, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (1 Cor. 15:32). In other words, if the resurrection is a hoax, we’re wasting our time with all of this “religion stuff.” Paul wasn’t the only one who realized the importance of the resurrection. Jesus repeatedly talked to his disciples about the bodily resurrection (Jn. 5:25-29Mk. 8:319:31Mt. 16:21).

When a person concludes that all religions are basically the same, they’re defining the various religions of the world on their own terms instead of letting the terms define themselves. If religion is primarily about being a good person, then sure, many of the religions out there can assist someone in modifying their behavior, but religions like Christianity aren’t essentially about being “good people.” The Christian religion is all about the God who lovingly pursued people who weren’t very good at all, in fact. That’s why the message of Christ’s death and resurrection is one of the vital organs of Christianity.

How do we get to heaven in Christianity? Not by being good people, but by believing in God’s descent to us. God pursued us by coming to earth, and then he stood in the place of sinners, taking the death our sins had earned so that he might give us the life we didn’t merit. Many religions out there teach love, but none of them have a message of love quite like this. In Christianity, it’s God’s love toward broken people that comes first. That’s what makes Christianity different. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16)

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