Justified Journal

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Category: Bible structure and theology

Flights of fancy

unique bird

What is the difference between astrology and astronomy?  The answer is that astrology is categorically false because it is based on a geocentric universe.  That is, the earth is at the center of the universe.

Astronomy, unlike astrology, makes no such assumption.

Foundational assertions matter.  Understanding them allows us to distinguish whether or not something is true or false.

Such is the case of Jonathan Cahn’s writings.  If one was able to place his books in a pot and boil them down to their essence, what would remain?

First, you would be able to determine that his works are highly speculative.  At many points, he refers to circumstantial evidence which is highly suspect.  This is fun when it comes to fiction, but is quite dangerous to the spiritual life of a Christian.

Secondly, numerology plays a significant role in the interpretation of present-day events.  Many people are susceptible to arguments based on ‘bible codes’ because they love the unveiling of a mystery.  They want to feel special because they ‘figured it out’.  They are part of a select few who have discovered the truth.  Therein lies the principle of  gnosticism.

Thirdly, astrology plays a significant role in his assertions.  The locations of planets, moon and other celestial objects are more the provenance of medieval doomsday predictions than 21st-century economic meltdown predictions in the United States.

This last point leads me to the fourth point.  The United States is not Israel.  Never has been.  The only people asserting such garbage are Mormons (otherwise known as ‘Morons’).  This group went as far as to adopt native Americans because they believed they were part of the lost tribes of Israel.

Jonathan Cahn is playing on ethno-centric prejudices.  In fact, he’s better at it than Donald Trump.  Cahn’s work is far more subtle and engaging (thus ends the positive portion of this analysis).

Back to the point: the United States is not the center of Christianity.  It is not even the linguistic center of Christianity.  Guess which continent has a negative growth rate of Christianity?  While the other 6 Continents show grow (some of it very dramatic), North America is poised for a major retraction.

Finally, it plays into the conspiratorial scare tactics of the modern American evangelical dispensational theology.  If you have ever heard something like, “You better repent and ask Jesus into your heart, because He’s coming soon”, you’ve experienced what I’m referring to.

All of this leads the readers into desperate acts of self-preservation out of fear of economic judgment.  Screw your neighbor, save yourselves!  Yell at them to get their house in order, then batten down the hatches!

But Scripture states “Love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18).  In Acts, we read of a gentile church donating to the Judean church in desperate need (Acts 11:19-30).

Finally, Jesus is an appendix to all of this hype.  Speculation overruns Gospel.  Christ is submerged beneath the waves of manic excitement and desperation generated by these works.

Yet Paul, living in prison, wrote the ‘Epistle of Joy’ – Philippians.  Read it.  How many times does he use the word ‘joy’?  It is counter-intuitive in light of his circumstances.  If I had the choice of being a self-preserving, paranoid with frayed nerves, jumping at the slightest downturn of the financial world, or being a person of such confident faith that not even living in prison could sink my spirit, I would take the latter every day and twice on Sunday.

Throw this book away.  Then find your copies of ‘Left Behind’, ‘The Late, Great Planet Earth’ and any other literary work that employs fundamental horrible Biblical Exegesis, and promptly lay them on the bottom of you guinea pigs’ cage where they can serve the most glorious purpose they were designed for; the reception of excrement.

sincerely,

Your crotchety Lutheran

 

 

To promote greater understanding

If you want to understand the differences between Arminian, Reformed and Lutheran Theologies, read the following book:

http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Spirituality-Five-Views-Sanctification/dp/0830812784/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414103229&sr=1-2&keywords=five+views+on+sanctification

That is all.

Don’t worry if you don’t have faith in Christ …

When I studied Greek, I learned that the –ou endings meant possession.  For example, we say, “That’s Bart’s Car“.  In Spanish, you would say, “That the car of Bart“.  So, the –ou means ‘of (name)’.

So what?  Why should I care?  Because the New Testament that you’re holding is a testament to the efforts of the Old Adam to resist Grace Alone through Christ alone.

Here are my two examples:

1. Galatians 2:16a:     “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ

Here’s the Greek:

πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ   – “faithfulness of Christ Jesus”

Now, the corrected translation mash-up – yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through the faithfulness of Christ Jesus.

That’s a shift from man-centered religion (and worrying about the quality of your faith) to Christ centered religion which is what Christianity is.

The same translation choice was made in Philippians 3:9a:

“not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ”

The following is a better translation:

“not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through the faithfulness of Christ.”

His faithfulness trumps yours.  Sorry.

Paul wrote the following: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). 

Check the translation against the overarching message of these letters.  Is the author (Paul) concerned with the strength of your believing in a “You just gotta believe bro” way, or is He focused on setting you free from the navel-gazing religion by looking up at a cursed man on a tree who was faithful to the end?

Rotted roots

Everyone who has ever read the Bible has come to it with a prior belief about it (presupposition).  Those who say, “I just believe what the Bible says”, live in denial.  The fact is that everyone comes to the Bible with a point of view on what it is for.

Here is a brief analysis of a couple:

Moralists: This sect reads the Bible literalistically.  That is, they read the Bible and reduce it to achievable works.  Confessional Evangelicals see them as anti-nomians, because they minimize the impact of the law.  They tame the lion and make it a kitty.

Mystics: This group reads the Bible analogically.  That is, even portions of Scripture that are not written as analogies are analogized.  The following is a good explanation of this error:

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/introduction/the-rise-of-allegorical-interpretation.html

In both of the above errors, the belief is that the scripture serves as a means to receive God’s approval or have an ecstatic connection with God.

Confessional Evangelical: Not to be confused with Modern Evangelical.  The assumption is that Scripture is about Jesus.  This is founded in Jesus speaking to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), and Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40).  In these two sections of Scripture, the Old Testament is interpreted through the lens of Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy.  That is to say, the Bible is not about you, it’s not about God, it’s about God the Son saving sinners.  The second Adam has come to reverse the curse of the first Adam.  Seeing Scripture as primarily about Jesus is truly evangelical doctrine.

Children of promise

English: Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness (...

English: Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness (Gen. 21:14-20) Русский: Агарь и Измаил в пустыне (Быт. 21:14-20) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Galatians 4:

24These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

If you’ve read much of the Old Testament from Exodus on, you might get the impression that God is really interested in Israel.  And, you’d be right.  He spent a lot of time making a people His own who had no claim on God whatsoever.  God called them out of Egypt by Grace.

They wandered in the desert and were provided for directly from the hand of the Lord.  Yet, God took the time in the midst of this “transitional period” to give them the Ten Commandments.  Why?  Weren’t they getting along?

But before the ink on the stone had dried (figuratively speaking), they were building a golden calf to worship.  Israel was a nation of … idolaters.

Of course, that is symptomatic of mankind in general.  Israel, like Adam, were the best possible representatives of the human race.  But they couldn’t remain loyal to Yahweh or Moses long enough for them to “finish business”.

As time went by, Israel broke these and many other laws that the Lord gave them.  Time after time, they would be taken by other nations into slavery as punishment.  Eventually, they added more laws to God’s laws so that they wouldn’t get close enough to break the real thing.

It’s like if you told a child, “don’t pick up that vase”.  The real problem is you don’t wan them to drop it, but to make sure this doesn’t happen, you anticipate and give them a command that subverts their intent.

This was the situation with Israel as Christ entered the picture.  The Pharisees asked why the disciples of Jesus broke their rules.  Jesus would respond by asking them why they broke the rules of God.

And so, Israel was at it again, making a golden calf out of man-made laws.  They were worshiping their own obedience, their own morality, their own righteousness.  They became living idols to themselves.

This Pharisaic form of Judaism crept into the church, as well.  Paul, who was a Jew of Jews, absolutely rejects the notion that returning to law will “right” the behavior of the non-Jewish converts to Christianity.  He asserts that the judaizers in the church were sons of Hagar and Ishmael rather that Sarah and Isaac.  Why?

Because they held that their sonship was maintained by their efforts to hold to God’s Law as revealed in the Old Testament.  They had forgotten the foundation of the Ten Commandments which read “I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of Egypt.  They had forgotten that they were not a people before God chose and rescued them.  They had forgotten how He parted the Sea.  They had forgotten how the Israelites were fed by bread from heaven and water from a rock.  They had forgotten that they stood on the mercy of God.

They were children of promise who sold their birthright for the bitter meal of Law-keeping self-idolatry.

But, Paul speaks to the gentile converts and says that they (like Israel) were children of promise.  They were children of old, old Sarah.  They were the last born.  They were not the “seed”, but were children of Ishmael who were transplanted into the stump.  They were adopted by God Himself in Jesus Christ.  They were now sons of the living God.

The laws that they lived under were slavery to every form of gross sin under the sun; temple prostitution, orgies, drunkenness, jealousy, envy, etc.  They were slaves to their desires.  Their gods were their stomachs.

But it was for freedom that Christ had set them free.  Was He setting them free to observe the Pharisaic morality invading the early church?  No, He was setting them free to live in the constant light of God’s mercy, forgiveness and grace distributed through the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  He was setting them free from gross sin, so why would he want them to learn the Pharisaic idolatry of the judaizers?  That is religious sin.

We face this today in the church.  Many would like to enslave you with demands, guilt and manipulation.  These vipers should not think that they will receive one thing from God.  They have become idolators of the worst sort.  They have abandoned Christ and all His mercy.  They have returned to the vomit of self-righteous living.  And they want you to follow along.

I suggest telling them this, “Get behind me Satan!  The Son has set me free.  He has fulfilled all of the Law’s demands and has been fully punished for my sin.  There is no other name on earth or in Heaven by which a man may be saved, including yours.”

Who am I?

11But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”  13Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”

Can you remember your first job?  Fast food restaurant, athletic club, or maybe a supermarket.  The first day, they started to train you, and can you remember how that went?

It’s not unusual to feel inadequate for a job.  Feelings of inadequacy are normal when you are doing something new.  You might also feel overwhelmed and lost which cause you to question why you decided to take this job.

Moses stumbles across the burning bush in the midst of his job.  He’s gotten herding sheep down to a science.  He’s good at it.  He feels confident yet is ever-aware of the dangers he might face.  He is up to the challenge.

But a burning bush that isn’t consumed is completely strange.  He doesn’t know what to make of it, so he approaches more closely.

Then God starts to speak.  He tells Moses what he needs to do.  He tells Moses to step out of his comfort zone boldly.  Moses then asks the question, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  Do you hear the fear in his voice?  The trepidation?  The worry?  The feeling of inadequacy?

God doesn’t address him with modern psychology.  Instead, God says to him, “I will be with you”.

The very thing God is telling Moses to do is a great and mighty work.  It is an impossible work.  It is a fool’s task, and Moses doesn’t want to look like a fool.  He is afraid of the risk and returning to a powerful nation to demand something when he is powerless.

He might believe he will be thrown in jail for such a request.

It’s possible that Moses had a speech impediment.  We know he had an anger problem.  Like anyone else in this world, he had limitations and “issues”.

But God doesn’t refer to any of these.  Instead, He declares who He is and that He will be with Moses.  All of the success of this enterprise is based on God’s working.

And, wherever He sends, He goes.  He does not abandon His children.  Whatever He asks us to do, His promise is sure that He will be with us.  He says to Moses, “when you have brought the people out of Egypt”, not, “if you bring my people out of Egypt”.  God’s confidence is sure, because His promise is based on His Word.

And this Word is Christ, who is the saving God.  He will lead us to the promised land of heaven.  Why? Because we are without limitations and issues?  No, but because this promise was secured at the cross.  All of our excuses and fears are extinguished by this single phrase, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”.

In the end, Moses didn’t need to worry about who he was, because God made his name great.  He made his name eternal.

My first video instruction on Bible structure – 5 minutes

http://www.screencast.com/t/fzTDCjLWf

Jesus is the Gospel

The gospel is not:  a decision to receive, believe, retrieve your own personal Jesus.

The gospel is not: making Him Lord, re-dedicating your life, saying a “sinner’s prayer”

In fact, the Gospel is completely outside of your (or my) activity.

The Gospel is ALL God’s activity through Jesus Christ.

What is ‘Gospel’?  It means ‘Good News’.

It is Jesus dying on the cross for your sin and my sin, and being raised in resurrection, so we can have the gift of resurrection in Him.

What’s the bad news?

First, the world is fallen and it can’t get up

Second, the devil is a fallen angel, not an archaic, pre-logical myth

Third, we have fallen into our coffin, and are bound to a horrible eternal end unless there’s an intervention

In other words, the situation is hopeless.

God loves hopeless situations.

God loves hopeless sinners.

Because Jesus was given as a sacrifice for sin.  He came to seek and save that which was lost.  Jesus came for sinners (including me).

And, He continues to be the good news for us.

When we confess our sin (not a feeling), He is faithful and just to forgive us based on His bloody death.

When we have doubt (by the way, doubt means you have faith to begin with), He remains faithful as a priest before the Father in Heaven.

When we are hungry for good news, we can find it in the promise that God has sent a deliverer in Jesus.  He hasn’t come for “good people”, but for those who have no hope in themselves.

He is hope fulfilled.  Both now and forever.  Amen.

Working out your self-deification with arrogance and boasting

When I was in high school, I worked as a stage hand one semester.  I was in the background, helping to move stage elements.  We changed backdrops, moved furniture, and moved props.

We got to see everything back there.  The audience, though, was unaware of anything but what they saw in front of them.

This is true for our view of the world, too.  Most people are largely unaware of what “backdrops” are behind their thinking.  It’s too much work to figure it out.  It’s more fun just to watch the play.

Our view of the purpose of the Bible is also influenced by our background beliefs.  Everyone comes to it with beliefs/perspectives of what it’s about.  And, if they don’t have any prior experience with it, they soon become aware that it talks a lot about commands, God, promises, war, sex, death, resurrection, angels and other “religious stuff”.

This helps to explain the differences in denominations.  If you go to a church, you probably accept their “backdrop” explanation of the purpose of the Bible.

But, is it correct?  Have you ever considered that conservative Christians (not talking politically here) have legitimate and valid differences concerning the purpose of the Bible?

One of the current “backdrops” is called “Lordship Salvation”.  It assumes that the Bible is a book of rules that we must follow perfectly otherwise we are not true disciples.  Christians in these churches assume that their church is “Biblical”.  They assume that Christians in other churches are weak or disobedient.  They assume this because this is the result of what they believe about the Bible and the Christian life.

Where does this belief come from?  Why do people believe that once they “receive Jesus” or “repent and believe” (as the Lordship Salvation camp would say), they must “get to work”, “live obediently” and “put your nose to the grindstone”?  Why does the Christian life return to me and my works?

Simple.  This is the theology of the Old Adam.  It is a theology that denies  the Lordship of Christ.  The Old Man denies that Christ is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  He denies John 6:28-29 which the disciples ask, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” The Old Adam denies Hebrews 10:10 which states, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

And in so denying that these verses are for Christians, the Old Adam denies Christ, Himself.  The Old Adam replaces Jesus with his own works, effort and obedience.  The Old Adam works to keep himself alive rather than submit to the crucifixion of Jesus as both the one who births faith in us and feeds faith through the means of grace.

The Old Adam is busy keeping himself as god.  He is his own lord.  He lives a blasphemous life.

And because of the extreme moral demands of Lordship Salvation, Christians under this theology can go only three directions:

In the first option, they can become self-righteous, arrogant about their relationship with God, and in denial about the depth of God’s demands on their lives.  This person is willing to judge others harshly and never examine his/her own life in light of the “full thundering” of the Law.  They become deeply judgmental, lacking any love.

In the second option, the Christian of sensitive conscience is thrown into despair about their salvation.  Martin Luther, the great reformer, fell into this camp when the terrors of Roman Catholic theology scared him into a monastery to find peace.  Eventually, these Christians will either leave the church, or have their faith shipwrecked.  Some of these people become hopeless and becomes agnostics/atheists because of the lack of mercy in these church bodies.

In the third option, they can remain superficial, never taking any of it seriously, and covering up with a false edifice.

There is a fourth option, however.  Along with many other who have escaped the clutches of Lordship Salvation, I encountered a completely different backdrop when I read Martin Luther.  Because I had lived in both the first and second options, Luther’s Bondage of the Will was like a key to open the prison door I lived in.

His view was that we begin and end with Christ when it comes to the Christian life.  In Biblical terms, that means that Jesus retains His lordship as the Alpha and the Omega.  We are to come to church to hear “Christ crucified” rather than the “ten steps to overcoming sin”.

This is a theology of reception.  It is a theology that believes that God is at work on and in us, and that it is His pleasure to do so.

It is a theology that views the Scripture as the manger in which we find the Christ-child.  He is the heart of its meaning, purpose and proclamation.  Read Hebrews.  Is it about you or about Jesus?  Read the Gospel from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.  Is it about you or Jesus?

And, having this “cross theology” also means that we interpret the Bible as being Law or Gospel.  This means that God’s demands reveal our inherent sinfulness, but God has provided His own Son to fulfill ALL of these demands and cleanse us from ALL sin.  Even the sin of trying to be your/my own God.

Why does He do this?  Look at Romans 3:

 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

 Acts 4:12 states; “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” No other name, not even your own.

To the Glory of His Holy Lordship, Amen.

Herd mentality

The Bible has many calls and echoes that run through it.  One of them is ‘shepherd’.  This seems strange because it is such a lowly and lonely occupation.  It is filled with danger, exposure and exhaustion.  A shepherd must be watchful and aware, looking out for sheep who are getting lost and also for wild animals who might attack.  They cannot sleep too deeply because nocturnal predators are on the prowl.

Perhaps the clearest report of this aspect of shepherding comes from David.  David’s own report about himself appears in 1 Samuel 17:

34But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear;  (NASB).

It’s hard to imagine a young boy taking out a lion or a bear.  It seems like he has a vivid imagination.  Perhaps David is trying to “pad his resume” to Saul as he presents his qualifications for killing Goliath.

Of course, we know how the story ends.  David not only proves to be lethal, but perhaps more importantly, fearless.  David really did take down lions and bears.

David also had the responsibility of feeding the sheep.  He had to find pastures for them to graze so they wouldn’t be hungry.

Finally, if the sheep got lost, David had to take the risk of finding the one(s) who were lost.  And, he did.

David was a good shepherd.

David was a type.  This means his life was a model of what Messiah would be.  If you want to check on this, just read John 10.  Whereas David was the shadow, Jesus Christ is the reality.  David shepherded sheep, Jesus shepherds people.

How is Jesus a shepherd?

1. He “brands” people with his name on our forehead through the waters of baptism  (this finds connection to the Old Testament in circumcision; see Colossians 2:11-12)

2. He feeds us His own body and blood (this occurs when we hear from the Scripture and when we receive the bread and wine at communion)

3. He searches for us when we are lost (Matthew 18:12)

4. He searches the world for His sheep: “16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10)

5. He kicks the crap out of the Devil and the world  (In fact, at His cross, He already did.  Now, we wait for the full consummation of His Kingdom at His second coming.  The final victory will be His).  The tools of these adversaries include heresy from within and without, persecution, and vain philosophies of every kind.

6. Some of the sheep will be hurt or killed in the field.  He heals the ones who are injured and gives eternal life to those who lose their lives in this world.

He does all of this for you.  He is all of these things for you.  He has not spared his own life, but seeing that lion, the devil approaching you, He went to the cross and ripped his fangs out and tore out his claws.  This is most certainly true.

And, He continues His mission as shepherd through the pastor and the church.  We are called to continue calling for the lost and bring them into Christ’s sheepfold, the church.  Because, we are not just sheep; we have been given this shepherding responsibility too.  As Merkens notes, “We are truly saved to serve” (Organized for Action, 1).

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