10 Reasons Racism Is Sin

JANUARY 21, 2019  |  Kevin DeYoung 
You can find other articles by Kevin DeYoung here: 
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/

Most people know that racism is wrong. It’s one of the few things almost everyone agrees on. And yet, I wonder if we (I?) have spent much time considering why it’s wrong.

We can easily make our “I hate racism” opinions known, but perhaps we are just looking for moral high ground, or for pats on the back, or to win friends and influence people, or to prove we’re not like those people, or maybe we are just saying what we’ve always heard everyone say.

As Christians we must think and feel deeply not just the what of the Bible but the why. If racism is so bad, why is it so bad?

Here are ten biblical reasons why racism is sin and offensive to God.

1. We are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Most Christians know this and believe it, but the implications are more staggering than we might realize. The sign pictured above is not just mean, it is dehumanizing. It tried to rob Irish and blacks of their exalted status as divine image bearers. It tried to make them no different from animals. But of course, as a white man I am no more like God in my being, no more capable of worship, no more made with a divine purpose, no more possessing of worth and deserving of dignity than any other human of any other gender, color, or ethnicity. We are more alike than we are different.

2. We are all sinners corrupted by the fall (Rom. 3:10-205:12-21). Everyone made in the image of God has also had that image tainted and marred by original sin. Our anthropology is as identical as our ontology. Same image, same problem. We are more alike than we are different.

3. We are all, if believers in Jesus, one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). We see from the rest of the New Testament that justification by faith does not eradicate our gender, our vocation, or our ethnicity, but it does relativize all these things. Our first and most important identity is not male or female, American or Russian, black or white, Spanish speaker or French speaker, rich or poor, influential or obscure, but Christian. We are more alike than we are different.

4. Separating peoples was a curse from Babel (Gen. 11:7-9); bringing peoples together was a gift from Pentecost (Acts 2:5-11). The reality of Pentecost may not be possible in every community—after all, Jerusalem had all those people there because of the holy day—but if our inclination is to move in the direction of the punishment of Genesis 11 instead of the blessing of Acts 2 something is wrong.

5. Partiality is a sin (James 2:1). When we treat people unfairly, when we assume the worst about persons and peoples, when we favor one group over another, we do not reflect the God of justice, nor do we honor the Christ who came to save all men.

6. Real love loves as we hope to be loved (Matt. 22:39-40). No one can honestly say that racism treats our neighbor as we would like to be treated.

7. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15). Sadly, we can hate without realizing we hate. Hatred does not always manifest itself as implacable rage, and it does not always—or, because of God’s restraining mercy, often—translate into physical murder. But hatred is murder of the heart, because hatred looks at someone else or some other group and thinks, I wish you weren’t around. You are what’s wrong with this world, and the world would be better without people like you. That’s hate, which sounds an awful lot like murder.

8. Love rejoices in what is true and looks for what is best (1 Cor. 13:4-7). You can’t believe all things and hope all things when you assume the worst about people and live your life fueled by prejudice, misguided convictions, and plain old animosity.

9. Christ came to tear down walls between peoples not build them up (Eph. 2:14). This is not a saccharine promise about everyone setting doctrine aside and getting along for Jesus’s sake. Ephesians 2 and 3 are about something much deeper, much more glorious, and much more cruciform. If we who have been made in the same image, born into the world with the same problem, find the same redemption through the same faith in the same Lord, how can we not draw near to each other as members of the same family?

10. Heaven has no room for racism (Rev. 5:9-107:9-1222:1-5). Woe to us if our vision of the good life here on earth will be completely undone by the reality of new heavens and new earth yet to come. Antagonism toward people of another color, language, or ethnic background is antagonism toward God himself and his design for eternity.

Christians ought to reject racism, and do what they can to expose it and bring the gospel to bear upon it, not because we love pats on the back for our moral outrage or are desperate for restored moral authority, but because we love God and submit ourselves to the authority of his Word.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

The debate about whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas has been raging for centuries. There are equally sincere and committed Christians on both sides of the issue, each with multiple reasons why or why not Christmas should be celebrated.

It’s Really Paganism In A Different Skin

One argument against Christmas is that the traditions surrounding the holiday have origins in paganism. I spent a lot of time searching for reliable information on this topic but found it quite difficult because the origins of many of our traditions are so obscure that sources often contradict one another. Traditions like bells, candles, holly, and yuletide decorations are mentioned in the histories of pagan worship, but the use of these items in your home certainly doesn’t indicate a return to paganism.

While there are definitely pagan roots to some traditions, there are many more traditions associated with the true meaning of Christmas. Bells are played to ring out the great news, candles are lit to remind us that Christ is the Light of the world, a star is placed on the top of a Christmas tree to remember the Star of Bethlehem, and gifts are exchanged to remind us of the gifts of the Magi to Jesus, the greatest gift of God to mankind.

Even still, one of the reasons given to not celebrate the season does seem to carry weight. It seems that the day we currently celebrate the birth of Christ is connected to a pagan festival known as Saturnalia. Keep in mind that often, in these types of arguments, supposed facts are thrown around without establishing the truth behind a claim made.

Such is the case with the argument used to support pagan roots with Easter. The argument against the celebration of Easter is that the word Easter itself, and as a consequence the celebration of that holiday, comes from the worship of the goddess Ishtar. The problem however is that there is no evidence to support that claim, they are just two words that sound similar and so has entered into a kind of ‘Christian urban legend’ as though it was a piece of factual history even though it is not. But in the case of Christmas, the claim that Christmas is connected to the pagan festival Saturnalia, is actually true – but not for the reasons most would think.

The Smoking Gun – Saturnalia

Given the connection, there are some who claim that the ancient celebration of Saturnalia is the smoking gun that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Christmas is pagan.

Brief history lesson: The Saturnalia holiday was a week-long Roman festival to honour the god Saturn, starting on December 17, it fell within what we now call the Christmas season. For most of history, debauchery seemed to dominate celebrations of the holiday; in fact, the word Saturnalia became synonymous with immorality and carousing.

Still, though the Christian understanding of Christmas is not about immorality and carousing, some Saturnalia customs do come across as hedonistic perversions of Christmas traditions to the modern eye. For instance, singing from house to house naked (glad we don’t do that one in Canada), feasting excessively, eating baked goods shaped like people, and exchanging bawdy gifts. The truth is that in reality, there’s good historical evidence suggesting that these events were actually reformed, absorbed, and transformed over time as a result of Christmas’ popularity overtaking that of Saturnalia, not Saturnalia customs influencing the Christmas celebrations.

I found it interesting as I did my research, that the early Christian’s motive for celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 was the same that inspires modern Christians and churches to hold “Fall Festivals” or “Bible Costume Parties” on October 31. In other words, to provide a spiritually positive alternative to what is perceived as a pagan celebration. Back then, over time as the Roman Empire ‘Christianized’, customs associated with Saturnalia were ‘cleaned up’ and absorbed into the celebration of Christmas.

And it wasn’t just Saturnalia – another Roman holiday, Sol Invictus, was also gradually absorbed by Christmas. Sol Invictus (“Invincible Sun”) celebrated, on December 25, the renewing of the Sun King and was linked to the winter solstice.

It’s no secret then that the date, traditions, and long-term history of Christmas are connected to the pagan holidays of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus. Yet, like a modern Canadian family celebrating a harvest festival and dressing up like a bible character or great reformer of the past on October 31, it’s the people celebrating who decide what the celebration means. Early Christians chose December 25 as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus and that decision of theirs continues to this day. So, though Christmas and Saturnalia may be historical neighbours with indirect connections, they are not the same holiday, never were, and of course never will be.

Since We Don’t See December 25th In The Bible, We Shouldn’t Celebrate Christmas On That Day 

Furthering the debate are those who point to the fact that the Bible doesn’t give us the date of Christ’s birth – which is certainly true. December 25th may not be even close to the time Jesus was born, and arguments on both sides are legion, some relating to climate in Israel, the practices of shepherds in winter, and the dates of Roman census-taking. While none of these points are without a certain amount of conjecture, the fact remains that the Bible doesn’t tell us when Jesus was born. Some see this as proof positive that God didn’t want us to celebrate the birth, while others see the Bible’s silence on the issue as tacit approval.

Christmas Has Become A Worldly Celebration, So We Should Avoid It As A ‘Set Apart’ People

Finally, some say that because the world celebrates Christmas – though it is becoming more and more politically correct to refer to it as “the holidays”- Christians should avoid it. But let me point out that’s the same argument made by cults that deny Jesus altogether, as well as cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny his deity. I personally see the occasion of Christmas as an opportunity to proclaim Christ as “the reason for the season” among the nations, including those trapped in cults.

Ultimately, there’s no legitimate scriptural reason not to celebrate Christmas, while at the same time, no biblical mandate to celebrate it. So, in the end, whether or not to celebrate Christmas really comes down to a personal decision. Whatever you decide to do regarding Christmas, your (or my) views should not be used as a club to beat down or denigrate those with opposing views, nor should either view be used as a badge of honour inducing pride over celebrating or not celebrating. As in all things, we seek wisdom from God who gives it liberally to all who ask (James 1:5) and accept one another in Christian love and grace, regardless of our views.

Why Saying ‘Love Is Love’ Cheapens Real Love

If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve probably seen a phrase being used which simply says ‘Love is Love’. The meaning behind the statement is that falling in love is not about the gender of the person, nor important if it’s monogamous or polyamorous. The sentiment is that you can be gay, bi or straight and pursue a monogamous or polyamorous relationship as long as you’re getting the love, affection and companionship that you need to be happy and fulfilled emotionally as well as satisfied sexually.

The understanding is that when someone makes the statement using the three words, ‘love is Love’, that should settle the matter. After all, how can you argue with someone else’s choice to love? For that matter, it might not even be a choice anyways if I have ‘fallen in love’ because that’s an uncontrolled physical and emotional response to chemistry between two people that just happens. Is it though?

There are a few issues that need to be addressed that come along with the blanket statement ‘Love is Love. For instance; where do we draw the line? Does it only include ‘love’ between two consenting adults or could it include love between an adult and a child or a human and an animal?

To most of us, including those who promote the current idea of the phrase ‘love is love’, those suggestions would be unthinkable. However, only a few short years ago the majority would have been aghast at the idea of the love is love ideology as it is promoted today. Yet there are movements afoot to normalize both pedophilia and bestiality as we speak, who’s to say that one day they wouldn’t be ‘normalized’? It’s happened before in past cultures – Rome & Greece are just two examples of many.

Who set’s the boundaries of this love is love ideology anyways? After all, ‘Love is love’ isn’t it? It comes down to the simple pursuit of happiness and that sense of being needed, wanted and cared for – isn’t that what we all want? If the answer to those questions are in the affirmative then I’d say ‘go for it!’.

But what if it is not an enlightened way to live but is instead a foolish lie? What if it leads to unhealthy places for one or both involved; emotionally, spiritually, and yes even physically?[1] If that’s the case then we need to be extremely careful in making a case for what we might think should be normal and accepted in our culture.

Before we go on, let’s look at this falling in love idea…

IS FALLING IN LOVE A REAL THING?

I’ve heard the statement used, “Well you can’t help who you ‘fall in love’ with”. Falling in love is an expression describing someone’s emotional state when those puppy dog, googly eyed, happy feelings of what’s assumed to be love, start to grip the soul and make you feel like you just can’t breathe another moment without that person being in the same room with you. But I think we need to ask whether or not ‘falling in love’ is even a real thing.

The idea of “falling in love” relies on warm emotions and (more than likely) surging hormones. However, the idea that love is all about feelings is more of a western cultural, 20th century invention than anything else. The biblical view of love is that love can exist apart from feelings. Think about it, no hormones are needed to obey the command to “love your neighbour as yourself” – James 2:8. In other words, we choose to love; that is, we commit ourselves to act in the best interests of another person.

Of course, nice emotions often accompany love, and we naturally have warm feelings toward someone we’re attracted to. And of course, it’s good and proper to have positive feelings and surging hormones when in the company of your spouse. But if that’s all there is to “falling in love,” then we’re in trouble. What happens when the feelings fall away? What about when the hormones stop surging? Have we fallen “out” of love?

Love should never be seen as dependent on feelings or expediency or romantic attraction. The “falling in love” concept places undue emphasis on the emotional condition of those involved. The wording of the phrase almost makes it sound as if love were an accident: “I can’t help falling in love with you” makes a nice song lyric, but, in real life, we are responsible to control our emotions. Many marriages have been ended (and many foolishly begun) because someone “fell in love” with the wrong person.

Love isn’t a state that we stumble into; it’s a commitment that we grow into. It’s probably more accurate to say that those who “fall in love” actually “fall in lust” or “fall into infatuation” or “fall into co-dependency.”

So my answer to that question, ‘is falling in love a real thing?’ can only be no, but rather an invention of the western world’s infatuation with a ‘fun’ emotional sensation.

LOVE IS LOVE STILL…ISN’T IT?

Even still, someone may not have experienced the emotional sensation of falling in love but have instead grown into a love commitment with someone other than their spouse, with more than one partner at a time or with someone of the same gender. If that’s the case then can we not say that for them at least, love is love? If loving is a choice that means I can still love someone of the same gender, or more than one person… after all love is love – right?

Ephesians 5:31 is a quotation of Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.” Paul adds in verse 32: “This is a great mystery, and I take it to mean Christ and the church.”

The union of one man and one woman in marriage is a mystery because it presents a parable, a true story, a picture of Christ and the church. And hidden in this allegory of marriage is that God ordained a permanent union between his Son Jesus and the church. In other words, marriage Is not simply an ancient cultural definition that we haven’t ‘evolved’ away from yet, nor is it an accident that marriage between a man and woman provides the church with a language to explain Christ’s relation to the church.

God had purposefully designed human marriage to be an earthly reflection of his celestial plan. Do you see that picture? God willed it that Christ and the church become one body, and then willed it for marriage to reflect that pattern. That is why we see the blessing and encouragement of a husband and wife becoming one flesh as stated in Genesis 2:24.

Paul paints the picture for us even further about this being the image for the church when he says, “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 11:2

Now, understanding that – when people say that “love is Love” – we can’t help but see how it cheapens what true love is. It doesn’t allow for the full expression to be experienced as God intended, and we see it for what it is (or is not). It’s not an enlightened understanding of love at all, but is in truth a bad copy at best.

Of all the ways we might think about love being expressed, biblical love gives us the best definition. In fact, it’s described as “the most excellent way” – 1 Corinthians 12:31. Paul says that “Love is patient, love is kind” – 1 Corinthians 13:4. I don’t think that it should be lost on us that we don’t find too many people, if any at all, “falling into” patience or kindness, do we?

“Falling in love” or saying that “love is Love” are nice phrases and make for great soundbites to use in the moment or in songs on a soundtrack. They appeal to the emotions and give us nice fuzzies, the goosebumps, the enjoyable feelings of having entered the ideal romance. Please understand that I think that those feelings are fine, in and of themselves, and it’s possible that those who are “falling in love” have actually found a perfect match.

But we need always remember that love is more than emotional involvement based on physical attraction. It’s more than finding a person or persons to ‘enjoy’ experiences with. Truth is that those who are falling in love are sometimes blinded to the reality of their situation and can easily mistake the intensity of their emotions for genuine love.

But there’s some good news…

REDEMPTION BRINGS RECOVERY

God created marriage to be THE image of Jesus’ relationship to the church. But the problem has been that sin has so confused the image as to make it unrecognizable. If contemporary culture succeeds in redefining and reimaging the purpose of love relationships, the meaning of the image we are to reflect to the world of Christ & his bride, seen as love between a husband and wife will be obscured for many years to come.

That is why we, who are committed to God’s definition of marriage, must live out the true meaning of authentic, committed love relationships, with our spouses if we’re married, within the church in authentic ways, with our neighbours representing Jesus to them, and even more importantly with Jesus Christ himself, growing to know him intimately.

As we grow in these love relationships, we need to commit to living out our true love publicly and joyfully, so that the world sees it and begins to recognize the depth of love they are missing out on. We need to live it out in such a way that our love displays Christ in all his beauty. That’s the Gospel being put on display! And pray that those who see our love in action will be so attracted to Jesus that they soon become counted among the redeemed and recover the life they were created for – a love relationship with our Heavenly Father, through his son Jesus, accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

True story – It’s only as our lives are redeemed that true recovery back to reflecting the image of Jesus can be realized just as those ‘some’ were redeemed and recovered who Paul wrote to in the Corinthian church so long ago.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

[1]A telling statistic is that HPV infection is found in about 90% of people with anal cancer: https://www.medicaldaily.com/does-anal-sex-lead-anal-cancer-3-facts-and-myths-400561

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

The other day as I was getting a haircut, my stylist (I know – what hair do I have to style?), found out I was a pastor and so asked me a great question based off of an earlier conversation about the news coming out of the Middle East. “Why do Muslim’s and Christian’s fight each other? Don’t you really worship the same God anyways? Why not just focus on the stuff you are the same like the love stuff and be kind to each other stuff?”

She probably didn’t expect me to answer the way I did. Most people just say “You’re right, why don’t we?” I think most people would answer that way because they don’t know what to say or because they’d agree with her premise. Before you accuse me of promoting hatred and warfare, I did agree with her about the peace part. After all, we are to love God and our neighbour as ourselves, and the neighbour thing includes my muslim neighbours whether they be next door here in Halifax or across the ocean.

What I didn’t agree with her about was the idea that we worship the same God. So I seized on her openness of the moment to share the beauty and uniqueness of Jesus and his teachings. She engaged in the conversation and was genuinely surprised about the differences – apparently no one had told her what I was telling her, along with the obvious fact that she hadn’t explored the idea herself.

I wasn’t surprised, and in fact I find this to be a common way of thinking. What I do find surprising however, is that there are some within the Christian camp who hold a similar belief, in that there isn’t much difference between the three Abrahamic faiths; Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In fact, there are a large number who’d say that we actually worship the same God.

Back in December of 2015, Dr. Larycia Hawkins, a professor with Wheaton College (An evangelical institution), put on a hijab and stated on Facebook, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

Five days after that posting, Wheaton College gave Dr. Hawkins a ‘time out’ saying that they wanted to give her “more time to explore (the) theological implications of her recent public statements.” Giving a grown woman, a Doctor none the less, a time out wasn’t received well, based on the firestorm of controversy it ignited.

The Chicago Tribune, described Wheaton’s actions as “bigotry… disguised as theology.” This assessment was partially based on the input of Yale Professor Miroslav Volf, a theologian who said, “There isn’t any theological justification for Hawkins’s forced administrative leave. Her suspension is not about theology and orthodoxy. It is about enmity toward Muslims.” That sounds a bit harsh, but is he right?

WHAT IF ANY, ARE THE SIMILARITIES?  

The founder of Islam, Muhammad, saw himself as the last in a line of prophets that reached back through Jesus to Moses, beyond him to Abraham and as far back as Noah. According to the Quran, God (known as Allah) revealed to Muhammad:

“The Book with the truth [the Quran], confirming what was before it, and [before He sent down the Quran] He sent down the Torah of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus… as a guidance for the people.” 

The Muslim and Christian views of God certainly do have some similarities. For example, Christians believe in one eternal God who created the universe, and Muslims apply these attributes to Allah. Both view God as all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present. Jesus is mentioned 25 times in the Qur’an. And then there’s the fact that Christianity and Islam having similar teachings on morals and ethics.

The obvious conclusion to some then is that Muslims worship the same God as Christians, it’s just that the two mega faiths are simply having some familial misunderstandings about what he’s like and what he’s done – yet still the same God. After all, both Christians and Muslims recognize that their books speak about the same God who created Adam and Eve, who rescued Noah from the flood, who promised Abraham a vast progeny, who helped Moses escape Egypt, who made the Virgin Mary great with child, who sent Jesus into the world, who helped the disciples overcome, and who is still sovereign today. Is that not the God of the Bible being described in the Quran? The Quran even asserts that the Torah and the Gospel are inspired scripture and that Jews and Christians are people of the Book.

And then there’s the fact, the Quran tells Muslims to say to them (Christians and Jews), “Our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender” (29.46).

That sounds very benign… and inclusive to me. Listen, if the Quran asserts that Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians, doesn’t that settle the matter?

Fair question deserving a fair answer. My observation however, is that those assertions do not settle the matter even remotely. That’s because Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. Here is why I make that claim. It’s because making a claim that it is the same God being truly and honestly worshiped equally by both Muslims and Christians quite simply subverts Christian orthodoxy in favour of Islamic claims.

ARE THE DIFFERENCES REALLY DIFFERENT ENOUGH?

Christians believe Jesus is God, but the Quran is so opposed to this creed that it condemns Jesus worshipers to Hell (5.72). In fact, any belief in the deity of Jesus is considered shirk (“polytheism”) to Muslims. Further to this, Islam denies the death of Christ on the cross (4:157–158). So, right at the start, the most crucial doctrine of the Christian faith is rejected in Islam. This fact alone should be enough to settle the matter.

But even if that wasn’t enough, there is the doctrine of the Trinity to consider. In the Bible, God has revealed himself as one God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So from a right understanding of Christian scripture, we see that while each Person of the Trinity is fully God, God is not three gods, but three in one.

God’s Son came in the form of man, a truth called the incarnation, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Sonfrom the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14(Also look up, Luke 1:30-35; Colossians 2:91 John 4:1-3).

Jesus conquered the penalty and power of sin by dying on the cross, and then after rising from the dead, went back to heaven to be with his Father and sent the Holy Spirit to believers.

 “’But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’.” – Acts 1:8-11.

Islam, on the other hand, roundly condemns worship of the Trinity (5.73), establishing, in contrast, its own core principle: Tawhid, the absolute oneness of God. Tawhid specifically denies the Trinity, so much so that according to Islam, worshiping the Christian God is not just wrong; it sends you to Hell.

ARE WE BEING HYPOCRITICAL WHEN IT COMES TO THE JEWISH FAITH?

Allow me to answer a question that many might be asking at this point. “How can you Christians accuse Muslims of worshiping a different God without also indicting the Jews of doing the same thing, isn’t that hypocritical & inconsistent?”

That is a fair question, however the response should be obvious to those who have studied the three Abrahamic faiths: The Trinity is an elaboration of Jewish theology, not a rejection. By contrast, Tawhid is a categorical rejection of the Trinity, Jesus’ deity, and the Fatherhood of God, doctrines that are grounded in the pages of the New Testament and firmly established centuries before the advent of Islam. Most of the earliest Christians were Jews, incorporating their encounter with Jesus into their Jewish theology. Nothing of the sort is true of Muhammad, who was neither a Jew nor a Christian. Islam did not elaborate on the Trinity but rejected and replaced it.

For the Christian though, no Trinity means no incarnation of God’s Son in the Person of Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no salvation from sin, no matter you be religiously Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Without salvation, sin condemns all to an eternal hell. And for Christians, the deity of Christ is non-negotiable, because without his deity, Jesus’ death on the cross would not have been sufficient to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the entire world, He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2

So, do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? A better question is, “Do Christians and Muslims both have a correct understanding of who God is?” To this question, the answer is definitely a big fat NO! And that is this, because of the crucial differences between the Christian and Muslim concepts of God, the two faiths cannot both be true. The biblical God alone addresses and solves the problem of sin by giving his Son, the God man Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” – John 3:16-18

Hasn’t Science Proven There is No God?

“How often have we turned on the television and heard the host say, “Tonight we will be talking about faith versus science. Or first guest is a former University of Oxford professor, evolutionary biologist, and bestselling author. He believes that science, not faith, holds the answers to all questions. On the other side of the aisle we have Joe Smith, who will speak for the legitimacy of faith and Christianity. Joe home schools his kids, thinks Oprah is the Antichrist, and lives in a swamp.”

The opening scene depicted in Mark Clark’s book, The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenge to Christianity, comically captures the popular idea that science and religion are incompatible ideologies. But as humorous as we might find it, there’s a sobering truth to what he says. There are many who truly believe that science is the only answer in this serious business of discovering humanity’s origins and man’s purpose, whereas religion (christianity in particular) is simply an embarrassing part of an antiquated past, best left behind.

Are Religion & Science Incompatible Ideologies?

The world’s chief apostle for atheism, Richard Dawkins, wrote in his 2006 book; “The God Delusion”, that God and belief in God are “delusions.” Belief in God, says Dawkins, subverts science and knowledge, breeds ignorance, foments bigotry, and abuses children. All this happens for the simple reason that God (according to Dawkins) is a delusion. Is he right? 

Contrary to the popular narrative of our time that posits faith, and Christianity specifically, against science, the reality is the church has never been its enemy, and any disagreements between the two, which have of course existed at times, have been gravely exaggerated.

As an example, stories are told about Galileo, Copernicus, and Giordano Bruno being tortured for holding “heliocentric” views of the universe. Thrilling dramas, but untrue, what we call historical revisionism.

The church did persecute Galileo for a season, demanding he recant some of his heliocentric views, but he was never charged with heresy and placed in a dungeon, or tortured, as has become popular mythology among skeptics.

He was sentenced to house arrest and then released into the custody of the archbishop of Siena, who housed him for five months in his palace because of other theological issues centred around the trinity. Galileo then returned to his villa in Florence, continuing his scientific work and even publishing, before dying of natural causes in 1642.

Another modern example of this historical revisionism by skeptics is the story of the medieval church believing that the Bible taught a flat earth, and then reacting in outrage when science came along and proved that the Bible was wrong.

This is simply not true. From the time of the ancient Greeks, people knew the earth was round. Job and Isaiah both speak of the earth being a sphere and Isaiah specifically speaks to the universe expanding. And this well before the Hubel telescope.

Any high school graduate will say that we learned that Pythagoras (c. 570 – 500 B.C.) was the first person to assert that the earth is round.However, the biblical passages are older than him. Isaiah is generally acknowledged to have been written in the 700s B.C. and Job is thought to have been written around 2000 B.C.

The secular astronomers before the time of Pythagoras must have thought the scriptures were wrong about its teaching of a round earth, yet the bible was exactly right. It was the secular science of the day that needed to be corrected.

So, the popular picture of Christians being scared of science and deep thinking has simply never been true. In fact, the University itself is a twelfth-century Christian invention. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, and Brown all began as Christian institutions.

Facts are that detailed scientific and literary analysis has not only been an emphasis of Christianity since its inception, but Christianity had a part in their birth.

What about Faith & Logic?

A close cousin to the myth that religion & science aren’t compatible is the myth that faith & logic don’t mix.

Faith is something religious people have versus the rest of humanity, say atheists or agnostics, who believe in facts and logic. However, everyone, even the most convinced atheist, has a faith position. Everyone believes in something and makes assumptions about reality that can’t be proven even through science.

That’s because everything we believe is filtered through a grid, or worldview, that has been adopted over time (constructed from a myriad of variables: where and when we were born, our family, our education, media, etc.).

We are frequently unaware of these presuppositions, but we must see that all of them are, to a certain degree, faith-based conclusions rather than beliefs adopted through empirical proof.

For instance, I recently read a story about a nurse who was a follower of Jesus. The doctors with whom she worked were adamant that the hospital was a purely secular place – in other words, there was no room for “faith” to play a role in caring for patients. One night the staff was discussing a patient who was on life support.

In debating whether to take him off or not, one doctor said to another, “Well, at least we know if we do that he won’t be suffering anymore.”

Everyone in the group nodded in agreement. But the nurse wondered to herself, how do you know this? That belief (the idea that the person would not be suffering anymore once he was dead) in and of itself is a metaphysical statement about what the afterlife is like.

The group of doctors were speaking out of a faith position for which they had no proof. How did they know that this person wouldn’t be suffering more than he was now? They believed this wholeheartedly, but based on what evidence? It is a faith position. Everyone has one.

Spock from Star Trek’s famous line was always, “Logic Dictates” as the answer for all arguments and solutions to issues. Spock used logical apologetics to reach his answers. I believe we can learn from Spock.

Within the philosophical circles and academia there are a few logical systems of arguments that are commonly used to come to some kind of reasoning regarding matters of faith.

They are not perfect but are helpful as a starting point for someone who may be sincerely seeking answers but yet may not be at the place where they accept the authority of the word of God quite yet.

There are a few different logical arguments but I’m only going to share three for our purposes this morning.

The first one, the teleological argument, states that since the universe displays such an amazing design, there must have been a divine designer. Just as we would expect that there is a designer behind an intricate design of a watch so there must be a designer behind the more intricate design of the universe.

A second logical argument, the cosmological argument, states that every effect must have a cause. This universe and everything in it is an effect. There must be something that caused everything to come into existence. Ultimately, there must be something “un-caused” in order to initially cause everything else to come into existence.

The theory of the ‘Big Bang’ is currently the leading explanation about how the universe began. At its simplest, it says the universe as we know it started with a small singularity, then inflated over the next 13.8 billion years to become the cosmos that we know today. However, the question remains… what or who caused the bang? God as the un-caused is still the best explanation.

A third argument is known as the moral argument.Every culture throughout history has had some form of law. Everyone has a sense of right and wrong. Murder, lying, stealing, and immorality are almost universally rejected.

Where did this sense of right and wrong come from? Dawkins claims that sense of right or wrong come from self… we are the arbitrators of what is deemed good or bad.

If that’s the case then what’s to stop the Nazi’s from claiming that their philosophy which led to the extermination of millions of Jews and others is good? What makes my judgment call of good or bad better or superior to your judgment calls?

Is Logic Important?

Logic becomes important when examining claims because it helps us dictate why some claims should be excluded and others embraced. And one of the core laws of logic is the law of non-contradiction, which says something cannot be both “A” and “non-A” at the same time and in the same sense.

For example, pepper can’t be pepper and salt. If something is black, it’s not white. The only exception to this rule is when a man sees a pink dress and calls it what it is… pink. But then a woman comes along and calls it salmon, or rose, or faded red… or something else as ridiculous. Listen, in that case I stand by pink AND whatever else you call it.

That being said, used properly, logic is a potent weapon against pluralism because it clearly demonstrates that contrary truth claims cannot both be true. This understanding topples the whole “It might be true for you but not for me” mindset.

The conclusion is that faith & logic are compatible and that you can use reason and logic in matters of religion.

What Does the Bible Say About God?

After saying all this, part of the irony of attempting to prove God exists to a non-believer is that it can never be proven, but to a believer, proof of God can be seen just about everywhere.

Of course, if you need to see it to believe it, do you really have faith? The Bible says that we must accept by faith the fact that God exists: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” – Hebrews 11:6

If God so desired, he could simply appear and prove to the whole world that he exists. But if he did that, there would be no need for faith. That does not mean, however, that there is no evidence of God’s existence.

The Bible states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” – Psalm 19:1-4

Looking at the stars, understanding the vastness of the universe, observing the wonders of nature, seeing the beauty of a sunset – all of these things point to a Creator God. If these were not enough, there is also evidence of God in our own hearts. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us, “…He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.”

Deep within us is the recognition that there is something beyond this life and someone beyond this world. We can deny this knowledge intellectually, but God’s presence in us and all around us is still obvious.

Since the vast majority of people throughout history, in all cultures, in all civilizations, and on all continents believe in the existence of some kind of God, there must be something (or someone) causing this belief.

In Psalm 139:4, David said that we were “fearfully and wonderfully made”.As modern science discovers more about the universe, we find more evidence of a designer creator. Consider the mystery of a sperm and an egg joining together to produce life.

And the fact that no two people in the world are exactly alike. No two fingerprints are alike. The amazing complexity and replication of DNA. Every one of the 7.5 trillion cells in your body contains the genetic material to make another you, and yet your DNA is unique to you! You are different from every other person who has ever lived.

We also see God through the evidence of morality, cosmology, biology, and astronomy. The evidences are there to overwhelming introduce us to God. And not just a winder of the clock but a God who cares intimately about each of us. All of these things scream that there is a God!

Does God’s Existence Matter?

The Bible’s presentation of God shows why his existence matters. God’s holy nature is revealed in contrast to human (sinful) nature, and the Bible gives mankind a standard of right and wrong. Without an arbiter, there is no final authority to weigh the values we establish for ourselves.

Who is to say one thing is wrong and another right? Why is it incumbent upon us to help those in need? By what authority can we object to illiteracy? If there is no God, and life on earth is simply “survival of the fittest,” then why should anyone work to feed the hungry? Upon what standard do we lay the foundation of our morality?

Dawkins said that God is a delusion. However, God is not the delusion; atheism is. The apostle Paul declares that the human race in general is lost in sin and self-delusion (2 Timothy4:3-4). A sober assessment of human beings recognizes that we lie, cheat, steal, lust, complain, envy, hate, and forget and that we are careless, ruthless, disrespectful, resentful, and loveless. We are all these things naturally from birth. We are so obviously sinful that it is silly to call human beings “good.” The denial of God is the true delusion that extends to the atheist’s view of humanity as “good,” all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, not even one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks for God All have turned aside, together they have become useless there is none who does good. There is not even one’.” – Romans 3:10-12

Think about it. Nobody teaches children to lie; they do it naturally. Nobody teaches teenage boys to lust; they do it naturally. Nobody teaches the employee to resent his boss or spread malicious gossip about the co-worker with whom he is competing with for a promotion; he does these things naturally. Nobody teaches the wife to unjustly criticize her husband or the husband to neglect his wife; both do these things naturally. But unless we are made new creations in Christ, we will continue to do evil because it’s our natural inclination.

In the end, we are either created in God’s image, or we are not. Love and compassion are either part of God’s nature (and therefore to be reflected in us), or they are products of a random biological accident (and therefore unnecessary).

The question of God’s existence is of vital important because, on a practical level, if God does exist, there is a good chance that he wants to connect with us and that he requires the meeting of certain standards to make that happen. Further to that, our existence has significance (or insignificance) depending on the existence (or nonexistence) of God. So, the question is central to everything.

So back to the original question… “Has science proven there is no God?”. The resounding answer is NO! And God has made that clear if only people open their eyes, ears and hearts. Let’s pray to that end.

Are We Guilty Of Embracing The Cult Of Judgmentalism?

One of the accusations thrown at Christians is that we are amongst the most judgemental people in the world. Interestingly enough that accusation comes equally from churched folks as it does from the none churched. Why do we have such a reputation? I don’t think that we aim to judge others – or ourselves, rather I believe that we simply don’t understand grace. For that matter I wonder if we actually believe in grace?

Before I get a few nasty notes let me say this first. I do believe that we need to make character and situational judgment calls. I’m not against judging in the right circumstances and appropriate ways. What I am talking about is ‘judgmentalism’. I believe that there is a huge difference and that I’m not simply splitting hairs. I wrote on this judging thing in another blog which you can check out by following this link:  https://thesavagetheologian.com/2017/10/30/to-judge-or-not-to-judge-what-does-jesus-say/

It’s almost like we are embracing a cult of judgmentalism instead of embracing the gospel of grace. Some time ago a Christian friend came to me in distress. He’d had too much to drink while out with some friends. He’d known them for years and would regularly drink in moderation with them, but on this occasion, he’d lapsed in his self-control. As far as he was concerned, he’d just blown several years of witnessing to them.

We have a prayer ministry offered every Sunday at the end of the service, called the connection corner. We were thinking about how we could encourage more people to make use of it, when one lady said, “Well I’d never use it. I’d hate for other people to assume that I had a problem.” Seriously? Unfortunately, it was serious.

Both these incidents reveal an underlying malaise in many of our churches. I’m not sure we really believe in grace. We do, in the sense that we teach it and assent to it in our confessions. But perhaps we don’t, in the sense of really living it. The issue, I suspect, is something of a misstep in our formula of what it means to live for Christ. It’s like we think we’re Jesus’ PR agents. “If I look good, then Jesus looks good.”So, we hate the thought of not looking good. That’s what Christian failure looks like to the average person I think.

Here’s our problem though. If this mindset of being Jesus’ PR agent permeates a whole church family, our life together becomes a matter of performance. What results is a bunch of underperforming, over expecting Christians putting on their best Christian masks, taking deep breaths, and then heading out to church wondering how long they can keep this charade up. It becomes unbearably exhausting. I know – I’ve done this too many times in the past.

Listen, if Christian parents adopt this mindset, parenting becomes about trying to perform well in front of the kids, making sure they only see the highest standard of Christian behaviour from us. This may be a common way of thinking, but it’s disastrous. It leads to hypocrisy. The reality is, we’re not good, and we can only keep up the façade for a little while before the cracks begin to show.

We all know that our little mini-me’s see it right away anyways. They know what we’re really like and can immediately tell when we try to put a Christian sheen over it. And when we really make a mess of things, the last place we want go to is a church gathering. We’re supposed to look Christian there, so when we know we can’t remotely pretend things are together, it’s easier simply not to go. Best to keep the mess away from the other well put together folks – except that they’re not.

All this is a sign that while we may be professing grace, we’re not actually inhabiting a culture of grace. We’re not Jesus’s PR agents, and he is not our client. We are broken men and women, and he is our Saviour. It’s not the case that I need to look good so Jesus can look good; instead I need to be honest about my colossal spiritual need so he can look all-sufficient so that Jesus can look awesome.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t need to look good so Jesus can look good. In fact, the true reality that I need to wrap my head around is that I need to get really honest about my messiness of life and my colossal spiritual need in order that Jesus can look all-sufficient to everyone else around me.

Bottom line is that I don’t increase so he can increase; Instead I need to speak and live like John the Baptist who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30. Decreasing means being honest about my flaws, not embarrassed about them. But imagine the difference this would make to our witness. Rather than thinking I have to constantly be looking good and shiny, less sinful than every non-Christian I know, I am instead liberated to be myself, warts and all, so that I can show that my confidence is not in me.

So instead of my friend beating up on himself or for that matter me beating up on my friend who had too much to drink, he now has an amazing opportunity to be an authentic witness to Christ – not by pretending we Christians don’t have any sin, but by demonstrating what we dowith it.

If it’s about performance, then my friend really has blown it and will be too embarrassed to see his friends. But if it’s about repentance, and about forgiveness, then he gets to model that repentance and to show brokenness about sin and sheer relief in a Saviour. That’s the gospel after all.

Envision the difference this would make to our church life. Rather than having a stigma about being anything less than spiritually holy, we can come together as a group of people who are open and free about our colossal spiritual needs. The assumption stops being “We have to be good if we’re coming here,”and instead becomes “You have to be a real mess to show up here – thank goodness I’m not the only one.” Which do you think sounds more inviting? Which is going to foster deeper confession and public repentance?

Imagine a church community that repents often, forgives freely and extends grace continually as a matter of habitual living. Instead of feeling embarrassed about going forward to receive prayer, that would invite us to experience the joy and relief of knowing we’re all ultimately in the same boat. Grace, then, becomes not just a formal doctrine but a felt reality.

We should foster our discipleship machine’s in such a way that the DNA’s of our church gatherings become places where no one is too low, too far gone, too needy – too anything – to worry about not fitting in. Our testimony should not be “I was a mess, then Jesus showed up, and now I’ve got everything together,” but “I was a mess – and I still am – but I’m a mess who belongs to Jesus, a mess he is committed to sorting out. He came to me, has stuck with me, and continues to be my all in all.”

I resonate with John Newton who said, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world – but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

 So Christian friend, let’s give up this cult of judgmentalism and let us live out the gospel of grace. We’ll all be glad we did.

How Can Christians Impact A World Opposed To Jesus?

The world is celebrating ‘Pride month’ as I write this. Parades, putting on display a show of open rebellion to God’s design of sexuality are promoted as normative family celebrations.

I see several posts on FB that call out to embrace this vision. Posts declaring “Love is Love” showing pictures of same sex couples, or pronouncements stating how we must end any dialogue against same sex relationships, is common place and sadly many of those posts come from church folks.

I write this while sitting on an airline flight, and the magazine in the seat pocket in front of me highlights and presents Pride as achieved through the embracing of the LGBTQ community as though it is the most natural thing to do.

The key article in the magazine is titled  Pride & Joy and is speaking to the pride and joy that has come from the steps made to normalize the gay lifestyle in Canada. Over the past 20 years in Canada, ‘Pride day’ has shifted to become ‘Pride month’. The anticipation and expectation is that society is quickly moving to ‘Pride life’ all year long.

Not only that, the anticipation & expectation is that we will and or must all agree with that vision and if we don’t we are branded as homophobic, accused of hate speech, considered bigoted, old-fashioned or seen as narrow-minded zealots.

For those who hold to the biblical understanding of marriage being instituted by God as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman for the purpose of companionship, encouragement, sexual intimacy, and procreation. And who believe that sexual intimacy can only be enjoyed and expressed in the marriage relationship, how are we supposed to respond to the neighbour who doesn’t hold to the word of God and this biblical vision?

Can we have an impact or are we too late?

We can get upset post angry or derogatory comments ‘back at em’ on our FB posts, we can try to argue people into the kingdom. We can attempt to be ‘louder’ than the world around us. I have seen and heard much of that approach. But here’s the thing. I don’t think that anyone is listening. And even if they are, they’re not caring about our opinions.

I’ve discovered that one of the reasons people aren’t listening is that we are trying to answer questions nobody is asking. And so instead of stopping to listen to our angsts, we are being shut out.

Think about it. Do you think the average non-believer cares if they’re being biblical? Or that they aren’t following your Christian world view? Why do we continue to expect none-Christians to act like Christians? Christians themselves have a hard-enough time trying to act like a Christian.

Paul said in Romans, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour 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 creeping things. 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. For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” – Romans 1:18-32

According to Paul, people can’t help having a distorted image of themselves, including their sexuality because of mankind’s sinful propensity to choose ‘idols’ instead of God. Man continues to see distorted images instead of the perfect image of God through Jesus.

So How Can Christians Impact A World So Opposed To Jesus?

It seems that to many, the greatest sin one can commit is the sin of “offending.” We guard our words, our actions, our attitudes, in case others become offended and turn away.

However, I really believe that if Jesus was around today, he would be called intolerant and even a ‘hater’, not because he sought to be divisive but because he wouldn’t be one of those who’d follow the crowd or bend to what is popular.

Sure, Jesus was about love… he cared for those in need and he obviously cared for those on the fringes and those folks who didn’t fit the religious standards. But he was also about truth and about ‘going & sinning no more’.

The average person couldn’t figure him out, which is why later on he lost the majority of his followers. Jesus was divisive, not because he was a jerk, but rather because of what he stood for. As a result he was different then everyone else… and it ultimately cost him.

Fast forward to our world and it seems that most of us work extremely hard to make sure we’re not seen as divisive and different. (Or if we do, we do it more as a badge of honour in our ability to ‘shake up the cultural tree’ than to do it to be Christ like). Either way, if we find that our ‘discipleship’ is acceptable to the masses, and if it doesn’t cost us something, then I think we’re doing it wrong.

The call of discipleship is, fundamentally, a call to allegiance. And as such, Jesus refuses to be an afterthought, a diversion, or a hobby in the lives of those who claim to be his disciples. It is an all or nothing thing, which includes giving up everything to follow him and standing apart from the masses even if that means being unpopular when the masses go opposite God’s way. If we’re not willing to do that – then can we be called a disciple of his?

Listen to these statistics… First, the average family has the television on for over 7 ½ hours a day – that’s just nuts! But then according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, those aged between 8 and 18 years old spent an average of 53 hours per week using electronics.[i]

That’s mind blowing enough, but then add to that the admission that most of us don’t spend more than 10 minutes a day in God’s word let alone spend any time praying other than over a meal. Wow! That should bring us to our knees. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that the church in the West is weak.

Get Grounded 

So, what do we do? It is vital to make Christ the first priority of every aspect and every decision in our lives if we expect to grow in relationship with him and then as a result impact the world around us. The Psalmist tells us how to make that happen. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:3

If you have ever seen a satellite picture of the Nile River in Egypt you will appreciate the picture it shows. The land is rich and lush with life along the banks of the flowing river, but as you move away from the water, life becomes scarcer and scarcer, the green turns lighter and lighter until soon all that’s left is a yellow desert. The focus of the picture though is of the green where there is of a continual flowing of refreshing waters that give the tree life, producing the greenery.

The water of the river flows 24/7 and as a result the tree is able to suck up all it requires to live and not only to live but to flourish and produce fruit just like a blessed man (and woman) who is ‘grounded’ by thirst quenching water and nutrient enriched soil.

I’ll admit that if there is one thing that bothers me as a preacher, it’s when people leave a morning worship service after getting their 40 – 60 minute fix of ‘God’, telling me on their way out to the car (and lunch) that they’re excited about living for Jesus because of what they’ve heard and experienced.

That part doesn’t bother me and in fact that is awesome. What bothers me is when I discover later that many of those very same people will, by that same evening, continue to struggle with the very things that they were so sure were conquered after getting excited at church on Sunday morning. I honestly believe that they want to change but don’t or can’t. They want to get close to Jesus but aren’t – Why?

Here’s why… You can’t be watered 40-60 minutes each week and expect to be strengthened, there must be a continual watering. A tree will die without being watered. That is why we need to get involved in reading God’s word daily. Follow Jesus daily, get involved with your local church community, places where you can be helped and be held accountable. As the church, we are meant to be a community to build each other up in our faith, continually, not just once a week.

Don’t expect to grow and feel close to Jesus if you are isolating yourself from others who can speak into your life, or if you aren’t putting yourself in a position to learn from his teachings which we get from reading his word and praying and learning how to pray.

Discipleship isn’t a Sunday thing it’s a lifestyle. God wants full custody… not just weekend visits.

 

In Acts 2 we see that the early church met daily and as a result they became grounded in Jesus Christ, and when persecution came the church grew and didn’t fall apart. They were strong and healthy and produced fruit just like the blessed man we see in Psalm 1.

So, let’s be honest with ourselves. We can get all worked up about how this world is going to the dogs and get all bothered about how the church doesn’t seem to have any teeth to combat sin, or for that matter too much teeth, but then not be willing to do what it takes to make Jesus the first priority and seek out what it means to be grounded in him… If that is us, can we actually expect to have an impact?

[i]http://www.zdnet.com/article/study-american-kids-spend-7-5-hours-per-day-using-electronics/

Depression: A Biblical Understanding

I had a great and stimulating conversation with my chiropractor today. That’s not unusual, it seems we normally do. Today however was greater than other times. I think it had to do with the topic. He’s not a church guy and has been clear on the fact that he’s not a Christian. However, he likes to discuss a wide range of subjects whenever I go in, topics such as politics, finances, family and even spirituality.

I’m praying that he will discover Jesus through all our ‘chats’. Today he asked me what my blog topic was about and so of course I told him it was about whether or not it is a sin to be depressed. He asked me if that’s a real question among Christians, and when I assured him that yes it was, he stopped what he was doing, looked at me for a moment, and then asked, “Isn’t that what faith is about”? He’s much closer to knowing Jesus than he knows.

So, is it a sin to be depressed? Does being depressed mean that somehow there is something wrong with our faith? Depression is somewhat of a charged issue among disciples of Jesus. Some flatly declare it to be a sin. The thinking is that depression reveals a lack of faith in God’s promises, or that God would never allow a Spirit filled – Spirit led believer to fall into a state of depression. Some will even say that it is God’s judgment on sinful behaviour, or the depressed individual has done something to invite spiritual oppression.

Some others will claim that that it’s just laziness, because – as the thinking goes – we know that God is good and loving and that we are secure in him, so what is there to be depressed about? We hear things like, “Stiff upper lip and get on with life.”or “Tough it out.”Not really helpful.

Then there are those who declare depression to be nothing more than a medical condition, a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. In other words, depression is really no more wrong than having the flu.

Several others (probably most Christians), aren’t really sure what this ugly beast of depression is. Faith seems somewhat related, but so do brain chemicals. Caught in all of this is the depressed Christian, left to feel guilty, defensive, confused, lost, or simply too depressed to even care what the church thinks. So, is it a sin to be depressed?

To begin to answer that question, I believe it is helpful and I’ll admit encouraging to know that there are many examples of biblical champions struggling with sadness, even to the point of depression. David wrote, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” – Psalm 56:8.

David, a man after God’s own heart, did not gloss over his sadness; he expressed it to God. You’ll even find strong heroes of the faith such as Moses and Elijah, confess to God that they preferred to die rather than live in their current reality (Numbers 11:15; 1 Kings 19:3-5).

Interestingly, neither of these men were rebuked by God for their feelings; instead, they all were met with God’s love and provision. Even great church teachers and leaders of the past few centuries were known to suffer from depression, some for most of their lives. Men such as Charles Spurgeon and Martin Luther faced the dark depths of despair at various seasons of life and yet were used greatly by God to further the work of the church. It seems that the Bible isn’t shy about admitting that sadness and finding oneself in a deep funk is part of life, and it is not condemned.

I am not claiming that I am an expert in treating or diagnosing depression. In fact, I wish to emphasize that the purpose of this post today isn’t to definitively define anyone’s condition. I am not about to tell you if your’s or a loved one’s specific case is a result of something clinical, spiritual, physical or a combination of any of those. If you are struggling with depression, allow me encourage you to seek the council of a professional, a pastor who knows you or talk to a close friend. What I am attempting to do is biblically determine whether depression itself is a sin or not.

Truth is, the word depressed is a fairly loose term to begin with. It can refer to a diagnosable medical condition (clinical depression), but it can also refer to a temporary feeling of sadness or apathy or to a nebulous, lingering malaise.

For some people a chemical or hormonal imbalance triggers a depressed state. Having a medical condition is not a sin, however, what brings a person to that condition could berooted in sin. For instance, it is not wrong to have diabetes, but it is wrong to be a glutton (and the two are sometimes related).

Occasionally depression is situational, caused by adverse circumstances such as life changes, a spiritual crisis, etc. Our emotional response to those changes or crises can in turn trigger a chemical imbalance. Knowing that we humans are fearfully and wonderfully made, as the psalmist said in Psalm 139:14, it should come as no surprise then that our biology interacts with our emotions and vice-versa.

Once a person is depressed, the cycle of hormonal imbalance and negative emotions can be difficult to break. Whether the emotions cause the biology to change or the biology causes the emotions to change, the resulting symptoms are the same.

We live in a world of pain where tears of sadness are common. Even Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). I think it’s safe to say that there’s no need to always put on a happy face and pretend that things are okay when they are not.

But does that mean then that we are to submit to sadness or depression as the inevitable state? No, we don’t. Even when we’re sad or depressed, disciples are encouraged to see the greater reality of God’s plan. Yes, this world is fallen and often painful. It can be depressing. But God is far greater. He is at work, victoriously.

Moses and Elijah received God’s provision and experienced his refreshing care. Shortly after pouring out his sadness, David praised God. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”– John 16:33

Taking heart does not mean pasting on a smile or ignoring the feeling of emptiness that depression brings. It does not mean neglecting to treat depression through counseling or medication. It does not mean ignoring the relational hurts or the misperceptions that have led to depression (Satan’s lies, if we believe them, will lead us to despair). It does not mean denying the fact that depression could be a lifelong struggle.

What taking heart does mean is bringing all our pain to God. It does mean continuing to trust in him. It does mean believing that what he says about himself and about us is true, even when we don’t feel like it is. It does mean getting the help we need, battling depression rather than giving in to it. We acknowledge the depravity of the world, but we also acknowledge the sufficiency of God.

If you are depressed there are some things you can do to alleviate your anxiety. Make sure that you are staying in the Word, even when you don’t feel like it. Emotions can lead us astray, but God’s Word stands firm and unchanging. Maintain strong faith in God and hold even more tightly to him when you undergo trials and temptations. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will never allow temptations into our lives that are too much for us to handle. Do not hide away from people and forsake the fellowshipping with other believers. God knows we need community for encouragement and to be loved on.

Is depression a sin? No, it is not, however know that we are still accountable for the response to the affliction, including getting the professional help that is needed. It is not a sin to be depressed, but it is a sin – and not especially helpful in overcoming a depressed state – to give up on God when we are depressed. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God” – Psalm 43:5.

Is Suicide The Unforgivable Sin?

I love travel documentaries and one of my favourites has been, “Parts Unknown” on CNN hosted by Anthony Bourdain. You can imagine my surprise when I heard that Anthony was found dead by suicide this past Friday June 8th2018. According to his mother, Anthony had everything to live for. “He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this,” Gladys Bourdain told the New York Times.

Another celebrity, Kate Spade, sounded happy the night before her body was found in her New York City apartment last Tuesday morning. “There was no indication and no warning she would do this,” her husband Andy Spade said in a heart-wrenching statement published in the Times.

For more than four decades Antoon Leenaars has tried to construct a theory to explain why people kill themselves. Among his findings is that those who die by suicide are often tragically gifted at concealing their true intentions, even from themselves. “We find it in the suicide notes and in the psychological autopsies,” said Leenaars, a Windsor psychologist whose archive of more than 2,000 suicide notes is believed the largest collection of its kind in the world. “There’s both a conscious and unconscious intent to be deceptive, to hide, to mask,” he said.

I think that’s why, for the most part, we are often surprised when someone takes their own life. I haven’t personally experienced a close friend or family member commit suicide, yet I have been around many others who have had close friends or family take their lives, and I can tell you that it can be terribly confusing and heartbreaking. For the friends and family of that person who has taken their own lives, grief can be like a wild animal inside, thrashing to get out. There are times It won’t be contained, spilling out in sobs and screams, while at other times it turns inward, causing those left behind to desperately examine every interaction over the weeks and days preceding their loved one’s death, wondering what they could have done differently. It’s a terrible place to be.

Does the bible say anything about committing suicide?

Is suicide the unforgivable sin? Does the person who self kills go immediately to hell? Within the church community, this controversial topic has unfortunately often been addressed in emotional ways, not through biblical analysis. For example, for those who grew up Roman Catholic the prevailing view is that suicide is definitely a mortal sin, irretrievably sending people to hell. Influenced by the arguments of Augustine and Aquinas, this belief dominated through the Reformation. This of course causes much angst and problems for the survivor to process through. As a result, the approach is most often an emotional one. Besides this traditional position of the Catholic Church, we encounter three others:

1) A true Christian would never commit suicide since God wouldn’t allow it.

2) A Christian may commit suicide but would lose his salvation.

3) A Christian may commit suicide without losing his salvation.

As purposeful as those statements are, we still need to ask what the Bible, not tradition or opinion says. As much as we don’t have all the answers, let’s begin by talking about those truths we do know as revealed in God’s Word.

We know that humanity is totally depraved (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-18). Of course, we should understand that this doesn’t mean we’re as evil as we could be, but rather that every human capacity – intellect, heart, emotions, will – is tainted by sin. We also know that even after regeneration, a Christian is capable of committing any sin except the unforgiveable one. We see the unforgivable sin mentioned in Mark 3:25-32 and Matthew 12:32. A study of these passages leads us to the conclusion that they are referring to the continual rejection of the Holy Spirit in the work of conversion, ultimately referring to a committed unbeliever.

I think that it’s important to remember as well, that a believer is quite capable of taking the life of someone else, as David did in the case of Uriah, without this action invalidating his salvation. After all, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has forgiven all of our sin – past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 10:11-18). Still, suicide is a serious offense against God because it represents arrogant violation of the gift of life the Creator has given. However, if a genuine believer is theoretically capable of taking another’s life, why is it impossible to conceive he or she could ever take his or her own?

The truth is that the sin a Christian will commit tomorrow was forgiven at Calvary – where Jesus justified us, declaring us positionally righteous. He accomplished this work through one single offering that didn’t need to be repeated again. On the cross Jesus didn’t make us justifiable; he made us justified (Romans 3:23-26; 8:29-30).

Granted, some point out that Scripture contains no instance of a believer committing suicide, while it includes many cases of unbelievers doing so, thus coming to the conclusion that believers simply don’t (won’t) commit suicide. But this is an argument from silence. Scripture doesn’t explicitly mention many things in life. Moreover, some hold suicide robs a Christian of her salvation because it doesn’t provide an opportunity for repentance. But if you were to die right now, would there be any unconfessed sin in your life? I think that we could only say that yes, of course there would be.

The sacrifice that covers the unconfessed sins we have remaining until death is the same sacrifice that would cover a sin like suicide. Suicide is not what determines whether a person gains entrance into heaven anyways. If an unsaved person commits suicide, she has done nothing but “expedite” her journey to hell. However, that person who committed suicide will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ, not because she committed suicide. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:18

We should also point out, however, that no one truly knows what was happening in a person’s heart the moment he died. Some people have “deathbed conversions” and accept Christ in the moments before death. It is possible that Anthony Bourdain could have had a last-second change of heart and cry out for God’s mercy, we don’t know, but if he did, we can know that God’s mercy would have reached him even there.

Back to our original question. Issuicide the unforgivable sin? If we’ve established that a Christian is capable of committing any sin, why can’t we conceive that someone could commit the sin of suicide? And if we believe Jesus’ blood is capable of forgiving any sin, wouldn’t his blood cover this sin too? The wonderful truth of the matter is that if Jesus’ sacrifice has made believers perfect forever (look up Hebrews 7:28-10:14), could any sin remove their salvation? Based on scripture, I’d have to say a resounding no – including suicide.

Further to this point, if someone like Moses (and Job, and Elijah, and Jeremiah) came to a point where he wished God would take his life, couldn’t a believer with schizophrenia or extreme depression, who lacks Moses’ strength of character, make this wish a reality? Martin Luther believed that a true believer could be oppressed by demonic powers and thus driven to the point of suicide. The suicide of a believer is evidence that anyone can struggle with despair and that our enemy, Satan, is “a murderer from the beginning” – John 8:44

Having said that, on the basis of Scripture, history, and the experience of God’s people – as well as the indwelling Spirit and the means of grace in the church – it’s most likely that suicides will be rare (though not impossible) for genuine believers.

How should we respond to a survivor?

Even still, when a suicide does occur, we should seek to comfort, not accuse. Instead of identifying the horrors we should seek to comfort the hurting. Our chief focus should be on that about which God has said much (salvation), not on that about which he’s said little (suicide).

Sometimes the best thing we can say to a survivor (friend or family member of someone who took their own life) is NOTHING! In fact, sometimes the best reaction is no words at all, but a hug. There is much comfort that comes with the caring presence of friends, and the assurance others are praying for them. Even still, if you do feel led to say anything, here are some examples you can use that I have found helpful as I have come along side those who are hurting.

“Tell me a favourite memory of…”

“I love you, and my prayers are with you.”

“How can I help you today?” (Following through with errands, grocery shopping, cleaning, going to church with them, etc.)

“I am so sorry for your loss. Words fail.”

“I’m here.”

The best advice to anyone who wants to comfort a suicide survivor is: “Show up, let them see you care, and respect the griever’s right to feel bad for a while (guilt, anger, sadness, etc.). Too many survivors reported “friends” who avoided them altogether after their loved ones’ suicides rather than to risk saying the wrong thing. Please don’t do that, because that hurts most of all.

What Is The Meaning Of Life?

What is the meaning in life? Have you ever wondered? Why are we here and what is our purpose? We work and play and strive towards our goals, in the search for fulfilment and satisfaction.

Albert Einstein was one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers, influencing scientific thought immeasurably. He was also not shy about sharing his wisdom on other topics, writing essays, articles, letters, giving interviews and speeches. In his collection of essays and ideas “The World As I See It” Einstein speaks to the question of the purpose of life, and what a meaningful life is on several occasions.

In one passage, though not a Christian, he links it to a sense of religiosity.
“What is the meaning of human life, or, for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: Does it many any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life,” – Einstein

What is it about humanity that we desire purpose? What is it, exactly, that we are looking for? When relationships are failing, careers start feeling empty, or tragedy strikes, questions like these begin to bubble up in our minds.

Sometimes we work towards a goal for years only to find that the end result – the money, power or recognition we’ve achieved – doesn’t give us that sense of purpose and peace we were seeking to begin with. Those who haven’t yet reached their goals may look up to heroes who have made it to the top. But when asked what he wished he had known starting out, one successful athlete said, “I wish that someone would have told me that when you reach the top, there’s nothing there.”

Most people at some point in their lives, like Einstein, ponder the meaning of life. Some look for meaning by doing good deeds for others or trying to make the world a better place. Some people look for meaning in pleasure, fun or relaxation. Others pursue business success, wealth, power or politics. Others search for meaning in family or romantic relationships.

Ultimately, a deep emptiness remains. Why is that? Solomon said of God, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…” – Ecclesiastes 3:11. In our hearts we are aware that the “here-and-now” is not all that there is. As a result, the human heart can’t find meaning in anything less than infinite because the need in a heart is infinitely big. And so, once God, who is that infinite piece, is taken out of the possible answers to discover meaning, the human heart can’t help but try to fill more of what we think brings us meaning and purpose. The problem of course is that we try to find more in finite things such as more money, more stuff, more friends, more love, more religion or more success.

We believe that if we could only do enough, be enough, achieve enough, we will be worth something. And we desperately want to be worth something, don’t we? But what more do we need? How much is going to be enough? And so, we live for the moment, whether that moment is miserable or magnificent. But God created us for a purpose that goes far beyond anything we can even imagine here on earth. And that purpose is found in living out our role as image bearers of God, that is only possible in the restoration of a relationship with our heavenly father through his son Jesus.

That is why the Easter story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is so important… because in reality it presents to mankind the meaning of life itself. Allow me to explain. By the time Jesus died, his disciples were devastated and discouraged beyond belief. How could God’s purpose continue? What would keep this new way to God, its flame barely burning at this point, from being completely snuffed out?

Obviously, it would have been a very confusing time for the disciples. Right to the end, they thought that Jesus the Messiah was going to redeem Israel as a nation. However, Jesus ended up instead being crucified like a common criminal. How dark their outlook must have been? Where was the meaning in all of that? So, they did the only thing they could do in the circumstance… they put his body in a tomb and sealed the entrance with a large stone. Done! Nothing left but the crying.

Later on, the women come looking to anoint Jesus’ dead body with spices, this is where the story gets really interesting, they’re met by an angel who says, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” – Matthew 28:5-6 That’s a game changer if there ever was one. “He was raised from the dead! It’s over, he’s gone. And by the way, it happened before you got here. Come on in and see for yourselves.”

Interestingly the angel didn’t roll the stone away to let Jesus out, the stone was rolled away to let us in. If we think about it, Jesus didn’t need the stone removed to get out any more than he needed the door opened to get into the upper room when he appeared to the disciples. That speaks to the invitation of almighty God extended to each of us that Easter morning, he has removed the barriers that you think are insurmountable in order that we can come to him uninhibited. The stone, a dark future, a blackened past, and certainly death are now no longer in the way of a restored relationship with God because of the resurrection.

Once the disciples saw the empty tomb, everything changed! They now realized that the meaning of life was no longer in the building of their own futures here on earth, which was only temporal anyways.
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’.” – Matthew 28:18-20

The meaning of life is found in a grand purpose which is to proclaim a new hope to a lost world – to proclaim a risen Saviour, to reintroduce an infinite God to our finite lives. The meaning of life is found in now giving ourselves completely to Jesus’ mission and to a God who proved his love to us by not only dying for us but also rising from the grave, defeating sin, evil and death and then staying with us.

Jesus really is alive. And what that means is that there’s a future, a purpose, a meaning to life. It’s not all darkness filled with despair. This isn’t the end, we’re not in a cul-de-sac or at the end of a black tunnel that closes in with a final wall. Truth is that there is a thoroughfare through death that Jesus went through showing us that there’s something on the other side.

Ultimately, we have a choice. We can continue to seek to guide our own lives, which results in emptiness, or we can choose to pursue God and become his image bearers, joining in his mission with a whole heart. This will result in living life to the full, having the desires of our hearts met, finding contentment and satisfaction, as we discover the meaning of life revealed through the risen Lord.