3 Counter Cultural Approaches to Thanksgiving

Today is the day that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. Typically, the most common reason for this day is that it is an opportunity to take time out and give thanks and appreciation for what we have.

In Canada it is usually associated with lots of food, turkey, stuffing, football, sleeping, more food, dessert, drinks, family and friends and more food, maybe a sibling fight or two, and the possibility to help serve at a homeless shelter…. Oh yeah, we must not forget the moment when we all share that one thing to be thankful for as we sit around the table, most notably being all the great blessings which we’ve received throughout the year of family, fitness, freedoms, finances, etc.

Now of course that is generalizing, however I think it pretty much summarizes the feel most of us have at our Thanksgiving celebrations. Please don’t get me wrong, I think those things are great (minus the tendency to gluttony and the sibling fight thing), but really, why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Maybe a better question is what should we be thankful for?

For the disciple of Jesus Christ, I’d like to share 3 non-traditional approaches to being thankful and to what thanksgiving is about, that run counter culture in our world today.

1 We are to be thankful in all circumstances, even in the bad stuff

 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Did you catch that? Give thanks in all circumstances. Thankfulness should be a way of life for us, naturally flowing from our hearts and mouths. That surely doesn’t mean that we should be thankful even during the nasty bits of life – or does it?

We often look to Thanksgiving Day as a day to celebrate all the good things that are going on in our lives and we don’t or won’t talk about the bad stuff. But the truth is that for us Christians we need to give thanks even in spite of the bad stuff.

“I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” – Psalm 30:1-2

Here David gives thanks to God following an obviously difficult circumstance. This psalm of thanksgiving not only praises God in the moment but remembers God’s past faithfulness. It is a statement of God’s character, which is so wonderful that praise is the only appropriate response. David always wanted God to receive glory and for God to be made known – to be made famous.

There are examples of believers’ thankfulness in the New Testament as well. Paul was heavily persecuted, yet he wrote, “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” – 2 Corinthians 2:14

Peter gives a reason to be thankful for grief and all kinds of trials,” saying that, through the hardships, our faith “may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” – 1 Peter 1:6-7

In each of these moments the writer, while in distress is giving glory to God, making him famous. They are revealing a faithful, worthy, amazing God to the world around them in how they react with thanksgiving in all circumstances… even the bad times.

When we react and respond to the stuff going on in our lives, what do we reveal about God?

2 We are to be thankful because of God’s constant goodness, not with my happiness

Paul wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose”. – Romans 8:28

God works in all things, not just isolated instances, for our good. That doesn’t mean that all that happens to us is good. Evil is prevalent in our fallen world, but God is able to turn everything around for our long-range good.

It’s important to note btw, that Paul isn’t saying that God’s will is to make us happy. Paul isn’t saying, believe in yourself which is the path to realizing that you can be all that God has meant you to be. Nor is he saying that you can realize a better you. No – God’s will isn’t to make us happy, but rather to fulfill his purpose.

Notice also that this promise isn’t for everybody. It can be claimed only by those who love God and are called according to his purpose. ‘Called’ meaning, those who the Holy Spirit has convicted of their sins and has enabled to become disciples of Jesus Christ, and so have a new perspective, a new mindset on life.

A true disciple of Jesus’ trusts in God, not life’s treasures; they look to heaven for their security, not to the things on earth. And they learn to accept, not resent pain and persecution because they have learned to trust in God’s ultimate plan, knowing that God hasn’t stopped being good simply because the circumstances of life surrounding them have become difficult.

3 We are to be thankful because of Jesus’ sacrifice even if my life isn’t fun

If we really understand what Jesus sacrifice on the cross meant we’d naturally become thankful every day and live lives full to the brim with gratefulness even if our lives seem to be heading south, because Jesus sacrifice gives us an eternal picture when understood, that clearly sees the future with him, taking our focus off the temporal today. In fact, this is precisely why we celebrate the Lord’s supper. It is a thanksgiving celebration if there ever was one.

The Last Supper was both a Passover meal and the last meal Jesus had with his apostles before his arrest and subsequent crucifixion. One of the important moments of the Last Supper is Jesus’ command to remember what he was about to do on behalf of all mankind, which was to shed his blood on the cross thereby paying the debt of our sins.

Keep in mind that this tied in with the Passover feast which was an especially holy event for the Jewish people in that it remembered the time when God spared them from the plague of physical death in Egypt.

The Last Supper was a significant event and proclaimed a turning point in God’s plan for the world. In comparing the crucifixion of Jesus to the feast of Passover, we can readily see the redemptive nature of Christ’s death. As symbolized by the original Passover sacrifice in the Old Testament, Christ’s death atones for the sins of his people; His blood rescues us from death and saves us from slavery.

“And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood’” – Luke 22:17-20

Jesus’ was linking his death to the offering of the Passover sacrifice. The Passover lamb was the animal God directed the Israelites to use as a sacrifice in Egypt on the night God struck down the firstborn sons of every household.

This was the final plague God issued against Pharaoh, and it led to Pharaoh releasing the Israelites from slavery. After that fateful night, God instructed the Israelites to observe the Passover Feast as a lasting memorial.

Just as the Passover lamb’s applied blood caused the “destroyer” to pass over each household, Christ’s applied blood causes God’s judgment to pass over sinners and gives life to believers.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

As the first Passover marked the Hebrews’ release from Egyptian slavery, so the death of Christ marks our release from the slavery of sin.

“For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death”. – Romans 7:5

When we recognize the nature of our depravity and understand that, apart from God, there is only death, our natural response is to be grateful for the life he gives.

As our society becomes increasingly secular, the actual “giving of thanks to God” during our annual Thanksgiving holiday is being overlooked, leaving only the feasting.

May God grant that he may find us grateful every day for all of his gifts, spiritual and material. Remember as we celebrate this season that God is good, and every good gift comes from him. May he find us to be his grateful children.

Do Miracles (Like In The Book Of Acts) Still Happen Today?

There are many people who wonder why God doesn’t show up in the miraculous like he did in the early days of the church. Lame guys getting healed by Peter & John at the temple gate kinda stuff or dudes being brought back to life by Paul type events. The main reason I believe we don’t see that happening today is quite simply because we’re living in a time marked by few miracles. I said few, not none. I do in fact believe in miracles today.

I believe that God will do as he wants, when he wants in any manner he wants. God does still perform miracles – many of them simply go unnoticed or are denied. However, the facts are that we aren’t experiencing the rate or scope of miracles that happened during the earthly ministry of Jesus, or the early days of the church when the church was being birthed where it seemed that miracles were a common, everyday and expected occurrence. Isn’t the church supposed to look like that today?

Although miracles occur throughout the book of Acts, two facts become clear. First, the number and frequency of miracles don’t approach the level of miraculous activity during Jesus’ ministry. Second, as you read Acts and the New Testament letters, you will notice some hints that the intensity of miracles began to decline during the seventy years following Jesus’ resurrection.

In what is probably the earliest New Testament letter, James tells Christians who are sick to call the elders of the church for anointing and prayer instead of seeking out a ‘faith’ healer with the gift of healing.

Early in his ministry, Paul talks about his suffering from a physical illness: “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself” – Galatians 4:13-14.

Nobody knows what Paul’s illness was precisely, but the question I think that begs to be asked is, if Paul was sick, why wasn’t he miraculously healed if that is the expectation as many (most) faith healers and health & wealth proponents claim today – especially given it was Paul?

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks several times about gifts of healings and gifts of miracles that were operative in the church but then interestingly enough a few years later in 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he was suffering from “a thorn in [the] flesh.” Apparently, he had a physical affliction that God allowed to continue in his life to keep him from becoming conceited because of the wonderful revelations he had received. Paul even pleaded with the Lord to remove the thorn, but God gave him grace to endure the affliction rather than granting a miraculous cure.

In his letter to the Philippians, a book written near the end of the events recorded in Acts, Paul brags on his friend Epaphroditus, who became deathly sick in Rome. Even though Paul couldn’t heal him, God did ultimately bring Epaphroditus back to health, but not through a miraculous healing.

Paul’s final letter, written just before his death, we read these words, “Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus” – 2 Timothy 4:20 Why would Paul leave a fellow labourer sick if he could have healed him?

And then there is Timothy who seemed to suffer from “frequent illnesses,including a troubling stomach disorder. Paul counsels him to use wine in moderation to calm his stomach. If miracle healings were the norm and to be expected then why didn’t Paul say, “I’ll heal you,” or “Find a healer”? Instead he tells him to take some medicine.

Here’s the point, we shouldn’t miss the contrast between the beginning of the book of Acts where we see multitudes being healed and the end of New Testament history. In fact, it’s important to note that the New Testament writers don’t even express any regret that the intensity of spectacular miracles had begun to decrease. Nor do the apostles write any chastisements to a single individual or a group of churches for their lack of faith. That’s because they simply recognize that the period of abundant miraculous works was ending.

But didn’t Jesus say that his followers would perform greater miracles than he did? I remember hearing a pastor address the issue of whether we should expect miracles today by appealing to Jesus’ words, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father”. – John 14:11-12

Based on this passage, that pastor contended that we Christians should not only expect to see the same outpouring of miracles that Jesus saw in his ministry, but even greater evidences of God’s power. But is that what Jesus meant? If it is what he meant, shouldn’t we see an increase in the number of miracles as we read through the book of Acts and on through the rest of the New Testament?

Why don’t we read of the apostles doing more miraculous works than Jesus did – or greater works – or at least the same number of works? What we do find, however, is a gradual decline in the frequency and number of miracles. The writers of the New Testament never seem surprised by that; they never admonish the church for its lack of miracles or for its lack of faith.

I believe that the apostles knew that the number of miracles would gradually decrease. As the New Testament writings became available and as the gospel became established in the known world, spectacular, public miracles occurred less and less. Even the historical writings of the early church fathers after the first hundred years of the church, record only a very few miracles. And none of the leadership past the apostolic age ever accused the church of failing to pursue the greater works that Jesus promised they would do. All this leads me to believe that Jesus had something different in mind when he said that the apostles and those who came later would do greater works than the ones Jesus himself did.

As wonderful and as powerful as Jesus’ miracles were, they met only a temporary need in people’s lives. The sick people Jesus healed and the disabled people Jesus made physically whole eventually died. Hungry people who were fed by the miraculous multiplication of a few fish and loaves of bread became hungry again. Lazarus, who was raised from the dead at the spoken word of Christ, died a second time. The Sea of Galilee that became calm at Jesus’ word has been rocked by many storms since then.

However, as the apostles went out to the nations with the message of the gospel, they saw eternal changes take place. People who were lost in sin found forgiveness and cleansing in Christ. Men and women who were far from God and who were excluded from the covenants and promises of God to Israel were drawn near to God by the blood of the cross.

Those who believed in Christ were made new creations; the old life passed away and the new life began. These were the “greater works” Jesus spoke of. The miracle of salvation met humanity’s deepest need and met that need permanently and eternally.

Since Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, many disciples of Jesus’ have led more people to saving faith than the Son of God did in his entire ministry. I am convinced that these “greater works” of reaching lost men and women with the gospel are God’s basic program for the church until Christ returns, because the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” – Romans 1:16

In the end, here is why I believe that the question about what our expectations and understandings regarding miracles is of importance – maturity. Paul said, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” – Colossians 1:28-29.

We are to be maturing in the faith but when we look to miracles or miraculous signs and wonders to strengthen our Christian walk, or used as signatures and determining markers of our faith, we stunt our spiritual growth.

Think of it this way… Jesus performed countless miracles, and yet the vast majority of people didn’t believe in him. If God performed miracles today as he did in the past, the result would be the same. People would be amazed and would believe in God for a brief time, but the faith they embraced would be shallow and would disappear the moment something unexpected or frightening occurred.

A faith based on miracles is not a mature faith. God performed the greatest “God miracle” of all time in coming to earth as the God – Man Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins so that we could be saved. As I said earlier, God does still perform miracles – many of them simply go unnoticed or are denied. However, we don’t need more miracles, nor do we need to seek out miracles. What we do need is to believe in the miracle of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and share that miracle to the world.

5 Reasons Opening Up Bathrooms & Change Rooms For Transgender Individuals Is Not Only Unwise But Is Also A Dangerous Precedent

Former US President Barak Obama had instructed public schools in May of 2016 to let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, even threatening to withhold funding for schools that did not comply. This was hailed by many from within the LGBTQ community, among others, as a landmark victory for civil rights.

But then US President Donald Trump’s administration recently revoked the Obama guidelines, igniting outcries from those claiming this as a violation of human rights, sparking protests and a media frenzy which doesn’t seem to be losing steam as I write this post.

Before we move on I wish to lay my cards on the table. I in no way wish to belittle anyone’s struggle as an individual. I am not out to declare that I am better than anyone else. I am a sinner in need of transformation just the same as every single other human being on this planet. The fact is that we have free will to live anyway we want, we just need to realize that there are always consequences for the choices we make, individually but also at a societal level. What I am talking about here is a societal level issue and when other’s choices create consequences for everyone else at the societal level, then we must not remain silent.

I may not agree with Trump on all his policies, ideologies and decisions; however, I must applaud him for reversing the Obama decision and I have 5 reasons why I believe he did the right thing.

Reason 1: Gender matters to God

God created two (and only two) genders. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27. The current speculation about gender fluidity is foreign to the Bible.

The closest the Bible does come to mentioning transgenderism is in its criticisms of homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32) and transvestitism (Deuteronomy 22:5). Add to that to the fact that the Greek word translated “homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9 literally means “effeminate men.” So, while the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism, it does clearly speak to instances of gender “confusion,” and explicitly identifies them as sin.

God had it right in the beginning, so opening the door to the elimination of ‘gender’ from biological sex is only creating confusion to what a male and female actually is. If a ‘girl’ can actually have the biological hardware of a boy, or a ‘boy’ has the biological hardware of a girl, what exactly are girls and boys?

People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.” (American College of Pediatricians, January 2017 – http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children)

In the end, if gender matters to God, then it should certainly matter to me. If God calls something a sin, then no matter my feelings about it I must accept it as a sin. However, that doesn’t give me licence to be a hater or a bigot.

(For more on transgerdism and gender confusion follow the link: https://thesavagetheologian.com/2017/04/24/transgenderism-identity-crisis-or-identity-lie/)

Reason 2: The push for choice is simply a ‘red herring’

The argument has been put forward that those identifying as transgender need the freedom to choose the public facility they identify with regardless of the parts they carry (or not carry) with them. This idea of their personal rights is really a ‘red herring’ as it is really about imposing a minority’s needs over a majority’s. What is really happening here is eliminating a choice from the majority. And it is even more of an issue given the fact that gender discordance isn’t simply a minority, the truth is that it’s rare.

“The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. The exceedingly rare disorders of sex development (DSDs), including but not limited to testicular feminization and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, are all medically identifiable deviations from the sexual binary norm, and are rightly recognized as disorders of human design. Individuals with DSDs (also referred to as “intersex”) do not constitute a third sex. (American College of Pediatricians, January 2017 – http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children)

Here’s the problem with Obama’s decision. Individual rights cannot be used to undermine the common good in any reasonable society. Please understand, I am not against the basic rights of anyone but what I am concerned about is the demands of special rights coming from any minority group at the expense of the majorities rights. Providing a separate washroom is one thing, personally I think that’s a workable solution, however to subjugate the majority for the benefit of the few just doesn’t make sense.

Reason 3: It opens the door for sexual predators

The University of Toronto recently instituted unisex bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. Was it a screaming success? I’m thinking that screaming may have been a part of it, but a success? I think not…

“The administration at the University of Toronto was recently enlightened on why two separate washrooms are generally established for men and women sharing co-ed residencies. The University is temporarily changing its policy on gender-neutral bathrooms after two separate incidents of “voyeurism” were reported on campus September 15 and 19. Male students within the University’s Whitney Hall student residence were caught holding their cellphones over female students’ shower stalls and filming them as they showered. Melinda Scott, dean of students at the University of Toronto, told The Daily Wire that campus police had been contacted immediately and worked with residence staff to “support impacted students and ensure the safety of the Residences.”
(http://www.dailywire.com/news/330/university-toronto-dumps-transgender-bathrooms-pardes-seleh? utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=121115-news&utm_campaign=benshapiro-share#.VwXOiCqc7wg.twitter)

I think it needs to be called for what it is – a crime, not water it down by calling it ‘voyeurism’. As much as we might like to think the best of people, we have laws for a reason. Some people are just creeps at minimum – sexual predators at worst. The truth is that there is nothing bigoted, hateful or homophobic about preserving the simple, fundamental privacy of women and children (in particular) by providing them with gender specific public facilities.

Reason #4: It opens the door for gender ‘impersonation’

The issue of gender impersonation is now a reality. One of the problems that seems to have been overlooked is the likelihood that we have the potential of “normal” males of bad character simply claiming to be “transgender” with the hopes of gaining an advantage over unsuspecting women.

“A man claimed a right to use a women’s locker room at a public swimming pool after his partial undressing there caused alarm. According to Seattle Parks and Recreation, women alerted staff at Evans Pool staff when a man wearing swim trunks entered the women’s locker room and took off his shirt. When staff told him to leave, the man reportedly said “the law has changed and I have a right to be here.” Employees told Seattle’s King 5 News the man didn’t attempt to identify as female but cited a new Washington state rule allowing individuals to choose their bathroom based on their gender identity. (http://dailysignal.com/2016/02/23/man-allowed-to-use-womens-locker-room-at-swimming-pool-without-citing-gender-identity/)

The unfortunate experience of a young female being exposed to biological males (regardless of whether that male ‘feels’ he is a female) is a high possibility. We must understand in all of this, whether you are being PC about it or not is that the facts are that a young mind being exposed to such images can have damaging and long term effects on a child in the same way as if being exposed to pornographic images or even sexual abuse. And while it is true that young females are unlikely to be molested by gender confused males, what is to stop a male sexual predator masquerading as a ‘female’? This foolishness isn’t just bad practice, it’s dangerous.

Reason #5: As Christians we have a duty to protect our children

Read through the gospels and you’ll quickly see that Jesus had a special place in his heart for children. As parents we have been given the responsibility to protect these children Jesus loves so much. Certainly, public places such as schools, public swimming pools and other gathering places should be safe for all children, both for the rare gender-confused student as well as their friends and classmates, but our society’s move to be inclusive to all cannot be championed at the expense of the protection for our children. It’s a matter of protection for majority over PC minority.

The move to ‘open the doors’ of public washrooms is a humanistic attack against the categories of male and female that God created, and as Christians we have a duty to affirm the biological reality of the gender binary for the sake of our children and future generations, even if the culture becomes increasingly opposed to it.

What should be the Christian response?

Our response as Christians should be nothing less than deeply felt compassion while becoming a people who prayerfully begin to reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them. It’s only then that we are in a position to speak truth in love. Speaking “In love” means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means to love with action (such as hospitality), not just words as John speaks about, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

And I think that love means being slow to speak, especially on social media. If you do choose to speak, work hard to speak with an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Maybe unknown to you, someone you know is struggling with their gender identity and your words could possibly impact them one way or another, so always speak as you would to a friend.

The ultimate answer, of course, is the Gospel, which has the power to change hearts and minds far beyond what our ability to change laws in the culture might be. Be encouraged and remember that even as Christianity emerged in the first Century, the Roman world was far more depraved than we could even imagine today, and yet the Gospel of Christ transformed that culture. As we go out to live in the world know with confidence that the gospel can and will transform lives today.

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18b (italics mine)

Why Same-Sex Acts Got the Death Penalty in OT, but Not Today

Posted by Tim Keller  September 18, 2015

I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.”

What I hear most often is, “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts – about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t they just picking and choosing what they want to believe from the Bible?”

It is not that I expect everyone to have the capability of understanding that the whole Bible is about Jesus and God’s plan to redeem his people, but I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological advisor) before leveling the charge of inconsistency.

First of all, let’s be clear that it’s not only the Old Testament that has proscriptions about homosexuality.

The New Testament has plenty to say about it as well. Even Jesus says, in his discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:3-12, that the original design of God was for one man and one woman to be united as one flesh, and failing that (v. 12), persons should abstain from marriage and from sex.

However, let’s get back to considering the larger issue of inconsistency regarding things mentioned in the OT that are no longer practiced by the New Testament people of God. Most Christians don’t know what to say when confronted about this.

Here’s a short course on the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament:

The Old Testament devotes a good amount of space to describing the various sacrifices that were to be offered in the tabernacle (and later temple) to atone for sin so that worshippers could approach a holy God.

As part of that sacrificial system, there was also a complex set of rules for ceremonial purity and cleanness. You could only approach God in worship if you ate certain foods and not others, wore certain forms of dress, refrained from touching a variety of objects, and so on. This vividly conveyed, over and over, that human beings are spiritually unclean and can’t go into God’s presence without purification.

But even in the Old Testament, many writers hinted that the sacrifices and the temple worship regulations pointed forward to something beyond them (cf. 1 Samuel 15:21-22; Psalm 50:12-15; 51:17; Hosea 6:6). When Christ appeared, he declared all foods ‘clean’ (Mark 7:19) and he ignored the Old Testament clean laws in other ways, touching lepers and dead bodies.

But the reason is made clear.

When he died on the cross, the veil in the temple was ripped through, showing that the need for the entire sacrificial system with all its clean laws had been done away with. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and now Jesus makes us “clean.”

The entire book of Hebrews explains that the Old Testament ceremonial laws were not so much abolished as fulfilled by Christ. Whenever we pray ‘in Jesus’ name,’ we ‘have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus’ (Hebrews 10:19).

It would, therefore, be deeply inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible as a whole if we were to continue to follow the ceremonial laws.

The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament.

Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us. In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live.

The moral law is an outline of God’s own character—his integrity, love and faithfulness. And so all the Old Testament says about loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, generosity with our possessions, social relationships and commitment to our family is still in force. The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethics of the Old Testament are restated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-11).

If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.

Further, the New Testament explains another change between the Testaments.

Sins continue to be sins—but the penalties change. In the Old Testament, things like adultery or incest were punishable with civil sanctions like execution. This is because at that time God’s people existed in the form of a nation-state and so all sins had civil penalties.

But in the New Testament, the people of God are an assembly of churches all over the world, living under many different governments.

The church is not a civil government, and so sins are dealt with by exhortation and, at worst, exclusion from membership. This is how a case of incest in the Corinthian church is dealt with by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:1ff and 2 Corinthians 2:7-11).

Why this change?

Under Christ, the gospel is not confined to a single nation—it has been released to go into all cultures and peoples.

Once you grant the main premise of the Bible—about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation—then all the various parts of the Bible make sense.

Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed.

Because of Christ, the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties.

It all falls into place. However, if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mish-mash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.

So where does this leave us? There are only two possibilities.

If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense and is perfectly consistent with its premise. The other possibility is that you reject Christianity’s basic thesis—you don’t believe Jesus was the resurrected Son of God—and then the Bible is no sure guide for you about much of anything.

But the one thing you can’t really say in fairness is that Christians are being inconsistent with their beliefs to accept the moral statements in the Old Testament while not practicing other ones.

One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question: “Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?” If you are asked, “Why do you say that?” you could respond, “If I believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others.”

How Can We Know That The Idea Of Jesus’ Deity Is Not Simply An Idea Borrowed From Ancient God Myths?

I recently watched a BBC Documentary ‘The Dark Ages: An Age of Light’, hosted by Waldemar Januszczak, a television documentary presenter and British art critic, who pitched a startling idea. He claimed that Jesus is simply a deity borrowed from the mythology of the ancient Egyptian god Horus.

We may recoil in horror in response to this claim; however, this isn’t a new idea. There have been a number of skeptics over the years who have similarly claimed that Jesus was nothing more than a copy of popular dying-and-rising fertility gods in various places – Tammuz in Mesopotamia, Adonis in Syria, Attis in Asia Minor, and Horus in Egypt. As Dan Brown claims in The Da Vinci Code, “Nothing in Christianity is original.”

When the comparisons are made though, I must admit that, taken at face value, the similarities are astounding and can cast doubt on the historicity of Jesus (especially young believers who encounter this objection while in University).

A significant portion of the claims made about the similarities with ancient deities though are simply false and lack any archaeological or historical support. Sloppy research in the least and outright lies at the worst are often used in a ‘straw man’ attempt to bolster the effort of some atheists to make these deities (Horus in Waldemar’s case) look as much like Jesus as possible.

But serious research shows just how weak these claims are. Here are only three examples borrowed from J. Warner Wallace’s blog.

Claim: Horus was born in a cave, his birth announced by an angel, heralded by a star and attended by shepherds.
Truth: There is no reference to a cave or manger in the Egyptian birth story of Horus. In fact, none of these details are present in the ancient Egyptian stories of Horus. Horus was born in a swamp. His birth was not heralded by an angel. There was no star.

 Claim: Horus was baptized in a river at the age of 30, and his baptizer was later beheaded.
Truth: Horus was never baptized. While conspiracy theorists often point to “Anup the Baptizer” (claiming he was later beheaded), there is no such person in Horus’ story.

Claim: Horus had 12 disciples.
Truth: Horus had only four disciples (called ‘Heru-Shemsu’), but at some point, in his story there is reference to sixteen followers and a group of unnumbered followers who join Horus in battle (called ‘mesnui’).

(You can find many more claims and the corresponding truth by clicking here): 

There are many more examples, but even with only using three ‘claims vs. truth’ we can quickly see just how weak the attempts to discredit the authenticity of Jesus’ claim to be God really is.

What does the Bible say?

Still the question remains… Just what was Jesus’ claims about himself? Did he actually claim to be God and does the Bible shed any light on this question? To answer these questions let’s look at what Jesus himself says. In the gospel of John, he says “I and the Father are one.” – John 10:30.

At first glance, this might not seem to be a claim to be God, however, look at the Jews’ reaction to his statement, “We are not stoning you for any of these but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” – John 10:33. The Jews understood Jesus’ statement as a clear and loud claim to be God. What’s even more interesting is that later on in the following verses, Jesus never corrects them. He doesn’t put up his hands and say, “whoa, just hold it a minute guys, I didn’t actually claim to be God, you dudes got me all wrong.” The reason? Jesus was actually declaring himself God when he said, “I and the Father are one”. Jesus knew very well what he was saying and he knew how it would be received.

In John 8:58 we’re given another instance: “I tell you the truth before Abraham was born, I am!”

Here again the Jewish leaders get all up in a huff, and again get ready to stone him because of his ‘blasphemy’. Jesus’ announcing his identity as “I am” is a declaration, claiming the Old Testament name for God found in Exodus 3:14 (remember the burning bush story?).

John starts off his Epistle with “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God.” – John 1:1, and then in John 1:14 “The Word became flesh.” Jesus is identified as the ‘Word’ and so is clearly being acknowledged as God. Following Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas the disciple declared to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” – John 20:28. Jesus doesn’t correct him, rather accepts the worship only God can receive.

We see the apostle Peter describe Jesus as God, “…our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” – 2 Peter 1:1. The apostle Paul does the same thing, “…our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” – Titus 2:13.

Also God the Father himself said the following about Jesus, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” – Hebrews 1:8.

And then we discover that Old Testament prophecies of Christ, announce his deity, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” – Isaiah 9:6

Interestingly enough, the Ancient Greeks, who were immersed in mythological deity worship, never tried to claim that Jesus (or his followers) borrowed ideas from current or former deities or mythologies. The reason they didn’t was simply because they never perceived there to be any similarities. They in fact confirmed that Jesus was unique and not mistaken for any other god when Paul spoke with them.

“Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler wish to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities’ – because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean’.” – Acts 17:18-20

The point is that if Paul was just rehashing stories of other gods, the Athenians wouldn’t have referred to his doctrine as a “new” and “strange” teaching. If dying-and-rising gods were plentiful in the first century, why then, when Paul preached Jesus rising from the dead, did the Epicureans and Stoics not remark, “Ah, just like Horus and Mithras”?

Why is the question important?

Why is the question over Jesus’ true identity so important? Why does it matter whether or not Jesus is God?

in his book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis writes the following:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”

In attempts to explain away the words of Jesus, modern “scholars” claim the “true historical Jesus” did not say many of the things the Bible attributes to him and as we have seen people like Waldemar do – even trying to bolster their claims by relegating Jesus to a borrowed ‘God Mythology’.

But who are we to argue with God’s Word concerning what Jesus did or did not say? How can an art critic, “scholar” or documentary presenter, two thousand years removed from Jesus have better insight into what Jesus did or did not say than those who lived with, served with, and were taught by Jesus himself?

C.S. Lewis argued, believing Jesus to be only a good teacher isn’t an option. Jesus clearly and undeniably claimed to be God. If he is not God, then he is a liar, and so not a prophet, good teacher, or godly man. Jesus has to be God because if he is not God, his death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. Only God could pay such an infinite penalty, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

Salvation is available only through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ deity is why he is the only way of salvation. Jesus’ deity is why he proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” – John 14:6

If Jesus is simply a myth among many myths, and therefore not a prophet, good teacher, godly man, or even real, then we can do whatever we want without having to worry about God judging us. But if he does exist as God then we must recognise that we are responsible to him and in need of forgiveness from him. “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.” – Romans 1:20

I truly hope and pray that men like Waldemar discover this truth and declare Jesus as Thomas did, My Lord & my God, before they meet him as their Judge.

What Should Be The Christian’s Response To Anti Christian Sentiment?

I recall a number of years ago, the University of Saskatchewan’s student newspaper ‘The Sheaf’ published sexually derogatory cartoons depicting Jesus Christ. There were apologies and resignations over it but controversy continued to surround the situation for months. At the very least it was tasteless, at the worst it was a personal attack on Christians. I saw it as a growing appetite of society to showcase a defiant ‘fist pump’ in God’s face.

Truth is that the fist pumping isn’t stopping anytime soon. We have recently witnessed boycotts and even legal actions taken against Christian bakers who refused to bake a wedding cake for same sex couples, anti Christian graffiti on church walls, employees being fired for pro-life stands, subtle and not so subtle undertones of intolerance in the media, or outright abuse of power in the government.

In the June 21st, 2014 edition of the National Post, journalist Rex Murphy wrote an article that spoke to a very troubling issue with regard to the suppression of personal choice based on conscience, religious or otherwise. Rex said, “Elected Liberal MPs are under Justin Trudeau’s direct order that, in any legislation that touches on the abortion issue, they must — mindless of their faith, their previous professions on the subject, or their conscience – vote the “pro-choice” dogma. Pro-abortion is the party line. And it is the only line allowed.” – full article can be found by clicking on the following link: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/rex-murphy-in-justin-trudeaus-world-christians-need-not-apply

The responses to all the aforementioned anti-Christian sentiments have been overwhelmingly angst driven. Many comments were angry (rightly so), but what was notable was the almost militant responses. Much of the reaction was a result of fear, quickly turning to hate, with some individuals on the very edge of making death threats against Trudeau. We’ve seen this fear / hate in other situations as well. Similar threats have been thrown the way of same sex couples, and in the situation of ‘The Sheaf’ in Saskatoon, calls for the editor of the University paper to be publicly humiliated were abundant. I wasn’t surprised about people exercising their freedom of expression in areas of disagreement… we should always allow for healthy dialogue, especially in places of disagreement. What did surprise me however, was that many of the most hateful and fearful comments came from within the Christian camp.

My question is how are we Christians supposed to respond to the growing anti-Christian sentiment? Are we to ‘fist pump in your face’ back for every ‘fist pump in your face’ received? Please don’t misread me. I absolutely believe that we must respond, but what does that look like? Death threats? Civil uprisings? That last one may be answered differently depending on what side of the Canadian / U.S. border you live on of course. But does the bible have something to say that would – should direct us, independent of our country’s history’s?

Regarding the government, it’s always good to remember that the civil government is a means ordained by God for ruling and maintaining order in communities (1 Peter 2:13-17). As Christians, we must acknowledge that God gives the local government the “power of the sword,” the lawful use of the force to administer just laws (Romans 13:1-7). We are also called to pray for those who God has placed in the positions of authority over us (1 Timothy 2:1-4). But if that government forbids what God requires or requires what God forbids, then of course Christians cannot submit, and some form of civil disobedience becomes necessary (Acts 4:18-31; 5:17-29). But this civil disobedience must still be done with respect and according to the heart of God’s Word, not the way of our old selves – the carnal, revenge seeking, hateful hearts we once had.

What we are seeing are events in our world that we, as Christians need to learn and understand will increasingly become an expectation rather than an exception. I think it really speaks to what it means to follow Christ. And what is that? Simply it is that the work of Christ is based on being insulted.

Already in the Psalms and in Isaiah the path of mockery was promised: “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads” – Psalm 22:7 “He was despised and rejected by men as one from whom men hide their faces and we esteemed him not” – Isaiah 53:3

If Christ hadn’t been insulted, there would be no salvation. This was, after all, his saving work: to be insulted and die to rescue sinners from the wrath of God. This helps us establish a benchmark for ourselves of what the Christians’ response needs to be (even if it includes civil actions or individual ‘retributions’).

That being the case then, just how should his followers respond? In answer to those who say we need to protest or seek revenge I would like to point us back to the words of Jesus himself, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36

So… what is our response?

On the one hand we are grieved and angered. But on the other hand if we identify with Christ, embrace his suffering, rejoice in our afflictions, and say with the apostle Paul that vengeance belongs to the Lord, then we will seek to love our enemies and win them with the gospel. If Christ did his work by being insulted, we must do ours likewise. Pray for those who persecute us. Love those who say all manner of evil against us. Live so that others may know the real Jesus, the Jesus who sees with the eyes of compassion.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5:43-45

So before we all plan that next fist pumping march on Ottawa, Washington or London to call for the head of someone we perceive is trampling on our Christian rights, maybe we should make sure we got the love ‘your enemies and pray for those who persecute us’ figured out first.

5 Key Dangers That The Prosperity Gospel Presents To The Christian

I’m not a fan of the prosperity Gospel, and in fact I believe a lot of it is just plain false teaching. But I’m also not a fan of the idea that all Christians must be poor… that’s just poor theology.

God can bless his children, and I have the greatest respect for those who are wealthy and who still have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ, because I think it must be one of the hardest things to do in life.

Christians can be blessed with riches, but we must remember their limitations. Money can buy a bed, but it can’t buy you sleep. It can buy a house, but not a home; medicine, but not health; pleasure, but not peace; amusements, but not joy. Just remember its limitations!

There are many reasons I’m not a fan of the prosperity gospel, more than I am sharing on this blog post, however allow me to share 5 key dangers that the prosperity gospel presents to the Christian. I’m sure that you’ll agree that even only 5 reasons will be enough to keep us away from that false teaching.

1  The prosperity gospel presents the Holy Spirit more like a ‘Force’ to use than a ‘Person’ to love

A major problem I see with the prosperity gospel is that the Holy Spirit is seen more as a power to be put to use for whatever the believers heart desires – if of course you have enough faith. After all didn’t Jesus actually say that we would receive the desires of our hearts? The understanding is that the Holy Spirit’s pleasure is to fulfill the desires of our hearts immediately if you have enough faith. The problem with that process of thinking however, is that the Word of God does not teach anywhere that one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to act as a force that will fulfill the desires of my will and heart but is instead a ‘Person’ who empowers the believer to do God’s will.  “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has He wills”. – 1 Corinthians 12:11

2  The prosperity gospel becomes more a matter of what we say than in whom we trust

The prosperity gospel (Word of Faith) teaching presents us to a God who is not truly Lord of all, because in that teaching, he can’t work until we release him to do so. Faith, according to the Word of Faith doctrine, is not humble and submissive trust in God; rather it’s a watered down formula by which we may manipulate the spiritual laws that prosperity teachers believe govern the universe. As the name “Word of Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts. Truth is though that our hope is in the Lord, not in our own words, not even in our own faith. “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” – Psalm 33:20-22

3  The prosperity gospel is about pursuing material wealth and health over of the presence of God

In Numbers 13 & 14 we are introduced to an intriguing drama regarding the children of Israel and their choice of a lifetime. When they were about to enter the promised land they faltered because they feared the giants in the land and so chose to run away. God punished them by denying them access into the land flowing with milk and honey because of their sin.

Here’s the question, what was their sin? Their sin was believing that the birthright was about the material goods – the land flowing with milk and honey. Think about the fact that the pagan nations who already inhabited the land weren’t enjoying the blessing of God and yet already possessed the land for many generations. enjoying it’s bounty.  Truth is that the Israelite people’s birthright wasn’t about the flowing milk, honey and olive trees – their birthright was about the Glory of God being manifested in their lives no matter what.

God had been with them throughout the Exodus and was going to be with them as they took possession of the land. but they forgot all about that and only saw giants guarding grapes. The prosperity gospel emphasises the gaining of money and possessions in this life, even going so far to declare that as children of the king it is a birthright. But if that was the case why would Jesus say, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” – Matthew 6:19

Also the Bible warns against pursuing wealth. Believers, especially leaders in the church, are to be free from the love of money. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” – Luke 12:15

Our lives need to be nothing less than the manifested presence of God in our lives so that the world who watches us may glorify our God in heaven, not our god in our wallet.

4  The prosperity gospel does not prepare the saints for tough times

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” – 1 Peter 4:19

When a crisis strikes, as it always will in our flee bitten sin diseased, sin cursed world, how are we to handle those times of trouble? I’m not sure what the Word of Faith folks say to the fact that we are called upon to suffer not just persecution suffering, but body-wasting-away, and disease-type suffering, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16 

Sadly what happens however, is that Christians in prosperity churches are often unprepared for the day when a tragedy happens in their lives.

Our hope rather should be found in and through the gospel message of renewal and transformation. This damaged world will be made right one day. Jesus will return and make things new. Knowing this helps me to look to God when I have been diagnosed with cancer, when your spouse loses his or her job, or when bankruptcy is declared because of circumstances beyond our control.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” – 1 Peter 1:3-6

5  The prosperity gospel can only lead to discontent and unsatisfied hearts

The teaching of the prosperity gospel belittles the true gospel to earthly betterment such as material goods, better health or better relationships. This though only leads to discontent and unsatisfied hearts. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” – Hebrews 13:5-6

The word ‘content’ here in verse 5 literally means ‘to be enough’, ‘to be sufficient’, ‘to be adequate’ on a continual basis. That means we come to Christ first and for Jesus’ sake alone. That means that Christ is enough even if the added things never get added.

Even if my marriage is terrible I can still find deep satisfaction because I find it in Jesus. If I am to remain single for the rest of my life I can find complete satisfaction because I find it in Jesus. If my job is a dead-end job or the boss treats me terribly, my satisfaction is complete because I find contentment in Jesus. Even if I never get that candy apple red Jaguar, or if I get sick or my child gets cancer and dies, or it seems that there’s always more month than pay-cheque. We must come to Jesus because of Jesus, Jesus is sufficient. God is enough.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” – Psalm 73:25-26

God absolutely does want his children to prosper and in fact we are promised prosperity. However the promise is made for the day we enter glory. So it’s a timing thing really. One day we will undeniably be healthy & wealthy – just not necessarily today.

In the end we must know and believe that though we rejoice in suffering now, there will be great joy in the prosperity of Christ’s coming. “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” – 1 Peter 4:13

It’s Not Too Late – Hope for the Fight Against Porn

(Guest post – )

I could see the pain in his eyes. And fear.

His question was about his lack of assurance of salvation, and it was easy to tell this was not philosophical or merely theoretical. It was turmoil of soul over some besetting sin.

All it took was one clarifying question to uncover the source: guilt over his repeated return to Internet pornography. It was good he felt guilty, as I’d soon tell him. It was a sign of God’s grace.

By now, such a scenario was no surprise in college ministry. Here on a Christian campus, the pastoral issue that had come up more than any other was assurance of salvation. And after some initial bewilderment and a few extended conversations, the typical culprit soon became clear. Porn and the subsequent acting out.

Epidemic in This Generation

Assurance of salvation may be at an all-time low among Christians with the epidemic of porn use through ubiquitous Internet access. Sometimes it takes the form of existential angst and epistemological confusion, but often lack of assurance is the product of some deeply rooted sin. Could I really be saved if I keep returning to the same sin I have vowed so many times never to return to again?

We recently surveyed 8,000 Desiring God readers. Our study found that ongoing pornography use is not only dreadfully common, but increasingly higher among younger adults. More than 15% of Christian men over age sixty admitted to ongoing use. It was more than 20% for men in their fifties, 25% for men in their forties, and 30% for men in their thirties. But nearly 50% of self-professing Christian men, ages 18–29, acknowledged ongoing use of porn. (The survey found a similar trend among women, but in lesser proportions: 10% of females, ages 18–29; 5% in their thirties; increasingly less for forties, fifties, and sixty-plus.)

Graph of survey results

Hear His Voice Today

“Online access to porn may be new to this generation, but the invitation to repentance is gloriously ancient.” 

While the issue of online access to porn may be new to this generation — and progressively devastating to those who were exposed to it younger — the invitation to repentance from besetting sin is gloriously ancient. And perhaps no biblical text is more relevant to today’s struggles than Hebrews chapters 3 and 4.

Two-millennia old itself, the book of Hebrews points even further back into the past, to God’s invitation to repentance in Psalm 95:7–8: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7–8, 13, 15; 4:7). While this offer of rest stretches across the centuries, the actual application to individual believers is restricted to those who have not yet fully hardened their hearts in unbelief and moved beyond repentance.

Hebrews is written to a group of persecuted Jewish Christians who are tempted to abandon their worship of Jesus as Messiah (the reason for their persecution) and return to the Judaism to which they once adhered apart from Jesus. Not only is such a move theologically disastrous (in terms of how one understands God and his revelation), but it is also personally, and eternally, devastating. These early Christians were experiencing the same hardness of heart that accompanies repeated sin and unfought unbelief in professing Christians today.

Into such a context, Hebrews reaches for Psalm 95 and the immediate exhortation it holds out: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” It’s a word our generation desperately needs to hear.

If You Still Hear Him

The emphasis on “today” is essential. Tomorrow is not a given. What you have is right now.

If you hear God’s voice today — calling you to Christ and his holiness — and reject that voice, your heart will be some degree harder for it, and do not take for granted that you will have next week, next month, a year from now, or even tomorrow to find repentance.

Every time we ignore the convicting voice of grace, we inch one step closer to judgment. Every conscious embrace of unrighteousness darkens the soul and adds callouses to the heart. At some point, no warmth or softness remains. Then, like Esau, who “found no chance to repent” (Hebrews 12:17), it will be too late.

“Our great hope against porn lies not in ourselves, but Christ, who has overcome, and in whom we too will overcome.”

 But today — today — if you still hear his gracious voice in the promptings of his Spirit, if you still feel the guilt, if you still sense the shame, if you still know some distaste for the impurity of sin — make today your point of turning. “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking” (Hebrews 12:25).

 

It is good that you feel bad about your ongoing sin. That’s the touch of grace. You still have the chance to turn from sin’s coldness to the warmth of a forgiving Christ. If your heart was already hard beyond repair, you wouldn’t be bothered by sin. Your conviction is his kindness.

As Long as It’s Still Today

Make today count for some new initiative in the fight. Renounce the sin while you can still muster the heart to do so. Involve a Christian friend in your struggle, with whom you can live out the priceless grace of Hebrews 3:12–13:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Choose righteousness today. Every concrete embrace of holiness matters. Every choice against evil, every act of righteousness in heart and mind and body. Every renouncing of sin prepares you, at least in some small measures, for choosing righteousness the next time. “We are always becoming who we will be” (Joe Rigney, Live Like a Narnian, 52), and today really does matter. Right now counts.

Where We Have Our Hope

And most importantly, fix your eyes afresh today on your advocate and great high priest, who is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses” and “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He is ready to dispense mercy and send grace “to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We say no to sin by saying yes to Joy in him.

Here, at God’s right hand, sits our final hope. Not in our accountability, or our resolves, and definitely not in our willpower. Not in our record in the past, nor our ability in the present, nor our potential in the future. Our great hope lies not in ourselves, but outside of us, in Christ, who has overcome, and in whom we too will overcome.