Every Time Every Human Speaks

The times I’ve been charged with “teaching Christianity in a public school” make me laugh a little bit.

It’s as though administrators, principals, parents, and students think that Christians have some sort of other belief system, apart from their own, that is worthy of alienation. Of course, we know this is simply the world loving the darkness more than the light, because their deeds are evil (John 1). And we were once in the darkness, too.

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But the whole “stop talking about religion in public” is nonsense for another reason: every time every human being speaks, we are speaking our own belief system. For one person to tell another, “Don’t talk about your beliefs,” is to act like the speaker has no beliefs. But the truth is that we all speak our beliefs, every moment of every day.

To tell a Christian to drop the Bible is like telling a postmodern to stop speaking about scientism, neo-Marxism, or relativism. The postmodern literally cannot stop. It’s what she believes in.

We can talk about “separation of church and state” nonsense all day long, but it will never happen because it is a false dichotomy. Every time every human speaks, he speaks his worldview. Just be honest with each other, and lay those beliefs on the table.

Each of us has a belief system. None of them, on the basis of our own faith, is more or less true than another. In other words, nothing is absolutely true just because I believe it. Instead, all beliefs, and their systems, stand or fall based on their historical, internal, and supernatural veracity. And the Bible is the only one that passes any of the three (and all three at that!).

Thus, biblical faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only worldview that has full historical, internal, and supernatural truth. It stands beneath no other worldview, but it supreme above them all – because Jesus is supreme.

When we talk to those in the kingdom of the darkness, we must love them enough to care for their very souls. The first step is laying our beliefs on the table, explaining them, and asking the unbeliever to do the same. Only then can we have honest conversation that is out of the darkness and into the light.

Archives: “Do Stuff” Still Isn’t the Gospel

Talking with a friend tonight, we were both reminded of the great glory of the grace of God in the gospel. God requires not that we “do stuff” to earn His favor or His forgiveness, but commands us to trust Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal favor. The gospel isn’t that we “do stuff,” but that Jesus has already done all we need.

Here’s a rundown:

  1. Jesus Taught Justification by Faith Alone
  2. Did Jesus Teach Justification by Works?
  3. What Preaching the Gospel Is, and Isn’t
  4. Matthew 23: More Reasons “Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel
  5. “Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel
  6. Drink Deeply of Jesus Christ
  7. Hate at the Bottom of Your Heart
  8. Opinions We Make Into Law
  9. Is Your Church Characterized by Commands or Christ?

My prayer is always that we treasure Jesus Christ more through believing the gospel.

A New Creation Like a Loaded Arrow

Another one of the most misquoted/misused passages in the Bible has to be 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; behold, the new has come.” People tend to explain this passage in one of two inadequate ways:

  1. Blank: This way says, “Look, you’re new! Everything has changed! You’re a different person, better, invigorated, alive!” But this way fails to explain what this new creation entails.
  2. Glorified: This way emphasizes the newness of this re-creation, “You won’t suffer any more! You’re a new creation, just like the heavens and the earth!”

Now look at the context. Verse 15 says explicitly, “And [Christ] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Note the purpose statement here: “That those who live might no longer live for themselves for him who for their sake died and was raised.” This purpose of Christ’s death, which re-creates believers, has a negative element and a positive element.

  • Negative: Christ’s death and resurrection accomplish repentance for us to turn from our former way of life. And what was that evil way of life? Living for ourselves.
  • Positive: Christ’s death and resurrection further buy grace for us for the faith to live for Christ, our substituting Savior.

The problem with the common explanations of 2 Cor. 5:17, then, is that these fail to focus the new creation on Jesus Christ. Verse 15 speaks through the ages: “that those who live might no longer live for themselves for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

This is the new creation: not money or health or more energy but an all-encompassing, sin-slaying love for Jesus Christ. We’re not blank creations nor do we yet have glorified bodies; we’re loaded arrows headed for Christ our Treasure.

The Proof is in the Preaching

Lots of us (sinfully) enjoy moralistic sermons (“do good,” “be a better person,” “take care of your finances,” etc.), but Bryan Chappell warns that no preacher accidentally omits the gospel:

A message that merely advocates morality and compassion remains sub-Christian even if the preacher can prove that the Bible demands such behaviors.

(From Christ-Centered Preaching, p.268)

So give your favorite works-preacher a close listen, and see if he gives weight to the weighty gospel or to the weak man.

The Redeemer > The Redeemed

In his recent post,”What Does It Mean to be Biblically Balanced?” Tullian Tchividjian explains how the Bible places a premium on the gospel:

The emphasis of the Bible is on the work of the Redeemer, not on the work of the redeemed.

Guard Your Heart During the Waiting

As one who’s been doing a lot of waiting lately, I found this post from Paul Tripp particularly helpful. He gives five signs that waiting has weakened your faith:

  1. Giving way to doubt.
  2. Giving way to anger.
  3. Giving way to discouragement.
  4. Giving way to envy.
  5. Giving way to inactivity.

All five points (in one post) are worth a read; plus, Tripp gives the God-centered antidote to each. He also makes a subtle, solid argument against prosperity theology.

Christians Believe the Bible

A recent conversation with someone claiming to be a Christian but rejecting most of the Bible reminded me that, according to God’s Word itself, a Christian is someone who believes the Bible, at its face value, in the way it was written. To the Christian, every word is precious: “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (Psalm 119:25).

To wit:

  1. Jesus based His life and preaching on the (Hebrew) Bible (Matthew 19, Luke 4, John 10, et al.).
  2. When He was raised, Jesus taught His disciples the entire message of the Old Testament as His own gospel story (Luke 24).
  3. Acts regularly describes Christians as those who believe God’s Word (Acts 15:7, 17:11, etc.).
  4. The gospel message alone is called God’s “power” (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18).

God has already spoken the Word; we have no business changing or maiming it. Therefore, let us remember someone claiming to be a Christian, a Christ-follower, and having no concern for Jesus’ own Word, is no believer at all.

The Strength in the Waiting

Psalm 31:24

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.

This verse, indeed the Bible, strikes a strange balance. On the one hand: wait for the Lord. On the other: be strong and courageous. How do we do this? How do we wait AND be strong and courageous? That doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

We have a hard time making sense of this because we tend to think of courageous strength as self-built (wrong!) and patient waiting as passivity (wrong!). Psalm 31:24 says that courageous strength comes from waiting on the Lord, implying in turn that such holy halting is the gift of ferocious faith. Effort-laden expectation, we see, comes only from God’s mighty mitts.

While we hold onto Him, He’s truly the one holding onto us, making us strong, courageous, and watchful. So when it’s time to take courage and be strong, or it’s time to wait on the Lord, remember that our lives are always both. We await a Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord, so we can be very bold. All authority is His.

Chewy or Nothing at All

. . . and I don’t mean Chewbacca. I mean “chewy,” like, “you can chew on it,” “you can dig your teeth into it for a while,” or “it’s thicker than your favorite cracker.”

Chewy is what Jesus must be if we can understand Him at all. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” (John 6:53 ESV). “Eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,” that’s basically a command.

But it’s also gross, right? Does Jesus want us to become cannibals?

Well, in a manner of speaking, yes. Faith-cannibals, cannibals in a way that’s deeper and truer than any aboriginal man-eating practices. Cosmic cannibalism rather than merely carnal.

Humans need Christ’s “flesh and blood” more than we need a hot meal or a cool drink.We need Him, as the verse says, for “life.” We have no life in ourselves, so we need to ingest Christ to gain life. To wit:

  • Christ’s flesh and blood are life-giving; all other meals are not.
  • Christ’s flesh and blood enliven forever; all other meals only work for a short time (if you’re already breathing).
  • Christ’s flesh and blood awaken and embolden us for God; all other meals have no spiritual power at all.

Several verses are helpful here. Verse 54 says that those who eat and drink Christ’s body and blood will be raised up on the last day, verse 55 says that this blood and flesh are true drink and true food, verse 56 connects the ideas to abiding in Christ (see also chapter 15 with its vine and branches analogy), and verse 63 connects this everlasting life both to Christ’s words and to the Holy Spirit.

So Jesus wants us to chew and gulp on Him by faith. He wants us to imbibe His presence, His person, His passion and life by believing His Word in the power of His Spirit. He wants us to drink deeply on Him, because He is our only true drink.

Because, in terms of salvation, Jesus Christ must be chewy to you, or He’s nothing at all.

Sex is the Inhabiting of Faith

In an interview with Christianity Today about her new book, Making Chastity Sexy, Wheaton professor Christine Gardner contrasts American approaches to teaching abstinence with those in Africa. This quote was particularly helpful:

By daily acting on that commitment [abstinence], young people understand through their bodies what it means to become more like Christ. It’s essentially a call to holiness that the Scriptures give us. It’s just like practicing scales on a piano if you want to become a concert pianist. It’s practicing abstinence that allows young people to inhabit their faith commitments in practical and tangible ways.

Let’s think about that for a moment. How a young man handles his own body (and a young woman’s) speaks volumes about the verity of his faith in Jesus Christ. How a young woman practices holiness in her body (and in how she pictures that body to the young men around her) displays the truth of her discipleship under Jesus Christ.

Examples include:

  • Our thinking about sex, dating, and marriage reveals the depth of our trust in God’s Word to speak clearly into these issues.
  • Our approach to various opposite-sex relationships shows our grasp of the gospel’s application to conversation, non-verbal communication, and idolatry.
  • Our practice of the command to “make no provision for the flesh” testifies to whether or not we have “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14).
  • Our honesty about our own relational and/or sexual struggles and failures tells whether we have trusted in Jesus to take our guilt, our shame, and our condemnation.
  • Our departure from those failures, in repentance and faith, exhibits our grip on the gospel’s power to bring new life.

By the Holy Spirit, God calls us to trust Christ fully, in every area of our lives. Sex is simply the inhabiting of this faith. When we fail, repentance is in order, that we might inhabit the steps of Jesus once again, trusting Him for the power to deny selfish lusts.

Believing Christ When Death Makes It Hard

My good friend Eric Sinclair, ruminating on the fact that, while he believes his recently deceased daughter will be in heaven, it would still be a supremely satisfying heaven without his daughter and only Christ to enjoy:

That seems incomprehensible to me on some level, and I don’t think I will ever be able to fully understand it while living in a fallen world. Even so, I trust it to be true. While I have no reason to imagine Heaven without my daughter, it is encouraging to know that it would still be Heaven without her. That’s how big our God is. Christ is so glorious and majestic that His presence alone is enough to fill eternity with unsurpassed joy. That is crazy love.

Herein Eric displays what the Bible calls enduring faith: he trusts God’s Word even when his feelings are slow to agree, admitting that his own fallenness, and not anything inferior in God’s character, is the real problem.

The Best Remedy to Turn Us Inside Out

A thought on why God ordains faith rather than works as the means of calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, salvation, sanctification, eternal life, and glorification:

In our sin, we are so wildly self-absorbed that faith is God’s only and best remedy to turn our affections inside out. True faith always blinds us to self and opens our eyes to Christ.

Faith Covers the Reprehensible

Calvin, commenting on Hebrews 11:32-34:

Then the Apostle ascribes all that was praiseworthy in them to faith; though there was not one of them whose faith did not halt. Gideon was slower to take up arms than what he ought to have been; nor did he venture without some hesitation to commit himself to God. Barak at first trembled, so that he was almost forced by the reproofs of Deborah. Samson being overcome by the blandishments of a concubine, inconsiderately betrayed the safety of the whole people. Jephthah, hasty in making a foolish vow, and too obstinate in performing it, marred the finest victory by the cruel death of his own daughter.

Thus, in all the saints, something reprehensible is ever to be found; yet faith, though halting and imperfect, is still approved by God. There is, therefore, no reason why the faults we labor under should break us down, or dishearten us, provided we by faith go on in the race of our calling.

Move Aside, Death

Studying Hebrews 11, I’ve noticed a theme. In verses 28-31, for instance, all of the writer’s examples have death either in the foreground or background:

  • By faith, Moses kept the bloody-sheep Passover, warding off the Destroyer.
  • By faith, the Hebrews escaped the Red Sea drowning that the Egyptians marched into.
  • By faith, the Hebrews felled Jericho’s walls and annihilated the city.
  • Rahab escaped this same Israeli destruction of Jericho because she trusted God when the spies had come.

So God sees a life of faith as one that rejects the world’s threatenings of mortality and lives in this life for the immortality of the next. Faith sees this world as a testing ground, a minefield of faithless possibilities and so a greenhouse for faithful, selfless, Christ-glorifying acts of hope and mercy, courage and love.

Because Jesus is risen, faith looks at death and says, “Move aside; I’ve got God’s things in mind.” It refuses to live on the world’s terms of material wealth, self-help, and self-love. It sees worldliness as the true death and physical death as the entrance into a thrilling eternity with Christ.

Ten Ways Children Are a Blessing

In reminding our pro-death, self-centric culture that children are a blessing, not a curse, I wanted to also show several practical ways children make our lives and world a better place:

  1. Children teach you that you don’t know it all.
  2. Children force you out of your comfort zone.
  3. Children teach you that you still need a Father, a Comforter, and a Savior.
  4. Children remind you that there are very many real things to fear.
  5. Children make you slow down.
  6. Children help you to enjoy life.
  7. Children remind us that our souls are made for more than this life.
  8. Children flip your world upside down and remind you that it’s not about you.
  9. Children remind us to make the most of every moment.
  10. Children remind us that we are always as helpless as they are before God.
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