Friday, August 31, 2012

God's All Goodness

Romans 11:33 "Oh the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways."

What do we mean when we say God is Infinite
When we speak of God being infinite, by what do we mean? It is a humbling thing to think of such a lofty idea, yet the scriptures bid us to consider the fact that the Triune God is infinite, while everything else is finite.  The word "finite" comes from the Latin finis meaning "having limits or an end".  Whenever you attach that Latin prefix "in" onto the front of that word, you have the meaning "without limits, without end".

When we speak of God being infinite, we are referring to how He fills all parts and wholes in the universe and outside of it, as well as everypart and whole of past, present and future.  Psalm 147:5 tells us: "Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite." Ephesians 1:23, from the original text, describes how Christ in His Divine nature "fully fills the full limit of all things in all things." 

A far more able mind and theologian by the name of Dr. Charles Hodge defines God's infinite nature in Volume One of His Systematic Theology: "As He is not more in one place than in another, but is everywhere equally present, so He does not exist during one period of duration more than another."  Some passages which speak of God being infinite or eternal are: 1 Kings 8:29; Psalm 90:2, Psalm 102:25-27; Isaiah 57:5, 64:6, 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8; Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 1:4

The Alls of God
With those descriptions, we can speak of God, being without limit nor end.  He is infinite.  Since God is infinite, all of His qualities, His characteristics are without limit.  To help the reader capture what were trying to communicate in this blog, I simply refer to God's qualities that point back to His inifinite nature as being "The Alls of God".   The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the current doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention, states in its article on God: "God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things past, present and future, including the free decisions of His free creatures."

The Alls of God according to scripture
In a moment you will see why I am referring to the infinite attributes of God as the "Alls of God".  For today's blog I want to give you the scriptures which speak about the first major "All" of God: God's All Goodness (i.e omni-benevolence).  I pray you will find this study to be a boon to your Christian life, since all of us can always have a bigger view of God.

God is All-Good (Omni-Benevolent) When we begin to think about God as infinite, we need to have an all-encompasing description that ties together who He is.  The Bible seems to indicate that God's Goodness as infinite goodness is what fundamentally describes both His character and actions.  I gain this from God's discussion with Moses on Sinai in Exodus 33:17-18, wherein He causes all of His goodness to pass before Moses.  Stephen Charnock in Volume 2 of His work: "The Existence and Attributes of God", pages 210-11, states: "God is originally good, which leads us to acknowledge His infinite goodness, followed by Him being perfectly good and thus Him being immuteably good."

Moses had requested for God to show him His glory.  God in turn did that, revealing His "backparts", a Hebrew idiom no doubt referring to giving Moses a glimpse of the glory through the medium of the Pre-incarnate Christ of biblical revelation.  Psalm 145:9 tells us: "Jehovah is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all His works...thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."(KJV) 

In Romans 11:25-33, God's All-Goodness or "omni-benevolence" is the launching point for consideration of God's infinite ability and purpose to orchestrate history, redemption and eternity.  It is God being the All-Good God that motivates Him to be redemptive toward fallen humanity.

Tomorrow we will consider further "Alls" of God, namely God being "All-powerful" (i.e omnipotent) and "All-Wise" (i.e omnisapient).

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Consecration in the Christian life

Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Today's blog closes out the series we have been doing on consecration.  We have been drawing much of our understanding from Numbers 5-7 and other passages.  Consecration is when I decide to concentrate every area of my life upon the Lord.  As Oswald Chambers and other Christian writers have pointed out - consecration is "my part" in the post-conversion Christian walk, whereas sanctification is "God's part". (Philippians 2:12-13).  As much as consecration is a resolve of the redeemed human will, it cannot begin without the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit supplying the background and basis.

In our study we have identified the following truths concerning consecration:
1. Consecration of the heart
2. Consecration of marriages
3. Consecration of one's life
4. Consecrated church

Today I want to simply list select passages that both topically and explicitly reveal the New Testament's emphasis on consecration for the Christian.  For the sake of the reader I will underline words or phrases that are conveying this idea.

Matthew 5:16Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Matthew 6:20-21 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

Romans 12:1-2 "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

2 Corinthians 6:17-18 “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty."

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

1 Peter 3:15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence

All of these texts occur in contexts where conversion has taken place, God's sanctifying work has begun and the believer is being urged to have his desires match God's desires.  Consecration is the chief fruit in the will of the saint who is experiencing the progressive, sanctifying work of God's Holy Spirit.  I would bid every child of God and myself to resolve ourselves daily unto consecration and pray for the sweet Spirit of God to continue on His work of sanctification. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Picturing A Consecrated Church

Numbers 7:1 Now on the day that Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed it and consecrated it with all its furnishings and the altar and all its utensils; he anointed them and consecrated them also.

So far this week we have considered the topic of consecration.  Consecration is when I decide to concentrate every area of my life on God.  That means I may choose to abstain from some things in order to draw closer to Him.  As we have labored to show, consecration works in cooperation with the Spirit's work of sanctification which He is working forth, constantly and progressively in our hearts. (Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Peter 1:4-11)

As we consider the importance of consecration from the pattern set forth by it in Numbers 5-7, we can note the following areas:

1. Consecration of our hearts (Numbers 5)
2. Consecration of marriages (Numbers 5)
3. Consecration of one's entire life (Numbers 6)

Today as we look at Numbers 7, we see the activity of consecration as it pertains to entire nation.  We could easily apply this point to be that of corporate consecration: when an entire church, nation, or Christ driven group consecrates itself to the Lord. 

How does a church retain its level of unity and peace with one another
Years ago the late Dr. W.A Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Dallas for over fifty years, was asked a question regarding the incredible unity witnessed among his hundreds of staff members, Deacons and other church leaders.  Dr. Criswell noted that his church had an agreement that centered around being right with God. I summarize his answer:

"We here have followed this principle, that if I'm right with God, and your right with God then we will be right with one another.  However if we find ourselves in disagreement and discord, then we wait, pause, and pray, getting our hearts in tune with God once again.  Once we have done that, we then can walk together, thus moving forward as a church."  Through Dr. Criswell's comments runs this theme of consecration. 

Why consecration is worth it
Numbers 7 was recalling those tender days when the tabernacle had just been finished.  Exodus 40 records this same timeframe.  What an amazing year it must had been, to go from bondage in Egypt to worship of God at the mountain.  The very structure He so ordained to be his house was completed.  We know from the parallel passage in Exodus 40 and Leviticus 8 that the Shekinah glory of God fell and filled that place.  Now the priests and the whole nation were being called unto consecration.  Consecration of their gifts, animals and lives. 

Why such effort? Why such expense? You read through the 89 verses of Numbers 7, and see rituals and offerings.  Its not until the very end you see the point of corporate consecration in Numbers 7:89 - "Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, so He spoke to him."

The Church together ought to aim for corporate consecration
When you look at how the early church in Acts 2:41-47, they had "continually devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching" (Acts 2:42) Furthermore, all of those who had believed together had "everything in common". (Acts 2:44)  Nothing is more beautiful than when a church has consecrated itself among its membership to love Jesus Christ together. 

When the members of the New Testament church have consecrated their hearts, marriages and lives the corporate act of consecration follows.  Christ is building His church, and desires her to be in experience whom she already is by position: a temple of the Holy Spirit, the Bride of Christ.  When a church has corporately resolved to consecrate itself to the Lord, revival results and lives are changed.  May we aim to be what God wants us to be in Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Consecrating one's entire life

Numbers 6:2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When a man or woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to dedicate himself to the LORD"

For the past couple of days we have been looking at the subject of Christian consecration.  We have noted that consecration is when I by God's grace in sanctification, working in my heart, choose to cooperate and concentrate every area of my life on God.  So far we have noted how consecration functions like ripples in a pond:

1. Consecration of the heart Numbers 5:1-10
2. Consecration of your marriage Numbers 5:11-31

Today we continue on, moving to an even wider reaching vision of consecration - consecration of one's entire life.

Nazarites - people whose entire life was about consecration
The Hebrew root for the word Nazarite (Nazir) means "consecrated, devoted, dedicated."  According to the "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament", page 1340, the word Nazir had to do with "keeping away oneself from something."  Negatively it speaks of separation, positively it referred to the placing of a crown on top of one's head - an object designating the special office of the wearer.

In the history of the redemption we find four, and possibly a fifth man who took the Nazirite vow of dedication spelled out here in Numbers 6.  Clearly the Nazarite is a visual picture of the concept of consecration.  The words "dedicate", or "separation" occur no less than 14 times in Numbers 6.  Among other things, the Nazarite (male or female) had to abstain from "wine and strong drink" (Numbers 6:3) or even anything produced from the grapes. No razor is to be near his hair (6:5), nor is he to touch a dead body (6:6) nor is he to defile himself even in mourning for his family when they die by touching them (6:7).  

Three men that were life-time Nazarites for sure were Samson (Judges 13:5); Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15).  Gathering from their practices and foods that they abstained from, we can reasonably connect them to the prescriptions laid down here in Numbers 6.  The Apostle Paul in Acts 18:18 appears to have "taken a vow" which ended when he cut his hair.  Thus Paul illustrates a man who took a short-term Nazarite vow. 

The fifth possible man in the Bible who may have been a Nazarite was James, the author of the N.T book bearing his name.  In reading the first Church Historian Eusebius in his "Ecclesiastical Church History", Book 2, Chapter 23, reference is made from an eyewitness of James' life.  The witness was named Hesigeppus (Hes-i-gep-pus), who tells us of James having long hair, being a Nazarite and being a man of great piety.  In fact, he was known to have had knees like a camel for his long season of intercessory prayer.  James was martyred, being thrown from the pinnacle of the temple for refusing to renounce Christ.  Even while the mobs were stoning him (he didn't die after that high fall!), he prayed, in likeness to Jesus, that their sin be not held against them. 

Why consecration of one's life truly brings glory to God
When you look at the lives of some of those who were Nazarites, you begin to understand why consecration of one's life can truly demonstrate a devoted heart to the Lord.  Imagine a Samuel, whose resolve to proclaim God's Word in a day where the word of the Lord was scarce led to the anointing of not one, but two men who would occupy the throne of Israel. (1 Samuel 3:1)  The Bible tells us that not one word of Samuel fell to the ground (1 Samuel 3:19).

Or how about John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said was the greatest man born of women. (Luke 7:28)  He was the prophetic forerunner to the Messiah.  His consecration to God was a desire given to him by the Holy Spirit, who uniquely filled him from the womb, and who stated he was to be a Nazarite in vow. (Luke 1:15)  His undying commitment to his mission to exalt the Savior, even to the point where he utters the words: "he must increase, but I must decrease". (John 3:30) 

And if we take the testimony of history to be true (from not only the writings of Eusebius, the father of church history, but Josephus, the father of Jewish history so to speak), then we know that James was a man passionate about Christ and His word.  It was this James who was Jesus' half-brother in the flesh.  It was this same James who led the early church in Acts 15 and who authored the Book of James. 

To consecrate one's entire life is far from a cold, sterile activity.  Every Christian is called to give up all they have to follow Jesus Christ through the death of self in preference to the Master. (Luke 9:23-24)  Consecration is truly the chief expression of a true disciple willing to cooperate with God in the growth of their faith-walk with Jesus Christ. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Consecrating your marriage

Numbers 5:12 & 16 - (12) “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘If any man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him" (16) ‘Then the priest shall bring her near and have her stand before the LORD,"

Why consecration works from the heart out to the behavior, rather than being another form of behavior modification
Yesterday we noted that consecration is a grace-motivated desire to concentrate every area of life on God.  As we noted from Oswald Chambers discussion on the issue, it is where the Christian is making his interests to match God's interests.  Before we move onto the realm of consecrating one's relationships and marriages, the emphasis upon consecration of the heart cannot be over emphasized. 

Consecration can be mistakingly taken to be nothing more than some type of behaviorial modification.  Often people in a church service or atmosphere charged with the presence of God will rashly make promises to God to change or remove habits without first dealing with the heart that produces those behaviors.  In their minds, they vow to stop doing certain behaviors and adopt better ones.  Granted, there may be genuineness involved, whatever name we call it (rededication, recommitment).  However more often than not, some rededications are aimed only at behavior modification.  Unless we are beginning with God's sanctifiying work already operative in the heart, our rededication and recommitments will lead to legalism and failure.  Let me explain. 

Sanctification is a two-sided coin - a "me and God" thing. In sanctification we have God working in us His perfect and pleasing will while at the same time we are opening ourselves in response to His work by "working out our salvation with fear and trembling". (Philippians 2:12-13)  

True consecration begins with an acknowledgement of a transforming work of grace in the heart leading to a conforming of attitudes and behaviors that concentrate on the Lord.  The biblical word "consecration" is a more helpful word than mere "rededication", since the heart and behaviors, and not the behaviors by themselves, defines the aim of consecration.  

Consecrating our marriages
In the remainder of Numbers 5, God is laying down prescriptions for dealing with allegations of unfaithful spouses.  Three times the accused wife is told to present herself before the Lord.  A water mixture called "The water of bitterness" is given to the woman to determine whether her denial of infidelity is legitimate or not.  If she ends up being infertile, then she was unfaithful, whereas if she is still able to have children, then she was clearly faithful. 

The phrase that captures my attention here is the phrase: "before the Lord". (Numbers 5:16, 18, 30)  The woman, her husband, the priests involved in discerning the allegations and the people were all reminded that marriage was covenant made before God - and that God see all things! (Hebrews 4:12-14) 

Time and time again the Bible reminds us that our marriages are pictures of what the Lord desires to have with his people in terms of oneness, closeness and loving trust. (Ephesians 5:25-27)  To consecrate our marriages means for husbands and wives, with consecrated hearts, to make that marriage's interests to match God's. Hebrews 13:4 plainly states - "marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." 

Benefits and suggestions for consecrating your marriage 
First and foremost, regard everything you and your spouse does as being in the presence of the Lord.  The older Christians used a Latin phrase to describe the Christian life lived before God: coram dei (in the presence of God).  Approaching everything from your T.V watching to what you both do seperately to even marital intimacy as being pleasing to God will greatly affect how you view your marriage.
Seeing marriage as not only having to do with finances or physical things, but as supremely interconnected as a covenant with one another before God captures its true meaning. (Genesis 2:23-25)

Practically making the effort to be more faithful in church attendance, or instituting praying with your spouse or even writing simple little notes letting them know you're praying for them are ways to consecrate marriages.  By consecrating marriages, you are being more proactive in managing the health of your relationship, rather than reactive.  Proactiveness to marriage reinforces positive, Godly edifying values that ensure protection against the temptations and forces waged against marriage in today's world.  Reactive marriages try to overcompensate through desperate measures to correct behavior, without addressing the hearts that led to the behaviors. 

The fruit to be born in consecrating marriage is that of stronger, God honoring marriages that can withstand the storms that attempt to drown the passion and commitment needed in 21st century marriages. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Importance of Consecration

Numbers 7:1 Now on the day that Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed it and consecrated it with all its furnishings and the altar and all its utensils; he anointed them and consecrated them also.

Defining consecration
Today we begin a new blog series on a subject of extreme importance in the Christian life - consecration.  Oswald Chambers in his landmark devotional classic: "My Utmost for His Highest" writes the following definition of consecration: "Consecration is our part, sanctification is God's part.  Consecration is when we have deliberately determined to be interested in that which only God is interested." 

Admittedly we don't hear much today about the word nor the subject.  Whenever I see the word "consecration", it reminds me of another English word with a similar sound: "concentration".  As Chambers points out, consecration is an act of the Christian's will resolving to make God's interests their own.  This of course can only occur in proportion to the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of sanctification, whereby He is working forth and imparting to us the affections, desires and life of Christ. Thus concecration is the "human side" of the cooperation we daily have with God's Holy Spirit following conversion.  In consecration, I simply aim to have greater concentration on Jesus Christ.

The Pattern of consecration in the Bible
As God was calling the nation of Israel to be a God centered congregation (Numbers 1-4) composed of Godly servants (Numbers 3-4), God prescribed an ever increasing pattern of consecration (Numbers 5-7).  The Law of God sets forth the patterns of Godly living, requiring and pointing God's people to reliance upon Grace to have power for Godly living.  

Like a series of ripples in a pond, Numbers 5-7 gives us a series of ever-increasing concentric circles of consecration that we aim to explore over the next several blogs.  This pattern, spelled out in the Old Testament, is repeated in a fuller way in the New Testament.  The pattern requires the grace of God working in the human heart to both desire it and carry it out.  The pattern we will be looking at this week involves consecration of the following:

1. Consecration of the Heart (Numbers 5:1-10)
2. Consecration of your marriage (Numbers 5:11-31)
3. Consecration of your life (Numbers 6)
4. Consecration as a Church (Numbers 7)

The Ever increasing nature of consecration in the faith-walk
Consecration of the heart. Numbers 5:1-10; 1 Peter 3:15
The Apostle Peter writes these words in 1 Peter 3:15 - "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."   That underlined word, which we could also translate "consecrate, set apart", has virtually the identicle meaning as the Hebrew word underlined above in Numbers 7:1.  To "set apart, dedicate, consecrate" as refer to the same thing.  The New Testament reinforces the grace-motivate pattern of consecration outlined in passages such as Numbers 5-7.  The place to begin is with your heart.

The heart in the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures was the causal, emotional control tower of the person.  The camp of Israel in a physical way was to picture the interior of the person: with God at the center in the human spirit - as so pictured by the tabernacle.  On the outer perimeter of the tabernacle was encamped the Levites, who stood between God and the people.  We could say that the conscience, that part of the soul which interracts most with the heart/human spirit, is what reminds the people of God's law and condemns us when we have done wrong.  The remainder of the people camped around the Levites pictures for us the remainder of my soulish realm - mind, emotions and will, as I live out the Godly life through my human body. 

When God was telling these people to send away the lepers and diseased from the camp, He was not being mean nor unreasonable.  A reading of Leviticus 13-15 explains how leprosy and infectious diseases needed to be quarantined, to both protect the people and to reinforce the danger of the infection of sin in their hearts.  Consecration has me separate from something keeping me from fellowship with God, in order to draw closer to God. 

In Numbers 5:5-10 we see instructions on restoring stolen or damaged property.  The people needed to treat one another with love, since their regard for one another revealed how they regarded the Lord.  Jesus even comments in passages such as Matthew 26:40 and Acts 9:4 that "whatever is done to the least of these little ones, so have you done unto me."   If we begin consecrating our hearts, we will be ready to consecrate our emotions, thoughts and attitudes towards how we treat people and respond to situations. 

In tomorrow's blog we will take a look at another area of consecration that leads out logically from the heart - namely consecration of our relationships and marriages.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Evangelistic Motives for knowing about Philosophy

Ecclesiastes 12:12-13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

Today's blog will close out this week's introduction to Worldview studies.  I hope in future blogs to write more on this important subject.  In future blogs we may explore Biblical Christianity's historic interractions with other areas such as science, logic, mathematics, medical ethics, psychology and other issues.
Theology, the Queen of the Sciences, and Philosophy the hand-maiden
In the middle ages (800 A.D - 1500 A.D), the highlighted phrase above was used to distinguish between the discipline of studying philosophy from that of theology.  The Bible and the language used by Bible teachers to articulate scripture's contents (Theology) was viewed as supreme over all other forms of knowledge, whether they be science, philosophy, mathematics or logic.  In a very general way, all of those other avenues of understanding were placed under the greater umbrella of theology.  I

A brief history on how theology got separated from other academic disciplines
If you would had been studying in a European University in the middle ages, you would had studied theology along side other subjects. Most thinkers believed that any knowledge gained was as a result of God's general revelation in nature. Whole movements (such a schollasticism) developed that attempted to construct a "natural theology", which in short tried to develop assumptions about God and his relationship to the world into a working theological system based off of the "General Revelation" of God through creation. (Romans 1:18-20, 2:15) 

The wars that would ensue between Protestants and Catholics following the wake of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-reformations of the sixteenth century led many European thinkers to be dissillusioned with the authority of scripture. Men such as Rene Decartes and Immanuel Kant attempted to construct an understanding of the world based more on human reason rather than revelation.  The movement of the Enlightenment in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, wherein Reason was enthroned above revelation and individual opinion was elevated above external authority, separated theology from the other disciplines in the major European universities. 

Why Christians must better understand the relationship and history between biblical authority and philosophy
As settlers from Europe came over to this country, an attempt was made by Christian thinkers to once again unite all known knowledge under the banner of scripture and theology.  Universities such as Harvard, Brown, Yale and Princeton were conceived to train pastors who were knowledgeable of what was going on in other lines of thought. 

The revival of the 18th century known as the First Great Awakening was led by the greatest theologian/philosopher ever born on American soil - Jonathan Edwards.  His famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" launched a movement of revival that would be responsible for re-igniting spiritual and intellectual movements for the glory of God.  Sadly, as the eighteenth century closed out, and the nineteenth century came into view, American universities and many of the larger urban churches were giving themselves over to liberalism coming from Europe and their own pre-occupation with heresies that were being born on American soil.

Sadly by the nineteenth century, those universities lost their moorings and became secularized, shaping their beliefs around the disciplines of science, philosophy and logic rather than building those disciplines around an informed understanding coming from scripture.
Soon Universities in this country dropped the study of theology in favor of "religious studies", which aimed to understand the religious nature of human beings, rather than the revelation of God through scripture and Jesus Christ. 

Biblical reasons why Christians should know the questions being raised by philosophy, and be ready to supply biblical answers
As we saw earlier in Ecclesiastes 12:12-13, Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, was summarizing the meaning of life.  All of life's purpose and meaning derives from and is aimed towards God Himself.  Revelation tells us that desiring to know life's meaning is what it means to be human.  General revelation in nature and the conscience furnishes all men with a knowledge about God, and only God's special revelation through the scripture in Jesus Christ enables men by grace through faith to know God personally.  Only in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ can such a meaning be understood. 

Philosophy too aims to understand meaning - meaning of right and wrong (ethics), meaning in thought (logic), meaning in knowledge (epistemology) and meaning in reality (metaphysics).  Philosophy's weakness lies in it approaching such questions apart from the revelation of scripture.  With that said, our job as Christians is to be ready to give an answer to those who ask us about the hope within us. (1 Peter 3:15)  We are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ that attempts to raise itself up against His authority. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) 

By knowing what questions are being raised in the culture by disciplines such as philosophy, we can supply answers from scripture.  Men like Jonathan Edwards evangelized the culture with solid biblical truths, knowing the questions being raised by the culture.  Any reading of Edward's works will demonstrate his unflagging commitment to biblical truth and deep familiarity with the philosophical questions of his day.  They did so without compromising scripture nor watering down the message.  To be able to show people how the Bible raised similar questions, and to communicate the answers God supplies through Jesus Christ, we can be more effective in reaching out to others for Jesus sake. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Biblically defining Philosophy's relationship to Christianity

Acts 17:28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Discerning the relationship between philosophy and biblical Christianity
In the two above texts, we see the Apostle Paul preaching and writing in two different environments.  In Acts 17 he is preaching to a group of Philosophers at a place called "Mars Hill".  He uses quotations from their own philsophers to lend support to His biblical message on the Sovereignty of God in creation and salvation. 

In the Colossians text, Paul is under house arrest in Rome.  That text was written 10 years or so after his sermon on Mars Hill.  In reading his remarks in Colossians 2:8, one may have the impression that Paul has changed his tune on the use and value of Philosophy.  Is he forbidding its use all together?  No.  Rather he is warning his readers of misusing Philosophy or uncritically accepting all of the answers that Philosophy offers to the questions raised by people about the meaning and purpose of life.

Paul still used philosophical categories, in a sparing way, to demonstrate the validity of Christianity over against the paganism of his day.  For instance, whenever He states Christ to be the "fulness of the Godhead bodily" in Colossians 2:9, the word used for "fulness" is taken straight out of the pagan Gnosticism of which he was battling.  The Gnostics taught that "the fulness" was an impersonal force that revealed itself in varying levels or "emanations" of lesser deities and beings. 

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul took this Greek Philosophical concept and turned it on its head, taking every thought opposed to Christ and bring it under subjection to Christ's authority. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).  Moses and the children of Israel took the gold of the Egyptians given to them during their Exodus out of Egypt to use in the construction of the tabernacle - demonstrating God's Sovereignty over that false system.  Paul like-wise too took elements of the false system he was battling and revealed how the Gospel calls every Christian to be more than a conqueror.  Christ indeed is Supreme, personal and above any so-called thought of man, philosophy or otherwise.

Sifting everything through scripture
Paul showed that Christ is the embodiment of all authority, and that He alone is the mediator between God and men.  He is the personal Fulness of Deity who revealed Himself in history, and who can be know by Grace through faith.  In one verse Paul undermines an entire philsophical system, with some of the very tools used by the philosophers themselves! 

There are going to be times when encountering any system of thought outside of scripture that believers have to discern whether such a system is valuable, of limited value or of no value whatsoever.  If questions raised by Philosophers mirror those addressed in scripture, then we may have something useful.  The discernment comes in not using the answers given by that system. 

Keeping in mind the distinction between General and Special Revelation
God's General revelation of Himself through nature and special revelation of Himself in scripture can be used to explain why we find similarity of questions raised in Philosophy and scripture.  No doubt Paul had this assumption going into his dialogue with the Athenian Philsophers on Mars Hill in Acts 17.  Paul identified the common questions raised by the pagan philosophy and sacred scripture - testifying to the former's reaction to God's general revelation in nature and God's special revelation in the Bible.  However, Paul was also quick to direct his sermon's answers to those questions to the Special revelation of scripture. 

Conclusions on the biblical relationship between philosophy and Christianity
Questions about meaning, purpose and life, so often raised by philosophy and scripture alike, can only be clearly answers by scripture alone.  Christians can use Philosophy, providing they are careful, discerning,  and draw conclusions that mesh with the biblical record, rather than the philosophical system.  The idea of sola scriptura (the Bible alone) is an important doctrine to uphold in this discussion.  Sola Scriptura is defined as the Bible being the final authority on all matters in comparison to secondary forms of authority - whether it be science, philosophy or tradition.    

One author has noted that "all truth is God's truth".  As we consider how to evaluate things like Philosophy in comparison to scriptures, I would offer this additional thought: God's Truth, perfectly revealed in scripture, discerns the truth He reveals in creation.  There is "truth" that we as human beings imperfectly perceive in disciplines such as science, math, and philosophy and then there is TRUE Truth which is perfectly revealed in scripture alone.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why The Christian should be aware of Philosophy

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Quick Review
As we saw from my wife's guest blog a couple of days ago,  a worldview is defined as: "how we perceive, interpret, and respond to the world surrounding us." Also too, we saw yesterday that if the Christian is to develop an effective Christian Worldview, consideration of Genesis 1-12 must be considered. 

What to do with Philosophy?
One of the subjects frequently encountered in worldview studies is whether or not philosophy has a purpose or place in the Christian worldview.  This is a very important question, since how we define philosophy's role, or lack thereof, will determine how we treat other subjects such as science, technology and the arts.  The umbrella goal of developing a Christian worldview is, as my wife said, "perceive, interpret and respond to the world surrounding us."  As we'll be contending over the next few days, scripture must be the Christian's grid and guide in discerning these matters. 

Equipping our young people going back to school
To be completely ignorant of what philosophy is saying ignores how much of our culture is shaped by it. Most T.V shows are shaped by various philosophies that run counter to scripture. If we can discern what those are, we can offer a more informed biblical response.  If you and I can pick up on questions being asked in the Bible, and find those similar questions being raised in the culture, we can draw a connecting point and hopefully share Christ with those who don't believe in Him.   

My aim on this blog site is to equip Christians with the tools they need to affect a wider sphere of people for Jesus Christ. School will be starting up soon, and more than ever, we need our Christian young people - from the elementary to the college/university levels to know how to give an answer for the hope that is within them. (1 Peter 3:15)

The chief aim of man is to know God
When you survey the whole of scripture, time and again the number one concern is knowing God.  God has made Himself known by revelation in creation, the Person and work of Jesus Christ and the words of the Bible.  One cannot say they have truly known God unless they have experienced the New Birth in conversion, that is, salvation in Jesus Christ by grace through faith alone (John 3:16; 17:3). Flowing from saving faith is sanctification, the "faith-life", wherein the believer has a faith-walk of obedience and desire for God (Philippians 2:12-13).  The faith-walk of the Christian should have an outlook that is governed by a desire to glorify Christ in all things. (Romans 11:33-36; Hebrews 12:1-2).

The Biblical emphasis on Wisdom
When we speak of bridging the gap between the Christian mind and Christian action, we look to what the Bible calls wisdom.  Wisdom in the biblical sense deals with excellence in applying Biblical principles for the glory of God.  To be a lover of wisdom, in the Biblical sense, means my aim is to know God, and by knowing God I know myself well enough to live out the claims of scripture. 

What is Philosophy?
Philosophy is a word that comes from two Greek words: "Philos" meaning "love" and "sophia" meaning "wisdom".  In the formal discipline of philosophy, from the days of Socrates, Aristotle and Plato in ancient Greece to current times, four branches have been identified to describe the task and activity of philosophy.

1. Epistemology - This branch of philosophy deals with how one knows what they know.  For instance, how do I know that there is anything outside my mind? This is usually the first area one looks at when studying philosophy. Epistemology comes from a Greek word that gives the idea of "standing in front of" something and determining how to know it.  It is normally in this branch of Philosophy that questions such as "meaning" come into view.

2. Metaphysics - This second branch of philosophy has to due with the natural of reality itself.  Is reality composed of a supernatural and natural realm? Is God real? Is the world only that which can be seen, or is it more than that?  Questions such as these compose the branch of philsophy we call metaphysics.  Metaphysics comes from two Greek words: "meta" meaning "after or beyond" and "phusis" meaning "the nature of something, or the stuff of things".

3. Logic - The third major branch of the formal study of Philosophy is that of logic.  Logic delves into how we use our minds, and how we can evaluate the sense of things.  You have no doubt heard of terms like "logical", "illogical" to describe arguments, belief systems or statements that have know coherence or consistency.  Logic comes from the Greek word "Logos", which literally refers to that quality that brings order and stability to the world.

4. Ethics - This fourth major branch of philsophy is what many would consider to be the most "practical" branch of philosophy.  You will often hear people refer to "morality" and "ethics", often interchanging the words.  The two terms are, in their historic use, quite different.  Ethics was originally used to describe principles that told people how they "ought to live".  Morals on the other hand, coming from a word "mo-ray", described how a given people or culture actually lived. 

If we were to summarize the four branches of philosophy in terms of questions, they would be these: "How do I know?" (epistemology); "What is there to know" (metaphysics); "What makes the most sense?" (logic) and "How ought we to live?" (ethics).  Philosophy's basic questions can sometimes be useful in communicating the Gospel to unbelieving culture - providing we screen such questions through scripture.

The Bible believing church has held to belief in the principle of scripture's unique authority above all other secondary forms called the principle of sola scriptura (scriptures alone).  This simply means that we don't exclude the use of other authorities, providing we use them according to their appropriate design and function.  However whether it be science, tradition, disciplines such as philosophy, reason - all those authorities play second fiddle to the Bible's unique authority as obligating human beings to its words and being used by the Holy Spirit to convert sinners unto salvation. (Psalm 19:7; 1 Peter 1:23).  The Bible Alone gives us the categories by which we perceive, understand and interpret the world around us.  May we keep those things in mind as we develop our Christian Worldview. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Far-Reaching Significance of a Christian Worldview

The Extensive Nature of the Biblical Christian Worldview
In today's blog I want to briefly cover some of the major disciplines, areas of knowledge and life that can be addressed by a Christian worldview.  We noted the beginning point of the Christian worldview as being Genesis 1-12.  From those twelve chapters, key areas of thought in not only the history of redemption, but in virtually every area of thought had their beginning.  Below is a thumb nail sketch of potential areas that a Christian worldview addresses:

1. Origin of the Universe or Cosmology, Astrophysicis, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Anthropology = Genesis 1
2. Cosmogeny or the structure of the universe = Genesis 1
3. Anthropology or the study and origins of humanity, Psychology = Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2
4. Criminology, Ethics, Problem of Evil and Suffering, Family Counseling = Genesis 3-4
5. From some of Adam's descendants we see the introduction of metalurgy, music, the arts, the beginning of urbanization and human culture = Genesis 4
6. Genaeology, Philosophy of History = Genesis 5
7. Hydrological cycle, Hydro-dynamics, Geology, Earth Science, Ship building = Genesis 6-9
8. Population distributions, Statistics, Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Development = Genesis 10
9. Linguistics, Palentology, Origin of the nations = Genesis 11
10. Historical, Redemptive and Eternal Promises of God are brought to bear in the Covenant begun with Abram in Genesis 12

The Christian Worldview is the most extensive and comprehensive worldview around
These are but just a few areas.  Every field of human thought and study is addressed in its most basic form in the Biblical worldview.  A Book that does an excellent job on this subject is by Bible Believing scholar Henry Morris entitled: The Long War Again God. Sometimes you will hear such a worldview referred to as a Judeo/Christian worldview, meaning that the basis derives from the Jewish Old Testament and Christian New Testament.  For instance, the Bible may not be an Astronomy Text book, yet some of the most fundamental assumptions of science, such as the regularity of physical laws and the belief in an objective, measurable reality are assumptions scientists borrowed from a Judea/Christian worldview.

Being able to understand how God's revelation in scripture relates to such disciplines as Science, Philosophy, Ethics, Law, Culture, Government, as well as its ability to discern truth from error in other belief systems, makes the Judeo/Christian Worldview (i.e the Biblical Worldview) the most comprehensive worldview in existence. 

Why Christian Worldview Development is so crucial - some thoughts
Worldview development is crucial, since by it Christians are able to reach out to the unbelieving culture with a biblical informed, historical tested and coherent system that is God centered, Christ exalting and Biblical sound.  Worldview development aims not merely at information, but transformation.  It begins with the mind and aims to affect the conscience so as to yield transformation fo the heart.  It is critical for a person to have been Born-Again by the Spirit of God by grace through faith in their human spirit, since the Christian life is all about bringing the soul (mind, emotions, will) and body into allignment with God's Word while making and impact on the world for Jesus Christ.  Without a genuine conversion experience, the Christian Worldview cannot be appreciated, embraced and applied. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Genesis 1-12: The Beginning of Worldview Development

Genesis 1:1 - "In the Beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth"

Yesterday we began looking at the subject of worldview development.  My wife Debi defined a Christian worldview as: "how we perceive, interpret, and respond to the world surrounding us." This is a fine definition to operate by as we expand and began to develop a Christian worldview.  The question is: from what base do we build a Christian worldview? Thankfully there is one section of the Bible from whence once builds their entire understanding of scripture and the world - Genesis 1-12. 

1. Genesis 1-2 Creation- Defines the Divine Origin of the Universe, Life and Humanity.  We also see God dealing with man in a Covenantal arrangement, whereby He gracefully gave man a period of time to carryout commands pertaining to management of the creation and propagation of the human race.  Man would either avail himself of the grace available to carry out the commands, or He would ignore God's revelation and choose to rely on his own opinion.  In developing your worldview, how you understand the beginning will determine how you'll understand the end. 

2. Genesis 3-5 Fall and Redemption- Defines the origin of sin and describes the devestating effects it would have on humanity.  Humanity's fall from relationship and fellowship with God was followed up by God offering a second covenant, a Covenant of grace, whereby God would slay two animals in Adam and Eve's place.  From Genesis 3 onward, mankind could only be saved by grace through faith in an innocent substitute - foreshadowing the redemption to be won by Jesus Christ.  So we clearly see the beginning (at least in history) of God's plan of salvation, spoken to Eve in Genesis 3:15 and building up to the full Covenant of grace spelled out in Genesis 3:20-21. This Covenant of Grace would be repeated in historical fashion through God's Covenants with Abraham and David, as well as His promise of the New Covenant in the Prophetic books.  Increasingly, the Bible tells us that the Covenant of Grace was to be paid for by Jesus Christ, who in his perfect life fulfilled the Covenant of works broken by Adam. 

3. Genesis 6-9 Worldwide Flood - Noah and his family are the tenth generation from Adam's bloodline.  God's judgment fell on the world by means of the Deluge simply known as "The Flood".  If the Fall in the Garden of Eden can be considered "Catastrophe #1", we could then term the Flood as the second Catastrophic event of human history.  God decided to start all over again with Noah and his family.  By the end of Genesis 9, the episode involving Noah's son Ham uncovering his nakedness would remind the reader that the sin problem is not due to man's environment as it is with the condition of his heart.  

4. Genesis 10-11 Babel and the Sovereign Distribution of the Nations   
It is in Genesis 11:1-9 where we see the Tower of Babel incident - marking the third catastrophic event of history.  God dispersed humanity by means of differing languages.  It was also from Babel where we see the beginnings of false religion.  In Genesis 10 we see the lineage of humanity traced from Noah's three sons:Shem, Ham and Japheth.  70 nations are derived from 70 men listed in this chapter.  These 70 nations would be Sovereignly arranged in accords to what God would reveal in Chapter 12 of Genesis.  Shem's bloodline is the focal point of Genesis 11, revealing the "scarlet thread of redemption" that brings its way into the particular family of Terah and particularly his son Abram.

5. Genesis 12 The Blessing of Salvation to be revealed through Abraham and His descendant(s)
As we noted earlier, the seventy nations listed in Genesis 10-11 were Divinely arranged around the prophetic destiny revealed to Abraham and his descendant(s). (Deuteronomy 32:6)  The reason I have descendant(s) spelled the way I do is to capture the three-fold fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham.  The first leg of that promise was to be fulfilled through the bringing about of the Nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  The second leg was to be chiefly fulfilled through the coming of Jesus Christ through the bloodline of the tribe of Judah in that nation. 

The cradle of Bethlehem, the cross of Calvary and the empty tomb were to be the chief activities accomplished by the "Seed" or "Descendant of Abraham" - Jesus Christ. When Christ ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent, the Church age was born, and the Gentiles are currently getting a spiritual foretaste of the Age to come as fellow heirs of Abraham's promise.  However the nation of Israel, though experiencing a hardening and spiritual blindness in this current Church age, has not been forsaken in God's prophetic planning. (Romans 11:1-36) The third leg of Abraham's Covenant of Genesis 12 will be fulfilled when Israel is restored at Christ's second coming.  Christ will reign upon the earth, giving Israel the chance to be the witness God called her to be among the nations. 

From these twelve chapters, the whole of the Bible and the whole Christian worldview has its start.  I would encourage the reader to make it their business to know these chapters, since everything we know about everything had their beginning in the text of Genesis 1-12. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Guest Blogger: Debi Smith - Defining a Christian Worldview

Introduction to this week's blog series: Christian Worldview Studies
In this week's series of blogs, the aim is to introduce readers to the topic of what I'm terming "Worldview Studies".  This is a special week because of a new feature I'll be introducing on this blog: what I'm calling "The Guest Blogger".  I hope from time to time to have a special guest offer his or her insights in a post on a given day.  I'm pleased to announce our guest blogger for today: my wonderful wife Debi.  She is currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Christian Counseling at Liberty University and recently completed a summer course in Apologetics (how to defend one's Christian faith).

Guest Blogger Debi Smith defines and discusses Christian Worldview development
What is a worldview?
Nothing can stir a person more than a lively debate. Whether the issue is political or moral, every person has strong beliefs about the world and events that take place around them. These convictions make up our worldview, how we perceive, interpret, and respond to the world surrounding us.

What is the Biblical/Christian Worldview?
In their article The Inerrancy of the Bible, Norman L. Geisler and Lanny Wilson state, “Because the Bible is the Word of God and because it is impossible for God to err, it follows that the Bible cannot be in error.” (Geisler & Wilson, 2008) With this understanding, the Biblical worldview answers the following questions:
What is the origin of life?
Life started with God.  He is without beginning or end (John 17:5, 24). Creator God designed and set into motion the universe and all that is within, including our planet Earth and mankind. (Genesis 1)
What is mankind’s identity? 
God created man in His image.  Though we do not share His deity, He gave man the ability to reason and the responsibility to care for creation.  (Genesis 1:26-30)  Though sinful and fallen, we are still cherished above all other created things, loved and unique. (Psalm 8:1-9)
What is man’s purpose?
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1646).  We glorify God through obedience to His Word (1 Corinthians 10:31). Also, we can have a personal relationship with God, one that brings joy and fulfillment. (Isaiah 12:2-3)

How should we live? 
In the Bible we learn right from wrong and how we should live (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We are commanded by God to obey His commands and we see the results of following or not following these commands (Jeremiah 7:23-24).
What is our destiny? 
Death is not final.  For those who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, we have assurance of eternal life in Heaven with God (John 3:16-18).  Sadly, those who do not accept God’s free gift of Salvation spend eternity in hell. This is known as a second death, a constant state of dying and torment (Revelation 21:6-8). 
How might/should a biblical worldview influence the way you decide a future career (what you will choose and/or how you will carry it out)?  How might/should a biblical worldview influence the way you think about, treat, and speak to others on a daily basis? 
A Biblical worldview permeates every part of one’s existence.  Therefore, a person with a Biblical worldview would not choose a career that would contradict their morals or deny God glory. A career is a stage on which to display and model a Biblical worldview before the eyes of others.
Finally, a Biblical worldview affects how we respond to others.  Love is and should be the most noticeable trait.  Our purpose is to bring God glory.  Nothing brings God more glory than obeying His commands to share His gift of salvation with others in love.  (John 13:35)    


Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Holy Spirit's work as the Holy Ghost

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. (KJV)

Today's post is going to briefly explain a curious translation characteristic of the KJV concerning the Holy Spirit.  In 90 spots we find the phrase "Holy Ghost" and in at least 4 spots we find the translation "Holy Spirit".  Why is that? Let's first clear up what is not being meant in the rendering of these phrases:

1. The "Holy Ghost" and "The Holy Spirit" are not two separate entities nor two aspects of God.  
2. The "Holy Ghost" is not in reference to a manifestation of Jesus Christ following His ascension into Heaven.  Some groups have made this interpretation, unwittingly confusing the second and third persons of the Trinity.  When we confuse the persons of the God-head with one another, we have unwittingly wandered into the realm of unsound doctrine.  God's One nature or essence is equally shared by all Three Persons of the Trinity.  Titles or names of God never destroy the two most fundamental truths about God: He is One God, and second, He is One God perpetually relating within Himself as the Distinct Personages of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

With those two observations, lets now attempt to see if we can probe into why it is the KJV chose to render the Third Person of the Trinity, the Spirit of God, by these two titles.

1. Holy Spirit and Holy Ghost refer to the third Person of the Trinity
In most of the texts that we see the translation "Holy Ghost", we could literally translate from the Greek: "The Spirit of Holiness".  In the texts that render Him as "The Holy Spirit", we could literally render the Greek text: "The Spirit who is Holy".  In the contexts of all the verses, "Holy Ghost" and "Holy Spirit" are referring to God as He is revealed in the third Person of the Trinity.  As we'll see below, the title "Spirit of Holiness" (i.e Holy Ghost) is in reference to His presence, power or office.  Whereas the title "The Spirit who is Holy" (i.e Holy Spirit) is in reference to the Person Himself. 

A brief illustration of what we're trying to communicate
Much like my role as a dad, or my role as a husband - I as a person occupy those different things.  They define what I do, and are closely associated with whom I am.  My functions in the life of my family flow from who I am in their lives.  In a more profound way, the Holy Spirit and His Work are so intimately linked that for all intents and purposes, there is no way to separate Him from His work.  This is why most modern translations have dropped the phrase "Holy Ghost" and made all the renderings "Holy Spirit". 

The change does not affect the meaning of the text, since its mainly due to the way in which the word "ghost" has changed in its meaning from the seventeenth century KJV.  Even if we didn't have the two titles of "Holy Spirit" and "Holy Ghost", the words and progressive revelation of the Holy Spirit's person and work in scripture would still yield this distinction. 

2. Holy Spirit is used to point out the Person of the Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost is used to refer to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit
This subtle distinction helps us to put together a biblical theology of the Person and work of the Spirit of God in the Bible.  The KJV translators in 1611, as well as older English translaters, used the Old English word "Ghost" in its meaning of referring to a being of spiritual or immaterial nature.  The word "ghost" of course has changed significantly since then, which is why in English translations after the KJV, we see all the texts changed to the sole rendering "Holy Spirit". 
Subtle grammatical distinctions had also prompted the older translators to use the different words. 

Without going too technical, the modern move to render "Holy Ghost" into the phrase "Holy Spirit" does not destroy the meaning nor intent of the text.  The word in the Greek text rendered "Spirit" and "Ghost" is the same word, which is part of what prompted all English translations after the nineteenth century to render the phrase "Holy Spirit" across the board. 

The KJV translators had something in mind when they rendered the work, the presence or the power of the Spirit of God as "Holy Ghost".  Furthermore, in studying the Greek texts of the remaining instances where they render "Holy Spirit", it appears they were interested in pointing out the Spirit of God's "personality" or "Personhood".  Even without these two distinct titles, we can still make sense of the distinction between the Holy Spirit's power and personhood from the texts which speak about Him.   

3. The term "Holy Spirit" refers to the third Person of the Trinity and the phrase "Holy Ghost" refers more to His office or activity
I would never want to press this distinction to the level of separate points, but rather distinct points.  As one theologian as pointed out, if I were to distinguish your soul and body, it would not affect you; however if I were to separate your soul and body, you would die. 

Just as the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, cannot be separated from His offices as Prophet, Priest and King, so too with the Holy Spirit.  When He inspired the words of scripture, we see the KJV rendering His activity, His "office", as acting forth as the "Holy Ghost" in 2 Peter 1:21.  When He overshadowed the virgin Mary's womb in the conception of the humanity of Jesus Christ, He is described function in the capacity of "Holy Ghost" in Matthew 1:18.

Whenever we see Jesus referring to how He is going to send the "Spirit of God" or "Spirit of Truth" (i.e the Holy Spirit), the emphasis is upon God's personal presence through the sent Holy Spirit.  Wherever we see the word "Spirit" in conjunction to the Spirit of God, we can conclude in most cases that the emphasis is upon His Personality.  Whenever we see the other 90 cases where the phrase "Holy Ghost" is being used, we can assume, in most cases, that His office, His power, His presence is being emphasized. 

Conclusion: Understand the Holy Spirit's personality and power in your own life
Though our modern English translations have done away with the phrase "Holy Ghost", it does help at least to think of the Holy Spirit's personal involvement as "God in us" who excercises His power or office in and through us.  His aim is to point us to Jesus Christ. 

Tomorrow's blog will feature a guest blogger who has written a very important piece on a subject every Christian needs to know.  You'll be blessed - I promise!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How to not fall apart

Colossians 1:17 "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” 
I'm reminded of a statement I read years ago: "that when your Bible is falling apart, only then will you have a life that is holding together." Wearing out our Bibles - the Written Word - indicates that we have made it our business to daily and perhaps moment by moment meet the Living Word in the midst of circumstances. Why does enjoyment of the Living WORD Jesus Christ and the Written Word, the Bible, reinforce a biblical view of the creation and life?

Creation consists by the Living Word Colossians 1:17
Paul states that Christ Pre-existed from all eternity.  He, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, had enjoyed one another in the shared fellowship as One Eternal Triune God.  Again we see this echoed in John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God.” 

Then we see how all things “consist” or as the NASB renders it: “holds together”.  In the original text of this passage we could literally translate: “all things stand together in association with Him.”  In other words, apart from the Pre-existing Living Word, nothing would stand.  All other things rely on Him for their being.  No created thing has the property of self-existence.  If the Living Word had not been in Eternity with the Father, creation would had been forever locked in the mind of God.  It was by the Son that the Father's plans became reality.  As the Son moderated the infinite thoughts of the Father to Him, the Spirit, being co-equal with the Father and Son, took what was inanimate and put it into motion and breathed life into it.   

In fact, to say all things consists or holds together by Jesus Christ is tantamount to saying Christ has the one quality the universe does not have – Life and existence apart from creation.  It is the Son through whom the universe came was a result of His sharing in the same nature with God the Father.  Likewise, it is through the Son that all things hold together, as He along with the life giving Spirit has given life to all living things and orchestrates history itself to be a gift to God the Father. (1 Corinthians 15:28)

Knowing Christ holds all things together brings me joy, since I know He is the one who holds my life together
All of life and the universe is being preserved and held together by Jesus Christ.  This should be cause for Christian joy, since we can literally say that there is not one thing in life that is not directly nor indirectly excluded from the domain of Christ’s control.  In the KJV we read these words of Jesus from John 16:33 – “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  That word translated “good cheer” speaks of God strengthening and encouraging the believer. 

The confidence to strive for Christ in this world derives from the fact He is Sovereign, and that He hold all things together.  Only a life centered around the Living Word as revealed through the Written word can rejoice that they will not ultimately fall apart. 

May you and I abide in the joy of knowing that Christ and His Word alone can hold us together.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Blessings of God's Godly Servants

1 Chronicles 23:28 For their office is to assist the sons of Aaron with the service of the house of the LORD, in the courts and in the chambers and in the purifying of all holy things, even the work of the service of the house of God

The Beneficial Ministry of God's Godly Servants
Over the past week we have been drawing parallels between the three sets of ministering families among the Levites: The Gershonites, Kohathites and Merarites, and the New Testament office of Deacon.  Both groups, though differing in form and in different times of redemptive history, nevertheless have one main theme in common: they are God's Godly servants.

In our study of these groups, we have noticed three primary functions by which each has benefited the people of God:
1. God's Godly Servants Share the Load of Ministry
2. God's Godly Servants Love the things of God
3. God's Godly Servants are Living Families

In looking at these snapshots of the Old Covenant Levites and New Testament Deacons, the question we want to know is: how does the remainder of Biblical history view these sets of servants.  In the scheme of redemptive history, God's Godly Servants ended up benefiting the people of God.

How the Gershonites, Kohathites and Merarites developed through Old Testament History
Over four hundred years after Moses gave instructions in Numbers 3-4 regarding these three clans of the Levites, we wonder: did they still remain intact?  As we fast forward over 400 years later, we discover that all three were organized by David, bearing their same names and carrying on their beneficial service to the Priests serving in the temple. As 1 Chronicles 23:28 shows, they were used of God to benefit His people in the following ways:
1.  They assisted Aaron and his sons, the priesthood
2.  They purified the holy things in the courts and chambers
3.  They served as a family to model to the people what it meant to serve God

Like we already mentioned, their calling to be load carriers in the ministry, love the things of God and be a Living family still carried forth into the days of David.

How Deacons fare in the Bible as God's Godly Servants
As we come to the book of Acts, how did those called to aid in the needs of the widows at Jerusalem fare? Most likely being the forerunners to the Deacon ministry outlined in 1 Timothy 3:8-13, Acts 7-8 records for us the outcomes of two Deacons: Stephen and Phillip.

1. Acts 6:6ff. After the seven Deacons (or forerunners of the office) were chosen, the Bible says many converts resulted and the church grew even more!  No doubt, untold benefits were given due to the church's needs being taken care of by Godly servants who desired to serve God's people with the Spiritual Leaders, the Apostles, who were providing Pastoral leadership of the rapidly growing church. 

2. In Acts 7, Stephen ended up sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with his Jewish oppenents, laying out one of the finest summaries of scripture you would ever want to read.  He loved the things of God and carried the load of ministry, giving his life in the process.

3. In Acts 8, Phillip, another "Deacon", shared the Gospel and a man from Ethiopia ended up believing on Jesus Christ.  Phillip baptized that man, and then was wisked away!  Like Stephen, he too loved the things of God and carried the load of ministry.

4. We know in 1 Timothy 3:7-13 that the office of Deacon is formerly described.  We see there the Deacon's life, home-life and spiritual life being the testing grounds for his qualifications.  Deacons are God's Godly servants in the New Testament who with their wives and children are to be a living family, who loves the things of God and aids the Pastor in carrying the load of the ministry.  This is why we see both offices mentioned in the same chapter. 

5. Philippians 1:1-6.  This letter of Paul is addressed to all the saints in Christ, the Elders and the Deacons.  Paul's positive remarks about the Philippians' faith-walk shows us the by-products of a well-functioning deacon ministry.  When Deacons and the Pastor/Elder work together, fulfilling their respective roles, the congregation is duly equipped to be participators in the Gospel, empowered by God to do His will. (Philippians 1:5-6).

As we can see, Biblical testimony confirms the track records of Deacons who stay faithful to their office and service to the King.  May we as God's people aim to emulate the example we are called to through the Godly servants he put in our lives.