Saturday, October 18, 2014

Overwhelmed by Anxiety?




By John MacArthur

Anxiety, fear, worry, and stress are familiar words in our day, and familiar experiences to many. More and more we’re hearing of an extreme form of anxiety referred to as a “panic attack.”
What was once a rare and extreme example of anxiety has become frighteningly common in our society. Panic attacks are usually related to an unfounded fear—one so overwhelming and so overpowering that it clutches a person’s heart, makes it beat faster, produces chills or perspiration, and the person feels completely unable to cope with the moment.
Anxiety is, at its core, an inappropriate response in light of the circumstances. It’s very different from the cares and concerns in life that cause people to attend to business in a responsible way. Stress and pressure are not the enemies. In fact, often they’re good things, strengthening us to accomplish the challenges God sets before us in life.
The apostle Paul wrote that apart from the unrelenting external pressure he had to face, such as persecution, hardship, and imprisonment, he also had the daily internal pressure “of concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). In spite of that, he had room in his heart to feel the anxiety of others, for he went on to write, “Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” (v. 29). He wouldn’t have had it any other way, though.
In fact, that kind of response to pressure is what Paul looked for in those who would serve with him. Note how he commended Timothy to the Philippian church: “I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare” (Philippians 2:20; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17). Anyone who knows and loves Jesus Christ is capable of handling pressure like that.
The wrong way to handle the stresses of life is to worry about them. Jesus Himself said three times, “Do not be anxious” (Matthew 6:25, 31, 34). Paul later reiterated, “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6). Worry at any time is a sin because it violates the clear commands of Scripture.
We allow our daily concerns to turn into worry—and therefore sin—when our thoughts become focused on changing the future instead of doing our best to handle our present circumstances.
Such thoughts are unproductive. They end up controlling us—though it should be the other way around—and cause us to neglect other responsibilities and relationships. That brings on legitimate feelings of guilt. If we don’t deal with those feelings in a productive manner by getting back on track with our duties in life, we’ll lose hope instead of finding answers. Anxiety, left unresolved, can debilitate one’s mind and body—and even lead to panic attacks.
I am particularly concerned about the solutions some Christians offer to the problem of anxiety. A survey of the books put out on the topic by evangelical publishing houses is telling. Most are formulaic, anecdotal, or psychological in orientation. They contain a lot of nice stories, but not many references to Scripture. And when Scripture is employed, it is often incidental and without regard for its context. That kind of lip service to God’s Word turns rich, biblical truth into shallow incantations. “If you do this and this, then God must do that.”
To tackle anxiety in a biblical fashion, first we need to know the primary Scripture passages on the topic. Then we need to consider those passages in their context—not merely cite and recite them unthinkingly or use them as props for a nice story or a suggested behavior-modifying technique. As a person “thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7).
We need to shatter modern misconceptions and realign our thinking on anxiety with what God says about it in His Word, and why. Only then will we be able to apply His precious Word to our hearts. We won’t just know we’re not to worry; we’ll have confidence and success in doing something about it.
And we can be aggressive in our approach. I’m calling this series Attacking Anxiety because I want you to know you can attack this crippling foe and win. Even if you’ve struggled with anxiety for years, I want to give you the encouragement you need to get back into battle.

(Adapted from Anxious for Nothing.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Danger of Overconfidence



By John MacArthur

A gun-toting, beer-drinking, foul-mouthed “pastor” recently made headlines when he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. In an emotional apology to the church, he confessed he had been abusing alcohol for years.
While the extent of his drinking had been kept relatively private until then, he had built both his reputation and his church on the extreme exercise of his Christian liberties. In an article published just days before his arrest, he made no attempt to hide his drinking, his filthy mouth, or any of the other worldly aspects of his life and ministry—on the contrary, he celebrated them. His moral collapse is a powerful example of the danger of overconfidence and failing to biblically limit one’s liberty.

Biblical Boundaries
The biblical boundaries of our liberty in Christ are detailed in the book of 1 Corinthians. In response to the Corinthians’ questions about the limits of their Christian liberty, the apostle Paul stressed two important factors they needed to consider. The first was that they must be willing to sacrifice their freedom out of love for other believers with weaker consciences. He wanted them to consider the impact of the exercise of their freedom on other Christians.
His second warning about the limits of their liberty was to remind them of the danger of overconfidence. Paul instructed the Corinthians to learn from the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt. While Israel benefited from the daily presence and provision of the Lord, they took it for granted, chased after idols, and rebelled against God and His chosen leaders.

An Apostolic Warning
In 1 Corinthians 10:11-12, Paul ties up the threads of his Old Testament illustration and issues a warning to his readers.
“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”
The punishments that came upon the disobedient Israelites not only were an example to their fellow Hebrews, but also to believers in every age since. More than that, they were given for our instruction, for the benefit of Christians, those “upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” The word instruction refers to more than ordinary teaching—it means admonition and carries the connotation of warning. It is counsel given to persuade a person to change behavior in light of judgment.

Self-Confidence and Self-Destruction
We live in a greatly different age from that of the Hebrews in the wilderness under Moses, but we can learn a valuable lesson from their experience. Like them we can forfeit our blessing, reward, and effectiveness in the Lord’s service if, in overconfidence and presumption, we take our liberties too far and fall into disobedience and sin. We will not lose our salvation, but we can easily lose our virtue and usefulness, and become disqualified.
Every believer, especially when he becomes self-confident in his Christian liberty and spiritual maturity, should “take heed lest he fall.” Paul expresses a timeless principle, articulated in Proverbs as “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18). It is easy to substitute confidence in ourselves for confidence in the Lord—accepting His guidance and blessing and then taking credit for the work He does through us. It is also easy to become so enamored of our freedom in Christ that we forget we are His, bought with a price and called to obedience to His Word and to His service.

Overconfidence on Display
The Bible is filled with examples of the dangers of overconfidence. The book of Esther centers around the plan of a proud and overconfident man who saw his plan backfire. King Ahasuerus of Persia promoted Haman to be his second in command, with instructions for the people to bow before Haman as they would the king. Mordecai, however, would not bow to him, and when the proud and arrogant Haman was told that Mordecai was a Jew, he persuaded Ahasuerus to declare an edict that would give him revenge on all the Jews in the land by having them killed. Through the intercession of Queen Esther, also a Jew and the niece of Mordecai, the king issued a far different edict, which allowed and even encouraged the Jews to defend themselves—which they did with great success. Haman was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, who was given all of Haman’s possessions and the royal honor Haman had expected for himself.
Sennacherib, king of Assyria, taunted Israel with the boast that her God could no more save her than the gods of the other lands had saved them. A short time later, “the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of these were dead.” A few days after the defeated king returned to Assyria, he was assassinated by two of his own sons and succeeded on the throne by a third (Isaiah 37:36-38).
Peter discovered that where he thought he was strongest and most dependable he actually was the weakest. He assured Jesus, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” But, as Jesus then predicted, before dawn Peter three times denied even knowing Jesus (Luke 32:23-34, 54-62).
The believers in the church at Sardis were proud of their reputation for being spiritually alive, but the Lord warned them that they were really dead and needed to repent (Revelation 3:1-2). If they did not, He would come upon them like a thief (v. 3)—just as one night enemy soldiers under Cyrus had sneaked into the seemingly impregnable acropolis at Sardis by way of an unguarded footpath. A handful of soldiers crept up the path and opened the gates to the rest of the army. Overconfidence led to carelessness, and carelessness led to defeat.
The self-confident believers at Laodicea thought they were “wealthy” and in “need of nothing,” but were told by the Lord that they were really “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

Limiting Our Liberty
Christians who become self-confident become less dependent on God’s Word and God’s Spirit, and become careless in their living. As carelessness increases, openness to temptation increases and resistance to sin decreases. When we feel most secure in ourselves—when we think our spiritual life is the strongest, our doctrine the soundest, and our morals the purest—we should be most on our guard and most dependent on the Lord.
For our sake as well as the sake of others, we need to faithfully limit our liberty according to Paul’s instructions. Love for the brethren ought to dictate the outward expressions of our freedom, and inwardly we need to vigilantly guard against the spiritual carelessness that comes from overconfidence.
In the end, our liberty is not meant for our own amusement or satisfaction. It’s a gift from God to be used for His glory and the edification of His people. Any other exercise of our freedom is an abuse.
 
(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians.)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

In Defense of the Faith: Who Could Believe the Bible’s Miracles

 
Question:   It seems to me that the strongest case against the Bible is the miracles it describes. These are so fantastic as to render whatever else the Bible says unreliable. As Reinhold Seeberg said, “Miracle was once the foundation of all apologetics, then it became an apologetic crutch, and today it is . . . a cross for apologetics to bear.” Obviously the Bible was written by very gullible and superstitious men for whom fantasy was normal and who were therefore not embarrassed by telling about alleged miracles. How can you possibly trust a book that presents such obviously fictitious tales, especially when modern science has proven that miracles don’t happen?
 
Response:  On the contrary, not only has science never “proven that miracles don’t happen,” but such proof would be categorically impossible, since science deals only with natural phenomena. Of course miracles don’t happen  naturally  or in  nature . A miracle, by very definition, is  supernatural . It defies all physical laws or it wouldn’t be a miracle in the first place.  A miracle must be beyond the ability of science to explain , and thus it is also beyond the ability of science to disprove.
Consequently, there is no valid scientific or logical basis for saying that miracles can’t occur precisely as the Bible describes them. To insist upon such a position betrays a prejudice that in itself prevents one from facing the abundant evidence in favor of miracles. When Albert Einstein was asked what effect his theory of relativity would have upon religion he bluntly replied, “None. Relativity is a purely scientific theory and has nothing to do with religion.”
Miracles are impossible only if the universe is a closed system and all there is. In that case, of course, whatever happens must be a natural occurrence functioning according to the laws that govern the universe. The famous evolutionist and atheist Thomas H. Huxley “proved” that miracles couldn’t happen by defining “nature” as “that which is; the sum of the phenomena presented to our experience; the totality of events, past, present, and to come.” For all of his claim to honor evidence and logic, however, Huxley gives not one piece of evidence or reason to support this assertion. He simply does away with miracles by setting rules that make them impossible, which is like proving atheism by declaring that God by very definition doesn’t exist. Miracles would be impossible in pantheism, as well, because in that belief system nature is everything.
However, if God, the infinite and transcendent Creator of the universe, exists as separate and distinct from His creation, then miracles are possible. Indeed, they are  inevitable  if God is to intervene at all in the downward course of human affairs and of nature. Whenever God reaches in from outside to effect anything that is not according to the normal course of events (such as salvation or raising the dead), it is a miracle. So if you believe in God, you believe in miracles.
Christianity Alone Requires Miracles
Christianity isn’t embarrassed by the recital of miracles in the Bible. On the contrary, Christianity is based upon the greatest miracle of all, the resurrection of Christ. Unlike Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, or any other religious leader, none of whom even dared to make such a claim, Jesus said He would rise from the dead. If He didn’t, He is a liar and Christianity is a fraud. Listen to

Paul’s testimony:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel . . . how that Christ died for our sins . . . that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day . . . and that he was seen of Cephas [Peter], then of the twelve. . . .
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ. . . . (1 Corinthians:15:1, 3–5, 14, 15)
Christianity doesn’t apologize for miracles or back away and shrug its shoulders as though it isn’t really important whether miracles happen or not. Christianity  requires  miracles. This is not the case with Buddhism or Hinduism or Islam or any other of the world’s religions, which get along quite well without miracles. Their leaders left a philosophy of life and certain rules to follow that have no bearing upon whether Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad, et al., are alive or dead or even lived at all. Not so with Christianity.
The Christian faith stands or falls upon the sinless life, the sacrificial death, and the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ—and all other miracles are minor occurrences in comparison to that one. If the resurrection actually happened, then for God to open blind eyes, heal any illness, make the lame walk, or even to open the Red Sea is obviously within the realm of possibility.
Testimony That Stands the Severest Tests
As for the specious claim that those who recorded the miracles were so simple and ignorant that they thought such things were normal, the evidence is all to the contrary. The disciples were frightened when they saw Christ walking on water (Matthew:14:26). They were fearful of Him, wondering what kind of person He was, when He calmed the storm with a word (Mark:4:41). Thinking they had seen a ghost, they were terrified when He stood in their midst alive after His resurrection (Luke:24:37). In fact, they were so skeptical that He had to prove to them that it was really He!
This was not the behavior of gullible persons who lived in a fantasy world. On the contrary, the disciples had a very clear grasp of what was normal and were frightened by Christ’s miracles, which suddenly shattered their world. We hear the ring of truth in their accounts of these events as they confess their fear and unbelief.
We will consider the specific evidence for the resurrection in a later chapter. At this point, however, let us quote some of the world’s foremost experts on evidence, experts who were convinced of the resurrection of Jesus Christ precisely on the basis of the evidence. Lord Lyndhurst, recognized as one of the greatest legal minds in British history, declared: “I know pretty well what evidence is; and I tell you, such evidence as that for the Resurrection has never broken down yet.” Simon Greenleaf, America’s foremost authority on legal evidence during his lifetime, came to the same conclusion, as did Sir Robert Anderson, head of the Criminal Investigation Division of Scotland Yard, plus scores of others whom we have insufficient space to name. Professor Thomas Arnold, who held the chair of Modern History at Oxford, wrote:
I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.
Many a youthful seeker has been swept into unbelief by the contemptuous declarations of liberal clergy or university professors, delivered with the finality of superior wisdom, that “no intelligent person believes in the miracles in the Bible, much less in the resurrection!” But in fact nothing could be further from the truth. The few statements above should be enough to counter such misinformation. Indeed, many of the most humble and earnest Christians have been the most brilliant, the most knowledgeable, and the best qualified to examine and evaluate the evidence that we will be considering carefully.
—  An excerpt   from  In Defense of the Faith (pp. 85-88)  by  Dave Hunt

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Age of the Earth — Does it Really Matter? - Part Two

An excerpt from  Let There Be Light
 
[The following is a continuation of the article in the TBC August 2014 issue by Jay Seegert of the Creation Education Center. Jay now takes a closer look at the various scientific methods of observation regarding the age of the earth.]
Earth’s Magnetic Field
 
The earth is like a giant magnet, and scientists have been measuring its strength for more than 170 years. From these measurements, they have determined that the earth’s magnetic field has a half-life of about 1,400 years. This simply means that every 1,400 years, it loses half of its strength. The most interesting aspect of this phenomenon is not related to the future of the field but its past. About 1,400 years ago, the magnetic field would have been twice as strong as it is today. Going back another 1,400 years (c. 800 B.C.) it would be four times as strong. A greatly increased magnetic field means a greatly heated core in the earth (due to frictional effects of electrical currents within the core). So how far back could we possibly go? ...A plausible limit is about 10,000 years. Much beyond that, and the earth’s structure would not be able to withstand the heat. So could the earth actually be billions of years old?  Not according to its magnetic field. (Note: some have attempted to counter this by reference to “magnetic reversals.” However, the actual evidence shows that these reversals happened relatively quickly—related to the flood—and are in no way a valid counter-argument.)
 
Radiohalos
At currently measured rates, it would take billions of years for Uranium 238 (238U) to completely decay into its final daughter element, Lead 206 (206Pb). As mentioned in part 1 of this series, the implied assumption is that the rate of decay has been constant (equal to the current rate) throughout the entire history of the earth....However, there is compelling scientific evidence to reject this assumption.
Unlike Uranium, the element Polonium (produced during the decay of Uranium) decays very rapidly. Uranium decay produces three isotopes (versions) of Polonium: 218Po, 214Po and 210Po. These three elements have half-lives of just 3.1 minutes, 164 micro-seconds, and 138 days, respectively. This means that these elements decay very quickly, not over millions or billions of years, but in days, minutes, or fractions of a second!
Why does any of this matter? Scientists have discovered numerous examples of Polonium “halos” within granite rocks. When Polonium decays, the radioactivity damages the surrounding structure (biotite—a mica mineral) and leaves a spherical pattern. The general term for these patterns is “radiohalos,” short for “radioactive halos.” Polonium halos are radiohalos specifically formed by Polonium decay. So where is this all leading? The radiohalos can only form in hardened rock, but Polonium decays very quickly. If it truly took millions or billions of years for the Uranium to decay and millions of years for the rocks to cool, the Polonium halos would not form. The rocks must have formed and cooled in much less time.
The existence of Polonium halos indicates that 100 million years of Uranium decay were necessary to produce enough Polonium to create these halos. However, since Polonium decays so quickly, it shouldn’t have left any record in the rocks (which supposedly were still in the process of cooling for millions of years). But the halos  are  there! This is evidence of accelerated radioactive decay rates. It appears that 100 million years of decay took place in a number of days! This would account for the appearance of the halos and would also indicate that Uranium decay was accelerated approximately 1 billion times the current rate—evidence of a young earth and against the assumption of constant decay rates.
 
Polystrate Fossils
Polystrate fossils are fossils (usually trees) that extend through multiple layers of rock that were supposedly deposited over multiplied thousands or millions of years....If those layers were truly laid down over such a long period of time, the trees would have rotted long before ever getting completely buried and thus would never turn into a fossil! It’s interesting that when we find these trees (and there are many of them), we generally don’t find the root systems intact, meaning that these trees were not growing there; they were catastrophically uprooted from their original location and  rapidly deposited .
 
Helium Abundance in Minerals
When uranium (U238) decays into lead (Pb206), it goes through a series of “steps” during the process. It releases helium (He) 8 different times. This helium is “slippery” and easily escapes from the rock in which the uranium exists, out into the atmosphere. If the rocks are millions or billions of years old, we would not expect to find much helium within because it would have escaped long ago. Conversely, we should find quite a bit of helium in the atmosphere, since most helium atoms cannot reach the necessary velocity to escape the earth’s gravitational pull. In reality, we find much more helium in the rocks than should be expected and not much at all in the atmosphere! Recent research on this (by the RATE Group from the Institute for Creation Research) has shown that not only does this limit the age of the rocks and atmosphere to a number of thousands of years, but it also shows evidence of accelerated radiometric decay—billions of years worth within a very short burst of time (or a few bursts of time—similar to the previous “radio halo” example). [See www.icr.org/rate]
 
Millions of Years to Form?
We all know that it takes millions of years to form oil… And the same goes for coal… And diamonds—millions of years…right? WRONG!
Oil supposedly formed over millions of years from the breakdown of organic material buried within the earth. However, scientists today are able to produce oil in a matter of minutes in the laboratory ( Discover,  May 2, 2003). It takes the right materials and conditions—not the magic of millions of years. The main ingredients are organic material, pressure, heat, and water. This is exactly what the flood would have provided! Lots of water burying tons of organic material, forming huge layers of sediment, creating tremendous pressure, which in turn created great amounts of heat.
More recent studies have indicated that oil may even be forming today by non-biotic ( abiotic ) methods. According to WorldNetDaily.com (2/1/08) “ hydrocarbons are naturally produced on a continual basis throughout the solar system, including within the mantle of the earth. The advocates believe the oil seeps up through bedrock cracks to deposit in sedimentary rock.
The same goes for coal. Argonne National Laboratories has proven that coal can be formed under natural conditions in a matter of weeks. Some laboratories have even produced it within hours under special conditions. (http://www.creationworldview.org/articles_view.asp?id=51—last accessed 1/25/09)
Scientists have also been able to create diamonds that are indistinguishable from natural diamonds, using carbon dioxide, metallic sodium, high pressure, and a temperature of 440ÂșC, in just 12 hours!
 
Carbon-14 Levels
Carbon-14 (C14) dating is a method that is used to measure the age of things that were once living (fossil bones, remains of skin, etc.). C14 is a radioactive (unstable) form of Carbon. It slowly decays back into Nitrogen-14 (where it originally came from). Scientists measure the amount of C14 in a specimen to determine how old it is (or more specifically, how long ago it died). Space doesn’t permit a detailed explanation of how this method works, but I want to expose a few myths that most of us have grown up believing. (For more information, see our booklet entitled  What Exactly is Carbon-14 Dating? )
Dinosaurs supposedly became extinct 65 million years ago. If that were the case, their bones should have no evidence of C14, because all measurable amounts would have decayed away in less than 100,000 years. As a surprise to evolutionists, scientists have found C14 in some dinosaur bones, indicating that they have not been around for millions of years. (For more information on dinosaurs, see  Dinosaurs—Where Do They Fit in the Bible? )
With coal supposedly being millions of years old, you wouldn’t expect to find any amount of Carbon-14 remaining, but surprisingly, no coal sample has ever been found to be completely void of C14.
Diamonds are the hardest substance known to man and are extremely impervious to contamination. Allegedly millions to billions of years old, they also should not contain any C14, but recent studies have shown that they do, dispelling the idea of vast ages.
 
Decay of Biological Material 
Biological material is certainly not as resilient as geologic material, such as granite, and is especially susceptible to decay. In spite of the fact that researchers say that DNA cannot survive in its natural environment for more than 10,000 years, we have discovered it in places where it “ought not be”! One example is in insects that were imbedded in amber. Another was in some dinosaur bones. (They’ve even found dinosaur bones with blood cells and soft tissue, un-decomposed! But dinosaurs are supposed to be at least 65 million years old!) Lastly, they have evidently revived bacteria (supposedly 250 million years old) with completely undamaged DNA [ Nature  407:897-900 (19 October 2000)]. This is a huge conundrum for evolutionists but fits very comfortably with a young earth.
 
Folded Mountains
Have you ever tried folding rocks?…I haven’t either. It’s interesting to note, however, that there are a number of places on earth where we see great “folds” in solid rock. How did this occur? Experiments have shown that if there is enough pressure and heat, rocks can fold to some extent. In these cases, the rocks show evidence of having experienced great amounts of heat. However, there are many instances where the rocks show no evidence of great heat and also yield evidence that the rocks were in a “soft and plastic” state when they were folded (not having had enough time to harden). This fits perfectly with a global flood, depositing the layers rapidly that were then uplifted and deformed by subsequent tectonic movements, all before they had time to harden.
 
Conclusion
We are inundated with stories of millions and billions of years from the media and scientific community, but the empirical evidence is significantly lacking. Numerous scientific indicators show that the earth cannot possibly be billions of years old, as the evolutionary model indicates, and those who won’t question the validity of this model will generally not even consider any evidence that would counter the idea of eons of time.
From a biblical perspective, the case for millions of years is not supported by the text. Furthermore, importing millions of years into Scripture causes several serious exegetical and theological problems….
Our eternal destiny is not dependent upon our belief regarding the age of the earth, but a careful and reverential study of the Bible warrants against being too quick to adopt the conventional secular thoughts in geology and astronomy, especially when they appear to oppose the straightforward reading of God’s Word. “ Let God be true, and every man a liar .” (Rom:3:4)
 
Perspective: The Gospel Message
As interesting or important as the subject of the age of the earth might be, there is something infinitely more significant, and it relates to your eternal destiny.
I think it’s safe to say that when your life is over and you find yourself standing (more likely kneeling) before God, He won’t be asking your opinion on the age of the earth or quizzing you about radiometric dating! At that point, there will only be one subject on the table and I wish to close with this brief thought.
The Bible clearly teaches the following:
God created everything, including mankind. (Col:1:16; Gn 1:27, Jn:1:3)
Man rebelled against God and was consequently spiritually separated from Him. This sin brought a curse, including death, to all of God’s creation. (Rom:5:12)
God’s standard is 100 percent holiness because He is 100 percent holy. However, we cannot be “good enough” to obtain this standard, no matter how hard we try. 1 Pt 1:16; Rom:3:20; Ja 2:10, Isa:64:6
The penalty for sin is death, but God has paid the price for those who fully trust in Christ. (Rom:6:23; Jn:3:16; Rom:5:8)
Contrary to popular belief, there are not “many ways” to God. (Jn:14:6, Acts:4:12)
Restoring your relationship with God comes not from “head knowledge” or acknowledging the historical existence of Jesus but as a result of repenting of your sins and placing your faith completely in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (as payment for your sins)....Here’s the personal challenge…before the day is over, ask yourself this question:
If I were to die tonight and find myself standing before God, and He asked “ Why should I let you into heaven? ” what would my response be?
Is there any rational reason that today you would not confess your sins and place your faith in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins and assurance of your eternal salvation?
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. ”—2 Cor:6:2
Don’t put it off another day…
And I’ll say to myself, ‘...Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.’”  —Lk 12:19-21
You may be sensing that you don’t know for sure what would happen to you if you were to die today and that you truly need to commit your life to Christ, but you aren’t quite sure “how” to do it. It’s not by saying some magical phrase and doing something highly mystical but simply by honestly and sincerely saying something like following:
Dear God, I know that you created me and that I have not lived according to your standards. Your word tells me that “ trying to be good enough ” does not earn your favor. Because of your great love for me, you sent your Son (Jesus) to die on a cross to pay the penalty for my own sins so that I don’t have to spend eternity separated from you in judgment. I am asking today for you to forgive my sins and am accepting the free gift of eternal life that you are offering to me through your son Jesus Christ. I want to live my life in a way that is honoring and pleasing to you. When I do sin in the future, help me to confess those sins and thank you for the fact that they too are also forgiven in Jesus. Amen!
If you sincerely pray a prayer similar to the one above, you can have peace, knowing where you will spend eternity! It doesn’t mean that everything else in your life will be easy, but that you can have confidence in your own eternal destiny (and you now have a new-found relationship with the Creator of the universe, who cares for you!). Isn’t that just a bit more exciting than learning about the age of the earth? (Jn:5:24; Jn:10:28-29; 1 Pt 5:7; Phil:4:13)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Great Is the Mystery

Originally published in May 2003
Sep NL_0.preview.jpg In spite of thousands of years of inquiry into the universe, and the super-technology of today’s computer-aided science, we still know almost nothing in comparison to all there is to know. We don’t know what energy is, or what gravity or light or space are. Referring to the physical universe, British astronomer Sir James Jeans declared that “we are not yet in touch with ultimate reality.”
Much less do we know what life is. Living things are made up of chemical machines. The secret of life, however, lies not in the correct combination of the chemicals of which living things are built. Science seeks to discover how life is imparted to otherwise dead matter, hoping to reverse the death process and thereby create eternal life. The right conglomeration of chemicals that moments before was alive is still intact, but no scientific process can restore the life that has left a corpse.  That secret will never be found by examining living creatures because the life they have is not their own.
We now know what Darwin never imagined, that life is based upon information encoded on DNA (See TBC Aug ’02). Indisputably, no information is originated by the medium in which it is communicated (printed page, audio- or videotape, DNA, etc.).
Information can originate only from a conscious intelligence, a quality found only in personal beings. Clearly, the information that provides the instructions for constructing and operating the incredibly small and complex machines that make up living cells could only originate with an Intelligence beyond our capacity to comprehend.
Jesus claimed to be the Source of life: “I am the resurrection, and the life” (Jn:11:25)—and He proved it by laying down His life and rising from the dead. He said, “No man taketh [my life] from me, but I lay it down of myself...and I have power to take it again...” (Jn:10:17,18). And so He did.
There is, however, something more vital than physical life. Unquestionably, there is a nonphysical side to man. Words and the conceptual ideas they express (including those imprinted on DNA) are not a part of the dimensional, physical universe. The idea of “justice,” for example, has nothing to do with and cannot be described in terms of any of the five senses. It lies in another realm.
Thoughts are not physical. They do not originate from matter nor do they occupy space. Our brains do not think, or we would be the prisoners of that few pounds of matter inside our craniums, waiting for the next orders it might give us. Man has not only physical but “intelligent” life. What could be its source?
Of Jesus, John said, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (Jn:1:4). Christ declared, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn:8:12). The reference is not to physical light but to the spiritual light of truth—another abstract concept without any relationship to the physical universe.
 “Truth” takes us beyond animal life; it has no meaning for animals. Their “intelligence” knows nothing of love, morals, compassion, mercy, or understanding but is confined to instinct and conditioned responses to stimuli. B. F. Skinner tried to fit man into the same mold, but our ability to form conceptual ideas and express them in speech cannot be explained in terms of stimulus/response reactions. There is an impassable chasm between man and animals.
Intelligence is nonphysical because it conceives of and uses nonphysical constructs that clearly do not originate with the material of the brain or body. This takes us beyond the physical universe into the realm of spirit. We do not know what a soul or a spirit is, or what it means that God “is a Spirit” (Jn:4:24) who “created man in his own image” (Gn 1:27).
God has given us sufficient proof in what we can verify to cause us to trust completely whatever His Word declares concerning things we cannot fully comprehend. That is where faith enters. There is much that, although we cannot understand it, we know is true. This is the case, for example, with the fact that God is without beginning or end. It boggles our minds, but we know it must be.
While seeking to unravel the secrets of the universe, science neglects its Creator. The universe can lead man only to a dead end, since ultimate knowledge is hidden in the God who brought all into existence.
Though not idol worshipers in the primitive sense, scientists, university professors, business executives, and political leaders, no matter how brilliant, who do not know Christ fit the description in Romans 1 of those who reject the witness of the universe and worship the creation instead of the Creator. It is possible for Christians also to be caught up in this same materialistic ambition and to miss what God offers us in Himself .
Paul’s earnest desire was that all believers might attain unto “the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col:2:2,3).
Our knowledge of both the physical and spiritual is limited at best. But one day we will fully know when we are with Christ in our glorified bodies: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor:13:12). When in His presence we wholly know Christ as He truly is, all limitations will have vanished, even our lack of power to fully overcome sin: when we see him, “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn:3:2). Knowing Christ is everything!
Secular knowledge pursued in our universities looks in the wrong direction. The treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Christ can never be discovered by scientific inquiry but can only be revealed by His Spirit through His Word to those who believe in Him.
The concept of one true God who exists eternally in three Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is rejected even by some who claim to be Christians. Yet this is taught all through Scripture, in the Old Testament as well as in the New. Consider: “I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I....” Surely the speaker who has been in existence forever must be God himself. Yet He declares, “the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Is 48:16). We cannot comprehend the mystery of the Trinity; yet that is no more reason to doubt it than to doubt anything else that we know is real but cannot comprehend.
If God were a single being (as Muslims believe Allah to be and most Jews believe Yahweh is), He would have had to create creatures in order to experience love, fellowship and communion. The biblical God is love in Himself, manifesting plurality in the Godhead: “The Father loveth the Son...” (Jn:5:20). God must be one; but He must comprise both singularity and plurality.
Only God could pay the infinite penalty His justice demands for sin. But that would not be just, because “God is not a man...” (Nm 23:19). The incarnation is therefore essential—but impossible if God were a singular being. “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 Jn:4:14). It was Jesus who died on the cross, not the Father nor the Holy Spirit.
Neither could a mere man, being finite, pay that infinite penalty. All through the Old Testament, Yahweh declares that He is the only Savior (Is 43:3,11; 45:15,21; 49:26; Hos:13:4, etc.). Thus Jesus had to be Yahweh but also a man. When God the Son became a man He did not and could not cease to be God. Jesus was both God and man.
How could God become a man? Again that is only possible through the Trinity. The Father didn’t become man, nor did the Holy Spirit. Even though we cannot understand this, we know it must be so. The penalty for our sins is infinite because God and His justice are infinite. Consequently, those who reject Christ’s payment on their behalf will be separated from God forever.
How evil could arise in God’s “good” universe (Gn 1:31) is a mystery—“the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thes:2:7). It will reach its fullness in Antichrist through whom Satan will rule the world. In Antichrist, Satan will be manifest in the flesh, as God was, and is, in Christ.
Satan must be brilliant beyond our comprehension, apparently second only to God in power and understanding. It is a mystery that Satan, having known intimately the holy and glorious presence and power of God on His throne, could ever have dared, much less desired, to rebel. How could he have imagined that he could ever defeat God? Surely this is a great mystery!
Satan was not raised in a “dysfunctional family” or in a ghetto, nor was he “abused as a child.” None of the standard excuses for rebellious and selfish behavior accepted by today’s Christian psychologists applies to Satan—or to Adam and Eve. To accept any explanation for evil that doesn’t fit them is to be deceived. Certainly today’s popular diagnosis of “low self-esteem” or a “poor self-image” was not Satan’s problem!
Scripture says he was lifted up with pride: “O covering cherub....Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness” (Ezk 28:16-17). He is apparently a self-deceived ego-maniac, blinded by pride in his own power and abilities.
Here is the mystery of iniquity: In the very presence of God, in the heart of the cherub closest to God, the ultimate evil was conceived. By one fateful choice, the most beautiful, powerful, and intelligent angelic being became for all time the ultimate in evil: the arch enemy of God and man, the “great dragon...that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (Rv 12:9; 20:2).
Paul warns that a man should not become an elder until he is mature in the faith, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tm 3:6). This tells us again that pride was Satan’s downfall—and is man’s besetting sin as well. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prv 16:18).
It is also a mystery that Eve would believe the serpent’s lie contradicting what her gracious Creator had said. Adam was not deceived (1 Tm 2:14). No doubt out of love for Eve and not wanting to be separated from her, he joined her in disobedience, knowing the consequences. It remains a mystery, however, that anyone would rebel against God, that anyone would choose the pleasures of the moment in exchange for eternal separation from God.
The heart of this mystery is the autonomy of intelligent created beings who clearly have something called self-will. At least some angels (Satan and those who joined his rebellion) and all men have the power of choice. In deciding upon beliefs or actions, though evidence may be weighed, ultimately reason is set aside in order to bow before the throne of self. We are our own worst enemies.
Self had its awful birth when Eve made the choice of disobedience for all of her descendants. Christ said there is no hope except we deny self (Mt 16:24). And the only way that can be done effectively is to embrace the cross of Christ as our own so that we can say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me...” (Gal:2:20).
The solution to evil through the incarnation is also a mystery: “...great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tm 3:16).
God was manifest in the flesh .” What a mystery! God could become a fetus in Mary’s womb? John the Baptist as a 6-month-old fetus leapt in the womb of Elizabeth in recognition that Mary was pregnant with the Messiah. Amazing!
Seen of angels .” These heavenly beings must have watched in astonishment. The One whom they had known as God the Son, one with the Father, for at least 4,000 years by earth time (we know not how much earlier angels were created), was growing in the virgin Mary’s womb, soon to be born a babe needing a mother’s milk and care—truly man, yet at the same time truly God. Mystery of mysteries!
Believed on in the world .” The Apostle John speaks in awe of this One whom “we have heard...seen with our eyes...looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us)” (1 Jn:1:1,2). In his Gospel John says, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (Jn:1:14).
Yes, “ Believed on in the world .” Certainly John believed, as did Paul, that Jesus the Messiah of Israel was truly “God manifest in the flesh.” To be a Christian one must believe that Jesus Christ is God come as a man to redeem us. What love to come from so high to stoop so low—to be rejected, hated, misunderstood, mocked, maligned, stripped, scourged, and crucified by those He came to redeem!
Received up into glory .” His sacrifice accepted by the Father, He is glorified at the Father’s right hand and interceding there for us (Rom:8:34). But even before that great meeting in His presence in the Father’s house, “beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, [we] are changed into the same image...by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor:3:18).
Surely if the incarnation is the great mystery of godliness, then for us to live godly lives we must have Christ dwelling within us and living His life through us: “Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach...” (Col:1:27, 28). This is the “hope of his calling” which Paul prayed that the Ephesian saints would understand. Peter explains that God “hath called us unto his eternal glory” (1 Pt 5:10). We are going to be like Christ. The glory that the disciples beheld in Christ will be manifested in us!
We are transformed by His Word, the Word of Truth upon which we feed for spiritual nourishment. The written instructions which God spoke into DNA and which are essential for physical life present a powerful picture of the “words that...are spirit, and...life” (Jn:6:63). This is the living Word of God which when believed (1 Pt 1:23-25) creates and nourishes spiritual life.  TBC

Monday, September 1, 2014

Italian Evangelicals speak out


Defining it as “historical” may be an overstatement. However, what happened on July 19 is a landmark in 150 years of Italian evangelicalism. For the first time ever, nearly 100 percent of Italian evangelical churches and bodies (85 percent of the 500,000 Italian Protestants) signed a common statement reinforcing our evangelical commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This statement provides biblical standards to assess the mounting ecumenical pressure coming from the Roman Catholic Church to expand its catholicity at the expense of biblical truth.

See entire article here:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/article/roman-catholic-ecumenism-let-the-italian-evangelicals-speak