Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why Does Evil Exist?


Many people and Nations are distressed because of the constant reports of evil occurring both in this country and all over the World. We see the worldwide concern for the spread of the dread disease of Ebola, and the equally worldwide concern over the multiple ungodly acts resulting in beheadings by what is described as “Islamic terrorists.” There has been a seemingly endless explosion of athletes, both professional and non-professional, engaged in multiple acts of violence from murder to abusive assault on both women and children. There seems to be an exponential increase of violent evil actions and each act of terrorism, violence, or other multiple reported evil acts brings about another round of clamoring and demands for action to be taken to prevent the respective abuses and terrorism. This is nearly always coupled with the phrase “we need to take this action to make sure that this never happens again”. In many cases, these are well-meaning people, but they are attempting to treat the symptoms by requiring the alleged perpetrator to go to “anger management classes”, “parenting classes”, and other such social programs in order to keep these things from happening again.
            Why does such evil exist? Why is there so much poverty which brings about a constant demand for “social justice” and redistribution of wealth?  We live in the midst of a Biblically ignorant society. We have endured multiple years of constant attack on the Bible, frequently in the name of “tolerance”. Usually, this is merely a euphemism for opposition to Biblical Christianity!
            The problem of evil is not something that is outside of people. Evil cannot be “treated.” Evil is a problem that repeats itself over and over and is inside of people not outside. This is a known Biblical fact. It is the ignorance of Biblical truth that results in the constant attempt to solve these multiplicities of problems without the God of the Bible. The book of Proverbs tells us that “as a man thinks in his heart so is he”. (Proverbs 23:7)  Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” Jesus said “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) This is not new, the creator of the universe has come into the world and has told us what the problem is. “Light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3: 18-19) The apostle Paul writes in the second chapter of his epistle to the church at Ephesus that men are children of wrath “by nature”. Indeed, the contrast everywhere in scripture is a contrast between children of light or children of darkness. In the fifth chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Church at Ephesus, he says the following:
            “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light for the fruit of the spirit is in all goodness, righteousness and truth, proving what is good and acceptable unto the Lord. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them for it is shameful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light for whatever makes manifest is light.” (Ephesians 5: 8-13)
            Jesus, recognizing this very dichotomy between light and darkness said in the seventh chapter of Matthew to “strive to enter in at the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and many there be who go in thereat. But narrow is the gate and straight is the way which leads to life eternal and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7: 13-14)
            Jesus himself also says, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
            Thus we see that the problem for all of mankind is that men love darkness more than they love light. Nevertheless, Jesus himself offers himself as the real and only solution. The call which Jesus issues is to everyone! “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest unto your souls.” There is the invitation to everyone to come, and the instruction is to be “yoked” to Jesus. That means we are going to go where Jesus goes and we’re not going to go where Jesus does not go. Jesus promises us that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light”. It requires a yoke. It requires a burden. But, the yoke is easy and the burden is light! Thus we see that we walk in either light or in darkness. We’re either with Christ or we’re against Christ. Nobody is neutral. The pernicious call for “tolerance” is not at all neutral. It is actually a call for toleration of anything and everything except Biblical Christianity.
            Today there is a great lack of knowledge of Biblical Christianity. In order to move from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light there must be a holy work of the Holy Spirit. This is a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit of God.
I.                    The identification of the problem.
            The Bible states in Genesis Chapter 1 clearly and without equivocation that “in the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. The Earth was void and without form and darkness moved upon the face of the deep. The spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” In the remaining verses of Genesis Chapter 1, God’s Word states that God created all things in six literal days, and on each occasion the Lord God states that “it was good”. Now, however, we live in a fallen world. There is a genuine lack of biblical knowledge. Genesis, The Book of Beginnings, instructs us in the third chapter that the evil one (the Serpent-the devil) attacked Eve. The attack was simply on the Word of God. The Serpent posed a question to Eve forcing her to choose between the word of the evil one and the Word of God. That method has been Satan’s tactic through the years and remains the same attack today. Men have “an evil heart of unbelief”. They are “dead in their trespasses and sins” and are “by nature children of wrath”! They are willing to believe “mans” word rather than God’s Word.
            We are told repeatedly in the Bible that the real cause of the problems that mankind is facing today is a result of man’s refusal to obey the word of the God of the Bible. Why is there sickness and death in the world? We see the answers in Genesis 1 through 11. Why is there disease and destruction from famine and disasters? We see the answers in Genesis 1-11. Why are there abusive relationships and terrorism? We see the answers in Genesis Chapters 1-11. In these chapters we see that there was a time when God realized that “all the imaginations of a man’s heart was only evil continuously”. This was the result of the disobedience of God’s Holy Word.  So in Genesis we see that the Lord God destroyed the world with a global flood. God preserved Noah and his family and each kind of animal by His Grace. We are also repeatedly told in the Bible that the solution to man’s sin problem is the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel is first presented in Genesis chapter 3 as the solution to the sin problem in order to redeem some of fallen mankind and restore them to their relationship with the Lord God. Mankind, however, is increasingly unwilling and unable to apply or even consider the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
            In the New Testament letter of Hebrews, which has been called the most theological book of the Bible, we read that God has “in these last days spoken unto us by His Son”. The Lord God has a solemn warning to those who will not listen when he says “beware, brethren less there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God (Hebrews 3:12) All of mankind was once “darkness.” Those who have been “redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ”, “have been made alive in Christ Jesus” and have been moved from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. These are called “light in the Lord” and God tells us to “walk in love and walk as children of light.” In other words we are to live as becomes the gospel of Christ. We see that “coming to Jesus” is the first step in solving the problem of sin. Taking his yoke upon us and learning of Him, thus walking in love and light i.e. living as becomes the gospel of Christ, puts us on the road to sanctification and to real problem solving.
II.                  The Biblical Solution.
            In Ken Ham’s book, THE LIE: Evolution/Millions of Years (25th Anniversary edition) Ham sets forth essentially a threefold view of history. He states “a perfect creation, corrupted by sin to be restored by Jesus Christ.” This account is divided into seven periods, that Ham calls the seven C’s:  Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, and Consummation. Ham summarizes these seven periods as follows:
1.        Creation:  In six days God created the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them from nothing. Each part is designed to work with all the others in perfect harmony. God created the different kinds of plants and animals, and He made a special garden (the Garden of Eden) in which He created the first two human beings-Adam and Eve (Adam from dust and Eve from Adam’s side – the first marriage). When God completed His work of creation, He called it all “very good”. There was no death of nephesh creatures (nephesh is the Hebrew word referring to the life principle, or soul). People and animals were all vegetarian.

2.        Corruption:  However, we no longer live in the world God originally created. Because our first parents (Adam and Eve) placed human opinion above God’s Word (as we continue to do), struggle and death entered the world, and God cursed the creation. Charles Darwin called this struggle to the death natural selection and offered his idea as a substitute for the Creator. Evolutionists later added accidental changes in heredity (mutations) to their evolutionary belief. But such processes as natural selection and mutations do not create; instead, they bring disease, defects, and decay into the world God created. Paul describes this now fallen world in Romans 8:22: “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”

Because we sinned in Adam (he was the head of the human race, and we inherit his sin nature), we were cut off from God – and would be for eternity. But God had a plan to rescue us from what our sin did. In the Garden of Eden, God killed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21). This was the first blood sacrifice and a picture of what was to come in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. God promised this Savior in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

3.       Catastrophe:  After mankind’s sin and rebellion (the Fall), the earth became so filled with violence and corruption that God destroyed that world with a global flood and gave it a fresh start with Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark. Fossils – billions of dead things buried in the rock layers laid down by water all over the earth – remind us of God’s judgment on sin. Most of the fossil record is actually the graveyard of the flood that occurred about 4,300 years ago. However, this same fossil record is used by secularists as supposed evidence for millions of years.

4.        Confusion:  In Genesis 11, we see that after the flood, man disobeyed God’s command to spread out over the earth. Instead, they congregated together to build a tower to the heavens, likely to worship the heavens instead of worshiping and obeying the God who made the heavens. As a result, God confused their language so that groups began speaking in different languages. Family groups then began separating from each other and moving out over the earth to develop various people groups, which resulted in the diverse cultures and nations we have today.

5.       Christ and Cross:  We find that the earth again became filled with violence, corruption, and death because of human sin putting man’s opinion above God’s Word. God had a plan from eternity promised back at the beginning (Gen. 3:15) to save man from sin and its consequence of eternal separation from God. God’s Son stepped into human history to become Jesus Christ, the God-man. Fully God and fully human, Christ came to heal and restore, and by His death and resurrection, He conquered death. We may be born again into eternal life as new creations in Christ. As Romans 10:9 tell us, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

6.       Consummation:  As surely as God created the world and judged the world with the flood, our ungodly world will be destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10). For those who trust in Jesus, however, there awaits eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth. There will be no more corruption because God’s Curse will have been removed. But for those who reject God’s free gift of salvation, the Bible tells us they will suffer a second death – eternal separation from God. (Rev. 20:14).

The Bible tells us that God knows everything. He has all knowledge. This means the Bible is the Word of someone who knows everything there is to know about the past, the present, and the future. If we want to come to right conclusions about anything, the only sure way is to start with the Word of the One who has absolute knowledge.  We Christians must build all of our thinking in every area on the Bible. We must start with God’s Word, not the word of finite, fallible man. We must judge what people say on the basis of what God’s Word says – not the other way around.

*The revelation of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ
            God’s Word tells us that Jesus is God the Son. He is the second person of the Trinity. He is called THE WORD OF GOD. In the Gospel of John we see, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God the same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1: 1-5)

            Here is the manifestation of the fact that God created all things. He created all things by and through his Word. What we find in reality in our world today is the dynamic tension that first occurred in the Garden of Eden when Satan challenged the truthfulness of God’s Word by saying to Eve “has God said” and then saying, in effect, God is not telling the truth! Today we see this same evil dynamic taking place among those who would couch it in terms of “Science v. Religion”. However it is termed, however it is formatted, it remains the same argument that the serpent used with Eve:  “Has God said?...” and then the statement that it is not really true. “Those who would propagate that the universe and or the earth are really millions/billions of years old, which many surveys reveal is what is going on in many so called “Christian Colleges and Seminaries” are merely using the same argument used by the Serpent. They are attempting to accommodate man’s word i.e. the world’s view, to wit, God did not create, it has just been brought about by natural selection. This is nothing more than God’s Word versus man’s word, or to put it another way God’s Word versus Satan’s word!

*The Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ
  Paul states in First Corinthians Chapter15 the following:  “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:  that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” (1 Corinthians 15: 1-11 ESV)

            This is God’s redemption of some of fallen mankind. All who want to come can come. Remember Jesus issues a call to everyone to “come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”. All those that the father draws to the son shall come. None will be lost. Have you come? Do you know without doubt that you are his? Have you taken His yoke upon you to learn of him? What we see from the Holy Scripture is that Jesus himself took our sin in his own body and bore it on the cross. He knew no sin. He who knew no sin actually became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. We then have been transformed from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Wherefore walk as children of light.

III.                Grieve Not the Holy Spirit of God.
            We have seen the problem – sin, or disobedience to God’s Word. We have seen the solution-coming unto Jesus and taking his yoke upon us and learning of Him, i.e. redemption by the precious blood of Christ. Now we see that we are to “grieve not God the Holy Spirit.” The implication here is that we are not being called to be merely men and woman who act morally. We are actually called to Holiness! Remember, that “as a man thinks in his heart so is he”, therefore, what we put first in our hearts tells us, and the world, what we are seeking. Here we see that we are called to grieve not the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God! D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the greatest expository preacher of the 20th century says:  “This is why we are to walk in the light. We are light! We must continue to walk in the light. God has sealed us with His Holy Spirit”[1]
Dr. Lloyd-Jones continues in his great exposition and commentary of Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus to give us added insight into what is meant by the command to “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God”:  “What each Christian needs to remember is that God’s Holy Spirit has been given to us and he dwells within us. He tabernacles within us. We are His Holy Temple. This is a doctrine that runs repeatedly through The New Testament. In first Corinthians chapter 6 the apostle Paul writing as being led by the Holy Spirit of God says ‘what? know ye not’ – and he’s talking about the individual not about the church as a body – ‘know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s’” (Versus 19-20)
            “We also realize from this passage of scripture from the fourth chapter of Ephesians that the Holy Spirit of God can be grieved. God is eternal. He is one God, eternal, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. His name is ‘I am’. God is! He is independent of everything, he exists in himself, he existed before time, before the world was and he has no need of anything or anyone. Yet we are told ‘grieve not the Holy Spirit of God’! The great mystery of the God, referred to by Paul as ‘great is the mystery of Godliness’ shows that this is not something that man can reconcile, but God the Son left his throne above and took on human nature in the incarnation. He knows our ignorance and our weakness and our frailty. He knew what it was to hunger and to thirst and to be tired. Here we recognize that we are being told the same thing about the Holy Spirit. For the purposes of redemption and salvation and sanctification He has come to reside and to dwell in us and in some mysterious way it is possible for us to grieve him. It is possible for us to hurt him, to grieve him, to disappoint him. The Holy Spirit is a person! He can be disappointed in us, and anything which belongs to the flesh and not the Spirit grieves him. In Galatians five we see the following: ‘…         now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these:  adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witch craft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying’s, murders, drunkenness, reveling’s, and such like.’ We recognize that we grieve him not only in actual deeds and practices which are of the flesh but we can grieve him with our words (let no corrupt communication proceed forth out of your mouth…) and we can grieve him with our thoughts. He is in us. He lives within us. This then is how we are to live as ‘children of light.’ We must never forget that the Holy Spirit of God is in us and with us.” Do you know that? Do you honor him? Is this your constant thought throughout the day? If we are failing to do this we are grieving him. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, says Paul to the Christians in Rome they are the Sons of God”

*The Coming Day of The Lord
            We see in the seven C’s that what is coming is the consumption. That is the day of the Lord that is coming. It is the day when Christ will come back and judge the world in righteousness and destroy his every enemy, and when He will remove every vestige of evil out of the whole cosmos, and usher in his everlasting kingdom.
            This is the answer to the question of why there is so much evil, or poverty, - it is sin. Christ is God’s solution to the problem of sin. We are redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. We see it first reported in Genesis Chapter three and manifested in the fullness of time by the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. See then that you grieve not the Holy Spirit of God but walk as children of light.
            CONCLUSION:  Now unto Him who is able to do far more abundantly then all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever Amen. Your friend and brother in Christ

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