Theology

The Great Debate: Does God Exist?

The Great Debate: Does God Exist?

It became known as the Great Debate.

In 1985 the University of California at Irvine hosted a public debate between philosopher Greg Bahnsen and atheist Gordon Stein on the topic “Does God Exist?”

WHAT ENSUED

Stein came prepared to cut down traditional apologetic arguments for the existence of God, but the philosopher’s approach was unexpected. Bahnsen went on the offensive and presented the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God: the God of the Bible must exist because no other worldview makes rational sense of the universe and logic, science, and morals ultimately presuppose a theistic worldview. He explained:

The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.

Remembering the debate, philosopher and theologian John Frame writes,

I was there, having driven up with several students from Westminster in Escondido. It was in a large lecture hall at U. C. Irvine, and the place was packed. The atmosphere was electric. I don’t know how many were Christians, but it was evident as the debate progressed that the audience became convinced that Bahnsen won the debate.

BORROWED LOGIC

Bahnsen’s approach focuses on the “presuppositional conflict of world views” between atheism and Christianity. In the debate he shows that his opponent has a precommitment to the rule that logic or reason is the only valid way to prove any statement. The atheist can’t prove this rule by using logic (that would be circular reasoning), or by any other method (that would be disproving the rule by using something other than logic). This is a presupposition, a fundamental belief held ahead of time that cannot be proved, but that grounds all your other beliefs. Bahnsen argues that the atheist is actually borrowing logic from the Christian worldview in order to make his claims.

In his book Van Til’s Apologetics, Bahnsen gives a formal definition of a presupposition:

A ‘presupposition’ is not just any assumption in an argument, but a personal commitment that is held at the most basic level of one’s network of beliefs. Presuppositions form a wide-ranging, foundational perspective (or starting point) in terms of which everything else is interpreted and evaluated. As such, presuppositions have the greatest authority in one’s thinking, being treated as one’s least negotiable beliefs and being granted the highest immunity to revision.

Presuppositions can be exposed and used to show that non-Christian worldviews are not rationally coherent:

The presuppositional apologist makes an internal critique of the non-Christian’s espoused presuppositions, showing that they destroy the very possibility of knowledge or ‘proof.’ He maintains that only Christianity is a reasonable position to hold and that unless its truth is presupposed there is no foundation for an argument that can prove anything whatsoever. Thus it is irrational to hold to anything but the truth of Scripture. The truth of Christianity is proved from the impossibility of the contrary (Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended).

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF THE CONTRARY

He also explains further about arguing from the impossibility of the contrary:

The unbeliever attempts to enlist logic, science, and morality in his debate against the truth of Christianity. Van Til’s apologetic answers these attempts by arguing that only the truth of Christianity can rescue the meaningfulness and cogency of logic, science, and morality. The presuppositional challenge to the unbeliever is guided by the premise that only the Christian worldview provides the philosophical preconditions necessary for man’s reasoning and knowledge in any field whatever.

This is what is meant by a ‘transcendental’ defense of Christianity. Upon analysis, all truth drives one to Christ. From beginning to end, man’s reasoning about anything whatsoever (even reasoning about reasoning itself) is unintelligible or incoherent unless the truth of the Christian Scriptures is presupposed. Any position contrary to the Christian one, therefore, must be seen as philosophically impossible. It cannot justify its beliefs or offer a worldview whose various elements comport with each other (Van Til’s Apologetics).

THE GREAT DEBATE

Covenant Media Foundation has graciously given us permission to post the audio and transcript of the Great Debate. Take some time to listen to this audio or read the transcript for a great example of powerful Christian apologetics. It’s well worth it.

 

 

 

God Is The Great Church Builder

God Is The Great Church Builder

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18

When reading this passage, most people focus on figuring out who or what the “rock” is upon which Jesus builds his church. The options are: Peter, Peter’s confession (Matt. 16:16), Jesus, or the apostles.

This is important, but there is so much more happening in this verse. Keep in mind that these are the first words out of Jesus’ mouth in response to Peter’s powerful declaration that “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

IT’S PERSONAL

Beginning with “and I tell you” gives a hint that what Jesus is about to say is very important: he is explaining the significance of him being the Christ. Jesus announces that, as the Christ, his intention and task is to build his church. And Jesus makes it personal with the first person pronouns: “I will build my church.”

This very personal pronouncement also reveals that there will be cosmic conflict involved —“the gates of hell shall not prevail against” the church Jesus is building.

FIGHTING WORDS

“The gates of hell” is a poetic expression for death and especially martyrdom (Job 38:17Psalm 9:13). The “gates” are the aggressor and are offset against the gates of the daughter of Zion (Psalm 9:14Psalm 87:2). It contrasts the conflict between the kingdom of God, represented by Zion, and its opposite, the kingdom of darkness.

The gates of a city in the Old Testament were not just the entrance point—they were a place where the strategy of the city itself was determined (see Ruth 4:12 Sam. 15:22 Sam. 18:42433; and Psalm 127:5). The gates of hell convey the idea of the organized authority of the kingdom of darkness in an organized strategy again Jesus, his gospel, his kingdom, and his church. The demonic forces engaged in conflict with Jesus before he built his church, and they will continue to attack his church.

In addition to seeing Jesus as prophet, priest, and king, we must also see his central role as the great church builder.

In this cosmic conflict there is not a specific geographical location, as we see in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that the church’s primary position is “in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3202:6). Paul tells us the conflict takes place in the heavenly realm (Eph. 3:206:12).

This theme of cosmic conflict in Matthew 16:18 sets the existence of the church within the context of the ultimate conflict in Scripture, running from Genesis 3:15 to Revelation 20. The conflict in Genesis 3:15 is a divinely inaugurated hostility, which is a promise of conflict and redemption, but also victory. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, the work of God in the building of the church is set in a conflict that will be won by God in the end (Rev. 20).

THE GREAT CHURCH BUILDER

God has always built a place for his own dwelling: Moses built the tabernacle, Solomon built the temple, and Jesus is Immanuel (“God with us”) but doesn’t stop there as he builds his church.

All of this reminds us of an aspect of Christology that we forget too much. In addition to seeing Jesus as prophet, priest, and king, we must also see his central role as the great church builder.

The church is his church and he has committed to build it, despite all the strategies of the enemy. Jesus is the great church builder, and he will not fail.

Divine Warrior & Compassionate God

Divine Warrior & Compassionate God

“We tend by a secret law of the soul to move towards our mental image of God.”  – A.W. Tozer

DISTANT GOD?

In his book Your God Is Too Small, J. B. Phillips explains various conceptions of God people have:

the resident policeman, the parental hangover, the grand old man, meek and mild, absolute perfection, the heavenly bosom, God in a box, the managing director, the second-hand God, the perennial grievance, and the pale Galilean.

The current religious favorite of American culture is the Faraway God (a vague religiosity also known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism). This religion views God as a cosmic buddy who wants us to be good and nice, but doesn’t really get involved in the world beyond giving good advice.

The Bible gives us a vastly different picture of God. Take Psalm 8, for example.

DIVINE WARRIOR

The first stanza (Ps. 8:1-2) ties God’s majestic name (“Yahweh”) with victory. The Lord is the Divine Warrior who fights on behalf of his people against the enemy of his people. This psalm is not just about what God is like, but also about what God does. This refers to the nature of God and the activity of God. As Christians we read this psalm after Jesus has come and revealed what God is like perfectly and revealed what God does—fight against our enemy (Col. 2:15).

TRANSCENDENT CREATOR

In the second stanza (Ps. 8:3-4), David looks with his naked eye into the expanse of the sky and writes a poem to remind us of the necessity of never limiting God to the size of our own understanding, or even a group of doctrines we have put together.

God the Creator is the same God who is mindful of us and cares for us.

IMAGES OF GOD

The third stanza (Ps. 8: 5-9) is directly linked to Genesis 1:28 and 9:1-7. Humans were given a dignity as the image of God and charged to serve and protect God’s creation. We were to be vice-regents over creation. But through sin we lost our understanding of this dignity. David here is demonstrating our restoration to dignity. God re-established David and us out of the mire of futility and is returning us to our original place of dignity.

“I WILL BE YOUR GOD…”

David is looking at the divine warrior who fights for us, is mindful of us, and cares for us. He is reminded of Adam’s failure and loss of dignity and sees God’s restoration and calling. That is why this psalm begins and ends with an amazing worship pronouncement: “O Lord, our Lord.” This little phrase speaks volumes. It is about the magnificent transcendence of God and about the God who relates to his creation in compassion and care.

We commend to people the creator God, the compassionate caring God, the redeeming God, the companion God. This God was awe-inspiring to David. The God who made the immense universe also cares for everyone in it. This is the God who sees us as his children, who sees beyond the failures, event, motives, and anguish of our life. He comes near to us and says “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Lev. 26:12).

Are You Spirit-Filled?

Are You Spirit-Filled?

What does it mean to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” That we’re supposed to speak in tongues? Be eccentric? Does a Christian have to be Spirit-filled? 

In many churches, the Holy Spirit is either super-emphasized or completely ignored. I grew up in a Pentecostal church that taught that speaking in tongues was evidence that one had been filled and baptized in the Spirit. I even told other people that unless they spoke in tongues they were not Christians and doomed for hell. My logic was this: 1: Speaking in tongues means you are filled with the Spirit. 2: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 3: “… No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore: Speaking in tongues is proof that you are filled with the Spirit and are saved. Not speaking in tongues is proof that you don’t really have the Spirit (even though you think you do) and, therefore, you do not truly confess Jesus is Lord and you are not saved. Yikes! That’s just weird logic. Fortunately, not all Pentecostals are this wacky in their theology, but at the time, I was wrapped up in a form of Pentecostalism on steroids and committed to faulty interpretation. That’s a bad mix. The other extreme is that the Holy Spirit is nearly forgotten, which can be more of a problem in certain Reformed and Lutheran traditions. The unfortunate joke in some of those circles is that the Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Bible. Oops.

HOW THE SPIRIT WORKS IN THE WORLD

Jesus accomplished redemption and forgiveness through his life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit applies that redemption and forgiveness to us. The Spirit continues and expands the ministry of Jesus through the lives of believers. Without the Spirit, we can do nothing. Even Jesus, in his earthly ministry, relied upon the Holy Spirit. The four Gospels are accounts of Jesus’ ministry that was empowered through the Spirit. At age 30, Jesus was baptized by John and the Holy Spirit came down upon him and anointed him for his ministry. The Gospel accounts are full of phrases like “in the power of the Spirit,” and “full of the Holy Spirit,” used to describe Jesus’ ministry.

FROM CREATION ONWARD, THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS BEEN ACTIVE IN THE LIVES OF GOD’S PEOPLE.

The book of Acts is the extension of Jesus’ ministry through earlier believers. After Jesus’ resurrection and just before his ascension, Jesus said to his disciples: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

From creation onward, the Holy Spirit has been active in the lives of God’s people. The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Godhead and is the empowering presence of God, filling all believers for his mission to make himself known.

SPIRIT-FILLED, NOT “CHARISMATIC”

We prefer not to use the word “charismatic” when we talk about what it means to be under the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit. We prefer the language of “Spirit-filled,” because the word “charismatic” tends to conjure images of everybody speaking in tongues, having their own private experience, and distracting others from the preaching and hearing of the gospel. Simply put, to be Spirit-filled is to be like Jesus, who depended on the Spirit for the success of his earthly ministry. The Gospels reveal that the life of Jesus—doing miracles, healing people, raising the dead, and resisting sinful temptation—was marked by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). In the Gospel of Luke, we see that Jesus was:

  • Conceived by the Spirit (1:35);
  • Taught and matured by the Spirit (2:26-27, 40, 52);
  • Filled by the Holy Spirit at his baptism (3:22);
  • Led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (4:1)
  • Sent to preach by the power of the Spirit (4:14).

All of this was building toward the cross, where Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for our sin through the eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). Jesus actually said it was to our advantage that he would no longer be with us in the flesh because in his absence he would send a “Helper,” the Spirit of truth, to be with us forever and to lead us into all truth. He said God the Father would send the Spirit in his name, teaching us all things, and bringing into remembrance all that he said (John 14:15–27). Jesus said the Spirit would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment, leading us into all truth (John 16:7–13).

IF YOU TRUST IN JESUS AND HIS WORK ON THE CROSS FOR YOU, YOU ARE SPIRIT-FILLED.

In possibly the greatest promise of the coming work of the Spirit, Jesus said the Spirit would take everything that is Jesus’ and make it known to us (John 16:14). All these promises were fulfilled as the Holy Spirit was poured out on all believers in Jesus Christ at Pentecost (Acts 2) and subsequent outpourings of the Spirit in Acts 810–11and 19.

HOW THE HOLY SPIRIT MINISTERS TO US TODAY

1. If you trust Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit.

You can’t be a Christian without having the Holy Spirit, because it is the Spirit who gives life and awakens your heart to understand the gospel and believe in Jesus. The Spirit is the one who applies the finished redemptive work of Jesus to us and unites us to Christ through faith. John Calvin argued that if Christ’s benefits had remained outside of us, his work on our behalf would have been useless. We need to be united to Christ. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is our inauguration into the life of Christ. Sinclair Ferguson puts it this way: Baptism with the Spirit inaugurates us into the life of union with Christ. Baptism with water makers this outwardly: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Here repentance, water baptism, the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit are seen as correlative aspects of the one reality of entrance into Christ, and thus into (the fellowship of) the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

2. You can also be “filled with the Spirit” after salvation.

This is where the Spirit empowers you for renewed worship, increased holiness, and special fruitfulness in ministry. Wayne Grudem explains, It is appropriate to understand filling with the Holy Spirit not as a one-time event but as an event that can occur over and over again in a Christian’s life. It may involve a momentary empowering for a specific ministry … but it may also refer to a long-term characteristic of a person’s life (see Acts 6:3; 11:24). In either case such filling can occur many times in a person’s life: even though Stephen, as an early deacon (or apostolic assistant), was a man “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3, 5), when he was being stoned he apparently received a fresh new filling of the Holy Spirit in great power (Acts 7:55). If you’re part of the church, if you trust in Jesus and his work on the cross for you, you are Spirit-filled—and should earnestly desire to be filled continually (Ephesians 5:18). To be a Spirit-filled Christian means you have gifts, both natural and supernatural, to be used to build the church, serve those in need, spread the gospel message, and ultimately to glorify God. Don’t shy away from those gifts. Rather, humbly ask God to help you grow in them to his glory.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

WILLPOWER IS WEAK

There’s an assumption about human nature that is important to have in place as we think about New Year’s Resolutions: people do what they want to do. The Reformation theologian Thomas Cranmer held this view of human nature (as summarized by Anglican historian Ashley Null):

What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.

An article in the New York Times only confirms that the will is weak when it shows that the overwhelming majority of New Year’s resolutions are doomed to failure. According to research, 80 percent of those who make resolutions on January 1 have given up by Valentine’s Day. Nutrition experts say that two-thirds of dieters regain any weight lost within a year, and more than 70 percent of people who undergo coronary bypass surgery fall back into unhealthy habits within two years of their surgery.

Confront the reality that your resolution is likely needed because you are not loving God with your entire being and not loving your neighbor as yourself.

“Most of us think that we can change our lives if we just summon the willpower and try even harder this time around,” said Alan Deutschman, the former executive director of Unboundary, a firm that counsels corporations on how to navigate change. “It’s exceptionally hard to make life changes, and our efforts are usually doomed to failure when we try to do it on our own.” If you’re going to make a New Year’s resolution, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. NOT ALL RESOLUTIONS ARE GOOD

Try to determine if the resolution is actually good. Are you planning on working out more? If so, is it because you want to be a good steward of the body God gave you or is it vanity? In reality, it is probably both. But what is the driving desire? Self-improvement or to glorify God?

2. JUST DO IT…

If your resolution is actually a good one, just do it. Go ahead and work out more, smoke or drink less, read your Bible more, pay down your debt and save more for retirement, focus on your marriage, spend more time with your children. Every once in a while, people start a New Year’s resolution and it sticks. But most don’t. That’s because (1) you are sinner and (2) your heart is an idol factory.

3. GRACE ACTUALLY WORKS

Confront the reality that your resolution is likely needed because you are not loving God with your entire being and not loving your neighbor as yourself. These two failures lead to havoc, discord, pain, and destruction. Jesus gave us the basic requirement: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:40).

That basic failure is why we need the gospel: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection deal with the guilt and the stain of sin. Jesus is our propitiation and our expiation.

Jesus also gave us the Holy Spirit, who can change our desires and empower us to love God and neighbor. As Paul tells us, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

4. GOD GIVES GRACE TO CHANGE

As Cranmer realized, our wills are captive to what our hearts love, and we are powerless to change ourselves without the work of God’s Spirit changing our desires. When you think through New Year’s resolutions, here’s a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer as you ask God to work on your heart:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Gospel-Driven Sanctification

Gospel-Driven Sanctification

People love rules.

And rules make sense because they give us conditions. In essence, you could say we are natural-born legalists. It goes like this: if you do a, b, and c, you will get a reward. But if you break the rules, a bad result will follow. Rules give us a sense of control because if we can make good on those rules, then we can stay in control and master our destiny. But God’s economy is different. God, in the gospel, says you get exactly what you don’t deserve. Grace.

The Gospel Is Still Offensive

But the gospel is offensive to our natural human legalism. It just feels “wrong” that God would save people without any work or effort on our part, doesn’t it?  It seems crazy that God would pardon sinners in Jesus. It’s a scandal, really, but it’s God’s design (Eph. 2:8-9), and Christians delight that despite their sin, they are justified for Jesus’ sake. So we get the offense of the gospel when it comes to our being justified (something we’re exceedingly glad for). But as soon as we enjoy the I-once-was-lost-but-now-I’m-found freedom, we move quickly into rules and performance mode and miss the offense of the gospel in sanctification.

What Is Sanctification?

Sanctification means being “set apart,” that Christians are progressively made to be more holy. Simply put, it is being made more and more like Jesus who loved God and others perfectly.

It’s right at the doctrinal point of sanctification that many smuggle in their anti-gospel theology. Jesus doesn’t just save us at conversion and then say “good luck” to our sanctification. This would be a sort of functional Pelagianism that sells a self-salvation answer to sanctification. Beware of it! It will kill you and heap burdens on others.

Grace provides the desire, motivation, and power to love God and others.

The Law

Most Christians aren’t theologically malicious about the doctrine of sanctification, they’re simply confused over the issues of law and gospel when it comes to sanctification.

The law is God’s law and it’s true and right (Psalm 119, 1 Timothy 1:8, Rom 3:31, Rom 7:12-16), and it’s an accurate summary or description of what it means to be obedient, happy, and fulfilled. If we were able to fulfill it, the law would be the answer to humanity’s problems.

We can’t fulfill it though. While the law is good and right, it cannot generate in us what it commands (Romans 7:24-25). It’s like a sign when you’re driving that tells you the speed limit for that road, but as we all know, that sign doesn’t give you the motivation or ability to obey it.

What’s Needed for Healing

The law tells us the truth about our condition and ourselves, but it fails to give the power to correct the maladies it diagnoses. Something else is needed for healing to occur. What’s needed is grace, which can only be found in Jesus’ gospel. That grace provides the desire, motivation, and power to love God and others.

But rather than trying to explain this any better myself, I’m going to stop writing now and point you to Chapter 7 of Jared Wilson’s new book Gospel Wakefulness. I have not read a better description of gospel-driven sanctification anywhere else. So I asked Jared and his publisher (Crossway) if they would be willing to make it available to you for free, and they graciously agreed. This is the only place you’ll be able to find this right now. Enjoy. The rest of the book is just as good.

 


 

Download a free PDF of chapter 7 or buy the book here.

 

 

 

 

 

God Was Reconciling The World To Himself

God Was Reconciling The World To Himself

In 2 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul sums up the big picture of God’s mission with one key word: reconcile.

THE RECONCILED BECOME RECONCILERS
God did two things for Paul. First, he reconciled Paul to himself through Christ, and second, he gave him “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). This is an amazing statement. The reconciled become reconcilers. Reconcile means “to bring back to friendship after estrangement, to harmonize.” The picture is to re-establish an original peace that once existed.

In Paul’s writings, God is always the reconciler. Those in need of reconciliation are hostile human beings—us (2 Cor. 5:18-19; Rom. 5:10-11). The initiative is with God who changes a relationship of enmity to one of friendship, and this is accomplished through Christ, through his death on the cross.

GOD INITIATES RECONCILIATION
The essence of the message Paul proclaimed as a minister of reconciliation is spelled out in verses 19-20: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…” The text can mean, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” or “God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ.” The first focuses on the incarnation (“God in Christ”) and the second stresses redemption (“God was reconciling”). Either way, one thing is emphatic: “God was reconciling to himself.” God is the initiator of reconciliation. The recipient is the world, and this means that reconciliation is comprehensive and all-encompassing.

By dealing with our sin at the cross, Jesus made reconciliation between God and humanity possible, as well as reconciliation with one another. Reconciliation occurs because “God does not count their sins against them” (v. 19). To “count against them” in the world of commerce referred to calculating the amount of a debt. Today we might think of charges on a credit card for which we are held legally responsible. Here it means not posting debts to our account that should rightfully be ours.

GOD SENDS HUMAN AMBASSADORS
Paul was to serve as one of Christ’s ambassadors. An ambassador was and is someone who represented the interests of his or her nation abroad. In the Old Testament, the range of duties included offering congratulations, asking favors, making alliances, and protesting wrongful actions. Paul was similarly appointed by God to administer the gospel on Christ’s behalf. It is as though God himself were making a personal and direct appeal through Paul to others (v. 20).

WHAT IT MEANS TO “BE RECONCILED”
Reconciliation is both an accomplished fact (v. 18) and a continuing process (v. 19). Although it is a done deed as a result of Christ’s work on the cross, it nonetheless must be personally appropriated. This is where Paul and the gospel ministry fit into the picture. He (and we) function as God’s agents in proclaiming what has been accomplished. To use Paul’s language, God has appointed us to preach the word of reconciliation (v. 19) and so we proclaim: Be reconciled to God (v. 20).

Two important things need to be noted. First, the verb is passive. It is not that we must reconcile ourselves to God. Rather, we are to be reconciled, that is, to accept what God has already achieved. Second, our job is not to bring about reconciliation, but to announce what has already occurred. In a real sense, we are the town crier or herald proclaiming a news item—good news—of earth-shaking significance.

HOW IS RECONCILIATION POSSIBLE?
The reason trespasses are not credited to our account is that, for our sake, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (v. 21). Christ had no sin. He was tempted as we are “yet was without sin” (Heb 4:15); one “set apart from sinners” (Heb 7:26).

How was Christ “made sin” for us? There are three major ways:

The first is to understand made sin as “treated as a sinner.” As our substitute, Christ came to stand in that relation with God which normally is the result of sin, that is, estranged from God and the object of his wrath. The second is to identify made sin with Christ’s assuming a human nature. Through the incarnation Christ was made “in the likeness of sinful man” (Rom 8:3). The third is to interpret verse 21 sacrificially as “made to be a sin offering.” This draws on the Old Testament notion that God made the life of his servant a guilt offering (Is 53:10)

So closely did Christ identify with the plight of humanity that their sin became his sin. By dealing with our sin at the cross, Jesus made reconciliation between God and humanity possible, as well as reconciliation with one another.

Want to work towards world peace? Follow Paul’s lead and tell people about the peace and reconciliation that Jesus has already accomplished.

The Bible Is Shockingly Honest and Gloriously Hopeful

The Bible Is Shockingly Honest and Gloriously Hopeful

 

I did an interview with Paul Tripp and we covered everything from dating to parenting and all the grace between.

 

Background:

·      Paul Tripp’s Life: 0:20

·      Daily Drive for the Gospel: 1:15

·      Scholar, Counselor, Pastor: 2:45

·      The Relationship between Law and Grace: 3:44

Marriage and the Gospel

·      Law, Gospel, and Marriage: 7:00

·      The Power of Worship in Marriage: 9:45

·      What Is Our Hope in a Broken Marriage? 13:04

·      How Do I Know If I Have Flawed Dating Expectations? 14:15

·      Importance of a Lifestyle of Repentance and Forgiveness: 17:40

·      Why We Get Angry With Our Spouses: 19:12

Parenting in Grace

·      Parenting in Faith: 20:25

·      How to Discipline Children through the Gospel: 25:08

·      Having Sexuality Conversations with Your Kids: 32:00

People Can Change

·      What Happens with Pornography in Marriage: 37:55

·      Can People Really Change? 43:57

·      Grace Is a Process, Not an Event: 48:08

·      Encouragement for Ministry Work: 55:06

 

A Lesson On Grace Sparked By The Harvard Business Review

A Lesson On Grace Sparked By The Harvard Business Review

An intriguing post appeared in The Harvard Business Review, “Whom To Pay Is More Important Than How Much or How.”

 

Grace Is Your Internal Motivator

The first attention grabber is the section on motivation:

    It is important to understand the basics of motivation. The stronger source of motivation is internal and not external, though external incentives can help as long as they are applied to the right people and properly aligned with internal motivators. However, external motivators are tricky.

Religion is frequently focused on external motivation, usually in the form of demand or passive-aggressive suggestions or exhortation or practical and pragmatic advice. But these rarely have much staying power. However, motivation from within—triggered by constantly hearing about God’s one way love because of Jesus and by being transformed by the Holy Spirit—bears fruit and gives life. This is what scripture teaches. Romans 2:4 says “God’s kindness leads to repentance” and Philippians 2:13 says “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to God’s good purpose.”

Grace Regardless of Merit

The second noteworthy point is on “fair” compensation:

    Compensation should be reasonable because it is part of human nature to expect fair treatment when it comes to compensation, which should be somehow proportional to our efforts and/or results. This sense of a fair deal seems to be genetically anchored. Even primates respond with aggression or anger when they feel unfairly treated. This has been revealed by some fascinating research with capuchin monkeys. In their experiments the primatologists created a market in which monkeys were trained to give them a pebble in exchange for food. While 95% of the monkeys participated in that market initially, when relative rewards became unfair only 20% of the monkeys continued to trade… and some got so frustrated they simply tossed away their pebbles!

This reminded me of the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16). The five sets of laborers arrived to work at 6 am, 9 am, noon, 3 pm, and 5 pm (nearly quitting time). They were all paid at 6 pm and all received the same pay—one denarius—which is what everyone agreed to. It is not surprising that those arriving earlier and doing more work would envy those who did less, yet receive the same pay. I would have been furious if I worked all day and got paid the same as the slackers. But, I’m a slacker (or “chief of sinners” as Paul put it in 1 Timothy 1:15), and thankfully I get treated like a 5 pm worker.

When we are tempted to complain that grace isn’t fair we’ve forgotten the Good News that we are not saved because of our merit or worthiness, but because of his mercy and grace.