Thideology News of the Day

Biblical Discernment Desperately Needed

Our world is full of people who apply the name “Christian” to themselves who have no concept of the Gospel. It is imperative, therefore, for actual believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to A) know the Gospel, B) be aware when false teachers stand up and proclaim a false gospel, and C) call them on it. Consider just the two examples of this from this past week…

Against ALL Enemies, Foreign AND Domestic

When officers in the United States Army enter the service, they take an oath…

“I, (state your name), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of (state your rank) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

Their oath is to defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies — foreign AND domestic. You may be thinking that domestic enemies of the Constitution are rare, and really no threat at all. I disagree. The Constitution is under assault daily…

Memorial Day is upon us. We will all likely hear that it is fitting for us to honor those who “fought for our freedoms.” It is true that many have fought for America’s freedom in the past. But, if the military wants to continue to enjoy the distinction of being the ones who “fight for freedom” perhaps they need to know that the greatest threat to our freedom is not from some other country — it’s from Washington, D.C.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Judge Andrew Napolitano thinks…

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A prisoner of…

During the reign of King Louis XIV in France, Marie Durand was imprisoned. She remained in prison for 38 years — and died there.

Her crime?

A steadfast faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

All of which begs a few questions:

  • Of whom was Marie Durand really a prisoner? King Louis XIV or King Jesus?

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me HIS prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. — 2 Timothy 1:8-12

  • Do you have her kind of faith?
  • Do I?

Homosexual “Marriage”

Whether or not homosexual marriage should be legalized in the United States is one issue that just will not go away. It continues to be an epic fight with battle lines (apparently) clearly drawn…

RingAnnouncer-bwIn this corner, representing “fairness,” “progressive ideas,” and the “full rights of citizenship for all,” the ADVOCATES OF LEGALIZING HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE!

And in the other corner, standing tall for “traditional values,” “the sanctity of marriage,” and a “biblical worldview,” the CHAMPIONS OF TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE!

The first side is working tirelessly for the legalization of homosexual marriage everywhere. The other side is fighting hard to make sure that the only legally recognized marriage in the United States remains the marriage between one man and one woman.

And, if you happen to find yourself in a discussion on the topic, you should be prepared for a couple of things:

  1. If there are people in the discussion who have opposing views on the matter, the discussion will likely digress into an argument.
  2. You may be asked which side of the issue you are on — and the choices offered to you will likely be one of the two outlined above.

But, I would like to offer a third alternative. You see, I am standing firmly in a neutral corner.  Don’t misunderstand me, now. I stand firmly with the Scriptural teaching concerning the sinfulness of homosexuality and the definition of marriage. But, if you look closely at this bout, you will see the sinfulness of homosexuality and the biblical definition of marriage are really not the issues. What is at issue is how the state will ultimately rule on the matter — as if their decree will decide anything.

I think Christians who are engaged in this fight are making a terrible mistake. Not for standing up for what the Bible clearly says about homosexuality or marriage, but for arguing theological points with politicians. To argue theology with them is to miss a much larger point. It’s also an implied acceptance of a premise we ought to reject outright.

Fighting this battle in its current context assumes that the state has the authority to define what is and is not marriage — and it does not.

Marriage was instituted by God. He created it. He defines it. The state has no more authority to define marriage than it does to define salvation. The matters are just not open to debate. God has spoken. It is settled.

Don’t fall prey to the erroneous notion that something is morally or ethically right merely because it has been passed into law. All sorts of morally repugnant things are laws:

  • Abortion is legal is many parts of the world.
  • In China married couples are legally prohibited from having more than one child.

Likewise, many legitimate activities have been criminalized:

  • In many parts of the United States, if you own a milk cow it is illegal for you to consume the raw milk it produces.
  • You can even be fined for cutting someone’s hair without a license.

So whether or not something is legal is a very poor indicator of its inherent rightness. Never forget, God is Lord of the Law, too. And, with that in mind, I really could not care less whether or not any state recognizes my marriage to my wife. It’s not open to their scrutiny. What matters is whether or not God recognizes our marriage. Do our brothers and sisters in Christ see our marriage as consistent with Scripture? Did our church authorize our union? These are the things that matter. I’ve always wondered why marriage licenses even exist. Marriage does not belong to the state so why does the state need to issue permission in the form of a license to anyone? It’s ridiculous.

BoxingGlovesMost Christians would agree that the issue of salvation is a more important theological issue than same-sex marriages. We don’t have state licenses for salvation. The state does not recognize anyone’s conversion. Why not? Because, it’s none of their business.

I have friends who adhere to different religious beliefs than I do. I can share my faith with them and they with me. But we don’t try to force our beliefs on one another through the power of state coercion. If we did we’d cease to be friends. Our freedom to choose for ourselves how we will conduct our lives is paramount in a free society.

I don’t mind if two men get “married” in a ceremony by someone professing to represent God as a priest or pastor. I think they should be free to do that and the state should butt out. Is that form of “marriage” an abomination before God? Yes. Will I recognize their “marriage” as legitimate? No. No more than I will recognize someone’s professed salvation through Buddha. But, according to 1 Corinthians 5:12, it is none of my business to judge those outside the church for their sinful behavior. God handles that. I am accountable to my brothers and sisters in Christ and am to hold them accountable in turn.

But we all should agree on one point: In matters of theology — whether it concerns salvation or marriage or whatever — politicians should never be allowed to operate under the illusion that they are the ones who define such matters.

They are not.

Hail Caesar

Not long after the ascension into heaven of our Lord Jesus Christ, things in the Roman world got very dicey for His followers. A time came when Roman soldiers could demand anyone pay homage to Caesar at any time.

centurion“Pay homage to Caesar,” a soldier would demand.

The person to whom the soldier made the demand would take a pinch of incense, throw it into a tiny alter fire and declare, “Kaiser kurios,” — “Caesar is Lord.”

Understand this was not merely an affirmation of Caesar as the head of state. It was a declaration of Caesar’s divinity and an oath of allegiance to Rome. This, of course, was something Christians could not do. They had one Lord and one allegiance, so frequently their response was, “Iesous kurios,” — “Jesus is Lord.” And the immediate reward for their faithfulness to Christ was an execution.

We look at an example like that and shudder. How could a society descend into such depravity?

Gradually, my friends.

Very…

… gradually.

You see, the Roman Empire was not always like this. In fact, at its inception it was a republic — embracing many principles of democracy and liberty. Caesar was not always an emperor. He started out as just the head of an executive branch of government in Rome. The Roman senate was where the real power was. But, over time, more and more power gravitated to the executive. The Caesars began to do things they really didn’t have the authority to do. And, since no one had the courage to stop them, their accumulation of power continued.

To say the Caesars began to think more of themselves than they ought is a gross understatement. Julius Caesar allowed himself to be worshipped as a god. He didn’t demand it, mind you. But he didn’t discourage it, either. There were inscriptions across the Roman Empire that declared Caesar Augustus to be “Son of God.” Caligula took it a step further and demanded to be worshipped as god. Nero claimed to be divine and Domitian took the title “lord and god.”

And many Christians living in the United States will read this historical account and regurgitate the hollow platitude we’ve heard for years — “I’m glad we live in a free country. Nothing like that could ever happen here.”

caesar1I’m sure that’s what the Romans thought, too. But, like the frog sitting in the pot on the stove, they didn’t jump out because the heat was raised ever so slightly — to boiling. Of course we have the benefit of history. We can look at their failure and make some determinations. At what point should they have rejected Roman idolatry? Was it when the power started accumulating at the throne of Caesar? Was it when Caesar allowed people to refer to him in divine terms? Was it when Caesar demanded to be worshipped? When?

Look around you. The heat is being turned up.

Power has been accumulating in the Oval Office for decades. The United States Constitution requires Congress to make laws and yet presidents have taken quite a shine to issuing imperial decrees in the form of “Executive Orders.”

Presidents have long been regarded as something more than they ought. But we’ve crossed a real line with the most recent occupant of the Oval Office. Consider…

  • Maggie Mertens, associate editor of the student newspaper Smithsonian at Massachusetts’ Smith College, wrote, “Obama is my homeboy. And I’m not saying that because he’s black — I’m saying that in reference to those Urban Outfitters t-shirts from a couple of  years ago that said, ‘Jesus is my homeboy.’ Yes, I just said it. Obama is my Jesus.”
  • The Dutch newspaper Politiken, in an article praising socialized medicine, said, “Obama is, of course, greater than Jesus.”
  • Newsweek editor Evan Thomas, during an interview on MSNBC, said, “I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God.”
  • Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said when Obama talks, “the Messiah is absolutely speaking.”
  • During the 2008 presidential campaign Obama, himself, said, “A light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany, and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote [for Obama].”
  • Florida A&M professor Barbara A. Thompson wrote a book entitled, The Gospel According to Apostle Barack. In it she claimed to have been told by God to “go on a journey with Apostle Barack.” In her account of this she said, “[A]s I began to contemplate ways to assist Barack in his 2012 re-election bid, something miraculous happened. I felt God’s Spirit beckoning me in my dreams at night. Listening, cautiously, I learned that Jesus walked the earth to create a more civilized society; Martin (Luther King) walked the earth to create a more justified society, but, Apostle Barack, the name he was called in my dreams, would walk the earth to create a more equalized society for the middle class and working poor. Apostle Barack, the next young leader with a new cause, had been taken to the mountaintop and allowed to see over the other side. He had the answers to unlock the kingdom of ‘heaven here on earth’ for his followers.”
  • After Obama’s re-election, Newsweek published a cover with him in profile and the headline, “The Second Coming.”

SecondComingCoverI realize many will say all of this is mere rhetoric. It’s hyperbole. It’s harmless.

No, it’s not.

It’s blasphemy. It’s idolatry. It’s statism. It’s the kind of thing that ought to turn the stomach of any believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. And the longer we go without recognizing it for what it is, the more we become conditioned to regard it as harmless. Until one day we wake up and find we have a president who demands to be worshipped.

And, lest you think I am picking on the president because he is a liberal or a Democrat, allow me to point out the vast majority of my criticism for engaging in state worship has been directed squarely at the more conservative-leaning Americans (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).

My whole goal here is to appeal to all Christians, regardless of ideological persuasion, to recognize and reject the temptation we all have to elevate our country to the point of idolatry. Consider the LORD’s instructions to Moses after the Israelites defeated Amalek at Rephidim.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner… — Exodus 17:14-15

Understand the significance of the name, “The LORD is My Banner.” The banner of any people was the thing around which they rallied. It was their focal point. It was their entire identity. From their banner a people draw their worth.

Dear Christian, you belong to Christ. The LORD is your banner. In Him you should find your entire identity. Rally around Him. Focus on Him.

All of the divine rhetoric being heaped upon Barack Obama should be an affront to us. But we should also thank God for it, for it serves a wonderful purpose. It makes it much easier for us to recognize the distinction between false gods and the One, True God. We have the remarkable privilege of knowing this now. There are many who won’t realize it until the actual Second Coming takes place — until the real King arrives in all His glory.

Brethren, put down your flags and take up the cross. And in so doing make your declaration clear…

empire2Iesous kurios — Jesus is Lord.

Seizing the opportunity

One of the provisions of the ridiculously misnamed “Affordable Care Act” (commonly known as “Obamacare”) forces employers to pay for the abortion services of employees. The owner of the craft store chain Hobby Lobby is a professing Christian and has a serious moral and religious aversion to abortion. Yet, the federal government of the United States is trying to force him and his company to finance it. This is exactly what I was talking about in September when I characterized this sort of situation as a “Golden Opportunity.”

ThidBugleHobby Lobby’s leaders have seized the opportunity and are standing up against a government that has overstepped its authority. They are refusing to pay for something they regard as morally reprehensible and, more importantly, openly sinful. Their actions could potently cost them more than $1 million a day in fines. And yet they stand firm. I commend them.

May the Lord be glorified in their courageous stand.

The collapse of an idol

In 1 Samuel chapter 5 we read about the results of a battle between the Israelites and the Philistines. The Philistines captured the ark of God — which the Israelites had carried into battle — and took it into the house of Dagon, the Philistine god. In those days if you defeated an enemy in battle it was considered an indication that your god was greater than the god of your enemy. The ark of God was to the Philistines a representation of the God of Israel and so they brought it into the house of Dagon as a way of honoring Dagon. And why shouldn’t they? I mean, after all, a victory in battle is a clear indication of divine favor — isn’t it?

Thid-FoldedFlagNow, we know that Dagon was a false god — a mere idol fashioned by the hands of men. Nevertheless, it was this false god the Philistines believed provided them with food, security, victory over their enemies, etc. And, since Dagon provided them with these things, they paid homage to Dagon — as was the common practice among many pagan nations of that day.

To varying degrees, nations honored their idols. They gave their money to them, sacrificed animals to them, called upon them in their time of need, worshipped them with ceremonies, sacred words and songs, and even sacrificed their own children to them.

But, God does not tolerate idols forever. Sooner or later they will all be brought low before Him. If you keep reading in 1 Samuel chapter 5 you will see what happened to Dagon after the Philistines placed the ark of God before him.

“And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him.” — 1 Samuel 5:3-4

After that God plagued the Philistines with tumors. They finally got the hint. Israel’s God was more powerful than Dagon. They got rid of the ark in a hurry.

Now, before we start talking trash about the speck in the eyes of the Philistines, we’d better take a look in the mirror to see if you have a plank in our own. Is there anything out there we regard in the same fashion as the Philistines regarded Dagon?

Do we…

  • Pay homage to an emblem made by the hands of men?
  • Give our money to something?
  • Call upon someone in our time of need?
  • Worship some entity with ceremonies? Pledges? Songs?
  • Do we sacrifice our children for the sake of something?

If you live in the United States of America as I do then you don’t have to look very hard to discover the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes.”

In fact, the republic for which our flag stands is constantly changing. Please consider…

I remain convinced that the vilest idol in America is America. But please note, the characteristics of the United States that may have prompted many of us to regard it as an idol are quickly vanishing.

Thid-TatteredFlagCould it be that God is allowing Christians to witness, first hand, the fall of such a prominent idol so that we might return to Him as uncompromising subjects of the King of kings? Might this be a call to Christians to reject loyalty to any earthly empire in exchange for the desire to serve only Him and His Kingdom?

The “Perfect” Christmas Gift

ThidRabbiThe Old Testament Law set an impossibly high standard. There is no aspect of life that is untouched by God’s Law, keeping it would be a monumental task. Then Jesus came…

… and made it more difficult.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus makes the impossibly high standard even more impossible (if that’s even possible). The Law forbid murder, yet Jesus said anyone who is even angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. The Law forbid adultery, yet Jesus said anyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery in his heart. The Law outlined righteous behavior, yet Jesus pointed out that to keep the Law out of obligation is to fail. True righteousness comes from within, and sinful man has only one nature — sinful.

You’d think Jesus would cut everyone some slack. Mankind was already having a tough enough time just trying to keep the letter of the law, but keeping the spirit of it, too? Come on! And yet, rather than cut any slack, Jesus insisted the standard was set.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:17-20

You need to understand that the scribes and Pharisees were basically full-time law keepers. It was pretty much their job. And Jesus is telling everyone that the standard for entering the kingdom of heaven is to do better than the scribes and Pharisees — a tall order, indeed.

Then, Jesus takes it up yet another notch…

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” — Matthew 5:48

The standard has officially reached the level of “absurd.” No one is perfect like God. And, if Jesus is correct when he says this is the standard for entering heaven (and he is), then the question becomes…

Who can ever enter heaven?

The answer is in Christmas.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” — Galatians 4:4-5

Notice Paul mentions that Christ was born “under the law.” This is crucial. You see, we all failed in keeping the law. We didn’t even come close to keeping the impossibly high standard God set before us. None of us rate entry into the kingdom of heaven. So why does it matter that Christ was born “under the law”?

So he could keep it. Notice again what Jesus said in Matthew 5…

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” — Matthew 5:17

He came to fulfill the law — to perfectly keep every, single aspect of it. He is perfect like the heavenly Father. He not only rates entry into the kingdom of heaven, he is the King.

So, why should we care? Well, remember how Jesus said “…unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”? Guess what. Our righteousness CAN exceed theirs because Christ transfers HIS righteousness to our account. It’s called “imputed righteousness.”

When Jesus Christ was crucified he not only took upon himself the sins of his people, he also gave to them his righteousness. He bore God’s wrath for our transgressions against God’s law and gave to us his perfect fulfillment of the law. He stood before God as guilty so that we might stand before God justified.

“For our sake he [God the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” — 2 Corinthians 5:21

Christ’s righteousness is the perfect Christmas gift.

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